How I Learned to Love Myself Again

A few weeks ago, my good friend Jazmyne wrote the bravest article I’ve ever read. It was about her struggle in an emotionally (and physically) abusive relationship. The entire time I was reading the article, I found myself thinking “me too” after just about every sentence.

I began reading more articles online about relationships like mine and thinking, every single time, “me too.” There is a lot of comfort in knowing you’re not alone.

 
I wish I had the strength that she did to write such an amazing, emotional, and personal piece. However, the wound is very much still too open and fresh for me to delve into those specific feelings.

At the end of her article, she talks about how she is focusing on self-care and that she is in a better place. She is learning to love herself, as am I.

The end of her article is what inspired me to begin this one.

I’m going to backtrack a little and just say that ever since I was a little girl I’ve been a very strong, steadfast person. I’ve known who I am and what I stand for for a really long time and since a (fairly) young age. It’s difficult for a lot of adolescent and young adult women to say that about themselves, so I consider myself lucky.

But because of the manipulative nature of my unhealthy relationship, it destroyed who I was at the core. I began to doubt myself, demean myself. I felt worthless. Life felt pointless. It was hard for me to get out of bed every morning. Even though I was out of the relationship, I still felt like I was drowning.

I lost that integral part of me that was strong, unfaltering. I always say that no boy is worth crying over, but they were right when they said love is blind. I couldn’t and still can’t believe that I let another human being control my life like that. It changed the way I felt about myself, my friends, and the world around me.

 

I was once again carrying a lot of self-loathing and depression that I thought I left in my elementary and middle school self. This self-loathing catalyzed countless panic attacks and manic episodes that were very hard to deal with. The girl who used to have perfect posture (courtesy of her grandpa’s careful lessons) slouched. I only walked with my head down.

It was hardest for me to cope with the fact that the girl who was labeled by her family as the one person who “wouldn’t let any boy mess with her,” let a boy mess with her. I was ashamed, embarrassed, and depressed. I felt like I was living in a constant, sleepless limbo. I watched mindless Netflix in bed all day and never ate. I couldn’t focus on my schoolwork.

I’ve never been so grateful for my friends here at BU and back home, and most importantly my mom, for supporting me. I thought I had lost them in my relationship, but I was mistaken. In the wee hours of the morning, they accepted my inaudible, sob-ridden phone calls caused by problematic pictures or text messages. They held me as I heaved in their laps in the hallway. There were a lot of long, exhausting, dehydrating nights.

 

I wrote an article back in January about ways to love yourself in the New Year. It was meant to show girls that you can make a Resolution based on emotional self-care, rather than unrealistically saying you’ll go to the gym every day. But recently I realized that it wasn’t so much for other people, as it was for me. I needed to learn to love myself again, and let go of the past.

I took down the pictures of us in my room and put them in a box. I took his clothes out of my drawers and put them in the box. I kissed the Minnie Mouse he gave me and put her in the box. I mailed the box home to my mom. It’s on my shelf in my closet.  It was hard, but I did it. I did it, on my own. I felt in control for the first time in forever.

 
My best friend told me to find one thing to look forward to every day. Some days it was breakfast with my hallmates, some days it was my Cardio Jazz class. Some days it was just getting out of bed.
 
Baby steps. That was what it would take for me to be me again. I had to do everything at my own pace.
 

Little things turned into big things, and pretty soon it was Spring Break and I was feeling a little more like myself. My mom came to Boston for the first half of the week and we had an amazing time. We got a hotel, shopped 'til we dropped, ate pizza in bed, and just had an all-around good time together. I don’t know where I would be without her.

That week was like my rebirth. 

I had a lot of money saved up so I shopped at stores I would never usually shop at. I invested in some kickass wardrobe staples that made me feel beautiful, for the first time in months. I use clothes to help express my identity, and I felt like I was finally finding myself again.

When I got home for the second half of the week, I immediately went through my closet. I got rid of practically everything I owned. It was so cleansing, and so freeing. I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders as my best friend and I stuffed old, confused, and controlled me into donation bags to make room for the new, chic, sophisticated me.

Then came the haircut. The magical haircut that changed it all.

My mom was at work that day so I went in by myself. I was nervous, but I trust our hairdresser with my life. I sat down in the chair and said, “Make me look like Daisy Ridley.” And I never looked back.

She chopped off all my hair, dyed it “Ferrero Rocher brown,” spun me around, and I burst into tears. I was a completely different person. I felt light and happy and, dare I say it, sexy.

 

Ever since that day I knew the next chapter of my life was beginning. It was out with the old, and in with the new. I came back to school with a newfound confidence that none of my friends had ever seen. They told me I was carrying myself differently. I could laugh again without feeling guilty.

After I got my hair cut I had the strength to finally unfollow, hide, and mute him on social media. It was like a reverse-Samson (he's from the Bible, look him up). I listened to my friends and freed myself from the obsessive compulsive checking-up I did every five minutes. It was unhealthy, and it made me regress every time I saw something. I had to be 100% done with his power over me.

When people ask me how I am now, I can honestly say I’m feeling good. I can look in the mirror and not hate myself anymore. I don’t pick myself apart. I’m eating full meals, working at Gap again, exercising, and finally getting enough sleep. I’m experimenting with makeup and clothes and I feel empowered to be who I want to be.

I deleted my “Sad” playlist on Spotify and I made a pump up playlist of songs that make me happy. I refuse to give up. I refuse to sink.

I started keeping a journal (almost) every day. My mom got me one for people with anxiety, where you focus on what you’re “hanging hope on today.” I can’t believe I can say this, but I actually have hope now. There’s no more room for negativity in my life.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, every day isn’t perfect. And for every three steps forward there is often one step back, but I’m pushing on. I can go to bed with myself every night knowing I am who I am because I make myself that way. I choose. If I need to cry, I cry. If I want to laugh, I laugh. 

I no longer feel like I have to rely on other people for affirmation. I can rest easy in the fact that I have integrity and I can say that with absolutely no shame because there is no shame in caring about myself or being proud of myself.

I can be, unapologetically, me again.

I’m slowly realizing that I have the ability to be happy and whole on my own. I don’t need to hop from person to person to be happy. I don’t have to hurt myself or permanently change myself to make other people happy anymore. It’s not a competition. I don’t have to stuff my feelings inside and pretend to be someone I’m not. That’s no way to solve anything.

My advice to you if you’re going through something similar: listen to your gut, the little voice in the back of your head that tells you to get out. It is always right. Listen to your mom and your friends when they tell you that things are getting weird. Get out. Get out as fast as you can. Save as much of yourself as possible. Cut your hair, throw out all your clothes, get new ones, and take over the town with your girls. You don't need another person to dictate your life. You don't need another person to make you happy. You. Are. Enough. Release yourself from the vicious cycle of depression and control and don’t look back.

Don’t ever look back.