Four Surprising Reactions to My Sex Addiction

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I spent most of my time in active addiction fearful of what others would think about me; but when I slowly began to open up about my sex addiction, I was incredibly surprised by the reactions I received from people. Some individuals pleasantly surprised me with their love and support, others made me feel like a piece of garbage, and a few of them completely creeped me out. Nonetheless, I am grateful I finally spoke up about my sex addiction, because I know now that the reactions from other people (even people I love) don't get to define me.

Assumptions About Other People's Reactions

The fear of what my friends and family would think of my addiction kept me in bondage for years. I wasted so much time hating myself and assuming the worst about my loved ones, all because of my own unfair assumptions and stigma. I desperately wanted to open up and tell someone, but I let my fear and shame make my decisions for me.

I guess I assumed if I told people about my sex addiction they would either judge me, hate me, completely cut me out of their life, or all of the above. Instead of giving them the chance to reckon with my truth on their own terms, I robbed them of that decision and instead I chose to isolate from everyone.

What do People Say When You Tell Them You're a Sex Addict?

Slowly, one painful conversation at a time, I began to disclose my sex addiction to some of my closest friends and family members. Every conversation felt like the end of the world, but somehow, I survived. One of the first people I opened up to was a close male friend of mine. At the time, he appeared to be a positive, non-judgmental supportive person, so I thought maybe he would understand. Unfortunately, I was completely wrong about him.

1. Over-sexualization

Looking back, I don't know why I thought a male friend in his early 20's (platonic or not) would respond positively. Immediately, he began pressing me for the gory details, and not the ones you would tell your closest girlfriends.

He was aroused and amused all at the same time, as if he were at the circus, bewildered by a beautiful bearded lady. I felt like I was a piece of entertainment you buy from a cheap porn store. I was disgusted with him, but even more disgusted with myself. Needless to say, I didn't disclose to another man for about a year. I truly could not believe that someone I called my friend would react so terribly. Unfortunately, my next encounter wasn't very affirming either.

2. Dismissal

This time, I chose to approach one of my female friends instead. My initial fear of opening up to another woman was that she would either be extremely hateful or just grossed out. Instead, I received something completely different. This friend appeared confused by the concept of sex addiction and acted as though it were a figment of my imagination. She even said that it's "not possible" for me to be a sex addict.

I pleaded with her in desperation, explaining that my entire life revolved around my sexual decisions and that I truly felt like I couldn't function without it. Even still, she dismissed my complaints. She went on to say how incredible sex is and that my desire for it was "natural" and "healthy". However, anyone who has known the pain and torment of addiction knows that it is neither natural or healthy. It is agonizing and life-altering to live in constant enslavement to the habits, patterns, or behaviors that ruin your life time and time again.

After talking to this friend, I felt even more confused about my addiction. I thought that maybe she was right. Maybe I wasn't really an addict, maybe I just really like sex and pornography, and maybe that's okay. Her reaction was so baffling to me that it took me three years before I ever told another female friend about my addiction. 

3. Disgust

Thankfully, I have only received a few of these reactions when opening up about my sex addiction. The first one, however, was likely the most impactful. A man I was seeing at the time (and sexually active with) found out about my habits on accident after rummaging through my search history on my phone. In addition to sex, pornography is also a huge component of my addiction.

After accidentally swiping through some of my search histories, he began asking incredibly personal questions in a highly disgusted tone of voice. Oddly enough, he also watched porn in far more extreme categories than I would ever dream of. I tried to reason with him, explaining that we've talked about porn before, but he just couldn't fathom the idea that a woman might watch porn for pleasure too.

Ironically, I continued to see him after this encounter, because my sex addiction always outweighed my dignity and self-respect. He hurt me terribly, in more ways than I care to admit in this blog post, but he was a constant supply of my most toxic and powerful drug of choice. As most of you know, somehow those needs and desires always seem to come before your emotional and mental well-being while living in active addiction.

4. Acceptance

Quite possibly the most surprising reaction of all is when people accept me for who I am despite my addictive tendencies. Thankfully, just about every close friend in my life right now showed unconditional love and support when I opened up to them about my addiction. Although I'm sure of some of that stems from the fact that I probably make better friends and better life choices now than I did in my teens and early twenties.

To this day I don't tell every person I meet about my addiction. Sometimes the timing isn't right, the setting isn't appropriate, or you just know with every fiber of your being that the person standing in front of you probably won't respond well. With time and experience, I've learned who I can trust and who I need to keep at a safe distance, which protects me continually from the three negative reactions listed above.

Ultimately, I am grateful for the negative reactions I received because they make the kind and loving reactions so much sweeter. When you find people who are willing to accept you, flaws and all, it is one of the greatest gifts this life has to offer.

Interoception: Poor Internal Sensations and Eating Disorders

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New research suggests that poor “interoception” –- the process by which we notice and understand internal sensations, like how hungry or thirsty we are –- may contribute to eating disorders. When it comes to disordered eating, the common stereotypes that restricting stems from an unrelenting quest for thinness and bingeing is due to a lack of self-control are wrong.

Poor Interoception Makes You Feel Disconnected from Your Body

I see how poor interoception plays out in my life. Feeling connected to my body hasn’t always been easy. At times, life has resembled a fast-paced showreel of emotions, sensations, and activities, with little opportunity to be truly present and conscious.

People who’ve battled eating disorders can feel particularly out of tune with their body’s signals, including feelings of hunger and satiety. They might restrict or turn to food to appease difficult emotions, and over time these behaviors can become default responses.

But what comes first? Does a troubled relationship with food sever our connection to internal signals, or do poor networks of perception foster dysfunctional eating habits? What is the role of interoception in eating disorders?

The Role of Interoception in Eating Disorders

A recent study showed that people with anorexia and bulimia displayed poor interoceptive awareness, in other words, they found it hard to detect bodily signals, such as their own heartbeats, feelings of pain, and how hot or cold they were. Our brains decipher these notifications, which can be unconscious or noticeable, and which ultimately help navigate what’s going on in our bodies.1

Brain-imaging studies support these findings, indicating that different parts of the brain are activated for interoception in people with eating disorders compared to those without a diagnosis.2

Learning to Eat Intuitively Has Improved My Interoception

Intuitive eating has helped transform my relationship with food. This philosophy and approach entail paying close attention to internal cues like hunger and satiety, and learning how to respond mindfully, rather than dieting, overindulging, or using food for comfort or relief.

Eating intuitively felt difficult when I was stuck in the throes of an eating disorder. I had no idea where to start. I’d been entangled in dysfunctional behaviors for so long that I’d forgotten what it was like to recognize and attend to my body’s natural rhythm and requests. But it’s possible to learn how to eat intuitively, one bite at a time.

Improving Interoception Through Meditation

Meditation helped me get back in touch with my body, facilitating long-term recovery. I’ve noticed that when I meditate regularly, I feel more aware of what I need in each moment, and less prone to disordered eating. Meditation gives me the space to take time out, and sometimes that’s all we need to prevent us from repeating old patterns and listen to what we truly need.

Through understanding the role that impaired interoception plays in eating disorders, therapists can focus on helping survivors feel more connected to their inner worlds, which is ultimately what many ancient practices like yoga and meditation can do.

I discovered meditation almost 15 years ago, and I feel grateful for the role it’s played in my life. It’s not a panacea. Sometimes we need other things to heal; sometimes we need to cry, scream, or feel anger, and sometimes it’s okay to feel challenged and not have it all figured out. But in this age of disembodiment, meditation has been my most consistent tool for looking within, and reconnecting with my body and its signals. And with practice, I feel more rooted in the world, and less governed by ego.

Do you think you have a poor sense of interoception? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.

Sources

  1. Jenkinson, P. et al. “Self-reported interoceptive deficits in eating disorders: A meta-analysis of studies using the eating disorder inventoryJournal of Psychosomatic Research. July 2018.
  2. Khalsa, S. et al. "Can Interoception Improve the Pragmatic Search for Biomarkers in Psychiatry?" Personality and Individual Differences. July 2016.

The Arts Revealed Positive Aspects of My Mental Illness

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Mental Illnesses are devastating. Even when the dust settles after your initial diagnosis, it's hard to see how there can be any positive aspect of mental illness. However, recovery is full of surprises.

The arts showed me a positive aspect of my mental illness.

Schizoaffective disorder has given me something to say as an artist and writer -- a way to connect to others. I have always pursued jobs in the arts, and my mental health recovery has shaped my career.

Are there any positive aspects of your mental illness and recovery? Please share in the comments.

You Can Schedule Away Your Anxiety. Here's How to Do It

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Few people think of anxiety as a scheduling affair; however, conceptualizing anxiety relief as something that involves planning can help you schedule away your anxiety. Imagine being able to schedule anxiety out of your life. There are multiple ways to do it. Here we'll explore three different ways to use the concept of scheduling to drastically reduce anxiety. 

I used to think that creating any type of schedule contributed to my anxiety. It made me feel pressured, and it seemed like I was stressed and anxious because of it. This was a long time ago. I've since discovered that using schedules and planners alleviates my anxiety.

Scheduling away your anxiety involves these three components:

  1. Arranging your schedule to be anxiety-friendly
  2. Scheduling time to be anxious (strange but true)
  3. Scheduling dedicated anxiety- and stress-free periods every day

Here's a look at each type of anxiety-reducing scheduling and how to make them work for you.

Scheduling Away Anxiety by Arranging Your Planner To Be Anxiety-Friendly

Using a planner to keep track of tasks and events can make you feel in control of your time. Schedules provide direction and help you organize your days. Planners also help you avoid overscheduling yourself. Cramming too many tasks onto to-to lists leads to inefficiency, stress, and anxiety. Prioritize your tasks each day, and schedule in the most important. Other duties can wait. 

Tip: Buy or create a schedule that appeals to you and supports the way you think. When filling in your schedules, use a favorite pen or many pens of different colors. Make it uniquely yours so you use it with intention every day. 

Reduce Anxiety by Scheduling Times to Be Anxious

Scheduling yourself some uninterrupted time every day to sit with your worries and fears can drastically reduce anxiety. Admittedly, it's counterintuitive to think of purposefully scheduling a time to be anxious on purpose when you're trying to get rid of it; however, this technique works.  

Sit comfortably and allow yourself to think about your worries and fears. Don't judge or get caught up in them, but allow them to come into your mind so you can face them. This minimizes their importance. When your worry time is up, make it a point to let anxiety go when it pops into your mind. Tell it that you'll pay attention to it tomorrow, and until then you'll be dismissing it to think about other things. 

Tip: Create a routine around your scheduled anxiety times. Aim for the same time each day, and use a dedicated space. Have a special chair or place on the floor. Light a candle to stimulate your sense of smell. Perhaps have a box to symbolically put your worries in, and then imagine dumping them down the drain or letting them blow away on a breeze. 

Schedule Time to Be Stress- and Anxiety-Free Every Day

Just as you can limit your time spent being anxious, you can expand the time you spend free from anxiety. Every single day, make time to take a break and engage in something that reduces your stress and anxiety. This is one way to do more of what you love and what brings you joy. This, in turn, lowers anxiety and diminishes worries. 

Tip: Make a list of activities you love to do so you have specific things to schedule in to your day. This makes it more likely to take your scheduled break than if you simply wrote "Do something to relieve stress" in your daily schedule.

If you frequently find yourself hurried and harried, give yourself structure and stability. You really can schedule away your anxiety. 

Is Your Job Causing Your Depression?

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Is your job causing your depression? 

Look, I get it. Work is supposed to be stressful. It's called work and not play for a reason, after all. But there's a difference between experiencing stress on occasion and experiencing stress every single day. In fact, it's possible that what you think is stress is actually depression, and that your job is what is causing your depression. 

Causes of Depression at Work

There are various factors that may be responsible for workplace depression. Some of them are:

Your work is not meaningful to you -- A person who is stuck in a job that is not the right fit for them is extremely prone to depression. For instance, if a writer takes on the job of a bank manager, nine times out of ten they will be extremely dissatisfied, demotivated and over time, depressed.

You have to deal with an overwhelming amount of bureaucracy -- Most workplaces have some rules that do not make sense to their employees. And for the most part, we accept it at face value and carry on with our work. But when things get so bad that you feel say, completely powerless to take any decision on your own because you are being heavily micromanaged, this is bound to cause depression sooner or later. 

You have to undergo poor work-life balance -- As the term indicates, work-life balance is the ability of an individual to have a balance between their personal and professional life. A person with poor life-balance is someone who often takes their work home, due to which they cannot give ample time to their hobbies or their family. Having less or no downtime causes burnout and chronic stress, which in turn lead to mental disorders like depression and anxiety.

Your co-workers are toxic -- The world is full of assholes, so it's only natural that said assholes will be people you work with on a daily basis. There are many kinds of toxic co-workers, like the unprofessional, the slacker, the complainer, the plagiarist, the liar, the sycophant, and the bully. Even if you do your best to limit contact with them, you have to interact with them sometime, and their toxicity will get to you. Eventually, their unsupportive and hostile behavior will impact your mental health, leading to conditions like depression and anxiety. 

How you can deal with depression at work

The first thing you need to do is assess your situation objectively. Ask yourself introspective questions like, "what can I do to fix this problem? Is there anyone I can speak with to improve this situation?" If your issues get resolved or at least become less intense, you are sorted. However, in the event that there is no solution in sight, prioritize your mental health and look for another job so you can get out of your hostile work environment and subsequently, your depression as fast as possible. At the end of the day, no job is more important than your mental and physical health. 

What Not to Say to Someone With Low Self-Esteem

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If you know someone who is struggling with low self-esteem, you may have many instinctive reactions about how best to help him or her. Also, when that person is someone you deeply care about, you may think that you have to go to a lot of extra effort to boost his or her self-esteem; which is understandable – it just shows you’re trying to be supportive. However, for someone who has low self-esteem, there are certain things you might say which – although said with positive intentions – can be quite unhelpful. In fact, certain comments can make that person feel worse about themselves. Here are some examples of things to avoid saying to someone with low self-esteem.

If Someone Has Low Self-Esteem, Don’t Shower Them With Praise

In your mind, you may think highly of your loved one, whoever that may be: your best friend, partner, sibling, parent, son, or daughter. So, when you hear them being self-critical or thinking unkind things about themselves, you may be perplexed and try to resolve their unrealistic thoughts by showering them with praise.

For example, you might say to them, “you’re an amazing person”, “you’re so intelligent”, “you’re incredibly talented”, “you’re the kindest person I know”, and so on. If the person you’re telling this to has low self-esteem, they might not believe you. They might think you’re just saying it to be nice, to make them feel better, or because you feel sorry for them. When you shower others with praise, it can sometimes be infantilizing – it can make the person with low self-esteem feel like a child who needs to be coddled.

“Don’t Be Ridiculous”

Variations of this response might include “Don’t be stupid” or “That’s a silly thing to say”. When you have low self-esteem, you might have irrational or overly negative opinions about yourself. If you express these beliefs about yourself to someone else, they may be puzzled and say, “Don’t be stupid, you’re so smart”, without giving it much thought. But, for the person with low self-esteem, what they may take from this is that they are, in fact, stupid and that the other person is just confirming it, as well as lying to them about being smart. Although said in an innocuous way, these kinds of comments can bolster the negative beliefs that a person with low self-esteem has about himself or herself, such as being stupid and pathetic.

Don’t Give Unsolicited Advice

Other people’s advice often rubs the wrong way when you’re struggling with low self-esteem. If a loved one sees that you’re being hard on yourself, they might give you all sorts of advice you didn’t ask for, such as how you should be kinder towards yourself (as if you didn’t know this already) or about how you should seek out a certain type of treatment or self-help book. If you have low self-esteem, unsolicited advice can make you feel like others know how to take care of themselves and be well-adjusted individuals but you, apparently, are failing in this respect. Also, when everyone is giving you advice, it can feel like you’re a child who depends on more mature people who know how to properly navigate life.

There are many more helpful things you could say to someone with low self-esteem. A more effective way to support a person struggling with self-critical thoughts is to recognize what they’re experiencing without judgment and to listen to them in an empathetic way. Simply saying, “It must be really tough to have those thoughts” can have a much more positive impact than saying, “Stop thinking that way”. Also, try to instill a sense of hope and optimism about the process of building self-esteem, as this will allow the other person to see that they’re not stuck in their way of thinking.

Is It Possible to Know All of My Alters?

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Do you know how many alters your system contains? Can you ever really know how many parts you have?

It is important first to understand how our parts are created. According to the theory of structural dissociation, alters are created when an existing part cannot cope with the new trauma and stress in the system, so a new alter is created out of necessity. The first time the abuse occurred to you as a child, you did not automatically split into your current system of alters. You initially split into two, and, as the abuse continued, more parts were created to handle the trauma. 

I Know of 30 Alters

I don't think I know all of my alters. In my system, we have roughly 30 members, but 30 of us were not created all at once. As we were continually subjected to abuse, a new part needed to be created to handle the pain.

What about now? Do we still split when there is stress in our lives? As a result, could there be even more parts of which we are unaware?

The answer is yes.

When my mother unexpectedly died recently, the existing members of my system did not have the emotional resources to cope with the level of stress her death brought to us. The trauma of losing my mom could not be integrated with my emotional state, so spontaneously a new headmate was created to handle the grief ("How the DID Host of Our System Protected Our Lives").

So as you continue on in life and inevitably encounter more stress and pain, it is possible you could create more alters if your current system is unable to handle the stress you encounter. If this happens, you might never know how many headmates your system contains.

Not Knowing All Your Alters

Another reason you may never know all your alters is that some parts may stay hidden because they are too damaged to come forward. The trauma your alters suffered may be so severe and damaging that to evidence themselves to others would cause too much instability and make life unsafe. 

So in a system of alters, there is not a specific number you reach and then you are done splitting. That does not mean you will still be creating alters for the rest of your life. As healthy coping skills are developed and therapy and treatment are undertaken, the system can cope with each day's stress and additional alters are no longer needed. 

I recommend keeping a list of your system's members. One day I sat down and went through all the journals that my headmates and I had written in and made a list of all the members who have come forward and made themselves known. We compared our list with a list our therapist made. We discovered that he had names of parts who have come out in therapy, the names of whom I was unaware. This reflected that there were still headmates in our system who had not come forward to me. As a result, it is impossible to know every alter or to have a final count of all the members in your system. 

Communicating with the Alters You Know

But all is not lost and one would never give up on trying to meet and understand each part. A system of communication must be set up in order to meet your alters. Keep a journal and write to your system. Use their personal names if you can. Artwork is also an effective tool used to communicate with them. You can also leave sticky notes around your home with little messages of compassion or genuine questions you have for them. Listen carefully and without judgment when they reply. Be open and curious with what your headmates want to share, and always show them you care about them regardless of what they have to say.

Showing Gratitude to Your Alters

It is true that while I wish to know every alter in my system so that I might feel more complete and whole as a person, the reality is knowing all my parts will probably never happen. Your system and however many alters it contains has worked hard to keep you alive and functioning. They have taken on the suffering and pain that you were not able to hold. So, no, you may never know all the members of your system. However, we can still be grateful for our system's existence and protection, especially the alters we may never know.

Radical Acceptance Can Change Your Life

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Radical acceptance is a term often taught in dialectical behavior therapy. It pulls from Buddhist principles and is the act of fully accepting reality just as it is. I have found that many of the DBT principles are simple in theory but difficult to implement. Radical acceptance is no exception, but there are many benefits of radically accepting things you cannot change.

How is Radical Acceptance Helpful?

Why should you accept things you don't like? Well for starters, objecting to reality doesn't change it. However, fighting against reality by focusing on why things should be different or how unfair the situation is can perpetuate your pain. The foundation of radical acceptance is that pain plus nonacceptance equals suffering. This means that pain with acceptance equates to normal, healthy pain.

Here is an example of how I used radical acceptance recently to keep a bad situation from getting worse. My family and I missed a connecting flight to Dublin when our flight to New York City was diverted for bad weather. As a result, we were stuck in NYC for 24 hours. I could have chosen to be angry and upset that we were missing a full day of our Ireland vacation. Instead, I chose to accept the situation and made plans for us to have a fun day in New York. It ended up being a great day. 

What Things Must We Radically Accept?

We must accept things that are outside of our control and cannot be changed. Radical acceptance does not mean rolling over and giving up. It means recognizing when there are no longer any alternative options and that things are the way they are.

When we arrived in New York, I ran like crazy to the next terminal to try and catch our flight, even though it was scheduled to leave just a few minutes after we finally landed. Once it was clear we couldn't catch the fight, I bolted to the counter to see if we could get on the next one. Unfortunately, it was full, and the next flight we could take was 24 hours away.

At that point, radical acceptance was my best option. I couldn't do anything else. I gave my best effort, but this was the reality we were facing. If I chose not to accept the situation radically, I would be miserable. 

Radical Acceptance Makes Difficult Situations Bearable.

In summary, radical acceptance means accepting reality just as it is. It means not focusing on how things should be different. It requires us to let go when we can't control outcomes and make the most of a situation so we can feel peaceful. If you would like to hear my best tips for practicing radical acceptance, check out my video below. 

Vacationing When You Have Borderline Personality Disorder

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Going on vacation with borderline personality disorder can bring added challenges. A few years ago, when I was on vacation with my friend in France, I found myself crying on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night becoming increasingly distressed and desperate to be at home. I love going on vacation and being lucky enough to explore new places, but there are times when going away causes me additional challenges for managing my borderline personality disorder (BPD).  

Three Tips for Vacationing When You Have Borderline Personality Disorder

Packing and Preparation for Vacations with BPD

When I’m away from home it can be difficult because I don’t have access to think things I need to help calm me when I feel anxious. These things range from my art materials, which I use to express my feelings in a safe way, to a shower which I use to ease tension and my yoga mat which I can roll out whenever I need it. Planning my packing well in advance is helpful so I can find items that are portable. Whilst at home I have a multitude of art materials at my fingertips, a sketchbook and a handful of crayons stashed into my suitcase is almost just as good for a couple of weeks.

Before a trip, I make sure that I’ve downloaded any music, podcasts or TV episodes that I can use if I need to take a break or use as a distraction from anxious thoughts. I also make sure to pack snacks, as being hungry really lowers my resilience to intense emotions, headphones and enough warm clothes as being cold really affects my mood.

The Importance of Communication During Vacations about My BPD Symptoms

Because of borderline personality disorder, it is vital that I communicate often and effectively when I’m on vacation with the people around me. I’ve found that it’s much more effective to state my needs and feelings clearly before they spiral out of control. It’s much more helpful to say, for example, "I’m feeling tired and would benefit from a short rest," than get so overwhelmed that I have a meltdown in the evening.

Scheduling in some time alone is useful too as social situations are often the most difficult for my BPD. If I stay out late or have a flight that gets in during the small hours, I schedule a late sleep-in without feeling guilty. Sleep is a non-negotiable for me for my mental health. 

Learning to Cope Without My BPD Therapist During Vacations

It used to be hard being away from my therapist during vacations (or when she went on vacation). In the past, I felt really fragile without a weekly or twice-weekly therapy session. However, in recent times, I’ve learned to cope with my BPD better and I can manage without seeing my therapist for a few weeks at a time.

Last month, I went on holiday to Poland. I packed carefully, had a (mostly) manageable schedule and communicated my needs clearly on the trip. I’m happy to say I had no major emotional meltdowns during the vacation because of BPD and, rather than returning drained as I often do, I came back feeling refreshed.

How Your Inner GPS Falls Victim to Verbal Abuse

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What is your inner GPS? Some call it intuition. Others call it a "gut feeling." No matter the label, we all have an internal GPS that guides us. But what happens when your inner GPS is recalibrated to someone else's objectives? This recalibration is the result of a verbally abusive relationship. The abuser will work their magic to undo our self-trust and put that trust into their hands. When this happens, we feel as though there is no place to turn, and the minute we get lost, the recalibration begins.

Your Inner GPS Is Recalibrated by the Silent Signs of Verbal Abuse

Growing up, my inner GPS was intact, but its calibration was incomplete. I knew yelling, name-calling, and put-downs were clear signs of verbal abuse, but I didn't realize abuse could also manifest in passive ways. No one taught me that a person could completely break you down without ever raising their voice. No one taught me about gaslighting, blaming, accusing, and circular talk.

I remember the first time my ex cheated on me. The word "first" reveals how deep the manipulation went. He came clean and acted like it was no big deal. I was devastated by the blow, but it got worse. He blamed me. He politely pointed out my flaws and behaviors that lead him to make that choice. He kept telling me I was "crazy" for getting upset and that I was "remembering things wrong" when I'd bring it up after the initial conversation. The more he calmly talked, the more I believed him. Why? Because he convinced me this was love. My inner GPS was recalculated.

This is what the verbal abuser does. They slowly, quietly plant seeds of self-doubt into your heart and mind. Slowly and quietly the seeds grow. Now, when you ask your inner GPS for guidance, the landscape has drastically changed. You become lost and slowly dependent on your abuser to guide your way. You rely on them to recalculate because you've forgotten how. I knew I wasn't crazy, yet something in the back of my mind kept telling me to stay. Something kept telling me he was right.

As time passed, the relationship continued to grow more toxic, yet his tactics became less noticeable. He would use circular arguments to confuse me, he would implicitly accuse me of infidelity to remove the onus from him, and he would gaslight me every time I pointed out a misstep on his part. The seeds were planted. I was lost in a forest that had been growing for years. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't find the way back to myself. How did I let someone recalibrate my GPS without ever knowing?

Recalibrate Your Inner GPS to Avoid Abuse and Manipulation

How do we break free from someone that is trained to talk us back into the relationship? It starts with self-confidence and knowing you aren't crazy. I'm here to tell you, you aren't. I thought I was crazy. I thought it was my fault until I started doing something about it. I began writing down my thoughts and feelings and dated them to track events. I kept a list of his comments and patterns because I needed to know I was right. I needed to know I wasn't crazy with hard evidence before I walked away. It's almost as if I had to catch him in a lie on my terms before I could walk away. 

But that feeling of wanting to be right and the need for more evidence came from fear. Deep down, I wanted to believe he would change. That was my Achilles heel. It's easy to think they will, but if you are in a relationship with an abuser, they will do anything to keep you around, subdued, and looking for a way to keep the peace. They won't change; they will only work harder to change you.

I broke free because of friends and mental health professionals who reinforced my evidence. I knew it was time to get away once and for all, but I needed help finding that strength. At the end of the day, I continued to believe something was wrong, and I'm glad I was able to finally trust my gut. Your internal GPS always knows. It's a big leap of faith once you decide to leave, but once you get far enough away, your inner GPS will begin to recalibrate.