January 17, 2020 6:49 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend has been emotionally abusing me for over a year. Tonight I told him to leave. Help me get through this night, I feel like I am losing my mind.

He and I also got into physical fights as of late. He split my lip last week. I'm going to need plastic surgery to fix the scar.

A few questions back (if you would like to refer), I mentioned that I was in crisis and was seeking intensive outpatient therapy programs. I found one and enrolled, and am going to start a week from Monday. I had to leave my job to do this program, as I hadn't worked there long enough to qualify for FMLA or disability leave.

My boyfriend and I have been having an ongoing conflict - if you want the details, I'm ready to come out of the closet and reveal that my sockpuppet is buckminsterfullerene. You can read what's been happening in my questions under that account.

I have like ten days before this program started, he said he would be there to support me, but he is completely incapable of not baiting me about his supposed victimhood. He started again tonight - he couldn't even give me ten days of peace before I started my recovery program and I finally hit my breaking point and told him to leave. It got ugly, but no one got hurt (this time).

I am not afraid of him, he's a cowardly piece of shit. I am not in danger of harming myself. Honestly, I just feel numb. And angry. His emotional abuse has driven me to suicidal depression (again, please don't worry, I am not suicidal now) and exacerbated my PTSD. He is literally the reason why I had to leave my job and seek outpatient psychiatric care.

I'm numb now, but I imagine an emotional crash is coming at some point. What do I do, how do I prepare, what can I do now to soften the blow when it comes. We were together for a decade - it was complicated, but that's ten years of my life I'll never get back. That's my 20s. I'm 34 now, with a busted lip, and so much hurt. I cannot fathom being so cruel as he was to me all year. And yet I still love him, which is embarrassing and gross.

Anyway, I'm numb now but I am sure the enormity of this will hit me soon. Please give me some advice to pad the landing?
posted by thereemix to Human Relations (35 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Telling an abuser to leave is brave. You did a brave and hard thing tonight and you have nothing to be embarrassed about.

My thirties were a decade of ending old stuff and committing to new, better stuff. They can be the same for you. This is an amazing start.
posted by eirias at 7:12 PM on January 17, 2020 [49 favorites]

Change the locks, call the police if that’s an option for you, reach out to friends/local DV organizations as you’re able. You’re amazing, and kicking this dude out is one more proof of it. He’s used you for sex, emotional support, and housing, and now all that shit is over. Celebrate. Have a friend come over with some treats and some dumb stuff to watch on TV. Cry. Sleep. Ask the program if they can get you in sooner because of this crisis. But mostly, know you did the right thing. *hugs*
posted by hollyholly at 7:17 PM on January 17, 2020 [19 favorites]

Hi there - I don't know you or your boyfriend, but please be careful and take of yourself by protecting yourself. Perhaps getting through this night means writing down actions and options and steps for how to do that. Could you list out friends or family members to contact to stay with for a bit? Please remember that when leaving an abusive partner is the most dangerous time. I don't mean to sound alarmist but few months ago an acquaintance murdered his wife and then himself when she was planning to leave him. It has made me look at abusive situations much differently. You are doing the right thing!
posted by seesom at 7:39 PM on January 17, 2020 [8 favorites]

Hey - you’re super brave and incredibly resilient. What comes next will undoubtably be horrible, but you will survive it.

Who do you have for support? Please call or email a friend or family member tonight and let them know that you need someone to be with during the day tomorrow. Having someone to physically help you plan next steps is important. Think about keeping yourself safe, hug your dog, and remember that there are people in your life who care about you.

And, please, call a women’s crisis center/hotline in your area for local advice. This man has hurt you badly - both physically and emotionally. You don’t know what he’ll do now that he’s seen you take back a modicum of control. Do not underestimate his capacity to hurt you further. He is a piece of shit. A piece of shit you will survive.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 7:46 PM on January 17, 2020 [11 favorites]

So proud of you!!

Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. You got this.

Next: do you have a trusted friend who could stay over with you tonight? Someone to help keep you feeling grounded, and also just in case he comes back to the house piss drunk or some nonsense like that.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:48 PM on January 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

You are amazing and strong and you did the hardest thing in the world tonight. Is there someone who can come be with you, a good friend or family member?

If not, to get through the night, I would honestly just go to bed. Pile yourself under some warm, comfy blankets and zonk out until morning. For me, it's hardest to face stuff at night. In the morning, you can go eat some delicious food, listen to some invigorating music, etc, but for tonight, just make yourself feel safe and wrapped in warmth.

Every day that goes by is one more day you are further from him. Please me-mail me if you need to talk. I know I'm a stranger but... I've known some bad men. You can get through this.
posted by silverstatue at 7:48 PM on January 17, 2020 [8 favorites]

I was you, a decade ago. You are much braver than I was, so good job to you for having a boundary and sticking to it. Advice I wish I could give my younger self:

Go no contact. Really. Nothing will ever be gained by reengaging. It will only make things worse.

No, you cant be friends later.

Finding yourself again will take time. Be gentle with yourself. Spend time in nature. With friends. Revisit your childhood dreams.

Do the work to understand why this happened. (Not that its your fault! But why you were drawn to it and stayed.) Learn the red flags. Learn about boundaries, codependency, and as much as you can about your mental health. Take active steps to heal and grow.

His issues are not your fault. Really internalize that.

Healing takes time. Give yourself that space. It's not always a straight line to better.

Push yourself. Take some risks. Free yourself of a fear based mindset. Do things you thought you could never do that would be helpful in the long run. Lean into it as much as you can.

Best of luck. I know this is hard. You will get through this.
posted by ananci at 7:50 PM on January 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

I second the suggestions to spend the night, or some nights, with a trusted friend.
I noticed somewhere in your previous ask you said you were too ashamed to admit what has happened to your friends -- if that's still the case, I think it shoudl suffice to tell them you're having a personal emergency and need to be in someone's company without going into detail or revealing stuff about your relationship.

If none of that is possible, maybe checking in to a hotel you find safe and comforting (and could afford) and that has a lobby filled with people could help ease your pain and keep you tethered to reality and distracted once the shock wears off.

Could you also call your inpatient program for some guidance or advice? Maybe you should let them know what's going on, ASAP.
posted by shaademaan at 7:54 PM on January 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

Nthing the suggestion to stay with a friend for a couple of nights if at all possible. Call your therapist and see if you can get an emergency appointment. And consider getting a restraining order (though these are not panaceas).

Best of luck to you. You did a really hard thing!
posted by praemunire at 8:41 PM on January 17, 2020 [1 favorite]


Keep yourself safe, either by staying with friends or in a hotel or asking a local DV group for logistical support.

I, like posters above, have seen scenarios like this get messy and you may need restraining orders, etc, before the calm settles as your ex realises you are really gone. It sucks so much. I am so sorry and none of this is your fault.

But you have taken a huge step toward a better decade. It's ok if the next week is numb, if you bingewatch some nonsense, distract yourself however.

This internet stranger is rooting for you!!
posted by athirstforsalt at 8:47 PM on January 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

There’s just about enough of the tv show Jane The Virgin to carry you through to the program starting. The magical realism telenovella is soapy and melodramatic was fantastic for me riding out a terrible wave of depression late last year.

Let yourself hunker down an JUST COPE until you’re in a place with better support. You don’t even need to worry about healing yet. That will come in time.

You did a strong and brave thing by kicking him out. Try and put things in place so you don’t have to be as strong this weekend. If you’re worried about contacting him, decide ahead of time who you will call instead so you can cry to them. (PM me if you don’t have anyone you can trust). If you’re worried about him contacting you, block his number, change his contact name to “fuckface mcgee” or “busted my lip. While your mind is calm and you can think, see if there are little things you can do to help the breakup stick when you’re feeling weak.

Ask your Facebook friends for support if you can or silly gifs if you can’t. You don’t have to show up to your program in a great place or halfway healed or ready to fight for yourself, you just have to show up. You will get through this!
posted by itesser at 8:55 PM on January 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

The National US Domestic Hotline is 1-800-799-7233. They can connect you with local resources, provide emotional support, guide you through any questions you might have in the upcoming days, connect you to orgizations to help you establish employment or housing if needed.

Take gentle care of you
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:56 PM on January 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Hey theremix! Just wanted to pop in and send you internet hugs and virtual support.

You are brave, smart, and so very deserving of good things. I sincerely hope you have someone you can call to be there with you. Know that I am sitting here in this moment with you.

Here are some suggestions of activities that keep you just busy enough to not be overwhelmed by your feelings for the next 10 days: paint-by-numbers kits, walks to burn nervous energy, baking, pulling nails from floorboards, sanding tables, macrame, sorting out a closet, cleaning the drawers in the kitchen, checking expiry dates on food.

I am rooting for you!
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 9:01 PM on January 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

And yet I still love him, which is embarrassing and gross.

It’s so so common. In my own situation where I had to deal with what a beloved friend had done to me (sexual assault), it took a long, long time to not have caring feelings in that direction. It’s part of being human and having been open and vulnerable to be close with someone. Don’t belittle yourself for having those feelings.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:03 PM on January 17, 2020 [10 favorites]

And yet I still love him, which is embarrassing and gross

i had the same experience after leaving someone who had treated me badly. it was hard for me, especially because so many people around me were like "your ex sucks! i hate them! it's great that you're out!". i felt like i was expected to immediately express the same sentiments in order to be fully supported, and it was very lonely for me, because my feelings were much more complicated than that.

it helped me to tell myself that continuing to love them was human and normal and nothing to be ashamed of, that it meant i had a huge capacity for love and connection. but i also had the wisdom and strength to protect myself, especially the part of me that loved so easily. i wrote a lot of letters to my ex that i never sent. several years out, i don't feel that way about them anymore. i rarely think of them at all.

more concrete things that helped in the immediate aftermath: calling a non-judgmental friend, wrapping myself in a lot of blankets, playing the radio so my apartment didn't feel so empty. heavy exercise helped a lot too.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 9:04 PM on January 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

Also: can you call a friend to come over? Someone who can just be present with you?
posted by ocherdraco at 9:05 PM on January 17, 2020

He took the dog.

I still have my cat. He's here with me, lying on my chest, purring.

Thank you all so much for your kindness. I'm quite overwhelmed and very grateful.
posted by thereemix at 9:09 PM on January 17, 2020 [23 favorites]

There is nothing fundamentally contradictory in regarding the same person with both genuine love and crushing disappointment. There is also nothing fundamentally contradictory in regarding the same person as both somebody you genuinely love and somebody you simply cannot continue to live or be intimate with for the sake of your own health and safety.

Both of these apparent contradictions are made possible by the deeply human quality known as compassion, which you clearly have by the bucketload. Compassion is not anything you need to talk yourself out of having. Your feelings are what they are, they're completely genuine, and having them does not mean you're in some way broken and in need of repair. It's your world that's just been torn up, not you, and it's going to take you some time to knit together a new one.

Best thing to do right now is grab hold of all the compassion that's going and get as much of it on you as you possibly can.

Standing offer here of Internet hugs from an anonymous stranger if they'd be of any use to you.
posted by flabdablet at 9:16 PM on January 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

And that cat? He's your life coach right now. Take his advice seriously.
posted by flabdablet at 9:18 PM on January 17, 2020 [45 favorites]

Anyway, I'm numb now but I am sure the enormity of this will hit me soon. Please give me some advice to pad the landing?

DV crisis hotlines (MeFi Wiki) can actually be pretty awesome for situations like this, including because they can address issues like safety planning, and just being a confidential and supportive person to speak with. They may also be able to help you get a referral to a free attorney (MeFi Wiki) for a consultation about your legal options.

There are more than restraining orders that may be available, e.g. a 'trespass' notice, and you may have employment law protections specific to your situation that you might have missed by only focusing on FMLA or disability leave. The availability of free legal representation varies by jurisdiction, but especially considering the severity of your injury, it sounds like you may likely be what is referred to as a 'priority' for representation.

For now, I encourage you to be kind to yourself and to focus on safety planning and self care. And your cat, of course.
posted by katra at 9:36 PM on January 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

I have a therapy appointment in the morning, at 9. Less than 7 hours from now.

I really don't want to go.

I do want to talk about this in therapy (obviously) eventually, but I don't know if I am up for it tomorrow after this night. I'm so drained and the idea of rehashing what happened so soon after it happened makes me want to crawl into a hole in the ground. Would it be so terrible to reschedule? I honestly just want to spend the whole weekend in bed with the electric blanket and the cat and old episodes of Mad Men, try to come down from the adrenaline, and then talk about it with an couple days' distance.

Would this be ok? I just... I can't bring myself to talk about this anymore. I just called my brother and told him what happened and now I am a wreck and I don't think I can handle EMDR right now.
posted by thereemix at 10:52 PM on January 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

From my view, you have the most information, so you are in the best position to make a decision about what to do. Maybe see how you feel in the morning, and maybe you don't have to do EMDR but can still check in with your therapist for support, or maybe at least call to briefly explain why you're not going to the appointment and what you plan to do for self-care before your next appointment.
posted by katra at 11:28 PM on January 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

I suggest you go and just not talk about it. You can say something like I've had a hard time and I just want support but I don't want to talk yet, I don't think I can do emdr today. Allow yourself the space to be with a supportive person even if you can't bring yourself to process. Any good therapist will respect that boundry.

You might want to think of some things beforehand to talk about. A suggestion is general ways to take care of yourself in times of high stress.
posted by AlexiaSky at 11:28 PM on January 17, 2020 [12 favorites]

Some advice for the future, if you find yourself thinking about him too much. First, try telling yourself that you don't ever need to see him again. That should help you feel better. Try also focusing on yourself: why were you willing to put up with him for so long? (This was the assignment my therapist gave me. It wasn't comfortable but did distract me from thinking about getting back together with him.) Make plans for the future. And do things he didn't like that make you happy.
posted by salvia at 11:44 PM on January 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

It might be helpful to go and instead of EMDR talk about actionable tactics for you from an emotional point of view - how to handle contact if he initiates it, how to deal with untangling your lives etc.

And hug that cat tight.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:53 AM on January 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I’ve thought about you many times since your last buckminsterfullerene post and worried about you, wondered how you were doing. I can only echo everyone else’s comments that I’m so relieved you told him to get out, but knowing from your posts how vicious he can be, concerned for your safety now. I know you feel the urge to nest and lick your wounds, but please don’t do it alone. Both for your physical safety and your mental health, you need someone with you. Call a friend or family member and tell them you’re in crisis and need them to come to you, or (better still) for you to go to them. Call your local DV line today and take their advice. You don’t have to tell them who you are. Gather all your important personal documents with you in a bag, and if you leave to go to a friend’s house, take them with you.

For your therapist, another option is the reverse of what AlexiaSky suggests - call
your therapist to reschedule, but when you call, tell them why you’re doing it, so they know what’s happening with you.

Please take care of yourself.
posted by penguin pie at 12:57 AM on January 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Count me in as another internet stranger who sees how brave, strong, self-aware, and loving you are. I am thinking of you and sending you love and care through this difficult time.

My suggestion for how to make it through these next 10 days is to bring your attention to your breath. Especially any time you're starting to feel overwhelmed, particularly numb, having running thoughts: bring your attention to your breath. This simple, not-so-simple act helps us connect to an essential part of ourselves that we often forget, especially in crisis. Bring the attention to the breath.

Crying is a good release. Especially sobbing. Allow yourself to do that if you can.

As for the appointment, would it be possible to go and say something like "I'm going through something major. I don't have the energy to talk about it. Right now I'm dealing with it by watching Mad Men, snuggling with the cat and the electric blanket. I feel numb, and I'm looking for help coping for the next few days." You could also send them these posts, and again say I DON'T want to talk about it, but then they would know what's going on. If you decide not to go, that is 100% okay. Really. Feel okay with whatever you decide.
posted by hannahelastic at 1:15 AM on January 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

thereemix, there’s a ton of good advice here so I won’t add to it, but I’ll add this: I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but when I was looking a couple of days ago for something I’d posted, I came across a couple of your questions, and I was thinking what a strong, smart, interesting person you seemed like and how you’re someone I’d probably really enjoy knowing in real life. Hugs if you want them; if not, know that I’m thinking about you. 💜
posted by holborne at 5:40 AM on January 18, 2020 [10 favorites]

You already did the hardest part. Enduring abuse and leaving an abuser are deeply exhausting--physically, emotionally, spiritually--and rescheduling therapy so you can curl up with your cat and some Netflix is completely fine. When I left I had quite few days that felt a lot like having the flu, with more sobbing. Stay in bed, drink tea, and go easy on yourself; your only job right now is to stay safe and regain your strength.

Nthing the advice to get a hotel room or ask a friend to stay with you (but not talk to you if you need solitude) until you feel up to visiting a domestic violence agency to talk about safety planning. It doesn't matter how much of a coward your ex is; most abusers are cowards. They're desperately afraid of losing control and they sometimes pull crazy shit trying to regain it. It may be necessary for your safety, and it's definitely necessary as a practical matter if want solitude, since your friends and family aren't going to leave you alone until they know you're safe.

YMMV on all of this, but: I found it therapeutic to do practical and tactile things, and things that somehow scrubbed him out of my life and body...Laundry, cleaning/purging, organizing, getting a haircut, getting a massage. When I had no energy for that I binged basically any TV show I could find featuring women who had fucking had enough. I visited the animal shelter just to play with the cats and dogs there; most shelters don't mind at all even if you don't plan to adopt, because it's good socialization for the animals. When I felt a little better I also consciously tried to bring back parts of myself and my life that I'd somehow lost in the relationship: I spent time with old friends who knew me before the abusive relationship; visited favorite places I hadn't been in years; cooked my favorite comfort food--Southern stuff my ex didn't like--while blasting music he also didn't like.
posted by xylothek at 5:41 AM on January 18, 2020 [7 favorites]

that's ten years of my life I'll never get back. That's my 20s. I'm 34 now. I know this seems like a huge loss. But it's never to late to move on. And it's going to be SO MUCH BETTER eventually. My own mother stayed with my emotionally abusive stepdad for 30 years. At age 68, she finally left. It was scary and she struggled, but she is in such a good place now, and even met a lovely man who dotes on her. She's happy. You'll get there too.
posted by kimdog at 6:52 AM on January 18, 2020 [11 favorites]

I emailed my therapist explaining what happened and that I would like to reschedule. I already had rescheduled an appointment last week because I was having a negative reaction to a tetanus booster shot (fever, swelling at the injection site, general malaise). Therapist was understanding but reading between the lines of his response I think he might be really frustrated or angry at me for cancelling today and I'm afraid that I've just introduced another arena of conflict into my life. Being in individual therapy is a condition of my enrollment in the outpatient psychiatric program and I cannot afford to jeopardize that. I told him that I would gladly pay in full for the last minute cancellation. He said he'd get back to me with some times to reschedule. I'm feeling a bit panicked now.
posted by thereemix at 1:28 PM on January 18, 2020

For right now, it is necessary that you force optimism because you need to not be more miserable than necessary. Believe what definitely is true to be true, assume anything unfortunate that you suppose may be true is probably not true. So:

he might be really frustrated or angry at me
or he might not. We don't know, so let us assume the best possible. The therapist is not angry at you.

I'm afraid that I've just introduced another arena of conflict into my life.
Or not. Assume not. (For heaven's sake, is this guy a literal monster? He knows you don't need more conflict!)

Being in individual therapy is a condition of my enrollment in the outpatient psychiatric program and I cannot afford to jeopardize that.
Assume you haven't.

I told him that I would gladly pay in full for the last minute cancellation.
Excellent: you did exactly right.

He said he'd get back to me with some times to reschedule.
Excellent: he's still in the game.

I don't know why without digging around, but I definitely remember both your usernames very fondly, feel friendly toward you, and feel invested in a "person should be my real life friend" kind of way, to the degree that when I began reading this question, I said, "Oh, no!" "OH, NO!" multiple times. Your therapist, if he has any sense at all, wants to see you as much as he can. If he's frustrated right now, it's because he wanted to see you and now will have to wait. Not because you did anything wrong.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:52 PM on January 18, 2020 [10 favorites]

reading between the lines of his response I think he might be really frustrated or angry at me for cancelling today and I'm afraid that I've just introduced another arena of conflict into my life.

That's because your brain is exhausted and flailing and you're catastrophising, hugely. It's not a big deal. It's one appointment (two, if you count last week), so what? I wonder how many appointments he has every month? I bet many of them end up being rescheduled. It's just your turn. He works in what is, in many senses, a service industry, and one with a high proportion of clients whose lives are unsettled. This is no big deal to him. Let it go.

I bet one of the things he's trying to help you master is self-care. You putting off this appointment until you're ready is you exercising self-care. Once he finds out more fully the situation, he'll most likely be proud of you for everything you've done this week, including postponing.

You say he was understanding. Believe him and his understanding-ness, don't try and read between lines because if you give it a chance, a tired, stressed brain will always make up something negative where there is nothing. Go pet your kitty cat and breeeathe.
posted by penguin pie at 2:56 PM on January 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

I want to put in a vote that you keep your therapist appointment. Remember, you get to set the boundaries with your therapist. You don't actually have to talk about this or any of the detail of this. You could say "I want to focus on self-care and calming strategies" or "i need support but don't want to go into why."

I know every now and then I really dread my therapy appointment and think it's going to be a horrible experience, and then walk out of there after feeling much calmer and more in control. Don't forget there is a real value to just the very presence of therapeutic conversations especially when in crisis. It just might make you feel better able to face this and the aftermath.
posted by Miko at 3:22 PM on January 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

I'd like to reach out through this page and give you a great big hug. You deserve it. I too had a five year long pain in the ass. You can PM me if you ever need female co-support and a listening ear. Maybe that's the trick. Hoard up all your available family and friends and never spend time alone. It will crack that facade of still being in love with the punk when you've rehashed all of his abuse out loud over and over. Good luck. PS. I meant what I said I live in the midwest (USA) and I would be a great listener.
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 5:08 AM on January 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

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