27 Things I’ve Learned As I Rebuilt My Life After Escaping An Abusive Past

Twenty20 / kirillvasilevcom
Twenty20 / kirillvasilevcom

Just over a year ago I escaped 27 years of a dangerous and abusive life. Trauma, running for my life, and a broken spirit doesn’t even begin to describe it. The “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has been my hero and as she stumbled through this unknown world, I laughed (and cried) with her.

Along with a lot of stumbles, learning and triumphs – here are the biggest lessons I learned this past year:

  1. Apply for the job, even if you don’t think you are qualified. You might surprise yourself by discovering that some strong independent women believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself.
  2. Cheese is expensive. And only to be bought on special occasions.
  3. The little things are filled with magic. Like staying up till 2 AM and making yourself a peanut-butter sandwich.
  4. Eventually you will stop being afraid. You will be able to walk into a mall without scanning faces and looking over your shoulder.
  5. Relish the moments of being alone. Get to know yourself.
  6. Choose your circle wisely. Gone are the days of filling your time with people who will hurt you, or aren’t genuinely interested in knowing you. There will be people who will love you for you, laugh with you and cry with you. But it takes time, and don’t be afraid to be picky.
  7. Roommates can be the best thing or the worst thing to happen to you. You might either run as fast as you can to your room when you get home, or you might actually want to hang out. The best roommates are the ones that become friends.
  8. There may be days/weeks/months that you cannot afford food or cold medicine when you get sick. These are the days you get creative. Sell your art online, or sell your clothes. Or whatever belongings have some sort of monetary value. At the end of the day they’re just things. And somedays you just need the damn Tylenol!!
  9. You can’t pick your family – but you can disown them! And then make your own family.
  10. You are not defined by your past.
  11. Learn to laugh at yourself. The blunders and failures don’t define who you are, the only person you have to make happy is yourself.
  12. Improvise! Hair straighteners double as clothing irons,Starbucks cards double as ice scrapers, Christmas lights double as extension cords. Sure, you might look crazy scraping your car with a Starbucks card as your car in plugged into Christmas lights – but hey. You’re rocking that shit!
  13. Make your home your own. Sure. It might be an 8×10 room. But decorate that shit!
  14. Do things you’ve never done. Maybe It’s dying your hair a crazy color, or buying an edgy outfit, going to a yoga class alone, trying new foods or traveling to new places. You’ve been given a second chance, so let yourself live.
  15. Prove them wrong. They said you would fail, that you were too weak, too dumb, too ugly… but shut that shit down! You are a warrior – you will be happy, and content and you will be everything (and more) they said you would never be.
  16. Eventually, you will trust someone again. It may take time, but there are people who are worth trusting, and worth loving. And most of all – YOU are worth it.
  17. Bacon fixes everything. Well mostly everything. That and coffee. And whiskey. Embrace the whiskey (within reason)
  18. Don’t get too busy rebuilding your life that you forget to check in with yourself. How are you feeling? How are you adjusting? Let yourself feel sad sometimes. Recognize it. Acknowledge it and then move forward. Loss is painful. Growth is hard and really sucks sometimes.
  19. Keep yourself safe. Don’t fall back into old habits, or be tempted to go back to your old life. You’ve worked so hard to be exactly where you are. And safe might feel foreign, but eventually you will discover that you are worth feeling safe.
  20. Make new traditions. Want to celebrate Christmas like a crazy person? Do it. Want to go to church? Sure. Build your life.
  21. You have been given a gift. So many people never appreciate freedom. Freedom to make their own decisions, walking down a mall without being afraid, or not running for your life. When you’ve had those experiences, you truly appreciate the freedom you have. You appreciate what “safe” is. Here is your chance to embrace life. Maybe it’s 10 years later than it should have been, but you’ve made it. You’re alive. Take that course, go dancing, be who you want to be.
  22. Life isn’t always what you hoped it would be. But I have a secret… You are way stronger than you know – and you’ve got this! Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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