Make Moves: When it’s Time to Escape a Toxic Relationship.

“We teach people how to treat us.” —

Dr. Phil

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Depression all wrapped in one like a toxic ass burrito. Order up!

You find yourself questioning your worth. The person you see in the mirror is unrecognizable. Every aspect of you is under a microscope, every detail scrutinized. You lie awake at night, staring at the ceiling, questioning what you can do to better this miserable situation. Can you actually do more than what you have already been doing? Honey. Here’s some better questions for you to ponder- Are you tired of crying? Are you tired of feeling less than worthy? Are you tired of feeling insecure, belittled, insignificant, and unappreciated? If these questions are feeling like the status quo, you’re in trouble. Feeling like you’ve not only exhausted all possible solutions, but that you have wasted so much time and energy on someone who cannot seem to grasp the weight of your value. Three words: LET IT GO.

I’ve been there. I spent damn near a decade in a situation that I should have walked away from a long time ago. I’ve been cheated on. I’ve been called ugly. I’ve been called fat. I’ve been called a bitch. Hell, I’ve been called an ugly, fat bitch. LOL. Not funny, but I can laugh at it now. You would think that there was no element of surprise in that last phrase but boy, did that shit pack a punch to my ego during that time in my life. This man was even ashamed to be seen with me in public. He never wanted to go out together to the club or parties. If it wasn’t something intimate or hidden, I was not allowed to tag along. And despite it all, I STILL stayed. I wasn’t perfect, but I loved hard and was willing to do what was necessary to make it work, including constant forgiveness. It took me 7 years to realize that not only did I not deserve to be in a toxic relationship such as this, but that I simply did not want to do it anymore. It’s crazy how one day you wake up and decide “no more.” It’s as if the fog is finally lifted and you can see the situation clearly for what it is. An epiphany, if you will. But some wounds never fully heal. The baggage is still heavy after half a decade has passed. The insecurities are still there. The first couple of years in my new relationship was a major adjustment. I was conditioned to be jealous, unable to trust, and unable to love unconditionally. Because God forbid, I went through this again. God forbid I allow someone to rob me of my dignity and have me look like a public fool. What did Beyoncé say? “What’s worse, looking jealous and crazy? Or like, being walked all over lately? I rather be crazy.” I hear these lyrics years after my previous relationship and still feel it in the moment I am singing my lungs out along with the song. I was so used to being involved in a toxic relationship that I didn’t even recognize what a healthy relationship should look like. My scars run deep. However, each passing day since I walked away from that relationship has been a step closer to healing. To learning new behaviors. To developing trust. To discovering the essence of pure, unconditional love. But I would have never been close to achieving this, or at least working towards this, mentally and spiritually, if I never walked away.

Need help deciding if it’s time to walk away? If you’re even questioning to walk away in the first place, I’d say it’s time. But…

Here are five signs that you are caught in a toxic relationship and need to run to the nearest exit and never return:

1. Lack of Trust.

Trust is everything. A relationship cannot flourish, or even continue on, without trust as a foundation. One of the biggest signs that there is no trust in a relationship is if you find yourself going through your partner’s phone. I’ve done it. I’m not proud of it. Overall, it’s a very lame thing to do (sorry ladies, I am on your side). And if you find yourself doing it, then there is definitely a lack of trust. I don’t care how much you try to sugarcoat your reasoning behind it.

2. Hostile Environment.

Granted, during arguments, voices can be raised and hurtful things may be said. However, if it takes less to nothing to upset your partner to the point of intense anger and hostility, this may be a warning sign. There should be no reason why you partner gets so angry to the point that he or she is disrespecting your space, your character, or even violating you physically in any way, shape, or form. A hostile environment is not only unhealthy, but it’s everything else but love. Not to mention, it is unacceptable for you to feel unsafe in your relationship.

3. Hella Disrespectful.

This is a given. In a relationship, whether it’s romantic or not, respect has to be at the top of the priority list. Calling you out of your name, belittling your opinions and character, putting you down in front of others, or even the slightest sign of disrespect towards your loved ones. If this sounds familiar in your relationship, why haven’t you created an escape plan yet? Disrespect should not be tolerated. Raise that bar for yourself.

4. Control Issues.

No person should be delegating what you should or should not do. Opinions are welcomed, but it should never negatively affect your relationship. I’ll never forget when I was dating this one guy and he actually got upset because I was hanging out with my friends that day. Not that we had plans!!! But I wasn’t sitting at home, talking on phone all day to him. And somehow, that completely pissed him off. Yeah. I’ve never made a quicker exit. Control is not only a sign of a mentally abusive partner, but it opens a gateway of which toxic traits become acceptable.

5. Mind Games and Manipulation.

Oh, the manipulation. It’s a quality, or lack of I should say, that I despise the most. Because this person actually believes that they can pull the wool over your eyes and insult your intelligence. And sometimes, it can actually work! Trying to influence your opinion negatively to justify their own, disregarding your feelings, twisting words you say to defend their own argument, or simply acting like they are clueless as to why you are feeling a particular way despite your many efforts to explain this, are all signs of manipulation. The moment you begin questioning yourself and find yourself overcompensating to keep the peace or changing your views to please the other party, then you are caught up in the game. The question is are you going to remain in this web of manipulation or will you decided game over?

If you continue to accept the toxicity…

I understand it may be difficult to walk away from any relationship. You may love this person, despite how harmful they are. You may feel comfortable and the thought of starting over completely rattles your core. Or maybe, you actually believe that you are not worthy of a better relationship. I get it. For a very long time, I actually believed that no one else would want me. I would think to myself “I’m not pretty enough” or “I’m not skinny enough” or “I’m not interesting enough.” I believed the lies that were fed to me, especially regarding the content of my character, as well as my physical attributes. I can understand how scary it must feel to walk away. But let me tell you what happens if you don’t. You run the risk of completely losing yourself. Your mental health can decline. Your confidence will decline. Even your perception of your own value will decline. And all of these emotions will eat at your soul to the point beyond repair. So which sounds scarier? Losing a person you love, but are not happy with? Or losing yourself and your happiness all together?

You are worthy.

In case, you don’t realize it. In case, no one has told you. In case, you have a hard time believing it. YOU ARE WORTHY. You are worthy of happiness and unconditional love. You are worthy of finding a person who adores you beyond comprehension, even when you’re displayed in the most unfavorable light. You are worthy of being in a relationship that practices trust, understanding, and compassion. You are worthy of feeling safe, not only with your body, but with your mind and heart. And anyone who tries to tell you otherwise, is not worthy of being in your life. Because relationships, whether romantic or platonic, should feel uplifting. Maybe not 100% of the time because we are all human and capable of making mistakes, but 80% of the time should be the norm. The good should outweigh the bad. Don’t allow another person to drag you down. Don’t allow another person to destroy your self worth. No person should hold this power. So if you have any inclination that you are involved in a toxic relationship, love yourself more. Walk away. No regrets. Look ahead and search for what your soul craves and needs. Temporary heartache to a journey of everlasting bliss.

Stay strong, friends. Xoxo.

An Ode to Self-Love.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” —Brené Brown

Where do I begin?

It feels unfamiliarly odd to be writing right now. My ‘mini-break’ turned out to be much longer than intended. A lot of soul searching. A lot of questions. A lot of doubts. And a whole lot of tears. More tears than I ever wanted to experience. And although it felt painful; many sleepless nights filled with overwhelming anxiety, it felt unbelievably necessary. Detoxing is never easy. And I don’t mean clean diets to flush out your digestive system. I mean truly detoxing what needs to be removed from your life all together. Detoxing bad habits, toxic ways of thinking. Detoxing and separating yourself from people who do not have your best interest. IT’S NEVER EASY. I haven’t written in two months because honestly, I was not in a good place emotionally. The holidays were a painful reminder of what could be, rather than what was. I had high hopes for the New Year. A fresh start, a new slate. Instead what I got was a harsh realization that nothing heals overnight. Seems like everyday I struggled with accomplishing simple tasks, such as laundry and cooking. Sleeping became impossible. Weeks and weeks spent being sleep deprived and feeling defeated. I like to think of myself as an over achiever. Not being able to write, focus on work, plan a wedding, or even do simple household tasks had me feeling like the ultimate failure. Nothing brings you down like self-pity. It festers inside of you until it erupts like a volcano. Then before you know it, everyone is looking at you like a hot head and trying to dodge your self-pitied lava that seems to burn everything in sight, including yourself. And you really want to know what’s almost unbearable? Truly looking at yourself and realizing in some way, shape, or form, you have contributed to your own unhappiness. This is what I have been up to in my absence.

Self-love does not always look like bubble baths and candles. Sometimes self-love requires you to sit in your own darkness and push yourself to find the light. Here comes the transparency: I’m not there yet. But I am taking great strides in reaching that light. My form of self-love was disconnecting and spending time in solitude. I uninstalled all my social media apps from my phone. I suffer from FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. I would scroll and scroll and compare myself to other people in their pictures. They all looked so…happy. And I would think to myself, “What do I have to do to feel what they are feeling?” Cue even more self-pity. I have this incredible knack of putting myself down. Sometimes I find myself wondering why certain people are not accepting of me, or why I constantly feel like an outsider. I can be in a room full of people and still feel utterly alone. It really is a curse. During the month of January, I barely talked to anyone or even went outside to events or hangouts with friends. Everything felt too hard, too overwhelming. I would look at myself in the mirror and think, “wow, you really look how you feel- miserable.” I began questioning my self-worth and competence in almost every area of my life. What’s even worse, I started questioning those around me. And because of this, I isolated myself because I was convinced that no one would want to be around me like this. I finally decided it was time to go to the doctor. Not only because the lack of sleep was affecting my mental health but because it was affecting my physical health as well. I had a hard time concentrating. I would struggle with migraines daily. I began having neck and back pain. There were even a couple of times when I would get so lightheaded that my vision would fade. I went to the doctor and although I haven’t received a definitive answer as to why I cannot sleep besides the obvious reason of struggling with my anxiety, one thing was confirmed by the doctor- I am moderately depressed. He prescribed me medication, which normally I am against, but it was time to throw the white flag and accept that I need help and no longer have control. Self-love is recognizing you need help and cannot do it all on your own. I still need to get blood work done and I am looking into therapy, but for now, I seem to be sleeping better these days. I have been diving into reading more. A book a month is my overall goal. The clarity about disconnecting from social media is the realization that you have this abundance of time to do other hobbies and really connect with yourself. So that’s exactly what my focus has been on. My form of self-love is realizing that I am not okay and that’s okay. It’s okay to put certain things on hold in your life to make sure you are catering to your own well-being. It’s perfectly okay to take some time apart from your normal activities. If you don’t show up for yourself, how can you expect yourself to show up for others. Self-love is recognizing that you can no longer neglect yourself.

I turned 30 on January 30, 2020. A new decade of life. My 20s were filled with lessons. I am sure my 30s will be no different. The only difference is the realization that I have the power to truly love myself and be unapologetic about my flaws. I am imperfectly perfect. I am a 30-year-old who suffers from anxiety and depression but that does not make me a victim. It’s only an acknowledgement for the purpose of continuing my journey of healing. I am intelligent. I am beautiful. I am strong. My capacity to feel does not make me weak. It does not hinder me. I will always honor the compassion within me. It’s what makes me, me. No one can do me like me. That is what separates me from the next person. Our qualities are what separates us from others and makes us so special. But in the same respect, self-love is acknowledging the areas of yourself that could use improvement. I told myself I would return to social media on my birthday. I had it all planned. A fire selfie with a caption filled with nothing but positivity. Reposts of my birthday shout outs. It was all so…ridiculous. Like why? Why did any of this matter?! It didn’t. Ego is a scary and powerful quality within us all. It will have you feeling so entitled and will make anything seem overly important, even if it isn’t. What was even worse is that for a moment, I thought the validation of others would make me happy. Why did I need this kind of validation to feel loved? How can genuine love come from a social media app? I should have the ability to feel loved and valued regardless. Furthermore, I should not feel the need to post to show others that I am having such a great time on my birthday. I really had to put myself in check that day. In the end of my whole thought process, I decided to enjoy my birthday to the fullest. To be present in the moment and express gratitude for another year of life. And that’s exactly what I did. I took myself to the spa and got a deep tissue massage and facial. I met up with one of my best friends and we had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. I celebrated life with my other best friend and met her new baby, who was born just 5 days prior. And then I went home and packed for a weekend at the Smoky Mountains. Me and five other friends had a blast in Tennessee. I couldn’t think of a better way to welcome a new decade. I am excited for what the years will bring. Like fine wine, I only get better. I vow to accept change, to accept love, to accept the obstacles, to accept whatever life throws at me. I will work at accepting it all. But most importantly, I vow to accept myself wholeheartedly, with all of my flaws and imperfections. And that ladies and gentlemen, is the true essence of self-love. It takes constant work and effort. You will fall and rise and then fall again. You will have to brush the dirt off your own shoulders. At times, you will have to be your biggest cheerleader and your own support system. But if you always do your best, you cannot fail. I’m excited to be back into the flow of writing. Only time will tell what will happen from here. The poem below was written by me a few months ago, but never published. The irony is that I resonate with it so much more now than I did then. Sending everyone so much love and pocketing some for myself.

An Open Letter.

Hey Ang,

How have you been? I heard you was uneasy and that you needed a friend.

I heard you haven’t been sleeping. I heard you just stay up. Worrying about everything you cannot solve because nothing is ever enough.

I heard you cry when no one is looking because others ignore your pain. So, you stand there with a smile hoping the pain will fade.

I heard you show up for others and often forget yourself. Because being labeled ‘selfish’ is not what you want to be about.

I heard you fear judgement because this world can be so cold. You have abandonment issues that won’t go away, no matter how old.

I heard you have resentment issues. Issues resent you back. I heard the biggest resentment issues you struggle with, stay tied to your back.

But hey, who am I to judge? I’m only a reflection of what you can be if you learn how to just love yourself.

I can show you. I can offer my help. But you are going to have to stop acting like you have everything under control.

Sit down and listen- this is what you do. Get up every morning and remember to always do you.

Remember how far you have come. Give yourself a break. Grant yourself some grace and let all the doubts escape.

You are beautiful. You are intelligent. You are loved. Your value is not based on anyone’s opinions because you always rise above.

You are resilient and brilliant. You have gone through so much. Do yourself a favor and start showing yourself some love.

And if you ever need a reminder, I’m always here for you, love. I’ll always be your biggest supporter to boost you all the way up.

One day you won’t have to look for me in the mirror. One day that self-love won’t feel like an impossible thing to do. And in that moment, you’ll remember the rose that bloomed from the concrete. The rose that became you. 

Love always,

Your Reflection