Archive for category Assertiveness

SuperBetter Book & Where Is Mia Today?

Since the SuperBetter book came out on September 15th, I got a few messages and emails about it and how am I doing today. I somehow missed that the book came out and had no clue my story was in it, though I’m guessing they might have said something about that a couple of years ago and I just cannot remember. But, yes, you’ve guessed correctly, the Mia, the Dream Warrior is my story. And I’m doing quite well.

I cannot believe it’s almost been a year since I logged into this blog last. I am also in amazement looking through the stats how much traffic this blog has had. I hope that it is making a difference to all of the people who have passed through.

Earlier this year I ended therapy. I got to a point where I felt like I came so far and had so many tools I learned how to use to combat PTSD, that it seemed appropriate to complete therapy.

I have done a pretty good job of building relationships. As you could tell from my last post in 2014, I was unhappy with how other friendships which used to be stronger got weaker. I think those relationships have changed and I might just see those people a handful of times a year, and that’s ok as long as I keep working on other friendships in my life.

Earlier this year I had an experience to remember that made me realize just how far I have come, and how I am an “influencer”. An influencer “has the capacity or power of person or things to be compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.” I have always had to give presentations in my career, and have always been successful at communicating in the workplace. But, when it comes to personal relationships and real connections with people, I sure feel like that is a lot more there than it was 5 years ago.

Recently, SuperBetter sent out some emails prompting people to join back in as ally’s. I am more than happy to do that to continue helping people get better from PTSD. So feel free to get in touch with me on here or on the forum, and I’ll be happy to be your ally.

I have still not felt comfortable sharing my project publicly with my family or friends. I have told a handful of friends, who are experiencing different kinds of post traumatic growth (not PTSD but other situations), in the hopes that my story could help them. But, I still feel like I need to keep my identity secret. It’s funny because the book came out and I kind of wanted to share it with some people that my story was in there, but then the other side of my brain said no, that’s not a good idea. Just let it be.

On the dream warrior front… I have had a lot less nightmares, if not just 1-2 in the past year. So that alone amazes me.

Happy-cat

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The World Has to Change

About a month ago I was running. It was dark out. I saw this kid/young teenager acting strange on the trail. I decided to slow down and wait to see what he was up to. He turned off the trail onto a street. So I started running again. Next thing I know, he jumps over a fence at me past this building. I took off running as fast as I possibly could until I caught up to three people walking on the trail in front of me. This isn’t the first time I’ve had someone try to jump me running in my lifetime. It scared me, but I brushed it off.

Tonight I was loading groceries in my car when a man in the parking lot came up behind me. I just loading the last bag and turn and see him with a knife and he asked for money. Fight or flight. I just said, “No” real firmly and quickly got in my car and took off. I saw him return to another car in the parking lot out of the corner of my eye. Driving home, I broke down in tears. The night before I had more nightmares about someone trying to break into my home – it’s a re-occuring nightmare. I must have these kinds of nightmares and nightmares of someone trying to rape me every week. You would think by now they would stop. And then things like this happen and it reminds me why they don’t stop. The world is still an evil place and cannot be trusted. I got home in tears and my boyfriend immediately came to see what was wrong. I should have called the police. He says maybe he should go with me from now on.

I text my brother, and he says I should get a flashlight as bright as a football field to fend off attackers and “The world is full of people looking to take advantage of those who they think are weak. You were raised in one of the worst cities in the country. Next time you run into one of these assholes let them know.” Why should I have to fend off these people? Why should women have to feel afraid? Why can’t the world be a better place? I don’t want my children to have to deal with this. The world has to change. I have to help make this world a better place. This is not acceptable. I should not have to be afraid every day, every time I turn a corner, every time I come and go from my home, every time I go to sleep at night and check that my door is locked over and over, every time I walk down the street or to work, or on the bus, or anywhere. This has got to stop.

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Leaps and Bounds of Progress

In therapy the past few weeks I’ve been doing some reflecting on the leaps and bounds of progress I have made. Even in my nightmares, I am making this same progress, which says to me I have come a long way in applying what I’ve learned to get better from trauma — in dealing with hypersensitivity, in dealing with conflict, in being assertive and self-compassionate.

At work, I’ve been dealing with a difficult abusive person. No matter what I do, this person will not be happy and they will be angry with me. It reminds me all too much of what I dealt with when I was a child with my caretaker. I have learned to not take what this person says personally, but a few weeks ago, I stood up for myself in a big way. I was sick of dealing with it, and identified what it was I needed from this person, which were my ground rules or guidelines for dealing with this person. Then I met with them and stated my guidelines. It hasn’t been perfect, but it has helped. That’s a huge step for me. 3-4 years ago I would have never had the guts to tell someone what I needed from them, let alone even be able to identify I needed anything. I used to not have needs. My whole life centered around how I could do anything and everything to make others happy and not angry at me. What a difference.

A couple weeks ago, I was struggling with my personal life. I wasn’t sure if it was just winter causing all my friends to get more and more distant. But, I knew this was not how I wanted my life to be. I want strong friendships with people I can count on, who can count on me, and who I can spend time with doing the things we both enjoy, and learn from each other. I feel like that is lacking. But, I had this dream I was taking this class with my friends. They had walked into the room and reserved a bunch of seats at a table for our friends, but they hadn’t saved me a seat so I had to sit with people I didn’t know. Ordinarily, this would make me upset – like they didn’t think about me and now I have to deal with being around people I didn’t know and wouldn’t know what to say or do. But, in the dream, it didn’t bother me and I thought, “Well, I get to meet new people. Your loss.” And happily sat with another table with complete strangers. This made me realize, sure, some of my friendships have grown distant for whatever reason. But, I have the opportunity to make new friendships and even ones that are stronger, where are values align more and we have more things in common, like being active or doing volunteer work and community service. Shortly after that dream I got to meet up with some of my friends. They all made fair-weather plans with me and no one followed up. I could be upset about that, but I figure they are busy, or inept at making plans. It’s their loss. And instead I made plans of my own. Granted not all of them were the best ones. I ended up volunteering for something that made me uncomfortable – it actually does fall under the avoidance category since it was at a place where I had been a zillion times with my ex-husband. And granted I’m probably viewed as an asshole because I got there and just said I can’t do this and I don’t want to be here and left. But, I feel a lot better that I was able to just say what I wanted and move on. Lesson learned – don’t put yourself in situations you are uncomfortable with and you don’t care about. I would have much rather been attending another event that night that benefits people rather than an idea I just don’t believe in anymore.

At work I have been working on a lot of goals for my company. This certainly put me in a big reflective stage on my own life. Here I am making all these plans for them. But, what about me? I have goals and I’m not meeting them. That’s not fair. So I have been applying what I do at work, to my own life. And hopefully that will mean I am a lot happier about where I am going and what I am doing here on this planet. One of my friends had posted this article on the 10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon. So many of these are what I am talking about in this post actually. #2 is “You Live the Life Your Create for Yourself.” For a while, from August till November, I was feeling like I was waiting for my life to start. When in reality, I was living it. But, all the things I used to look forward to, like traveling, spending time with family, game nights, spending time with friends, running races, volunteering, I just wasn’t doing them. And it felt like I had kind of disappeared. I think I was adjusting to my new life and living with someone again. Now I feel like I’ve done that and I get really excited when I pull up my list of goals, and start to really want to put plans and dates together on those. Of course more and more things pop up in my head of what I want to do. And I start feeling like life is too short. Then I think of #3 Being Busy Does Not Mean Being Productive. One of the good things I gained out of that period of time between August to November, was learning how to relax – how to not have to do anything and not worry about it. If you need extra sleep, then that’s fine. If you need a night to just tune out at home, that’s fine. I learned how to not be busy, and that I didn’t need to be “busy” to feel alive. What I want is to be able to live my life so that if I were to die tomorrow, I’d be pretty proud of my life, of my relationships with my family, my friendships, what I’ve done as extra-curricular and at work, what I’ve seen of the world, how I’ve dealt with the world, and so forth. When I stop and think of that now, I actually thing, gosh I am already there. I’m pretty proud of who I am. Sure, there’s a few things here and there I want to change. But, I have the power to change that, to set goals and make those happen.

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Reflection: Progress on Assertiveness, Self-Advocacy and Hypervigilance

This week I reflected on several situations where I was assertive, my own self-advocate, and where rather than assuming something was wrong with someone because of their behavior, I figured I wasn’t the cause of it. Here’s some situations and how I used to deal with them, and how I dealt with them now that I am well on my way to recovering from post traumatic stress from child abuse20120810-144453.jpg, sexual assault, and domestic violence.

Situation 1: Someone asked me to help them but I was not feeling well, so I just stated that I wasn’t feeling well and needed to sit down, and if they could ask someone else to help.

How I used to deal with it: I would just continue to help anyway even if I was on the verge of collapsing, putting someone else’s needs above my own.

How I dealt with it now: I was assertive and my own self-advocate. I said what was in my best interest.

Situation 2: Someone was very standoffish.

How I used to deal with it: I would just assume I did something wrong and that’s why they were behaving so standoffish.

How I dealt with it now: I figured something else was going on that had to do with their behavior. And even if they were upset with me for some reason, I decided that was their problem and I couldn’t do anything about it anyway unless they asked me to. I thought it was much better to just enjoy myself and worry about me rather than worry about if this person was potentially upset with me.

Situation 3: I had lunch with a friend and they also seemed standoffish. Like I was having a one person conversation.

How I used to deal with it: I would again assume I did something wrong that this person was upset with me or that they didn’t want to bother to spend time with me because of some reason.

How I dealt with it now: I figured this person was just pre-occupied with something else and self-involved so they weren’t able to interact well at lunch. There was nothing I could do about it, but I probably won’t ask them to get lunch again anytime in the near future.

Situation 4: A loved one insists that I can do something I do not think I am capable of.

How I used to deal with it: I’d feel this immense pressure that I would be letting this person down if I was unable to accomplish what they felt I was very capable of doing.

How I dealt with it now: Though I’m honored this person thinks I can accomplish this goal, I honestly feel like I am not capable of it from knowing myself, what I have been able to accomplish thus far, and what is realistic. I told this person I felt they were projecting themselves on me in thinking I could do this and that it is ok if I do not think I am capable of it, and I know that they wouldn’t think anything less of me, as well as myself.

Can you think of situations that you deal with differently now than you did before? How does that make you feel? It makes me feel pretty empowered and like I have accomplished a lot in getting better from PTSD.

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Relationships and Expressing My Needs

Today was one of those days where I got frustrated with people in a particular situation. Here I am already three years away from a relationship of domestic violence. They say people with PTSD have a hard time maintaining strong relationships with friends and family. I have been feeling that this past year after feeling much closer the two previous years to people than ever before. A week ago I went to lunch with someone and mentioned this and they reassured me that people’s friendships and circles change over time and that is all that is happening here. This is true. I feel closer now to my co-workers than I have in the past. I sometimes try to reach out to people in my friend circles, and get no bites. It frustrates me. It frustrates me that someone snapped at me the last time I tried to participate in something social. It frustrates me that I feel like an outsider always. Here I am finally happy in some areas of my life, with love and with work. But, feeling like my friendships are lacking significantly.

It makes me want to no longer participate in activities with these people. After the break-up last year, I made several attempts to grow new friendships. Every relationship always feels pretty fair-weather. Everyone is busy with their own shit. With their own motives. Their own thoughts. I find myself just getting tired of it. And not want to deal with any of it. I want to focus on things that make me happy. Running makes me happy. Helping other women who have experienced domestic violence, trauma, and abuse makes me feel like I am doing something that helps others and helps the world. Volunteering makes me happy – I’ve met so many great people doing that. But, often these things go no where. Maybe you bump into the same people a few times, even running around town. I network the hell out of things for work, and people often just don’t respond, but some do, some seem to actually give a shit.

I try to rarely bring up these things to people because I feel like they don’t want to deal with it. Like I made being in an abusive relationship some big deal when it’s not. Like my being socially awkward is such a drag. Well, you know what. You don’t know what it is like unless you have been in it yourself. And to take it further – none of us know what the other person we’re dealing with has been through. But, dear world, I wish you would be a lot more compassionate. Because I am tired of always feeling like I am in everybody else’s way, that I am a pain in everyone else’s ass by existing. Because I sure as hell do not act like that about you. So have some fucking compassion and get your heads out of your asses. Because life is going to pass you by and you’re going to realize you spent so much time being callus, ignorant, and in-compassionate, and you missed out on some of the most amazing opportunities of a life time.

Well, I don’t know if that really resolved anything for me. But, at least I got something off my chest.

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And I’m going to realize you don’t really care anyway. It’s just my being hypervigilant right? That guy who rushed me at the coffee shop so he could put his cream and sugar in really didn’t care if I exist, I was just a pain in his ass being in the way. The person who snapped at me a few weeks, I didn’t really think it was a big deal, and I knew they were just tired and cranky, but really why is that you have to take it out on me? So from now on, I’m just going to ignore all your bullshit world. And be happy. So before I do that. Let me just say, go fuck yourself!

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Reflection: Over 1 Year of SuperBetter and 4ptsdhealing

It has been over 1 year of me playing SuperBetter and keeping this blog 4ptsdhealing. It has been a tremendous experience for me and I can tell how far I have come in the healing process from PTSD since I have started. There have been bumps along the way, but I am amazed at how I have handled several difficult situations and people over the past several months. 3 years ago I would have never been confrontational and never would have recognized the reasons I was struggling with making personal decisions. I realized how lucky I am to have such an amazing family, friends, boyfriend, job and co-workers, and plans for the future. But, more importantly I realize, I made my life this way, I made these relationships, I put the work in and strengthened them. I met someone amazing after thinking I would never fall in love again. It isn’t exactly luck. Your life truly is what you make it. My heart is beaming with happiness and excitement for the future.

In the past year, I have had major breakthroughs on nightmares, confrontation, body image and negative self-talk through self-compassion. This does not mean I don’t have more work yet to come. One area I am struggling with still is hypervigilance and anticipation. I recognize when I am doing it, but still have a hard time making decisions freely without worrying about what the other person wants or how they will react. This is something I recognize has become so ingrained in my PTSD wired brain that I need to undo.

I have finally arrived to dealing with the abuse I experienced as a child. Last week I has a nightmare I was going to be killed for something my father did in his late 30s. They didn’t say what. They kept torturing me and wouldn’t tell me how they were going to kill me. If it would be quick and painless like shooting me in the head or terrifying like drowning, electrocution, torture. I kept trying to prolong being killed hoping to buy myself time as if someone would save me or something would interrupt me getting killed. For example, I said I needed to go to the bathroom and of course they said why does it matter, we’re going to kill you anyway. So I said well can you just let me go this one last time? Near the end of the dream my father showed up, but he looked the same as when he was in his late 30s. He was so distraught that I would be upset with him for them wanting to kill me. I wasn’t upset with my father. As far as I was concerned he did nothing wrong. These people that wanted to kill me were wrong. My therapist pointed out, when my father was in his late 30s was when my caretaker had abused me. When he found out about it, he was so upset with them which ended up causing me more grief from the abuser. I was coming to terms with this. I never blamed my father for the abuse I experienced. He couldn’t have prevented it and it was not his fault. The torture is akin to the torture I put on myself every day that I worry about what I say or want, the trouble I have making decisions, of dealing with difficult people and situations. But, I realize it is getting so much easier to deal with these things now than it has in the past. I have re-wired a good portion of my brain. I am getting better from PTSD and I am so proud of myself.

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Self-Advocacy in a Flash of Frustration

I’ve been dealing with some very frustrating things lately and today someone pushed my buttons so much I finally confronted them about it. It scared the hell out of me. I raised my voice, explained how they made me feel and said what I needed to make things work better. Afterwards I felt strangely better even though I was a little worried it might mean I lose my job. I stood up for myself, something I feel like I’ve never been able to do. And it wasn’t so bad.

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Quests: The Four Agreements

Yesterday my SuperBetter ally sent me this image. She always has impeccable timing. These things have been on my brain for sure.

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I need to work on the following:

1c. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself

I have been struggling lately with the idea that anyone could love me or find me amazing. This is a sad thought. I’ve been finding a lot of negative self-talk creeping into what I say. I know in my heart this is not true. I have a friend who always tells me how amazing and adorable I am. The way she says it and shows me I am, it is very hard not to believe her. One of my family members always tells me I put others first. I never see it that way. I always think I don’t ever do enough for anyone. But, to hear it, I can start to think of the things I do for people, including listen and give advice or a helping hand. One of the most eye opening events for me to realize how special I am, was to actually watch a video of myself. I could not believe that was me, so smart, adorable, and funny. I know that many years of being told I’m not amazing and being abused made me feel I am worthless. I can choose to believe those things, or I can choose to believe I am lovable and amazing. I would match rather believe the latter. But, I realize a lot of hard work and practice will go into that.

2. All of 2 – Don’t take anything personally

This one I wrote about in my last blog entry with work, dealing with controlling people, and feeling pressured. Like the image says, what those people were saying and doing is a projection of their reality. My therapist had gone over this with me before. I can’t control how they feel. I can think I can try, but then what’s the point? It will just make me suffer needlessly to worry about it and do things that won’t make me happy in the long run.

I think I fully understand, but could always use more practice on the following:

3. Don’t make assumptions

I have made an effort to now always ask questions or to clarify things if I am anticipating judgement. Sure, I have a million questions and worries, but I continually remind myself, is that worth worrying about? Can I do anything about that now like ask questions? Or should I put that aside and address it if it is still bothering me later?

4. Always do your best

This is really about self-compassion and not passing judgement on yourself. I know that each day I do my best. I know that some days and some moments I’m going to make a mistake, but if I am as compassionate towards myself as I am of others, I will never feel self-judgement, self-abuse (beating myself up) or regret.

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Quest: Things that bug me

I have a hard time recognizing things that bug me probably because I have a history of not putting myself first and numbing my own feelings. So I have made it a Quest to jot down the things that bug me and identify how I’m going to address them or how I can handle it better in the future. Here’s some from the past week.

Pointing out my mistakes / Being told how to do my job
The one time I don’t put together a full agenda for a meeting and I get corrected on that makes me feel like a complete failure. Instead I had put my time into working on something rather than putting together an agenda. So sure, next time I can make sure I put together an agenda but I’ve been feeling there’s bigger things at stake here at work. I don’t feel appreciated and often feel belittled and over criticized. I know I’m not going to stay here forever and I know it’s not important to let this stuff get to me so then why does it? Why do I take it as an attack on my character?

Pressure
I ran a race but with someone who is an elite marathoner. It pressured me to run faster, not take any breaks. I became really cranky on the run. That’s not normal for me. Usually, I love running and I’m smiling and enjoy myself. While I want to get better at running, I am not willing to do that at the expense of ruining my most loved and prized hobby for myself. So I have to see what I want to do about this one. I don’t want to feel pressured, but at the same time I don’t want to disappoint someone. But, really, who matters here? Me. Right? If I’m not happy, then what’s the point?

The need for down time
I usually have a hard time being around people for an extensive period of time. This changed a bit living with someone, but now that I live alone, it seriously has become something I need again. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was always with someone and by Sunday I was ready to scream. For when I needed down time so desperately I still had more plans with other people. Having a night off with no social or physical (my body seriously needed some rest after the race) seems to have cured that.

People who try to control your life
There is a lot I would like to say regarding this one but it would just be too personal and give myself away. I am sure we have all dealt with people, whether its a parent or a sibling or a boss or a friend, who would really like to control your life. I have been struggling with this one for years. I can let these people control me and drain every last bit of energy I have or just let them say what they’ll say and don’t let it get to me.

What things have been bugging you? Do you take the time to think about them and act on them?

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New Work on Negative Self-Talk, Assertiveness, and How to Identify Potential Perpetrators

I had taken a few months hiatus from the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence, but have recently returned to it at a time that seems most appropriate. Over the past few months I had been dealing with a break up and recently decided to return to the dating game, whether that is a good idea or not. Work has also been more demanding lately. I noticed over the past couple weeks, that “I’m sorry” and “I should have” have been making their way back into my vocabulary. It’s as if I have put myself back into the mindset of a domestic violence victim. So I need to do something about this fast.

The remaining chapters I had in the workbook were the following with these key takeaways. Believe it or not I have been facing these things fairly frequently over the last few months from friends, family, co-workers, dates, and strangers.

1. Assertiveness, Aggressiveness, and How to Take the High Road

  • How to Respond to Verbal Aggression
  • How to Respond to Aggressive Questions
  • How to Respond to Aggressive Exhortations by People Who Mean Well – Believe it or not I’ve had a family member and a friend tell me “You should be over it by now”.
  • The Importance of Not Tolerating Disrespect – I have had to walk away from people who have talked to me in such a disrespectful way.
  • Saying No
  • How You Spend Your Time Is Up to You – I have had a lot of practice with this and saying no lately.
  • The Importance of Being Able to Say No Without Giving Reasons Why – I still need a lot of practice with this one. I got really upset last week when I felt I shouldn’t have to give a reason but was asked to give a reason. My therapist said this was a good thing that this frustrated me. It means a big deal – that I think I deserve not to have to justify myself.
  • Saying No after You Said Yes
  • Communicating Feelings – “I’m frustrated”, “I’m upset”, “I’m disappointed”, “I’m feeling sad”
  • Making Requests and Communicating Wants – I have recently had practice with this. I still feel like I get walked all over, but well, I’m trying!
  • Assertive Escalation in the Work Place – Over this past year I have had to do this.
  • Assertive Escalation in an Intimate Relationship

2. Overcoming Fear by Exposure to Harmless Reminders

This chapter has you expose yourself to reminders of the abusive person, including:

  • Looking at pictures of your ex
  • Visualizing your ex
  • Exposing yourself to smell, sound, sight, touch that you associate with your ex (e.g. cologne, liquor, music)
  • Work on Regulating Your Tension if you were to run into your ex
  • Watching Movies that Portray Domestic Violence
  • Engaging in Activities That Remind You of the Abuse – TV programs that depict violence, eating certain kinds of foods, wearing makeup, jewelry or certain kinds of clothes
  • Identifying other things you have been avoiding

My conclusion for this chapter was:

  • I am not willing to look at pictures of my ex or visualize my ex
  • I’m ok with listening to music or watching movies that I associate with my ex
  • I am not ok being at places or walking places that remind me of my ex especially the neighborhood we lived in, two areas where I had been beaten severely after walking home through, and certain bars or restaurants that I associate with my ex
  • I am ok with watching violent movies, and identify with movies where a woman succeeds in escaping their abuser
  • I really dislike eating certain foods that remind me of my ex, but have been working on that
  • I have been avoiding doing certain activities that I had shared with my ex, but am ok with not avoiding them

3. How to Identify Potential Perpetrators

You would be surprised the men that are out there in that dating pool. On one date, the guy admits to me that he and his ex-wife were abusive towards each other. I was thinking, dear god, get me out of here. In a conversation with one guy, he tells me domestic violence is compromise. Conversation ended right there.

Though this chapter has all of the standard characteristics of an abusive person which I have become very familiar with since being in an abusive relationship, it also has some advice I did not know about and would like to consider. It advises you to identify the potential abuser early on. You need to identify if the person is inable to or lacks the desire to resolve conflict in a mutually respectful way. They actually advise you to piss your boyfriend off early on. Well, invoke conflict. Considering that’s the last thing I want to do as a domestic violence survivor, I’m glad they explain how to provoke conflict:

  • Disagree and Be “Selfish” – They advise you to disagree about anything, politics, TV, sports, anything where you opinion differs. To make a fuss about anything small, like what you’d prefer to do on a date. I am so very terrible at arguing. But, ok. I’ll give this a try.
  • Do Not Be Rushed into a Relationship – I am feeling this one right now. They advise you to go slow, don’t allow him to make you feel rushed or pressured to spend more time together than you are willing. I’m just feeling very cautious about getting into a serious relationship right now.
  • Tell Him You Are Going to Continue Dating Other People 
  • Insist on Reliability
  • Program in an Unexplained Refusal to Get Together
  • Find Out About His Prior Relationships
  • Check Out His Background – Ok these last 2 may sound crazy to you, but I don’t think so after being in an abusive relationship. My ex was very clear about how poorly he treated his ex. And knowing that now and knowing that I was in an abusive relationship, if I ever hear that again, I am running away from that.

I realize I must continue practicing assertiveness, continue having self-compassion and the negative self-talk will dissipate. I am having a hard time adjusting to this new life again, but it’s not so bad. I am really proud of myself and how far I’ve come. When do I ever say that? Well, I just did. I’m proud of me. Hooray!!!

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