Everybody has roles that they play in their lives. Public-school teacher – one role. Friend – another role. Daughter. Volunteer. Partner. Parent. Grandparent. All of these roles require us to shift a bit in our speech and in our actions.

But there is something more insidious that is not a role but a mask – a mask, that if worn too long in the masquerade that has become our life, can cause us to forget who we are: It is how we begin to lose ourselves.

It happens slowly. We never think it can happen to us. Day after day, we can deceive ourselves. Lying, covering up, denying, and defending – until one day we realize that the mirror is reflecting back a complete phony.

The mask I wore had been on so long I didn’t even know who I was anymore.  Something was terribly wrong in my life but I continued to deceive and distract myself day after day making excuse after excuse for myself, my choices, and for my life.

After an entanglement with a toxic one, we may have actually lost a sense of ourselves because we have been outer-focused for so long trying to fix and control that which is uncontrollable.

Many times, we unconsciously, slowly, hand over the responsibility for our lives to the toxic one. The fear and denial that hold us in its grip are hard to explain unless experienced first-hand. For myself, I kept thinking I needed to be responsible, stick with it, hang in there, help my husband, love him more – despite all the abuse. Help him! I needed to help myself! But I couldn’t see that.

There is so much shame involved in being a victim of abuse or being in any type of controlling, toxic relationship. Sometimes we don’t even know what is happening is called abuse. We just think – oh he lost his temper – he drank too much – I provoked him with my stupid comment about…. We don’t tell people what is actually going on. We think if we don’t acknowledge it – it isn’t actually happening. We think he is going to stop and go back to being the most loving, adoring man he was when we first met.

I can’t emphasize this enough – I just thought if I tried harder, loved him more – he would change. I never truly acknowledged that I was walking around on egg shells day after day waiting to see what would trigger his rage next. Everyone else thinks he is the most charming and engaging person they ever met.  How will anyone believe me?  I have been acting like the happiest wife in the world for so long.  How will anyone believe me? No one knows the true depth of the monster when he is behind closed doors.  Who will believe me?

This mask worn for so long kept me in a horrific situation. When the mask came off after 20 years, I was a shattered version of a person I hadn’t known for a long time.  Many times, after a toxic relationship, we realize that we have lost the essence of who we are. This can be recovered. We can find ourselves again.

Free Audio: 3 Sabotaging Beliefs After An Abusive Relationship With A Narcissist

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