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Trigger Warning: After is semi-related to Chained, which were written as companion pieces. There are countless discussions about the trauma and pain that comes with abusive relationships, but few discussions about how such abuse affects future relationships.

Everyone talks about abusive relationships.

But never about healthy ones after.

                                    Years later, I finally found one, and                                  I’m

unlearning toxic habits that I got from

                                    you. My partner is teaching me

                                          how to love myself again,

                                                            because I deserve to

                        heal and grow. To focus on finding myself.                                 Learning

to love yourself after years of self-hatred

            isn’t easy.

                                    Learning to reciprocate healthy love

                               isn’t as simple as it seems. I’m unsure                                   how

                                        to grow, to change. I’m capable, I want                       to

                                    be better.

I’m free from your cage, free

            to heal and give the love my partner deserves.

                              No longer chained to the past, I’m ready to                         live.


Ridley Zarate

Ridley Zarate has been writing poetry since middle school. With stark simplicity, they often write about the more difficult aspects of mental health others avoid discussing. Current work on their first book of poetry brings them closer to realizing a dream: to see their work in bookstores. Five cats enjoy interrupting their writing process, and when they aren’t writing or posting to their poetry Instagram, @sleepysadpoet, they can be found reading or playing video games.  

Note: The bold words in the right column are to be read as shown in each line, then read from the top down to conclude the poem. 

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