Warning: this article contains references to emotional abuse.
Beauty blogger, Em Ford, best known for her powerful video 'You Look Disgusting' – in which she collated some of the negative comments that she received on social media and used to them to create an inspiring short film about beauty ideals. Em also regularly posts about acne and showcases beauty looks to an army of over 800,000 on Instagram, even winning over celebrity fans such as Kylie Jenner.
However, over a year ago, her YouTube channel come to a halt, leaving many of her one million followers on the platfrom wondering why. Now, Em has bravely posted a new upload explaining her silence. Heartbreakingly, she shares that the reason she stopped making videos is because she found herself in an emotionally abusive relationship which destroyed her confidence.
"After I created You Look Digusting, there was thousands of articles, newspaper things and social media things, all calling me 'brave', 'courageous', 'fierce', 'bold' and 'unapologetic'," she says, before adding that sadly this wasn't how she felt in reality. "It was very hard to admit that when it came to my personal life, that wasn't the case. I was not brave, I was not courageous and I was definitely not unapologetic about who I was."
Em said she felt as though she'd "used up all [her] courage in her professional life" and that she didn't know how to use her own voice. She adds that it's taken her time to heal from that, hence not feeling able to post videos up until now.
"I stopped posting YouTube videos because I was in a relationship which turned into one which was emotionally abusive. It had a massive detrimental effect on me, not only mentally but physically too."
Making it clear that she isn't trying to cause anybody any pain, or start a witch hunt, Em says, "I want my life back, I want my career back, I want my world back and I can't have any of those things back unless I'm honest about why I went back in the first place."
Outlining some common signs of gaslighting, Em says she found herself constantly apologising to her partner and losing her perception of what normality and love is, as well as becoming distant from her family and friends. She explains that even now she finds herself doubting if what she experienced was real and the stress of processing her experience turned her brain to mush.
"I couldn't think straight... I couldn't string sentences together and blamed myself for this confusion for so long, and what I didn't realise at the time was my confusion was often caused by direct actions, which would kind of mess with my head and that really effected me. I didn't feel capable of doing things by myself anymore... I stopped feeling like a human."
Em says a doctor helped her to realise that she was being gaslit, when he told her that she was able to make her own decisions, something that the blogger says she had stopped doing.
"I'm pretty sure he had to repeat it three or four times, it didn't click. I felt like I couldn't make my own decisions any more... I had to seek approval and permission for every little basic thing that I did."
Now, Em says she's working through the trauma she experienced and is still growing. "I hope that one day these wounds inside me do heal. If you've ever been in an abusive relationship, be it emotionally, physically or have dealt with gaslighting, if you've ever been made to feel that you shouldn't trust you are decisions... or that your feeling aren't valid, they are. Trust yourself."
She ends on a positive and powerful note, urging anybody who can relate to her experiences to seek help, saying that she's now back to weight-lifting, believing in love and has a new man in her life.
"I'm always going to believe in happily ever after and true love, but what is going to change, what has changed, is how much I value myself."
Recognising gaslighting as an insidious form of coercive control and knowing the signs are an important step to helping victims of emotional abuse. If you need help or advice visit Solace Women's Aid or call The National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
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