I think it’s time for a break from my normal writing schedule, if you could call it that. I wanted to write about something that is very close to who I am, and is a huge reason as to why I am the way that I am today. It was extremely hard to write about this without being overcome by anger, but time has a way of bringing things to clarity, I guess. So if you got a bit, let me tell you about myself.
I was in an abusive relationship for three years of my life.
I know, not quite what you were expecting. If you knew me, I’m certain that would be the last thing you would ever think about me. But it’s true. From 2009 to 2012, I was in the most caustic relationship a man could ever find himself in. But it didn’t start that way.
I started dating her around the summer of 2009. In all honesty, most relationships do not start out as abusive, or at least they shouldn’t. Had I paid more attention to the red flags, I could have saved myself a lot of psychological and physical trauma. But we’ll get to that.
The first year was as normal as any relationship could be. We hung out more often than not. I was in community college, and she was still in high school. We had our fair share of good memories, though to reflect on them now is sad, almost painful. The second year was when things started to take a turn for the worse. She never had many friends, which in turn led me to becoming her sole source of just about everything. As a sign of trust, I had given her my Facebook login info, which she would later use to delete friends she didn’t like or girls that I had talked to months before I had even started to date her. The third year was absolute hell. Every other day was a fight, over the simplest of things. Physically fatigued and emotionally exhausted, we would apologize at the end of the bout and you could almost cut the tension until the next fight. She would hit me, often repeatedly, and having to hide the bruises became second nature to me. I was always on edge, constantly bickering with my siblings and parents, to the point where even they wanted nothing to do with me. I lost all of my friends trying to appease her, and even now it is hard to try and talk to them.
Nobody really understands how an abusive relationship is until they find themselves in one. Sadly, that truly is the only way to grasp the hopelessness and emptiness you feel. I mean, we are talking about someone who knows all of your weaknesses, and knows exactly how to exploit them. You are constantly under attack, both physically and emotionally. You lose your appetite. You are always under stress. I cannot tell you how many times I found myself on the brink of vomiting solely because I had been arguing for hours upon hours. And it wouldn’t just be in the privacy of our homes. We would fight in public, and that’s when I realized that something had to be done. I had even started to cut myself because there was no outlet for my anger that I just could not bring myself to loose on her. There was one time where we were driving home, and out of nowhere, she pulls over to the side of the road and demands to know why I wanted to hang out with my friends later that night, instead of her, stating, “If you have time to hang out with them, then you have time to hang out with me.” She stormed out of the car, and ran out into the middle of street, yelling at oncomers to run her over because of how terrible I was. And you know what?
I ran and ran and ran and ran until I was coughing up blood. I hid among some bushes, praying to a God that never answered me to make it all stop. Just for fucking once in my shitty life, make it all stop. She drove by, yelling my name, screaming how sorry she was, but I couldn’t go back. I would not go back.
She went back to school that summer in 2012, and asked for me to see her off. I did, and she said she’d text me when she got to San Diego. She called me, and I didn’t pick up. She called again and again and again, threatening she’d kill herself if I didn’t pick up. But I did not pick up. I forced myself to read every single text she sent, because this was the proof I needed to know that this was killing me. This wasn’t love. This is not how you treat another goddamn human being. It took everything I had to not respond back, to say how sorry I was, and to try and work things out.
“Why didn’t you just leave?” is the common question I hear a lot. I mean, it makes sense. You don’t like something, just fucking leave, right? But I believe a lot of what makes the victim stay are the memories. We’re always told “take the good with the bad” or some such bullshit. We stay because we see how they were, not how they are, and that fucks us over every single time. Because, maybe this time, things will be different. Maybe this time, he/she will see how much I’m trying for her/him, and won’t hit me. Maybe, just this once, I can talk about the things that bother me without being told that what I think doesn’t matter, or that I’m worthless, or that I complain too much. And the saddest part was that I was so close with her parents. They were always there for me, sadly, more often than she was. I’d never get to work with her dad again, and hear his stories about his old home, or hear her mom try her best to speak English to ask me about my day. It hurt so much to cut them out, but I had to. It is the only way to heal. When your mind is on the verge of breaking, it makes a decision, one that can only be made right there in that moment.
Break. Or mend.
And so I mended. I stopped cutting myself. My bruises healed. My mind slowly started to come back from the depths, but it came back changed. Still me, but a part of me had been forever lost in black depths of my subconscious. But, my God, what I had gained from that experience is something that I will never lose. Not just my dignity, and what was left of my heart, but wisdom. Allow me to share it with you.
You see, the abuser rarely sees their behavior as abusive. That’s what makes it so destructive, as it’s hard to fix what you don’t see as broken. They will use every and any advantage they have over you to get you to where you have no choice but them. They will use their parents, or their friends, or the past, as ammunition in a malicious attempt to bring you down so they can warp and twist you. I have seen it happen to so many people, good people, and it tears my fucking heart out to see them that way. They do not care who has to get hurt in order for them to get their way. They will turn your friends on you, your family, and everyone you hold dear so that you have no one else to turn to but them. So, whoever out there that finds this, listen very carefully to what I have to say.
Let. Them. Go. The person you are in love with that treats you this way? That is not love. It is a sickened, perverted form of domination, and you deserve so much better than that. Maybe you’re close with his or her parents, maybe they’ve done so much for you, but trust me when I say that that is only a weakness that they will exploit in time. You can still be thankful for them and be grateful for all they’ve done for you without allowing the toxicity a chance to spread again. You will never fully heal unless all of that person’s cancer is excised. It will be hard, believe me, but so will a life full of anger and misery and regret. You, dear reader, deserve love, not this. You deserve to feel your worth, to feel the warmth of another human being who can love you to the moon and back and not ask for anything in return. That is love. It is patient, and it is kind. God, it is so kind. But you also have to want it. You have to want to change, you have to extend your hand and chase it. Because if you do not take action, a second abuser appears. And that person is you. The hardest prison to escape is not made of stone, or of brick and mortar, but by the ephemeral chains that we cast in our minds. Allow love in, and be love. You deserve light. If I can save but one life with my words, then I will not have lived in vain.
Life is much too short to go back to what broke you.