Domestic violence is a deeply personal and often hidden battle, one that I know all too well. In sharing my story, I hope to offer a lifeline to those who might be walking the same path. I want you to know that you're not alone and that you deserve better.
I swore I'd never be in an abusive relationship.
Honestly, I thought I'd spot it right away and have the guts to walk away.
It's terrifying when you're on the outside, looking back, and finally realize what was happening.
When I tell you that I thought things were perfect, too good to be true, and the happiest I'd ever been, I mean it.
We went on dates every chance we got, he brought me flowers every time we saw each other, he was respectful, he was kind, and everyone loved him.
But that all lasted about 6 months.
It started slow, and it started with tearing down my self-worth. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about how low I felt. Like the dirt on the bottom of your shoe. Like the most undesirable person on Earth.
He’d say things to me like, 'When was the last time you got off the couch?' 'Do you even have any friends?' 'You're disgusting,' 'You're lazy,' 'You'll never have a decent job,' 'You're stupid,' 'I don't need you.' And if I ever tried to defend myself, it always ended with the same threat: 'You can leave. Get out. Get out of my house.'
Except it wasn't just his house; it was ours. And where was I supposed to go?
We lived 3 hours away from anyone I knew, and I had to be at work the next morning. Sometimes I booked a hotel, other times I just sat in my car.
Like clockwork, he'd send flowers to my work the next day. Except to get to me, they had to pass through the office, as all my colleagues gushed and told me how lucky I was.
I'd go back home and act like everything was alright. Speaking up would just lead to more screaming, and I'd end up sleeping in my car. So, in my mind, I just wanted everything to be good for that day. And sometimes, it was good; we'd have GOOD days, just like when we started. He'd show little glimpses of the person I used to know, and I'd be so happy.
But, then, it would flip again. He wouldn’t come home until 1 am, he'd lie about anything he could, keep tearing down my appearance, and blame me for his behavior. It was a never-ending cycle of screaming and crying, and it felt like our house was always on the verge of destruction. The dogs were terrified, and I never knew where I'd be sleeping.
Then, without fail, flowers.
"I don't care if I ever see another fucking flower again," I would tell my friends when they asked how my love life was going.
Why is this happening? Somewhere in the midst of everything, panic attacks started to become a regular thing for me. My chest would break out in a rash, I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest, my entire body would shake, my hair was falling out, and I was throwing up just thinking about going home.
My mom would beg me to move back in with them when she would see me. My grandmother said I looked like I had “lost my glow”. I hadn’t seen my friends in months. I was so embarrassed. I knew what was happening was wrong. But still, I came up with every excuse not to leave. I clung onto the hope that maybe he was dealing with personal issues or going through a rough patch. I didn't want to be the person who leaves when someone’s struggling.
I kept thinking he'd come back to being the person I first knew, and I desperately needed him to. As weeks passed, I had time to think about what was happening. I could feel myself pulling away, and so could he. We'd merely pass each other in the same house, like strangers sharing a roof. We no longer shared a bed, went on dates, or even exchanged words. We were living two separate lives, and it became evident that it was time for me to search for a new job and prepare to move out. When I finally sat down to talk with him, he was furious. He couldn't believe that after two weeks of silence, I was even bringing up the idea of us not being together. He insisted he was perfectly fine and called me a narcissist for suggesting otherwise. He would bring up how he'd bought me flowers, listed all the things he'd done for me, and call me ungrateful. The next morning, there'd be some grand gesture, and somehow, I'd find myself right back in it. I just wanted it to stay good this time.
It never did.
It was a rollercoaster. The worst day of my life, and then it would swing to the best day you could ever ask for. It was incredibly confusing to wake up not knowing how the day was going to unfold.
He'd lie to me, to his parents, punch the walls, throw pots and pans, and then just laugh like it was all some big joke. I was constantly scared and physically sick.
Eventually, I mustered up the courage to leave. I put together a big elaborate plan with my mom, and the next day, she was there with a moving truck.
This time, there wasn't even a need for a conversation. We both knew what had been happening. I finally moved back home. I can't say I felt happy. It felt like I had just wasted so much of my time. I felt like I was leaving someone in obvious pain, and it weighed heavily on me. I felt embarrassed that I was living with my parents again.
"Is he going to be okay?" I kept wondering. "Is he even going to text me?" A whole month passed, and I started feeling better. He hadn't reached out once. Then, late one night, out of nowhere, I got a call from him. I saw it on my phone and immediately declined it.
He called over and over until I answered. He was sobbing, telling me that I had to come back and that his dad has a brain tumor and he’s not going to make it. He was saying that he couldn’t handle it and that he was going to hurt himself. I couldn’t not go. Backstory: I lost my dad when I was 10. I could relate to the pain he thought he was about to experience. I felt so deeply saddened for him and his family.
"Please don't be mad at me. I have to go; I'll never be able to forgive myself if something happens to him", I cried to my mom.
So, I went, and to my surprise, he appeared happy. He asked me to stay, and he apologized over and over again. He suggested that we take it one day at a time, supporting each other and getting through this tough period together.
Somehow, I found myself right back in it.
Things seemed good, and normal, and we were just like any other boyfriend and girlfriend. However, he didn't bring up his dad's tumor again after that first night. He had mentioned that his family wasn't going to share this information with anyone outside of the family, and that I wasn't supposed to know. Months passed, and I was curious about how he was doing, but I was too afraid to bring it up because it might lead to another fight.
My breaking point came not long after.
I was at work when one of my best friends sent me screenshots of his dating profile. I couldn't believe it. When I got home, I confronted him with those screenshots.
His immediate response was a cold, "Get out."
But this time, I wasn't leaving. I needed answers. I wanted to know why he was behaving this way, what the truth was about his dad, and why he thought he could treat me this way, buy me flowers, and believe everything would be okay. It wasn't okay. I was dying inside.
“GET OUT!” he was screaming.
In my desperation, I decided to just ask his dad through a text, feeling like I had nothing else to lose. His dad quickly responded with a simple, "No?"
He threatened to call the police if I didn't leave and called his mom, telling her that I was "losing my mind" and that he was scared.
I finally saw him for who he was. A liar, a manipulator, and the most unloving person I’d ever come across. I started to pack my things and get my dog. His anger escalated, and he started to throw my clothes out into the yard while he was screaming, "You're psychotic." "Fuck you." As I walked through the door, he pulled my arm, forcibly turned me to face him, and grabbed me by the neck, squeezing, and saying, “If you walk out of the door right now, we are done. Don’t ever come back here again.” I left. I had barely been in the car for five minutes when my phone started buzzing with his texts, pleading for me to return. He called and called. He even called his mom and told her that I was driving and crying, making it seem like I was a danger to myself.
I got home and from that day forward I never spoke to him again. He sent me many long messages ending with, “If you don’t reply, I might not be here when you try to again.” He repeatedly resorted to threatening his own life in an attempt to manipulate me into returning. However, I had reached a point where I knew I could never forget what had happened.
This year, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I decided to share my story for the first time. I'm still in the process of healing and trying to forgive myself. But I firmly believe that I wouldn't be here today if I hadn't left that day, and for that, I'm incredibly grateful. I want to use my story to encourage anyone who may be in a similar experience to reach out for help. WhiteFlag can connect you with individuals who truly understand what it means to be in an abusive relationship. If nothing else, these people can help you realize that this is not normal in a loving relationship and that these are, in fact, signs of something far worse looming in the future.
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