Trigger warning: domestic violence
Many years ago, an ex-boyfriend drove me deep into the woods of a small Connecticut town. It was a beautiful sunny day. I was enjoying the ride until he said to me, “If you ever lie to me or cheat on me, I will bury your body in these woods.”
He then added, “And no one will ever find you.”
He spoke these words clearly and matter-of-factly, as if he had been thinking about this for awhile. He was totally serious and made sure I knew it. It was at the point that I knew I would never get out of this relationship alive.
He was similar to my violent and abusive father, so the cycle of violence continued.
Just like Julia Roberts’ character in Sleeping With the Enemy, I had to make a plan and gather the strength and courage to leave him.
We had been dating for a year at the time, and there were many signs of abuse such as frequent yelling, pushing, punching, grabbing me so hard that my arms were black and blue, throwing objects at me, threatening me and putting me down often. I slowly recognized these signs of abuse, but was stuck, torn apart, and felt like I had nowhere else to go at the time.
I was delusional and really felt like I could change him by smothering him with love and kindness. But that never works — people only change if they want to, and if they receive the help they desperately need.
At the time I was no one. I was just a carpet for others to walk all over. I had no confidence, I had no inner strength, I had no soul. I was just walking down an endless deep dark path, and I had never felt so alone.
Due to an abusive childhood, I thought it was normal to be treated the way my ex treated me. I thought I deserved it. And like many abuse victims, I thought I could alter my boyfriend into a loving man. I believed him each time he said he’d never hit me again, though the look of satisfaction on his face said otherwise.
I would look at other couples who were in love, and wish I was in love with someone kind. Instead I was dating a monster. This monster was very good looking and charming. He fooled many people. He made a fool out of me on many occasions. Nothing I ever did was good enough, nothing I did was ever right. I was constantly walking on eggshells, trying to please him so that I could have some peace.
But I was fooling myself, for there is never any peace in an abusive relationship, and there never will be. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.”
I started secretly seeing a psychologist on my lunch breaks in Manhattan. The walks to these appointments were terrifying, but after each one I felt a bit of a release. I was finally able to tell someone, I finally showed my bruises to someone. The look on my psychologist’s face said it all, and she slowly helped me gain the courage to leave. All the shame and fear I had been feeling came pouring out, like an endless ball of pain. It was finally unraveling, I could finally breathe again and dream that happiness would someday be within my reach.
Soon after, I left my boyfriend after a heated fight. I ran into some policemen on the walk to my mom’s house, and they escorted me the rest of the way. I did not tell them what had happened.
I had run out of the house, fearing for my life, and left with only the shirt on my back. I had no other possessions, but I had my life and I had my dignity. My family took care of me until I healed and figured out what to do. I finally told them and my friends what I had been enduring. My ex often tried to keep me away from these friends, but once I told them, they said to run and never look back.
I was weak and did look back a few times and called my ex out of loneliness and desperation. We even got back together for a few weeks. But the same cycle of violence occurred and we broke up for good shortly after. I was lucky that he convinced himself that it was not worth it, and I never saw him again.
I continued counseling for a few years, which helped me to figure out a plan. My plan was to be alone for a long time until I learned to really love myself for the first time in my life. I learned to embrace the quiet and treasure my solitude. My hobbies of writing poetry, rollerblading, kayaking, and photography helped save my life. These hobbies filled my time and were my constant companions.
They would never hurt me. They would only enrich my life and help me grow.
These hobbies built up my body and my spirit, and they allowed me to move forward.
Please be aware of all of the signs of verbal and physical abuse. Teach them to your children. Let them know that they cannot treat people this way, and that they should never allow anyone to treat them this way. It is not acceptable to abuse others.
It is true that love and relationships can be hard work. They can have many ups and downs. They require lots of patience and lots of respect. They should, however, be mostly filled with love and happy memories. It should not feel like hard work all the time.
You should not try to change who you are to be with someone.
You should never accept anyone hitting you.
If they do, quietly walk away. Ask others for the support you need and deserve.
You are not a punching bag.
And whether the abuse is physical or verbal, you do not have to stay.
Make a plan, and leave right away or as soon as you can.
It is much better to be alone and alive than to be abused.
Someday, when you are removed from your horrible situation, you will learn from it. You will learn to like yourself again. You will grow and blossom into the amazing human being that you are. You will live again. You will find happiness.
Many have walked these same footsteps. I was one of them. Let us lead the way. You are not alone.
Just keep saying these words over and over until you believe them:
I am someone. I am good. I am compassionate. I am special. I have great worth, and no one can take that away from me. I will unravel this ball of pain that consumes me. I will transform it into a great ball of light. This light will brighten my world. It will lead the way to better things. It will help me move on and be happy. It will help me love again, and share that love with the world. My cycle of abuse is over. I will not let it overtake me again. I am finally free.
Go ahead and take your life back and learn to live it. I am with you all the way.
I love you. Now take the time to heal and to learn to love yourself.
If you ever need help you can use the following resources:
If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224. http://www.ncadv.org/