I remember the morning after that life-changing night like it was yesterday. The sun came shining through the old dusty window and hit my closed eyes. Beams of light made little streaks in the dusty air of my friend’s old farmhouse. I slowly sat up and looked outside. It was a beautiful day and, for a second, I almost smiled but the memories of the night before quickly flooded in and I reached for my phone. I didn’t have service. My friend woke up and she asked me if I was okay, I nodded but looked away. I couldn’t believe things had escalated so quickly the night before. I grabbed my shoulder and felt the pain from the night before.
This isn’t something I like to talk about very much. And, in fact, I really haven’t told this story in over a year now. I find myself sharing this part of my life when I notice that someone needs a push or a little hope. When Mariel asked me to write about an experience that seemed like the end of the world, this was, undeniably, the first thing to pop into my head.
First off, let me say that it takes immeasurable courage for many women, many of whom have it worse than me, to talk about their abusive relationships. Please read without judgement and comparison. Everybody’s story is different.
Sixteen is one hell of an age. You start feeling more like a young woman and less like an adolescent. You are granted certain freedoms like being able to drive a car. Sixteen is also a very vulnerable age. That’s how old I was when I started dating my first boyfriend. Our relationship was hot and heavy from the start and I felt on top of the world with him.
After 6 months, I was so deeply in love the way that sixteen year olds can be. After 6 months, I began to slowly realize that I was in trouble. His behavior became very erratic and inconsistent. He began to call and text me all the time to see what I was doing or where I was but, he was always angry when I asked him the same questions. He became aggressive and always tried to argue with me or anyone around him. He became paranoid. He was paranoid that I was going to leave or cheat, of other people trying to steal me away, and of other people being racist or judging him based on his looks. Long story short, my parents and my best friends became scared for me but, I was determined to help him.
I knew about mental illnesses and, quite frankly, had always been fascinated by them. I knew he was sick and that I was not safe around him all the time. I had to grow up quickly. I was, suddenly, a 17-year old with a sick boyfriend. Even his parents depended on me to take care of him and supervise him. Even after all I did for him, he cheated on me or broke up with me on numerous occasions. He was expelled before we graduated for attacking my high school basketball coach. I was in such denial about the whole ordeal.
He had to stand across the street to watch me receive my diploma as I graduated high school on a beautiful, sunny day at an outside ceremony. We went to different colleges. He went to Roanoke College and I went to George Mason University. Somehow, he was still able to emotionally abuse me four hours away. I wasn’t allowed to go to fraternity parties. I had to drop out of rushing for a sorority that I really wanted to be in because I needed to leave my weekends open to be able to visit him.
My friend, Kerri, took me on a couple of road trips that year to other colleges. I felt so free going somewhere else without him. He didn’t know all of the parties we went to. I didn’t dare to tell him.
My first year of college I failed three classes, drank heavily almost every night, and gained 30 pounds. I failed my classes because I slept during the day and stayed up all night either texting him or just enjoying solidarity. I was constantly sick and in a state of depression with constant anxiety. Then, came a diagnosis! He was diagnosed and given medication and I remember hoping that it would all be over and we could, finally, be happy together.
As our first year of college came to a close, I was drifting farther and farther away from him. I wanted out but he kept telling me that he would kill himself if I left. I was stuck.Everybody began coming back home from college, ready to kick off the summer.
A popular hometown girl was throwing a “Welcome Back” party for everyone. We went and so did a lot of my friends, including Kerri. I dropped my overnight bag at his house and we quickly drove out to the party and met up with Kerri.
The doctor had given him strict orders not to drink. He drank anyway and then, he snapped. I tried to run away but I had fallen, twisting my ankles. He came after me with so much rage. Kerri helped me up and we ran inside the house to find somewhere to hide. We locked ourselves in one of the bathrooms and I began panicking and calling his parents for help. They picked up and told me in an upset voice, they were on their way. He burst through and Kerri tried pleading with him. He shoved her aside and made his way to me, grabbing my wrists and restraining me against the wall. He threatened me not to call his parents. Kerri and I were able to push him aside and we ran.
He came screaming looking for me, but we were off, safe, in the distance. A 16-yr old girl approached him and he punched her in the face. The entire male population at the party attacked him. His parents rushed in, gravel flying, in his dad’s 67 Corvette. I was so grateful they were there. I ran over to them and they began to yell at me telling me how unbelievable it is that I couldn’t make him stop or help him. I was done. That very moment, I was done. I was free.
I made my way home the next day and thanked Kerri for everything. I don’t know what more could have happened if she hadn’t been there that night. I had never felt so low in my life. I felt worthless and weak.
The day following my return to my parent’s house, I woke up with so much anger. How could I have let it get this far? I am NOT weak. I ran. I couldn’t stop. I ran 10 miles to my family’s old church and collapsed when I got there.
I decided right there that I would never feel weak and worthless again.
I had found my strength.
Life can be funny in a way because you can let it define you. I chose to rise up strong. I would work hard for my goals and focus back to finding myself again. It wasn’t easy. It took several years of failed relationships and therapy to get where I am today, mentally.
Where am I now? I am a graduate of George Mason University who just took her LSAT in hopes of attending law school. I have the most wonderful, loving, and kind husband whom I married with Kerri standing next to me as my maid of honor. I am a woman who puts her fitness and health first. I am anxiety free and strive to find the positive in every day, even in the darkest of times. I am strong. And, so are you!