Growing up with my father made me realize early on that not all men are the greatest. He was an abusive alcoholic who made my mother's life miserable for 24 years. She got pregnant with my oldest brother at 18 and then had five more children.
My mom has told me time, and time again that she only stayed with my dad because of us. So she received bruise after bruise, insult after insult for 24 years because she loved her children so much that she couldn't put us through the stress and heartache of a divorce. I was 12 when she finally got the courage to leave him, and she hasn't looked back. I swore I would never put myself in a situation like that.
Fast forward 8 years. I'm 20 years old and living on my own. I have grown confident and independent. I had a secure job and my own way of life. Everything was going great, especially when I met him. He was sweet and charming. His eyes were electrifying and his smile could brighten up a room. I met his family. We fell in love and moved in together after a month. I was happy with the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. My family liked him and our friends adored us.
Then, it all went downhill. Fast.
He started cheating. He created alternate identities online with multiple girls. I'll never forget the day I found out. I almost left him. Almost. "It's to build up my confidence," he'd say. "It has nothing to do with you."
I believed him.
"Those pictures don't mean anything to me. You're the one I love." I apologized for being irrational.
Almost every day, I found something that upset me. I started lashing out and he'd tell me I needed therapy. I wasted money on a therapist, I wasted money supporting him because he "loved his job, and didn't want to find another one."
We'd fight and I lost control multiple times. It just kept building up until I couldn't take it anymore. I broke a mirror, tried to drink peroxide, and started cutting again. I was the crazy one, and yeah I did go insane, from all the lying and the cheating and the manipulation. I thought it couldn't get any worse, then one day it did.
He hit me. He punched me right in the stomach because I was screaming at him to delete his profiles. When I tried to leave, he dragged me through the house by my hair. "It's the only way I can deal with you."
I once again apologized for making him feel the need to lash out. After almost a year of hating myself and putting on a fake smile, something different happened. After throwing a phone at me, I called him a pervert in one of our fights and he slapped me so hard that he busted my lip and bruised half of my face. He started crying. "I'm so sorry I did that to you." I consoled him. I told him that it was okay, that it was an accident.
Finally, one day I found something again on his phone and I wouldn't give it back until he told me the truth. He sat on my chest, restricting my breath until he got it from me. He choked me out in the bathroom when I confronted him about what he just did. I left when he was in the shower. I left for a week and came back.
We tried being friends but after he head butted me and told me to kill myself, and after I tried, I was hospitalized for five days. The nurses begged me not go back to him after I told them my story, but I did. Then one day, out of the blue, I got the nerve to call up my friends and ask them to help me get my stuff out of the house. I haven't looked back since.
After breaking up for good, I lost my dishes, my dog, my car, everything. I lost myself for awhile. I started drinking a lot and fell into a lonely black hole. I blamed myself for the failed relationship and I hated myself for letting him go because, "he was the only one for me."
After treatment and the diagnosis of PTSD and an anxiety disorder, I was finally able to pull myself together and realize that being in a toxic relationship isn't the worst thing someone could do. It's losing yourself. It's letting someone like that affect you in such a profound way that you lose hope and confidence. The worst thing you could do is hate yourself for someone else's mistakes.
Being in a toxic relationship has definitely changed me. It's made me realize that I'm much stronger than I think. I have a heart full of love and I don't need to settle for someone who doesn't deserve it. Yeah, I cried over him and I let him knock me down, but I got back up. Now, I'm more focused than ever, and I'm ready to take on the world. I'm glad I got out when I did.
Seeing the hurt on my family's faces when they found out was the most heartbreaking thing I have ever seen. I was my mom, all those years ago. I became what I swore I never would. I became a victim of abuse. I became a victim of manipulation. Fear. Heartache. Self-hatred.
There are hotlines out there to call for situations like this. Please reach out before it's too late. 1-800-799-7233.