Every day I move farther away from the hurt that I have felt in my past it gets a little bit easier. But.. it doesn't go away. At night, my mind races. Sometimes I just want to turn it off. I laid in bed last night and it felt all to quiet but so loud in my mind. Today, I have a list of things to accomplish but I find myself writing instead. I sometimes write in journals to keep my thoughts to myself. However, there is something liberating about being completely transparent to friends, family and even strangers. I don't know who reads these posts, I just know that they are read, and so maybe my journey will help someone else. Can't learn things along the way and keep our stories to ourselves, right? I read blogs and often times they have helped me get through some type of hurdle or challenge. So why should I keep my thoughts in a little book,locked up for people to break into after I die?
In 2007 I was dating a man who was incredibly abusive. Its taken 7 years to publicly say that. I have talked to close friends in confidence about it, but here it is- public. Family knew, some of it, not all of it. Enough to help out when it was in its worst state. Yet, its one of those things that once it was "over" it was pushed under a rug. They were respectful of my healing, and knew that I didn't want to talk about it. I have always lived in a way where it was easier to move on, move forward. My dad always said, "It wasn't the event, but it was the recovery" so I always just kind of go in "recover" mode.
Let me take you back. New city, new job, new guy…. life seemed perfect. 22 years old, with an entire future ahead of me. When we met, it was one of those whirlwind relationships. (Looking back the guy wasn't even good looking, ha) but, he made me feel special, he made me feel loved. He was an ordained pastor, he was a police officer, he had a past internship with Walt Disney World.. I mean- he LOVED disney… what type of guy would be "bad" who has that type of resume. He looked great on paper. I thought it was great that he would surprise me with flowers, little drop-ins, notes, letters etc. What I didn't know was this was the way that he would suck me in to his games.
He had an ex girlfriend, who also had red hair, that sent me a message basically telling me how crazy he was. Isn't social media interesting? This was in a facebook/myspace era. You could begin to find anyone, she found me. To me, it seemed like a jealous ex, who didn't want him to be happy. Little did I know- she was probably helpless and trying to reach out and help me.. warn me before it got too late. Something I would be reaching out to his next victim just a year later. But of course, you see what you want to see. He could tell me what I wanted to hear. She was jealous. They had a bad ending. She was the crazy one. Of course she was. I mean how could this guy that had never done anything wrong, didn't come across that he he would hurt a fly be the crazy one?
A few months into the relationship is when I began to notice how over protective he was. He didn't want me hanging out with my male friends that I had known from my church. He always turned it around, asking me how I would feel if he was hanging out with a bunch of single females. It seemed like a fair argument. Yet, then it wasn't just my guy friends it was my girlfriends too. He didn't want me to hang out with anyone. He wanted to be there at all times. I should have ran then, but for some reason I was already sucked in. All of his reasoning for getting upset or having "discussions" with me seemed so right. He often used the bible to support his case. Made me feel guilty as a Believer, because my actions were just not "Christian-Like"
I think it is important to mention that he used to carry his gun with him all the time. He was never without it.
I remember how when we would go to his apartment in Virginia. He had about 10 locks on his door. He would lock each one and then touch them one by one to make sure they were locked. He would then go into the kitchen to make sure the stove was off. Even if he hadn't cooked. One by one he would touch them and then he could just "be". Obviously, he was suffering from some type of OCD. I just ignored it.
We would get into massive fights. And with so many fights that we had- who really remembers what or who started them. All I know is that they were not pretty. We would fight, he would yell in my face, call me names and then when I would just shut down and couldn't fight any longer, sobbing in a corner, in the bathroom he would then apologize, bring me flowers and be so nice to me for a week or longer that I would just move past whatever the fight was. At least until the next one.
I remember one fight. We were on a highway. Driving 70 mph. He got upset about something. He slammed on his brakes and thank God I had my seatbelt on as I flew forward in the passenger seat, my chest restrained against the belt. The wind sucked out of me. It was a threat. I was scared. But I couldn't figure out what to do.
I got pretty sick with Mono during this entire thing. And all of these events run together as just one long scary experience. When I had mono, I was out of work. He worked nights. He would take care of me during the day. Leaving it impossible for anyone else to help out. My folks offered time and time again to come up and help. He wouldn't have it. It was "his" job to take care of me. But often, caring ended up in fighting.. And with as sick as I was, I just didn't have the energy to do so. I was scared. But I couldn't figure out what to do.
The day before my Birthday, we had another explosive moment. First time it got physical. He grabbed me. The next day, he surprised me with tickets to New York, he had bought tickets to Tarzan, made reservations at serendipity… To this day, one of the most romantic surprises I have ever received in my life.. and yet- it was by someone who didn't love me and just wanted to control me.
Things continued to go down hill. We had a trip planned to California. We got on the plane and we fought the entire time. As this is the trip where it finally began to end for good.. I remember it as if were yesterday as scary as that sounds. On the plane he asked me, if I would ever date a black man. Apparently my response was supposed to be something like, "I would never date anyone but you." but I responded that color didn't matter to me. That I love a person's heart, that I would be open minded to anything. He got that look in his eye. I knew he was mad. Could he explode on the plane? Yes. He began to whisper everything terrible about me and how I was a cheater because I had been open minded to see other people. He called me a lot of names and held my arm so tight I felt it tingle up.
I got the courage when we got off the plane. I told him it was over. I told him to get on the next plane and go home to Maryland. I was done. I walked away and I didn't look back. I got myself on the shuttle. I kept thinking, if this shuttle would just leave I would be safe. I would be with my family and I could come up with some excuse that the boyfriend couldn't make it. Yet i looked up, at the San Diego airport. I watched him walking incredibly fast across the walkway, down the escalator and I just was hoping the shuttle would leave. Just leave. He ran across the cross walk and he made it inside. I was really scared. He smiled nicely at the driver and sat next to me. He smiled at me, pulled me close to him to not make a scene and said you "F#@%ING WHORE, YOU DON'T WALK AWAY FROM ME." I just wanted him to leave. He wouldn't.
We rented the car, and drove to the families house. We faked it well, everything was fine and dandy. They could probably tell I had gained a lot of weight. But they didn't say much. We would fight behind closed doors, and everything was "normal" on the outside. I knew that he was going home soon. I had a conference in San Francisco to attend. I just had to make it till then. After San Diego, we went to Los Angeles. He was only supposed to stay a couple days, but he continued to extend his trip.
He finally snapped. He had grabbed me, he had pushed me, he had yelled but he had never hit me. But then he did. In Los Angeles. I then lost it back. I yelled, I screamed and I slapped him. I got physical. I pushed back. I had had enough. And then, he twisted it. He was going to call the cops on me. I was the abuser. Who were they going to believe? A fellow officer or me? I should have called myself.
I had a friend that was very supportive during this time. He knew a lot what was going on.. but I am not sure if he totally got it. I probably didn't tell him everything. If I would have, I know he would have come picked me up and removed me from the situation.
The day finally came, when he was to return to Maryland. He had continued to extend his trip so that we could "make things better" before he left. I was on a plane to San Francisco and he back home to Maryland. I was going to the 2007 RID conference for professional development. I was in no state of mind to be developed. I was a mess. I remember my conference book got taken by the hotel maid and I had a complete and nervous break down. The RID president at the time knew me, and was able to help me get a new one so I would get CEUS. She probably wondered why I was so distraught over this book. Looking back, I knew everything else was coming to a head.
I saw Avenue Q during this trip. First time, and it is still my favorite play in the world. Probably because my friend took me to get out of my head for a while, to laugh, to know I was cared about. That play, as terrible as it is and inappropriate as it is, makes me feel safe. I know that is odd, if you have seen it. But its true. I have seen it every time its been in a city near me. Its coming to Edinburgh in June and I hope to get tickets.
He called me. He told me he had two job offers. One in Texas and one in Florida. He wanted me to pick which one I wanted to go to. I told him it didn't matter that I would follow him wherever. It was a lie. I wouldn't. But if he would just take a job, he would move and then I could back out and he would be gone. I think he knew. He some how got it out of me that I wouldn't go to either place with him. That I was done. Long story short, he went, got my cats and held them hostage. He told me I couldn't have them back. They were his and that he would do whatever he wanted to them. That I was to return home and we would move together and be happy.
I broke. I was done. I was hurting. I was scared. And now he had my cats. It was time. I needed to ask for help. My dad all along knew that he was a loser. He called me after first meeting him already profiling him as an abuser. How did he know anything about this great guy I was seeing? He knew. He knew. I called for help. I told as much as I needed. My sister got the sheriffs involved, the cats were returned to safety and I was flown to Nashville, Tennessee instead of Maryland. If anyone wants to know how I moved to Nashville- well.. that was the start of it. That was the start of my recovery. I didn't admit that I was a victim of abuse for a long time. My mom had brought me to a counselor in the domestic violence center in Maryland (I had to go back to MD to get my tonsils removed, my apartment was still there, my life was still there). She wanted me to talk to her. I didn't want to talk. THe lady showed me some pamphlets. They hit right at home. I still didn't admit that. But I knew in my heart I was a victim of abuse. I was one of those girls that stayed in a bad relationship. I was one of those people that I always said, if its so bad? She should just leave. I was guilty of judging and I was guilty of not leaving. Its harder to do than you would think.
There is obviously more to the story. I had found out later that part of the reason he was so good at fighting was he was keeping notebooks of all of our conversations and could twist everything around because he had my words. So there is more so much more to the story.. and so much more to the healing process. I am still healing from it. I got myself into 2 more terrible relationships after this. Although I waited a couple years to start dating again. I didn't find the same type of abuser, I found a loser and a user after. I will probably write about those experiences at some point. As they have each taught me a lot about people, life in general, an obviously about myself. I hope that I have removed my rose colored glasses. I like to think I have. I have my guard up.
Yet, in all this. I won't give up on people. I will continue to trust people. I will continue to love people. I won't even give up on the idea of meeting someone who will love me in spite of my scars. I will continue to forgive people for their wrong doings. I will continue to forgive myself. I will continue to share my stories and talk to people when they need it. Every experience happens for a reason. Maybe, just maybe telling someone that I understand, that its hard and telling my story will help women get the courage to not just walk away but to run away. To run away knowing that even smart, independent women have experienced similar situations and it doesn't make them weak or any less of a woman because they tried time and time again to see the best in a person.
"Sometimes the very thing you are afraid of doing is the one thing that will set you free"
There is a song that means the world to me. Jessica June Rose wrote this song called "Why Does She Stay?"- I still listen to it often. I got to meet her when I first moved to Nashville. It has helped remind me how strong I am for finally walking away. Maybe the song will help someone else. I have attached it here. Obviously I haven't let it all go.. but I think that being able to share some of my story publicly is a step in the right direction.