Becoming a survivor
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a subject that really hits home for me. In an effort to reach out to other women who have experienced abuse, I have decided to share some of my story for the first time.
The past 8 years I have kept what happened to me mostly to myself, with the exception of my fiancé, a few close friends who are also survivors, and my therapist. In the year that followed the abuse, I would (drunkenly) blurt out random facets of the events to some people, alluding to what happened, but never in much detail…my therapy was alcohol and my prescribed anxiety medication for the four years following the abusive relationship. It was a stupid way to cope, but everyone deals with trauma in different ways, and I chose to self-destruct before seeking professional help.
I was in a relationship with my abuser for a year and a half; only 6 months of it was violent. The first year he appeared to be a caring, loving, man that I thought I might spend my life. We would spend most of our time going out to eat, listening to music, and watching horror flicks. We were both very laid back people, who only partied on special occasions. As time progressed, we both became more possessive of one another and we constantly questioned each other about our whereabouts and who we were with etc (I take responsibility for this, I was not a trustful person in my youth and my previous relationship in high school was similar). But things started to change drastically as time went by - he became even more jealous, irrational, and angry. One day he showed up to my apartment with all of his stuff, telling me we were moving in together. We had discussed the possibility, but never came to a decision. I didn’t know what to do, so I allowed him to stay, even though he had no job, car, or friends in the area.
In the 6 months that followed, he would lash out at me verbally and physically, which I have now realized is because he felt inferior. I was going to school and working three jobs while he sat around my apartment doing nothing day after day. He became angry at my successes and his failures. At the time I was too blind to see this and thought I was a terrible person for making him so unhappy. I started to drink daily at this point and began to look for parties every night I was free in order to cover up the stress and instability that was turning into my life.
After a few months, he finally moved back to his parents’ house, but we continued to try to make the relationship work, even though we had broken up. My 21st birthday is a day I will never forget. After a failed date that ended with him screaming and pushing me, I drove him home, but he would not let me leave. He dragged me on the ground from my car into his house, with me screaming at the top of my lungs the whole way. When he got me inside he grabbed a large butcher knife from the kitchen and started chasing me around the house. He got me on the ground at one point and we struggled for a short time, but a higher power was truly looking out for me, because multiple sirens started blaring from a distance. He jumped off of me and proceeded to slit his wrists open and told me I was going to pay for it when the police arrived. I was petrified so I ran to my car and left.
One of our mutual friends called me to tell me the police were looking for me and that I should call them. I called and luckily they knew what happened because the neighbors saw and heard the whole ordeal - they had called the police as soon as they saw him forcing my car door open and dragging me out. My ex was placed into a psychiatric facility, which he left the next day. The next few weeks he would keep calling me, telling me it was my fault he was put into the psychiatric facility and that I was the crazy one that treated him horrible. He even called my father to tell him a bunch of gross lies about me in an effort to cut me off from my family. I called the police and went through the process of getting a two year restraining order, but I moved out of state around the time of its expiration and did not renew it (which I do not recommend to any abuse victims). The next 6 1/2 years were still filled with him trying to contact me, which caused me to have very vivid flashbacks and psychiatric breakdowns at certain points.
However, there will always be light at the end of a dark tunnel, and for the first time in almost a decade, I have made it over a year without him trying to contact me. In this first year of peace, I have made the journey from a victim to a survivor. I sought out intense counseling with a therapist that focuses on domestic violence and trauma. I have faced my abuse for the first time sober, and, although the sessions leave me shaking and crying, I am proud of my progress.
My fiancé has also been an incredible support system to me. He holds me when I am having flashbacks and he knows when I am having a nightmare about it and wakes me to tell me everything is ok. He also doesn’t take my random, angry outbursts personally and understands that when I am not able to control things, I sometimes misplace my anger on him – something my therapist tells me is a normal defense mechanism of people who suffer from PTSD.
The reason I have decided to post my story is because healing comes from helping others. I don’t want other women or men to suffer alone for years like I did, talking about the abuse and allowing people you know to hear your story will give you a bigger support system. I think it is also important for people you know to be aware of the situation for your safety. If people know your history, they will be more prone to check up on you and let you know if something in your area seems off.
I also want women and men to realize that when you start seeing signs of an unhealthy relationship, it is easier to break it off sooner than later. My life was threatened more than the one time I just went over, but I am choosing to disclose the day that made me realize that, yes, I am going to die if I don’t change my situation. I will be eternally grateful to the neighbors who called the police that day and I truly believe there is a higher being that decided it was not my time to leave this beautiful earth, because I have so much love and knowledge to share with others.