The After Math

by AA
(Ventura County)

It’s been a one year, four months and six days since I left my husband. I remember the fear and the heartbreak of knowing that I was going to leave. That day I packed up enough stuff to get through maybe a week or two. I wasn’t thinking about the fact I wasn’t coming home; I was only thinking at that very moment is I had to leave. I also know that I felt that way before with the determined feeling of I can do it but this time felt different, I walked out the door. I got in my car and drove up to my street about a half of block and called my dad to let him know I was on my way. At first, tears were pouring out, but after seconds of saying to my father that I was leaving I started to breathe calmly, and I felt a weight lift that I had been carrying around for so long. That was the moment that I had truly acknowledged that I was the intimate partner of a man that was abusing me.

When I first reconnected with my ex-husband, there were many signs that he was not a healthy person. The truth is, nor was I. I am an easy target for people. You can walk all over me or belittle me, and I would quickly come up with an excuse for their actions. Despite the signs, I instantly fell so hard for him. He was incredibly charming, funny, good-looking, and demanded respect. For a woman who lacked confidence and strength, those qualities screamed out at me. He also seemed so devoted to me. He wanted to spend all his time with me. I was never waiting for the phone for the next date; he made it before I even had a chance to think about other plans. My ex also pulled on my heartstrings. He told me about his father who had killed himself, an abusive mother, and his struggles with addiction in his past. The problem was that he was talking as though these incidents were in distant past, not battles that were still fresh. Once I found out the truth, it was too late. I was hooked, and now I felt I needed to be the one to fix him.

My friends and family were very concerned about the way he spoke to me and was determined to keep me all to him. In my head, I was mad at them. They could never know what he had suffered. He wasn’t trying to hurt me. He was hurting, and he was aware that I was a safe place for him to let his emotions flow. Also, what is so wrong that this man loved me so much that he wanted to spend all the time he could with me. I was an unhealthy woman.

I am not writing this because I’m trying to help women identify signs of abuse. There are so many articles and books that assist in determining intimate partner violence. This story to me is another form of therapy. Discussing is the after part of the abuse and helps me to identify what the after effects of my abuser were.

I started off to begin with being a broken woman, so the after is the real struggle. It took me a couple of months to start “dating” as you would call it. I was determined to find a man or a lot of men to make me feel better, wanted, and desired. I needed this to help try and erase all the crap in which he filled my head. I can tell you that in the one year, four months and six days I have exceeded my goal of feeling “desired.” Ten guys are the number of men with whom I slept. Most of them were one or two night stands, and that’s the way I wanted it. I didn’t want to feel exposed and vulnerable like I did before. The real quality guys are the ones from whom I ran. I didn’t trust myself, and I still don’t trust myself. I may see a wonderful man, but my rose-colored glasses have surely fooled me before. The worse of all the men was the one that I fell for. I knew this guy for years. I already trusted him. I resisted at his advances at first insisting it was too early for me to date a man seriously. That was my first mistake. I put so much pressure on him and myself immediately that it would be the end all of the relationships. My ex-partner left bad voices in my mind: “you’re worthless, put a gun to your head and kill yourself,” “who would want you, I already had to settle,” “the Autistic 3rd graders I work with are smarter than you are.” The more that I yearned for him to be the cure and the eraser of all these bad voices, the more I pushed him away. Truth is he probably wasn’t my soulmate, to begin with, but I jumped at another guy to fix all the shattered pieces. The relationship didn’t work out, and I felt crushed. I hated him despite the fact that he did nothing wrong. I put him in the same place that I put my abusive ex. After that, I went back to having sexual relations with any guy that called me beautiful. These men were decent people. Most of them were determined to get to know me and showed a genuine interest in me. Then one by one they would describe me as cold-hearted and distant. In every aspect of my life I am this soft, sweet, and caring person. I am the kind of person who would do anything with any amount of resentment. These men never saw that.

So in one year, four months and six days I have learned something I am, still broken and hurt. I thought the fact that I was out having fun with my friends and these men that I was in a better place. Healed but that’s the furthest from the truth. I am more broken today than I was a week ago. You can hide away from the hurt and the anger but eventually once all the bad habits can longer mask it, you’re back where you started.
I guess I am writing this because the battle doesn’t end the moment you leave. It’s a struggle. I see myself getting mad at these men thinking why they can’t see that if they want to see the loving side of me they can’t give up. I still place anger and hurt on the wrong person because I can’t yell at the man who abused me. I get irritated with my friends for not seeing how truly broken I am behind the large smile.
The biggest thing that I have learned is that the one thing that is helping me through it all is the people I love. So do not push people away and throw your anger at the individuals who are helping. Lean on them and don’t feel the void with temporary band-aids. Feel the hurt, cry when you relive the words and actions in your head, get mad when you think about was taken away from you and be happy at the strength you had to walk away from your abuser. Leaving is just the first step on a long journey of recovering and putting yourself back together one piece at a time.

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