*Content may be upsetting to some. Please read with caution.
I always thought the signs of domestic abuse would be obvious. That I’d be too smart to fall into that, plain and simple. Except no one ever told me anything about the various types of abuse; that it wasn’t all just about the physical and the sexual. No one mentioned mental, financial, verbal, or the emotional kind. No one ever told me about the cycle of abuse. I became uncomfortably comfortable in that cycle for nearly three years. I stayed due to endless excuses that he fed me and that I made for him. I thought he just needed help because he was an Iraqi War Veteran. Who would love him if I didn’t? He’s never laid a hand on me, so it wasn’t abuse, right?
Thanks to his mental and emotional abuse, I felt like a horrible partner if I just quit on him when things got tough. I stayed through outbursts where he would punch holes in walls with his fist or his head, smash dishes over his own head, destroy my belongings, put body sized holes in the door I was hiding behind, or yell and scream insults and profanities less than an inch from my face. If I called the police, he would just leave. He would guilt trip me if I wasn’t intimate with him on a nightly basis or if he decided that I wasn’t spending the appropriate amount of time with him. If I was visibly upset, he wouldn’t let me leave the house. I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t even bring myself to call in to work. One day, I was in hysterics just trying to get away from him. He sat on the hood of my van until I unlocked the door so he could ride with me to work. He would guilt trip me about going out with friends. If I let him tag along, he would throw dramatic fits to get us to leave because he said that it was my fault that no one liked him. He threw my support animal across the room at the wall for no apparent reason. My cat was fine, but I had, up until that point, only seen my ex be physically violent to himself or inanimate objects.
The days leading up to my departure, we had been fighting non-stop for three straight days. 72 hours of constant verbal fighting with no food, work, or sleep had made me physically sick. At some point he left, saying he had to do something, and when he came home, things would be all better. I finally had enough. I was exhausted. Given the choice between the certain cycle of the abuse I would continue to endure by staying, or the uncertainty of uprooting my life, the latter was suddenly the more favorable option. I sent a reach-out letter detailing what my last 72 hours entailed to my mother and a couple of close friends. I was officially asking for help in order to leave. My mother, a psych nurse at the time, immediately called me and instructed me that when he came home I should stick to two phrases and repeat them if I had to, stating that I was done. My friends grouped together to coordinate someone to come get me, but not before he returned home. I sat on my bed cross-legged, my hands shoved in my lap, covered by my comforter. I remember trying to make my body as small as possible. He begged and pleaded with crocodile tears and called me every pet name in the book. He tried to inch closer to me and put his hand on my knee to which I deviated from my repetitive phrase and said, “Do not touch me”.
He realized his manipulation tactics weren’t working, so he resorted to physical tactics. He launched at me, wrapping his arms around me in a death grip with such force that my head slammed against the wall behind me. I was stricken with the sudden fear for my life. I shoved him off and ran to the kitchen to hide behind my roommate. He followed trying to make sure I was ok, but I told him he did not have consent to touch me. He walked out the door and I have not seen him since. Three years later, I have since been diagnosed with PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, Severe Anxiety, and Major Depression.
Some days it is hard to be thankful that I escaped with minimal physical damage, because the weight of the mental and emotional scars can sometimes be too much to bear. Many days, I struggle with finding positivity and something to take away from it. But my story continues, and I still have a lot of healing to do. I do, however, still have hope; hope that this reaches someone, prepares someone, or enlightens someone. And for that, I no longer consider myself a Victim or a Survivor, but a Warrior.