Before we begin:
This is Part 2 of my series: Words From A Decade, my story of trauma and recovery in my own words from the past decade. Part 1 is here: Part 1
2012 and 2013 are probably the most contrasted years of my decade: 2012 being the “rock bottom” year, where I fell as deep into the abuse as I would go, and 2013 being the year of exaltation and freedom of escape as I left the relationship and had a chance to start over.
Once again, trigger/content warnings include: rape/sexual abuse, verbal/emotional abuse, self harm, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts. Take care of yourself first.
Thank you for being here.
2012: 16/17 years old
For a good part of spring and summer 2012, he was in rehab and I was free. Our contact was scarce and I found joy again. I spent so much time with friends who embraced me as I was, and had a chance to live without fear for a while. It was incredible. I don’t have a lot of writing, just little bits left on tumblr. I’m guessing a lot was deleted.
In other parts of 2012, I began more rapidly ending the things that displeased him as the emotional and verbal abuse progressed. I stopped competitive figure skating: my sport, social outlet, and consistent past time for nearly 10 years. I quit the debate team. I quit young life. I nearly stopped taking photos. All to in attempt to avoid his constant delivery of humiliation about things I cared about. I censored everything I did. I tried to trim away everything so he wouldn’t have anything left to hate or degrade. He controlled what I did, who I saw, what I wore, and what I said, using shame, manipulation, and a plethora of other emotional abuse tactics. He grew increasingly suspicious of me and started to vehemently believe I was cheating on him, which was completely untrue and unwarranted. He went through all my phone records and interrogated me on every text I had ever sent. Literately. He would call me any time day or night, whenever his suspicion struck, and I had to answer or else that would confirm I was up to “no good”. No matter what explanation I gave or how many tears I cried, it wasn’t enough. I kept internalizing that I must be doing something wrong, and if I was just “better” he would believe me and stop being suspicious.
It reached a new level when he went through my phone and finding something that upset him, smashed it against the wall and hit me in public, during the middle of the school day. I went back to class crying (which was common), and later, skating, where he followed me. I then lied to my mom that I broke my phone, and he accompanied us to the Verizon store to get a new one. I learned to expect accusations and violence all the time. I was on my toes 24/7. I was never allowed to talk to any guys, in any context; it wasn’t safe. To him, everyone was a threat. I was attached to my phone day and night, should he call from jail, home, or wherever he was.
The writing that remains references “fading away” and photographs feature self harm scars and my withdrawn face. I began taking anything I could (prescription drugs, cigarettes, weed, alcohol) to make the pain stop. My relationship with my parents grew more and more volatile as they tried desperately to get me away from him. I only rebelled harder, believing he was my destiny and they just didn’t understand. He made it clear that no one would ever love me except him, because I was so hard to be with for a million reasons. He brought my self esteem down so low that I truly believed I deserved to be treated like trash, and was dependent on the “love” he would occasionally throw to me when he wanted something. Instead of reckoning with the predicament I was in, I projected my internal pain on my school and home life, believing that once I turned 18 we would escape our hometown and everything bad would go away. Instead of fighting against the darkness, I let it swallow me whole. This was a survival mechanism, because dealing with what was actually going on was not possible. I was trapped. There was no escape.
September 15th, 2012:
“god it’s fucking absurd how much i love you. i wish i could make it stop. i’m sorry mom, dad, but i can’t help myself. i’ll never be who you want me to be because i’ll never stop loving the boy you hate.”
Several times he forced me to sneak him into my house while my parents were home, where he was not allowed to be. He was kicked out of his own house on and off for the way he treated his family (horribly), and told me if I didn’t take him home he’d be on the streets. Trying to convince me it was fun to lie and break the rules was constant. One time he simply refused to get out of the car, no matter what I did or how hard I begged, so I had to bring him home. My parents caught him. Shame was enveloping my being. I’d lived my whole life as a good kid, never getting in trouble, always trying to do my best. All of that was out the window as I now had to betray my parent’s trust and my own self-respect constantly to try to avoid his ridicule and attempt to stabilize his behavior. It was unsafe to say no to him, so I had to say no to me.
September 21st, 2012:
“all I want to do is drink and smoke until nothing hurts anymore. I’m so FUCKING sick of hurting. the comfort of your arms is separated from me by miles and locks and parents’ demands. so I have to find a replacement. It’s nice to see you in my dreams but that only makes waking up that much harder.”
He was the one hurting me, but in my mind I had to make it someone else’s fault. I fell face first into hating everyone around us rather than see he was the poison in my glass the whole time. I would visit him in jail as much as possible, and had to answer the phone whenever he called collect, despite it costing me money every time. One day he asked me to bring him as much money as I could, so I got $250 out of my savings as a 17 year old, telling my parents I was going shopping for myself. I gave it all to him.
September 24th, 2012:
“I know I haven’t broken all the way yet. I’m still happy to love you even though it makes my life hell. And I don’t regret a minute of it.”
I tried to leave him, or stand up for myself a few times, and every effort led to him declaring he would kill himself, or one time it was that he was going to come burn down my family’s house. My grandmother was living with us as the time and I was terrified she wouldn’t be able to get out because of mobility issues. I was truly stuck now. If I left, he killed himself or hurt my family, and I was responsible. If I stayed, I continued to suffer. The box grew smaller and smaller. I stayed, believing there was no where to go. Things always got worse. I shut down.
2013: 17/18 years old
In 2013 I was desperate for a change. I knew I couldn’t keep living like this, but I still didn’t understand that leaving him was an option. I thought I’d have to fix myself by myself. I started working out 2 times a day and restricting my diet, thinking that was a way I could control my happiness. I savored the time I had at my job and with safe friends who I knew, somehow, still loved me.
In 2013 I also started using a sketchbook a little bit, which holds some of the only concrete recordings I have of his abuse. The following page features the different words he called me in one phone call from jail. I remember writing them down while I was crying, taking the abuse and feeling absolutely at my wits end. Somewhere inside me I knew what was happening was not okay, and I decided to write it down for once.
In February, he told me to go to my doctor to try and get him Xanax, another drug for him to abuse in addition to the alcohol, weed, and pills he was struggling to afford. I told my doctor I had anxiety (which was obviously true) and she prescribed me antidepressants. He predicted I would leave him within weeks. Even he knew that when I got better and stopped believing there was something wrong with me, I would see the source of pain and terror for what it was, and walk away.
That’s exactly what happened.
Around March 11th (3/11 is the day I celebrate, I can’t remember the exact day), I wrote him a letter saying I was done and sent it to him in jail. My best friend read his response and gave me a summary. I never read it myself. I was done caring what he had to say about me.
At this time, I lived for any high I could get, exemplified by this post on tumblr:
March 13th, 2013:
“so many different highs today:
- zoloft happy
- nicotine buzz
- vyvanse upper
- marijuana stoned
- caffeine jitters
- running endorphins”
Everything changed very quickly. I had my first taste of freedom and I was never going back to the cage that “love” put me in. The antidepressants took all my pain and fear away, and I thought I’d never have to worry again. I chased the high. I smoked weed constantly and tried to squeeze 3 years of teenage freedom into a few months. I was everywhere with everyone, afraid of nothing. After being accountable to someone for every move I made, I relished in the freedom of doing whatever I wanted to do.
He tried to hoover me back and stalked me at high school, where he was expelled from. I have potent memories of friends warning me that he was looking for me and changing my route to evade him. He would still call me over and over and over from jail at any hour of the day, although I wouldn’t answer. I later would wonder why hearing the phone ring would trigger immediate anxiety.
August 23rd, 2013
“trying not to live with regrets. but i will never stop resenting you for all the life you took from me. years and years of pain, humiliation, anxiety. the way i live now is an attempt to make up for all the beauty i missed when i was under your spell.”
I had a summer full of fun. I worked and partied. That’s all I cared about. I got a tattoo on my body that says “life without fear”, thinking I had outrun fear and it’d never be back. I hurt people who cared about me because I didn’t understand that my actions had consequences. I thought I could run forever.
In September, I moved across the country to Olympia, Washington, for college. I was sexually assaulted on my second night there in a situation that went from fun to horrific in a manner of minutes. I felt the pain, but not for long. I pushed the feelings away. I met so many interesting people who also liked drinking and doing drugs and having fun. I poured myself into new experiences and new people. I was convinced that my past would have no power over me anymore. I ran and ran and ran. I made mistakes. I hurt more people. I realized I did not have the tools to care for myself and give myself grace when it all fell down. I consistently reverted to hating myself when things went wrong, but I had strengthened my ability to numb my pain through other people and substances. So for a while, that’s what I relied on.