This is a tough one. I wasn’t sure if this post would come, but this morning I woke up with the words. I didn’t want to write this because I don’t like thinking about this time in my life. I don’t like to give this person thought or any opportunity to influence my thinking. I struggled with an intense anger for the past year whenever my PTSD was triggered, and I’m very happy to report that no longer happens. I’m able to trace what’s happened to me and decipher how I found myself in such an awful situation. So here we are– let’s talk about what it was like to be in an abusive relationship, and how it helped me start this blog.
In December of 2014, I met someone. Before this, I had one serious relationship for three years. When that ended, it took me some time to process. When I met the next guy, I fell headfirst and our relationship moved at lightning speed. Retrospectively, our interactions mirrored that of an addiction. We were never apart, we were never disconnected, and we always craved each other. He stayed with my family for a week around Christmas, just after we met, and was introduced to all the people closest to me. There was a lot of alcohol during this time, and because I had just turned 21, my understanding of moderate drinking had not yet been established.
After the holidays were over, I began student teaching. He had, essentially, moved into the house I shared with two friends, (sorry Brigid and Haley) would drive me, in my car, to school each morning, and pick me up at the end of the day. The evenings were full of drinking and dates that left me little time to lesson plan or commit to student teaching. I did the best I could, but my distraction was obvious to my mentor teacher. Ultimately, my mentor sat me down to express that he didn’t feel I was meant to be a teacher. While this is a story for a future post, you can imagine that after years of training to teach high school English, this was not an easy criticism to receive.
That same day, my parents were visiting from the other side of the state. My boyfriend was to meet us for dinner. As dinnertime approached, he was absent. Through the angry phone calls that ensued, I surmised that he was inebriated. I made the mistake of questioning this fact and reminded him of the commitment he made to be with my family. So he tried to meet us; but instead crashed into another car on the expressway.
On that day in March, I gave up student teaching, moved home with my parents, and he and I made our plans for the future. Why did I still want a future with him? I don’t know. I was in love, I was loyal, it didn’t feel right to leave him while he was going through so much. Without a license, he decided that the public transit in Chicago made the city an obvious choice for our new home. So, we moved there together the day I graduated from college. We had known each other for five months.
What followed were the darkest years of my life. As I struggled with my depression, he struggled with substance abuse (likely other behavior disorders too). While our relationship began when we met, his struggle to control his temper didn’t become overwhelming until we moved to Chicago. I knew it was a piece of him early on, but didn’t know what that meant for me.
It meant that for every moment I was misunderstood, I was screamed at. It meant that whenever I was too tired to be intimate, I didn’t get to say “no.” It meant that when he joined us for family events, he was always high and sneaking off to empty the liquor cabinet. What it meant was the loss of every person I knew, and a complete alienation from my family. When he screamed at me, I became desperate for it to stop. On a few occasions, I hurt myself in front of him. The first time he noticed and helped me, the next time it made him angrier.
Three months into our time in Chicago, I finally got a job at the preschool I’ve mentioned before. This was another turning point as it brought new people into my life. One of my co-teachers became my best friend and lived just two blocks from me. When Boyfriend went to jail in November for his DUI, my new friend Ali took his place as my confidant. When he came back, he knew he was beginning to lose me. He resented Ali’s presence in our life. This is when the physical abuse began. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t hit him twice, but as I’ve come to learn—that does not excuse the times he hit, shoved, or threw things at me. On multiple occasions, I would run to Ali’s house while he chased me down the sidewalk. I remember looking at the faces of the people driving by and praying someone would do something, but no one ever did. I would hide in Ali’s utility closet while she locked her windows so that he couldn’t break in. She would threaten him until he left, and let me borrow clothes for work the next day.
In June of 2016, he and I went to a wedding together in Michigan. Despite his time in jail, rehab, and counseling, he was still drinking. We drank too much at that wedding, and I learned that he had been cheating on me. After we began fighting, he tried to drive my car back to the hotel. I wouldn’t let him because he was so intoxicated, and I got behind the wheel (I felt the consequences of my being caught drunk driving were less severe than his. I understand this was stupid, but it was my rationale). He yelled at and pushed me as I drove. The fighting only escalated in the parking lot of our hotel and I got scared. There were people around, but no one asked if I was okay. As I ran out of options, I called for help and ran into the lobby. Finally, a couple came to my aid.
The police followed and he was taken back to jail. I spent the night on the phone with Ali unsure of what to do. My keys were in his pocket when he was arrested; so, I had to go to the jail to get them the next day. He’d been driving my car, illegally, in all the time prior, broke the air conditioning, and never had it fixed. I drove back to Chicago on my own without air conditioning while the thermostat read 105. I was exhausted in every way, and had to stop often to sleep. His parents called me as I drove and asked why he was in jail. I answered them while I sobbed and never heard from them again.
When I made it back to Chicago, I stayed with Ali. Eventually he made his way back to our apartment and manipulated my car away from me, again. I was subpoenaed to testify against him on a workday, which contributed to losing my job. I evoked the Safe Homes Act in Illinois, though my property managers did not want to honor it, and was able to get out of our lease. Ali and I moved into a new apartment in October of 2016, and moving day was the last time I saw him. Ultimately, he manipulated and harassed me until I had the charges against him dropped. I decided to concede because I couldn’t cope with seeing him anymore.
Though I hear he’s living in Michigan, I often see people on the street and fear they’re him. I try to prepare for an accidental run-in, but have never decided what I would do. I’ve never felt such hatred towards a person, and it infected me. I hated my choices and myself. I was embarrassed, and I wasn’t handling my depression. I was physically ill every day, and two days before Christmas of 2016, I lost my job. That was rock bottom. My parents got me home, and the three of us celebrated the holiday on our own.
It’s hard to fathom how miraculously different I am just one year later. It feels like a lifetime ago. What’s not hard to see is that by wilting in front of my parents, they stepped up to fix me. They got me into therapy, they stayed with me, they took me to the sun—they did everything they could to help me wake up.
Not long after, a wonderful family welcomed me as their nanny– which led me to my first apartment on my own. I’ve reconnected with the friends I’d lost, I’ve started not to fear men, and I’ve started a blog. The pain pushed me here. I’ve never been certain of what my calling is, but I’m strongly inclined to believe that this story has something to do with it– that this blog has something to do with it. Who knows what that may be, but I’m letting the words go and perhaps they’ll rescue someone else. When you’ve plummeted to the bottom, the only way to go is up. I’m grateful to have been pushed in this direction because I am the best possible version of myself, and that’s a spectacular accomplishment.