Disclaimer: This story contains details of domestic violence which may be upsetting for some.
Family Life Early On
“For as far back as I can remember, I’ve had this gut feeling something bad would happen. I regularly felt pressure and discomfort there. A feeling of having to go to the bathroom, which wasn’t pleasant. It was a constant state of worry that something, anything, could upset the peace at home.
In my early years, I believed my parents to be all-knowing, perfect, and divine. It made their hurtful behavior toward each other so confusing growing up. I remember yelling, things being thrown around, and name-calling. I still have my first family portrait from around this time with one long scratch down the front of the photo from where the glass was broken. I was two and a half in the picture.
This went on for many years and was normal for me. I thought this was all life could be.
My father is Mexican-American from a BIG family and my mother is Caucasian and an only child. They came from two different cultures, and a compromise was rarely found.
I am the oldest of four and was very close to my mother. I couldn’t imagine life without my parents, despite the hardships. My family was my life but over time, I lost my ability to know what was safe and good for me; being in a constant state of high alert. I learned not to trust my feelings or my gut and was constantly worried about my parents’ safety when we weren’t together. Except for at school. The school was my strength. (I still enjoy the feeling of a classroom!)
There were good times too. These added to my mixture of feelings and they kept me hopeful. These were the moments I could hold onto.
Religion Had A Hold On My Life
I’m a thinker, a ruminator. I thought my way into mental suffering, worry, and overthinking. But luckily for me, I had my spirituality. I relied on prayer to help ease my mind and at 12 years old, fear had a tight hold on how I lived. This fear burned inside and prayer was like water.
However, religion and authority further fanned the flames of my fears. I was scared to make mistakes, sin, and upset my father. I even had a thought about wanting the Rapture to come. I had this belief I would be ‘saved’ because I was a child and was too young to have made mistakes worthy of ‘hell.’ At this time, I worried about the ‘end of times,’ which still seems accurate for one of my parents today.
If this is how life is at home with loved ones, then I would rather not exist. My emotional struggle was invalidated and minimized over the years, so I continued to minimize myself and my emotions. After getting comfortable with this feeling of existential dread, I planned my life around it. I was pretty much a ‘good kid.’ I got good grades, stayed home, and joined extracurricular activities. I followed what I was told would lead me to ‘success.’
Life After The Divorce
My parents split when I was 16. It was an ugly, heartbreaking divorce that went out in flames, kicking, and screaming. They bashed each other and made life full of hurt, anger, sadness, and betrayal. My mom had moved out of state which was about 17 hours by car, so it wasn’t easy seeing her… at all.
For a moment I thought I was going to live with her, but I was entering my junior year of high school and wanted to stay home with my family, friends, and school. I had a life where I was and wasn’t ready to let that go, so we would visit her during the summer.
The first one was rough. My brothers didn’t want to be there and my mom tried to keep us. My father drove up and I had to leave without saying goodbye. My two youngest siblings stayed with her for 6 months. My family was physically torn in half and my heart was in pieces. They met in court for years but my mom didn’t win custody.
Entering My First Abusive Relationship
When I was visiting my mother the summer before my senior year of high school, I met the abusive one. He was from the west coast and seemed cool, but very different from what I knew. I was intrigued by how he knew my mother; it was a weird and complicated situation.
He was 25. I was 17. I was hurting, young, and naïve, but I couldn’t stand up for what I wanted and entered this relationship. This relationship lasted 4 years. It took me to California and deeper into Hell.
I met him, entered the relationship, and went back to my hometown to finish high school and plan for college. It was challenging to plan any sooner with the constant emotional turmoil. This relationship didn’t make it any easier. It was long distance for the school year but despite the regular fights on the phone, I couldn’t pull myself out of it.
I let him convince me to stay with him, that it would be worth it once we were together. My family tried to tell me I was too beautiful and too good for him, but that’s not what I needed. He watched me graduate high school and took me away to California.
I was in California for 5 months then moved back to my hometown. During my time there, I couldn’t find work and I couldn’t afford university with my student loans. It was a disappointment to feel like I failed at making it on my own. The relationship had good moments, being out in the world and away from my parents, but the lows were reminiscent of what I experienced with my parents. The lows were so familiar it felt ‘safe.’
Growing Tired Of The Abuse
Back in Florida, I finally found my first job at a grocery store and enrolled in a community college. It wasn’t at all what I dreamed, but I wasn’t going to rest and wait to feel better. So I just kept pushing.
I kept going through the motions, doing what I needed that would lead me to ‘success.’ I slowly lost touch with my spirituality and by this time, I decided I no longer identified with the religion I grew up with. I had school, logic, and science to help guide me; emotions were just ‘too messy.’
I kept hoping and looking for a better tomorrow. After a year, at 20 years old, I got a better job and transferred to a local university. I then got promoted at that job. Things seemed to be going well for me, except for this extremely difficult relationship. He was insecure and constantly accusing me of cheating or being interested in other people.
He was emotionally volatile and followed a cycle of domestic violence. He would build up, pop off, fight, reconcile, and then there was calm. In 2015, I finally reached a level of maturity, confidence, and exhaustion with this relationship. I saw myself growing and moving forward and he was stagnant.
Typically, when he would become this ‘monster’ version of himself, I would shut down, go quiet, and just take it. I learned from the beginning, if I contributed it would only get worse. For example, I knocked down a dining chair out of anger during a fight, so he threw and broke the chair.
The turning point for me was when it got to physical violence. I couldn’t continue down this path. I needed help, yet I believed I got myself into this mess, so I deserved it. The home we lived in was owned by my father so I didn’t ask the abusive one to leave. I allowed him to stay in another bedroom. I didn’t wish him more suffering, I was just done.
Ending My Abusive Relationship
I remember the last night. Late August of 2015. It was the beginning of my fall semester and I was working full-time while attending school full-time. I worked evenings at a local casino and it was after midnight. My first day of class was the next morning. I came home that evening tired, not looking forward to getting up early to make the 45-minute drive out to campus.
Here he comes acting sweet and kind, trying to chat. Previously, he had pleaded to me that he would change and do better. I wasn’t interested and that night I had an ‘attitude,’ (in childhood, I received punishments because of said attitude). This caused him to blow up.
He punched a hole in the wall and threw a tantrum, yelling and screaming. He yanked me off of the couch by my ankles, restrained me, and stopped me from leaving. I don’t remember how long this went on. He took my phone away, which he usually did so I couldn’t call for help, and toward the end of this episode, he had thrown my phone up against the wall causing it to shatter.
By the end, he was on the floor acting like he was having a heart attack. I left him on the floor of his room so he crawled to my room. He wanted help, and I wanted him to die.
He was fine and made it through the night. I decided not to go to class the next day, showed my brother my phone, and told him a little about what was going on. I didn’t talk about my relationship with anyone. My father and brother decided the police needed to intervene.
I was dressed and ready to go to work for the night when the police came to my house. They talked to me, but because I didn’t have any visible marks, all they could do was ask him to leave, so he did. I didn’t give myself time to rest and process. I went to work… and school the day after. Again, I just kept moving.
He was only in Florida a month after, then made his way back to the west coast. Before he left, he came by my work to tell my co-workers how I abused him and didn’t let him see his family. He gave himself scratches to make me look like the abusive one and he dared to ask me for one last night together! I now believe abusers like this don’t see their partner as a multidimensional being with many different roles, and as someone who deserves respect.
He left and slowly became a distant memory. But like my parents, he did not go out without a fight. He made fake social media accounts, messaged me, and stalked me. I made all of my profiles private. He would text and call me from different burner numbers until I had my number changed.
Time went on and the time between contact grew. For years, I carried paranoia toward strangers online, always wondering if it was him. It took some undoing in my healthy relationships to grow past the trauma he gave me. Now, he reaches out on different platforms every couple of years.
A Newfound Freedom
After that relationship, I finally felt a freedom I had only dreamed of. I still had healing to do, but I was on my own and now an adult! From 2015 to 2019, I had fun meeting all kinds of people, finished college, and traveled. I got my degree in psychology, left Immokalee, and lived in New Orleans with my mom!
I studied abroad for a couple of months and made plans to teach English in China. December of 2019 came and I was in Paris, getting ready to make my way to China, then… Covid.
I came back to my hometown, yet again. It was hard to accept, but this is where quiet reflection forced me to work on my healing. My best friend and partner has been present for a lot of it. He’s helped me to slow down, be patient with myself, and learn to love myself as a whole human; not just the good parts.
I read a book that gave me a better understanding of inherited trauma, ‘It Didn’t Start With You.’ This book brought a new branch of psychology to my life. I also found astrology!
We used alternative healing methods to break through old patterns. He gave me space to be myself, explore myself, and be unapologetically emotional. Through these verbal and emotional dumps, we built trust and connection. His love and support reminded me of the unconditional love I felt from my mother in childhood. (They have the same moon sign!)
If Covid didn’t happen, I don’t think I would have had the space to see the raw me. I believe I would have kept pushing through and looking for external love, when what I needed was self-love. I looked externally for healing, through my education, relationships, and running away.
I took this time at home to slow down and work on new habits, which I later realized paved the way for new patterns to develop. Practice, practice, practice. More running, more yoga, more meditation, more journaling, more art, more breathing, and more faith. A strength of mine is my faith, my faith for a better tomorrow. I also developed the belief, that as long as I am working on myself, trying to do and be better, the universe will take care of me.
I am now going through my Saturn return, in my late 20s. I can still feel the external pressure of a timeline I ‘should’ be on, but now I can reassure myself I am on my own timeline. I can go at my own pace. I now understand that life is not a race or a sprint, but a marathon.
I use my experiences today in a domestic violence shelter. Using my trauma to help others is so healing. I don’t believe there is only one way to heal. I believe it takes many different practices to heal and grow. My supportive relationships, with my partner and siblings, are now places I know I can ask for help. I don’t hold it all in. I am also creating a brand and community for healing, growing, collaborating, and inspiring.
My parent’s divorce and the abusive relationship were my biggest heartbreaks. These events broke my heart open, for me to shine as the person I am today. I have learned to not run away from, but to go through the pain, to get to the other side.”
This article was submitted to Love What Matters by Amelea Rodriguez from Immokalee, Florida. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Join the Love What Matters family and subscribe to our newsletter.
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