‘Everyone thinks you’re free once you leave an abusive relationship. It’s not true.’: Woman shares self-love journey after abuse, ‘I’m stronger than I thought’

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Beginning Of The Relationship

Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of emotional abuse that may be triggering to some.

“As I am writing this, I am worried about whether this article, my story, will upset her if she ever sees it. I know it will, but this article is not about her. It isn’t even about me. It is for everyone who might be in the same situation and think they are alone, or for the people who have gone through the same kind of thing. This story is for you. I see you, and you are not alone. I am a 22-year-old female. I am a lesbian, and I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, with a woman, for 5 years. You don’t hear about same-sex couples being in abusive relationships as much, but it happens.

I should start at the beginning. We started talking in 2015 when I was 15. At the time, I was rehearsing for my highschool’s rendition of the musical, ‘Annie.’ I was a very introverted kid and didn’t have many friends, but I was always taking care of everyone. My high school years were filled with a lot of struggles, but I was pretty good at hiding a lot of them. I had a total of three good friends at the time, and my high school drama teacher was my best friend. He was my improv coach, drama teacher, and the director of the musicals. I will forever be grateful for him and his wife, they helped me grow a lot. My ex was not a fan of the few friends I had at the time, so eventually, I dropped them.

My ex and I officially started dating in April of 2015. There were things in our relationship that were constant struggles. She was not out to anyone except her sisters, she was still talking to her ex, and we were long-distance. These started as small bumps in the road but ultimately, turned into huge sinkholes in our path.

We dated for a year before we met in person. I remember it was the day after I graduated high school. On the way home, I FaceTimed her, and I remember her parents said they were excited to meet me. The thing that hurt was they were excited to meet her best friend, because to them, that’s all I was and all I would ever be. I never wanted to force her to come out. Everyone gets to come out when they are ready. What was hard was when she would tell me she was going to tell her parents when she knew we were serious, which changed to when we were dating for at least a year, which turned to tell them when we would get engaged, which then turned to another reason and another one after that. It was hard, because I was never able to be myself, and I never existed other than behind closed doors. I wasn’t seen as her girlfriend in public. I was only a friend. People would ask if I had a boyfriend, and my excuse would be I was focusing on my school. I had to pretend to be someone I was not.

The End Of The Relationship

We dated for 5 years, and then I ended things. I ended the relationship, which was pretty shocking. I used to beg her to love me, to choose me, to pick me, and sometimes she would. Other times, she would end our relationship. There were times where I would say I needed space because I needed to figure out my brain, to figure my own life, and what I wanted. That never stuck. We always got back together. But it was not until 2020 that I finally stuck my ground.

I am not going to lie, there were a lot of good times. We were together for 5 years. It was not 5 completely bad years. However, the good times do not eliminate the bad. I want to make that clear because, at the time, I thought since there were good times, it was okay we had a lot of bad times. That is not the case.

I know one of the big questions you probably have is what made me finally leave? At the end of September 2019, I started seeing a psychologist for help with my anxiety. I had no intention of talking about my relationship, but one day, we got on the topic of my ex and I started talking about my relationship. Eventually, I opened up more about my relationship, and things become clearer little by little. In October, I traveled to visit my ex for her birthday. She wanted to go out with her friends for dinner and then to a club. I’m not a party girl, and I do not enjoy clubs. That is just not my scene. When I voiced I was not comfortable going to the club, she did not want to disappoint her friends since they planned this for her. So I stayed. I will forever regret that decision.

The short story is I ended up having my drink drugged at the club we went to. By the time we got back to the hotel, she was screaming at me and calling me a drunk. I was in and out of consciousness. I still do not remember everything. I remember crying, telling her, ‘Something is wrong,’ and having a panic attack, but not being able to move. Everything was numb, and I could not move. Yes, she cleaned me off. Yes, she put me to bed and made sure I did not stop breathing. I remember her telling me that is how I know she loves me because no one else would have cleaned me and took care of me. I still have nightmares about that night. The sad part is I still didn’t have the nerve to leave. I still thought there was hope. It wasn’t until January that knew I was done.

Strength Through Others

She had come to visit me at my university. However, since I started seeing a therapist, she was getting upset with me with how much I would talk to my psychologist. She would say I was not making enough progress fast enough, or my psychologist was not helping me, just taking my money. Eventually, it got to the point where my ex said I had feelings for my therapist, that I would rather listen to my therapist than her, and so much more.

This was the tipping point for me. I had been building tools to help strengthen my self-esteem, self-worth, and confidence while my psychologist also helped me discover I have ADHD. I was working on all of these things. I am still working on those things. But, enough was enough. How was I going to get the help I needed when I wasn’t allowed to see this therapist because my ex was uncomfortable with it? She told me there are more therapists in the world, and I could find a different one. I cannot even explain to you how defeated I felt. I was fighting an internal battle of whether I give in to her again or stand my ground. I was stuck.

So I made a decision. I ended my relationship. I left, and it was messy. I was harassed for months. I had to fill out a report with my university security officers. I had to warn people they might receive messages from this person and please ignore them.

Everyone thinks once you leave, it’s done, you are free. That is not true. That is just the beginning. You have to stay strong, every day, and not communicate with this person who was your whole life for so long. You have to detach, not check on them, not respond, and resist the urge to call. Honesty, I failed. I gave in a few times, and it was not fair to myself or them. But eventually, I realized I couldn’t be her friend after everything that happened. It would never be healthy. I had to let go.

Why I Didn’t Leave Sooner

You are probably wondering why I didn’t leave sooner. I had plenty of opportunities. We did break up and get back together a bunch of times. It gave me whiplash. I was a hypocrite. I am the motherly type of person who wants to be there for everyone and help when I can. I have helped many people in this kind of situation thought the years, and I never once thought I was in the same situation. Despite being called dramatic, annoying, or to grow a thicker skin. Despite her cheating on me, continuing to talk to her ex through our relationship. Having me sit in a mall for 3 hours, by myself, while she walked around with her ex to reconnect. Being told I don’t love her, or trust her. Telling me I am too much, telling me I need to be tougher, telling me I need to work harder, telling me she isn’t comfortable with my friends, accusing me of cheating on her, tracking my location, and so much more.

I was 16, already a kid that struggled with her self-esteem/self-worth. At first, this girl made me feel special, and then I felt like I was invisible. I felt like I was never good enough to be loved or accepted for who I was. I never felt like I was allowed to be myself.

Honestly, I felt like I walked on eggshells every day in that relationship. I felt like her second choice, like I was not good enough, I needed to try harder, I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, I needed to grow a thicker skin, I was weak, annoying, and just too much to handle. The worst part is some of these things she told me to my face, and I will never forget that. There are just certain things that stay with you.

I asked my mom and stepdad if they would share what their thoughts were while I was in this relationship, and they wrote me the following: ‘No matter how much we tried to warn you and explain to you how we saw you losing yourself, putting your hopes and dreams, and aspirations, on the back burner — everything was about your ex because your ex wouldn’t allow it to be different. Because of the nature of the relationship, you were constantly trying to convince yourself and everyone else it was okay or it was your fault. It was a very one-sided relationship and draining. It always seemed like she was promising she was going to do the things you wanted like stop seeing her ex or whatever else was important to you, but it never materialized. We liked your ex and supported you both as parents should, but we didn’t believe it to be the right relationship. There was nowhere for you to grow and be you.’ I cannot dispute their feelings because they are right, I stuck up for my ex and our relationship to everyone.

There was one incident in particular that started to show my family what my relationship looked like. It was my 20th birthday, and my ex had made decorations, we made food, and invited family over to my parent’s house. It started good, but then things ended up taking a bit of a turn. I noticed she had gone to my room. I went to see what was wrong, then she started yelling at me. She was upset because I was talking to one of my family members and did not introduce her to my cousin when they came in. I was busy talking to someone, and she felt like I wasn’t paying attention to her, she was being left alone, and she didn’t like the way I was acting, so she went to my room. She was screaming at me while my family was in the living room. My room is not that far from there.

I remember praying no one heard, but I was naive. Later on, my cousin and my mom told me everyone could hear, which was understandable because it was loud. I was embarrassed, but I still stuck up for my relationship and tried to play down the situation.

Moving On

My journey was a crazy roller coaster, but I could not have gotten off the rollercoaster without help from my psychologist, my support system at my university, and many other people along the way. It was a rollercoaster that sent me on ups and downs, but when I got off the roller coaster, I was stronger than I thought.

So now what? What is my life like now? Well, it has taken a complete 360-degree turn. I am engaged to the most amazing woman. I finished my Bachelor’s Degree at Bishops University. I self-published a poetry book, applied for my Master’s in Counseling, and sing/vlog on Youtube. Not where I thought I would be, but I am so lucky I found my fiancée because there is no way I would be where I am without her. I have never felt like I could be myself in this world, but since getting out of my past relationship, getting back into things I love, and sharing my life with someone who loves me, I have never been happier.

I still have a long way to go in my recovery, and I continue to work on my self-worth and self-love. 2021 is the year I vow to love myself and be kinder to myself. I have bad days, and I have good days. I am working on being able to love myself every day.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Anonymous. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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