“I was 4 months away from high school graduation, 17 at the time when I met him at the part time job at an office store. I worked there after school and weekends when I wasn’t busy with sports. I was a young, naive girl who had high hopes for my future. My ex was 23 when I had met him, but he ‘waited’ a month until April when I was 18 to start telling any of his friends about me. That was a red flag. He was nearly 6 years older than me trying to get with a girl still in high school, red flag. I remember he would meet me for lunch in the back of the high school parking lot and I would joke that he’s embarrassed of having a high school girlfriend. He was. Looking back at it now, this is a form of grooming me into a girlfriend he would want and what he needed.
This relationship started in 2014, and it ended in 2018, 4.5 whole years of emotional turmoil. It started with the little things like calling me dumb, or stupid. I would ask a question, he would look at me so upset, sigh and say, ‘God Kadie, how can you be so dumb?’ ‘You’re such an idiot, how do you survive?’ I took this as a joke; he doesn’t mean it, right? It slowly progressed more and he made me start questioning my own sanity. This is a form of gaslighting as I have come to understand. I had so many friends tell me how bad he was to me, but I always defended him saying they just don’t know him how I do. That we love each other and that should be enough.
The examples of gaslighting are as follows, and how I experienced it.
- Blatant lying. He would tell me one thing and make plans with me but at the same time make plans with his friends, but tell them I’m making him say no, he can’t hang out with them. It got so bad to the point I had to communicate with his crazy friends on when we had ‘custody’ of ‘the boy,’ we called him. He was not grown enough to make his own plans and would get caught in his web of lies between me and his friends.
- They deny deny deny. I know what he had said to me and how he said it, but he always told me to ‘prove it’ and that ‘I’m remembering it wrong.’ He made me question my own sanity and reality and I soon only believed his reality was right and I was always wrong.
- They use things you love against you. I loved being intimate, I am by human nature a touchy feely person, and he would use that against me. It got to the point where he told me to my face that ‘Having sex with you is like a chore.’ He told me that I raped him and would use that against me time after time to make me feel bad, but I never did anything of that nature and after all of that I was so afraid of initiating anything intimate and I would never say no to him whenever he wanted to because he would tell me, ‘You are complaining that I’m not intimate with you, but here you are. It’s either now or not at all.’
- You lose who you are as a person. I was the most confident, vibrant, can’t-tell-me-what-to-do attitude girl, eventually over time I had to constantly ask for his permission and reassurance and how he wanted me to dress and look. I lost my light.
- Words vs. Actions. He would tell me how things will be different, how he loves me and I just don’t give him a chance to show it because I ruin it as soon as I get home or see him.
- Calling me ‘crazy.’ At the beginning he would tell me the ways I did things was crazy, I was weird, I should do it his way because that was the right way. I subsequently became crazy because of him. I was no longer myself. He would use my family against me and tell me I’m just like my family and how bad they were, and how they were not there for me. He tore me down and made me act in ways I am not proud of. He would run my mentality into the corner and beat it until I was screaming in tears. He turned me into the worst version of myself. He told all of his friend I was crazy, I know this for the reason that he told me that all of his friends don’t like me because of how crazy I act and they don’t like being around me and I should just stay home and wait for him.
You may ask why I didn’t leave when things got bad. Why did I stay? You just don’t realize how slow and gradually everything happened. Abuse doesn’t happen overnight, it happens because I chose to ignore the red flags, I decided to look in the best of him and hope that my love was enough. I tried to leave. In fact it takes a victim almost 7 tries to get away from the abuser, it took me 3 times. Every time I tried to leave he would start acting like the most amazing boyfriend, he would write me letters like I had for him every week. He would cry and stumble over his words refusing to get out of my car until I decided to give it another chance, entrapping me. When it was good it was good and I believed he would change and that he can love me and show me, not just say it, and act another way. Even his family had expected me to fix him. Always referring him as ‘the boy’ and how stubborn he is, saying how, ‘he just needs me to help.’ BUT I AM NOT HERE TO FIX ANYONE. He needs to fix himself. I am not the sole provider of his happiness when he is feeling so down, all he did was tear me down with him. He should have let me leave a long time ago.
I should have left him after I got home from the gym after a long night at the nursing home. I got home like normal around 1 a.m. and hopped into my side of the bed. His phone, however, was left on my side. It was like fate that he left it there or else I never would have found out he cheated on me with his ‘lesbian’ best friend. She was younger than me, blonde like me, had the ‘spark’ of energy I used to have before he tore me away. She was young, shiny, new, full of life, and ambition. She even had the same birthday as me, if that makes this story even wilder. As I laid there contemplating what to do, the first thought that ran through my head was, ‘He’s going to be mad that I went through his phone,’ not, ‘I need to leave him. Now.’ When I woke him up and asked him about it, he was groggy and said, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’ I said, ‘I saw the messages. You can’t lie to me about it. I even took a picture on my phone. This happened.’ He sounded annoyed that I even woke him up to bother him about it. I stormed out to my car crying and sitting there wondering what I should do. He called. Me, without a backbone, answered. ‘Come inside. We can discuss it in the morning,’ he told me. Somehow though in the midst of our argument he turned it onto me, as to why he cheated. I drove him to it. I was trapped for another month until I saw he was still contacting her through Snapchat.
The day I realized I was done wasn’t when he verbally belittled me, made me feel crazy, left bruises on me, or even cheated on me. The day I was done was when I had a surgery and he never came. He was supposed to be my support system. I knew he had the day off, he barely even messaged me. Instead, he was up in the city at the bars with the girl he cheated on me with. He showed up the day after surgery because he was horny and he knew he could get some. He was using me still and all he ever did was use me. He knew he could and he could get away with it. I was done. The last contact I had was when he came into my house, my room, without my permission and left a necklace he had gotten me years before but has been broken. I had been asking for well over a year if he could get it fixed. When I asked if he got it sent in to be fixed he snapped at me annoyingly, ‘I told you I’m doing it. You keep asking makes me not want to do it. Show some appreciation, stop being so selfish.’ He also left some flowers and a dumb, poorly written note. I threw it out and told my roommates to never allow him into my space again.
There was a little physical abuse. Nothing like a black eye or being shoved down, but nonetheless it was abuse. I would get bruises on my arms and legs from ‘play punches’ from rough housing. But if you are a 25/26 year old man punching a young 21/22 year old woman as hard as you can, you are not a man – you are a child and need to learn boundaries. You do not punch a woman back as hard as you can because she punched you. Justifying it by saying, ‘Well you started it. Don’t punch me if you don’t expect me to punch you hard back.’ He grabbed me once, when my friend and I were getting ready at his friend’s house for a concert and we were talking about wanting to partake with a little edible (it’s Washington and legal). He would be livid and hated it. He grabbed me by both my shoulders near the bathroom doorway away from friends and yelled in my face so close spit fell on my face. ‘Kadie just shut the f*ck up and knock it off. You are so annoying. You’re just trying to look cool. This isn’t you.’ He would oftentimes bite me, bite me so hard it would leave bruises and nearly draw blood. I have expressed so many times that I disliked being bitten and how it hurts, he countered by saying that’s what couples do and it just shows how he likes me and that’s him showing his affection towards me and I should just appreciate it. Me, being the young, naive girl who wanted to feel loved, believed it and tolerated this treatment.
Farting. Let’s talk about gas. I was a gassy person because I didn’t realize I was lactose intolerant. I couldn’t fart in front of him and I couldn’t talk about it or even about poop at all. I had once farted during intercourse and he stopped, got up told me how turned off he was and how disgusting I am and walked out. I cried, felt so disgusting with myself for just having a normal bodily function. Now that is something I look back at now and laugh with how childish this grown man, child, was. No one should make you feel disgusting because of something natural your body does.
Not only did I have an abusive ex but I was also dealing with toxic friendships which was debilitating for my mental health. One of those so-called friends who always pinned all the friends against each other and was the gossip queen ended up calling my ex drunk at 2 a.m. on a Saturday, and I’m sure we all know what happened. But it was mainly the fact that she lied to me about it, and that she took my childhood best friend with her. But through that toxic friendship I met my best friend Karlie who helped me break away from my ex and respect me as an adult. We don’t have to question our friendship constantly; we simply are just there for each other no matter what, through thick and thin. Surround yourself with friends who help your light and don’t dim your light. It is not bad to cut ties with people in your life if they are toxic and tearing you down.
Over the course of our relationship I started as a young 125-pound girl out of high school. I slowly started eating and eating more because food made me feel good. Food was always there for me. I developed terrible eating habits and a bad relationship with food in the process. I soon became nearly 180 pounds. I would stand in the shower not being able to see my own toes and cry and wishing to cut the fat off my body. I decided to make a change in myself and love me for who I was and no longer be what my ex was trying to mold me to be.
I started exercising a few times a week, doing what I wanted at the gym and slowly building my confidence up. I was exchanging my bad eating habits with healthier alternatives like fruits and veggies, stopping when I’m full. I am now 135 pounds, living my best, healthy life and making my own decisions. I have a man in my life that constantly makes me feel loved and never makes me question my own sanity. He is patient with me and kind when I have a PTSD episode from my ex. He understands that the emotional scars I wear take time and some may stick with me forever, thank you Ian. But at the end of my journey, I got my light back. I am Kadie Holmes again.
I am sharing my experience because your story and what you went through matter, I will share my experience because I have nothing to hide. I am not ashamed. I am stronger now, I will help any other woman out there who is going through the same experiences. Through toxic relationships, friends or intimacy, you do not deserve to ever feel less than. You deserve the world and somebody who will build you up. The first step is to love yourself fully. Once you do that, the abuser has lost hold on you and there is no turning back. It gets better, it gets so much better, and my light is as bright as the North Star. It is not selfish to think of yourself when all you are is selfless to others. Treat yo’ self and be the bomb women you always were meant to be.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kadie Holmes of Sedro-Woolley, Washington. You can follow her journey on Instagram. 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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