‘He’d point out my stretch marks and the physical things he wanted to change about me. ‘I’m sorry I said that, but you bring it out of me.’: Abuse survivor urges ‘it’s not your fault’

“I was convinced to be ashamed of my body, even more so since I became a mother. Because he made me feel so unattractive. He’d point out my stretch marks, my flaws and make me feel ugly. He’d tell me what girls he thought was hot, who he’d sleep with. He had no problem gawking at other girls in front of me, and had no problem telling me what physical things about me he would change.

He said he felt unimportant, that I gave him no attention…even though my eyes were always on him and he was the one who had his attention elsewhere. I was convinced that every push, hit, slap or choke I endured was deserved because HE was ‘always right’ no matter what. I was convinced that I was unlovable and that I had to be grateful he chose me because no one else would love me but him. He made me believe that if I left him, I’d have no one at all.

I don’t recognize who I was when I was with my ex. That woman was always crying, depressed, constantly on edge and always, always worrying. Walking on egg shells all the time is no way to live. Having to fake being happy all the time in hopes that it eventually becomes real is no way to live. Being cheated on all the time and thinking it’s a normal thing is no way to live. Being physically abused all the time, being controlled 24/7, being treated like I’m so far beneath him, and constantly being yelled at like I was his child…is no way to live.

There was a pattern of, ‘I’m sorry I said that, but you bring it out of me.’ ‘I’m sorry I hit you, but YOU make me act this way.’ I would start feeling guilty. I would feel BAD for causing my ex to say mean things to me. I would feel BAD for my ex when he’d physically hurt me because he convinced me it was because of me. It was always my fault, never his.

I still feel disgusted with myself that I once thought that behavior was okay, because it wasn’t. I wish I could of realized it a lot sooner. I can’t begin to tell you how long it took me to break free of that mindset. It took me a very, very long time, especially since I was brainwashed into thinking my relationship with him was normal.

Strangers ask me all the time, ‘How did you recover?’ Recovering takes time; it took me over a year to get to the point where I’m at now. I recover by sharing my story, helping others escape their abusers, and making sure they were aware that it’s never their fault, no matter what. No one has a right to hit you, no one has a right to belittle you and disrespect you.

When I first started writing, I was still hurting, I was still trying to get out the mindset of, ‘I deserved this.’ I didn’t fully understand what was really going on, but I knew I was hurting all the time and things that use to make me happy before I met him…didn’t. Talking about what happened helps me heal, helps me take my life back…by simply helping others who were going through the same thing.

I am not a victim of domestic violence…I am a survivor.”

[If you are seeking help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org to live chat with someone 24/7. Help is out there and you are not alone.]

Courtesy of Annie Hartigan

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Annie Hartigan. You can follow her journey on Facebook and Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories from Annie:

‘He’s too big to be held.’ ‘Stop treating him like a baby.’ I will hold my son until I physically can’t anymore.’: Mom urges ‘stop treating boys like they are grown adults’

‘I’ve ghosted men, cancelled dates, and backed out of becoming official because it didn’t feel right. I’m done apologizing.’: Single mom says ‘settling is something I’ll never do again’

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