‘I had just gotten in my car when my phone rang. It was my best friend. She sounded serious. ‘What’s wrong?’ She didn’t know how to tell me, but I should get home as soon as I could.’

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“One sunny afternoon in January of 2018, after meeting with my therapist, I visited my local Target to do another type of helpful therapy – retail therapy. I walked around peacefully, knowing my son was safe at home with his brother, sister, and dad. I had just gotten in my car when my phone rang. It was my best friend. She sounded serious and upset.

I asked her what was wrong. She told me she didn’t know how to tell me, but I should probably get home as soon as I could. My boyfriend at the time had called her to let her know he was throwing out all my stuff and kicking me out of the apartment we shared. ‘Why?!,’ I asked her crying. I was so confused. I drove home as fast and as safely as I could and found my stuff in the middle of the living room. My clothes, makeup, shoes, the things on my desk were all thrown on the floor.

My boyfriend yelled at me telling me I was a liar and a cheater and I needed to get my (explicit) out of there now. There was no talking to him. He said he ‘knew what I had done.’ I was so confused. I hadn’t done anything. My life consisted of work, school, taking care of our household responsibilities and of our children. I rarely had any free time to myself. As he yelled at me and called me every name in the book, with tears running down my face, I picked up whatever clothes I could find in the mountain of things on the living room floor. Some of my things were broken. I quickly went into the room where my 1-year-old son was sleeping, grabbed him, and took off in my car.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Ruiz

I had no idea where to go. I had no family in California. My family had moved to Minnesota a few months ago and the rest of my family had always lived in Mexico. I called my friend back and she told me to go over to her place. My best friend, her sister, and her mom took me into their house with open arms. My friends sat with me on their living room floor listening to me go over what had just happened. I sobbed while they hugged me. I rarely cried, especially not in front of anyone. They understood the severity of what had just happened as we had talked before about how he treated me and they had advised me for months to leave him.

My ex Zack had recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In my mind, it explained why he was the sweetest man in the world one day, and the most hurtful, cold, emotionally abusive day the next. We had been together for almost 3 years and this was the worst it had gotten, so far. Living with Zack gave me anxiety and depression. I was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety when I began therapy the past year and I was on antidepressants. Being at home with him was mental torture. I never knew what side of him was going to come home from work that day. Would it be the sweet man who would hug me, kiss me, and ask me about my day? Or would it be the irritated, short-fused, man who would find any reason to put me down, belittle me, yell at me, curse at me, and make my anxiety worse?

Every day around 4:00 p.m., I could feel my heart start to beat faster and my body would tense up. It was time for Zack to come home. My stomach hurt, my palms sweated, my fingers trembled. My anxiety was only getting worse.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I realized this was not a healthy way to live. I told my friends I was thinking about leaving him but I was scared because I had nowhere to go. They encouraged me and invited me to their home. I had made up my mind, Zack was not the man I had fallen in love with and I doubted he would ever change. I had to leave him. I just didn’t know how, or when. The morning when he kicked me out, I talked to him as carefully as I could to tell him I wanted to end our relationship and I was thinking of moving out. Surprisingly, he said he understood. That he wanted what was best for me. I should not have told him until I was ready to move out. Three days passed and my son and I stayed with my friends. During these three days, Zack would send me offensive text messages and would call me many times even though I would not answer his calls. I finally answered one of his calls in which he said he called me to apologize and that he wanted me back. That he wanted to work things out. Sweet, caring, understanding Zack was back.

This time I did not fall for it. After three years, I had finally decided not to run back to the cycle I had been stuck in. The cycle continued where Zack was super sweet to me, then rapidly change to being abusive. His sweet side would be back to apologize, pamper me, comfort me, and convince me to stay with him. A classic case of the cycle of abuse.

Not this time. I was finally out of there, even if it was under his terms.

Zack and I ended our relationship and I moved into my own private guest house-style studio apartment with my son.  It was the hardest, most painful thing I have ever had to do. Moving on was bittersweet. I was alone with my son, but at least I was safe and at peace.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Ruiz

Being a single mother has been the hardest challenge I have ever had to face. Some days I cry myself to sleep, frustrated at the day. Somedays I’m proud of myself. I am currently still healing from that failed relationship. I’m healing from the pain of losing a partner, financial stability from a dual-income, and from breaking up my little family, but I am so much happier! I’ve gained confidence in myself again after years of being broken down. I trust myself more, believe in myself, encourage myself. I am stronger than I give myself credit for.

In May of 2018, I walked across the stage at my graduation ceremony at California State University, Long Beach one semester before I received my diploma. My son, family, and friends were all there to celebrate my accomplishment.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Ruiz

Unfortunately, due to financial stress as a single mom, I had to take a break from college and focus on getting myself out of debt. I have that one last semester left and I am hopeful I will finish it this coming fall. As much as I am disappointed that I did not graduate on time as planned, I have faith I will officially graduate, and it will be able to provide a better life for my son and me.

Zack only sees my son on the weekends. Sometimes for three days, sometimes for only two or two and a half days. He’s oftentimes late and he does not help me financially or pay child support. As much as this puts financial stress on me, I don’t let it get me down. I am free of him! I can handle everything on my own. I have a full-time job working a graveyard shift, my son is healthy and happy, and my mental health has improved significantly. I can be there for my son both physically and emotionally.

This painful experience with emotional abuse has taught me so much about myself and has helped me heal and grow from all my trauma. I have learned I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for. I have learned I am strong, I am valuable, I deserve better than what I had settled for. I’ve learned to believe in myself, to trust myself, to not give up on myself, and to love myself. I am still healing and as I continue to grow, I love sharing my story with others on social media. It warms my heart when I receive messages thanking me for sharing my story. It makes me feel purposeful and happy that I unintentionally inspire others through my experience. I hope to continue to encourage people, especially those who are victims of domestic violence and emotional abuse. I was broken down beyond belief, but I made it out and so can they. It is so worth the peace and freedom.

I encourage those who are dealing with a situation like mine to reach out for help. To talk to their friends, family, health professionals, or non-profits. It is frightening to think about the consequences that come with leaving a relationship like this, but I promise it will be so worth it and you will be so much happier and at peace. You and your children deserve life in a peaceful environment full of love and happiness, surrounded by people who help you grow in the healthiest way. You deserve better. You deserve love. True love is not painful.”

Courtesy of Elizabeth Ruiz

This story was written by Elizabeth Ruiz of Long Beach, California. You can follow her on Instagram hereSubmit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.

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