Disclaimer: This story includes details of domestic abuse and may be triggering to some.
“I entered into a new relationship when I was 15. I had no idea what was about to happen to my life. I thought this person was amazing. Said all the right things, showered me with affection, gifts, and compliments. I noticed things here and there that struck me as odd or different, but let’s be real, at 15 I had one other serious boyfriend. So, I chalked it up as maybe this is how it was supposed to be.
The mental manipulation started so small, I didn’t even recognize it. Little things would happen and he would get so angry with me, threatened to break up with me, make fun of me, and threaten to tell other people how horrible I was for things as simple as talking to my other guy friends. It was kind of annoying, but I thought, wow he must like me a lot to be threatened by this other person in my life. I didn’t second guess it.
The first time he hit me, I was dumbfounded. I think time almost stood still. I couldn’t believe someone laid their hands on me for wanting to go home. But, in my 16-year-old mind, I couldn’t justify it. We had just become parents and were trying to figure out how to be teens and parents at the same time. By this time, without me noticing, he had alienated almost all my friends. I could count on one hand how many friends I was allowed to have.
I never left because he reminded me with great regularity that nobody wanted to date someone my age that had a child. I believed him and so I stayed. Things got worse as time went on.
His control grew deeper and the deeper it grew, the more I truly believed he was right. He would turn off my cell phone service, lock me out of my own home, take off with my child, and track my whereabouts without my knowledge, (luckily, my son told me). He would threaten divorce if I didn’t quit my job, he would go days without talking to me, and somehow every single time I truly believed I did something wrong. I couldn’t cut my hair and if I didn’t dye it blonde then I wasn’t attractive.
I didn’t work hard enough, keep the house clean enough, cook good enough, do laundry enough, complete school soon enough. I was asked to be in my best friend’s wedding as a bridesmaid. This was all fine and dandy until the wedding came up. Mind you, I was walking with her kid brother, like 12-year-old kid brother. He ran me out of the house and I had to hide my bridesmaid dress because he threatened to burn it. He showed up at the wedding angry and tried to ruin everyone’s time. Said horrible things about me to another friend who was there. Ultimately, I left as soon as I could in fear that someone might notice there was trouble in paradise. I left because I felt dirty and that I somehow had done something wrong. I was never enough. To my core, I believed I was worthless because I could never do anything right.
The second I would think maybe, just maybe, he is wrong and I am enough, I spoke up. But then I was ‘crazy.’ I was making things up. That’s not exactly what he said or exactly what he meant. I was reading too much into things. Why did I always have to blow things out of proportion? Later, I would find out this is a tactic called gas lighting. It’s real and so very terrible.
So, I stopped. I kept everything deep inside of me. I smiled at the outside world. I thought this is what love and marriage were. I accepted it and made the very best of it. I had another beautiful child with him. The entire pregnancy he slept around and constantly told me he was leaving when she was born. I had grown to accept that and tired so hard to make him realize our children and marriage were worth staying for. I tried so hard to be the person he said he wanted me to be.
I got to the point where I would rather him hit me than say awful things to me. The pain from being hit passed quickly, the bruises would heal, the hair grew back. But the pain from the terrible things he would say to me stayed with me forever and still haunt me today.
Eventually, he left and filed for divorce, just as promised. I felt abandoned and alone. I struggled to get out of bed every day. I struggled to cook, clean, take care of myself, and lead a normal life. I am thankful for my job, they surrounded me and just loved me unconditionally. I am thankful for my family as they literally picked up every piece of my shattered life and began to put it back together for me.
Sadly, this is not where my story with abuse ended. As we began the divorce process, the first serious boyfriend I had re-entered my life. Things seemed to be not so doom and gloom. I got used to my weekends without the kids. There was a restraining order in place so I had barriers to keep myself safe. However, I never thought about my cell phone bill. I shared it with him. He took it upon himself to call every person I talked to regularly. He found out about my said first boyfriend being back in contact with me and lost it. He had to have me back and he went to great lengths to get there. Stalking would be an understatement at this point. But the idea or hope at having my family back won and I put myself right back in that situation.
This time things were more toxic than they ever had been. He left me in a hotel in Atlanta with no phone, license, or money. Threw me in a cold shower and took my glasses, by the way I am basically blind without contacts or glasses. Things went back to worse. The girl who he was seeing jumped on the band wagon and began harassing me too. She wanted money for an abortion, she wanted me to know they were still talking and seeing one another. Sadly, I made the mistake of confronting him about this. I was thrown over our deck, had the majority of the front top layer of my hair ripped out, thrown down our concrete front steps, and just tossed around like a rag dolls for weeks on end.
The final blow came when he tried to take my life in front of my children. I am so thankful for how things played out that day. My son saved my life. We were able to call the police, mind you this was not their first time at my house. They had been there more times than I care to count in the last few months. To my saving that day, the officer responding, had responded before. He sat me down and told me he wanted to help me, he wanted my pain and suffering to end. He knew I struggled with taking my life back and he did the most amazing thing that day. He had me sign one piece of paper. Just one signature. This piece of paper gave the state the right to go after him for domestic violence. I didn’t have to do anything else.
On this day, I had been in this situation for 11 years and 1 day. That is 4,016 days of mental abuse, neglect, and physical abuse. That was almost half my life. I didn’t know any other way to live. In January of 2016, I took two huge steps into taking my life back. Living a life for myself and my children. In 3 years, I have made great strides in becoming Katelyn again. The girl I was before all of this.
I still suffer. I still get anxious when someone doesn’t respond to me right away. I wonder what I did to upset them. I wonder why they are mad at me. I physically get sick at thought of confrontation. Certain sounds scare me and I get knots in my stomach. Some days all I can do is think about all the time I lost. I recount everything that happened and wonder how the hell I got here. I get nervous about spending time with my friends. I get nervous if I am away from the house too long, go to the gym too long, stop at a store I didn’t mention I was going to. In the beginning of taking my life back, I couldn’t bear to be in my house. I spent the first few months spending every evening at my mom’s house because it felt safe.
I am in counseling trying to figure out how to let these demons go and get back to being Katelyn. Through counseling, I have therapy-like activities to help my mind reprogram itself into normal behaviors. I have an AMAZING boyfriend who encourages me to go out and be me and enjoy my friends. He loves me at my best and holds me close at my worst. I am not entirely certain he knew what he was getting himself into with me, but he has taken on my baggage like a champ and has shown me what it’s like to be in a healthy relationship. He has shown me unconditional love and hasn’t missed a step with me.
I have an amazing family who has had my back every step of the way. They have helped me rebuild my life from the ground up. I am confident in saying I would have not made it without them. With their help and Chris’ help I have made my house a home. A safe happy place that my children and I love to be. I have friends again. Like, real friends. They love me. They check up on me. They laugh and cry with me. I know without a shadow of a doubt I am not alone. With these people, my tribe, I am getting better every day. I am still a work in progress, but I am strong, I am healthy, and I am taking life on one day at a time.”
[If you need 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.]
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katelyn Fildes, 29, of Charles, Missouri . 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, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more empowering stories of overcoming domestic abuse:
‘I want to live!,’ I was screaming. The cops were on their way. I was trying to get out of the bathroom, trying to get my boyfriend off me, trying to hide in the tub.’: Single mom’s empowering story of surviving domestic abuse with infant daughter
‘He forced me to the gym because he didn’t want me to get fat. I assumed it was normal. I was sure I could change him.’ Survivor’s eye-opening recount of abusive relationship with ‘older, amazing’ man
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