Disclaimer: This story contains mentions of abuse and suicide ideation which may be disturbing to some.
“When I tell my story to new people, one of the biggest questions they ask is, ‘Why would you stay with someone who beat on you?’ Years ago, I would have told you I stayed because I was afraid of him. However, that was not the only reason I stayed with him. Now do not get me wrong, I was terrified of him. I was scared that he would strike me and kill me one day.
I woke up each day wondering if this would be the day, he took me away from this earth. I never knew what the day would bring or the kind of pain I might experience that day. Over time I think back to that relationship, and it started to make me question myself. I came from a close family, and they loved me, so why didn’t I say anything? Why didn’t I tell my mother, best friend, or cousins? I know they would have come and got me out of that house right away if I had told them.
I had a way out, so why didn’t I take it? Yes, I feared him, but if I’m being honest, I was more terrified of what my life would be without him. He tore me down mentally to where I no longer saw myself as beautiful. He told me daily how worthless I was and how no one would ever love me but him. He made me feel so small, and I stopped loving myself. I started to believe every word he said to me. So, no matter what he did to me, I stayed because I wanted to feel loved. I wanted to feel wanted by someone no matter what I had to pay to have it. I waited so long because, honestly, I wasn’t ready to be saved yet.
Many people stay in bad situations because they don’t think they deserve better than what they have been given. We allow them to mentally break us down and stop seeing ourselves for who we are. They strip us of our security, our safety, our comfort. They break us down into empty vessels so they can fill us with the self-hate they pour into us. We start to believe everything they tell us. We begin to think that the bloody noses, black eyes, and busted lips are our fault somehow. I remember sitting and thinking, ‘What did I say to upset him? What did I do? Did I breathe too loud? Did I roll my eyes by mistake? Was his dinner not good?’
I wanted to figure out what I did for him to put his fist in my face so that it wouldn’t happen again. But no matter how nice I was, how soft I spoke, how much I loved him, if he wanted to fight, he’d find a reason. I blamed myself for everything that happened to me, and it caused me to carry those burdens around so long, and before I knew it, I was in the darkest moment of my life, and the depression had indeed taken over.
Depression was new to me; I had heard of it, of course, but at 18, I didn’t know anyone who had it personally. Now, that is not to say that someone I knew was not suffering from it; I just didn’t know. When I started going through my most depressive state, I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I suffered in silence, which was the worst decision I could have made. I hate that I didn’t trust someone enough to talk about what I was going through at the time. I was raised to be a strong girl. I can remember my mother doing everything she had to do to give me a great life. She raised me to believe I could do anything I put my mind to. But when it came to love and the desire to be accepted, I was so weak for it. I was so young and blinded by love that I equated being strong by staying with my narcissistic abuser.
In my mind, sticking it out with him for all the tough times meant that I was a strong woman. If I were to leave, it would make me weak. The reality is my heart held strong emotions for him; I can’t deny that, but my mind was more fragile, and that was the problem. I knew he was a sh*tty person, and I knew he wouldn’t change in the back of my mind, but my heart longed for him. It ached for him. I loved him more than any words could genuinely express.
My son was about five months old; he was always the brightest moment of my day. I loved my son, but I started to feel different after a while. I began to look at my son, and there was nothing there; I didn’t think I had a motherly connection with him. I didn’t feel like I could be a good mom anymore. I started to have days that I didn’t want to get out of bed. I got to a point where I didn’t even want to go to work or be around anyone. I felt heavy like something was pressing on my shoulders; something was weighing me down.
I felt sad; I was constantly tired, and I cried every day in silence. I felt like the entire world was so far away from me. It felt like everyone I knew was on a different planet, and I was all alone. I was screaming for help, waving my hands for someone to come and save me. But I wasn’t realizing my screams were silent. No one could hear me, no one saw me, and no one was coming to save me. I read a quote that said, ‘What is depression like? It’s like drowning, except everyone around you is breathing.’
When I think back to that time, that’s what it felt like; it felt like I was watching everyone around me living. They were smiling and happy in their worlds. At the same time, I was drowning in the life surrounding me. I felt so alone, it was like I was imprisoned inside my own body, and I couldn’t escape. Why me? That’s what I would ask myself, why me? I went to church, believed in God, sang in the choir, was loving, and had a good heart, so why did God choose me?
My thoughts started to take over, and they began to control my everyday life. It was like my thoughts were in this constant battle; I felt attacked and betrayed by my own body. I felt like I had no control over who or what I was anymore. The only thing I started to focus on was the bad parts. I told myself constantly that nobody would miss me if I were gone: who would care? I was a horrible mother, and my son would be better off without me. I wasn’t a good daughter, and I wasn’t in my right mind. Who in their right mind would stay in such a dire situation?
I stopped seeing my worth of existing. I would look in the mirror and not even recognize myself. It was as if a stranger was looking back at me, and I had never seen her before. I think back to the days when I was happy, trying to remember what it felt like, trying to grasp on to a little bit of that happiness. Then reality would hit, and I would be reminded it was just a memory, and I was still in that dark place. I was still in this massive hole I kept trying to climb out of, but I kept falling.
I don’t think anyone noticed I was depressed. People associate depression with someone who looks sad when you see them, you know, crying or whatever emotion people equate to being sad. They assume if you aren’t walking around dripped in all black, staying in bed all day, or just staring out of windows, then you’re fine. They assume you’re okay. And that could not have been further from the truth for me.
I didn’t wear my depression on my face where it was noticeable to anyone but me. But some things did change; my optimistic views on life went away, I stopped being that super loving, cheerful lady I was growing up. The joy left my eyes, and I became numb. That’s how I felt every day; I just felt numb to it all. I couldn’t feel emotions anymore. I couldn’t feel love; I couldn’t feel hate, I couldn’t feel sad, I just couldn’t. I felt lifeless in my body, with no reason to stay here or keep fighting. As people, we sometimes thrive off the idea of hope. We hope for the best; we hope people will be good to us; we hope that our lives will be complete.
We hope to win; nobody ever hopes to lose. But, along the way, I lost hope. I was hoping he would change. I was hoping he would see how much I loved him and stop. I was hoping I would wake up and everything would be better. I used to hope, and then one day, it just vanished. All the hope I was holding onto just went away. When I lost hope, that was it for me. There was nothing else left to cling onto. I was empty inside, and I was tired of trying to climb out of the hole. So, I stopped rising, and I let go.
I was home one day by myself, and there was a pill bottle; it was just sitting there. Now, no, I didn’t wake up and say, ‘This is the day I’m going to take myself away from this world.’ No, it was like any other typical day. I woke up, got myself together, ran a few errands, and then lounged around a bit. The pill bottle was just there, and this voice kept saying, ‘Do it. Do it before he does.’ At that moment, I decided I was going to do it. I had written on a piece of paper for my mother to take custody of my child. I left her a letter and told her everything to know why I did what I did. My child deserved a better mother than he had. He deserved a mother who would always fight for him, but I couldn’t even fight for myself at the time. How was I going to be able to stand up for him? I wasn’t strong, and my depression was winning.
I went to my car, and I parked a little way down the road; I had my note, pills, and some water. I can’t remember how many I took, but I took them until I started to fade out. My eyes were getting heavy; I remember looking up and saying to my son how sorry I was for not being better for him. But I thought it was the only way to get away from my abuser. Then something weird happened. I started gagging. It was like the pills never went down my throat. You know how you swallow a pill, and it comes right back up; all of them came back up.
I felt like someone was sticking their fingers down my throat, making me vomit. I was on the side of the road, throwing up all over the place. And I was pissed because how in the hell did it not work! That’s what I thought. Damn, I couldn’t even leave this world on my terms. I broke down because I felt like God was punishing me at the time. He wanted me to stay in this mess for what? Why? I was a good girl growing up. Why wouldn’t he let me go? It wasn’t until years later that I learned why he wouldn’t let me go on that day.
I drove myself back home, and I went to clean myself up before anyone got back to the house. I never told anyone what happened that day. I was sick a little for a few days after, but I blamed it on a stomach bug. What’s crazy, though, is I didn’t know it until years later, but I did kill someone that day. It was the weaker version of myself. After that year, I told myself, I couldn’t take the easy way out of this. I was going to have to put on my boxing gloves and fight.
I had to put my big girl panties on and fight this man back. I could not let him win anymore. It still took me six months to get the courage to leave him. I stayed for six more months dealing with him, but I mentally prepared myself to go in those six months. I noticed that I started standing up for myself, speaking up more, and finding more courage to do things that separated me from him. I even started to smile more (but some other people had something to do with that. We will get to that later on.) I wasn’t happy, I would say, but I was hopeful. I wasn’t hoping for him to change; I was betting on myself this time. I woke up hoping that that day would be my day where I said enough is enough and left. I held onto the hope that I would run and never look back.
I hoped I would know what it felt like to be strong again. That hope is what kept me going every single day. I had honestly given up on life, on myself, on everything. I battled depression for a while, and for a minute, depression was winning. But that day, I tried to kill myself, a spark lit back inside me. I’m not saying, oh, I had a total epiphany, and my life changed instantly. No! What I’m saying is that I realized I deserved better. I told myself I had to do better, not only for me but also for my son. That small ounce of hope put me back ahead of the battle with my depression. I had no idea what I was going to do; all I knew was that I would do something to change my narrative before it was too late.
I almost lost my battle to depression. But, for some reason, God said no! I didn’t realize until I was maybe 25 or 26 years old. There would be women who naturally would gravitate towards me to talk to me about different things that were going on in their lives. It would be people that I didn’t even know, and I always used to find it weird. If you know me, you know that I don’t have a ton of friends in my adult life; if I’m not with my best friend or family, there is a good chance I’m alone. And honestly, sometimes, I never felt as though my spirit was very welcoming. That was because I had been burned so many times that I kept this solid guard up at all times.
So, when I noticed that people would feel so comfortable having these conversations with me, I saw myself relating to so many of them. I was like, ‘Dang, well girl, let me tell you what I did.’ Then to my surprise, they would come back like, ‘Girl, you were right.’ My best friend and I would have long talks, and she would always say, ‘Girl, you are supposed to be helping people, so many young girls look up to you; if they knew your story, man, they would rock with you.’
Back then, I wasn’t ready to put the story out there. I didn’t want to have to face or deal with the emotions that would come with speaking about it all the time. Then it clicked, why He saved me that day. Why He wouldn’t let me check out and give up, he knew he built me differently. He knew he made me with the fight, strength, and resilience of a soldier. He knew he made me challenging and that I could sustain some things other people may not be able to. I realized he used me to start a conversation.
So, many young people are in these abusive relationships to equate to love. I see so many beautiful young women who allow men to degrade them, condition them, beat on them and disrespect them. The world tends to take domestic violence lightly as if it is something we have to deal with. People say, ‘Call the police, put them in jail.’ Do you know how hard it can be to lock up your abuser? God forbid you to fight back, and he then presses charges; now you’re both being hauled off to jail. Heaven forbid you to get him arrested, and the judge lets him out the following day. He’s more pissed off that you had him in jail, and he comes home to beat you again.
Then you have people tell you, ‘Get a restraining order to keep him away.’ Have you ever tried to get a restraining order? You have to have filed a complaint at least two times before you can even get a court hearing. So, I have to let him beat, harass, and stalk me two times before I can even attempt for one, and then I have to WAIT for a hearing that my abuser gets to come to and explain why he shouldn’t have to stay out of my space. Why he should still be able to have access to me? Then there’s the chance the judge might not give it to me. So, when people say things like calling the cops and just leaving, it’s not that simple; it’s not that easy. Living it is hard; surviving it feels damn near impossible.
But I did survive. I did make it out on the other side. My battle with depression has not been an easy road. I have had more depressive episodes these past ten years. Sometimes, it felt like life had gotten the best of me, but I never let it get me back into that dark place I was in when I tried to kill myself. I learned how to manage my depression over time and find a healthy outlet to let things go. I started taking a more conscious view of my thoughts and how I saw something. Writing has always been one of my favorite things to do. So, I started journaling and writing every chance I got. Every time I had a thought, a new feeling, I would write or doodle if I felt overwhelmed.
I keep a notepad and journal by my nightstand if I wake up and need to register. I started to break down what feelings I was feeling that day literally. Was I happy? was I sad? was I pissed off? Then I would go through my past 48 hours and walk myself through those last few days to pinpoint what triggered my emotional shift. Sometimes, I can, and then sometimes, I come up with nothing and have no idea why my mood changed. But I would make a note on paper and mentally, and when I started noticing my mood adjusting and things changing, I would go into my bathroom and play in my makeup. I would make myself look super pretty and create social media content. I made myself look good, and when I would look good, I swear it made me feel good.
Another vice I use to combat my moments of an emotional shift is music. I love music; I tell everyone that music saved my life. I would listen to music that would mellow me out, where the soulful music was attached to soulful notes, of wordplay, against the beats of rhythm, and it would drown out my inner negative thoughts. The music calmed my thoughts and always made me realize it could be worse.
Depression, anxiety, and PTSD—I suffer from all 3 of these. I wish I had gotten help with them earlier in my life. I think I might have reached my point of success a lot earlier, honestly. Lol. If you’re battling depression, anxiety, or any mental issues, please get help. Talk to someone, cry out to someone. There may be a time that you cry out to someone, and they don’t respond like you need them to. That’s okay; you can’t be mad at them for being who they are. You just know next time to not cry out to them at all.
You can never stop crying out for help. Scream, yell, cry out for use every day, every hour, every minute, every damn second. Because if you keep screaming, someone will hear you eventually. Someone will help you, but you have to learn to help yourself in the meantime. You can still call for help, but you have to be already helping yourself in some kind of way. Go to therapy and talk to someone; if you can’t afford it, google nonprofits in your area that offer it. They even have it online. Find a friend you can trust and talk to them; when you’re having a lousy day, send them a text that says, ‘I’m having a hard day today.’ As your friend tells them what you need from them when you’re having a hard day, they can do that for you when you experience that shift in your emotions.
If you’re reading this and struggle with any mental illness, reach out to the closest hospital, clinic, therapist, or anywhere that provides help for mental illnesses. Call them! Don’t wait, don’t say, ‘Oh, I will look tomorrow,’ because tomorrow isn’t promised and yesterday is gone. All you have is right now, this moment, this day; that’s all you know for a fact. Research your area and find somewhere you can go and get help. Depression and anxiety are swept under the floor so badly right now. People assume you’re playing crazy or you’re doing it for a narrative.
I admit I am sure some people exploit these two mental illnesses. But if you are genuinely suffering, please reach out to someone. Don’t allow anything or anyone to ever stop you from reaching the full potential of the You that you can be. Be fabulous and keep going because you never know when life will change for you, and you have to be ready to fight for yourself. Because if no one else has your back, you got to have your back. Self-love first is the only way this works.
With Love…. Zenyoka”
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