In the beginning, he was kind.

*TW: domestic violence and verbal abuse

We understand that some of Michelle’s story may be difficult to read and encourage readers to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or chat with them online (here, click “Chat Now” in upper right-hand corner), if needed. We also encourage readers to develop a self-care plan.

I was 15 when N came into my life. I was someone who always looked for the best in people at the time, and for him I had to really push past all the dark. Thinking back now the signs were always there. There were rumors of him being aggressive towards people, he was going to a separate school because of his grades, he was a bully to some, class clown to others…I chalked it up to him being misunderstood. As someone who internally was going through hell but externally always putting on a smile, I wanted to be a light in his life. 

In the beginning he was so kind to me. So kind that I didn’t notice the underlying issues. He would call me everyday, be waiting for me as soon as I got out of school, walked 2 hours in the heat to my house to bring me flowers. Within the first week of dating he was telling me he was in love with me. I was hesitant to believe it because it was so early, but I felt loved. He would tell me the things he’d do to any guy who looked my way or talked to me, even though it was excessive I felt protected and I never had that security before. I was completely blind to his controlling and possessive nature. 

The first time he ever put his hands on me was in response to finding out I sat next to my male neighbor on the bus ride home. He grabbed my wrist and squeezed it while telling me all the things I could and could not do so that “we wouldn’t have this issue again”. I agreed and then we went about our day like nothing had happened, I remember feeling so confused and hurt. No man had ever put their hands on me before, I felt like I couldn’t even react the way I thought I would in a situation like that.

From that instance things escalated quickly. He had me on quite the pedestal so any time I would do something wrong he would start to beat me down verbally. Telling me I was fat, ugly, that he never really wanted me, calling me a whore – the insults never ended but they were always followed by an overflow of apologies and asking for forgiveness. I always forgave him so easily.

About 2 months after the first incident we had yet another fight, we were texting back and forth and next thing I know he’s at my house. He began his usual antics of cussing me out and telling me how worthless I am, but this time those words were accompanied by punching me in the stomach, smacking me, choking me. He had me in the corner of my own house hitting me. He would take a break then start spewing insults at me then get up to hit me again. I felt so stuck in that corner, I felt like I had left my body and I was just watching it happen. The hits didn’t even hurt me, it was his words making me cry. Hearing those things from someone I loved was breaking me. 

After a whole night and into the morning of the abuse, we ended up back together. At this point in our relationship I couldn’t see myself without him. I kept telling myself it was ok for him to take his pain out on me. Unfortunately it didn’t stop there – every month he would go through the same fits of anger and use me as his punching bag. One night he dragged me out the apartment by my t-shirt and then pushed me into the sidewalk. My jaw hit the ground and locked, he walked back inside without saying a word. Then when I was picking myself up from the floor to leave he asks me to stay. I did.

The cycle went on for so long. So many people wanted to help me. They would see the bruises and cuts and beg me to report it but I wasn’t ready. I was convinced we were in love and meant to be and all of this would pass. There’s so much pressure to protect your abuser when they are someone you love, and my desire to be loved was stronger than my desire to be respected. Finally after moving to a whole different state and dealing with the stress of a long distance relationship with a controlling and jealous partner, I came out from under my spell. I felt so free and I finally opened my eyes to the hell I was living in. I had isolated myself from everyone who cared about me and almost threw away my future to be with someone who didn’t even love me or himself.

It’s been 6 years and I finally am beginning to heal. I’ve learned the majority of my triggers and even beat some of them. In my new relationship I can communicate what helps me feel comfortable in a healthy way and it took me a long time to get to that point. For so long I didn’t feel like I could call myself a survivor. I blamed myself for not fighting back and taking the abuse for so long. I’ve finally forgiven myself. Every now and then, N finds my social media or convinces a mutual acquaintance to give out my information. I’m learning how to cope with the setback it causes my growth when he tries to reach out to me. Even though I never reply the fact that he won’t let me go is something I struggle with. Healing is a process with ups and downs, no day looks the same. Finding ways to move forward is what makes me feel like a survivor and for that I’m proud of myself. I can freely say I am unapologetically surviving.

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