By: Rocío Ortiz
(Trigger Warning: Abuse)
Note: Even if it looks like I haven’t at times, I have given this piece a lot of thought. How am I supposed to write about something so deeply personal in a way that it can help other people? Should I? Is my abuse important enough to write about it? How do I convey all the little details, the context? It was chaotic and painful at times and it has brought me to tears more than once, so please, bear with me while I try to tell my story.
It had been at least 8 days without a word- not even and emoji. I was starting to convince myself that I didn’t want to be in a relationship with someone that treated me like that. For context, this was after a couple months of after we began dating and, to be fair, even though I can remember every detail about that period of time, I am unable to remember what was the fight that lead to the weeks of silence was about.
My sudden clarity about my place in that relationship was soon destroyed. I kept the phone with me at all times and kept looking at it every couple minutes, hoping to see something from him. I must admit that this behavior was not only because that silent treatment but was rather a constant behavior since the beginning of the relationship. And suddenly there is a small, green “typing” notification on the whatsapp conversation I always kept open. But I didn’t get a message that night, or the day after. I wouldn’t get a message for another week. But that small, little detail left me crying and longing for contact.
I met him a couple years ago, when I still was with my back then ex-girlfriend. He was a friend of a friend and to the young and naïve me, he was old, mysterious and interesting. I didn’t leave my girlfriend, he wasn’t even there for months after the break up, but when he appeared, we started dating in a few weeks. At first he was really sweet and he was so subtle whenever there was a problem that for a long time I thought we were so perfect for each other that we didn’t fight. Things started changing soon, but slowly. But I felt that I was in a safe place. I even knew his friends and I would be invited to classy events where I would be mocked and told off for not getting to a standard there was no way that I could reach.
We had huge, explosive fights, full of screams and tears and rage. But those were almost harmless compared to the silent treatment, the constant shaming of what I liked and enjoyed (he once threw my vinyl collection away because he thought I had no musical taste) and the way he would grab my hand, as if I was some kind of child that needed to be controlled and reprimanded. When I think about all that moments that were so breathtakingly painful, it still gets to me. Especially how the slightest things could lead to weeks of crying.
There were also good moments, great even. But the truth is that all the good things that once kept me in the relationship, ended up being corrupted by fear, because I was constantly afraid of doing something wrong. Everything I did was thoroughly examined, even when most of the time this was completely useless because I ended up being punished for everything I did or didn’t do.
I was never physically hit but I was not oblivious to the fact that I was in an abusive relationship, as I tried to hide it from myself. For example, even when the few friends I was still allowed to meet knew I was in a relationship, they never ever met him. I was paralyzed by the fear that they would point it out, that they would realize that I was so weak and that I hated myself so much, that I stayed in a relationship that was sucking the life out of me.
I was the one that finished the relationship and yet, I wasn’t. I broke up with him after he confessed that he had cheated on my with his ex, because I felt like it was what I was supposed to do. He screamed, threatened, even cried. But I left anyway because for some reason I knew that, as many times as he said that it wouldn’t happen again, I would eventually be replaced and I would be left alone, lost without the person that controlled every aspect of my life and at least this way, I still had some control over the situation.
I didn’t feel free or relieved. I was sad and I felt lost. I thought about going back to him several times, but I kept reminding myself that I couldn’t do it, that I deserved freedom and happiness. I must confess I didn’t entirely believed it, but I thought that it made sense.
One of the things that I have to tell you is that, if you ever leave an abusive relationship (and I hope you never have to) you might miss it. I did. I tried having small simulations of relationships with a couple of nice, decent friends of mine. They were sweet, they tried to make me happy, comfortable and safe. But I got bored. I was used to really high highs and really low lows and a normal relationship felt monotonous. But that feeling does fade away. There are other things that, at least in my case, don’t.
The fear of hurting people by doing anything at all, the constant feeling of guilt, the sensation of not being good enough. I hate when people grab my arm, even if it’s only to get my attention and can barely finish a sentence without saying sorry. Every time I talk about something that I’ve done and it’s in some way important to me, I’ll say that it’s stupid. But the worst part, is being terrified of becoming that thing I’ve run away from. Even if it’s not remotely close, even if my behavior is out of sadness or fear but not intention, thinking that I might be hurting my partner the same way that I was hurt terrifies me constantly.
But you know what? I’m happy. I lived through something horrible and scary, I lived with the consequences of it and I still do and I don’t think I will ever get completely over it. But I’m happy.
I feel as intensely and deeply as I always have. You can be completely happy even when there are negative things that affect you.