We all fall in love too fast when we’re young. For some, we fall in love with our school, or a new job, or the group of friends we have. For others, it’s a person. A singular person. More often than not these days it’s the wrong person.
At the age of 19, I was working at Washington Mutual Bank as a float teller. A float teller is someone who travels between branches within an institution, in my case, WaMu. I loved working there. I had great co-workers and never had to stay in the same place. It was during this time that I was in college, performing in musicals at Mesa Community College, and honing my skill set as an actor. I loved every moment of my life, including my job.
Then, I met my now ex-husband. He was funny and nice, to begin with, but that’s what narcissists do, they charm the shit out of you. They’re always charming and always capable of making it seem like they’re the only perfect person you will ever come to meet. That is honest to god how I felt for the first year in knowing him. I knew that I was falling for him. But he was dating someone else at that time who he had wrapped around his finger. So, I waited as a friend. Not being interested in anyone else, just living my life. Then, one day, he began spinning himself as a victim to me. Gaining my sympathy. He victimized himself as someone who was being mentally tortured by his needy girlfriend. I felt terrible for him because who wants that in their life? Then he came to work one day and announced he had dumped her. I was ecstatic. I casually asked him to lunch, and we went to lunch every day that whole week.
A week later, we went on our first date. (As I type this I want to vomit because I know the truth now). A week after that he asked me to be his girlfriend like this: “You know you haven’t even kissed me yet. I think we should just be friends. Maybe I’ll date one of your friends, Jaime? She was cute.” (Jaime is also gay). I said, “No! I’m just taking it slow, I like to guard my heart and really get to know someone before I take that step.” But that didn’t matter to him. Because it was all about him. A week later, we began dating exclusively. Within the first month, he was living in my new apartment, where I had a roommate.
I loved my roommate, but he had already sunk his teeth in me, and it was forcing me to have to choose between my friends or him. I tried to do both works for so long. But there came a night where my roommate, and friend, had enough. She called me out, she knew what was happening, and I kept denying it because he had filled my head with the idea that he knew what was best and my friends were trying to control me. They weren’t, he was. In my young, inexperienced mind, I thought I knew what I was doing. A week after my friend called me out, I moved out. In with him to his apartment. (Yes, he had his own place this whole time but decided to live with me rent free was better because there weren’t bong water stains on the floor, and I paid for all the groceries and had nice things.)
My group of friends tried to stop me, they could see what was happening, and I didn’t trust them enough to help me get out of what would turn out to be a horrible seven years of my life. Why didn’t I trust them? I ask myself this question every time I think about what happened. My answer I come back to is that I was young, I wanted to feel loved, and I thought that was him. I lived with him and took care of everything for him for a year. Then, my family moved back to our home state, Washington.
I never felt more alone, and even worse, he and I had moved to Flagstaff where I had no job, no friends, and was more isolated than I had already become. There are so many awful, horrible, gut-wrenching things that happened during that first year. He would ignore me, use my feelings against me, call me a bitch, emotional, irrational, irate, immature, untrustworthy, irresponsible, unworthy of his time. I stayed. He made me cry at Christmas because I didn’t want to live with him at his parent’s house. He punched a hole in the door Christmas eve because I wouldn’t stay. He took the things I had moved into his bedroom in his parent’s house and tore them apart. Crumpled them. Threw some of them away. He crushed my soul that Christmas. But still, I stayed. Why? He had me wrapped around his finger and had taught me that no one would or could love me. Only he could.
My heart broke day after day and so, moving to Flagstaff, a fresh start, seemed like a good idea. The fifth week of living in Flagstaff came. By this point he had thrown things at me, he had told me not to go get a job. “You’ll make new friends, better friends when you start at NAU.” I spent a night in the bathtub, thinking of ways I could kill myself without having to face him. I wanted a way out. I called the suicide hotline and was placed on hold. I hung up. I decided to wait.
Then there came a night where he punched the wall again, yelled at me for asking him to get off the computer to spend time with me, and threw his keyboard at me. Hysterical I hid in the spare room. I called my friend Ashley, and she came to save me. I spent four agonizing days trying to separate myself from him. My family had been called, and they asked me to come to Washington, “You’ll be safe to feel here, we’ll take care of you for a while.” I got on that plane. Once I got there, he still found ways to contact me. It was around the clock.
He never stopped calling, emailing; anyway, he could contact me. He would. Then finally I was able to make him stop. I chose my family, and more importantly, myself. Two years went by without contact. Then, I had a bad breakup. Somehow, he was able to find my email address, and he contacted me. His grasp on me took hold once again. I left Washington. I left my friends, my family, and myself once more. As you can imagine, the abuse continued after his charm wore off.
The suicidal thoughts came creeping back, I fantasized a lot on how I would do it. What would leave the smallest impact on my family? Maybe a car crash? Maybe some freak accident I could orchestrate. I couldn’t even get myself to follow through though. The fear of my attempts failing and him finding out what I had tried to do, were worse than me actually trying. Abusers are fueled by the fear they instill in you. So, I didn’t kill myself again. This made me feel like a failure. If I couldn’t even bring myself to kill myself, how was I going to be able to have a good job? Take care of anyone? Take care of a family one day. The thought was lunacy.
In October of 2012, I became pregnant. I found out right before Thanksgiving. I cried and said it was because “what will I do about art school?” But I wasn’t crying about that really. I’m sharing this with you, the reader, for the first time ever...here’s why I actually cried: I hadn’t asked for this. I was safe. My life was falling apart even more, and I had no control over it. Yes, no control because abortion was never on the table for me. I had to now raise a child with an abusive piece of shit that could never be a good father, a good example, the role model I knew my child would need because of how I was beginning to see he was treating me. He couldn’t love me or treat me right, so how could he even begin to do this for a small child he can’t control? I felt trapped. The walls were closing in.
This was my fate for the rest of my life. My life was ruined. He ruined my life by getting me pregnant. I was able to convince myself that having this baby would make him better. Us, better. The more pregnant I got, the worse the abuse became. Thankfully, it was just mental abuse. I say this bitterly, the plunging of sharp words into my heart was still just as painful as having a keyboard thrown at you.
I tried to focus on my baby. My little Fox. I tried my best to stay healthy and avoid any thoughts of suicide. July 19th, 2013, my amazing, wonderful son was born. It was that day the switch in my mind turned back on. It was time to fight. Time to retake my life for the sake of my son. Kids need to see their parents at their strongest. In, that moment, at the hospital, I was not. I tried so hard to keep it together. I suggest therapy and counseling, and I offered that up in the safest, smartest way possible. I had gathered him, myself, and our youth pastor in his office, and pleaded him to seek help. I laid out all the information for him, provided him with evidence. He stormed out of the office. I wept but stayed strong.
I called my parents as quickly as I could and drove to their house. I broke down. Told them everything. Told them I was leaving him. Told them I was done and ready to heal and be the best version of myself possible for Fox. I took him to court. Filed for full custody and filed domestic violence charges against him. The court system fails people who are victims of mental and emotional abuse. We cannot provide proof when everything that has happened to us is in our heads. We, in our state of low self-worth, anguish, and terror, cannot correctly portray what has happened to us. We can’t say in front of a court, “yes we were in a relationship, but he still raped me.” Because who’s going to believe in us? There was no rape kit test. It’s his word against mine, and in a male-driven world, his word will always be taken above ours.
Court proceedings were difficult. I wanted a resolution fast, so I wrote my own divorce documents, custody papers, and offered him a deal. I didn’t want him to have any custody but knew that I couldn’t prove my case, there were no strong visible signs of negligence or physical violence. So I offered him a deal, every other weekend, no forced child support, and I have final say over everything, no mediation. He agreed. My paralegal proofed my work, submitted it to the court, and on March 10th, 2014, I was free of him, as much as I could be. The past six years of my life with Fox and having to see my abuser twice a month have been nothing short of challenging. But, I found my way to my family again, to my friends, and myself again.
How did I do this? Well, I started a business a year after the divorce was final. Mother of Marketing. I taught myself how to manage social media, create strategies, and poured my heart and soul into meeting new people, making friends, and growing my knowledge.
In the beginning, I worked an average of 60 hours a week. I worked my ass off for my business so that I could provide Fox with everything he needs. I dealt with the stress of parenting on my own, finances, losing weight, battling depression, and other pretty typical business-owner issues for five years on my own. I leaned on friends now and then, had a life coach, and dug deep down into my soul to bring out the young girl who had her twenties stolen from her.
Sometimes I think, “What if I had never been abused? Would I still be running my own company? Would I know the people I do now? Would I be with my husband I am married to now?” It feels both awful and weirdly wonderful to say, “No.” If I hadn’t experienced these traumas, my life would be 100% different. Fox would be someone else if at all, I would probably be some random artist/gallery exhibitionist, and my husband wouldn’t be mine.
My experiences in this life have created a difficult path for me, it is in these traumas, soul-bearing moments, struggles, and ultimate happiness that my husband and I were able to connect and feel one another. Our shared difficulties, interests, and attraction brought us together, and it is because of my love for Fox, for him, and my new daughter, I am able to share this small version of my story. In the past year, I have shifted my business from social media management to consulting and education. It has been challenging, and the transition still isn’t over, but I’m enjoying every bit of it because I have support, because I am loved.
When I speak about how I overcame the mental anguish, I have experienced and still deal with frequently, if not daily, to become a good mom, wife, and business owner, my answer is this:
Perseverance and the idea that giving up is not an option. Just because my abuser is still in my life does not mean he has won, nor does he have any power over me.
Overcoming abuse is difficult, and my journey through healing is still not over, and it might take ten or twenty years more to heal from it all. I don’t care how long it takes because this life is WORTH LIVING. My life is beautiful no matter the past, present, or future. My advice to those struggling or in an abusive situation: There is hope, but you have to find that hope within, pull it out, and ask for help. I would not be here today if I didn’t have Fox, he saved my life. He kept me going. Find that hope, hold on to it and never let it go. You are stronger than the words that hit you.
____________________ If you are in an abusive situation, thinking about suicide, or are planning to give up, there are resources available for you. I’m not just talking about the traditional resources, I’m talking about me, your friends, your family. Open your heart and share your pain. If you need to contact a traditional resource here is some contact information for you here: If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately. If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line. ____________________ You are loved.