Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Letter to a Girl That I Once Knew

When I first posted that this blog post would be coming out today, it was written as a letter to someone vague, a girl that I once knew. But things changed this morning, I woke up with my heart racing at 3:30 in the morning from another nightmare. In this one, I was kicked in the ribs until I felt the each break one by one. On the floor of our old apartment, I lay alone trying to yell for help but every time tried to yell a sharp pain hit my chest. Eventually, I lost consciousness in my dream and woke up in the real world. I am used to these nightmares now. They're always way worse than the reality of what happened and I count my lucky stars when I realize that. 

I grabbed my phone and checked Facebook, to ground myself, and the first thing that came up was a Huffington Post article about comedian Beth Stelling, writing about her abusive relationship, and it hit me hard. For the next hour I lay in bed thinking about the first post I had written, the Nylon magazine article my sister's friend Kerin Rose wrote, in which she says "Sharing helps, and I can’t stress this enough," and now Beth's brave Instagram post. I felt a heat in my chest. The reason I was even coming out with a blog post like this was to take back my strength, to get this heavy weight off of my shoulders that has absolutely overstayed it's welcome. I've spent more time than I should have feeling guilty, ashamed, and foolish. I always interpreted the nightmares as a punishment for my fault in the entire situation. 

Sometimes to be funny, my husband would tickle my neck, my most ticklish spot. Sometimes it would be okay and I'd laugh to the point of tears. Other times it would trigger something inside of me that would leave me ruined for days. My husband would tiptoe in an emotional minefield as he let me talk about my feelings ad nauseam.  I am sick of everything I felt, I don't know how to stop, and after a lot of therapy and self reflection, I am here. I am here talking out loud to myself, to the internet, talking to you. 

One of my biggest issues in this journey has been the guilt. There are so many things that should and should not have been done, and I could repeat them forwards and backwards but the list is too long. The biggest issue of guilt that weighed on me was finances. I wasn't working at all and relied on him heavily. Using his grub hub account, letting him pay for things that were needed and not being able to pay back. When all was said and done I was a couple of thousand dollars in debt to him and I really regret it. This was one of the hardest times and relationships of my life and because of my guilt and embarrassment due to that I kept a lot of our issues private. I drank heavily and built it up that everything was ok. "My Love" was unbelievably handsome, smart and the kind of guy that people would approach me and say "You're such a lucky girl." It was something that even when things got bad, I started to believe myself. 

The first time it happened was in June. I had spent the day apologizing to him for going through his phone and finding inappropriate texts messages he had been exchanging with a girl. He told me I had invaded his privacy and I had absolutely no right to do so. This wasn't the first time a fight like this happened. He had a hero complex to him, wanting to be handsome and strong like superman and enjoyed flirting with girls just to the point of the edge and, as far as I knew, never going over. I can't tell you why I didn't leave, when things like this consistently were happening. I'm sure it's for the same reason he didn't leave me when I could barely keep my head above water. That night, I was forgiven for going through his phone but everything took a turn when we got home. 

Our heads were spinning from having a boozy night at a bar. In passing, I made a joke about the girl he had been texting and he asked what I meant. Feeling the weight of the fight from earlier in the day dissolve in the alcohol that ran through my body, I made a nonsense comment about thinking she was dumb, to which he got close to me and said "I didn't cheat on you." Because of what had happened in the past, I honestly didn't think he had cheated on me so I laughed and tried to move around him into the bedroom. I told him that I knew he didn't but I just didn't like the girl. He blocked the entrance to the room and flared his nostrils while saying "I didn't fucking cheat on you." Suddenly I was confused. I rolled my eyes and said I didn't care about this anymore and tried to head the room when my shoulders were grabbed suddenly and pushed. I fell backwards onto my ass and sat stunned. It took seconds for the tears to come and I cursed at him while I stayed low to the ground and moved quickly into the bedroom. He walked past me, grabbing my things from the the floor and around the room and proceeded to walk to our front door and threw them out. It was just us and a puppy in the house and his words echoed in the apartment and through out the cold, pre-war apartment building. 

A lot of my clothes laid outside of the apartment while I sat on the bed crying hysterically pleading for him to forgive me for what I said about this girl. He was blind with a rage that I had only seen in him a few times before and couldn't, or wouldn't hear my words. In a brief moment of silence from both of us, the dog whined from under the bed. The dog was terrified of whatever was going on beyond the shelter of where he was. "My Love" came over to the bed, got on the floor and tried to pull the dog out by his legs and the dog moved into the farthest corner of the bed so he couldn't be reached. "Get out of the fucking apartment." He screamed at me while he got up from the bed and moved back to the door. "Come here boy!" He said as sweetly as he could through his anger. He had one of the dog's favorite treats in his hand and was trying to lure him out of the apartment so I would run after him and be locked out. 

This next moment is one that I have beat myself up for since the day it happened. I blamed myself for everything that happened from this one moment and as I write this today I can take a breath and know that this wasn't the reason it happened (I can also chuckle at how much I've spent on therapy sessions to be able to say that). In retaliation to everything going crazy, I grabbed his cell phone, went to a window that had a headboard in front of it (so it couldn't open) and said "If you continue to throw my fucking things out of the fucking apartment, I will throw your fucking phone out of the fucking window." Within seconds, he was on the bed facing me while I sat on the top of the headboard and his hand was around my throat. I was slammed down on top of the bed while he sat over me, on his knees straddling me with his fingers getting tighter and tighter around my throat. I shrieked "GET OFF OF ME" and I struggled to catch new breath. This had never happened before and I thought I had brought this monster out that was going to kill me.  I hit his arms and finally after a moment that lasted a lifetime, he loosened his grip and I pulled away sobbing. 

I left the apartment, barefoot, and walked outside. The cool early summer breeze wrapped itself around my body. It dried my tears and covered my arms and legs with goosebumps. Across the street, a cop car sat idly while the two officers inside finished their pizza. I thought running down the street to them and asking for their help but instead I sat on the stairs and brought my knees to my chest and listened to the sounds of New York go on without so much as a hiccup. No one on the street knew what had happened and no one cared. I went back upstairs to the apartment and it was dead silent. The 10 minutes that I was gone was enough for him to drift to sleep peacefully. My face was swollen from crying and my whole body hurt from panicking and crying. I crawled into the bed and moved by the wall. He put his arm around me and pulled me close to snuggle with me. I cringed but didn't dare say a word. After 2 hours I finally was able to sleep. 

Again, I can't explain why I stayed, or why he stayed, but we tried to make it work. We went to therapy where he cited me yelling at him and our financial woes as what triggered him to snap. He mentioned that he felt badly that it happened because it made him feel like less of a man. Looking back on it now I think he was sorry because he didn't like how it made him look or feel, not because he actually hurt me. He begged me not to tell my friends and when I did he began to look at them differently and avoid being around them all together. Recently, I had mentioned one of my reoccurring nightmares to a mutual friend of ours, casually brushing it off "I know I sound crazy. He stands by his story that he never did any of it and I fucking lost it when we broke up so it was easy to take his side." She paused and told me that he confided in her about that night, shortly after it happened, in a moment of shared vulnerability. She showed me the message in which he told her in his words, that everything that I felt for months was true. It knocked the wind out of me. That was at least a year and a half after it happened. 
(To you friend, you know who you are. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You have helped me heal.) 

 The few people I did tell told me they were nervous for me. One friend told me to get out and that it would happen again. I told her it wouldn't and not to worry. Her and I smoked cigarettes huddled under an awning while it rained. She gave me love and support but said "I don't want to be right but it will happen again." 

I promised her it wouldn't.

The second time it happened was different territory. It was after we had broken up. I was broken and confused. My life as I knew it had changed, I was being asked to uproot and start anew. It was for the best but I didn't see it as that. A few days after our break up, I was still at the apartment with all of my things and staying on the couch. After a night of drama and emotions we came home and began to argue again. At one point, he pinned me against the mirror, with his arm pushing against my neck. I felt my ears get hot. I had told myself that if anything like this ever happened again, I wouldn't just stand there and let him hurt me again. With a naive push of courage I smacked him in the side of the head. 

The next few moments are a total blur until I was pulled out of the room by the other person in our house. The next morning I woke up with my head pounding and inspected the bruises that turned my arm a watercolor like splatter of blue, yellow, purple and green. When I took a breath my ribs ached from crashing into the ikea desk that we once loved to work at together. I splashed water on my face and went to work. It was warm and humid outside but I wore a sweater, unable to get the chill of the night before out of my bones.

As I said before, this was originally going to be less about me and more about just letting it go into the vast emptiness but Beth Stelling's Instagram post just hit too many buttons. She wrote "There are many reasons not to make an abusive relationship public, mostly fear. Scared of what people will think, scared it makes me look weak or unprofessional." And I am afraid of what people with think, what people will say, but at the end of the day I have to stand up for myself and let it go. 2015 was about healing and moving forward. I learned so much about myself and have washed away the parts that I didn't like. The silver lining of hitting rock bottom is knowing how to not get to that place again. As Beth wrote "I don't want revenge or to hurt him now, but it's unhealthy to keep this inside..." I'm tired of the dreams. I'm tired of the gossip. I'm tired of the guilt and shame still creeping its way into my life, and I am determined to start 2016 mentally new. I'm just completely mentally exhausted, and still a bit scared. There are just a few more things to be said. I wish I would have listened to my friend who told me to leave when it first happened. (To you as well, friend, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.) It's important to remember that adults work out their problems with words, not with physical abuse. Ladies, if you are in this position, get out. Get out. Don't wait for it to get better because more often than not, it does not. 

I'm not much, I'm just a woman trying to find her way. I have a husband who loves me unconditionally, friends who have been my saving grace through all of this, and family who have been my rock. And I am pledging myself to help. If anyone who reads this needs help, I will help in anyway that I possibly can. If you need a place to go, a person to talk to, a place to safely rest your head, I am here. I am here for you.

You are worth more than abuse. We are worth more than abuse. No matter what the circumstances may be. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Thank you for reading.