A #SurvivorStory by Cassandra
Growing up, abuse wasn’t always as black and white as it seemed to be. I portrayed it as only physical or sexual, but I never imagined the mental abuse and how it would impact my personal life so drastically. One thing I have come to learn, there’s typically a cycle. It isn’t just one or two days of bad then going on as if nothing happened. It’s a multitude of small, almost unnoticeable signs. My story is long and quite painful, but I know that someone out there needs to know they are not alone. Our stories will never be the same, but they will always have similarities. Okay, let’s start from the beginning. I had grew up with my abuser for the majority of my life and was already in extreme comfort with him due to the fact that our families intertwined when I was about 7 years old. He wasn’t the nicest growing up, yet he blamed that on others and said that was how he had to be towards me. Flash forward to my womanhood. He was 20 and I was 16 when he took my virginity. First red flag, 20 is GROWN, 16 is NOT. What a man that age wants with a woman of my age is questionable itself. We had our secret relationship because my family was not his biggest fan. I was in fear of what my family would think had they found out so I ended things. Second red flag, if you can’t tell your family then it probably shouldn’t be happening. Fast forward to November of 2016. We both went through our own lives and years later here it begins. I’m 21 years old and just left my first real relationship of over three years and moved back to my home state. I’m in a very vulnerable place at this time so my mind was very easily manipulated. I visit a relative and out walks my abuser. This is where the past two years of hell began.. Things began great, so I thought. in reality it was just the physical aspects that were great, not so much the mental. It started with him always being available but not available to me; emotionally, physically and mentally. Nothing I ever did was enough. So that only made me try harder. He’s ‘in no rush’ for a relationship, yet we are doing everything a relationship consist of. Third red flag, being committed to someone without them giving you commitment is just manipulation. Then I started noticing all of these small warning signs. Him telling me how to wear my hair, what outfit to wear, who to not hang out with. Little things that make them seem like they’re looking out for you, but in reality, they’re just trying to benefit themselves at the expense of you. This goes on for months. Keep in mind, I left my first real relationship I entered at 18. I never had my ‘partying’ stage. I started drinking weekly with my best friend, which caused 90% of our fights. Although the fights weren’t even about my drinking. They were about my being with her and how I’m ‘probably f’ing some dude because I’m such a nasty whore. Nobody could ever want to be with me. This is why we’re not together’. This goes on for months. It was draining and my only escape became drinking with my friend. Six months in, multiple fights over my attire, my post to social media, my relationships/friendships, my wrong doings etc and yet, we still weren’t officially together. I reached a point where the attention of other men on social media made me feel better about myself. My mistake because this gave him another reason why I was this terrible person, although I was truly just craving what I wasn’t getting from him. He never thought about the mental toll everything really took on me. Now I am the first to admit, I was not always right but I ALWAYS tried. I appeased him as best as I could but I knew there was one thing we would never see eye to eye on, my best friend and my relationship. I slowly stopped drinking with her then it got to where we basically only seen each other at work. If I would stay the night, drinking or not, it was a problem. A little over a year in and he asked for the title I was SO thrilled. I felt I had finally accomplished being enough for him. Ladies, if you feel you’re not good enough for someone by their actions toward you, start questioning whether or not they’re good enough for you. Sometimes we really aren’t the problem, no matter how much we are made to feel as if we are. It became clear that we wouldn’t remain a couple had I not stopped hanging out with my best friend completely. He would word it like ‘I don’t care if you hang out for a little, but I would just feel better if you came home. I trust you, I don’t trust her’. Knowing fully well that I didn’t want to word it like that to her, I would just avoid the situation period. So now I felt I wasn’t the problem, it was her and in some mentally messed up way, it almost gave me a little relief..like maybe I’m not this unlovable individual. It was him or her.. I lived with him so I chose him.. I tried to appease him as much as possible. It got to the point where I realized, if he’s not having a good day then that means WE’RE not having a good day. Man, how I craved those good days after the many bad. The constant feeling of being less than I was because the things I did were God awful, but when he did similar, if not worse, it was different, really did damage. I didn’t have the right to be mad when he would get caught with anything. Red flag, if someone expects you to be okay with something they themselves wouldn’t be okay with if the situation was reversed, then it’s a recipe for disaster. All these little things happened for so long, I became accustomed to it. It was my new reality. I knew for me to be happy, he had to be happy. I tried to leave multiple times. Every time ending with him begging for me back. They say people don’t realize a good thing until it’s gone and that is true but for a narcissist, they only realize the good until they talk you in to coming back because once you do, they know they have that hold over you and as long as they show you that little bit of affection and love you’ve been craving, you fall into the cycle of thinking things are finally starting to improve. This is finally it! News flash, they’re not changing and it was just another tactic to get you back. The truth is, you can’t change a person who doesn’t see a problem with their behavior. I learned that the hard way. The fights were so terrible, it made the good days seem like some of the best in my life. Which is why I strongly believe I stayed. It made me feel as if there was still potential.. He has potential to be good to me..to love me like I loved him. Anyway, fight after fight, some even getting physical. Let me tell you, I would take the physical over the mental any day of the week. One fight resulted in me leaving in the middle of the night(thank you to the two men that helped me that night, you know who you are) and ending up in a domestic violence shelter a day later. Covered in physical and mental scars. I sat there terrified as my sister walked out the door. This change was too much. I was in a city where I knew nobody and was around nobody. I was alone with me and my thoughts. I stayed for a week and that was a huge milestone for me because I had never left for more than a couple days before. I told myself and my family I was ready..a week was enough time. In reality, my abuser found a way to contact me. After trying friends and even showing up to the person who helped me that nights house after I already left. I never disclosed that information but just like that, I was pulled back in. He always found a way to use my past mistakes as validations for his daily treatment of me.. I left the shelter and was back with him. Things really were better; for him. I was isolated from family, friends and even my career to an extent but he was happy and that was what mattered. I had reached a point of complete numbness. It didn’t matter how many times I tried to leave or how many times my family reached out out of concern for me. He was always there to give me the reason I needed to stay. The reason why I shouldn’t give up on him.. I’m not ashamed that I choose to see the best in people, but I’m more so ashamed for not seeing how much more I deserved. Things had gone on this way for awhile now so I reached a point where I couldn’t mentally handle it. He made me feel as if I was actually crazy. I questioned everything about myself. I always tried to be a pretty positive person, but he drained all of that out of me. Going from an occasional I love and care about you to ‘you’re a whore and nobody will ever put up with what I have’ really does some damage on a persons view of themselves. Why risk losing the one person who tolerates me because of all of these “small” things? I reached a point where I became truly terrified of him and of myself. I remember one very specific breakdown. I messaged my sisters in a group chat and expressed I loved them. I remember the tears streaming down my face as I typed ‘I just want you guys to know if anything ever happens to me or I ever go missing, it was him.’ I told them he is either going to kill me or I am going to end up killing myself. I knew I was gone at that point. There was no way I would ever be anything without him. He was my new normal. It was a constant finding of excuses for him. It only changed once I realized there was never an excuse. I shouldn’t have to beg a man to love me the way I deserved. Either someone accepts you or they don’t and that’s unfortunately just that. October of 2018. I finally leave for what I think is the final time. I still loved him and things genuinely were getting better from where they were, but it should have never been where they were to begin with. Too much damage had been done. I leave and he not only hacks all of my social media/email accounts, but he also used that access to post private photos to a pornographic website then shared it to Facebook. This man also got me fired from my job due to an incident of him coming to my work and causing a scene. For my safety, I needed to resign but I didn’t want to so they terminated me for prior absences, 95% of which were somehow related to this man. All of this happened because I ignored all of the signs. Everything I was told, everything I witnessed for myself.. My love was greater than any pain he could bring me. Maybe had I not been told that all relationships are hard but in a real relationship, you go through all of the trials without giving up because that’s love then just maybe I would have left sooner. Where do we draw the line on what is love and what is abuse? Six months after leaving him we have had zero contact. I was doing great. I had a stable job, a roof over my head and the best part, truly amazing relationships with all of my family. I was happy. For what I knew happiness to be, this was it for me. I started loving myself. I started seeing my worth. My mind was mentally ready to confront this demon and to close this chapter in my life. Well, we make contact for the first time and when I say it was like every other fight we had where he acted as if nothing happened, I would be lying. He played in to my emotions and what he knew I wanted to hear. I wanted him to feel bad. I wanted him to realize what he lost. I almost and I mean ALMOST took him back but in person, I seen him in a different light. You can portray a persona any way through text. It’s not as easy when you’re face to face and someone can see the sincerity. There was none. It was like looking into a souless body. I realized I loved him for the man I thought he could be but that was it. I fell for the potential good person I thought he could be. He may not be a bad person to others, but he isn’t kind to the women who are suppose to mean so much to him. I could never be with him again. I let it play out because it almost felt relieving to be the one in control. I wasn’t buying any bullshit and I knew what I would no longer tolerate. The way he spoke to me, as if he didn’t mess me up something great, was honestly one of the hardest pills to swallow. As if it was all just a test to see how strong the bond was and as if had I not done this, then he wouldn’t have done that. There was still zero accountability unless it started with me being the reason why. I was truly at a loss. Yet I felt stronger. i felt I needed him to prove me wrong because this was it. Thankfully, another victim of his abuse, whom I had made contact with the first week I left, came forward about him still trying his manipulation on her literally YEARS later. You know who you are and I love you. Thank you for being one of the biggest blessings to help me through this time in my life.You are beautiful and one strong woman! ❤ You saved me from a potentially bad situation. I don’t regret my decision because I needed to see in my new state of mind that yes, it is him and it is not me. So that confrontation happens and I cut ties. I say my peace and that’s it. He’s ‘shocked’ that I know, realizes how I know and goes on to say how ‘it’s weird that her and I have love for each other’. It’s not weird when you both know exactly what the other is dealing/has dealt with. I maintain the no contact but a night comes around and I receive a picture of him and a female he spoke so degradingly about to me. This is also a female that came to his defense when he posted explicit photos of me. A female who is fighting her own demons and is easily swayed to his reality. I was drinking that night and my immediate reaction is not one I’m proud of. To this woman, if you ever see this, just know that I am here for you and I will continue to be here when you decide you’re ready. I know exactly what is happening, I’ve seen it with the both of you and I’ve seen it for myself. I know it takes rock bottom for someone to truly realize something needs to change for themselves and I pray to God you never get there, but if you do, I am here with open arms. There are a million people and a million reasons but unless you finally realize for yourself, nothing will change. There is not one day goes by that he isn’t on my mind but there’s also never a day that goes by where I am questioning my worth at the hands of another.. It’s been 9 months since I moved out. That 9 months has been filled with tears, laughter, pain and joy. Most importantly, it has been filled with LIFE. I was living to die but now I’m living to survive! This could never be detailed enough to give everyone the full picture, but I hope it’s detailed enough to make one lady realize the red flags she has been ignoring shouldn’t be ignored any longer. I’ve come to learn that no matter the effort you give, if it’s not being reciprocated then it’s not something that should have your full devotion and attention. Nobody and I mean NOBODY is worth losing your sense of self. You are beautiful, you are lovable and you do matter! To all my ladies, #metoo. Sometimes it isn’t a stranger but the person who’s suppose to love you the most.
To all the men out there, we know you aren’t all the same but for a lot of women, this is the only way we know. Be patient with us while we’re still learning to love ourselves and while we’re trying to figure out how true love is supposed to feel. We may not acknowledge it, but we see your effort. Don’t give up if you’re working on a woman who has dealt with a similar type of pain that stemmed from a relationship. We won’t be quick or easy, but I guarantee we’ll be worth it!