Why I Stayed, and How I Recovered
A #SurvivorStory by Leenah
Please read my story to learn what I went through, why I stayed and what I did to recover. I hope you take something positive away from it and are proactively helping yourself.
I am 23, and I was abused more times that I can recall within 5 months. Punched, strangled, whipped to the floor, screams in my ear, smashed against walls, pinched, hair pulled. I was told that my family and friends didn’t care about me. That the abuse was my fault. That if I ever left, he would kill both of us. That he loved me. The dog crept to safety under the nightstand and shook vigorously, while I cried and begged him to take a step back. I would try and defend myself by hitting him, pulling his hair or running to the door. If I made it to the street, he would pick me up and carry me back inside. How could nobody have seen or heard me? Did everybody just ignore my screams?
I don’t know how many times I tried leaving. There were times I would try to end it, there were times he would try and end it, there were times we both agreed to end it. But we always just kept coming back to each other and were apart for no more than 3 days.
I still loved him. When we first met, I didn’t think I had ever met such an incredible human being. I fell rapidly in love with everything about him and wanted to spend all my time with him. Months into the relationship I started to discover betrayal and dishonesty. I realized that he was very good at lying and sneaking around behind my back. This was the first warning sign and first time that I thought about leaving. But he promised to never lie again, so I stayed. More lies came my way and each time he was very sorry for what he had done and kept promising to never lie again. Eventually he started telling me who I could spend my time with, what I could wear, whether I could do my make-up or not. Sometimes I would listen, but sometimes I would stand up for myself. Which is when the abuse started.
He was always very sorry after he hurt me, and the remorse he felt seemed to make up for his actions. He profusely apologized and told me it would never happen again. So I stayed. I forgave him and things were good again, until the next incident. This cycle played on repeat for months on end, every week. The lows felt agonizing and every part of me wanted to flee, but the highs seemed to make up for it when it felt like I had the person back that I initially met.
So why did I stay?
Have you ever had a horrible hangover and told yourself you were never drinking again? But then you somehow end up doing the same thing, because the happy times with your friends seemed worth the pain?
Humans crave happiness and acceptance and will pay extreme prices to get them, even if it harms their health, body and mental stability. In my case, I was afraid to be alone. I had been a “serial dater” since 16, always on the hunt for the next person. And losing this person who I had built such a deep connection with seemed to horrify me more than dying. How could I live my life happily without this person? I was convinced that he was the last person I would ever be with. How would I ever find somebody as incredible as he was in the beginning?
I was afraid to be alone. Why was I so dependent on other people? Some people say it stems back to your childhood, emotional neglect leading to fear of abandonment and dependency on partners. And most often, it IS due to your childhood. I had developed PTSD from the relationship, flinching and having a panic attack if anybody appeared to raise their hand in a fist near me. I started seeing a therapist at this point because I knew I needed to end the relationship or try and fix it, but I needed help from a professional to do so. There is no fixing it with somebody like this. And I realized this when I looked at things from a different perspective. I imaged myself pinching somebody else so hard that they bruised. And I thought, no, that’s insane I would never do that. I imaged telling somebody I was going to kill them. Again, sounded completely insane and would never say that to any other human being. I realized that his mental state was just so off and completely not normal that there is no “normal” for him to go back to. If you can threaten somebody with their life then you are just straight up insane.
I ended up realizing that the true reason I stayed in the relationship, was in fact, because of my childhood. My therapist asked me, what’s your relationship with your parents? I said good. My mom is bipolar and isn’t great at listening buy my dad is great. She said, were you happy growing up? I said, very!! When I went home I really thought about my relationships with them, my father was always a very good listener and showed compassion and empathy but my mother…this is where I figured it out. She never listened to me, and she never showed compassion. For my entire life. She emotionally neglected me. That was the key to my issues, my Mother. I started remembering all sorts of awful things, like when she physically abandoned me when there was a water snake near me, a helpless child. She literally swam away and left me there. Whereas my dad might break a little bit too hard in the car and he puts his arm out in front of me to protect me. The number of times my mom has bullied me verbally calling me a whore, anorexic, a cheater etc. The number of times she hasn’t listened and talked over me. The number of times she’s made me feel invisible and unsupported. Your parents are the two people in the entire world you are supposed to be able to count on and know whole heartedly that they will be there for you, always. Knowing this, you can stand on your own two feet feeling complete because they will have your back, always. But I had a hole. My mother, the woman who was supposed to be there for me no matter what, was not there for me. This led me to feel worthless and unimportant, making me shy. It made me act super nice to everybody and bend my back for them, in fear of rejection or abandonment just like my Mother did to me my whole life. She was constantly rejecting me. So, I entered relationship after relationship trying to find that person that I could always count on, who would love me no matter what, who would fill that hole in me that my Mother left. When I entered the abusive relationship, I couldn’t leave because I was severely afraid to be alone. But I tolerated the abuse because I have tolerated it my whole life, and I didn’t want to feel that emptiness that my Mother left me with.
The cure to all of this is, first of all, leaving the relationship and stopping communication clean cut. Then facing the “hole,” which almost feels like your soul is empty. There’s something missing. Focusing on doing hobbies, passions, interests, finding new things to do, and making more friends was a start for me to fill the emptiness. Spending time with a friend every day and staying busy eventually made me excited for me-time, where I could be alone and just relax. True, meaningful friendships help fill that emptiness because you learn from them, you laugh with them, and you create a bond. Its all about positivity. And the more you extend yourself, for yourself and for others, the smaller and smaller that hole gets. Then when I felt more comfortable being alone, I started practicing things that were truly good for my soul, such as meditation. Allowing those scary, anxiety-including thoughts to come and go, just feeling your heart start to race and then letting it go. Letting it happen and just accepting the emotions. I realized that I can control my emotions this way and not let them control me. Move on. I get to choose how I feel. I started doing yoga, going to the gym, indulging in nature. And I can truly say that I am single and happy. I have accepted that my Mother tried to the best of her ability at being a Mother, and that I was mentally affected by those actions. But I forgive her and I forgive myself, for putting myself through all the unnecessary negativity. I am on the path now of spiritual growth, where I am trying to be the truest and best person I can be.