I am free.

I was sitting in Health Services for the third time over two weeks. The nurse went to write a prescription for an antibiotic for the second sinus infection I had that month. All I have to say is that my nose really took a beating in the month of October. When she left, I stared off into space, attempted to breathe through my nose without effort (unsuccessful), and then found myself reading a poster titled: Signs of Emotionally Abusive Behavior. I read it over half-heartedly and then I suddenly had one of those WOAH-type moments. I began to go through it again, but this time with a certain person in mind.

1. No doesn’t mean no.                

2. Your boundaries don’t matter.                         

3. Guilt is used to control your emotions and reactions.                      

4. Any “real” conversations are avoided.

5. Showers you with attention and then disappears.

Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.

By the time I had processed it, and I was probably making a face that looked like I had seen a ghost, the nurse walked back in again. I took the paper with the prescription on it, grabbed my backpack, and decided I wasn’t going to think about it again. I didn’t tell anyone.

I met Mike* at church. He asked me for my phone number one day, and we began communicating with one another over the phone almost daily. He would reach out to me and ask me how my day was. He seemed like such a genuinely kind and polite person and I felt special that he chose to routinely make me feel important by asking about my life and how I was doing.  It seemed like the first time that I had a romantic interest that seemed to care about what I was like on the inside, rather than solely on the outside. After a couple of weeks, we went on our first date. I will admit that I was a little hesitant to go because I was a bit concerned about our age difference. He was 22 and I was 19. I was a little confused about what someone who just graduated would want to do with someone who just finished their freshman year. However, I tried to justify it in my mind by concluding that I met him at church, so he couldn’t be AWFUL, but boy was I wrong.

Our first date was a bit awkward since it felt so difficult to carry a conversation with him, and it only escalated when he appeared to want to take things much farther in a physical sense than I had ever thought someone would after a dinner date. All I’ll say is that if I had it my way, no one would ever have to say “stop” to someone they’re on a date with again. On the way home, I was really disappointed about how it went. I felt gross. That might not be the most eloquent word, but that is how I felt - gross. The next morning, I came to the conclusion that I must have done something wrong, or that I just couldn’t hang, so I decided to accept his apology and go out with him again. Please know I am shaking my head at myself. For our next date, he drove for over an hour to come and see me in my hometown, which made me feel really good. Our date felt more natural and I was finally starting to become comfortable with presenting my true self. It made me feel much better and I left that date feeling great. However, from that point on, things didn’t get better. Since the second date went so well, I decided to keep seeing him, but his behavior only became worse and worse with time. Then, we can cue to the five signs on the Health Services poster that looked like it was printed in 1994 (there was a lot of denim). Since he had such a good reputation, I didn’t really tell anyone the extent of what was going on because I didn’t know if people would believe me. At times I don’t even think I wanted to believe it either.

One night I finally found the confidence to leave the situation, and I stood up for myself. By that point, I had been drained of most of the confidence I had, but I somehow found enough bravery inside of myself to cut the cord.

After that night, I began my quest to regain my confidence. If I am being completely honest, I am still not fully back to where I once was, but I’m a lot closer than I was before. One lesson I’m learning is that direction is more important than speed. The main thing that is helping me to push ahead is my faith. God loves me unconditionally. He says I am brave, strong, and smart. He says I am beautiful, capable, and worthy. The last time I went to confession, the priest told me one thing that stuck with me: “You seem to focus a lot on what you do wrong. Maybe you need to start focusing on what you do right.” I really needed to hear that.

I am finding that I am much more comfortable making mistakes than I was before. I’m raising my hand and speaking up more than I once did. Something else I have realized is that I should never compare myself to another woman. Beauty is not an “either/or” contest and God created me to be just the way I am. I am taking the time to care for myself more often. I am learning that sometimes we aren’t meant to be completely healed. When people leave us feeling a little broken, God chooses us and fills that void. We are all healing from something.

Now, you may be wondering, did Mike really go away after that? No, he most certainly did not. He made it a point to text me every couple of weeks since then. I think he just wanted to remind me he was still there. Talk about a reminder I did not need. Some people just don’t take hints.

When I finally found it inside of myself to leave the situation again, FOR GOOD, I told him that I did not wish to speak to him anymore, and I called him out on his poor behavior. I was told that I was “pretty immature for making things all about myself.” At first, I was upset to hear someone call me that, and I even regretted saying anything in the first place, but I soon realized that is just his game.

Writing this article was hard, particularly to see that I was taken advantage of so many times and I didn’t even see it. It made me want not to publish this at certain times. I've touched upon this experience in some of my previous articles, but I was too scared to be completely honest. I think of myself as a strong person who isn’t afraid to say what I feel, so thinking about all of this made me feel weak. I sometimes feel shame that I stayed in the situation for as long as I did. However, I believe sharing our stories is powerful, so that is why I am sharing this. I know I am not alone. This all happened because I am patient, I try to see the good in people, and hope for the best, which are all good things. I am determined not to allow this experience to take those things away. I hoped that his behavior would improve. I hoped that what I was receiving would begin to feel like enough at some point, but I'm glad that it didn't. You deserve the very best, and so do I. I’m not stopping until I find it. I refuse to accept mediocrity because I was made for more than that. At this point, this experience is becoming less about who did it and more about the fact that it simply happened – and that I will not allow it to happen again. I am strong, I get to start over, and most importantly, by distancing myself from this situation, I am free too.

 

 

*names have been changed to protect human beings because even if they are guilty they are still human beings