AFTER AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP
Today I am proud to call myself a great Mother, wife, writer, podcast host and a motivational speaker. But my motivational story isn't easy to write, not only because it's a hard thing to talk about it but because it's painful for others to also relive their memories through my story as well. I'm not looking for pity nor do I claim to be a victim, because I consider myself a survivor of life and sometimes shit just happens. There are so many reasons why this could have happened to me. Could've been witnessing my Mother experience abuse in her relationships for years; her absence in my life since her death made me feel I was missing so much love, it made me so needy of any type of love even the bad kind. Like the old saying goes, don't judge someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. I consider myself a strong, educated, respected woman; no one has ever laid their hands on me, in fact I don't even like confrontation. I've never looked for problems, I just looked for love in the wrong places. This story for me is as dark as it is beautiful. How do you know you're in a toxic relationship? There's many ways, you could ignore the red flags from the beginning or maybe you wish for them to become the person you need. Mostly you just hope that maybe this time you got it right, that happy endings do exist. After a year of therapy I learned a lot about myself and the reasons I've done things in the past. Ignoring my traumas made me hit rock bottom, I could no longer run from them. I needed to shed some skin, to grow.
When I met him I was at a very weak place mentally, I was emotionally exhausted after years of being disappointed in love. I was lost trying to find my way and I stumbled into the arms of someone who seemed to want love as much as I did. I wanted to feel the butterflies, the shared thoughts, all of that movie shit. And for a few months I did. You overlook the bad because the good is so good. I felt accepted for who I was, adored actually. He worshipped the ground I walked on, as wrong as it was we just felt right. I never noticed the more he loved me the less i loved myself. The first time I noticed his temper I was shocked (first red flag), he was so gentle with me so to see him turn into the incredible hulk was crazy. He embarrassed me in public several times, throwing a trash can, yelling at me at a bar( second red flag). He became unpredictable, everything bothered him. The drug use didn't help, I realized he had a problem with that; and because my mom had addiction problems herself I wanted to help him, and ended up falling down with him. Lowering myself to his level so he would feel good. The more I helped the more I lost myself. He made me feel so safe until the day I didn't. People say you're weak because you stay, I said you're strong because you choose to love someone who doesn't love themselves. You can't fix or heal others you can only do this for yourself. You feel trapped to each other, bound by the pain you were trying to heal. Eventually that becomes draining, we both were drained from it. Him for trying to be someone he was not and me from avoiding the areas in my life that needed urgent attention.
The first time he hit me he was mad I didn't like his friends, he came home high every time they hung out and wasn't in a good mood ever. He never liked me hanging out with his friends, maybe because he didn't want me to see him in that light or because that was who he really was. He actually got mad at me once because I was beating him at bowling, bowling like really? He didn't know what it meant to be happy and have fun. He knew he had things he needed to change about himself, but he didn't want to. He wanted to be accepted as is and that wasn't enough for me. After he hit me, I'm the one who asked him to stay that night. Me!!! Who had I become? I told myself I was being selfless that he was a wounded soul, I wanted to help him. My self esteem was the lowest those months. I was like he loves me so much, he's obsessed with me (another red flag ), he tells me how perfect I am. I had so much going for me when I met him, and in the matter of months all of that was gone (not his fault entirely). I lost myself trying to find myself, I slipped into a deep depression, I quit my job and started a new career. It was such a dark time, he stood by my side even though I know he was unhappy. He didn't want a new family, he was happy with who he was before me. He wasn't ready to change, and this saddened me. We both thought we could love each other to help heal the traumas of our lives, but we really needed was professional help and guidance.
The last time I saw him was the morning of the incident, we had went out till late that night. The night is a blur, maybe from the concussion, or the confusion of what actually happened. I remember us arguing, him slapping me, choking me, his knee on my neck, him punching my face. I woke up in horror and ran downstairs to my neighbors who then called the ambulance for me. He fled the apartment; he knew my neighbors probably called the cops. I woke up in a hospital bed dizzy with a swollen face and bruises all over my body, fingernails missing. The bruises were so bad it looked like an animal attacked me, the hospital staff was horrified. Even the police officers who came to the hospital were shocked, one even told me he usually doesn't see someone survive this. I was in so much pain I had never been attacked that way, i couldn't work for a week and even when i went back it was embarrassing and my eye was now super sensitive to light. I was broken unlike ever before, but I never questioned why this happened to me; it's as though i felt like it was really needed for me to turn my life around. I wanted more for my life, I ended up moving and quitting that job because I was so traumatized, It left me in a forever fight-or-flight life, shaken to my core, startled easily. In the matter of hours everything changed for me and I would never be the same.
The next months were the hardest of my life since my Mom died. I was in and out of the District Attorney's office, they really wanted me to pursue felony charges but I wasn't strong enough to face him in court. I was a walking zombie in disbelief of what I experienced. I don't have much family, I really didn't have anyone there for me so reliving my story over and over again by myself had me literally shaking; like those dogs in the ASPCA commercials. In my mind I still worried more about him than myself, saying things like " I don't want this to ruin his life, he's young, he needs therapy". He pleaded innocent which killed me cause he wasn't taking responsibility for what he did, he even said it was my fault. He was slapped with a two year restraining order. And I've never heard or saw him again. I was like wow! Really?! I let this man live in my house rent free for months, gave him everything, and yet even after this he took no blame. I felt like an idiot. How dumb he made me look or even worst how dumb I made myself look. Believing in someone so wholeheartedly; I honestly thought he would change cause he claimed to love me so much. Every story is different, I've heard horror stories of years of abuse. He only hit me twice I would say as if that makes it better, he only pulled me out of a bar and dragged me for blocks he didn't hit me much. Diminishing your pain by comparing it to others struggles is a way to tell yourself it could be worst, but any amount of abuse is too much.
The best thing about this all is the woman I became after this. I had been depressed for months before this happened and now, because my anxiety and ptsd was so bad I needed therapy. It hasn't been easy, some days I couldn't get out of bed or stop crying reliving the memories. But each day I pushed forward, vowing to be the woman I always knew I could be. I've forgiven myself and the people who have hurt me in life. I don't feel broken anymore, I'm not victimizing myself anymore. I started taking antidepressants as a healthy way to cope with my emotions and it helped soooo much. I started feeling like myself, but in a healthier way I liked the person I was becoming. I began writing my blog, started my podcast, and doing things that brought me joy. I put myself first for the first time in a long time. Writing this wasn't easy, but if by sharing my story it can help anyone who has or is going thru any type of abuse it's worth it. Not only does it feel therapeutic to share your story but it also allows others to know they are not alone. If you find yourself in this situation talk to someone about it, you're not alone, you're not weak, you're strong and you will get thru this. You may feel shame, or embarrassed during this struggle; you're tormenting yourself constantly to leave or stay. You may feel broken, but you can put yourself back together. Take it one day at a time and learn your true worth, strength and purpose. Don't feel bad for loving someone so deeply that you lost yourself, the fact that you could love so much is a blessing to the cold world we live in. You're so powerful that even in the darkest pain you can put yourself together each time you're broken. I will always believe in true love because it's such a beautiful thing to feel alive. Don't lose hope. My story is my truth, I can now walk forward with my head held high.
I celebrate: overcoming. Overcoming pain, death, birth, loss, life. Becoming the version of myself I am now. Embracing challenges with transparency. Loving myself fully.
Maria is an advocate for self-love & empowerment and an NYC AfroLatina Blogger/Podcast & Radio Host. Follow her journey here.