Silence

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse.

Silence.

That’s all that was demanded,
Nod your head when you’re supposed to,
Clean up after yourself,
Leave no trace,
Keep your head down,
Don’t let anyone see the bruises that are hidden beneath that name brand scarf.

My pain settled around my room like dust,
Forever frozen in place,
Floating through life,
Blend in,
Don’t stand out,
Shuffling down the halls in school,
Don’t get too close to anyone,
They will only let you down too.

Consumed by the darkness,
Bottled up emotions,
Screaming to be let out,
Silence,
Silence the pain with food,
Consume.

My hands became hand grenades,
Exploding at everything,
Nothing,
And,
No one,
Stood a chance.

Flip of a switch,
The sun is shining in my eyes,
A curse has been broken,
Warmth.

Let it into your heart,
Realizing that there is,
Always,
A way out.

Connecting,
Blooming,
Watering myself,
Learning to soar beyond the doubt.

Letting go of the narrative,
Experiencing the now,
Simply,
Being.

I Hit My Breaking Point

Introduction:

I used to think the idea that someone could be unhappy for no reason at all was kind of absurd. I don’t think anyone can truly grasp the idea until they themselves have felt depressed. I’ve always had low self-esteem but I thought it was a relatively normal feeling to have. It wasn’t until today that I truly had the courage to say out loud that I am suffering. I am not even entirely sure if you can call it anxiety or depression if you haven’t been diagnosed but for right now I think that’s the best word I can think of to describe how I’m feeling. It’s the craziest feeling when you realize that your biggest critic is yourself or one of your loved ones. I know that there are a lot of factors contributing to the way that I feel. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be better, look better, act better and to wipe away my tears before people notice I’m upset. The only person I have met that is harder on me then myself is my mom. I used to think our relationship was a little crazy but nothing out of the ordinary… after all, everyone’s parents get upset and every parent can get a little out of control sometimes when they are trying to do what is best for their child but this, this was different.

Anger Issues:

It wasn’t until high school that I started to notice how truly wrong I was about the severity of my situation. Everyone has or has had issues but that didn’t make the way she was treating me okay. The woman who I called mom became my worst nightmare but to the world, she was just a loving mom who was just very involved in her daughter’s life. Every time I hit that breaking point where I knew I was in danger and I tried to get myself help she would spin the story to whoever I told and she would always worm her way back in. I’m a smart girl and I know how this sounds… poor girl with her caring mom who just wants the best right? If others weren’t thinking it, I definitely was because this is the game she played. The thing is, not only did she try and control when I went to sleep, who I hung out with, what boys I liked, how I dressed and how much money I spent she also tried to tear me down when I tried to stand up to her. Every time we had these fights I would go back to her and every time she would tear me down as soon as I tried to rebel. I wasn’t a perfect daughter: I went to sleep late and had trouble waking up in the morning for school, I didn’t have healthy eating habits and I procrastinated a lot on my school work but I have always been a hard worker, a caring person, any time I’ve noticed myself get off track I have always been sensible enough to get back on track. The truth is, a lot of these positive qualities may also be a direct result of how I was raised and this was part of the problem. My mom didn’t see how bad she was hurting me because she was too busy “trying to help.” I am not going to lie, to this day I still feel like I need help getting my shit together but the problem is that she doesn’t know how to help me without hurting me. There was this one time when I came home from school (I think I was 15 at the time) and we had a fight over a boy and also about how late I had stayed up watching TV. I locked myself in the bathroom to get away from her and she told me that while I was in there that I should just go ahead and cut myself. She was angry and I knew what she said was out of anger but she was always angry. Every single day of my life she has been angry. Well, now I’m angry. I’m angry at her for making me feel useless, unloved, uncertain, scared, alone, helpless, less-then and sad. I’m also angry for when she tries to make me feel happy, proud, accomplished and loved because what right does she have to tear me down and build me back up and how and I supposed to forgive her or believe her or stay mad at her when I don’t know what’s real or how bad she is truly struggling. Years have passed since high school and it’s always the same fights or even some new ones. I try and fix myself and whether I fail or succeed, the torment never ends only this time not only is she tearing me down but so is the depression.

Panic:

This past summer I went on a trip with my brother and I was really nervous about it. To be completely honest, my brother and I aren’t very close. Growing up we could never get along so as I grew older I tried to distance myself away from him but last year in January we sort of had this breakthrough moment where I finally felt like I was starting to understand him. My brother just like myself and my mom, is incredibly socially awkward. The awkward part I can deal with, but he also doesn’t have much of a filter. His lack of filter has gotten him into a lot of trouble. In addition to going on this trip with my brother, I was also nervous when I found out that people from my high school would be on the trip. The people I went to high school with were extremely superficial and just plain rude to anyone who had the audacity to try and live the own lives. I decided before the trip that I would try and do my own thing and stay away from these people but my brother’s lack of filter tends to attract a lot of attention. At first, I tried to distance myself from my brother and try and make friends with other people on the trip but after a while, I stopped caring about how much attention he was attracting and I stuck by him. The thing about my brother is even when he says things that attract attention or piss people off I can tell he genuinely means well and he just wants to be understood. Although my relationship with my brother is not perfect I really do enjoy his company. Even when I realized all of this and started to enjoy myself on the trip, I found myself feeling panicked. One night at dinner, for no reason at all, I felt it start to reach an extreme. I don’t really know what brought it on but I found myself rushing out of the room up the stairs until I reached my room where I locked the door and began to panic. I had trouble trying to take deep breaths and calm down. Eventually, I just began to sob and freak out. After a while, I managed to calm myself down wipe away my tears to go back downstairs where everyone else was, and pretend like nothing had happened. A few days later one of the girls who had been hanging out with the boys from my high school approached me and told me she was happy I came on the trip, we hadn’t spoken much before this point so it was kind of weird when she asked me if I had anxiety. It was pretty out of the blue, to be honest… I’m not sure if she heard me freak out or just noticed how socially awkward I was but for some reason, it was comforting to say “yes” out loud, even if she was pretty much a random stranger to me. Overall I had a really good time on the trip but ever since I got home I have been noticing these anxiety attacks happen more and more. Out of nowhere, I will find myself go from completely fine to curling up in my bed or the shower or the couch, sobbing my eyes out.

YESTERDAY

I hit my breaking point yesterday in the grocery store bathroom when I looked in the mirror and realized I didn’t know what had made the face staring back at me so sad. How had I gotten here? One minute I had been walking into the grocery store and the next I found myself rushing to the bathroom clenching my fists and holding back tears. I have been upset before but not for no reason. Not long ago I watched an episode of this show I like called Party of Five, where this woman was so depressed that she couldn’t get out of bed or take care of herself and I remember thinking how weird it was to be so upset over nothing. Yesterday was the first day I think I truly understood how she felt. Once I got out of the washroom I went outside to get some fresh air and I called my friend and I told her what had happened. After talking it out I know now that I can’t just expect this to go away.

When he Punched Me in my Nose we Both Heard it Crack

Trigger Warning: Physical Abuse, Pregnancy, Abortion. 

Seven years ago I met someone I believed would love me unconditionally, someone I thought I could possibly build a future with despite all I had been warned about. In the back of my head I felt at times something about him was off but I fought the unsettling feeling in my stomach and I chose to ignore what my friends continued to say. Logic aside, I chose to follow my heart.

We met through mutual friends one summer and initially I thought he was attractive. My friends didn’t think so but in this situation I didn’t really think it mattered what they thought. I heard about his past and I knew his lifestyle was a bit crazier than what I was used to but this excited me so anything he did outside of our relationship did not bother me at first. I knew he was a party animal but I didn’t allow that to be an issue either – I joined him.

Our one-on-ones came later; we first started hanging out in-group settings with our mutual friends at clubs. One night on the way to a club he asked my girlfriend and I if we wanted to try MDMA. I was unsure at first and hesitated but my friend went ahead and tried it so I took some as well, feeling somewhat pressured. When we got to the club we went straight to the patio and started smoking cigarettes. The drugs started to hit me and I started throwing up.

I wasn’t able to fully control myself in this situation – the vomiting, the crying and the confusion… I could hear my friend asking me if I was okay but in this moment I was unable to answer her. I could also hear him in a menacing tone asking everyone, “do you see her and do you see how it’s making her react?” He enjoyed seeing how drugs would affect people for the first time. He was aroused. I somehow ended up leaving the club with him that night. I’m not entirely sure how this happened but it ended up being the first time we had sex.

After having sex we started spending more time together. I learned his dad lived thousands of miles away from him and after starting a new family for himself he stopped caring about his first son. His mom was heavily into crack/cocaine for years before, during, and after his birth and neglected him too so he ended up living with his grandmother after his mom gave birth to him. For roughly two years we were on and off with each other but during this time there was never an official title. Only we knew what was going on.

Any time I tried to move on with another person he would get upset with me and would try to initiate fights with the guy I was speaking to. I didn’t understand this because he would never fail to remind me that I wasn’t his girlfriend. I thought him being jealous of other men was another way of displaying his feelings for me, even if it was indirect so I continued sleeping with him.

Most of the time when I was with him I was really high and out of my right mind: a few months later after continuing to have unprotected sex my period was late. I called my girlfriend who used to hang out with us in the beginning of my relationship with him and she said her period was late too. We waited a few days and then we went to a clinic together to take pregnancy tests – both tests were positive. When I called him to tell him he hung up. I called a second time and he started yelling at me. He didn’t exactly say what he wanted me to do with the baby at this point but he did say I was a slut and an idiot… this now became something that was entirely my fault.

My girlfriend and I didn’t cry at first mostly because we were both in shock. The next step was for me to figure out what to do. I was 17 at the time and I didn’t want to tell my parents. I also knew the amount of drugs I had been doing at the time would affect how my child developed. The biggest factor was my age – I knew wouldn’t be able to provide for the child on my own so I couldn’t keep the baby. The same day I found out I was pregnant was the same day I set up a day to terminate.

I felt extremely alone during this time, one of the reasons being that my girlfriend and I stopped speaking. It might’ve been the fact that we were both pregnant at the same time and had a hard time dealing with it. We were both really stressed, confused, hurting, emotional… we drifted during a time it was necessary for us to support each other. I also felt sad about my choice to have an abortion. Although it was my decision, I knew it was my irresponsibility that caused me to now have to terminate my first pregnancy. I blamed myself because I took drugs and I had unprotected sex. He was also was not a part of the abortion process and this made me feel even more alone.

We continued to see each other after the abortion but he started to say things like he didn’t want to have sex with me because a baby died in me. I began sleeping with other people, even some of his friends because I was angry with him. My pain was enough for me to justify this. When we would argue, I would throw it in his face that I slept with someone he knew. I knew the situation was unhealthy but I chose to handle it this way and continue taking drugs to cope with my loss and the entire situation. I was also hurting over my girlfriend and I not speaking. I felt isolated from everyone. I detached from my friends because they were not able to understand how I felt and I was attached to him because it involved the both of us. When it rains, it pours – situations that arise can make you feel your weakest if your support system isn’t stronger than what you’re being faced with.

The verbal abuse worsened and the physical abuse started. One night I was at his house and we were watching a movie. He suggested going out but I said this would be a bad idea because he was on house arrest. I advised we stay in and he responded by saying I was a fucking bitch and controlling. He grabbed his water bottle and poured water all over me. I decided this would be a good time for me to leave his house but he didn’t.

As I tried to leave he grabbed me. I tried to fight him off but he wouldn’t let go even though I kept saying I didn’t want to be there anymore. I started punching him because I wanted to get away. When he punched me in my nose we both heard it crack and he said, “Yeah did you hear that? I broke your nose.” I still tried to break his hold but he continued to squeeze me to the point where I blacked out temporarily. I fell and he dragged me back into the house. At some point I started to regain consciousness and I could hear he was rummaging through drawers in the kitchen; I thought his next move would be him stabbing me.

He came back to where I was and started hitting my face again. I can’t remember how I did but I got outside and started to run down the street. I knocked on his neighbour’s door and they allowed me to come in and use their phone. I called the same friend I had stopped talking to months before and she came to pick me up. The first thing she said was that I needed to go to the police to file a report and I agreed. The cops took my statement and when they pulled his record and saw the trouble he had been in before they went to get him without hesitation. I told my parents what happened when I got home and this was the first they had learned anything about what I had been going through. Charges were pressed and he went to jail for five months.

I fell into a depression. I didn’t want to go anywhere and mostly because I was scared to go outside. The entire situation starting from finding out I was pregnant and hearing his reaction right down to him putting his hands on me multiple times left me traumatized. Once, he tried to contact me from jail and when I heard his voice I hung up. I continued to use drugs as a way to cope.

Fast-forward five months: one night I went to the club and he was there. I noticed my friends kept whispering about something but wouldn’t let me in on the conversation and it hit me; he was here too. I left them to go to the washroom and as I was walking there I felt someone grab my shoulder and whisper in my ear, “I love you, I’m sorry.” He found me. It didn’t take long before I found myself kissing him until one of my girlfriends came over and pulled me off. They were furious that I would entertain him after all he had done to me but still, in a moment of weakness I tried to seek comfort in him, the one person I shouldn’t. My friends and I left the club and went back to one of my girlfriends’ house. The entire time after I left the club we were texting each other. He later stopped by my friend’s house in a cab to pick me up and despite my girlfriends telling me to not go and that they would be upset with me if I left, I did. I was happy to hear from again but I knew I shouldn’t have been. Why would I be happy to hear from someone that did the things he did? It took me a bit of time before I understood the cycle of abuse.

He said all I needed to hear: he was sorry, he would never do it again, he’s changed, and he’s learned his lesson after being in jail. So I forgave him and we were now officially in a relationship – I had the title I wanted him to give me for two years now and I felt this time would be completely different.

Although my romantic relationship seemed to be flourishing, my relationship with the women in my life went down the drain. Every single one of my girls turned on me because they didn’t support my decision to be in a relationship with him. Instead of trying to understand that I cared for him or remain in my life as a support system in case something went wrong they started calling me names. They would see me out and call me a dirty whore, they would comment on my pictures on social media saying horrible things about me and overall they made me feel even more depressed. This went on for the 7 months I stayed in a relationship with him. The first two months our relationship it felt like he had made changes within himself but after a short time I started to see signs of aggressiveness again. He never hit me again but the verbal abuse continued. He would grab me if we got into an argument and even the smallest arguments were magnified, as he couldn’t control his temper. He would go from being extremely happy with me to being extremely sad and angry within seconds. One minute our conversations were laced with words of love and the next minute he shared he thought I was a whore and worthless. I knew there was something more to him I’d never be able to control but during the time we were in a relationship I tried my best to. His mother knew I tried to leave a few times and every time I attempted to do this she would manage to persuade me to stay a bit longer by saying he needed someone like me because she wasn’t there for him when he was growing up. I was being manipulated all around.

One day we were out having lunch and I saw a girl I had asked him to stop speaking to before sent him a text message. He was being shady again. I got up to leave the restaurant but he wouldn’t let me leave. Leaving him became a problem and at times I found myself scared to go because he would either make me watch as he hurt himself or tell me he would commit suicide if I chose to leave.

We ended up in the street outside of the restaurant arguing. He started following me every time I tried to walk away and as he followed he taunted me. He would keep saying that I couldn’t call my family because I wasn’t allowed to be around him and he’d remind me I didn’t have any friends that would help me get out of the situation this time. Reminding me I was alone was his speciality. I was screaming and crying in the street and despite how many times I asked someone to help, they continued to walk right past me. I tried numerous times to get into a cab but he would open the cab door before I could get to it and tell the driver to leave. I made my way to the subway and went straight home. I told myself to take as much space as I needed and I refused to contact him.

After the incident in front of the restaurant he called me a few nights later. He apologized to me and I let it slide again. Before we ended the conversation he told me he was going to bed and that we would speak in the morning. I woke up to three voicemails from him. He lied again. He went to a club and pocket dialed me and this was the last straw for me. I grew weary and I was exhausted. I tried over and over again to help this person, to be there for him, and to show him the love he never received at home. He didn’t respect me after all I had done and after the voicemails I had confirmation that he would not change and I’d always be with someone who didn’t respect me, my body, my feelings, or who felt I deserved the truth regardless of what the situation was.

There comes a time when you have to put yourself first as cliché as that sounds. My eyes didn’t open after the first time he hurt me. It’s always easier to say what you could have done differently but what I learned after I left the situation is that when you’re in an unhealthy relationship with someone who doesn’t recognize they have trauma of their own, there is a cycle that you end up in unwillingly. It is in my nature to care and love so when in a relationship with someone that was my first priority. In his case, I wanted to show him love and care for him in ways he told me he never experienced because of his family situation.

It always starts the same way: the honeymoon phase filled with promises to change, apologies after something happens, even gifts depending on what they did. Then the tension builds: they start to criticize you, the swearing starts and if they’re not able to coerce you to do what they want, they try again with anger. Lastly explosion: attacks and pain both emotional and physical. This cycle became me. Month after month and time and time and time again I experienced each one of these phases until one day I broke free – twenty four months was enough.

In Memory of You

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse.

There are murmurs in the shadows of my mind,
Whispers that ring loud and violent,
Sending ricochet of bullets through the waves,
Heavy, dangerous pieces of lead,
Shooting, Damaging.

Louder and louder,
Your whispers demand my attention,
But my will is greater,
It can not be broken by the toxicity of recklessness.

Oh but the temptation is sweet,
The temptation to be dragged into the gully of despair,
That dark place where his dry scaly fingers steal my innocence,
That dark place where his thick smoked breath sucks my future pleasures away,
That dark place of HIS shame and guilt,
That dark place where for me to be loved,
I self destroy,
That is the dark place you wish to have me committed to,

But…

Whisper away,
Whisper incessantly,
Whisper as fierce and as aggressive as you want,
Whisper until the sound of your abuse suffocates you into silence.

Because…

I hear you but I no longer fear you,
I hear you but I am no longer imprisoned by you,
I hear you but I choose to rise above you.

Living with Anxiety

Trigger Warning: Mental Health

I wake up.

It takes me a few minutes for my mind to register that I’m in reality due to my incredibly vivid dreams. It takes me a few extra minutes to actually get up because I tend to feel groggy in the morning. That seems to be a side affect of the Seroquel. Seroquel is a medication often used for treating severe depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. I have none of those things; I was prescribed it for sleep since my anxiety doesn’t really give a crap if I’m tired.

After I wake up I take Zoloft. Zoloft is an anti-depressant used to treat anxiety disorder as well. I have some water, make a healthy breakfast, and workout (something I’ve had to do recently due to the weight gain side effect of the Seroquel) soon after.

I never thought I’d end up being the kind of person who had to take medication every day but here I am.

I’ve had anxiety all my life, though my friends and family would disagree. Every time I open up to someone about my anxiety for the first time, I get the same reel of responses: “But you’re so outgoing!” “You should just drink water and eat healthy and cheer up!” “What do you have to be anxious/sad about?” and my personal favourite, “Everyone feels anxious sometimes. Stop being dramatic (because you know, I act and all that). It can’t be as debilitating as you make it out to be.”

People really seem to gloss over the disorder part of the term Anxiety Disorder.

“A mental disorder (also called a mental illness, [1] psychiatric disorder, or psychological disorder) is a diagnosis, most often by a psychiatrist, of a behavioural or mental pattern that may cause suffering or a poor ability to function in life.” -Wikipedia

Just putting that there for reference.

As a whole, others tend to be dismissive about learning about my anxiety even though I’m sure they mean well. The only people who haven’t been dismissive about it are people who suffer from mental illness themselves and are aware of it. Anxiety and other mental illnesses are rarely taken seriously from those who don’t suffer from it and though the tide is (slowly) but surely changing, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Anxiety has taken a lot from me. It’s taken away my sanity, dissolved friendships, enabled me as an easy target for emotional/psychological/sexual abuse, cost me career opportunities and actual employment and has essentially turned me into a recluse. I don’t go out nearly as much as I used to and when I get invited places or get coaxed into making plans, my anxiety gets the best of me and I end up either not showing up or cancelling. Then my anxiety gets even worse because of how guilty I feel for doing that. I think I would have been unstoppable if I didn’t have anxiety and that makes me feel terrible. I know that’s a lot to blame on a disorder but I really am trying my best. I’m trying even harder to not feel like my best isn’t good enough.

It’s been a few months since I’ve had to leave my previous job due to how bad my anxiety got and I’m still upset that I had to go. I had such a great time working where I was; I learned so much within such a short time. But that, my friends, is exactly what happens when you have an anxiety disorder that has been left untreated for a little over a decade. Since I was 10. That’s what happens when you’re apart of a culture that doesn’t believe in mental illness, a culture that thinks it’s a manifestation of the devil or some other supernatural disturbance instead of a legitimate medical condition. You can only sweep dirt under a rug for so long before somebody trips over the bump and it all comes seeping out.

You fall apart. The bandages you’ve strategically placed throughout the years, the same ones you thought were wrapped so tightly around you start peeling off, like layers of an onion. You become worse than you’ve ever been. A little storm cloud forms above your head and follows you everywhere you go. You start to disassociate. It gets harder and harder to get up in the morning. Harder and harder to put that default smile on your face (especially for customers), harder and harder to make it seem like everything is okay. You might end up in the hospital after a great shift, one that will unknowingly (at the time) be your last. You might then struggle for a little bit trying to get friends and family to understand what you’ve been saying to them all along in various forms- that you’re unwell and that you need help. Only this time it’s worse. This time you’re afraid you might not see your niece and nephew grow up because your illness has been swallowing you up like a black hole. That feeling might have been gradual over the years but now it’s accelerated fivefold. They still may not understand the gravity of the situation and think you’re being over dramatic (typical you). It might strain some relationships within your family even more but especially at a time where it feels like the whole universe is against you, you have to look out for you. As hindering as anxiety is, you have to choose life. Don’t let the fog scare you into thinking you are your anxiety. Choose therapy. Choose medication if recommended. Choose yourself.

Just a few months ago I was deemed severely impaired and unfit to work until further notice. I’ve been on my medication since then and they’ve helped immensely. I’m now trying my best to regain all of those years I’ve lost to a disorder I couldn’t control. I’m trying to be the person I’ve always wanted to be but it’s hard and it’s scary. My anxiety disorder will never go away but now that I have the tools to treat it and make my life livable again, I feel more confident than ever that I can make myself proud.

He Said if I was Trying to Punish Myself I Should Have Sliced Deeper

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse, Abortion.

The scars on my legs, even after two years, are still healing. I’m still waiting for the marks to go away. Back then, when they were fresh, he’d see the cuts and say if I was trying to punish myself I should have sliced deeper.

I can’t tell you exactly when he started to change.  I have an idea, a rough time frame, but I can’t pinpoint the exact time because the shift wasn’t sudden and happened gradually.

Beginning of the relationship:

We met in 2008. I was 16 years old. We had class together. I still remember the first day I walked into the room. I was late and he was already seated. We locked eyes but I don’t remember ever really trying to speak to him again after that. I don’t think I even had interest in him at first or found him attractive. There was nothing compelling about him till we spoke. I guess all they say about mental connection is true because it was after our first conversation I was intrigued. After school that night I went home and searched him on Facebook but for some reason he was already on my friends list so I went ahead and messaged him. We added each other that night on MSN and it started from there.

By 2010 we were in a relationship.  In those two years after meeting we built a friendship. I don’t think at ages 15 and 16 you really take relationships seriously anyway so when we were a little older and when we thought we were mature enough, we decided to give an official, committed relationship a shot. At first it was light, it was fun, it was innocent and we enjoyed each other. I looked forward to the messages after class on MSN and I waited for his text messages before I went to bed. We talked about everything. I couldn’t wait to get to school to see him or to run into him in the hallways. He wanted to understand why I did the things I did and why I said what I said. His approach was different and he seemed to genuinely care. So over some time trust was built and I opened up.

He didn’t just love my light, he listened to all that was dark and it felt like he could help me heal. Looking back now I don’t know if I was in love with him or the idea that someone could look past all I felt about me was messed up. No doubt this person became my best friend before it went sour.  I needed someone to listen and I needed to feel like someone would stay. He was stable; whether or not deep down I was in love with him, I kept him. I’ve never had stability before.

This new relationship started and I felt like God was finally bringing something positive into my life. I felt like I was always dealt the worst hand. Don’t get me wrong; I knew I had many things to be grateful for. I had received an ample amount of blessings and amazing people to share these things with but there were also so many hardships I couldn’t quite grasp or make sense of its reason for happening.

I had 1001 walls built and he tried to knock all of these down. I didn’t want to let anyone in because I didn’t need anyone. My mentality was, “I had gotten this far without anyone and I don’t need someone starting now.” I tried over and over and over again to push him away but he didn’t budge. He stayed, he tried, he wanted to be there, he wanted to learn my triggers and he wanted me to get to better a place. He said he wanted me to succeed and he wanted to take care of me. Illusion.

He didn’t understand why I didn’t fully enjoy sex. He started to take it personally that I would never have an orgasm with him, that I couldn’t look him in the eyes or that when he tried to push his fingers in me I would push his hands away. My favourite position was doggie style and not because I enjoyed lying on my stomach or because I was lazy. I couldn’t handle intimacy. I was frustrated with myself too. My internal battle was affecting what I was trying to grow with this “wonderful” new person and so I told him what my “problem” was; I had been raped when I was 14, just three years before our relationship started and sex scared me. I was trying though. I wanted to try again with him but I was scared. I thought this would scare him away or that he would tell me it was too much but he stayed and we continued our relationship. This was the first major thing he learned.

One day he forgot and tried with fingers again and I started to cry. At first I laid there, hiding my face with his pillow so he wouldn’t see and I tried my best to enjoy it but I couldn’t. My sobbing grew louder and couldn’t be hidden anymore. He asked what was wrong and I told him at one point during the incident my rapist used his nails to violently scratch my vagina after he had finished with his penis. He never tried with his fingers again and this was the second major thing he learned.

Since he couldn’t pleasure me with his fingers he tried with his mouth. Any time his head started to get lower, I would pull his face up and stop this from happening almost immediately. He loved how I tasted but I hated that he always wanted more. Eventually he asked me why I wouldn’t let him where he wanted to go and I told him the first person to ever use his mouth on me was someone related to me. They both had beards. Even though I knew my partner wasn’t the older male who took advantage of me when I was eight years old, his beard touching my leg made me cringe. This was the third major thing he learned.

One night he was on his way to a party and asked me if I had a problem with it because women I didn’t know would be there. I said that I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly worried. This was conflicting for me: I love and adore women. I’ve been with women. I believe they deserve the most respect. I believe they are all survivors, they are all strong, and they are more than worthy of all things great. I hold all the females in my life on a pedestal – on the highest level is my mother.  They never intimidate me, as I genuinely want all of us to succeed – but “daddy issues” do not disappear overnight. He asked me what worried me about women and I told him that it had to do with male interaction with females, males that I trust. I spent my entire childhood watching my mother cry because my father didn’t come home. I listened to her excuses for why he was absent but I let her believe I didn’t understand why he wasn’t there. When he was sober he was amazing. He was my favourite person in the whole world. When he drank I didn’t know who he was. I watched him hit her, abuse her – physically, mentally, verbally, you name it. I don’t think I can erase the image of a knife to her neck as my sister and I screamed and cried. She faced it. Later down the road as a grown woman my mother asked me if I thought she was weak and without hesitation I said no; she’s the strongest person I know. She does not need to explain her decisions and I was able to make sense of why she stayed. My partner at the time knew; he knew I was terrified of being cheated on and he knew it would kill me to find out he was involved with another woman. This was the fourth major thing he learned.

There he had it – I laid it all out for him. I trusted him to not hurt me. I saw this person as someone different so I exposed myself. All that made me vulnerable, all that made me the slightest insecure and all the details I promised I would keep private were now shared with someone I believed loved me. What I would later learn is that possession does not coincide with love; compliance is not a way to prove you’re genuine and eventually restraint will cause resentment.

I needed to understand him too so I dug. I wanted to know what he had experienced, if anything. He touched on having a father who was physically abusive to both him and his mother. I listened to him and although I couldn’t relate to my father ever putting his hands on me I understood how watching your mother experience something painful could affect you whether it be now or later. I understand the construct of hyper-masculinity and how males are conditioned to behave a certain way and I also understood that one of the first ways he learned to treat a woman was by inflicting pain. I just didn’t think he’d ever do it to me. Call me naïve – I thought I could reverse his way of thinking.

I decided I would be there for him the same way he was for me. At this point in my head he was still this “wonderful” new person who knew everything about me, wanted to help me, who didn’t find me to be unworthy after all he had learned and who wouldn’t use anything he knew to make me feel worse about things that already made me feel ashamed. And again, so I thought.

Two people searching for love will never find it. He said he didn’t feel cared for at home and I said the same. He told me I was the person to show him the most love, more than his family did. I told him I loved that I made him feel this way. So I did what was in my nature – I stayed to help him feel something the same way I needed to. What I also understand now is that two people searching for love will have two different definitions of what love is. My definition consists of nurturing, the ability to remain autonomous and free, forgiveness, understanding, and to give wholeheartedly. Later I learned his definition of love consisted of control and manipulation, power, compliance and to inflict pain, just like his father, as an act of self – fulfilment.

Middle of the relationship/The Slow Shift:

He expressed he hated all of my male friends and my exact words were, “that’s unfortunate.” He knew who I was, he knew I was “that girl,” the only female to get invited to an all male party as “one of the guys.” That wasn’t going to change. Red flag number one.

He didn’t like that my girlfriends were a priority. I never did anything to make him feel he wasn’t important or included but if any of the women in my life needed me, I made sure to be there. He thought this put him second and he didn’t like this. Red flag number two.

He constantly called my phone if I was out with my friends. He needed to make sure there wasn’t a guy around. No matter how much I tried to reassure him that I’d never cheat on him he didn’t believe me. Red flag number three.

He started to monitor who was messaging me. He would constantly argue with me about male friends he didn’t know. He got upset when these friends ‘liked’ my pictures on Instagram or Facebook. Eventually I had to turn notifications off on my phone because I didn’t want to deal with him. Red flag number four.

I put up a fight. Always. He wasn’t going to control me or tell me what to do. I was going to hang with my boys, I was going to party wherever I wanted to and I was going to return the call of whichever one of my male friends was calling even if it was right in front of him. This didn’t mean I was immature or not ready for a relationship. This displayed how controlling he was. It wasn’t disrespect. I didn’t have to alter my behaviour because he was insecure. He didn’t like how he looked and felt he was stagnant in life. He wasn’t working and I was on top. I was always on top. I had money and I was taking care of myself. I was always involved with numerous projects at once. I had friends and I was well known. People knew who I was but only knew him as my boyfriend. I was stronger than him, mentally. I challenged him and he didn’t like it. Later down the line he would come to tell me that he was intimidated by me and this explained his much of his behaviour.

Instead of leaving him at this point, two years in, I decided I would stay and help tackle his insecurities and all that made him uneasy. What I didn’t understand is that you cannot help someone that does not want to be helped or who believes his actions can be justified. He looked at me as his possession instead of his equal. It’s not your job to “help,” period. At times I knew things he did and said was wrong but he was my first serious boyfriend. His actions after years of inconsistency and instability in my home, felt somewhat okay. I was desensitized to so much after seeing my mother go through worse. I felt I had it better. I don’t feel this way now but back then it felt normal.

The first time he called me out my name I let it slide. After all he didn’t know better, right? He had watched his father do it to his mother and so he didn’t actually mean it when he repeated the words to me, right? Wrong. We had just finished shopping and we were on our way home. He wanted to spend time with me later in the evening but I told him I couldn’t – I had plans with the guys. He looked me dead in my eyes and called me a whore and he said he knew what I was doing when I was out with them and I wasn’t answering his messages. This fight escalated quickly and I defended myself. I tried to level with him but he said I was a bitch for arguing with him, then he said I was a cunt and then for whatever reason started to name people I slept with before knowing him and called me a slut. He looked at me again and said I was deserving of the rape because all I did was flirt with men anyway. He used major incident number one as a way to make me feel the lowest I could possibly feel. I tried to walk away from this argument but he kept following and blocking me. He didn’t want me to leave. Possession. I ended up having to call one of my friends to pick me up to get me away from him. Slowly I started to shut down and his way of speaking to me continued. I’ve always believed the most important thing in a relationship is not communication, but forgiveness. So I forgave him and we continued.

The hard part of the relationship – middle to end:

February 17th 2012 one of my best friends asked me to watch her son. I asked him if he wanted to tag along and keep me company that night as he had the night off work. My friend went on her date; I locked her door, put her son to bed, and fucked him in her living room.

March 28th 2012 I took a pregnancy test in the washroom at my school.  Positive. I didn’t cry because I was happy. I ran back to my classroom to get two of my girls. I took them down the hallway and we plopped on the floor. I showed them the test and I told them how excited I was. I called him to let him know. His response: “you’re a cunt, that’s not my baby, didn’t we talk about how much of a whore you are and that you’re sleeping with other guys? Get rid of it.” This was when I started to cry.

When he calmed down he called me back and we spoke. He said he would leave school to pick me up. He asked me what I was craving and said he would take me to eat. He said he was sorry, that he actually was excited and that he was wrong for what he said. Forgiveness. So we continued.

We decided we were going to keep our baby. Agreed – the timing was probably the worst, our families wouldn’t be happy, but we both believed it was a blessing.

Then he changed his mind. Over and over he changed his mind. One minute it was all a go then he called me a dirty whore and said I needed to get rid of “it.” Then when he decided we would keep our baby I was the person he loved the most, his best friend, and he couldn’t wait to see what our baby looked like. Forgiveness.

Of course he changed his mind again after that. My anxiety disorder worsened. After the sexual abuse I had experienced earlier on and now being pregnant and having someone verbally abuse me every day, it escalated to a point where it was uncontrollable and I was having anxiety attacks several times a day.  Both my mental and physical health was deteriorating. I woke up to text messages where he asked me if I woke up in a pool of blood and to only respond if I miscarried. Before I went to bed I received messages where he told me I was filth, I asked to be raped, and that he doesn’t want to have babies with a dirty woman so I should abort. Messages like these continued for weeks, all day and all night.

I didn’t tell anyone what was going on. How could I? They looked at me as the strong one of the group; I was the mother. I took care of everyone else. My relationship on the outside looked perfect. How could I possibly go to my friends and tell them I needed help? He knew I’d never tell anyone. I believed whatever happens in a relationship stays between the two people so I never said a word. Maybe I was also trying to protect him.

April 3rd 2012 I had an abortion. I couldn’t take him anymore. Secretly, deep down, I didn’t want his child. I wanted my child but I didn’t want his. I cried and cried feeling like I killed my baby and carried this guilt for years but I did what I had to do. I thought maybe he would change if I made him happy and our relationship would be good again after the abortion but he wouldn’t touch me or look at me the entire time. From the moment he picked me up till I got home he wouldn’t engage with me. I was sitting on the floor in the hallway outside of the clinic and reached up for a hug but me pushed me down to the floor and asked me to not speak to him. I sat there and cried till it was my turn.

After we left the clinic he still wouldn’t speak to me. I was drowsy from the drugs and I remember him walking ahead of me, not turning back once to help me. I fell trying to get inside of my house and he yelled at me telling me to hurry the fuck up because he had to get home. I thought this would be the end of him but it wasn’t.

Exactly one week after the abortion I woke up to a text message from him saying was really tired. I called him to say hi and asked why he didn’t sleep well. He told me he was up until 3am talking to his ex girlfriend, almost taunting me with this. I hung up and had an anxiety attack. He used incident number four to hurt me.

I drank every single night for months. The drinking stopped when I started cutting myself. I never understood why people hurt themselves but that day I did. It made me feel better. Also, I was working and I couldn’t handle a hangover while there. At the time it was the quickest and easiest way to release. I fell into a deep depression. After being pregnant for two months I was attached to my baby and I couldn’t wrap my head around the termination. Regret. I wouldn’t accept help from my friends. Most of them didn’t understand and I was ashamed to go to the ones that did. I felt alone. Two of my best friends were away in another country and I couldn’t face my family. I was young too. I didn’t even really understand what was happening. I tried to continue like everything was okay but it wasn’t.

You act in ways outside your usual character when you feel like you don’t have anyone. Or when you tell yourself you don’t have anyone. One day after an anxiety attack I attempted suicide. I still remember that day like it was yesterday – I was laying on the floor in my basement crying about my baby. I tried but was unsuccessful. I panicked and called my friends but they didn’t answer me. The next person I called to take me to the hospital was him. He picked me up to take me but cussed at me the entire way there, cussed at me every time the doctors left the room and cussed at me before he left. He was upset he had to miss work.

He knew at this point he had some kind of power over me. He saw how much I loved him after I begged for us to keep our child and after I begged him to be treat me better but stayed even though he didn’t. One minute he was great, one minute he was horrible. It was almost like he was testing me every single time and I didn’t budge. When he wanted to see me weak and have an anxiety attack, he’d mentioned his ex. When he wanted to see me cry he would say if I were a stronger woman I would have held onto the baby despite all that he did. I started to internalize all of this. Love can be wonderful and it can be the most beautiful thing but it can also be the most darkest, damaging, and hurtful thing when used as a weapon.

At times I would be having an anxiety attack and he would hover me saying and doing things that would make them worse for me. I would lie there crying, hyperventilating, having absolutely no control over my body and he would laugh and smirk as I begged him to hold me and calm me down. He wouldn’t touch me. Instead he would say, verbatim, “everyone thinks you’re this strong woman but I know exactly how to break you down, I know I can control you.” At one point after the abortion he wanted to have sex but I was still bleeding. I told him I couldn’t and that he’d have to give me a few days. We were out driving one day and continued to do so till he said, “no I want it now, let’s pull over.” I didn’t really know how to react and I kind of just looked at him. I told him I was cramping and in pain. He said, “Guess I should just call my ex.” Compliance.

We went to a parking garage. He entered me, pulled out, looked at the blood on himself and told me “I was absolutely disgusting,” put his pants back on and we left. Another time after that when I stopped bleeding we attempted sex and he saw the marks on my leg after cutting. He looked at me and said if I was trying to punish myself I should have sliced deeper. According to him I was responsible everything that happened.

There was a monster in this man I could not tackle. Even if I tried to tackle it I’d never be successful. I wanted to stick by him and I wanted to help him change but even thinking he could be changed to suit me was a mistake in itself. I’ve always been a strong woman. And in these moments where it sounds like I was weak, I wasn’t. Abuse comes in many forms but starts with manipulation.  Mental abuse is hard to recognize at first since it doesn’t leave obvious marks and it’s not always blatant and in your face. It can be characterized by the manipulation and invalidation of a person. Anything he did and said to me was to invalidate me as a woman, first starting with invalidating my strength.

I was trying to work towards a better place for myself and he recognized this. I tried to leave him numerous times but he would threaten to swallow a bottle of pills or hurt himself and I’d stay – thinking it wasn’t who I met back in 2008 and that he needed help too. I felt trapped. Remember what I said about forgiveness being the most important thing in a relationship? The act of forgiveness can destroy you.

Nobody believed me when I tried to share what this person did and said to me until I showed proof. I showed them my phone so they could see his text messages and one night his best friend listened to him on speaker as he cussed at me the day after my birthday. He was mad guys were flirting with me at my party. Everyone viewed him as this sweet and lovely person. Only I knew who he was.

He wanted compliance but that wasn’t in my nature. He needed someone to control and maybe at my weakest moment he had that but it didn’t continue for long. Recognizing red flags isn’t as easy as it seems when you pair all that I went through at home and as a child with what he was doing. I’ve learned now.

Our cores do not change. My heart and my core is different and will never be the same as his. At the center of his core was darkness, and at the center of mine, despite all that I had gone through, was light. People will choose to show you what they want but deep down they will always be the same.

He started our relationship saying he admired how strong I was but this was far from the truth. This relationship ended one night after a party. We went to one of our friend’s house and afterwards attempted to have sex. I got on top of him; I kissed and licked his neck, pushed his head between my breasts, begged him to suck on my nipples and moaned as he did. Then I hopped off to turn on my back, waiting for him to fuck me. I was wet and ready to go. He slid in me and I pushed him off me and sat up. Something shifted, I don’t know what or why, or even when, but I looked him dead in his eye and said, “get the fuck off me, you disgust me.” Karma. I put my clothes on and I left. I was ready to move on.

If your partner had to be in a state of distress and depression for you to feel happiness, even in the slightest, you’re weaker than them even at their lowest. He started to slowly realize towards the end of our relationship how much his family impacted his life and he started to slowly see exactly how damaging he had been but at that point when he finally realized a change needed to be made, I was ready to walk. He cried, he called me and begged me to work things out but it was too late for me.

Relationships and what being in a relationship entails can be confusing. This idea of sticking by someone no matter what they do or say to you will make you forget about what your needs are and what makes you happy. This is not called sacrifice for the other person; this becomes self-destructive for you. I stopped worrying about what he needed when I chose to leave because I started to see that nurturing each other’s needs was not being done mutually. It wasn’t easy to move on or to make sense of most of what happened. My focus became healing on my own and without him – he was the root of the issues.

I forgot for a short while but I know who I am. What he planted in my head was slowly removed. I am none of the things he tried to tell me I am. Instead of continuing a relationship with someone who constantly reminded me of everything that caused me pain I decided to start a new journey, standing alone. I have to live with my decisions and I know why I made them. I cannot question or punish myself for anything that happened before him, during our relationship, or even after. Forgiveness. And so I continued.

My Cousin Wanted to Play a Game but Not the Kind I was Anticipating

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse.

Family, to me, is supposed to mean safety. Security. People who would never dream of hurting you. Not everyone has the same idea of what family means, though. My cousin and I sure didn’t see eye to eye about that.

I was six. I think. It’s been a few years of repression for me to remember what my actual age was, not that it matters.

I was in Jamaica with my family, visiting my grandmother. My cousin lived with her at the time. My parents had gone into a nearby town to get hardware supplies. Concrete. My grandmother had gone with them to shop for groceries, therefore I was left alone for the time being with my teenage cousin.

Seems okay, right? I mean it’s not like I was a toddler or something, surely enough he was old enough and mature enough to watch me for an hour or two.

I remember reading in the room I was staying in, across from his. He called me over. I went eagerly, thinking he wanted to play a game or something. He wanted to play a game, but not the kind I was anticipating. He told me I was pretty. I said thank you. I sat on his bed, waiting for the game to start.

It did.

He hovered over me, eventually pushing me back on the bed. He started kissing me. My first kiss. He forced his tongue into my mouth, swirling it around. I think I went into shock. I kind of just… shut down. For years, I thought this meant I let it happen. That I wanted it. I later came to the conclusion that this wasn’t the case. His hands went places that I didn’t even know hands and fingers could go. I just lay there, motionless. He started kissing me harder and harder, undoing his pants. I shouldn’t know what my cousin’s penis looks like, but I do. That image was forced into me against my will, just like his fingers. He told me to hold it. I did. I honestly don’t even remember what was going on in my head at this point.

It’s funny how even writing this, I’m still subconsciously blaming myself for what happened. Still subconsciously telling myself that I let it happen, that I wanted it. That if I had done something then, I could have stopped it.

He continued to forcefully kiss me. His tongue tasted disgusting. I’m starting to think that this is why I’m not such a huge fan of French kissing at 24. He started to thrust in my hand. I think that’s what snapped me out of whatever trance I was in. I let go of his penis. My eyes grew wide. I started to panic. I think he sensed this too, because as soon as I sprung up, he pushed me right back down into the bed. Hard, like he still was. He clearly wasn’t finished with me yet. He put a firm hand on my chest, with enough force to keep me in position. With his other hand he yanked my shorts down. I started to kick. He got them down far enough to focus on what was going on between his legs. He started kissing me again, while trying to simultaneously rub his penis on my exposed genitals. This time, I bit him hard on his tongue. Hard enough for him to immediately yank his tongue out and pull back. I kicked him as hard as I could in the nuts and didn’t stick around to see the aftermath. After a brief struggle getting my shorts back up, I ran out the door, through the living room, though the kitchen to a hallway with outdoor access on either end. I had no shoes on, but I ran through anyway. I ran off of my grandmother’s property, down the gravel road to where my aunt lived, which was about a 5 minute run. She had dogs guarding her yard. I didn’t care, the adrenaline blinded me. I ran straight through, not caring if I got bit or barked at. Miraculously, none of that happened. I made it to her porch. She wasn’t home, but I hid there anyway.

That’s where my memory stops. Through years of repression, the details have become a little fuzzy but there were some parts about it that I could never forget. Parts that I wish I did forget. I tried telling my parents about what happened maybe a decade after what happened. It never got dealt with, so I never really brought it up again. Until recently.

Since then, I’ve gone to a few CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) sessions and had a few heart-to-hearts with family. As much as I blamed myself and told myself that I wanted it over the years, I think I owe it to my childhood self to free her of that guilt. I’ve since learned to love myself in a way that I didn’t think was possible for me at the time. I deserve better than what happened and I’ve promised myself that I would do right by me. Healing has certainly started from within with me and I’m more than excited to see my progress in the coming years.