Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse.
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,
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 the pain with food,
My hands became hand grenades,
Exploding at everything,
Stood a chance.
Flip of a switch,
The sun is shining in my eyes,
A curse has been broken,
Let it into your heart,
Realizing that there is,
A way out.
Learning to soar beyond the doubt.
Letting go of the narrative,
Experiencing the now,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Trigger Warning: Pregnancy, Miscarriage.
I knew that as soon as the umbilical cord was cut, my daughter would take her last breath. I’ve managed to survive after losing my child.
I found who I thought was the love of my life at age 13, much earlier than anyone else I know. We clicked instantly and he and I managed to stay together all through high school despite any trials and tribulations we faced during this time. We were comfortable, in love and it was just simple.
I was 15 when I lost my virginity to this person and after the first time I had sex I became pregnant. We both decided it was too early in our lives to carry this pregnancy to term and decided together that an abortion would be the best decision for us. Despite what we decided, the idea of an abortion tore me up inside and caused me a great amount of stress. I went back and forth but after miscarrying I took this as a sign that it was meant to happen this way. After the miscarriage we still continued to talk about having a family one day even though we were still hurting. We had names picked out for our future children and we still shared our dreams and aspirations.
I met someone in college and I started to feel something for them but initially I wasn’t sure of how to explain these feelings. They were confusing because this person was a woman. I struggled with the idea of pursuing a relationship with her out of fear. I wanted to continue looking “normal” and I wanted to be accepted. I wasn’t sure of how to deal with this new label I would be given, “lesbian.” I also didn’t want to be judged. Eventually I let these thoughts go. I did not want to look back and have any regrets so I ended my relationship with my boyfriend and decided I’d follow my heart.
She forced me to explore new parts of my soul. I found out new things about myself I didn’t realize were there and the love I felt for her was like nothing I’ve felt before. It didn’t mean that what I experienced with my boyfriend wasn’t real, it just meant that I was now learning about a new kind of love that I was more receptive to. Her touch was different as her hands felt like silk. She understood me in a different way and this was a breath of fresh air. She was able to look deep and far past all I’ve experienced that caused me sorrow. In return I would have done anything to make her happy and at the time I thought she would do the same; until she cheated.
My heart shattered. This cut me deep and it was more than I could handle at the time. On the outside I started to show anger but on the inside I was in pain; new bruises. I started drinking more and smoking weed as a way to cope. I started to act reckless and outside my character. Before I knew it I found myself running back to the arms of my first love, hoping he could help me forget what I was feeling. Any time we got together we would drink, talk, laugh and I was able to forget for a second the pain I was feeling and he would put my mind at ease. We’d talk about our past together and we’d talk about what we had planned for the future. In a moment of reflecting we slept together without using condoms. I got pregnant again.
When I let him know I was pregnant he didn’t ask me to have an abortion, he told me to have one. He told his family and acted confused as if he didn’t know how it happened. He belittled me in front of his family and allowed them to criticize me and say I was forcing him to grow up before he was ready. The lack of support from him made me agree to have an abortion… until I confided in my ex girlfriend.
I wanted her to hear from me instead of someone else that I had gotten pregnant by my ex boyfriend and she became the first person I told. Her first question was about what the father thought about it and I let her know he was pressuring me to have an abortion. Her face immediately showed disgust and she questioned why I would go ahead with that option knowing in my heart I wanted to keep this baby. I shared with her that I didn’t want my child to grow up not knowing who their father was because I knew my ex boyfriend would remove himself from the situation. She responded saying my baby didn’t need him as their father because we had her and my family. She offered to help; saying she would pick up more shifts and help me with anything I needed. We cried together for hours talking about the baby and she begged me to not do it. My ex girlfriend was right – I didn’t want to have an abortion and aside from that what she said was true; I didn’t need his support and deciding whether or not to keep the baby wasn’t only his decision to make. I decided I wasn’t going to terminate my pregnancy.
Eventually, at some point during my pregnancy, my ex boyfriend got on board but when he came back my trust for him was minimal. I started to prepare for this baby as a single mother and he hated it. He’d tell me I made him feel like I didn’t need him and he was right, my response would always be, “because I don’t.” He still stuck around even though at times I was difficult and still accompanied me to my appointments and ultrasounds.
My ex girlfriend would bring me food and visit regularly. She’d talk to my belly and even if we were fighting she would ignore me but continue to ask about the baby several times a day. She hated that I was pregnant by my ex boyfriend but loved the baby I was carrying. We found ourselves arguing about plans that included my ex boyfriend and the baby; she was also upset about not being able to attend all appointments with me. She didn’t have much control over how much of the baby’s life she would be a part of and would get really angry with me. Her moods were like day and night – at times we were doing great but in those moments where she felt she lost control she started to talk down to me, calling me a whore and telling me my child would be ashamed of me for being involved with both her and my child’s father. At the same time I was constantly fighting with my ex boyfriend about everything right down to me suggesting we should hyphenate our child’s last name since we weren’t married. The stress I was feeling because of them started to become unbearable.
At three months I stopped working, at four months I was instructed to remain on bed rest, and at five months I went into labour. I quit my job and was forced to go on unemployment to pay my bills. I was not supposed to go anywhere except for my appointments and back home again. I couldn’t stomach my food, I lost 20-30 pounds, and I would faint multiple times a day if I stood too long. One night my ex-girlfriend and I got into a fight about how the baby shower would work. She still had animosity towards the father and his initial rejection of the baby. The argument got heated and she took her frustration out on me. Again, she spit comments about the failure of a mother I’d be and about my whorish ways; commenting on how no one could love me because of how spiteful (she thought) I was. The next day at my doctor’s appointment the father and I found out that my water had broken and that my amniotic fluid was dangerously low. I never got to leave the hospital.
I found out I was having a girl. I was told they needed to induce me and that I would have her that night. A lump grew in my throat when I realized what I was being told – I went into labour too early; I would be giving birth but leaving without a child. My daughter was two weeks away from having fully developed lungs and on her own she would not be able to breathe. I took some of my anger and pain out on my ex girlfriend. I texted to say the baby would die and when she tried to call me I hung up and asked her to not speak to me. The pain I experienced was unbearable not just because I chose to not have an epidural but because I knew that as soon as the umbilical cord was cut, my daughter would take her last breath.
It was heart breaking because she was active in my stomach and I tried so hard not to let my body alarm her of what was happening. She was moving happily until the very end. I gave birth and she passed away a half-an-hour later. I didn’t get to hold her until she had already passed because the doctor didn’t show up until after she had already passed away. When the nurse handed her to me she said, “it’s okay, you’re both young, you guys just try again,” before she walked away. We spent a few hours with our daughter, holding her lifeless hand before I allowed them to take her away. My ex girlfriend begged for me to tell her where I was but I wouldn’t respond.
I went into a depression. I came home to all of my daughter’s stuff in her room but without her. I completely shut down. I had suffered loss before but nothing compares to the loss of your own flesh and blood. I blamed so many people for my child’s death including myself. I felt I failed her that day. I felt like the hurtful words I listened to leading up to the day I went into labour and the stressful situations I was in could have been prevented and avoided if I didn’t continue to involve myself with these two people.
I knew it would take me years before I could accept what happened and to speak of everything without bursting into tears. I held onto so much hate that it turned me into a bitter person. I failed to see any light in anything that I did. I rejected any love anyone was trying to give to me and I carried the burden of not being able to carry my child to term.
Often times we forget to cherish the moments we have and to see how potentially beautiful these situations can be. There are many situations I wish had played out differently and with people I know would have treated me better. Sometimes we take our blessings for granted and find loopholes in why we should be grateful. Looking back now I realize that one of the most damaging things from this situation was allowing people to make decisions for me. I was already going through enough. The verbal abuse can and will drain you. I listened to the words thrown at me and internalized them as facts. I am not a whore, I am not damaged, and of course one day someone will love me. My daughter as she looks down on me is the most proud of who I am. Do not allow the words of others to define who you are or alter the decisions you make for yourself. You know what’s best for you. I hope anyone experiencing emotional turmoil and with unsupportive people sees that they are worth more! I look in the mirror every day and I tell myself exactly that: I am more than what those people thought of me. I’m slowly healing and learning ways to cope with the loss of my child. I am beautiful, I am strong, I am worthy and I have survived.