For whatever reason, I was remembering a huge fight I got into with a former long-time (abusive) boyfriend. Even though he left 8 years ago, I find I am still dealing with the memory of the trauma he put me through…he manipulated the very way I viewed myself, things I formerly believed to be true or untrue about me became things I questioned.
I had moved from Texas to Rhode Island to be with him.
To this day I do not know why I agreed to move to the northeast with him, we had been dating on and off for years as I very often would grow tired of his bullshit. We would split up and yet…we would end up together, again, because that is what happens with abusers. They are some smooth-talking sons of bitches.
I recall one afternoon I was taking a bath–with candles and bubble bath and etc. I was trying to treat myself a little bit as I was going through a serious mental breakdown after moving thousands of miles away from all of my family and friends and having NO ONE, really, except for that asshole who pretty much had bullied me into moving so far away.
I should also mention that I had no vehicle, either. It was totaled by a drunken Texan before I left the state of Texas. (Said Texan t-boned my vehicle by driving full tilt through a stop sign in a giant tank of a Lincoln. His wife showed up in another car to claim she had been driving–she was not even IN the vehicle–because her husband reeked of whiskey…but this is perhaps another story for another time.)
‘The Wolf’ (as I shall now refer to him) painted it as if Providence had this wonderful mass transit system and I would be fine.
I was not fine.
I felt like, and essentially WAS a captive.
EXCEPT for the Wolf.
I did not even have my own set of keys to the apartment or the apartment building (once you were outside of the building, good luck getting in without a key), so it was impossible for me to leave and expect to be able to come back.
In fact, the only times I left the apartment or the apartment building was when he was available to drive me.
I sank into deeper and darker depression.
Daily I dreamed of slitting my wrists in a hot bath and leaving that cocksucker with the mess. Ultimately I decided not to go that particular route, as I could not imagine doing that to my dad and my brothers who lived all the way back in Kansas.
But, I digress.
I had lovely warm bath drawn for myself. As I soaked, my phone rang. It was still in the early days of cell phones, so my phone was a little silver flip phone (ha, remember those?). I had been chatting on the phone with a friend and my then-boyfriend/abuser was (unbeknownst to me) eavesdropping outside of my bathroom door (ours was a one-bedroom apartment with two baths).
I had locked the door, if for no other reason than I prefer my bath-time to be private. I have never had a very high self-esteem and I do not relish the thought of someone barging in while I am naked, regardless of who this person may be.
Apparently the door lock had no bearing upon the angry and delusional wolf who was eavesdropping outside of my bathroom door.
In fact, he was prepared to pick the lock.
When I ended my call, a sharp knock began to come from the other side of the door.
I shouted “WHAT??? I’m in the BATH.”
To which the growl came: “WHO THE FUCK WERE YOU ON THE PHONE WITH???!”
I shouted back to him: “Does it matter? I’m not your fucking wife. You don’t own me. Who I speak to on the phone is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.”
At which point, the doorknob began to shake and rattle as the Wolf snarled: “LET ME IN GODDAMNIT!!!!”
I began to get out of the bath at this point and weigh my options. I had no way out or away from the Wolf. I was wet and naked, AND I was completely fucked.
I began to reach for my towel when the door BURST open. The Wolf took his hands, planted them on my chest and shoved me backwards into the tub. I hit my head on the tile wall of the tub, the soothing aromatherapy candles I had been burning were now turned over into the tub, hot wax had spilled on and was burning my flesh.
The Wolf grabbed my phone and ran out of the bathroom with it.
I began to give chase, even though I was dizzy from my head getting knocked against the shower wall. I was still wet, still naked and I had finally found my anger. I slipped about the floor, trying to find my footing and was able to catch up to the Wolf and grab the neck of his shirt. His fist came ’round at me and I ducked, my grasp so tight on his shirt that as he tried to get away from me, the buttons on his shirt began to pop off and hit the walls and the floor. Eventually his shirt gave way and ripped into shreds.
This did not stop him from running out the door to the apartment shirtless, with my phone in his hand.
The shrieking, squabbling and blood-curdling screaming coming from our apartment had aroused the curiosity of our neighbors.
I locked the deadbolt on the apartment, deciding I would be damned if I was going to let that fucking asshole back in, whether he had my phone or not.
I heard one of our neighbors talking to the Wolf out in the hallway of our building, in a hushed tone of concern.
AND. I could hear the Wolf spinning a clever lie about what had taken place in our apartment.
I dried myself off, dressed my burns and clothed my body, praying that I would just die.
At that time I did not see any way out of my situation.
I collapsed onto the floor and cried.
I wished more than anything that my mother was alive because I really needed her voice; her guidance. (I was too fearful to tell my father anything about my situation. In hindsight, I was afraid of his disappointment…of looking as though I had failed.)
The Wolf made his way back into the apartment, and over the next few weeks proceeded to drive my self-esteem down even further with a menagerie of snarky comments about my appearance and my mental state: “Maybe you should get a haircut.” “You look as though you’ve gained a few pounds. Perhaps you should get a gym membership.” “That outfit looks terrible on you. Especially around the waist.” “You’re really, REALLY fucked up. You need to get therapy.”
And et cetera.
I wish I could say that this particular altercation was the end of my relationship with the Wolf, but sadly it was not. He strangled me a few months later (Yes, I did black out. I came to about ten minutes later.) and we eventually separated and I moved to New York to live with friends. I wish I could say that was the end of him. I was stupid enough to move with him once again about a year later, this time to Boston–so he could act out his narcissistic dream of being some big-shot graphic designer for Puma.
The emotional abuse continued.
Thankfully, the physical abuse did not.
One day, when he told me how fat and unattractive I was, I decided “Fuck this.”
I joined a gym.
I became physically stronger.
One day, when he told me for the umpteen-thousandth time that there was “something REALLY WRONG” with my mind and that I needed “professional help,” I said to myself once again “Fuck this.”
I sought out a therapist.
When I asked him to come to a therapy session with me, he begrudgingly agreed.
AFTER the session, he yelled at me on the street–one block from my therapist’s office, belittling me and telling me that I had tricked him into going to a place where I had planned to gang up on him with my therapist.
As usual, it was all my fault.
When he left me two days after I was a bridesmaid in his sister’s wedding, I was crushed. But it wasn’t because I would be losing him, no. In hindsight, I was crushed because, for so long, the Wolf had told me who I was, what I was, how I was.
I was terrified that I was ALL of those things and much, much worse.
But ya know what?
I turns out I wasn’t ANY of what he was projecting on to me.
I wasn’t the villain he had always made me out to be.
I wasn’t the stick in the mud he had always told me I was.
I wasn’t terrible for just wanting to stay in on a Friday night.
I wasn’t stupid.
I wasn’t crazy.
He tried SO hard to hold on to his control of me. He wanted to “remain friends,” even after I found out he had been fucking some twenty-something horse-faced blonde (whom he had met via his work) behind my back. This is the same twenty-something airhead he had left me for. (NO wonder I was never invited to any of his work soirees.)
One day, I grew the nerve to totally cut him out of my life.
I lost his number, I deleted and blocked him from all social media outlets, I deleted and blocked mutual friends of ours from social media outlets as well.
Just to get rid of him.
Eventually, I heard through the grapevine how “badly I had upset him” by cutting him out.
My mind began replaying all of the times he told me how I was a bad person and how I just cut people out of my life all the time for no good reason except for my stubbornness.
So. AM I a bad person for doing that?
Ya know what?
I don’t give a flying fuck.