Sometimes, I still find it hard to speak up about the abusive relationships I was in. As if thinking about them, writing about them, talking about them might still give them power or take up too much space in my life. Sometimes, I feel like sharing these stories might tip people off to who they are and that might give someone a bad impression of them. Then I remember that is freaking ridiculous. As The Goddess Anne Lamott says, people really should behave better if they didn’t want us to write about them. My hope, is that, by sharing my own stories, even just one other person finds a new freedom and a new happiness and knows they are not alone. So often, abuse is portrayed as something violent. It is a female being hit over the head and dragged away into a dark alley. That was never my experience at all. I always knew the person. Sometimes the person wasn’t even an adult, or male. It never felt violent or chaotic and this added a lot of confusion to sorting things out. It took a really long time. Years in fact for me to put together details. I think I’m still putting together details. I’m a slow learner. So slow that some of the stuff I know, I still haven’t actually learned. It is my believe that my history of sexual trauma played a giant role in the abusive, romantic relationships I found myself in over and over again. I used that as my base of how I was suppose to be treated, anything else I thought could be overlooked.
My first year of college, I thought I found the love of my life. We found out that we grew up one town over from each other and he was very supportive on the first anniversary of a friend dying. We made plans to get married. That is, we made plans to get married because he told me over and over again that I should marry him because no one else would ever put up with me and if I didn’t I would be alone for the rest of my life. He would call me terrible names and make comments about my weight, knowing full well I was struggling with an eating disorder. He also did not believe in spousal rape. He believed that, since we made a commitment to each other, if he was in the mood to have sex, I was not allowed to say no. I remember one night very clearly. I said no, he had at me anyway. I spent the whole time looking at the ceiling of my dorm room, not even really looking, just zoning out. He got up, looked at me and said, ‘I didn’t rape you’. I spent the rest of the day in what felt like a fog. I remember he sent one of his friends to check on me, I didn’t open the door. He pleaded with me to talk to someone. We eventually called it off. It was messy and he spent the next year trying to get me to cry because he thought I had no emotions. Even brought my roommate into it, claiming they had slept together. I threw myself into school, theatre, everything I could to stay busy and away from him. I’m not surprised that every semester I took extra classes, was involved in 4 plays, gave campus tours, and was an RA. I needed a distraction and school had always been it for me. Grades and clubs had always been my way of showing off just how ‘fine’ everything was. I graduated with a 4.0.
I spent 3 years of my life with someone who I stayed with despite having evidence of being cheated on. I almost was engaged to someone who was so charming it is still hard to pin point how he was controlling me. I just knew I could feel the pieces of myself being chipped away. I have been with people who have admitted that they have only said they loved me because they just weren’t ready to be single. People who have threaten to throw me down the stairs. I have been told I was a black hole in their lives. I have spent a month being screamed at non-stop. I stopped talking because I was so sure that if I even breathed wrong I would be on the floor bleeding. I stopped making eye contact with anyone. At the end of relationships, instead of the problems being about the two of us, almost every time I have had my mental health come into question as reason for why we aren’t working.
At one point I loved each of these people. I saw the good in them. I knew how good the relationship could be and that hope made me stay much longer than most people would. I have more hope than other people would I think. Relationships are work and I know that. I also know that relationships should not be this kind of work. Relationships should not be the kind of work where, in public everything looks great, but in private it is Hell. Relationships should not be where,your darkest thoughts include hoping your bruises turn out to be physical so there is proof of what is happening. They should not include being afraid to make a choice because the person you are with mind’s changes so much. Or being afraid to communicate openly because their is a mine field of things they find to be ‘red flags’ and triggers but gives no warning to what will set them off.
While I do not excuse all of this, I also know that I have played a role in these relationships. If the common factor in this is me, I have to take responsibility and look at what it is that I am doing. What is happening that I am continuing to put myself in these relationships? Why am I willing to walk myself into these battlefields over and over again? I know on some level, I am more comfortable being treated this way. To someone who has never been in the abuse cycle, they would not understand. For me, when people have been nice, it is because they want something, or are making up for something, or are tricking me. I learned not to trust nice. That good intentions are not intended for good. I also know that I teach people how to love me. Silence, not saying no, caving in after being pushed enough are all ways I have taught these people how to love me. I am learning how to love myself differently. I am learning how to love things I love differently. I am finding things I enjoy doing. I am filling the silence. I am taking up as much space as I want to. Somedays that space is more than others. I’m not taking back the pieces of myself that were taken from me. I don’t want them back. I’m making myself new pieces. Ones that are entirely my own. I am a Forever Work In Progress. Somedays I go about this gently. Somedays I go about this with a rage that sparked creation.

Katie is in a long-term identity crisis so she can be often found not responding to her name at all. Hey, Bitch usually works though. While she is built like a husky 12-year-old boy, be cautious, she is not lying (for once) about her ability to piss people off with her way of thinking. A high school boyfriend once made her a mixtape that included ‘Black Magic Woman’ and she was flattered. Her hobbies are directly borrowed from a Jane Austen spinster and yet she still believes she is entitled to a life partner, or at least someone who will keep her in an attic until she sets the house on fire. She has a real book being published with Eliezer Tristan Publishing.