A Relatable Tale, #MeToo.
I was 14. He was 19.
For some reason it was allowed to happen. It shouldn’t have.
I wanted to escape my home, he provided that escape.
It was easy. It was fun. It was nice to feel wanted. Until it wasn’t any more.
I would love to tell you I ignored the signs from the beginning and I should have known, but that would be a lie. I am all about honesty and that is what you will hear. My truth.
Casual dating slowly turned into a relationship. During that slow progression into a relationship, it also was a slow progression into abuse.
See, I was young and clearly uneducated. In my head abuse meant they hit you. Abuse meant there were marks you had to work to hide. I did not know abuse included mental abuse that scared the soul. Now I know. Then I did not.
I worked at Steak n Shake starting at 15 years old. I worked as much as I could, attended college classes in addition to high school, I rode horses 2 days a week and I ran cross country and track. I was incredibly busy, but in my spare time I made time for my then boyfriend.
Maybe I was too busy to see the progression. Maybe I should have seen it happening, but I didn’t.
I didn’t have very many good friends. Really, I only hung out with maybe 2 people. They saw from the outside what looked like us becoming more serious. I was young. I didn’t know what was normal and what wasn’t normal.
How would I have known? I was just a kid.
I graduated high school and left my home. I left fast. Honestly thinking really hard back, I don’t think I had fully graduated before I was moving my things out of my parents house. I had transferred to a work location closer to his parents home and continued to work endless hours, ride horses and go to college. I picked up a work student program at my barn I rode at because I then owned a horse. I worked to help pay off farrier bills and feed.
I was still busy, but not nearly as busy. Yet I was drifting from my family.
I didn’t see my friends and family nearly at all. I was either working, riding or I was with my boyfriend.
You would think at 17/18 years old I would feel accomplished. I was almost finished my associates degree, I had a horse, I was a great rider, I had a decent income and stable job, I looked like I was in the best shape of my life.
However, by this time that slow progression of mental abuse was full swing.
I was constantly being ridiculed by how much food I ate (hellllo high metabolism- 5'9" and 135 pounds). Yet despite being a twig, I was constantly being told I was going to get fat by eating a third slice of pizza once a week.
One Thanksgiving I was told I shouldn’t get ‘that many potatoes’ with an intense glare. Right in front of my family.
He would show up at my work ‘to make sure I made it okay’, yet I only worked 5 miles away.
Coworkers would see his car circle the parking lot during my shift, but he wouldn’t come in. When I would ask about it, I was told ‘he was making sure I was actually working’.
I was told what I was going to be doing instead of asked. If something took a few minutes longer than he thought it should have, there were accusations and names being called.
When he knew he pushed it too far, gifts and trips would be given. It was a nasty cycle. One that too many are familiar with.
I had tried to leave a few times only to be told how no one could possibly love me. No one would treat me better than he did. Again, I was a child, I was clueless and I definitely didn’t know what love was.
One day I decided I was done. This was clearly not love. I couldn’t deal with it any more. I walked in the room, told him I was packing my things and leaving. It was such a spur of the moment thing I could only pack so many things in my little car.
I got home and was welcomed with a ‘I dont know where you will stay’. My aunt jumped in and took me in.
I finally felt a sense of freedom. I could make friends and do things without needing permisson. One friend after some time turned into dating. Casual dating, but dating none the less.
My ex? He caught wind. He couldn’t cope. He broke.
He would show up at my work and ask for me. My coworkers would have me go in the back and have him leave saying I ran to the bank. He would drop off letters and cards. When all of this went unanswered and he knew I was really gone this time, he snapped.
Remember how I said I left in a rush? Well, apparently I left things behind I didn’t realize were gone.
I got a text one afternoon that said:
‘Looks like I have your social security number. That means I have enough information to be Nicole Raymond and fly to France if I want to’.
I froze. Would he really stoop so low as to steal my identity? Maybe. I couldnt risk it.
I had the police escort me to his home and have my things gathered from his house.
After this night things got even worse.
He lied to all of our mutual friends telling them I cheated on him. Turning as many people as he could against me. Threatening messages would come across my Facebook. I would see him driving and he would u-turn just to follow me into places. He would show up at the person I was datings work to antagonize him, to the point the General Manager banned him from coming into the store.
For 2 full years this happened. 2 years I got weird letters, Facebook messages and creepy encounters in public.
All because I left a toxic relationship in which I was being mentally abused.
Did it stop when I left? No.
Strength and incredible support kept me from completely loosing my mind those years. I would be lying if I said it didn’t scar me, because it did. I would be lying if I told you that when I go to visit my dad I am not overly hypervigilant. I would be lying that even 4 states away sometimes I am not looking over my shoulder in public and double taking cars that drive by that look like his did.
Getting out was HARD. It was mentally taxing, but it was worth it.
You are worth it.
“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” -Elizabeth Edwards