How I Set Myself Free From My Abuser
5 essential things that helped me walk away and never go back
Four days ago, I received another message from him. He said he was coming to New York in two weeks and asked if I wanted to meet him. The last time we had any contact (that actually involved me responding to him) was over a year and a half ago when he called me the day before my graduation. I told him I was with my family and wasn’t up for having a conversation with him. Mentioning my family scared him off, so we hung up. That was the last time I talked to him, and the only reason why I picked up was because I didn’t recognize the number (I should’ve known).
After that, I graduated and started a new chapter in life. I got a job, started making money, and then followed my dreams and moved to New York City to get my master’s degree in journalism.
It’s been over two years since I walked away from him, but that didn’t make him stop contacting me, which he still does, even today, even though I stopped responding to any of his messages. I’m really not sure why he keeps trying, but at the same time I’m not surprised (he is, after all, a psychotic crazy person). For two years, I would always pick up whenever he called, no matter what time it was. I would always answer his messages and succumb to his abuse. He knew that whenever he snapped his fingers, I would come running. I was suffering like crazy, because I knew it was all wrong, I knew how he treated me wasn’t right, but I just wasn’t strong enough. My self-esteem was gone, I felt like the most unlovable person in the world and I didn’t believe that I could ever free myself from him, because every attempt was destroyed by his manipulative and controlling behavior.
So what changed? When did I finally say, “no more” (and actually mean it)?
1. Realizing that he’s wrong
It was a combination of different factors, and it wasn’t over night. The way it all started, though, was when I was offered the position of the News Editor of my school newspaper. I had worked as a regular news reporter for a little over a semester when I was approached about it. I always dreamed of becoming an editor one day, but I didn’t think I was good enough (thanks to the abuse and natural low self-confidence). So when I got this offer, I began to realize that he was wrong. He had told me that just because I was a girl, I would never be successful. “Women don’t belong in leadership positions,” he said. “Especially ugly women.” Yeah.. he was a real catch that guy.
Knowing that by working hard I could be successful motivated me. I started changing my attitude and set even higher goals for myself, such as becoming the Editor-in-Chief of the paper, and one day living in New York City.
Guess what. I achieved all those things, despite his comments that my major was useless and that I won’t have any success. He was obviously an ass for saying this to me, but he was also so damn wrong, and the more successful I was, the easier it was for me to realize that.
2. Being inspired by Michelle Obama
Well, who isn’t inspired by her, first of all? My mom had sent me a video of Michelle speaking to young girls at an event. She was talking about her experience with boys when she was younger, and then she said something that completely inspired me and has stuck with me ever since:
“There is no boy at this age that is cute enough or interesting enough to stop you from getting your education. If I had worried about who liked me and who thought I was cute when I was your age, I wouldn’t be married to the President of the United States today.”
Although she was obviously speaking to girls who were much younger than I was at the time, that quote still made so much sense to me. I was 22 years old, I was still young. I was definitely young enough to not let some guy side-track me, make me feel small and unworthy, and prevent me from reaching for the stars. I still have more than enough time to fall in love with someone who actually appreciates me and treats me the way I deserve to be treated. I started thinking, “who is he to tell me I’m worthless? Screw that. I’m gonna go and show him and the world what I can do.”
So during my last year in college, I was working harder than ever in my life. I was offered the Editor-in-Chief position a month and a half after I started my News Editor position. I worked for the campus TV station, the radio station, I flew to New York to attend the New York Times’ annual student editor workshop, and I won awards for my work as a student journalist. I did everything I planned to achieve in the beginning of the school year, and then some.
3. Blocking him on social media
This was probably one of the most crucial things that helped me stay away from him for good. Our relationship was on and off for about two years, which included deleting each other on Facebook, adding each other again, blocking his number and unblocking it again… back and forth and so on.
All of my friends kept telling me to block him everywhere and to keep him blocked, but anyone who has ever been in a similar situation like me knows that it’s easier said than done. I was able to block his number, but blocking him or even only deleting him on Facebook was harder for some reason. I guess it felt more final. So when we had yet another off phase about a year and a half in, I had at least worked myself up to the point where I was strong enough not to respond to his messages anymore. I still couldn’t bring myself to keeping his number blocked, but I was getting there. So one day I noticed he had deleted me on Facebook, and while that upset me to no end, I was still grateful. He deleted me, so I didn’t have to do it, and since we were no longer friends on there, it was so much easier to just hit the block button. That was the beginning of my road back to recovery.
I realized what kept me so wrapped around his finger was the constant exposure to him on social media. Once I didn’t have to fear seeing a post, or a snarky comment from him under one of my pictures, or seeing him flirt with another girl in the comments, I felt more at ease and it helped free my mind to focus on other things, such as my education and my career.
Even though he still finds ways to contact me (he even tried to add my mother on Facebook this time last year — like I said, psychopath), I’m proud of myself to have learned that responding to him won’t make me happy. I always regretted doing that in the past, because he would make me feel ugly and like a failure every time I gave in. I’m so much stronger now and I will never allow him to have any control over me, in any way, shape or form, ever again.
4. Distracting myself by staying busy
Now that he was blocked and deleted for good, I was able to focus on myself. I literally threw myself into work once I got promoted at the campus paper. I worked every weekend until late at night to make sure I was delivering my best work. I even took classes that weren’t requirements for my major to fill up my schedule and to allow me to learn as much as possible. I was serious about fulfilling my dream of moving to New York, and especially as a non-citizen in the US, I knew I had to work extra hard to be given a chance at a good job.
So I stayed focused on my dream and my work, and soon enough, I didn’t even have time anymore to think about him. I managed to finally go an entire semester without talking to him and it felt great. For the first time in almost three years, I felt free again and I was excited to start life post-graduation. And when he called me the day before graduation and I stupidly answered the phone, I didn’t care in the slightest that he hung up so quickly and we didn’t speak again. I threw my phone in my purse and went on with my day. It was f***ing empowering.
5. Accepting that this experience was meant to have a bigger purpose
So now, here we are. I obviously think about this period of my life a lot, and through my work in graduate school, where I serve other emotional abuse victims, I’m constantly reminded of him. I would lie if I said that I don’t get triggered a lot, and I’m not having a hard time sometimes. When someone tells you you’re stupid and ugly for two years, you eventually believe it, and teaching your brain to not believe those thoughts anymore is a long and challenging process.
Before I started grad school, though, I kept thinking about why this happened to me. Why did I have to go through this? Why couldn’t I have been one of the lucky ones and just found a guy who wasn’t a psychotic jerk?
Wouldn’t that be nice. Obviously, as you grow older, you realize that life is full of challenges. Everything that happens to you is supposed to teach you something. It’s up to you to make the best of it, to pick yourself back up and move forward.
So I accepted that this had to happen to me. I had to have this experience to find out what I want in life, and to give me the chance to believe in my dreams. Also, it gave me the opportunity to shine light on an issue that many are not educated in enough. Emotional abuse is still not talked about as much as it should, and I dedicated this past year to researching it and pass what I found on to other victims.
There is a silver lining in everything. I’m glad I found mine, and I hope I can now make a difference in the world and continue to follow my own journey. My heart is still healing, but I know that when the time is right, everything will fall into place. Along the way, I will keep learning and working hard and making my family and myself proud of my accomplishments.
Because I am, in fact, good enough ✌️.