This time last year, I was in what I thought was a wonderful relationship. Only now, in hindsight, can I look back and recognize all of the warning signs. But that's usually how things work out, right? Only until the final events unravel are you able to see the holes.
The night that left me with temporary bruises on my face, yet permanent scars on my heart, began as a regular night out with friends. It was a weeknight, so I had limited my drinking to a single beer, while he was a bit more rebellious with his consumption. We get home and start arguing over something that I now can't even remember, which would be humorous to me if the events that followed weren't so traumatizing.
We had our tiffs before, just like every other couple, but something was different this time -- his eyes were cold and filled with hatred. He had a look on his face that I had never seen before, and he was pacing back and forth across the room like a lion in a cage. And suddenly, the cage door opened.
My mind has blocked out a lot of the minute details, which I'm grateful for. I can only imagine what the nightmares that followed afterward would have been like had I remembered everything. But what I do remember -- being slammed into the wall, his hands around my neck -- has been ingrained into my memory and will be something that I will carry with me forever.
While he was choking me, even as my body grew weak, I suddenly had a surge of adrenaline, turned, and bit his arm. I was able to finally get away and sprint over to my neighbor's apartment. She had heard my screams and already had the door open to usher me in. I was shaking from pure fear, blood dripping from my busted lip, and bruises already starting to make their appearance. He banged on the door, threatening to call the cops and file an assault charge against me if I didn't come back home. Yes, me assaulting him. My neighbor asked if I wanted to call the cops against him. No, I said. I wanted to steer away from as much confrontation as possible, and though I would have never admitted it to myself, I still loved him and would never want any harm to come to him.
Current me still wants to smack past me upside the head for that. Because while I was being noble, he was busy calling the cops, who then came to my apartment and took both of us downtown. It didn't matter that the neighbor told them she heard me screaming, nor did it matter that the only marks he had was merely a bite mark on his arm, while I looked like I had just got done playing a game of tackle football, sans padding. I spent the next two days in a cell, surrounded by true criminals -- prostitutes, drug dealers, thieves. I didn't eat or sleep, just sat on the cold bench and cried. All I wanted to do was go home and curl up on the couch with Jacob*. It didn't matter what happened, it was a fluke, and something that our love could get past. I was scared and wanted to be held and to be told that everything was going to be okay.
And it was. Eventually.
The judge gave us each a restraining order, no contact whatsoever. And honestly, if it wasn't for legally being unable to contact him, I probably would have. Even though what he did to me was unforgivable, I kept making excuses for him -- he was drunk, he wasn't in the right mindset, etc. But the truth of the matter is there is no excuse for it, and if it happens once, it'll more than likely happen again.
And even though the ending was traumatizing and abrupt, I still had to mourn the loss of a relationship, just like any other breakup. Yet, I was embarrassed to even mention to my friends, or even my therapist, that I still cared deeply for him. How stupid am I? I thought to myself. He literally beat the crap out of me, yet I still care for him? If I thought I was being ridiculous, I could only imagine what my friends would think. I could picture their puzzled faces if I had revealed my true feelings, so I kept it to myself, which, for someone in my state, was definitely not healthy.
I still cried in the shower, cried myself to sleep, cried when our Sunday night shows came on and I had to watch them alone. Of course my friends were there for me, helping me deal with the physical abuse aspect, but they were in the dark when it came to the breakup part of it. And instead of reaching out for help, I held it in because I was ashamed.
Eventually, just like all breakups, the wounds healed, though not nearly as quickly as the bruises he left. It took several months before I felt "okay," and several more before I was "fine." The nightmares eventually stopped, my anxiety attacks lessened, and I finally was able to let go of my love for him, and have even cared for others since.
Domestic violence is one of those things that's impossible to understand unless you've been there, and if you're going through it, it's impossible to understand because you're so damn scared and confused. Though I would never support going back to someone after they hit you, I do recognize the difficulty of leaving them and the emotional toll that it takes (and mine was fairly simple, given that no children were involved). You have to allow yourself to be sad, there is no shame in that. Your feelings didn't disappear the second that he laid a hand on you.
Eventually, everything will be okay. It's been a year, and once again, I'm happy. It may not be because I'm in a loving relationship, but I don't need that. I'm strong.
Have you ever known anyone that was involved in domestic violence?
Image via manoj damodaran/Flickr
*Name changed for privacy purposes