#IAmASurvivor are stories from women of all walks of life, telling their stories of survival. Everybody is a survivor and all stories deserve to be told. These stories are all in their own words.
Hey! My name is Stephanie and I’m 20 years old. Today, I’ll be writing about my past abusive relationship and my journey to the person I am today. This is still quite raw for me, as the relationship ended only in January. TRIGGER WARNINGS: cheating, mental, emotional, and physical abuse, trauma bonds, Stockholm syndrome
So it started by meeting a boy off Tinder, who we shall call James, in October of my first year of university. All of September I had struggled to make meaningful connections with people to be friends with them, I had a handful of people I knew and was friendly with, but nobody who had my back 100%. I met James October 16th, and from that day on basically we were inseparable. I instantly felt a pull to him, I right away felt comfortable in his company, safe and protected. We got along very well, we had things in common, but enough differences that gave us things to talk about. He is very strong, and works out a lot, so I felt that he could protect me. He was the first boy I’d ever been in a serious, long term relationship with, thus being the only boy I had ever loved.
By October of 2018, a year after we met, we moved in together. I was so excited, it was going to be a sleepover every night with my best friend! The man I loved and wanted to be with forever. We had a 3 bedroom basement suite, and we eventually got 3 cats, Suki, Olivia, and Lila. I love those babies and now they live with me. The apartment wasn’t my choice but I had such high hopes for this place. I loved going out and buying decor for it, and although it wasn’t the grandest of places, it was mine and his and that’s all that mattered to me.
He first got physically abusive one weekend in December, the 8th to be exact. It was a Friday and we had got into an argument, I had kicked him off the bed and broken his glasses. Now, nobody come at me for that because I knew it was wrong the exact moment I did it. I regret it deeply now, and spent a lot of time that day apologizing for it. We ended up fighting and he pushed me into a wall, breaking the drywall, and doing some other kind of wrestling stuff to kick my legs out from under me. All throughout December he was telling me that he, “felt numb,” and, “didn’t know” if he loved me. He said he felt nothing for anybody, that he had no empathy for me. He didn’t care about me at all basically. I’m the type of person to really sympathize with people suffering from mental illnesses, and this was textbook depression to me. Although I’m not a doctor, I broached the subject with him and he agreed to go and see a doctor, who eventually prescribed Prozac for him to take. It didn’t take effect until January.
And by then it was just too late.
He cheated on me on December 26th, and texted me the next day saying that he and I weren’t compatible, and that he felt such a strong connection with this girl, we will call her Amanda. He was leaving me for her. She wasn’t interested and he did absolutely everything he could to make her so. I was in love with this man still and he had made me believe that he needed to act out, but would eventually come back to me. He told me he wanted to sleep with 50 women. That he didn’t want to be tied to someone. I thought he just needed to be crazy for a bit, that he missed being single. In reality, he just didn’t love me. When Amanda found out that he had cheated on me with her, he got me to lie to her and tell her I didn’t, stating, “If you really love me you will...”. He also frequently used, “You’ll never see me again if you don’t...”. He would threaten me by saying if I didn’t do what he asked, he would ghost me. Of course this terrified me, I honestly thought that having a piece of him was enough. Yeah, maybe he cheated and didn’t actually ever love me, but getting a blank snap off him was enough right?
We had arguments all through December, and he would push me every time. I had bruises the size of my whole arm. For me though, the hardest part to get over was the emotional bruising I had. It was hard to get out of bed. We continued to talk the whole time, we never had a no contact period. He invited me to go with him for New Years Eve. He had periods of wanting me so badly, followed by periods of pushing me away so violently. That’s where the trauma bonding comes in.
I knew that if I stuck it out, and lived through the ugly moments, the sun would come out again and I would be rewarded for staying.
He would rub my feet, and scratch my back, make me cups of tea, and watch Netflix with me. I got to the point that sitting with my boyfriend and watching a show on Netflix was such a treat, a reward, because at least he was spending time with me, right? We might have been watching a show I didn’t care about, cuddling uncomfortably, with my arm throbbing from him grabbing it, but he would pet my head and kiss me and show me affection, so that was enough. He wasn’t calling me a c***, or blaming me for things I had no control over, or calling me annoying. I was getting to be with the love of my life.
After he cheated, my parents and sister found out about everything. I told them all about how he treated me, and they refused to let me live there any longer. For two days when I was supposed to drive back there from my parents house where I was for Christmas, I couldn’t go. I was physically nauseous for the entire two weeks I was there after I found out about him and Amanda. I threw up in the morning of Friday and Saturday, when I was supposed to travel home. I was only okay going on Sunday because my parents came with me, and my sister and her boyfriend met us there. My family walked in and took all my stuff out my house that day, and I went to stay with my sister. And that was the end of my almost one year relationship. I moved out on January 8th, and our first anniversary was January 20th.
For weeks after I would just burst into tears, I still do sometimes. It hurts a lot knowing that somebody could do that to someone else. I used to trust easily, and trust that the person people portrayed themselves to be was their real, genuine self. I used to think of this as a super power, something that made me who I was. It’s definitely harder to think that was now, and I don’t. I was unhappy in the relationship before he cheated, but I honestly thought we were both coming from a place of love, that we could fix it.
It isn’t all bad though. I’ve started antidepressants, which I realize now I should have been on probably about 5 years ago, but definitely when I first came to university. I rent my own apartment, and my baby kittens get to live with me here. My grades in school have gone up, and I’m more independent. I obviously don’t think that cheating is ever the answer, ever. In my situation it kind of jolted my system. I thought I deserved to be pushed into the walls, and I didn’t see the manipulation for what it was, I wore rose coloured glasses. They were abruptly ripped off by him cheating. I might have loved him and thought he could do no wrong, and wasn’t doing any of this to hurt me, but there was no way he could have sex with another woman and not hurt me. It was a hard slap in the face, but it 100% got my butt into gear.
I credit my family 110% for getting me out of the situation. I never would have left if it wasn’t for them.
Although they had never dealt with a situation like this with one of their daughters, they seemed to know exactly what I needed. My mum’s hugs dried so many of my tears, her copious cups of tea she made me, even small things like offering to call in late to work so I could cry to her in the morning. My dad is much more honest, but it worked. He gave me hugs as well, but the comments about James being a dick and my dad stating just how angry he was, really enforced to me that my feelings were not wrong, that I should have been feeling this way. My sister is a social worker, and so she gave me both anger and compassion, but she really helped enforce that my feelings weren’t wrong. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t angry, I could be sad and it didn’t matter. Her boyfriend offered me immense compassion as well, letting me sleep on their couch in their basement and feeding me, and telling me to make myself at home for as long as I needed.
So, that was my story. If you or someone you know is experiencing something similar, or have any questions, dm me on instagram, @stephdickerson_, and I’ll answer them as soon as possible. Thanks for reading this. #ImASurvivor
If you would like to connect with Stephanie on Instagram, click here.
For resources and help for domestic violence, please click the following links:
Global resources 1- mysticmag.com
Global resources 2- domesticshelters.org