When I met the man who would become my abuser, he swept me off my feet. He was a very well-known figure in the hip little part of town, an extremely talented and popular guitarist, heavily tattooed and friends with all the tattooers. When we would go out, everyone knew him, even complete strangers would recognize him and strike up conversation. I immediately went from an unpopular transplant from Indiana to an overnight socialite. He was a southern gentleman, opened every door, pulled out my chair at dinner, lit my cigarettes, and put me on a pedestal so high that I felt like a Disney princess. I didn’t know that it was even possible to feel the things I was feeling towards another human being. I was beyond smitten and we married very quickly.
My abuser hit me for the first time 3 months after we married and nothing was ever the same.The cops were called because he was brazen enough to smack me in the face and push me to the ground in a crowded room of people. He took off running. I gave my story to the police as best I could. I was scared and confused. My whole world had come crashing down. He wasn’t arrested because when they sent an officer by our home, he wasn’t there, so I was sent home to ultimately deal with the situation. A week later they finally came back to take him to jail, however at that point the incident had diffused and I immediately went into panic mode because I was afraid that his arrest would just lead to another incident, so I retracted everything I had said in my statement and told them I was drunk and really didn’t remember what had happened, and he was ultimately let go without ever even seeing a judge.
One thing people need to understand is that victims of abuse will often defend their abusers because:
- We really do love them.
- We’re afraid of what may happen if we do not.
On top of that, isolation is an abuser’s best friend. My paychecks were direct deposited into his account, which I had no access to. We shared a vehicle that I could only drive when permitted. Through constant verbal and emotional abuse he convinced me that my family hated me and that the people I considered friends would never be my friends if they knew the real me. That is why, despite being hit more times than I can count (pushed to the ground, slammed into walls, choked to the point of blacking out, having my sternum dislocated, my ears screamed in to the point of permanent hearing damage, numerous phones, laptops, and clothing destroyed, and even a gun shot at me), I stayed. The fear of the unknown and the complete loss of self-worth kept me trapped for over two years.
I finally escaped one night after 7 months of asking for a divorce. My husband had found some text messages where I was expressing my desires to be done with the relationship and completely lost it. He held me hostage in our apartment for over 6 hours and I had truly come to terms with the fact that I was going to die that night. But through some type of luck, I got out of the apartment, got help, and never went back.
My abuser always said if I ever left him, he’d make sure I couldn’t show my face in Atlanta ever again, and he sure lived up to his promise. I’ve heard so many things about myself that I never knew I did. He continued his isolation tactic to everyone I had ever known or even met, telling whatever contrived story he could think of to manipulate the listener into believing that he was justified in what he did to me, and it worked. I lost basically every friend I had ever made in this city. I have unfinished tattoos because local tattooers (who I also considered friends) chose the side of an abuser. I can’t walk into any bar I used to go to without getting dirty looks. I’ve met new people who have realized shortly into conversation who I am and blown me off.
The culmination of the whole situation and everything following led me to a pretty severe drinking problem and the darkest depression of my life. I was hopeless and alone and forced to go on government assistance just to get by, meanwhile my husband’s life was continuing on as if nothing happened. I reluctantly checked myself into a 6-week program at a nationally-recognized stress center because I knew I was going to kill myself if I didn’t get help. Everyone already hated me for who they thought I was. I didn’t see a point to my life anymore.
Luckily treatment was an incredibly wonderful and freeing experience. I was ultimately diagnosed with not only clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder (which I had been suffering from for years) but also Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. At first, PTSD was a very hard diagnosis to accept. How could I possibly be suffering from the same affliction as soldiers of war? There’s no way we’re on the same level. But the truth is that we are very much the same. I was living in a war zone in my home: A place that is supposed to be safe and loving. And the night that I was convinced I would die broke something within me. Once I accepted PTSD as a part of me, I truly began my uphill climb to self-acceptance.
My battle is definitely not over though. I am still getting reacquainted with myself. After losing every piece of myself at a very formidable age, I have to completely rediscover who I am, and that is proving to be a very difficult thing for me. I am still relearning how to socialize with people after being isolated for so long. It’s still hard to go out in public because of the fear I have of who I may run into. I still struggle very very deeply with my anger over the whole thing. But I have figured out a few truths that I protect fiercely in my life:
- I never ever deserved any of those things that happened to me. Despite my shortcomings, failures, and missteps, I never deserved to be abused in any way.
- I will never allow anyone to treat my life with so little regard ever again, nor will I sit idly by and watch it happen to anyone else. I will be a voice for someone who doesn’t have one because I know how desperately I had hoped for that voice in my darkest times.
- I deserve nothing short of respect, kindness, devotion, and compassion and work daily to project those qualities out into the world.
- I am so so SO worth loving.
Written and loved on by Nikki