I've never really considered myself a relationship person. Yeah, there have been brief flings over the years but I'm young and not trying to settle down anytime soon, so why have something holding me back? But early in my college career I met a boy in class; a cute but very unavailable boy who would eventually change these opinions for me. We had a lot in common and hit it off but due to the aforementioned unavailability, the quarter ended and other than the occasional crossing of paths and brief hellos, we didn't see much of each other. Fast forward a year and we find our paths crossing much more frequently and in the wake of his newly single relationship status, quickly became close friends. The school year ended and we left for the summer, but stayed in nearly constant communication. Our relationship eventually grew from friends to more, and he asked me out for when we returned that August. And from that very first date, I was hooked. I'd always heard people say they knew from the first date that they had found ‘the one’ but never believed it could actually happen like that until that night. I walked away from that date thinking "That's it, I'm done. It's him." We became instantly inseparable, spending nearly every moment together. We fit together perfectly and understood each other. I fell for him. Hard. And it was perfect. At the beginning.
Slowly, he started to tighten the reins. He told me I wasn't allowed to see certain friends anymore, wasn't allowed to go to certain parties, and made me feel guilty about wanting to spend time with friends instead of just him. He was controlling and manipulated my emotions to constantly maintain the upper hand. Whenever I protested, excuses were made and I was blamed. "I'm sorry, I just care about you too much" and "It's not my fault, I just have trust issues." He was broken, but he made me feel things I had never felt before, he was my person, so I wanted to fix him. I had never cared about and loved someone as much as I did him, and I couldn't possibly imagine my life without him. I felt more comfortable with him than even some of my closest friends and told him things I’d never been able to tell anyone before. Yeah, we fought and yelled and cried and broke up more times than I can count, but when it was good, it was really good. He always came back, so I just pretended I didn't see the bad things, cause that's what love is, right? Not seeing the flaws in people? But eventually he decided he didn't want to be with me anymore, and he left for good. And I was destroyed.
I have never felt emotional pain manifest itself so physically. It felt like I was literally being ripped from the inside out. I honestly didn't know if I could survive feeling that way. So I turned to running. Pushing my body to the point that the ache in my legs and burning in my lungs was more than the emotional pain I was feeling helped me stay sane. He tried to stay in my life as a friend with promises of getting back together once he was in a better place, and at first I agreed in hopes it would help dull the pain and that maybe he really would take me back eventually. But as the miles added up and the pain subsided, I began to see things more clearly. I wasn't in love with him, I was addicted to him. I was so reliant on him for my happiness that I couldn't see how unhealthy our relationship was or how much damage he was doing to me. By letting him continue to be a part of my life, I was letting him feed my addiction and continue to have control over me. When he left, it destroyed my self-confidence and my trust in people and I couldn’t let him continue to do that. I felt like I deserved it and that I wouldn’t ever be enough for someone. And I felt stupid. I had mistaken manipulation, hypocriticism and anger as passion and devotion. But as I look back on my accomplishments since then, like training for and running my first half-marathon, and what all I have to look forward to, I see how much I’ve grown and how much better off I am now.
It’s easy to know why I didn’t share this on social media. Instagram is a highlight reel of moments, and this was a journey, one that I’m still on. It took a long time to come to terms with what I went through and to admit that the relationship I was involved in was in fact an abusive one. There is such a stigma around abusive relationships and no one thinks it will affect them until it does. From the outside perspective, it seems so easy to leave, but I was oblivious to it until it was too late and the damage had been done. But I also think I didn’t share this publicly because I wanted to ‘win’ in a sense. I wanted him to see me having a great time, being successful and carefree. I wanted to make him jealous and think that I was not only better off without him, but better than him, even though I didn't believe it myself at the time. It was exhausting feeling the need to cultivate a perfect public image in order to convince someone who was the source of my pain that I was ok, even though I wasn’t. I didn’t want to appear weak or vulnerable, which is why I believe most people don’t share tough experiences on social media. But if we had the courage to be vulnerable and open about our struggles, we would see that we aren’t alone. It took me a long time to come to terms with what I went through, and still not a day goes by that I don’t think about it, about him, but by putting it out in the open, I hope to give girls who have gone through similar situations the courage to talk about and accept their experience.