I am in an abusive relationship, and I have been for seven years. That is over 1/3 of my life thus far. You might ask me why I’ve stuck around for so long, but the answer is that I do not know how to leave.
We’ve had our honeymoon periods, of course. The days where the sun shines a little brighter and the world looks beautiful and my heart is full of joy and I swear things are going to be okay. The times I can see the light within the dark. The times I think I will actually be okay. Unfortunately, those times don’t last forever.
Most of the time, he makes my life unbearable. He makes me miserable, but tells me that that misery somehow makes me special, makes me better.
He points out the worst in me and convinces me there is nothing good there. He reminds me each and every day that I am worthless, that I am nothing. He tells me that I do not deserve happiness. He tells me that I do not deserve love.
He alienates me from my friends. He convinces me to push anyone who cares about me away. He assures me that he is the only one I need, that I do not need anyone else in my life because he is enough for me; he should always be enough.
He is the cause of the bruises and the burns and the cuts. He is the reason behind the days where I am unable to get out of bed. He is the one who taught me how to lie: I tripped down the stairs; I got scratched by my cat; I am sick; I am okay.
When I was twelve, he taught me how to take the blades out of disposable razors. When I was fifteen we read a book that said Tylenol was the most painful overdose for suicide and we spent the next month collecting those little white pills of acetaminophen in a baggie. When I was seventeen, he stopped me from eating for an entire month and put me in and out of the hospital with nothing to show but the bruises that stained the needle broken veins barely hidden under my poor, grey, dehydrated wrists.
After that, we tried counseling for a while. Everyone assured me that it would make things better. They told me it would give me the courage to leave. We sat in the waiting room week after week for months, and we read National Geographic, and we made eye contact with no one. We sat in uncomfortable chairs and scanned the spines of books with titles I didn’t fully understand. We played Uno and drew pictures and he had me tell lie after lie after lie. I lost track of the number of times I swore I was okay.
That was two years ago.
We broke up for a while last year, and I thought I was okay. I thought I was finally free. Unhealthy relationships are like an addiction, though. You have to fight constantly, vigilantly, every day if you want to stay better, and I do not always know how to fight. It is a struggle to keep him out, and some days—most days—I lose. I succumb once again to his harsh words and the misery they bring with them. Most days I am still not happy.
I am in an abusive relationship with my depression, and no matter how many times I try to leave, he keeps coming back.
But I swear, I am okay.