It has taken me two years to write this article. Ten minutes of which were spent trying to calm the heart that was attempting to jump out of my chest. I felt frightened at my fingertips. What for? I had done nothing wrong. Yet, I was afraid of venturing into my dark past. That perhaps I would be brought back to battle the demons he had left me with.

My ex-boyfriend introduced me to the world of domestic violence. No one asks to come here.

I thank all those watching over me that he never laid a hand on me. There are much worse cases out there sadly. My ex, let’s call him Frank. He was one year older than me yet he never acted his age.

Entering the relationship I knew some things about his mental health. I believed I could handle it due to similarities with my father’s health. At first, things were fine. In fact, they were good. I felt safe, loved. He gave me security.

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Frank was a good guy. Eventually though, I began to see his flaws. I believe that a person should love you for all of your flaws. I couldn’t fully care for him though. His qualities were entirely toxic, it was very hard to see the good through such a thick layer of smoke. By spending so much time together, we were literally breathing each other. I would see what went on in his home behind the scenes. Frank treated his mother terribly. Always yelling at her and throwing a tantrum. In the beginning of our relationship, he never treated me this way. He was kind and treated me with respect.

Close to six months into the relationship things changed drastically. I had caught him cyber cheating on me and even before that his mental outlook changed. Frank became verbally abusive. First it was just a few comments here and there but, he didn’t stop. Something in his head was not clicking telling him this was wrong. He took on a controlling personality. If I tried to go home, he would threaten me with breaking up. I barely saw my family and friends. He couldn’t handle disagreements maturely.

I felt as if I was in a prison but, how could I be if he loved me?

My days became filled with insults on my intelligence, how I acted, my personality. I knew I wasn’t stupid, I come from a smart family background, I had good grades, I aspired to always look for more knowledge in new things. Frank picked apart every little piece of me. It felt as if he had grabbed a baseball bat and swung it at me, shattering my soul into millions of pieces. Every time he commented on me, it was as if he wasn’t satisfied with the pile of shards he had created and he needed them to be more broken. In a way, I allowed him to break my spirit. I lost my passion for writing, my bubbly spirit clung to me on threads.

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Shortly after our one year anniversary, we terminated our relationship. It didn’t take him very long to try to win me back. The day I told him “no” was the very day I regained my independence. My happiness came back. Friends told me they felt as if I had died and then was reborn. I felt free. Frank was no longer my burden and through time I learned that while we still had the good memories, he was a person who could never change. People come into your life for a reason and he taught me that I allowed people to take advantage of me. Everyone makes mistakes and this is one I do not plan to repeat. Frank may have battled with my soul but I won the war.

Now over 2 years since taking back my life, I hope to encourage others to fight for their independence. No one should ever control who you hang out with, where you go, or what you do with your life. Be yourself. What I have done in this time period I admit did not happen all at once. Frank and I tried to be friends. He still tries but I have completely blocked him out of my life. One thing he did well was pretend to care for me. Frank still has feelings for me but, we can never be. One thing I can promise those who are hurting by domestic violence is that there is someone so much better for you out there. I boosted my self esteem on my own because I wanted to. It was something I felt I had to do, although I can’t deny special people in my life did help me along my journey. I can never repay them for their kind words and acts toward me. Every day I am grateful for those who lent me their shoulder and allowed me to see the beautiful woman in the mirror.

Frank’s actions still scar my soul but he can no longer harm me. I am much greater than him and  my past. That’s what Frank is, the past.

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If you are involved in domestic violence, I hope that you too can regain your freedom and learn to accept yourself. Nothing is your fault. I always felt like I was causing his anger, his insults. He can’t taint my being anymore. Finally I can look in the mirror and say that I was a victim of domestic violence, now I am a fighter. I have worked hard to be where I am and I know that others can do it too.

If you need help, contact The National Domestic Violence hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). They are available 24/7.