WHY I DON'T TALK ABOUT MY ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP

I hated writing this and I am very scared to publish it. If you follow me here and know me irl, please understand that I am trusting you to be kind with my feelings and not share this shit with our mutual friends. Thanks.
  1. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship from Jan 2014-Jan 2015.
    I'm approaching one year since the relationship ended, an anniversary I feel warrants a complicated kind of celebration.
  2. To this day I have trouble talking about specifics, how this relationship made me feel/how it affected my life, or naming my ex as an abuser with people who also know him.
    When the relationship first ended, I had no vocabulary for what happened to me. I talked about my ex in weird ways at weird times with anyone I thought I could trust. It took a while to be able to name the relationship as abusive. Even a year later, I am much more likely to talk shit or gossip about "my terrible ex" than speak honestly about the abuse.
  3. Someday I will be brave enough (or feel safe enough) to unpack specifically what that year of my life was like.
    But briefly: for the last 6 months we were together, I had daily panic attacks when he would pick fights with me about the various ways I was a bad partner (because of choices I made about my appearance, because he didn't like my friends, because I wanted to go to parties & drink alcohol sometimes, because I didn't understand his creative process, or, most often, because my anxiety disorder was impossible for him to deal with). I lost 15 pounds and stopped seeing my friends.
  4. This list is an attempt to answer a lot of questions and explain a lot of things for myself and other people.
    The biggest question I get from other people is probably "why did you stay?" or "why didn't you tell me while it was happening?" Both questions often come from genuine concern, but also misunderstand fundamentally how abuse works. One year out, my biggest question is "why is this still so hard?" So this list is part trying to answer all those questions, trying to educate people, trying to express solidarity for anyone who is/has been there, and trying to be brave and do the things that scare me.
  5. I am a huge believer in honesty and vulnerability. I am a compulsive over-sharer. This relationship is the one thing that has had the biggest effect on the past two years of my life. Why is this still so hard to be open about?? Well:
  6. We exist in the same community, and I am afraid that things will get back to him.
    Not only are we students at the same university, we work together and share many mutual friends as part of an extracurricular that neither of us are willing to give up.
  7. It's more than people are usually prepared to talk about.
    Everyone wants to hear bad ex partner stories, but no one really knows what to do if you bring up trauma in a previously casual conversation.
  8. Most people who knew us never realized anything was wrong.
    Good relationships and abusive ones start the same way (otherwise no one would get into them). At the start of our relationship I was happy and in love with someone who shared my interests and sense of humor. My roommates and my mom were the only ones who saw that change up close—everyone else had no way of knowing when things got bad, because I was too ashamed and scared to tell them.
  9. I don't remember most of that year.
    Honestly, the year I was with him remains a blur. I do not have many specific memories both because I was doing the same thing all the time (crying, fighting, hating myself, spending time with only him) and, I suspect, because it's just easier for my brain not to remember. Trauma works in weird ways.
  10. He broke up with me.
    I never chose to "get out." He dumped me and when he did, I was devastated and wanted him back.
  11. I "should have known better."
    I'm a smart person, a feminist, and am literally pursuing a career in education about healthy relationships and sexuality. Before my ex and I ever even met, I knew the warning signs for emotional abuse, I knew how common it was, I knew that it is never the fault of the victim, etc. But it's hard to see things when you're in them.
  12. Narratives are complicated.
    "Abuse victim," "trauma survivor," "dating violence"—all these words have complicated meanings attached. It's hard and scary and sometimes feels disingenuous to try to match up my life to the stories these terms imply. Sometimes I feel like I don't want to put myself in these boxes, or like I don't have a right to claim these terms.
  13. My problems seem trivial in comparison to those of others.
    He never physically hurt me and I never feared he would. How do I navigate the narrative that comes with "abuse victim" if all he did was make me FEEL like shit?
  14. It is shockingly easy to convince myself that the abuse didn't happen.
    There are many excuses available: he had a difficult childhood and that is not his fault, I behaved in ways that I am not proud of when I was with him, sometimes relationships are just fucked up but that doesn't make me special or give me some right to make up stories of trauma, or, most insidiously, that I deserved to be treated that way anyway.
  15. I am scared.
    Of exactly what, it is hard to say. I never feared for my physical safety. But I was still afraid all the time—that no one liked me, that he would leave me, that people would find out how he was treating me and judge our relationship, that I was crazy. My body remembers this feeling, and for a while I could not see him without having a panic attack. It is easier now, but sometimes the fear still creeps up on me.
  16. And the biggest one: I am ashamed.
    After a while, I stopped telling my best friends & even my therapist about our fights because whenever I had a little distance from the situation, I could tell something was fucked up. But I could somehow never keep distance for very long, and in the moment—when we were fighting and I felt so guilty, crazy, and worthless, or during the rare times of calm when I thought we could make things work—I was right back to feeling like I could never leave him, or could fix things if only I tried harder.
  17. con't
    Emotional abuse is about destroying your self esteem and isolating you from support systems who would help you get out. He made me feel unintelligent, crazy to the point of being unfixable and unloveable, like I was not well-liked in our community, like I was not a capable artist, like every problem in our relationship was my fault, and like I was not worth being treated with respect. I believed him. How could I have believed him?? Why did I let someone do that to me?? These questions haunt me.
  18. Okay wow that was A Lot of words and feelings.
  19. I will close with one piece of advice and one resource for anyone who might find this list ringing a little too true:
  20. If you find yourself googling "what is an abusive relationship like" or something similar, you are probably in one. It is not your fault, you can get out and rebuild and find yourself happier and stronger than you ever thought possible. I promise.
  21. Lots of amazing educational material, information about how to make a safety plan and leave and abusive situation, how to help a friend, etc. As well as hotlines and live chat with trained volunteers.