Today is the day that I have been strangely anxious about for the last several weeks.
Today – July 17, 2020 – marks ten years since I escaped from my abusive boyfriend, John.
While I haven’t written down the entire book of what happened to me from 2006 through July 17, 2010, I wanted to share pieces of it, and things I’ve learned in these last ten years.
Something that Elin Stebbins Waldal wrote in her memoir, Tornado Warning, will stick with me forever:
“… I know what he can be and is capable of so I almost always feel on guard. It’s hard to just relax and trust him. It’s all so weird.”
The abuse started gradually. It was all mental and emotional abuse. John’s words could cut me like a knife. One text message could spin me out of control into What-If-Land, where I was terrified that I’d said the wrong thing. Eventually, even the words “I love you” didn’t feel safe.
John hit me twice in the week that I broke up with him, that fateful week in mid-July 2010. That was the only true physical abuse I endured. I was lucky to get out when I did.
I feel fortunate that I didn’t suffer as much physical abuse as Elin did, but, to be honest, the emotional and mental abuse was worse. The two hits that John delivered on that Monday and Wednesday simply solidified my beliefs that I was not happy, that this was not right, and that I finally had enough courage to speak up, say something, and leave.
John and I dated from July 1, 2006 through July 17, 2010. The first year, and part of the second year, I thought they were great, although there were red flags that I missed. John swept me off my feet. He romanced me. I thought he truly loved me.
I thought we were okay because we’d successfully dated the entire first year at different high schools. Turns out, he completely changed his college plans to be with me. I knew I was going to Longwood in November 2006. He had been accepted to VCU, which was only 45 minutes away in Richmond. But, he applied to Longwood, got in, and decided to go there to be with me. It sounds romantic, but it was the beginning of the perfect storm.
He started isolating me almost immediately. I remember how upset he was that I got to move in earlier than him, because I was going on a retreat with my Honors College classmates the weekend before the semester started. I could hear the anger and jealousy in his voice during the few phone calls we exchanged before he moved on campus. Each phone call made me feel horrible, like I had done something wrong.
It only got worse from there. I spent nearly every break from college crying to my mom, unloading all my worries, anxieties, fretting, fears, and more. Once I dried my tears, I felt better. I picked myself up, dusted off, and moved along. But, the next break, it happened again, like clockwork.
Abuse manifests itself in so many ugly, horrendous forms.
It took years for me to see the light. Even though EVERYONE around me saw right through it, years before. I finally realized, at some point in 2010, that I was not the same Laura Beth. I wanted to change.
The key with abusive relationships (and friendships) is that YOU have recognize that you’re being abused. No one else can convince you otherwise.
When I read Janine Latus’s book in early 2016, I made these observations in my Book Review:
- The constant feeling of walking on eggshells when talking to / being around your partner – You never feel calm / relaxed around them.
- Being contacted multiple times by phone / text/ Facebook message, etc. – Always checking in, concerned if I was minutes late to something with him.
- Restricting time with friends and family.
- Manipulating ideas and thoughts (Example: John put the idea in my head that my own mother was one of the laziest people on this Earth, and he convinced me to tell her that. It was absolutely awful. Mom forgave me, but I still feel terrible about that, all these years later.)
- Certain habits become routine / expected – John was always hunting for the new trends, and wanted me to go along with him. He wanted me to wear what he thought looked best. He asked me multiple times to change clothes (phrased as, “You’re wearing that?”), even if I felt great in what I had been wearing.
This book hit me harder than Tornado Warning, which surprised me. I remember reading the end of this book while Al was asleep next to me in bed, and my eyes filled with tears as I closed the book, filled with gratitude that I found and married the man who loves me for who I am and doesn’t want to change me.
I’m glad I read this. It renewed my gratitude that I am a survivor, but also renewed my awareness that women (and men) still suffer from, and die from, abuse every single day.
If nothing else, there are two specific terms that I want you to take away from this post: Love bombing, and gaslighting.
Love bombing: The practice of showering a person with excessive affection and attention in order to gain control or significantly influence their behavior.
Gaslighting: manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
I was a victim of both.
Tornado Warning: A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and its Effects on a Woman’s Life, Elin Stebbins Waldal
Love Bombing: 10 Signs of Over-the-Top Love | Healthline
Love Bombing: A Narcissist’s Secret Weapon | Psychology Today
Love is Respect (1-866-331-9474 or TTY 1-866-331-8453)
Gaslighting | Britannica
Gaslighting: A Sneaky Kind of Emotional Abuse | betterhelp
Thank you for reading. I’m so grateful to all who have supported me in the last ten years and longer.
I’m especially grateful to Al, who loves me for who I am, has never tried to change me, and is an amazing husband. I try my best to be as amazing of a wife to him.
Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂