Bruised But Not Beaten
When I was 17 years old, I started dating a guy who was 5 years older than me. We dated for three months and then two days after I graduated high school, I moved in with him. He was charming, charismatic, flashy, and… ever so deceiving. Over the years, his true colors started to show more and more. His demeaning, controlling, and abusive nature started to intensify little by little. It was my first real relationship and he was the first person that I had ever lived with outside of my family. So, I wasn’t sure if his verbal and “slight” physical abuse was necessarily “natural” for a guy or not. And just incase it wasn’t, I definitely wasn’t going to tell any of my family or friends about our little combats, the tiny holes in the walls, or my insignificant bruises.
Slowly but surely, just as with any other abusive man, the abuse got worse and worse. All around, it was verbal, mental, and physical. When we would fight he would call my mom a whore, call me a whore, throw things at me, break my art projects that I had spent days on (that were also assignments for school). From there on, the verbal abuse became pretty much routine-like. And the physical abuse grew scarier and scarier. Times when I would attempt to leave, he would break things on my car (shattered my side view mirror, ripped my car door handle off, dented both sides of my car). Other times when I would just threaten to leave, he would grab all of my stuff and throw it on the front lawn. Push me down flights of stairs, lock me outside of my own house (while I was naked mind you… and we lived in a townhouse development, so I’m sure you could imagine my whirl of emotions). Looking back on this specific time that I’m talking about, it’s so crazy to me because I remember he had pushed me down the stairs, I landed head first, then he came over to me, grabbed me by my ankles and dragged me outside. Locked me out, then once he got all of my clothes and packed them up in my car, he came back over to me by the front door and pushed me to the ground. This had all happened at around 5 in the morning (which is why I only had a tank top and nothing else on) and it was dark outside, thank God. He pushed me to the ground, and then I would try to get up, and he would push me back down even harder, and this repeated over and over for who knows how long. But the whole time he was doing this to me, he was yelling so loud and all I kept saying to him was “Shh.. someone’s going to call the cops. Just stop, just let me go, you’re going to get in trouble if the cops come!” So the whole time he was putting me through a state of Hell, all I was concerned about was that he didn’t get himself in trouble. Ha. Sick fucking bastard. I told myself to not get into that much detail because that’s not what this entry is about. But I wanted give a raw example of just how bad he had me sucked into his evil character. Because this happens to every girl.
Anyways, I finally got a pair of shorts on, got my car keys, got my phone, and went to my stepsister’s house. I was so traumatized and heartbroken that the person I loved could do that to me. But of course, the next day, he apologized and like most battered women do, I went back. This all happened on July 4th of 2010. From then on, eerily similar situations occurred, with the same endings. All the while, I tried to keep as much of the nauseating truth of reality from everyone close to me, especially my mom. I knew everyone had an idea at this point, but I felt that unless I had confirmed it, they couldn’t know for sure. And I never wanted to tell anyone what happened, because I thought they would all hate him if/when me and him did get back together. And the good times we had together were so amazing, right ladies? BULLSHIT (That’s your first mistake right there! When you say, I know when it’s bad it’s bad, but when it’s good, he makes me so happy. No. He should make you so happy ALL the time, or he’s not worth your time! But I’ll get into that later).
Moving along, I became more and more miserable with my life in general. I didn’t go out, I didn’t hang out with friends. He made me quit my job because he was so jealous, so I didn’t even talk to any of my friends that I used to see every week at work. I was just yearning for something that wasn’t there: a real man with a real heart. In May of 2010, I had taken a trip up to Cleveland to visit my sisters and my mom flew in. So we all stayed together for the weekend and it felt so amazing. It was like some kind of therapy to get away from him and the life that we had together. While I was up there, I hung out with my ex from back in the day. It was weird after not seeing him for years but it was nice. We got along really well, we just really clicked as friends. I was all grown up now (I was on and off with him from ages 14-17), so being 20, I was a mature woman in his eyes, you know? Lol… But anyways, it was just really refreshing to be able to talk to him and hear from a man (since at that time, I didn’t talk to ANY other guys) how special I was and how I could truly get anyone I wanted. That I didn’t need to settle for anyone and that any guy would be dumb to mess anything up with me. Coming from an ex who HAD messed things up with me and therefore lost me, it just really hit home. It’s like everything he was saying to me was because he knew first hand what he had when he had me and he knew he didn’t treat me right and because of that, he lost me. So the feelings of being miserable with my then, boyfriend at the time, mixed with the feelings of my confidence that had been completely hammered down over the years slightly start to grow just from one talk with an ex, I finally realized that I didn’t want to do this anymore. I didn’t want to live this life. I didn’t want to be with someone who abused me every day. I just felt so free being up there, with my family and people that cared for me. And it was a feeling that was 100% lacking in my life up until that point.
So, on the drive back down to Cincinnati, I decided I was going to tell my boyfriend that I just didn’t want to do this anymore. All of the scariest moments in my life had been at the hands of someone I loved so much? No, that’s not right. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. And that’s what I told him. Well of course he cried and begged for me to give him one last chance. Let him take me to Israel on this vacation that we had planned previously so he could “prove to me that he’s the man I want to marry.” So I did, I went with him. The country was a cool place to visit. We had a whole trip planned, we were going to start off in Israel and then go to Italy, leave on a Mediterranean cruise from there, and then head to Spain. Well, shortly into our stay in Israel, we had a little altercation. He could feel he was losing/had lost control of me and completely snapped. We got home late one night, got into a verbal argument while we were laying in bed about to go to sleep. He launched at me, we fell onto the floor, he started straddling me and choked me out. I blacked out from that and woke up with my face completely busted open. My eye was swollen, my lips were so swollen I didn’t even want to talk. I had deep cuts in my neck from where his fingernails sunk into my skin while he was choking me. Obviously, while I had been knocked out, he hit me in my face multiple times. Well, two of the guys we were staying with had heard me scream I guess… so the one took him out of the room and the other one helped me pack all my stuff up. I remember hugging the one that was helping me before we left; I was balling my eyes out and apologizing to him over and over. I remember he kept saying to me to stop apologizing, that I didn’t do anything wrong, and that he couldn’t believe what had happened. He hugged me and when I pulled away, I saw all of the blood from my face on his T-shirt. Before my ex had left the room, he went into my wallet and took all of my money out of it, saying it was his anyways. Before I left the room (when he wasn’t in there), I had access to all of his stuff… the expensive video camera, the $800 camera he had just gotten me for our three year anniversary, the $200 digital camera, all of his expensive clothes and shoes… The only thing that I took (besides all of my clothes) was the memory card that was inside the digital camera. Because I didn’t want him to be able to have any of those pictures on the memory card, because I didn’t want him to be able to have possession of those “happy” memories of our vacation. The only thing I took was a fucking MEMORY CARD. (Karma) Ugh, anyways the guy who had helped me from the get go got me a taxi and took me to the airport. He stayed with me for a while. My phone was completely dead and in Israel, they have different outlets than they do in America, so I needed an adapter to plug my phone charger in, and I didn’t have one of those. Thank God (this is one of the reasons why I have such a strong grip of faith now) when I opened my computer, I had a WiFi connection. I had never Skyped with my mom before, but as soon as I got a connection, she was calling me on Skype. I answered, and as soon as she saw my face she started crying… But in a way a mother would, in that way that they don’t want you to know they are crying. But she could only hide it to an extent. I guess when I was on my way to the airport he called her and told her, “You need to buy your daughter a ticket back home, she disrespected me and I don’t want her here anymore.” So that’s why she was trying to get a hold of me. Well, from there she purchased me the next ticket to Cleveland, which was 6 hours away. I told the guy who had helped me that he could leave, that I would be fine and I didn’t want to take up anymore of his time. He gave me all the money he had on him, gave me a hug, gave me his blessings, and went back home.
Well, walking around a foreign airport with a swollen face isn’t too fun. It was actually the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever had to go through honestly. Can you believe though that 6 hours I was in that airport, and ONE person asked me if I was okay? I was crying the whole time with a busted face… and one person asked if I was okay. That’s crazy to me. Well anyways, after going through some serious security (which I obviously wasn’t in the mood for), I finally boarded the plane back home. 12 long hours later, I landed in New Jersey. I went through customs and all that fun stuff and rushed to my gate. I just so happened to literally be 2 minutes late. I immediately started balling. I remember the lady saying, “It’s not that big of a deal, you can catch the next flight to Cleveland, it comes in 2 hours.” My response was, “You have no idea what I’ve just been through, it IS a big deal.”
Finally landing in Cleveland, I waited for my sister outside of the airport. When she got out of the car, we instantly hugged each other and both just started sobbing. She couldn’t believe how bad my face really was. I was just relieved to finally be with family. And there I was, in her car, on the freeway, in Cleveland, Ohio… my life in shambles.. and the man I thought I was going to marry, still in Israel. Unbruised and untouched.
Part Two: The Struggle
Everyday was a battle. I would wake up with horrible anxiety every morning and the only way I could fall asleep is if I took a sleeping pill or if I went out and got drunk enough to pass out as soon as I hit the sheets. I pretty much tried to avoid people the first week or so, though, because I didn’t want anyone to see the bruises… My eye’s swelling went down eventually, but the red and purple bruise that surrounded it lasted what seemed like forever. I never knew just how well make up really worked until I had to put it to the test!
I didn’t even know where to begin to pick myself up, where to start, what to do, what to plan, what to think… I literally just felt like a zombie living in my body. I shared a house with this man; our whole world was all over the place. Our house was in Cincinnati, I was in Cleveland, he was in Israel, my dogs were with my aunt, my school was in Cincinnati, and my support system was in Cleveland… my mind was shot. I remember I kept waking up hoping that this was all just a horrible nightmare… That it wasn’t reality and soon enough I’d be waking up next to him in our house, telling him how I just had the worst nightmare of my life. But it was real. There was no going back, I could only move forward from here on out. And I didn’t want to accept that. And this is something that was going to take me months to accept. But that’s okay. Change in life is hard. Drastic change in life is even harder. One of the hardest parts about the break up was having to come to grips with the fact that the life that I had planned, the wedding I had envisioned, the kids I had imagined in my head… None of that was going to ever happen in reality. I had to let go of all those fantasies that I had been planning out for the past 3 years.
I still talked to Philip on Skype all the time. I would cry to him asking him how he could do this to us and blah, blah, blah. He would try to tell me to let him “fix it.” (That’s what he would always try to do after he did something horrible to me… Find some way to “fix” it… Usually by buying me something, or writing me a letter, or taking me out to dinner) But this was something that just couldn’t be fixed. He was planning on staying in Israel and I sure as hell was not going to first of all ever even go back there, but second of all, move there?! Ha. But could I really expect any levelheaded ideas from such a psycho? He decided to stay there because he was indicted on a pending investigation in the states a couple weeks after I left. So, pretty much he was too scared to come back home, knowing that there was a strong possibility he’d be facing time. (This pending case had nothing to do with what he did to me… Unfortunately, I never went to the cops because I was scared of getting him in trouble.)
A couple weeks in Cleveland, and while I was still on my “getting as drunk as I can” binge, I saw one of Philip’s biggest enemies, that I had known since I was about 14, out at a bar. Of course, initially, I didn’t speak to him because I didn’t think too highly of him after all of the bullshit Philip used to put in my head. He ended up coming up to me and asking how things were, what was going on in my life, why did we break up, blah blah blah. Well, after a night of drinking later, we ended up back at my sisters. That was the first time that I had sex since the break up. That was the first person I slept with other than Philip in three years. When I woke up that next morning, I had the worst anxiety attack. I couldn’t believe what I did. In my head I was thinking, if there was any chance of me and Philip getting back at that point (because of course, I still hadn’t completely let go yet), it definitely wasn’t going to happen now. Because if he knew who I had slept with and that it was during that same summer, he wouldn’t even want to talk to me anymore. Looking back now, I can laugh at all of that… But at the time, it was a horrible feeling!
At times I would get so low, I felt like there was no way I would ever be able to dig myself out of this deep hole. At one point, I felt like that hole was being covered up with more and more dirt, that I was suffocating, and that there was absolutely no way that I could ever get out. I kept thinking to myself, “What’s the point??” One day I was at such a low, probably one of the lowest points in my life, where I felt like there literally was no point to life anymore. My world was destroyed, so what was the point in me staying around? I went into my sister’s room and grabbed her whole prescription of sleeping pills. I counted them out, 17, figured that’d enough to do the job. Poured them into my hand and just stared at them… Looking back, I’m still not sure why I didn’t take them. I don’t know what held me back… maybe it was fear, maybe it was God, but whatever it was…. It prevented me from killing myself that day. I remember I told Philip that I was going to do it, and put my phone on silent, didn’t answer any calls, etc. Of course later, in fights he would bring it up and laugh at it, calling me weak and immature for having suicidal thoughts. Such a nice man he was!
My sister would have to take me on random car drives so that I could get out of the house and just breathe. Listen to music, cry, think… Those car rides are what saved me. Getting out and realizing that life IS still going on, even when all you want to do is shut off the world and fall asleep forever, is what’s so important and crucial in surviving a break up like this. If it weren’t for my sister that summer, I really don’t know where I would be today and I mean that with every bone in my body.
By August, I still didn’t know where I was going to live at this point. My mom was living in Ft. Lauderdale, but she was planning on moving to Atlanta. I’ve never been before and I really just wanted a complete change of everything. So I decided to have her fly me down there so we could look around for places. I was only there for a couple days but I definitely found places that I could see myself living in. My only worry was that I didn’t know if my sisters would move down with me, and that I’d end up down there with only my mom and no friends or any other family. As soon as I came back from Atlanta, I had skyped with Philip and told him that I’d be going to get my stuff from Cincinnati as soon as things were set in stone. This is when he decided to tell me that he had the whole house cleared except for one bed, one dresser, a small TV, and my clothes. Meaning all of the stuff that we had just bought TOGETHER to furnish and decorate our new home was gone. I’m talking even spices and cleaning supplies (things that he definitely wasn’t going to have shipped to Israel, and things that I definitely could have used without having to buy again). This is when I lost it. Now wherever I was going to live, I was going to have to start from complete scratch… No furniture, no nothing. I kept screaming to him over and over “How could you do this to me? On top of everything else!” He sat there so nonchalantly, like it was no big deal, that I was acting stupid. He even said, “Well now you know how I feel. So come live with me and you can have whatever you want.” I had such a horrible outburst that the cops ended up coming to my sister’s apartment. Somebody had called them and they came to see what was going on and if everything was okay. Never in my life had I been so incapable of controlling my emotions.
My mom ended up deciding that she didn’t want to move to Atlanta; that she wanted to move to South Carolina. She asked me if I wanted to come with her there and at this point I was so angry at her for getting my hopes up about one place and then just changing her mind like that, that I didn’t want to even think about planning to move to South Carolina because she’d probably change her mind on that too. So I declined and at that point decided I would just stay in Cleveland. I’d transfer schools and get a place with my sisters. We started looking for houses to rent out all over the place for the next couple weeks. We weren’t having any luck and my hope was starting to decrease more and more each day.
Eventually, September came around. I knew that my college started at the end of September so if I was going to transfer to a school in Cleveland, I needed to withdraw as soon as possible and get my life set up in Cleveland. When I went to UC’s website to go to my registered Fall classes, I just decided… Fuck that, I let this dude take 3 years of my past and shatter my present. There was no way I was going to let him negatively affect my future. I decided to move back to the city that I spent the past 3 years living in with, and making memories with my ex. I was leaving for Cincinnati to start my new life and I wasn’t looking back.
Story Provided by: Nikki Toigo