Finding the strength to leave.

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BY D. ELIZABETH

D. is a 30-year-old Nebraska native now living in Washington, D.C. She is a volunteer Sunday school teacher with a passion for books, iced-coffee, and the mountains.

D. is a 30-year-old Nebraska native now living in Washington, D.C. She is a volunteer Sunday school teacher with a passion for books, iced-coffee, and the mountains.

I was in an abusive relationship for four years. 

I know what you’re probably thinking – “why didn’t you just leave?” And to be honest, that’s how I always felt about victims of abuse too – until I met David.

He was perfect in the beginning. I had never connected so deeply with someone, and I showed him my most vulnerable self. I thought I had found my soulmate, and the first year of our relationship was nirvana. 

But the man of my dreams turned out to be the most painful lesson of my life. I can’t pinpoint when things began to change, but suddenly the bad days outweighed the good. And the man who once told me that I was the best thing to happen to him now openly mocked me, belittled me, and tore me down. 

Even after I knew the relationship was toxic, I stayed. Crippling anxiety and self-doubt forbade me from leaving. I sought advice from friends, family, professionals, and blogs.  And out of everything I learned, there were four lessons that finally gave me the strength to walk away. 

You are not crazy.

“I feel like I’m losing my mind.” My voice shook. I stared at the ceiling of Dr. Farber’s office, trying to prevent the inevitable tears from falling. “I can’t stop obsessing. I can’t turn my brain off. Everything I do is wrong, and I’m so tired.”

By the third year of our relationship, I was a complete mess. David was always angry with me; the harder I tried to make him happy, the more unsatisfiable he became. The man whom I once trusted with my most intimate thoughts was freely hurling every one of my insecurities at me with such calculated hatred and with such unfathomable understanding of their damage that I began to believe he was right. He insisted that I imagined the horrible treatment, that I wanted to be a victim. 

I made an appointment with a psychiatrist to try and make some sense of what was happening to me. I was so embarrassed to tell her, to reveal how pathetic I felt. That appointment, though, was the beginning of the long, painful road back to peace. 

She said, “You are not crazy. He treats you this way because you are everything he isn’t. You are kind and selfless. You love unconditionally while asking nothing in return. You are smart and beautiful and you are whole without him – and that angers him because he is broken and empty.” 

You are enough.

I cried myself to sleep for months wondering why I wasn’t enough. When we’d go out with his friends, he was a completely different person. He was funny and charming; he was humble and kind. And I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t deserve that from him too. 

I tried so hard to be enough. I catered to him. I put his needs first. I put his feelings first. I poured myself into him and received nothing but more demands. And all along he craved my inferiority; he felt powerful. 

The truth is, I was always enough, and that’s why he so desperately destroyed me. 

You will never feel completely ready to leave.

It took me months to finally leave. I kept thinking there would be this moment where I’d know that “now is the time,” a breaking point where I couldn’t take any more. But that moment never came, and no matter how badly I was hurting, the thought of leaving him hurt more.

Had I waited for “the right time,” I would have never left. I was scared. I was scared of David’s reaction. I was scared of being on my own. I was scared that I would regret my decision. And that fear kept me paralyzed in a situation that destroyed me more and more each day. 

I finally left when I accepted that I could not love David into a good man. No combination of words or actions would touch him. I had given every ounce of myself and more, and it changed nothing. 

You deserve peace.

During our entire relationship, I was the secondary character in my own life. It was his schedule, his goals, his moods, his slightest whim that moved me like a puppet. I had spent years walking on eggshells, overthinking every situation, and apologizing. My healing journey was not a straight path, but I found peace.

I was made for greater things, and so are you. 

You deserve peace. You deserve kindness. You deserve respect. You deserve love.