Reposting this tale

from a while ago, because I wish I had the courage to show it to the people I was with tonight. I was peripherally involved in a conversation​ about abuse. I don't want to go into the conversation but everyone was being a jackass. The people I see everyday don't know this story about me, and I wonder if maybe they'd feel differently about things if they did. It's heartbreaking when a group of self-proclaimed feminists (or, at least, not-not-feminists) cast judgment upon a woman who is clearly suffering at the hands of an abusive partner.

A Love Story

Trigger warning, abuse. This is super long. I thought it better to post all at once rather than break it up into parts because I thought I might not post the rest of the parts. No one knows this whole story.

It is about time I wrote my story. I am in a place where talking about it is cathartic as opposed to embarrassing and painful. It also took several years for me to actually remember all the details. I think this is a depression-related defense mechanism I have - my memory goes haywire when I am upset. Whiskey and I shared the shitty ways we were treated after surviving abuse, but I want to rewind and describe how I got there.

The crowd on Groupthink will likely understand the mental circumstances that trap someone in an abusive relationship. For me, being inside of it, I had to rewind and watch it like a movie. I have difficulty understanding it linearly. After I came to terms with the fact that I had indeed suffered abuse, it was a new dawn. "Oh, this is what they meant. This is how you get tricked into being abused. This is what it feels like to entirely lose yourself, your humanity, your autonomy, and your agency in a relationship. This is why they stay with their abusers." I shivered, knowing I had turned into that woman I never understood.

Falling in Love

I was a sophomore in college, fresh off the end of my high school, long-distance but-we're-going-to-be-together-forever relationship. He is a skinny artistic kid we will call Jimmy. I was heartbroken. I was so in love; I'd lost my virginity to him. He'd cheated on me and lied to me. Saying goodbye to him was saying goodbye to my childhood, all the people of my past. It was a painful coming of age story.

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So to speak, I was emotionally devastated, sexually confused, and incredibly vulnerable. I cried everyday.

A few months later, I was still moping around, and I met someone new at a party; someone tall, dark, and handsome. Someone athletic and charming. He was very Republican and planned to go into law school and politics and the whole thing. It is no coincidence that part of his appeal was how he seemed to be the polar opposite of Jimmy. I was finished with mysterious art kids. Finished, I tell you!

I'm going to interrupt this by disclosing how Being Progressive in A Conservative Place Works (at least how it worked for me): Because it was so common for me to be an outcast, I did not really use political views to discriminate against dating someone. It was common for me to date or befriend someone super opposite because, frankly, almost everyone was.

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He had just transferred to my school, and lived in my dorm, and we ended up walking home to the dorm together. We will call him Mark.

His room was on the way to mine, and we stopped there and stayed up all night talking. It was exhilarating. He flirted and touched me in small and respectful ways - a perfect gentleman. He called me beautiful. We had so much in common. Our mothers were both cancer survivors. We were both the eldest of several children. We were both smart and well-read. We hated the backwards regressive redneck culture that surrounded us. We discussed politics but in a civil, intellectual way. We were both careening from a breakup.

At 5 am, I got up from a chair to go to my room and get some sleep. He walked me to the door, we looked at each other, and had a kiss that could put any rom-com, crying-in-the-rain kiss to shame. My legs were jelly as I wobbled my way home.

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I was high for days. Before smart phones and texting, we chatted on AIM frequently. We had lunch in the cafeteria together sometimes, but no dates. My close friends said I could not stop smiling. They talked about how handsome he was, how funny he was - how I looked so happy. He was the life of the party. They'd all met him before I did, and said ladies fell all over him but he always rejected them. He had chosen me; I felt special and precious. I felt wanted. I felt loved, after I had been scorned and rejected so hatefully. I was so ready to be treated like the queen that Mark made me feel like. I, I was the one who captured the affection of Mark.

He liked my independent spirit. He said it was a breath of fresh air. I know now that what he liked was my budding feminism (that I had yet to discover myself). He liked that I wasn't a pushover, that I would not follow him around like a puppy. He was not the first or last in a long line of guys to consider me a "cool girl" only to later get annoyed that I don't do what they say.

I was still reeling from my breakup and I did not want to have sex; he respected this and never brought it up until I did much later. Sex was still very new to me, and it was SO complicated in my mind, wrought with betrayals and mistrust. He touched me appropriately; his instincts were spot on as to what I was ready for and what he had permission to touch.

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I had never been with a guy who was considered a "catch." I constantly defended the merits of Jimmy to friends and family. It seems shallow - and it is - but being praised from all angles by finding such a great guy made me feel valuable again. I had never ONCE had the approval of my parents on a guy until now. I felt like I had worth, that I was attractive, that I was appealing. I had spent months and months stuck at the lowest possible place in terms of self-confidence. Mark, glorious, beautiful Mark, had lifted me out of that place.

That is how my self-worth became tied to Mark.

I don't think that any of this was was part of a grander, conscious plan to manipulate me.

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Because it was the end of the semester, and we left things "undefined," and he spent the summer working an internship in DC (far, far away), we did not speak the entirety of the summer. I focused on "being cool" about it. Every time my cell phone rang, I jumped to it, hoping it would be Mark. It never was, and it had me tied up in knots all summer. I probably tried to call him but can't remember.

Toward the end of the summer, at a party, a mutual friend and I drunk dialed Mark together, after I'd disclosed I hadn't heard from him for months. I do not remember much of the conversation, other than he said he was afraid to talk to me because he was thinking of transferring away from my school, and that he'd fallen in love with me and was avoiding the conversation.

This was music to my ears; after biting my nails for months, wondering the fate of this fling - he had admitted it: he felt connected to me also. I was thrilled to know I was not alone in my feelings. He decided to come back to our school.

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From the moment we got back to campus, we were inseparable. We were together at every football game. All our friends were together. We spent every night together. We had sex. This lasted months.

The following events are in the order they transpired, to the best of my memory (which, admittedly, is shotty from all of this).

Pink Flags.

Some of these flags won't seem like such a big deal, and I didn't think twice about many of them.

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  • We became exclusive, but he would not refer to me as his girlfriend. He "didn't like labels." I was so concerned with keeping him I decided to keep being "cool" about it. He made sure he didn't owe me anything.
  • He refused to give me oral or manual sex. He refused to do things that he knew would give me an orgasm. I was too inexperienced and brainwashed by Christian guilt to see exactly how wrong this attitude was on his part, and I had only orgasmed once or twice in my life. I never pushed the issue because I thought I'd lose him. I gave him a lot of oral sex. He did not have any concern for the way I experienced sex.
  • He came home with me to visit my family one weekend. This was a big fucking deal to me. My parents did not mind if he shared the room with me - I felt like such an adult. I awoke to him drunk off of my dad's booze at 6 in the morning. I told him I wasn't cool with that, and he screamed at me for controlling him. Whew, buddy.
  • His family (from far away) came to a football game. They came to our tailgate. He did not introduce them to me. I introduced myself. He called me "one of his closest friends." I know we didn't have a label but that stung - was he embarrassed of me? I wasn't allowed to be an official part of his life - to be written into his biography. I was non-essential personnel.
  • He showered me in gifts. All the time. What was he compensating for? I think now that a lot of them were stolen.
  • He told me he liked very tall women. He told me he usually only likes dark-skinned brunettes, with very little elaboration on how I (a short, fair, gingery type) am an exception to this rule. He made sure I knew I wasn't attractive to him.
  • He bragged about me to friends. When I met a new person, they would talk about how much he gushed on me - how much they've heard. He never gave me these compliments. I was a status symbol to him. Our image was more important than how I felt.
  • We had yet to go on a Real Date - nice dinner, drive somewhere, etc. We lived in a tiny college town with nothing - we were going to hit the nearest city and go on a real date to a restaurant. We planned it for a week or so. I bought a new dress. I curled my hair. I was ready early and excited. He never showed up. What a jerk. He ignored my calls for a full week, maybe more. That was the first time I cried because of him. A promise to me was unimportant.
  • Since we "didn't put a label on it," I assumed we must have broken up. I ran into him at a party, and he acted as if nothing happened. When I was acting mad at him and trying to hold in my rage so as not to cause a scene in front of everyone (and because I was embarrassed), he pulled me into a corner to ask me what was wrong. I told him (because it apparently wasn't clear), and he said I misunderstood him. We'd never made a plan - I was mistaken. I know I wasn't. He said he loved me, that he needed me - that seeing me angry at him broke his heart. I meant the world to him, I was the most beautiful person on earth. He promised to call me his girlfriend now - to even make it Facebook official - so that I would never question our status again. By the time he was done talking at me, I believed him. It took years for me to remember what actually happened. He intimidated me when he spoke to me; he made me think I could not believe my own mind and memories. He baited me and played on my desperation.
  • I noticed he was developing "feuds" with people. They were very dramatic feuds but I never knew what the original problem was. It would be "so-and-so is a terrible asshole and he deserves to get his face beat" or something. It took very little to get on his shit list. He clearly viewed people in terms of "with him" or "against him." He was willing to take violent actions toward people who were against him.

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Red flags

These are the flags that will make you think, "How did you not SEE? How could you STAY?" You begin to just see these as human flaws - you think, "every relationship has its problems." Worse, you think, "what can I do to prevent this problem in the future?" and you keep scrambling for that solution.

The semester was nearing an end. Once again, Mark was contemplating transferring to far away and I was about to go spend a semester in Spain. I had privately decided I did not want to deal with the ups and downs while I was abroad, if he was just going to leave anyway. I had no interest in long-distance, and the drama was making my weary. I silently mourned the loss of the life I'd fantasized about with Mark. I sat him down, and broke up with him. Tearfully, he said he wanted to stay for me. He'd wait for me. He wanted to marry me. I was young enough that this was still a fairy tale fantasy in my mind. He was going to be my Prince Charming. I knew no one else would be.

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  • Before I left, my friend's dick boyfriend showed the dorm a picture of her boobs. Mark passed it around, saved it as his screen saver, and made me look at it on a regular basis. He called her a skank, he called her easy. I never defended her. What the fuck, Mark? I feel like such an ass for not defending her - I was uncomfortable about it, but I never stood up for her. Such assholes, these guys.

I went abroad. I lost a 20 lbs, inadvertently, from walking a lot and eating a Mediterranean diet.

I cheated on him and told no one - not until right this very second. I fucked a beautiful long-haired Argentinian bartender, and he showed me what good sex was - what it was like when a partner cared about your experience. It was the first time I ever loved sex, and it forever changed the way I experience sex. He showed me what my life would have been like if I had a man who adored me. He showed me what it looks like when a man wants you as much as you want him. I felt terrible, not from guilt but because I thought that it was just a taste of what my life would never be. It was my first one-night stand and it was the happiest and most emotionally-fulfilling sexual experience I'd had to that point. I cried and cried, knowing I'd go home to that dirtbag, thinking I'd already signed on for life.

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  • During my time abroad, my BFF "Jenna" Skyped me or emailed me at a late hour US time, morning Spain time. Mark had driven his parents' very nice car drunk, wrecked it, and went to jail. She just thought she should tell me, because she figured he wouldn't. I should have asked what else I didn't know. She said he was ok, not to worry, and that he was taken care of. Bad, bad judgment - and the fact that my friend seemed to know he wouldn't tell me about this.
  • I spoke to Mark about once a week and noticed he had developed a feud with Jenna's boyfriend. He projected it onto Jenna. Mark told me that Jenna was lying about his drunk driving incident. Too many stories didn't match up with him.
  • Mark, upon seeing pictures of me online when I'd lost weight, gotten a little sunkissed, and frankly just looked happy and enlightened because I was having fun, said, almost verbatim: "You look disgusting. I don't know who you've lost weight for, but it is not me." I was not even close to underweight. I had self-confidence for the first time in years. He was tearing it down.
  • Later, knowing what he said before upset me, he attempted a compliment. He said, "I'm really happy you're not as fat anymore. I had stopped acknowledging you as my girlfriend." What a dirtbag.

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I was going to dump him when I got home. I flew home, he came to see me at my parents' house.

Interlude: Why did I stay through all that shit?

Have you never stayed in a relationship too long? Have you never forgiven nasty things done by the people you love, just to achieve some shitty version of inner peace? We have all willingly experienced abuse in exchange for love, to small degrees.

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Just because Mark crossed lines you think you would draw, doesn't mean I drew them. It doesn't mean I knew that it would continue, that it would get worse. I could not even PICTURE my life as a victim of abuse - it didn't occur to me that it might happen to me. It's not that I was lenient - it is that I never thought to draw the lines. I didn't think I had to, and when he crossed them, I was caught off-guard, and kept thinking each time was an isolated incident.

Loving an abuser is giving someone the benefit of the doubt too many times. It is having too much faith in someone. It is the pull of being so close to something you desperately want. You are being tantalized - you are always an inch away from bliss (in your mind). And the bar becomes lower. "Bliss" goes from being defined as pure happiness - being ecstatic, warm and fuzzy, stuck in a daydream - and becomes merely having a good day, wishing he'd say he loved you, feeling beautiful. You are always so close, and if you stick around a little longer - maybe if you do the right thing, or say the right thing - you might achieve Bliss.

Almost a decade later, I miss the feeling I got when I thought he was in love with me - when he would do some small thing that gave me hope. Small indications that he could possibly be the person I wanted him to be would send me head first into the Warm & Fuzzies. The pull of that hope was so strong it transcended a million life changes, moving across the country, and being currently in a very happy and healthy relationship. I still miss that tingle of hope - how it feels when you are down so far in a hole. I do not miss him, though.

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Escalation

When shit got real.

  • Upon seeing me, thinner and different, he did not touch me. He said, "Did you do this to pick up guys?" I was sad, clearly. He told me he was kidding. Then he told me he never said that. Maybe he believed it.
  • He took me around town to go see our friends who were where my parents lived. At a bar, a guy I did not know approached me when I was alone waiting to get a drink. As I was politely declining his advances, he hit the floor, and Mark was behind me, beating the shit out of him. Jail. I would later have to write a statement, and I almost had to testify against Mark. He tried to coach me, to re-write the situation to me. The charges were dropped for some reason.
  • I lied to my parents to hide that he was in jail that night. He got out (maybe his parents posted bail? He never liked to answer my questions), and came home and spent a night with me. He blamed me for the assault on this stranger. I hadn't fought the guy off hard enough, or more explicitly. Had I made a scene, Mark wouldn't have had to - he said.
  • We'd not had sex since I came back. I did not want to. When he climbed into bed next to me, he said, "If you are withholding sex to punish me, I will ruin your life." I thought he might. I had sex with him.
  • I awoke in the wee hours to him trying to have sex with me. He had his fingers in me, trying to open me so that he could put his penis in. I fended him off, in a sleepy haze. He later told me he did not know this happened. I don't believe him.

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I woke the next morning to him spooning me and whispering that he loved me in my ear. His arms enveloped me. They made me whole again. I was warm, and I was beautiful and valuable. He told jokes that made us both laugh. He cooked me breakfast. We went swimming. He drove me around to fill out job applications. We spent the day with a mutual friend. We went back to sleep at my parents' home again.

  • He tried to strangle me in the morning. I don't know why. He was huge - I couldn't fight him off. I started to get this weird feeling in my nose, like it needed to sneeze really bad, and my vision started to cloud with spots - but I was fully conscious. I think that hearing my sister in the adjacent bathroom may have stopped him.

I told him he needed to leave. He did. He sent me an expensive bracelet a few days later, and several pages of handwritten apologizing. He thought he was in a trance, maybe. He told me his mother abused him and he gets confused sometimes about where he is. He told me she put him on mood-controlling drugs his whole life. He couldn't believe how radiant I looked now that I was back from Spain. He could not wait to be part of my family - he loved my family. We saw each other a few days later and we had sex.

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  • There were a series of catastrophic phone arguments over the next couple weeks, and I cannot remember what most of them were about. I do remember he threatened to murder my then tween-aged brother. I remember crying in my parents' yard at the wee hours of the night on the phone. I wonder if my mother heard. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs - tons of hanging up, tons of frantic redialing. Lots of "I can't talk to you when you're like this" on his end, lots of "you're such a fucking asshole" on my end. Followed by gifts and apologizing and pleading for my forgiveness.
  • These epic arguments reached a climax when I thought I was pregnant. Mark had a phone fit at me - I could hear him spitting he was yelling at me so furiously. All I wanted was for him to be with me when I peed on a stick, and to help me pay for an abortion. He flew off the handle. He told me I was a skank. He told me I "promised" him I was on birth control but I had fucked it up. He told me I was trying to extort money out of him. He told me I was going to get murdered in a gutter. He told me he was going to murder our baby. He told me he was going to sue me for paternity because I was a whore and not fit to be a mother. He told me if I got an abortion he would kill me. He accused me of poking a hole in the condom because I am a manipulative bitch. He told me he should have finished strangling me. He told me I had ruined his life. All because I was late on my period. Thank fuck I wasn't pregnant.

Obviously, I dumped that fucker. I dumped him and I felt like I'd cut off my own arm. I longed for him. I wanted him to call me, to beg for me. I wanted him to apologize, to tell me I am beautiful. I wanted to go to a party, to see him there, to run into each other and have a reconciliation. I wanted him fully understand his crimes and to apologize so, SO much. I still fantasize about this, almost ten years later. I am in a happy relationship now - why do I keep longing for this apology? I want to know that he is suffering for the crimes he committed. Lingering effects, I suppose.

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I cannot believe the hold he had on me.

I was grief-stricken. My family went out of town for about three weeks. I dragged myself to my day job as a receptionist. Then I would binge eat on Hot Pockets or something like that my mom had bought for my brothers. I remember crying all day everyday. I had to call Jenna on my lunch break to get mid-day relief. On the Fourth of July, I ate an entire Domino's pizza on my couch while laying down, and I sobbed. Another BFF, Lauren, from my childhood, started coming around to check on me. She'd never seen me this way. She still talks about that dark time. (I think I may have been mourning Jimmy as well). I was lost in my own thoughts - all I could think was how I had ruined my life by disclosing a late period - JUST a late period. How could I start this drama? Why did I bother to bring it up?

I wanted to drop out of school. I couldn't go back. I told our mutual friend this, and she told me he was transferring to a nearby university. I was relieved and devastated at the same time.

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One night in early August, a couple months after our breakup, and about a month before I went back to school, I received a call from Mark. He apologized (sort of). He should have stood by me. I deserved better than him. He would never have abandoned a child. I just scared him. I had promised I was taking birth control, and his friend no one knows got tricked into fatherhood and it ruined his life. He was worried I was doing that to him.

Cancer and Reconciliation

Then he told me he had Leukemia. I cried. All day, and all night. I called in sick to work. I knew Mark had no friends left, because he'd burned all his bridges while I was in Europe and then talking trash about me throughout our breakup. I knew that he had issues and needed support. I knew that his family was the root of all the problems. I decided I would be that support.

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I told my mother the next day. My mother is empathetic to a fault. She gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. Her side of the family has been devastated more than once by cancer, and she is a survivor herself. She looked me dead in the eye and said, "Do you think he's lying?" I was outraged she suggested he would lie about cancer. CANCER. His mother was a survivor! He would never lie about cancer. Cancer is off limits. Cancer is too serious. Didn't she know this? What a moron she was. I screamed at her, I cried.

But his story didn't hold up. I asked him about prognoses and treatments - because I am experienced with cancer caretaking, I knew he needed aid and support and driving and all kinds of help. I was ready. He told me my "investigating" was offending him - when I was simply offering to help, truly believing him. He told me that trying to help him so much was pissing him off. I was prying and making the situation worse. I was probably laying it on a little thick - but I just knew what he was in for. He was constantly flying to hospitals across the country (he said) to get more opinions, more state-of-the-art treatments. Apparently, they'd developed a chemo that didn't cause you to lose weight or your hair. He was going to do that. Apparently, the hospitals in our state were just full of dumb rednecks and didn't know how to deal with cancer.

I was so suspicious, thanks to my mother in part. In fact, after all this explaining and flying around and this perfectly hide-able chemo, I flat out didn't believe him. But I didn't dare make that accusation. I mean, cancer. CANCER.

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I got hooked in again. I cannot tell you why. I just was. A big part of it was pity, for the cancer. He touched my hand tenderly and begged for me back. Think of the person whom you love most; think of them breaking your trust; think of yourself DYING to forgive them and put things back in their rightful place, and shortcutting to that place of forgiveness so that you could have that inner peace. I think this is where I was.

Falling Apart

This time around didn't go like the first. I wasn't wooed. I was cautious. I was suspicious. I was scared he might choke me again. The logical answer is to get out; but what if he came after me? And I still loved being in his arms. I still joked with him. We were still close. It was still so complicated. It was like I had resigned to the fact that he was a liar and an asshole, but I could deal with it because my alternative was to die alone. I still loved him.

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Visiting Mark one weekend, I noticed he had no books anywhere. No schoolwork. No nothing. I became suspicious that he may have dropped out of school.

Cancer disappeared. When I asked about it, he said that he went to some hospital in some city and they gave him a 17th opinion that he didn't have cancer after all. I didn't bring it up again.

I randomly got mad his parents didn't know about our relationship. I brought that up of all things. I think the other stuff seemed off-limits. I don't remember the details but it escalated. He threw me down half a flight of stairs outside his apartment. They were cement. I don't remember anything else, until I awoke on his couch hours later. Rescue Me was playing on the TV. He loved that show. I'd never seen it before. I hate it now.

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When I awoke a few hours later, he was fingering me. I moved, pretending it to be a readjustment during sleep - I didn't dare let him know I was awake. He should have known I, a light sleeper, couldn't sleep through that - I don't know if he intended that I woke up, if he didn't care, or if he thought he'd get away with it completely.

Later, we were driving through the country late at night from my university to his. It was an unusual October cold snap - 30 degrees or so and I was wearing flip flops like I always did (don't ask). We fought about something - I think it may have been me accusing him of lying about being in school. I am not sure. He pulled the car over and yelled at me to get out. I was not going to get out! It was freezing and night and dark as hell - and I was not dressed for it. We had at least an hour to go until we were at his apartment. My car was there - my only exit strategy.

He kept screaming. I begged him for quiet. I just wanted us to be quiet, get where we were going, and get out of the car I thought, I'll run away for good, this time. I envisioned the actual running. But he demanded I get out. He reached over and unbuckled my seat belt. He unlocked the doors. He looked at me and said how this was the end, and I'd be sorry. He reached over and opened the door. I knew what was next and I braced myself - I frantically tried to grab my purse from the floor - but he shoved me. I held onto the head rest, and he hit the gas, and I fell out. I don't remember hitting the cement, and I don't think he was going very fast when I fell. What I do remember, vividly, is standing outside in freezing weather, on the side of a rural state highway where there were no lights. There were trees. The moon wasn't out. There were a few stars but they offered no light. I had not grabbed my purse. I had no money, no phone, and could only find one of my flip flops.

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I had never seen such darkness.

Do I plant myself here? Will he come back? Do I walk? I don't know my way around. Am I going to freeze to death? Are there predators in these woods?

He came back either 20 minutes or 3 hours later. I don't know. I was crouched down, in a ball, all tucked inside my thin sweater, trying to keep warm. He ran out of the car, wrapped his arms around me and kissed me everywhere. He was crying. He was sorry. I was so desperate to be taken home I nodded and told him I forgave him and acted like everything was fine the whole car ride.

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Two days later, on the phone and safe and sound in my apartment two hours away, I dumped him for good. It was like an out of body experience. I didn't even plan on doing it then. I called him, I dumped him, and I told him never to contact me again. I very much think some part of my subconscious - some buried warrior queen - emerged and did it for me. I never planned the words. I never deliberated. I blurted it out, hung up the phone, and went to a football game with my girlfriends.

Subsequent Harassment

I wish that is where my story stopped, but it goes on. The day after I dumped him, I went to lunch with Jenna. I was in good spirits. Mark learned about this - maybe I told him - and he decided she was responsible for our breakup, based on his ongoing feud with her boyfriend. He sent an "open letter" out to her and copied all our mutual friends - doing what sounded like challenging her to a duel. She barely knew the depth of how dangerous Mark was, but she was scared of him anyway. After that letter, his true colors came out. No one who read that would have seen a sane, life-of-the-party type.

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He threatened her ALL THE TIME, to slash her tires (he had a weird obsession with car vandalism). He left her voicemails and emails all day for weeks. I didn't speak to him for a month, and when I agreed to see him again, all he could do was try to convince me what a toxic person she is. When I walked away, he chased me. She got a restraining order against him. No one I knew heard from him or saw him for at least six months.

I was still wrecked - I hated him more than I've ever hated anyone - and I still had the conflicting feelings of a breakup to deal with on top. I was lonely, I was single, I was low in self confidence. My self-worth was so tied up in him, I thought that it was better with him than if I were alone. I wanted to get back with him - but I wanted to get back with the person I'd always hoped he'd be, this person I saw inside him. I never got tricked again by this delusion. I think about him every day. Every fucking day. And I am almost 10 years older and worlds away from that girl who loved him, yet still he haunts me.

He "lightly" stalked me for a little while. Stood outside my apartment, demanded random belongings from me (he threatened to sue me in small claims court for a Dazed and Confused DVD that I am pretty sure I actually owned - it is a good movie so I see his point there). I think he broke into our apartment, but I can't be sure. He bragged about doing it, and there was a day the door seemed...manipulated.

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About 8 months after our breakup, couple weeks before I graduated college, he carved the word "cunt" into my brand new car - on the driver's side. I got it fixed, and a week later, he carved it into every single panel of the car. He bragged about it to acquaintances. I went to the local redneck police, armed with his fingerprints on my car (which I knew they had in the system), a slew of threatening emails, texts, and voicemails. I wanted a restraining order. I had never reported any of the abuse. My dad stood by me via telephone, making demands of the police.

He tried to bring a restraining order against me (I guess retaliation?) and he got 10x as close to it as I did, even though I had physical evidence he was harassing me and I had not once said anything to him - not even a "stop it."

They brought him in for questioning (I guess) when I wasn't around; their conclusion was that a woman would carve "cunt" into a car, not a man, and that he was clearly a stand up guy. I was making all this abuse up - even the emails "could have been fabricated." I was just a little girl having a tough time with a breakup. He had made me out to be dramatic, to be a psychopath, to be "obsessed" with him.

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And the kicker was, "Well it's only a car - it's not like he hurt you." Just a car? Not also, coming to my apartment and touching my things? No also coupled with harassing emails and voicemails?

I was to leave the state and go far away a month later; I laid low, hiding my car and not going anywhere until then. My move away from there was freedom.

I never saw or spoke to him again. He wrote a lot of Facebook statuses about taking trips to my new city, as if they were unrelated to me - like, going for vacation or business or something. But I don't think he ever did. I sometimes peripherally hear that so-and-so heard he was at blank on this day.

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I have a recurring conscious/awake nightmare (fantasy is not the right word) that he knocks on my door and I open unsuspectingly, and no one is home to help me fight him off.

Epilogue

I've mentioned that Mark still exists in my thoughts. I have mentioned that I still have a connection to him.

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It took a year for me to remember being thrown down the stairs.

It took a year for me to put together the incident with the car and the cold. I remembered it but I didn't really remember it.

It took 3 years for me to understand that fingering counted as rape.

It took 3 years for me to have sex again.

After 3 years, I went on a "trampage" and opened my heart again. Thus, I was a late bloomer in finding myself sexually. But I did find myself, holding everyone to the standard of my Argentinian bartender hookup.

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It took 4 years to date someone. I love him. He is perfect. He is calm and respectful. He treats me like a queen. He tells me I am beautiful. I still look at him with caution, and we have been together almost 5 years.

It took 4 years for me to understand that yelling until you are blue in the face is not a typical or healthy way of arguing.

It took 5 years for me to name this "abuse."

I still today am processing the cancer lie. Cancer pulls on my heartstrings so deeply - I think I haven't fully accessed my own rage over this lie.

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I still today am remembering small things he said or did.

It took almost no time for mutual friends to inform me they always knew something was wrong with him. They don't know even the basics of this story, though, other than the "open letter" and public stalking (and "cunt" carving).

I'm going to re-post this list that Whiskey and I compiled. It's a PSA, if you know someone who has gone through this or anything like it.

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The most pervasive lasting effect of this relationship inside of me: my inability to trust my own instincts, my own memory, or my own emotions. I do not trust my own love. I do not trust my judgment. I do not trust my surroundings. I do not take people at face value - I wonder what degree of abuse they inflict upon others when I meet them. I am sensitive to arguments; I judge people based on how they handle conflict, trying to figure out if they are abusive, and whether I should distance myself from them.

Nearly a decade later, and the wounds are still open.

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I want everyone to feel free to leave their own stories in the comments if they want - don't be afraid to make it about you, too.