BETHESDA, Maryland, October 31, 2014 — Fawn* is a survivor of abuse living and recovering in The United States.
Before the relationship, I was on top of the world. I was confident and had finally come into my own. During the relationship, I was mainly confused. I blamed myself, but he was great at making me the reason for everything bad. I wanted to fix him and believe he was something he was not. He was “perfect” for six months, then a light switch was flipped. I kept making excuses hoping that the guy from the first six months would come back.
I thought it was work, stress or that my success was bothering him. I remember becoming an uglier version of myself; I had never yelled or been so angry before. He used a lot of hurtful words, speech and actions. I started to do the same, which was not my personality before him. It was a rollercoaster. The highs were so high; the lows were very low.
He was constantly threatening to burn my clothes, listening to my voicemails, reading texts and cell records. He sabotaged my family vacations and any happy moment I had.
After the relationship, I was a wreck. I am so proud of myself for getting out and not letting him pull me down further, but it took years to recover. I was unable to trust anyone, I lost most of my self-confidence and was still confused at what the heck had happened. I purposely sought out ‘safe’ relationships to avoid potentially getting hurt. I tried to find people to love me in order to prove myself worthy again.
It has been years since the relationship ended. I wish I had kept better notes, because writing this is therapeutic for me. I cried when I saw Paula on HuffPost Live, because it was nice to hear it from someone else. I have been saying for years he was a sociopath, but people just did not get it.
Love bombing is the definition of the first six months, from an elaborate gift or sweet gesture to telling me he loved me early on. He called just to say he was thinking of me. He took me on trips with his family, and there were so many dinners out. He would fax me sweet notes and send me flowers to the office for everyone to see. When my mom met him three weeks after I started dating him, she said, “So you are the guy who put this sparkle in her eye?” He had me so smitten. Of course, the sex was also a hot topic. It was like I was the hottest woman on the planet. He made me feel like a supermodel…at first.
One of the lines I will never forget was, “Your mom wouldn’t love you half as much if she knew how many men you had F’d.” I remember it crushing me; it was so personal and so wrong. I just sobbed. He always did this in private, so his public persona would not be harmed.
I remember him calling and screaming at me during a work holiday party that did not allow significant others (just staff) and calling me a “cunt”. A co worker grabbed the phone and said, “Leave her alone!” and then hung up on him. I was so embarrassed.
He would leave me voicemails and scream at me. My boss (a woman) took me and my co worker (a woman) to an NBA game for which she had company seats. He lost it, absolutely lost it and said, “You should not go to an event like that with anyone but me. You know they are my favorite team.” Befuddling looking back on it.
I was constantly to blame for what went wrong. According to him, I did not touch him enough or tell him I loved him enough. I remember going on a family trip with my mom and brother without him, and because of his behavior, I arranged so a gift arrived for him every day I was gone (on top of all the phone calls). He got candy, balloons and free golf at any course. Yet, he still haunted me and called and told me I was neglecting him and that I was an awful girlfriend and said my mom was a bitch.
I remember finding lingerie of an ex in the closet and a photo in his wallet (which he left open for me to see) and him telling me he was superstitious and that was why he could not change out his wallet or things in his closet.
I remember staying with a friend out of fear and shame to avoid him. I remember when I finally broke it off, he was so disruptive that my boss had to answer my (many) phones ringing and tell him to stop. Then came the, “I’m sorry; I’m bipolar but don’t take my medicine; I want to change for you” line of BS.
One time when I went out with friends who were in town visiting, he got so angry and made me feel so awful about seeing them that I cut myself. I had never done that or been that way in my life, but it was the most ashamed I had ever been made to feel. I felt so awful about myself and called my best friend (a guy), and he is the only person who ever knew. I knew it was wrong to hurt myself like that, but something inside made me do it.
I asked if we could do counseling. I wanted him to get help or medicine, because he claimed he was diagnosed bipolar as a child but refused medicine because he said he could handle it.
We took breaks numerous times. He bought a house, and I remember saying, “Great. We’ll have our space again,” after having been forced to live together for six months. But when he bought the house and I wanted to stay in the apartment, he flipped. He wanted me in the house with him. That was my glimmer and my first way out, so I stayed in the apartment despite how angry it made him.
Afterwards, I ended up in therapy for a year with someone who was great. I sat down, spit it all out and said, “I need to get through this and move on.”
I experienced a lot of cognitive dissonance and remember being alienated from friends. I could not hang out with anyone but him and his friends. If my friends wanted to hang, it was on his terms or I would hear all about it. I was severely stressed and depressed a lot too. My family was very worried; I was not myself. I was always saying, “This doesn’t seem right” or thinking, “He can’t be blaming this on me.”
I would talk to a very good friend who offered balance/perspective and to my family, because my gut was always doubting. I stayed with a friend a lot who knew I was in a bad place. It tore up my self-esteem. I was an extrovert and social butterfly. I was a friend to everyone who enjoyed going out. He did everything he could to push that in and destroy it.
Although I love my life now, my husband, my career and everything and want to help others get out of the darkness and recapture their lives, I sometimes wonder if those years of being paralyzed had not happened, would I have ended up in a different place than I find myself today?
I danced in a company which helped a ton and was my escape. It was acceptable to him, so I also did not get into any “trouble” due to my rehearsals. I did not do drugs during, but afterwards, I started smoking and drinking much more.
Years later, I am still angry and I cannot let go. It upsets my husband sometimes, because he thinks it means I still have feelings, but I have such a hate for what he did to me and what he took.
I had to see him two years ago for the first time. He acted like we were old friends and would not leave me alone the entire night. I was cordial and would make excuses to leave, but after hours of it (and lots of alcohol), I let it rip. I just lost it and told him I hated him and that he was an awful person. What happened? He turned it on me and said, “Why does it matter? You are married to a great guy. You shouldn’t care about the past. I didn’t mean it. We were young.”
There was no empathy, no remorse and no sign of acknowledging his actions. Oblivious. It was then that I realized he is truly a sociopath.
Trust is still an issue for me and so is control. Whenever a man (including my husband) tries to help or do something, I immediately interpret it as if they think I am helpless or are belittling me. It took years to allow a man to care for me/help me, because I always worried what the ulterior motives were. I am much better now, but I would be lying if I said this does not still happen from time to time. My husband will vouch for it. We talk about it, and I usually realize it immediately after I do it.
To heal and recover I have done therapy. I have talked about it, and writing this has been a great help.
My best advice to someone struggling to leave a toxic relationship is to realize that it is not nearly as hard to leave as it is to stay. It may seem impossible. It may seem like you are right at the edge of a breakthrough, and you do not want to give up. But it is not worth it. You are you and do not let someone chip it away. Please. Seek support from friends, family and professionals. If your gut thinks something is off, it likely is.
To Paula, thank you for doing this. Just because he never hit me (although I thought it would come to that eventually) does not mean he was not abusive. I also know my attraction to this comes from some ‘daddy issues’ which made it worse. I wanted to prove to myself that I could get someone like my dad to love me. It was a challenge. I realize now that I am worthy of love. Those that cannot offer it to me the way I deserve are the ones that are in the wrong. That was a breakthrough for me. All the best to everyone on your journey.
Each day during the month of October, column author Paula Carrasquillo will feature a story written by a survivor of domestic violence. At the end of October, a compilation of all stories will be available for free as an e-book.
*All names have been changed to protect the survivor and the survivor’s family and friends.