The ghost of my ex was still living in my body, causing panic and fear at the slightest provocation.
In September 2019, my boyfriend of 3 years backed me into a corner, screamed in my face, and headbutted me. I collapsed to the ground, sobbing.
He quickly knelt down, begging forgiveness.
This had happened countless times before. This time was different.
At that moment, I knew I wasn’t going to make any more excuses for him. I kicked him out of our flat that day.
I’m not sure why that was what finally did it. Maybe it was because being headbutted was new: He normally stuck to fists.
Maybe it was because I’d secretly started reading about abusive relationships, trying to figure out if that was what was happening to me. Looking back, I think I had been building up to that moment for a long time, and that day just pushed me over the edge.
It took many months of hard work in therapy to get some perspective. I realized that I had been living in constant fear for nearly 2 years since we started living together.
Therapy helped me understand the patterns I had fallen into. I saw I was directly seeking out people in my life who “needed help.” These people then went on to take advantage of my selfless nature. Sometimes people use that in the worst possible way.
Basically, I was being treated like a doormat.
I wasn’t responsible for how I was being treated, but therapy helped me acknowledge that I had an unhealthy perception of how a relationship should be.
With time, I moved on and started dating again. I wanted to remind myself that there were people out there who weren’t like him. I practiced making healthy decisions and identifying the type of people I wanted to be around, rather than the people who “needed” me.
I never intended to get into another relationship, but as often happens, I met someone amazing when I wasn’t even looking.
Things moved quickly, although I made sure to take serious stock with myself about whether or not I was making the same mistakes as before. I found, over and over again, that I wasn’t.
I made him aware of my past on our very first date, a date that went on for over 24 hours.
My best friend was texting periodically to make sure I was okay, and I was reassuring her that I felt safe. My date asked me, jokingly, if my friend was checking up on me. I said yes, and explained that she’s a little more protective than most due to my last relationship.
It was early to tell him about my abusive ex, but I felt I had a good measure of his character. He asked me to let him know if he ever did anything unintentionally that made me feel uncomfortable.
When lockdown started, we moved in together. The alternative was being entirely alone for an unknown amount of time.
Luckily, it’s gone well. What I didn’t expect was my past trauma to raise its head.