The 5 Steps I Took to Recover From an Abusive Relationship

The 5 Steps I Took to Recover From an Abusive Relationship

Author’s note: This article discusses abuse and dating violence.

Note that this is not an actual how to guide. This is my story the best way I can tell it. When I was 14, I left a two-year emotionally and physically abusive relationship. Nine years later I have found recovery. This is how.


1. Take One Year and Six Months Too Long

Be afraid. Be afraid that he will hurt you, be afraid that he will hurt your friends, be afraid that he will hurt himself. Tell yourself you don’t love him. Tell yourself everyday that this is not love. It took eighteen months for ,me to believe in myself, maybe it’ll takes you just as long, longer or less. It may take bruises and scars and forgotten birthdays and infidelity and that time in your basement with that jump rope, but you will realize that you do not love him.


2. Wait for the Opportune Moment

Wait until he is so far into your brain you are convinced you will implode if he leaves. Wait until you can’t sleep unless he calls you and tells you he loves you. Wait until he convinces you that you are not human without him. Wait until he wraps his fingers around your arms and pushes you full strength into a wall because you will not kiss him in front of a teacher. Wait until your head hits the plaster and you fall to the ground. Wait until you can run your fingers over the welts. Wait.

Then, go home and cry every ounce of pain you’ve been holding for the past two years. When he calls, answer. Calm him down. Tell him you love him. Do not tell him that is a lie. The next day, meet him at his locker after school and say “I can’t do this anymore,” like you are in a teen drama and then walk away. Walk home and do not look back. You will not cry. You’ve cried too much already.


3. Keep It a Secret

Do not tell your parents. Do not tell any of your high school boyfriends. Do not tell your friends until years later once you discover the sweet numb of wine. Do not tell anybody until your freshman year of college when it comes pouring out in a creative writing class. Do not tell the women that you date because you are scared that your identity is not your own. Be afraid that you love women because you had to escape the only boy you ever loved.


4. Write About It

Constantly. Obsessively. Write songs and poems and tumblr posts and articles and publish them, but not with your real name because you are scared he will find you after all this time.


5. Seek Help

Go to therapy. For years. Give it time, it will not help at first. You will relapse. You will hurt. You will stay awake all night convinced he is coming for you. Then, you will find EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a kind of therapy that is a proven treatment for trauma. It will help. You will feel strong and whole for the first time in nine years. You will cry a lot and then you will feel light. You will reclaim your experience. You will reclaim your queer identity. It will be hard, but you will survive. You have survived.


If you are in an abusive relationship please seek help. You can call this number for the domestic violence hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). I recommend EMDR therapy as a way to heal; that is what worked for me. You are worth more.