*Before you read, buckle up. This is amazing.*
My story begins when I was 17. I was a young girl who was struggling with anxiety to the point of not being able to eat. I was dropping weight and was not able to keep anything I ate down.
Then I met him. We’ll call him Dan. He swooped in right when I needed someone the most. My father moved out of states a few months before for a job and my identical twin had just had a major surgery a few months before as well.
I had a crush on Dan for months, but when we officially met, we were inseparable. It was the summer, I was going into my senior year of high school, and we spent every day together.
Dan was a year older than I was and went off to college when fall came. He was only an hour away, and I visited regularly.
But things started to change when he got to college. He started talking to me poorly, get annoyed constantly, and crabby.
I blew it off as him being stressed from school, or that maybe I was doing something wrong to make him mad.
When it came time to choose college for myself, and I allowed Dan to cloud my choice. He convinced me to go to the same school, and when I brought up the school I had fallen in love with, he guilt tripped me to the point of me not applying.
I ended up going to the same school, but getting into a competitive research program.
The first day we both were there, I jokingly hid one of Dan’s desk chairs, and he cussed me out loud enough for others to hear, and for my family to hear. I was skyping my twin when he realized the chair was gone.
That moment my stomach turned into knots, I knew I made a mistake.
Dan started controlling more and more of my life and I did not even realize it.
I couldn’t talk to guys in my class without him making me feel guilty, I couldn’t go to parties without him there and he refused to go to anything I wanted to go to. If I wore a shirt that was lower cut, I’d get guilt tripped.
After Fall Semester, Dan was dismissed from the college because of grades. I was assured that he wouldn’t fail out, but he lied about how much class he was actually missing.
When I returned to college for Spring Semester, I was going alone. I had made no friends of my own and knew no one on my floor.
I fell into a deep depression. I struggled not only with not having Dan there, but being my own person. I had always been a twin, and when I got the chance to be my own person, I still was attached to someone else.
After my first year of college, my mother and younger sister moved to where my father was living. I thought about transferring to the school I wanted to go to originally, even talked to a Transfer Counselor, but Dan made me feel bad about even thinking about it.
When my family dropped me off for my sophomore year of college, I stood outside my dorm watching the van drive off and tears streamed down my face. I had asked Dan to be there when they left for comfort; he didn't show up for over an hour after my family.
That was the moment that I knew that I deserved better.
I said it out loud to myself, and I knew that I meant it this time. I was going to transfer to where I wanted to go to school for ME. No one else.
Dan started making me cry on a weekly basis, I barely left my room because I did not have many friends, and I sat alone on weekends begging Dan to come visit. Every weekend it was another excuse as to why he couldn't come visit and when he did, he'd treat me horribly. He would raise his voice to me a few times a day, and I let him.
Family would tell me he talked to me poorly and I'd say it wasn't like that all of the time.
But it was.
I'd get embarrassed that they would notice how he talked to me. Not only was he embarrassing me in front of people, he had given himself the power to embarrass me even when he was not there. I was constantly embarrassed about just being myself.
One of the moments that stick out in my mind was when we went to the big mall together by where I used to live. We walked into the food court and I was walking around looking for food. He got in line and ordered. I walked up to Five Guys and thought it was a little ridiculously priced. I turned around and walked back to him and he asked if I ordered. I said, "No not yet, I don't know what I want". He immediately went off on me. "What?! I already ordered. God. You can't pick from the selection that is here? I'm going to get my food way before you. Come on!” The guy that was standing waiting for food next to us looked at us, then at me with the most disgusted look on his face.
I felt immediately humiliated. This complete stranger must think I'm stupid for not being able to make up my mind.
But then when they called Dan's order, the guy who overheard said, "Hey! I think that's yours" with a bite and glared at Dan. I knew then that he didn't look disgusted because I couldn't make up my mind, he looked disgusted that Dan was talking to me the way he was.
I constantly was asking, "Why do you always have to make me feel stupid?" or "Do you always have to do that? Make me feel stupid?”
Yes, I am a little unorganized and klutzy, but that should be lovable and goofy, not annoying.
Dan did get physical one time, and it scared me.
He grabbed my arm and yanked me away from a bird that was hurt. I felt a flash of fear; he'd never done that before. There were people sitting on a bench that saw him do that, and I saw their eyebrows go up with surprise. Yet again, I was embarrassed that someone saw that, but I didn't say anything.
As a girlfriend I was never valued. Anything that bothered me, "you're too sensitive" or "you're overreacting". I'd never get a phone call or text but whenever we were together he was always on his phone.
I had to ask to hold his hand, or ask him to cuddle. I never was told I looked nice or beautiful. He was constantly degrading me.
Too clumsy to remember where my keys were.
Too untrustworthy to be allowed to go out.
Too sensitive to "jokes"
Too clingy or pushy for asking for positive attention.
My accomplishments were never anything to be proud of.
When I got accepted to the school I had turned down to go to where Dan wanted, I was ecstatic. I could not believe that I was getting the opportunity to do what I had always wanted.
Dan didn't say, "Congratulations, I'm proud of you", he said, "Took long enough".
I moved out of the state we both had lived in and to where my whole family was, and I felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders. I breathed a little deeper, and found myself not missing Dan.
One evening, in the summer before I moved to my new college, I broke up with Dan because he had lied to me about trying to move to where I was. He was caught and I was done letting him lie to me.
A few hours later, I called him back and told him I was sorry and that I didn't want it to end.
They say that it takes someone who is in an abusive relationship five tries to get out of the relationship.
When I got to my dream school, I flourished. I made friends, got invited over, did better in classes, and truly smiled.
The happier I became, the worse Dan got. He would yell at me on the phone, guilt trip me for having friends that were guys, and needed to know where I was going all of the time.
One night, Dan told me he was never going to move out of our home state and I knew in that moment that if I stayed with him, I was going to be trapped in the state I moved away from.
"What are we doing then?" I asked.
We broke up mutually, but I still was upset about it. We were together almost three and a half years. I didn't understand why I was upset when he treated me so poorly.
When I found out that he had started dating someone who was 4 years younger than him less than 3 weeks after we broke up, I became numb.
Dan started doing drugs and hanging out with the wrong kind of people.
After finding out about his new girlfriend, who it seemed like he was with while still dating me, I knew that I couldn't focus on the past or him, I had to work on how I viewed myself.
I realized that I was in an emotionally abusive relationship after men started paying attention to me and I would question why. Why would they want me? I'm nothing special.
It took a long time to break that train of thought. I'd cringe when I would lose something, I would hear Dan yelling at me and be embarrassed, even if no one was there.
When it came to men, I steered clear. I had guys that were interested in me, but I wasn't interested in dating for months.
The lies I allowed Dan to put into my head about myself were not who I was, and I unveiled the lies and saw the truth.
I was me. 100% unique.
Instead of being ashamed of who I was, I started embracing it, recognizing my likes and dislikes, and thrived on being authentic.
I did all of the things that Dan had stopped me from doing.
I went out dancing and didn't care how goofy I looked.
I wore a dress out for a girl's night.
I joined a women's group.
I started painting and doing creative things.
I had finally got the opportunity to do whatever I wanted to do.
I graduated a year ago from my dream school, and I have never stopped living fully.
Life had it's hard points, like what to do after graduating, the realization that I know am starting my life, and moving two times.
I moved away from the state where my dream school was, and in the region of the US that my home state is. I don't regret moving, but I definitely miss it.
I got a job as a Life Skills Trainer for people with developmental disabilities and I love it. I look forward to going to work and have amazing coworkers.
Through my job I am teaching classes, and making a difference in the client's lives. I am helping them become more independent, and it makes me proud of not only where I work, but also whom I work with.
Because of my job, I have become more aware of disability rights and now am an advocate for those who have disabilities to have the same rights as you or I. I volunteer for a candidate for my new state's senate.
If I let Dan keep his control, believe what he made me believe about myself and not become the person I am today, I would never be here. I would not be helping those reach their full potential. I would not be helping a great person win a senate seat. I would be trapped in a life that was not meant for me.
The next challenge for me is to actually date someone. I have a fear of being vulnerable with someone again due to how I was treated. I have become independent but also am getting to the point of wanting a companion. I don't want another Dan either. But being able to talk about the emotional abuse it one step in the right direction.
Learning to be vulnerable after coming so far will be tough, but I am ready for it.
I want to make sure that others know to not let someone control so much of your life that you forget to live it.
I knew I deserved better and I haven't stopped looking for that better person.
I am living unveiled.