This is what I’d tell my teenage self about surviving an abusive relationship
Dear 16-year-old Me,
Don’t freak out. Yes, I cut our hair short. Yes, we’ve gained a bit of weight. Yes, we still don’t care about our eyebrows — as you read this, they are probably really thin and slightly too short, but as I write this, they are rather long and totally unkempt. Society keeps telling me I should keep them “fleeky,” which is what 16-year-olds are saying now instead of “on point” — but I really don’t care.
Right now, as you read this you are probably sad. Sad and confused. You are not sure where you fit and not sure whether you want to.
You’re kind of smitten with this boy who is NO good for you.
I’d love to say turn and run away from him now, but honestly, he is going to teach you so much about strength and independence, love and heartbreak — and you have to experience it all in order to become me.
He will hurt you.
He will make you feel worthless.
He will infiltrate your mind, poisoning you against the people that matter the most to you.
He will bend your arm behind your back, kiss you on the cheek, and call you a bitch for telling him that you wanted to go to see your grandmother.
He will tell you that you can go but you must bring back $40 so he can buy new shoes.
He will punch you in the head for asking him about the girl you saw leave the flat that you live in together.
He will call you names and pull your hair and punch your legs and spit in your face and destroy you until you feel like nothing, until you feel like your only escape is to leave the planet.
He will look at the fresh cuts on your arm and the fading bruises on your ribs, and he will laugh. He will call you pathetic. He will tell you to leave — and when you do, he will tell you to come back.
He will not care that you are carrying his baby when he grabs you by the hair while you are throwing up in the toilet, and throw you to the ground until your head bursts open and bleeds all over his hands.
He will make you walk 15 minutes to the ambulance, then leave you at the hospital.
He will punch you and slap you and touch you and make you feel…nothing.
Then one day, you will cut yourself — and it will hurt. All the other cuts didn’t. All the bruises and welts he gave you didn’t. But this one does. This cut on your right wrist feels like all the beatings you have received by his hands. You can feel for the first time in over a year. You are going to cry until you laugh. And then you will laugh until you cry.
You will hatch a plan to leave him, thinking it would be like all the other times you tried to leave, where he shouts at you and holds your arms too tight. When he cries into your stomach saying sorry over and over. That he will never do it again. That he will get help and learn how to deal with his issues, only to push you onto the bed even when you are trying to push him off, then giving up because whats the point.
But this time will be different.
He lets you go. He tells you there is someone else he loves and he lets you go. And for a nanosecond, you hesitate. Another girl. Another punching bag. Another life ruined. You think if you stay, at least she will not have to go through what you have gone through. You’ve already endured 17 months of it. 17 months of assault and sleepless nights. You have already endured 17 months of “FUCK YOU.” You have endured hell.
You ponder for the briefest of moments, “What if she is not as strong as me?” — and then you realize this is the strongest you have ever felt.
You will walk past him and stop. You will thank him for setting you free, close your eyes, imagine the boy you met two years ago, and hug him. A genuinely warm hug. And you feel him hug you too. The softest his touch has felt for most of your time together. It will be a very tender moment between a broken girl and a broken boy.
And you will walk away.
The strength you found in that moment will disappear, and that is okay. You will still be a shadow of the girl you were when you left home. It will take you six weeks alone in bed — crying and screaming and cutting and drinking and swearing. You will want to go back to him because, when you were with him, you couldn’t feel — and now you are feeling everything, and it is killing you.
But you will find a reason to keep on keeping on. You will find a reason to have a shower and cut your hair and start your life again. You will find the strength to love yourself again.
That strength will falter sometimes. You will have wobbles. You will struggle almost daily with inner demons and inner voices telling you that you are not worth happiness. Telling you that you are weak for not leaving sooner or fighting back or standing up and telling him NO!
And then one day, you will write this letter and feel free.
Editor’s Note: If you are experiencing domestic violence and need help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224, or visit their website here. For more resources, go here.
Stacey Joseph is a 26-year-old Early Years Educator from Wembley, London. She probably drinks too much coffee, talks a little too much, and loves buying second-hand books. She can relate almost everything that happens in her life to a scene or quote from “One Tree Hill,” “Gilmore Girls,” or “Les Miserables.” She writes poetry and essays about her life, love, family, current events, and being a woman in her 20s in the 21st century, because it’s not always easy! Follow her day-to-day life on Instagram at @stace_loujo and check out her writing Instagram at @s.j.sinclair.