Heart on my Sleeve – (VB)

I’ve wanted to write this blog for a long time, but it’s taken me awhile to get here. I’ve always tried to look for the best in people, sometimes ignoring blaringly obvious bad traits. Much to my father’s dismay, this also applied to the boys that I would bring home. I truly believed that deep down everyone was good, despite their flaws. To this day I still believe that, but I was no longer going to find it myself. 

My senior year of college I began dating somebody new. We were both Mechanical Engineers, enjoyed sports and had a lot in common. I was completely head over heels and he was enamored with me. He would always tell me how much he loved me, that I was his whole world and he didn’t know what he would do without me. Those were words that I loved hearing, I thought they made the foundation a great relationship. Things were going smoothly, he was older than I was so he had to work, but he would always make sure to come out with me on the weekends without fail. There were rarely any times that he wouldn’t be by my side at a party. I always just thought he was shy, and didn’t want to socialize with people he didn’t know, so I didn’t mind. Those weren’t the first red flags that I ignored. 

I live for NFL sundays. There’s something about watching all the games in public, seeing the reactions from fans, getting high fives after your team scores a touchdown. It’s a camaraderie thing. On Sundays in the fall, that’s what we would do. Everything would be fine, we’d be having a good time and then his team would start losing, he would get so upset. He’d start screaming, yelling, and cussing at the TV’s. “He’s just a really big fan.” “Well, they really did mess up that one play.” “It’s okay, he’s just had a little too much to drink.” All excuses. Sundays in the summer were spent outside at the baseball fields. He played for an adult recreational team, a bunch of guys who loved the game and still wanted to keep playing after their glory days were over. Bailey and I loved being outdoors and he loved playing baseball, it was a great scenario… unless he wasn’t playing well. One day after striking out, he went into the dugout, and threw his batting helmet as hard as he could against the cement, shattering it. “He’s just passionate about the game” “He’s upset now but he’ll calm down later” “It’ll be okay.”

Summer after my senior year we moved in together. It just made the most sense. We had been dating for almost a year and it was financially smarter than paying rent at 2 different places. He was starting a new certification at work and it was causing him a lot of stress. It started small, just a couple beers after work to relax, but it continued to grow. Once he had one drink, he had to have more and more. The stress and alcohol combined triggered his anger into full blown rages. Screaming, yelling, throwing objects and slamming cabinets until he would pass out. So I would put him to bed and sleep on the couch. I told him over and over again he needed to go see somebody. It was always “I’m going to. I will. I’m just looking for people now. It’ll be okay.” 

This continued on for about a year before it all came to a head one night in October. His brother was visiting for the weekend and we went out downtown. When he started getting belligerent his brother and I decided it was time for us to walk home. He walked in the middle of the street and was almost hit by a car, which set off a long tirade of screaming and yelling. When we were finally able to get him back into the apartment it only got worse. He continued to spiral and spiral until he ran out of our apartment and slammed the back door. It took 30 mins for his brother to find him and get him into bed. Laying on the couch that night, I said “I can’t keep doing this.” His brother replied “I know.”

When I first ended things I never thought it was going to be the actual end. I told him he needed to get help. I said, get yourself together and then come back and we can try this again. I wholeheartedly believed we could make this work, I just need to help him and then things will be okay. When you’re in a relationship like that, it’s so hard to see things clearly. Every thought, every action is muddled. You’re blinded to the truth. Blinded to reality. In my case, I was also blinded to the gravity of my situation. I so deeply cared for him that I felt it was my responsibility to help him, to make things better. Looking back, I know I should’ve just ended it and ran as fast and as far away as I could, but that’s not what I did. 

Again, it started small. Phone calls begging me to take him back. Drunken text messages. Showing up at the apartment crying as he would get his things. I let him keep his key so he could get his things from our place. Then it escalated. I went out with friends one night in November and managed to concuss myself at a restaurant. Worried for me, one of my guy friends spent the night at my place, making sure that it wasn’t anything serious. At 9am, he barged in, already wasted, accusing me of “moving on”. He called me a whore, a slut, a waste of his time. He screamed at my friend, calling him a snake, to get out of “his” apartment. After that morning I took away his key. I thought “it will be okay now, he can’t get to me”. 

The phone calls changed. He was no longer begging me to take him back, but threatening me. Telling me all about his “new girlfriend” and how much better she was than me. The drunken text messages changed to 27 continuous texts letting me know what a whore I was. The tears turned into drive bys. Seeing if my car was at my apartment, if there was anyone else there. Voicemail after voicemail. Text after text. I stopped responding. I started staying at friends’ houses. Even then, I thought I had the situation under control. “He’s just hurt and lashing out.” “It’ll be okay.” Then the messages changed again. Now, he was going to kill himself and he wanted me to know that it would be all my fault. I was responsible for this. It was all my doing. The guilt consumed me. I reached out to his parents and for awhile, things were quiet. 

The following March I started dating someone new. I was finally beginning to feel happy again, I thought things were changing. For my birthday in April, we went to the Norfolk Tides baseball game. What I didn’t know, was he was there too and he saw us. I woke up the next morning to a voicemail. I can still hear the anger in his voice and I have every word of the message memorized:
 “Hey bitch, I just found out about you and your little boyfriend. You lied to me, you lied to my family, you are such a f*cking c***. So here’s what’s gonna happen. I’m gonna go out this weekend and have a good time. Then when I get back, I’m going to f*cking kill myself and it’s all your f*cking fault you f*cking b*tch”. 

That Sunday night, I got a call from his father. He told me that he was coming for me and I needed to leave my apartment immediately. He told me that he was calling the cops but I needed to get away and stay away. It was 5 months since I had broken up with him. 5 months I let this continue. Only after all of this, did I finally report him to our workplace. I finally blocked his number. I finally accepted that, I could not help him, this situation was out of my control and that everything would not be okay. 

When it was all finally over, I felt like a shell of a human. My heart had been ripped to pieces, there was nothing left of me. It took a very long time for me to recover, to finally feel like myself again, but there was a large part of me that had changed. Going through something like that leaves a gaping hole inside. It steals so many things. After it was over, I built a wall. I was never going to let someone get that close again. I was never going to let someone take away such a huge part of me. I would make new friends yes, but I wanted to keep them at an arm’s length. Far enough away where they couldn’t hurt me. 

Why does all this matter? Because I’m ready to tear down the wall. 

I started coming to November Project about 3 years ago. It was great, I could workout and was meeting new people who had similar interests to me. I thought I would give some high fives, do some burpees and have a great time. Even when I became a leader I wanted to give back and help people along their own personal journeys. I wanted to be the smile to start off their Wednesday. But I was terrified to show my own journey. I was terrified of giving away parts of myself again. When you come to NP, people have their hearts wide open and their souls on their sleeve. No matter who you are or what you’ve been through, they will accept you. They weren’t afraid to show everyone who they were. They weren’t afraid to let people dive deep down into their hearts. Thank you Virginia Beach, for being the greatest city and the greatest group of people. I love you all so much. 

So here I am. This is me. I’m ready to let all of you in.

To all of my friends who went through this with me, you have no idea how much I love you. Thank you for the support that you gave, and continue to give me. Jimmy, thank you for being the most patient man. Thank you for never giving up on me even when things looked bleak.

***If you believe that you or anyone you know could possibly be in an abusive relationship, please look at the One Love Foundation. Their goal is to end relationship violence before it starts. They educate young adults on the signs abuse and the steps you can talk to help someone in that situation. Even if they tell you that it’s “okay”.  https://www.joinonelove.org/

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