Finding The Strength To Leave – Bobbi McDowell
“I do remember the good from time to time, but I will never be able to forget the bad.”~Bobbi
Looking back now, I still reminisce on all the nights we spent laughing at jokes that didn’t make sense. We’d stay up on the phone until one of us fell asleep, sharing every tiny detail of our hopes and dreams, and I confided in you about my deepest insecurities. As I delete pictures, I remember their stories and occasionally, they make me smile. I think about the night you drove by my house three times after some guy had approached me at my car because you wanted to make sure he didn’t follow me home. When I hear that song, I still think about how you wrapped your arms around my waist in your living room because we left the dance before they played the one slow song and all I wanted was a slow dance. I still think about how we’d sit in our living room for hours singing along to stupid songs even though neither one of us can carry a tune. I do think about the good memories from time to time…
But I will never forget the bad.
No matter how hard I’ve tried, I can’t forget the nights you took those insecurities that I had trusted in you and exposed them. You would taunt me for what seemed like hours until I could do nothing but lay there and sob, shaking on your bed and asking myself what I did to deserve this. I started to believe the hurtful things you said about me. I hated the nature of my body. I felt stupid and annoying and tried my best not to bother those around me with my “personal problems.” I stood still as I watched my self worth circle down the drain.
I stopped wanting for you to take me out because my outfits, no matter how modest I thought they were, always seemed to accentuate some part of my body that you deemed inappropriate. When we were around other people, I felt like I was surrounded by eggshells. If I got too comfortable and said something that you thought was too personal, then I would hear about it for the rest of the night. I was so afraid to piss you off that I started to just sit there in silence praying that people wouldn’t ask me a question so I wouldn’t have to speak. Your temper was a sleeping bear that I tiptoed around, but you would set up booby traps because you wanted me to wake it up.
I used to feel most comfortable when I was snuggled up by your side. You were home to me and I would have given anything to be able to teleport to your arms when things got hard. But then, I became afraid of what your arms could do. The nights which followed the days we fought, I would find myself staying up, long past the time you fell asleep, waiting until you rolled over because I couldn’t settle down if you were touching me. I was terrified of what you could do to me.
I still remember the day I knew I wanted to leave. I decided it in the shower, and I cried. I cried because I didn’t know where I was going to live. I cried because our identities had become one and I didn’t know how to exist without you. I cried because your family had done so much for me and I didn’t want them to think I didn’t appreciate every single thing. I cried because I really did love you, and I think that you really did love me too – you just didn’t know the right way to love someone.
It took months following that day before I could find the strength to actually leave. You would show a sign that maybe things would change for the better, but every time, you’d revert to toxic habits. I would keep a mental note of how many days we had gone without an abusive episode, but I don’t think we ever made it past a week. In the last month we shared together, I don’t think we made it three days.
I started to realize that I couldn’t be held accountable for saving myself, because every time I told myself I’d leave, I ended up staying. So I started to let people in my life know that I was unhappy. I told a small number of people that I thought we would have a talk and see how that went. Then I told a few people that I was seriously considering leaving. But the week before I left, I cried to two of my closest friends. I didn’t tell them the ways you had hurt me. They didn’t need me to tell them. All I told them was that I needed to leave and I couldn’t do it alone and I needed them to hold me accountable for my words.
For years I was unable to recognize healthy, pure love. I became someone I couldn’t recognize. I distanced myself from my family and from those closest to me. I allowed myself to meet new people, but rarely allowed myself to open up and let them meet me. I picked up habits that made me ask myself, “What would your twelve-year-old self think of this?” and more often than not, I determined that she would not be proud.
But she would be proud that I found the strength to leave. She might be disappointed that I allowed myself to be abused for so long, but she would be proud that I ultimately found a way out. I found the strength to leave because I was able to surround myself with people who knew how to love me, and they’ve taught me how to love myself. And I hope that you find people who love you unconditionally and are able to teach you the right way to love, so that you can be healthy and happy one day.
About Bobbi McDowell:
I am a full-time, dual-sport student athlete with three jobs. I love my family, dogs, and food.