It happened again: the nightmare that my ex-boyfriend is holding me hostage. Although he never physically held me against my will, he wouldn’t let me go emotionally. Nearly five years after our relationship ended and I am still mending my scars. I try not to talk about it much publicly, because it’s really nobody else’s business. But I can’t keep quiet about this when other women are experiencing similar pain. Mutual friends that he and I shared don’t even know what really happened, but it seems like they still took his side. He tried to make me out to be a liar, but right now I’m going to share my reality. The honest-to-God truth is I was in an abusive relationship and I’m still trying to heal.
Let’s be completely honest. I haven’t always been the best at taking care of myself. I used to put my emotional and wellness needs on the back burner in order to be the best student, the best friend, and eventually the hardest worker. On the outside I’m sure I looked like I had everything together. My hair was always done. My clothes were fresh. My shoe game was on point. But on the inside it was quite a different story. My well-put-together facade made it even harder for me to admit to myself that I needed to slow down and make real time to take care of Number One. After years of dealing with anxiety, self doubt, and depression and finally having the courage to stand up for me, here I am.
More than a decade ago, I worked at a television station as a news producer. It’s what I’d gone to college for and so it only made sense for me to work within the field which I’d studied. I didn’t want to be one of those recent grads who stayed jobless or accepted a minimum wage position after school, so I made sure I secured this tv job before I even graduated. I felt accomplished and proud, but looking back I realize that I didn’t give myself time to assess and think about what I really wanted to do with my life. Yes, I was good at producing, but was it my passion? Was being a tv news producer my calling?
The first thing many of us hear is the sound of our alarm going off in the morning. We reach over with sleep still in our eyes to turn it off. It’s rarely ever a pleasant alarm that lets you ease into your day… more like a blaring horn screaming at you to WAKE UP! From that moment on every alert possible pops up on your phone. Email from your boss. Meeting at 2 pm. The text from your best friend telling you about the amazing night she had with her new guy. The alarm you set so that you know when to leave the house to beat traffic. In this day of always being so connected, have we forgotten what quiet sounds like? Have we forgotten what our world is like without the noise?
Last Tuesday as the election results were pouring in, I was at the airport waiting to board a flight out of the country. The timing of a planned work-cation to Tahiti could’t have been better. But as I sat in the terminal witnessing all of the hope and progress of the past 8 years disappear, I could feel the anger boiling up inside of me. Once safely on the plane, I closed my eyes and figured when I landed in Tahiti the following morning, the nightmare would be over. It had only just begun.
As a woman, I can truly say that I’ve been disrespected and belittled. People often discredit my abilities and speak to me as if I am a child. As a black woman, I can testify that people have treated me like I am less than human. They talk down to me and expect me to bend over, take the insults and the ridicule and let it roll off my back as if nothing happened. My first instinct is to curse those people out. I want to say “I am neither your property nor your chattel” followed by a number of words that would give my grandmother a heart attack.