Sometimes people question those who have been living in an abusive relationship for a while. They wish to know why they stayed for so long. I’m not a stranger to doing this myself, even in my own case of misery. Why did I stay? How come I didn’t just leave when the first signs of mistreatment appeared? In this article, I will take you to dive into my past a little more, as I unveil the reasons why someone might stay in an abusive, unhealthy relationship.
First I’d like to tell you a little bit about the things I went through, and why it was so difficult for me to distinguish what’s not ok in a relationship.
When I met my ex, I was around 16 years old. I had already decided to off myself if nothing happened (literally had a pleading with God, sobbing on the floor due to the pain). And then the internet threw a person my way. Someone nearly a decade older, who would become my salvation. Though, of course, it was more or less a trap.
I spent 14 years in a world of not being enough, and not managing my own life. My delusions of being able to see and speak to the dead and other creatures strengthened and grew. My financial independence crumbled to dust, stolen. I separated from my family, and to this day I don’t really speak with them. They’ve all but abandoned my sorry bottom.
Why didn’t I just leave?
#1 Financial dependence
One of the freshly recognized forms of abuse is financial. It’s less talked about, and unknown. When I went to get legal help from the state to help with it, they pretty much scoffed it off. The system that authorities told me to trust to help those in low places, mocked me instead of helping.
The loss of control of my own accounts and money was the main thing that kept me trapped. My patron would take every cent I had on my account, claiming it for expenses. Meanwhile, my clothes turned ragged and torn. My shoes leaked in the winter. And when catastrophe hit, I had no money to even take care of my food needs (other than the 50 I had hidden inside a book, for whatever reason. Thank heavens I did!).
My patron controlled everything, and truth be told, I gave him that power. After having dealt with mental health issues for years, I finally gave in. I let go of the keys to my independence since clearly I wasn’t cut out to take care of my own social benefits. He even told me once “You’ll just mess it up anyway.” This happened during a fight over switching my bank info to a new phone, which I apparently wasn’t allowed to do by myself.
#2 Fear of Abandonment and low self-esteem
The BPD mixed in with the manipulations quite professionally. I exsisted in a place where I thought I would literally die if I left, or if he abandoned me. Nobody ever told me otherwise. Instead, I had surrounded myself with unhealthy people who, I’ve come to realize, never had my best interest in their hearts.
I look back at that 16, 18, 20 year old girl, and it fills me with sorrow. Nobody should live for so long in such a place of fear. Such a terrifying, unforgiving, murdering place of ‘I’m never going to be enough, am I?’. And then I get angry. Very, very angry.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that forces other than myself controlled my childhood, now I also had to deal with this in my ‘best’ years. People made it very clear what was expected of me. I was to behave and not mess things up for the rest. To just fit in. Meanwhile, the lies that my patron told behind my back had portrayed me in very dark colors to my loved ones.
Other than that, everyone left me alone. On occasion, I would get stuff, and sweets, and alcohol. One of my online acquaintances from back then even exclaimed to me how much more fun I was hammered. I abandoned all hope of ever being able to be just me.
#3 Emotional Manipulation
The unfortunate reality of Borderlines is that we are very easy to manipulate. If you know our ticks, our shadows, we fall right into your hand. And we will fight to stay there. Such is the nature of desperation. Whatever needs to happen will happen, so that I will not get abandoned again.
In my case, this led to me living in a world of delusion for over a decade. When I went out, the ravens were there to guard me. Spirits sent by my patron to watch over me, or so he told me. I could see Chazian, the vaporous dragon, high up in the sky and amidst the clouds. In the darkening hours of the night, the shadows of the house deepened, revealing souls long since passed. This was my world. And it was real.
Eventually, the lies caught up. My world came crashing down, and the delusion shattered. That’s when I finally got away from the place. I could take his lies, manipulation, and absolute control. But the world that gave me hope for a better tomorrow? No. You don’t get to lie about my faith, my essence, my everything. Chazian the dragon flew above me no more. The wicked wizard of the west shot him down.
#4 Foolish hope for a change
One thing that I find weird is my willingness to look past all the lies. I mean, the man was a serial betrayer of my trust, yet I kept giving him the benefit of the doubt. I’ve come to realize that my fear of having to live alone overthrew the reality of the deceptions. And so, even when I got cheated on, I forgave. Surely, I thought to myself, this life was better than the alternative. To die out there, where nobody, not even my family, wanted me.
And so I kept on hoping that one day the promise of change would be realized. But of course, that day never came. The lies continued, and the betrayals got worse. Eventually, I caught on to the fact that I had built my whole life on top of a lie. Imagine waking up one day thinking, What in the actual f*ck have I been doing for 14 years?! Boy, was I angry.
#5 Isolation and lack of support
On top of the lack of financial independence and the whole living in a delusion thing, the man managed to isolate me from my original herd. As my self-esteem diminished, and my depression got worse, I allowed him to handle all connections to the real world. I had my online realm, and so I figured that was enough.
The person hijacked my family, feeding them stories to the point where they stood by his side instead of mine when it was time for me to break out of that prison. That was a huge shock to little old me. All of the support I had had come from my thought that, surely, my family would be there for me. Oh how wrong I was.
For years on years, my patron had managed the information stream to my parents and sister. None of them even know me anymore, as they only ever talked to someone other than myself. In a way, this guy also manipulated and trapped my family. I have to hand it to him, if there’s one thing he is extremely good at, it’s manipulation. By the end of it all, I had nobody. Well. Almost nobody.
The cost of those years
During those 14 years, I went from being ‘daddy’s little girl’ to becoming a stranger. I always looked up to my father as my hero, after all, he was in the business of saving lives for real. A true guardian, who had always protected me to the best of his ability, now turned against me. The echoes of the aftermath scream in my head. ‘Nobody will come in between me and my happiness, not even my daughters.’ Hearing that, something broke. And I don’t think it can ever heal fully.
I used to be able to speak with my relatives, cousins, and such. We visited them often, before my isolation and going with this man. After all of it, I lost them all. They don’t know who I am, anymore. And I don’t know who they are. The faces are familiar, the smiles infectious, but fear and emptiness fill our interactions. From a great big family, the chaos took everyone but one – my amazing mother. And even that this episode warped forever.
It has been over four years since my whole world had to be reset. I finally went to therapy and started to look out for myself. It’s been a long road, and I still have more to go. This journey will never end, not with all the scars and maladaptive patterns I adopted during those years.
Was it all bad?
It was pretty bad, yes. I had entirely given up on life. Every day I walked closer to suicide, and every night I lived in nightmares. My solitary, ivory tower would’ve crashed on its own, had it not been for the tragedies that allowed me to break free from it. When it collapsed, I went into chaos for a while. Looking back, however, the dust that rained on me after it has been quite beautiful.
These days I am thankful for that period in my life. The shadows taught me a lot about myself and allowed me to see what not many people ever get to see. I wasn’t alone in the ocean of terror, after all. Without that path, I wouldn’t have found my way to online games. And without the games, I wouldn’t have found my husband.
The darkness was horrifying, and it still lingers inside me. The Maw of Chaos is ever open, ready to suck me in in case I hesitate. I am able to stare straight into it now. And perhaps, one day, somewhere in the world, my words and experience will resonate with another. Maybe I can be the figure in the distance, letting the drowning know they are not alone in this Ocean.