My life was forever changed when I met my now ex-boyfriend. He took things from me and controlled me for 8 months of my life, causing friendships and relationships with family members to become strained and almost damaged forever. I am forever grateful to God for saving me from my narcissistic boyfriend who ended up being a master manipulator. For those who know the true identities of me and my perpetrator, I hope that you will not confront him for anything that has been done and that you will not judge or stop loving me for anything he manipulated me into doing.
For my safety and discretion, I am going to be changing names, and some other minor details of my story. This relationship lasted for 8 months.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN:
One day while I was in college, my friend and I were going to Chick Fil A for lunch. My friend ended up bringing his roommate, Alex, along with him. I didn’t think much of Alex at all. He was quiet and didn’t talk much. I only occasionally saw him that semester whenever I spent time with my friend. The following semester, Alex finally decided to ask me out on a couple of group dates with all of his roommates. It was actually really fun and I had a great time! There was something about Alex, though. He was nice, fun, and funny, but I couldn’t ever tell if he was telling the truth. He told the craziest stories, but we never knew if they were actually true. I honestly don’t think I was really attracted to him necessarily, but the more he talked to me, the more I felt this strange pull towards him. I didn’t understand why, but I could tell that I was developing feelings for him. I was kind of embarrassed by it, so I didn’t tell my friends until they asked me what was going on. They were surprised that I would actually have feelings for him because we didn’t seem to be the type of people who would be put together as a couple. Plus, it really bothered them that he never seemed to tell the truth. Of course, I worried about that, too, but I kept that to myself.
As time went by, I started spending more and more time with Alex. Mostly accompanied by his roommates or mine, but it was all very confusing. He would be very flirty and fun one day, and then extremely distant the next day. He would never be very touchy with me even though on our second date, he had held my hand and cuddled me during the movie, but then he ended up being extremely distant afterward. After about a month of hanging out consistently and going on a couple dates, he came over late one night to have a serious conversation with me. He told me that he liked where things were headed with us, but he had just gotten out of an abusive relationship about 3 months before we had met, and he wasn’t ready to start a new one. He still wanted to take me on dates and spend time with me, but he didn’t want to be physical or exclusive. For some reason, I said I was okay with that. Any normal person would have said, “I think you need some time” or “okay, but are you okay if I go on dates with other people, too?” but he already had me intertwined in his controlling grasp at that point. I felt that I only wanted to exclusively date him. I made myself be okay with all of the terms that he set because he told me he was broken, and he was going through a hard time, and the caring, soft side of me DEFINITELY jumped in and wanted to be there for him and be able to help him or fix him. Or so I thought.
THE CONSTANT BACK AND FORTH:
The next few months were completely awful, but I convinced myself that it was fine and I could handle the mistreatment because sometimes he seemed like the perfect guy I was meant to be with. Alex was true to his word and never cuddled me, or held my hand, or even hugged me, but for some reason I forced myself be okay with that because I just appreciated that he wanted to spend time with me. Yet there were still days when I felt like he didn’t even want me there. I had to replay his words in my head, “he said he likes me…he said he likes me…”, and that would help me push through the bad days. He played with my head by constantly making me feel like he wanted me there or cared about me but then would run off and not talk to me for a day to make me want him more. I constantly had friends ask me, “How does it make you feel that Alex always tells everyone that you guys aren’t dating? How are you handling this?” I would always just shrug, and say, “It’s fine. He can tell himself whatever he needs to, but I know we’re dating.”
As more months went by, we became closer and closer. I started to finally break down a few walls with Alex and finally was able to occasionally figure out when he was possibly not telling fake stories or lying. Yet I still wasn’t always sure. But for some reason, I didn’t care. I still wanted to be with him so badly. He seemed to have the whole package to me. He made it seem like he was a hard worker, a good member of the church, he liked to go see movies with me, he would cook for me all the time, and even began to plan out our future together with aspects that I didn’t realize I wanted for my future. I began to blow off my friends for him. Whenever he had a bad day, I would run over and be there even if he told me not to come, I wanted to be there. Even if he texted when I was out with my other friends, I always left them for him. Always! Pretty soon, I was skipping class for him. I stopped doing assignments the night they were due because I just wanted to go over and be with him or comfort him through his tough time. I would even call into work and pretend to be sick just so that I wouldn’t have to leave him for any reason. He absolutely became my number one priority over EVERYTHING! Including my own well being. I couldn’t explain it to anyone whenever they would ask me why I would literally do anything for Alex.
One day, he finally trusted me enough to open up about his abusive relationship. He told me that he had been mentally, physically, and sexually abused by this ex-girlfriend. He also mentioned that he had never told anyone about it before, but his therapist advised him to open up to a couple people that he trusted the most. I was flattered and devastated. I did not take this news well. I put on a brave face for him, but I honestly was extremely depressed for him that he could have been hurt like that by someone because at that point I thought that I loved him. I would even cry about it if I thought about it too much. But after he opened up about his past trauma, I never felt closer to him. I started to feel like he finally was always telling me the truth. He even told me that he would answer any questions that I had about what happened to him. Now, I don’t even know how much of this story was even true, or how much of this was a manipulation tactic to never leave him.
THE SURPRISE TRIP:
One day near the end of the semester, my friend was dog sitting the most adorable puppy. Alex also thought the puppy was adorable and kept saying that he wanted one for himself. I didn’t really take him seriously, but soon after he was looking online for a puppy. He ended up finding some he liked near his hometown and decided to take a road trip to go look at the dogs in that area. Then he turned to me and asked me to come with him because he thought it would also be a good opportunity for me to meet his family. He told me that he would pay for the entire trip as well, but “we’re still not dating,” he reminded me once more. I just had to tell myself once again, “you are dating, he just needs to tell himself that for now.” I, of course, was on board and didn’t care that I would be missing class because it was a trip with him and at that point, that’s all I cared about. Plus I felt so loved and flattered that he actually wanted to pay for us to take a trip together and wanted his family to meet me. That must have meant that our relationship was getting serious! I thought I was so happy about that. The day came, and we left for his hometown. I had been so preoccupied with focusing on Alex that I didn’t realize that I hadn’t even called my mom to update her on my life in a long time. She was hurt when she found out that I never even thought to call her and tell her about this special trip I was going on.
The drive to his home was long, so we decided to stay the night at a hotel after we drove almost 80% of the way. I was extremely naive and thought, “Alex and I will be fine sharing a room at a hotel. We will both have our own beds and we haven’t even kissed yet! Of course, nothing will ever happen. He’s been through a traumatic experience, so he would never ever do that to me. We’re fine! Plus he doesn’t even think that we are dating…”
We checked into our hotel. Alex was a gentleman and carried my bag in for me. We both got ready for bed and got into our own beds. When Alex gets sleepy, he claims that he gets very loopy, almost as if he were drunk, and doesn’t remember much of what he says or does, but honestly, this was most likely a manipulation tactic. After he got into his bed, he called over to me in his typical tired, loopy Alex voice, “Stacey…come here for a second…I have to tell you a secret…” Of course, I anxiously did as he said, got into his bed next to him, leaned in to hear what he had to say. He got real close to my ear and whispered, “You’re my favorite, did you know that?” And then he kissed me! Our actual first kiss. I couldn’t believe it was finally happening! Then he wrapped his arms around me, smiled, and whispered, “I guess since you’ve been a good girl, I’ll let you sleep here next to me tonight. I want you to stay right there.” He kissed me again and fell asleep holding me. He held me all night long. I was extremely surprised considering his past, and the fact that he gets extreme anxiety whenever I get just a little too cuddly with him. All throughout the kisses and his whispering, I kept asking him, “Are you sure you’re ok with this? I don’t want to freak you out!” But he never said anything. So I stayed where I was, and fell asleep in his arms.
The next morning, we woke up, got into the car and started heading for his hometown. During the drive, we somehow got on the subject of how many people we’ve kissed. When we were talking about his past kisses, I realized that he did not remember our kiss at all from the previous night, even after I tried to jog his memory. I was extremely embarrassed. He kept explaining to me that he wished it never happened because he knew I would become more attached and want to marry him or want a relationship, which is what he didn’t want. I was heartbroken. The rest of the drive was awkward, and I was extremely hurt by his words. “Why am I even on this trip with you then?” I said to myself.
We finally arrived at his home, and I actually had a good time meeting his family. They were all so wonderful, and very welcoming. Alex, surprisingly, was very touchy with me. He would cuddle up next to me, hold my hand everywhere we walked, kiss me in public, or lay his head in my lap when we were on the couch. At one point, he even told me that he loved me! It was so unexpected and different. We ended up staying in his room and sleeping in his bed together. I felt a bit uncomfortable about it because I grew up knowing that we shouldn’t do that until we were married to avoid any temptation, but I forced myself to not say anything because that’s what he wanted to do, and I was scared to tell him my concerns. Luckily, the only things that ever happened were a couple kisses goodnight, that he actually remembered, and cuddling all night long. Even though we were completely acting like a couple during the entire trip, he still constantly reminded me that “we still weren’t dating.” That’s how the entire trip went. I didn’t understand how he could still say things like that after the way he was acting and after telling me that he loved me. He even was joking with his family about marrying me. I was hurt by it, but deep inside kept convincing myself that we were dating and that he just needed to tell himself that. Overall, I suppose I did have a fun trip and enjoyed spending time with Alex and his family. He did end up finding a puppy that he liked. We brought the little puppy back to school with us. She felt like our baby, and I loved taking care of her with him as if we were her parents.
WHEN THINGS WENT DOWNHILL:
At this point, my friends have told me that I was a completely different person. My true self was lost in the shadows of this new controlled slave that Alex created inside me. They told me that even my texts sounded different. I couldn’t see it at all. Everyone around me who loved me wanted to be supportive of my relationship, but they all had a bad feeling about Alex, but they couldn’t put their finger on why they felt that way. I was failing my classes because I never wanted to leave Alex’s side to go to class or do my assignments, my boss was disappointed and worried about me, I wasn’t spending time with anyone except Alex, and I wasn’t talking to my family, who I always talked to and always opened up to about everything. In fact, I was fighting with my mom who was usually my best friend.
My parents did not like Alex. They both had a lot of anxiety when they thought about my relationship with him. At one point, they both kept waking up in the middle of the night, full of anxiety and panic about the possible future between me and Alex. They tried their best to vocalize their worries and hesitations towards Alex and the relationship, but at that point, I had become a completely different person. I wasn’t willing to hear them out because I was SO attached to him and thought I loved him so much. They were not happy when I told them that Alex and I decided to start looking at rings after we got back from our trip. They freaked out. Understandably. We literally had just barely started the physical affection part of a relationship. What the heck were we thinking? I was hurt by their reactions since I expected them to be happy for me.
As soon as Alex found out that my parents were not on board with our relationship, he tried to turn me against them. He threatened to break up with me if they would not accept our relationship. This caused me to argue with my parents and made me angry at them for “destroying my relationship” and for not being happy for me. I didn’t understand why they could possibly be so worried or so upset. I honestly didn’t see anything wrong with my relationship. I was blinded and couldn’t see how he was actually mistreating, manipulating, and taking advantage of me. Alex even to convince me to not invite them to our wedding or accept any money from them to pay for the wedding. I didn’t like the thought of that idea. Even the side of me that was completely in his control wasn’t too fond of that idea. I couldn’t even imagine not having my parents at my wedding. It broke my heart at the possibility of that actually happening. After Alex said that, I began to slowly pull away little by little. I even started to question whether or not I actually wanted to marry him.
The last three weeks of the semester went by, and we were finishing finals. Alex had just gone through something very difficult that made him extremely depressed. Depressed to the point that he was considering suicide. Of course, I was extremely worried about him, so I decided that he should sleep on my couch at my apartment so that I could keep an eye on him and comfort him. This continued for the next 3 or 4 days. Every time I tried to encourage him to try to sleep at his own apartment once I started to see improvement in his demeanor, all of a sudden he was suicidal again and would tell me to just let him die. I couldn’t even bear the thought of that, so he stayed on my couch. The last couple of days, we slept at his apartment because his roommate had already left to go home for summer break, and we decided to sleep in his bed together so that I could continue to keep an eye on him and take care of his puppy since he claimed to still be suicidal. Again, I was naive and somehow still thought, “Alex and I will be fine sharing a bed. I’m just taking care of him and making sure that he’s happy and doesn’t make a mistake. Of course, nothing will ever happen. He’s been through a traumatic experience, so he would never ever do that to me.” This time…I was actually wrong.
Very early the next morning, I was asleep but was starting to slightly wake up, when I could feel Alex gently rubbing my bare stomach. I didn’t think much of it, and I was still at that point when you’re so tired that you can’t really tell if what was happening was a dream or real life. Pretty soon, I could feel his hand start to head south…far south… That’s when I quickly realized it wasn’t a dream. I woke up, grabbed his hand, and said, “What are you doing?” He immediately wrapped his arms around me in a bear hug and started shaking from the panic attack that hit him. He kept repeating the words, “I’m sorry…I’m sorry….I’m sorry…don’t leave me…don’t leave me…” My caring instincts kicked in and immediately forgave him. I can’t believe I dismissed it so quickly!
The next night, we decided to sleep at his place again, and the following morning the same thing happened, only I was definitely awake, he completely went for it very hastily, and he tried to kiss me while he was doing it to cover up the bad thing he was doing. I was completely caught off guard and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I should stop him, but that would make him feel terrible or have a panic attack again. All I knew is that I didn’t want this to happen. Finally, it all stopped and he apologized again. He was very distraught at what he had just done, so I forgave him again and told him that he needed to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Ashamed, he explained that during his terrible relationship with his ex-girlfriend, she would force him to do that all the time. That was just what he was used to. And of course, I believed him and was empathetic instead of concerned for myself. Who knows if that was actually true.
The semester ended, and I decided to go on another mini trip with Alex before he went to my hometown with me over the summer break to officially meet my family. On our trip, we always slept in the same bed because that’s what he wanted. After those two awful mornings with him, you would have thought that I would have learned. Unfortunately, it got worse. The entire time we were on our mini trip, he would constantly push it further and further than he had the day before. After every encounter, he would always act upset and apologize, but also put the blame on both of us. He would make it seem like both of us got carried away and it was both of our faults that it happened. He would always say things like “I want to marry you in the temple, and if this keeps happening, we won’t be able to do that” or “if this happens again, I think we should break up. I don’t want this to happen anymore.” That was very hard for me to hear. Even though this terrible thing was happening to me, I still didn’t want to break up with him. After that threat, I would start to cry every time he tried again and say, “but I don’t want to break up, we shouldn’t do this.” He would then always respond with, “Oh, it’s ok. I promise we won’t break up this time. This will be the last time, I promise. You need to be rewarded.” He would always carefully make sure he was always kissing me or kissing my neck, both things I did want while doing other things I didn’t want him to do. This completely confused my mind and I didn’t know how to feel about everything that was happening. I just kept feeling more and more horrible. I felt like it was also my fault that these things were happening because he made me think that I enjoyed it and wanted it to happen. All I wanted was for our relationship to go back to how it was before the semester ended. For some reason, I literally could not see what had changed to make it feel so wrong now.
Gradually, the apologies would stop happening afterward, and I started to feel less loved and more used. I would end up crying more and more after he would leave me there in the bed, floor, or in the shower after he was done with me or once I told him that I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t even realize that it was sexual abuse because the way he would make it sound was like we were both into it, and we were both making the mistake together. “We both got carried away.”
I don’t think I have ever felt so far away from Heavenly Father ever before in my life. They say when you are going through a hard time that you should pray. I actually felt so horrible from what I thought I was choosing to do, that I was ashamed to pray. I felt like I was too terrible of a person to be able to speak to Heavenly Father. I don’t think I’ve ever felt darkness quite like that ever before in my life. It absolutely was THE most depressing time in my life.
Internally, I felt like I was two different people. My normal self, and then this person that Alex created that was extremely attached, dependent on him, and would do anything for him to make him happy and never mad at me. My normal self always saw the red flags and heard everyone’s concerns during the entire relationship, but the person Alex created was too strong and forced myself to push those concerns down and ignore them so that I would stay with him. I was always depressed, or mad, or completely numb to any feelings because inside I was being torn in half. I never knew what to do, or who to talk to, so I never talked to anyone about my struggles. Honestly, I was dying inside. At this point, he had already isolated me from my friends, but now he was beginning to isolate me from my family.
When we finally made it to my hometown, he never really touched me inappropriately while we were there, and I was so grateful for that. I felt like our relationship was finally going back to how it was before everything went downhill. The entire week he stayed with my family was…fine. My parents still didn’t like him, my siblings were okay with him, and it felt like I was constantly having to defend or make excuses for Alex to my family, and my family to Alex. My family made the comment that I constantly wanted to hold Alex, and I’m not typically the type of person who is very touchy. Yet for some reason, I always felt like I wanted to always hold him whenever I got the chance. Alex constantly wanted to kiss me obnoxiously in front of them, too. It was very unlike him, and I didn’t like it. It was very embarrassing.
When the visit ended, and I dropped Alex off at the airport, it was one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever experienced. I cried the entire drive home because I felt like I didn’t know how to be myself or survive without him. I was extremely attached to him and didn’t think I could be happy without him. We constantly texted or called each other. I was cold towards my family and felt like I didn’t know how to talk to them anymore. There was no place where I actually felt happy anymore. I absolutely did not feel like myself at all. And everyone seemed to notice.
Alex surprised me only about a week and a half after his visit to my hometown with a flight to his city to go see him for about 4 days. I was very excited but scared to tell my parents about the trip because I knew they wouldn’t approve. I flew out to see him but was disappointed to realize that all my expectations for my visit were not met. He didn’t kiss me the entire first day. He seemed distant and I had to almost force him to be cuddly with me or even hug me, yet he still wouldn’t really touch me the entire first day. It made me very upset. I had been depressed and alone at home and looked forward to feeling loved by him, but he was not giving it to me at all. I cried myself to sleep that night, unsure of how to even feel about everything that was happening.
The next day, the only topic he wanted to talk about was my parents and how much they didn’t like him. He constantly tried to turn me against them. It was a miserable day full of fighting and having him constantly hurt my feelings by saying the rudest things about my family, and then denying me hugs or any kind of physical touch. I was heartbroken. We finally decided to take a drive to get out of the house and cool off for a bit. I was pissed at him and would not say a word. I had been crying all day because of him and wanted him to know how badly he had hurt me. I didn’t care anymore at this point about hiding my true feelings from him and finally felt like I was pushing back. We parked the car at a nearby lake near his home. He seemed fine now that we were outside. We found a spot and laid down on the grass. He tried to explain himself, but honestly, there wasn’t anything he could say that could fix how badly he hurt me, yet I still could not get myself to say that I wanted to break up with him. I had been wanting to say those words for a month, yet I could not get myself to say them because a big part of me couldn’t leave him. I finally mustered up the courage to ask him, “So…are we ok?” He started to cry and decided that he wanted to take a break for the rest of summer break. He told me that he couldn’t handle the stress of my parents not liking him and everything else he was stressing over on top of that. He kept apologizing and said that when school started back up again, we could talk and decide if we should get back together again or just be friends. I was crying a lot, of course, but deep inside, I was extremely relieved. He finally said the words that I couldn’t get myself to say out loud! But at the same time, I was completely heartbroken. I couldn’t decide how to feel about the breakup.
We left the lake and went back to his home. After we walked in the door, he immediately grabbed me and softly said, “Well, we can still be friends with benefits,” as he started to kiss me forcefully. I was ok with kissing him, but of course, he always took it further. Plus, he was finally showing me what I thought was love and some physical expression that he cared, even though he was actually using me. The last couple of days of my visit felt like we hadn’t actually broken up, except he still wouldn’t give me any physical love unless he was abusing me. I craved his cuddles or hugs or just some innocent kisses so badly, that I even got to the point where I wanted any kind of physical affection from him. I almost welcomed the abuse because I knew that at the beginning of each encounter, we got to kiss or at least hold each other a way I would want for a little while before he pushed it further than I wanted, but in the end, I always ended up crying wherever he left me. He felt more cold-hearted this time around. The assaults only ever stopped when he would try to get me to do things for him. I would try to force myself to do them for him because I wanted to make him happy so badly, but when I finally gave up, chose not to and told him that I couldn’t do it, he coldly would respond, “Alright. Fine.” Then leave me there, alone, used, sobbing. I was grateful when I finally got to go home. This last goodbye wasn’t as hard as it was the last time.
Once I got home, we still texted and called each other like we had before we broke up. I decided I didn’t want to tell anyone about our break up because I didn’t want to hear the “I told you so” or the hidden smiles or celebrations after telling them something that broke my heart. I knew it would make them all so happy to hear the news when I was struggling so significantly inside. So instead, every time people asked about Alex and our relationship, I pretended like we were still together, happy and healthy. To be honest, I think I also wasn’t ready to accept the breakup myself. The half of me that was attached to him didn’t want to accept that fact that he was no longer mine.
Not long after I came home from visiting him, he had a bad day. He barely spoke to me that day and decided to completely stop all communication with me altogether. He ended our conversation that night with very cruel comments that basically blamed my family and a few other things for his terrible day/life and his depression and anxiety. Then he finished the text by telling me he was going to put down his puppy that I absolutely loved and completely stopped talking to me. No response to my texts ignored my calls, and stopped sharing his location with me on “Find my Friends”.
I was a complete mess and heartbroken for 2 weeks. I texted him multiple times trying to tell him how I honestly felt about him ignoring me and being cruel like he had been. I was furious and full of many different emotions. Looking back at the texts now, I was still under his manipulation so badly, that the texts that I thought sounded like I was telling him off, sounded more like I was negotiating with him to try to get him to talk to me again and come back to me. It was pitiful. I remember crying harder than I’ve ever cried before in my life for several nights in a row. I would even shout out loud, “I’m so sick and tired of being so sad all the time! Why can’t I ever feel happiness anymore?!” However, I had no choice, but to move on with my life and see if he would one day decide to talk to me. I had to force myself to stop texting him. That’s what he wanted.
THE REALIZATION OF WHAT HAPPENED TO ME:
About a week before Alex and I broke up, my mom was getting her hair done at the salon when she was venting to her hairstylist about my relationship. Her hairstylist gave her the name of a therapist that she thought might help our situation. My mom was very hesitant and nervous to bring it up to me, but luckily, because I felt like I had no one to talk to and was dying to talk to someone, I was actually very open to talking to a therapist. I had my first session with my therapist right after my visit to Alex’s hometown when he flew me out to see him and broke up with me, but this was also right before he stopped talking to me, so I was still convinced that we were still in a relationship. It was really nice to finally be able to talk to someone who wouldn’t really have an immediate opinion about Alex, and that I could just vent everything to. It was also nice to have her when I was going through my break up after Alex stopped talking to me. Especially since I decided not to tell anyone about our break up. She was the one who advised me to stop texting Alex because she saw how he was trying to entice me to chase him. This was all before we understood how manipulative he was, and before I had even realized I had been assaulted by him. Unfortunately, I was only able to see her about three times before I had to go back to school for a new semester, but those three sessions were a breath of fresh air, and I began to feel more and more like myself again. My family definitely noticed a difference in my demeanor, too. I started to call and text my friends again and apologized for being so distant. They were all so forgiving and amazing to immediately love me again so quickly. I finally started to feel my attachment to Alex fade, and instead of feeling so depressed and crying every night over him, I became more upset and angry at him for the way he treated me. My therapist helped me with that realization.
The new semester at school was approaching, and I was starting to get worried about seeing Alex again. I had to figure out how to tell him that I didn’t want to get back together. I was just hoping that he also didn’t want to get back together. I was worried that I was going to feel that pull towards him again that I couldn’t resist once I saw him, and I really didn’t know if I could trust myself around him. During my solo drive to school, I finally prayed for the first time in a long time. I cried out to Heavenly Father with tears streaming down my face, to have him help me be strong. To be brave. To be happy. To be able to resist Alex, and to be able to tell him confidently that I do not want to be with him and that I can’t marry him. I have to be able to move on and find someone else that will treat me the way I deserve to be treated.
I finally decided once I got to school to start telling people that we had broken up, because then it became real, and I was ready to face the reactions. Coincidentally, my other roommates had all gone through breakups as well over the summer. We were all single again together and were able to help each other through the occasionally depressed phases. I started to feel really good and have fun with my old friends again. It was great! My one roommate, who knew Alex pretty well, helped me through the break up even more so, and it was very helpful being able to talk to someone about it who understood our relationship a bit more than others might have. After a couple of weeks of being at school, I still heard nothing from Alex.
After the first couple of weeks of school had finished up, I started to have flashbacks of the parts of my relationship with Alex that happened on our trips when we, as Alex said, “got carried away together as a couple”. I finally started to piece together that it wasn’t us just getting carried away…there was more to the story than what Alex had manipulated me into thinking it was. I confided in one of my roommates that I felt very close to, and told her everything to see if my suspicions were right. Unfortunately, I was. She definitely thought there was something very wrong with what happened and thought that I should call my therapist that I had seen back home to see if I could do a phone session with her. I am so grateful that I was guided to talk with my roommate about those flashbacks because THE NEXT DAY the PTSD, panic attacks and anxiety all hit me at once. She walked in on me having a full-blown panic attack that night and was able to immediately calm me down.
I was finally able to talk to my therapist a day or two later and unfortunately confirmed that I had been sexually assaulted after hearing my stories. Boom. Like that doesn’t hit you like a ton of bricks. She then walked me through some things that I might experience with PTSD and anxiety. It was hard for me to even concentrate on what she was saying. Did this really happen? To me? It’s not a dream? I honestly didn’t really know what to say. What do you say? Thanks? Good to know? Sounds great? Yay…? Here we go…
The next couple of weeks, honestly, were hell. I never had a moment when I didn’t feel my anxiety. I couldn’t leave my apartment for fear of running into Alex everywhere I went. I couldn’t go to class. I couldn’t even do my homework. I literally felt paralyzed some days. I couldn’t even shower. It was a trigger since Alex had used the shower as one of the places he would assault me when we would rinse off in our swimsuits after swimming. I would have to go 3 or 4 days without showering because whenever I would shower, all the terrible memories and awful feelings of him touching me would flood back into my head. Every shower would end in a full-blown panic attack. Some days all I wanted to do was stay in bed all day and just sleep because I couldn’t ever sleep at night. I found that I would get mentally exhausted by the littlest things. If I decided to actually go out and get dinner with my roommates, or go see a movie or any small activity, I was exhausted. That was all I could really do for that entire day. I had been knocked down significantly, and I was feeling all of the effects a month and a half after the relationship ended. Why did it take so long? Why didn’t I immediately feel the effects after I had been assaulted the first time? How could I not see that I was being sexually assaulted while I was in the relationship?
Manipulation is a terrifying thing that everyone underestimates. I know it was because of the control Alex had over my mind. Alex is a master manipulator. They can manipulate ANYONE! It does not make me weak or pathetic because I was a victim of a master manipulator. They just know how to manipulate anyone they encounter. It took a month and a half to finally get Alex completely out of my head. And now that he was gone, I felt everything. I remember crying out to my mom on the phone one night after having a terrible high anxiety day, with tears streaming down my face, uttering, “I am SO tired of always feeling anxious! I never, ever feel normal anymore! I just want to feel normal again…”
I finally met with my teacher after not attending class for two weeks and explained the entire situation. She, of course, was very kind and empathetic to what I was going through, but she was also the first to say to me what I didn’t realize I needed to hear, which was, “Are you sure you mentally can handle school right now? Do you think you might need to go home to fully heal, and then come back when you are ready? You need to take care of yourself first before forcing yourself to move on from something like that.” I was so grateful that she had said that. I hadn’t even considered going home because I thought that I would be fine after a week or two and be able to go back to school to finish out the semester strong. I had to be honest with myself. I could barely handle going outside my apartment without my anxiety going crazy or my entire body trembling. How could I possibly focus in class while that is happening? I decided that I needed to pray about it and talk to my parents and therapist about whether I should come home or stay at school. My therapist and parents were very supportive of me coming home to heal. The school and Title IX office helped me get things squared away so that I could leave campus with a medical release. Then, my mom flew over to help drive me back home. It was the hardest thing in the world to leave my roommates and friends who have been so incredibly supportive and strong for me as I have been going through the beginning stages of my PTSD, but I knew that putting some distance between me and Alex would be the best thing for me and my healing process.
Now I’m home! I have been living at home, healing and taking it day by day. Right away I felt my anxiety levels significantly lower. I can leave the house without the paranoia of running into Alex. Of course I still have bad days when my anxiety gets the best of me, and my family is learning how to help me through it and adjust to my triggers and new lifestyle, but overall, I know that the choice to go home was the best choice I could have made. I am able to meet with my therapist again in person, and she has been a great help so far in my healing process. It has been interesting learning who I can truly count on to help me through this healing process, and who I can’t quite lean on. I have even found some people to be triggers for me for various reasons. It’s all a learning process, but I’ll get eventually get to a point when I know I’ll be able to feel mostly normal again.
After my entire experience, the one thing that I noticed after everything was that Heavenly Father was always there for me every step of the way. In the early stages of the relationship, I would always pray to him asking if I was making the right decision dating Alex. I always felt at peace with it, but would always be a bit hesitant as if he was telling me that I can be there for him because he needs someone, but I should also be careful. When the semester ended, the apartment I previously living in had filled up. I had to move to a different apartment out of Alex’s ward for the next semester. This actually ended up being a blessing because I wouldn’t have to see Alex at church the next semester. Throughout our relationship, Alex and I would consistently attend the temple and do sessions together. Before the relationship started to go downhill, I started to get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever we would sit in the celestial room together, but the person Alex created in me made me ignore that feeling. When Alex visited my house, he never assaulted me, which truly is a huge blessing, because I am able to feel safe in my own home now and not have it be a triggering place for me. Near the end of the relationship, my mom ended up telling me that my family fasted and prayed for an entire month that we would somehow break up. We almost broke up three times while this was happening. Finally, Heavenly Father was able to convince Alex to break up with me. Then, Alex stopped talking to me, which then helped me to be able to be free of my attachment to him. He also somehow was able to put the idea in my mom’s hairstylist’s head to pass on the reference for my therapist, who I was amazingly able to go to before I realized how bad things truly were for me. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have my therapist with everything that I experienced, especially after I went back to school. He was always there. Every time. Even during that dark, dark time when I felt too ashamed to even pray to him, he still helped me.
I am so, so grateful to my Heavenly Father for loving me enough to help me through that challenging time in my life. But I’m also grateful for that experience because now I know what it’s like, and now I know how and what I can do to help others who might be going through a similar experience as me. I know that Heavenly Father doesn’t give us trials and tribulations in our lives that he doesn’t think that we can overcome and become stronger in the end. We are all strong children of God. He loves us so much. It pains him so much to see us go through such difficult times, but I know that he believes in us and is helping us as much as he possibly can. Look for those lifelines that he’s trying to send out to you. Reach out to grab them!
It is unknown how much of this manipulation and abuse was thought out or planned, or how much of this was actually just in his nature that he is now accustomed to. I just know that Alex has gone through a traumatic experience, too, and that he needs help, just like the rest of us do. I have forgiven him already for everything that he has done. I just hope that he will understand soon, with his own therapist, how to truly help him through his troubles and get him on the right path of recovery soon. If I truly felt that he would be dangerous or would do this to someone else, I would report him, but I don’t think he would do this again. I pray for him every night and put his name on the prayer roll every time I go to the temple because he is one of Heavenly Father’s children. I know he loves Alex too, and Alex just needs more love and help in his life. Hate the sin, not the sinner.
I absolutely love that quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. If any of you have a story you would like to share or just need another survivor to talk to, PLEASE email me or add me on Instagram @youstillhaveworth or Facebook.