My Abuse Recovery Story
Since starting my journey to healing, I realized that I haven’t actually shared my whole story. There were parts that I unintentionally left out, parts that I had forgotten about, parts that were playing a major role in my life today. So I decided it was time to share my story. It’s time for me to share about the relationship that put me where I am today. It’s not pretty. It’s messy. But it’s important. This has been very therapeutic for me and I hope it inspires you to find freedom.
POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING
I will make sure and say that there are possible triggers here. I don’t go into much detail, but I was physically and sexually abused in this relationship. So if those are things that could trigger you, please do not continue reading.
If you can, if you’re able to push through the discomfort, please read this. It is so important to know the signs that I missed. I want to highlight what I thought were ‘little’ things that paved the way for the big things that left more than bruises and scars. It’s important to recognize how the situation escalates.
So without further ado, I welcome you into my first abusive relationship with K.
I was in a couple unhealthy relationships before meeting K, but this was the relationship that changed my life forever. This was the first blatantly physically abusive relationship that I have been in. I would also say it was the most aggressive relationship that I’ve experienced.
In the beginning.
By the time I met K, I was at my lowest point at the time. At 17 years old, I absolutely hated myself. I was in the depths of an eating disorder and a dangerous level of self hatred. I was so desperate for attention, I was so desperate for love, that I told myself that, even though there were so many red flags, that it was ok because it was better than nothing.
It started out innocently enough. We met in a chatroom on some website. He lived in California, and I was in the Pacific Northwest. After a few months of talking he decided he was going to move to ‘be closer to me.’ What I didn’t know at the time is that there was a warrant out for his arrest in California so he moved here to run away and hide from the police. But I wouldn’t find this out for a couple of months when he was flirting with another girl in front of me.
We met up at a local mall for a date at Chuck E Cheese and it was a lot of fun. What I didn’t pick up on were the snide comments about me. About my appearance, about what games I wanted to play, about what I did and didn’t find funny. I thought that was the price of a guy paying for the date. I remember feeling uncomfortable but I couldn’t figure out why. I figured I was just in disbelief that someone so out of my league would even think about me.
I convinced myself that this was normal.
As it continued, I thought it was the price to pay for being with someone attractive. The moment I remember most clear was a time that we were sitting at McDonald’s. I had recently lost about 70 pounds and K knew about it. I was starving myself and working out for 8+ hours a day. He had bought me fries when a woman about the size of my former self walked by. He pointed to her and asked,
“Did you look like that when you were fat?”
I was quite taken aback by the comment, and I remember thinking that it was so rude. But I didn’t know what to say in response. I was scared of saying the wrong thing. So I just said yea and that’s when he shook his head.
“Yea, if you ever got that fat again we would definitely not be together.”
I remember looking at the fry in my hand and setting it down. I didn’t want to eat anymore. He then proceeded to get mad at me for “wasting his money” by not wanting to eat the fries.
This continued throughout the time of the relationship until it became more and more aggressive. The comments and physical harm became worse and worse, more and more obvious. This is what a lot of women look past. We think that these little comments are OK or normal. But what we don’t realize is that this is when they’re testing our boundaries to see what they can get away with.
It got physical.
Something that I didn’t remember happening until recently was a couple of months into our relationship. I was wearing a mini skirt so my legs were bare. I can’t remember whether I was going into his house or leaving it, but I was outside and he was on the porch. In his hand was his airsoft gun.
I was scared to bring attention to it because had I mentioned it, he would’ve gotten upset with me for being worried. So I tried to be inconspicuous as I hid my body behind his car, hoping he wouldn’t aim for my face. But he eventually caught on and realized that I was hiding.
K immediately got upset with me and told me that I shouldn’t be afraid of him. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I tried to justify it. I was trying to distract him from what I knew would happen, but it happened anyway. Standing about 15 feet away from me, he shot my bare leg with the air soft gun.
I remember the initial sting I felt while I was holding back tears. I couldn’t allow him to see how much he hurt me. It ended up swelling into a massive welt on the side of my leg. I couldn’t let anyone see so I lived in jeans and sweatpants. Every time I winced, K would walk by and smack it while telling me to not be such a baby.
It only escalated from there.
I want to make clear these events were not far and few between. Not that it would’ve made it ok if it had only been a one time thing. But it happened more and more often in and out of the bedroom. I couldn’t do anything right and I “should just be grateful” that he would deal with someone like me.
It reached a point that he didn’t care when I said that I didn’t want to sleep with him; he decided I didn’t have a choice and he was going to take it whether I wanted to give it or not.
A moment that I remember very clear was walking into class the morning after one of the attacks occurred. I walked around the table to my seat, and sat down. I wasn’t able to suppress the wince from the pain my body was in. I purposefully wore clothes that hid the bruises and scratches that spanned my back and thighs.
A classmate asked if I was ok and I knew that I couldn’t just say yes. So I played it off. I smiled and shrugged, saying that I had had a fun time with my boyfriend the night before. Things got a little crazy but I enjoyed it. I remember a few of my friends hearing it and I’m not sure that they bought it, but they let it go. I couldn’t sit back in my chair because my back burned so badly. Sitting down was difficult because of the bruises that covered my backside.
My mind was complete chaos.
After another time that we had slept together (at the time I didn’t know what coerced consent was, so I thought that I couldn’t feel uncomfortable because I stopped arguing and saying no), he made me get in the shower with him. As I climbed in he made a snide comment about how he should just pee on me to make the ownership official. I said absolutely not and it wasn’t something that I would allow at all. He got very upset with me and pinned me against the shower wall urinated on me from the waist down.
When I was crying and begging him to stop he just spit in my face and told me how pathetic I was. He made me stand there like that before he let me shower off. I won’t go into detail about the rest of that day, but I think it suffices to say that it was not comfortable.
I told myself this was the price to pay for being fat and dating someone attractive.
The thing that got me was the constant comments about how attractive he was. I was told that my man was SO hot and I was so lucky to have him. The girls couldn’t believe I had scored a guy like that. I remember a girl seeing us at the mall and the next day came up to my desk in class. “KARLEIGH – your boyfriend is SOOOO hot! Does he have a brother?!”
My already low self esteem absorbed this information and told me that if I was going to keep him around, I needed to just deal with it.
I told myself that it would get better if I just keep going. I told myself that I owed him something. I was completely under his thumb. He would text me so many times that my phone would crash. He would post things on social media that would make everyone think that I was a whore and awful person.
I had no sense of self worth.
When I finally had enough and broke up with him, the next day he blew up my phone and begged me for another chance. He pulled me in with dinner and flowers. He took me to the movies. He went to the gym with me and danced to Hey There Delilah in the parking lot. K successfully pulled me back in, but a week or so later I found out that he had been with another girl. When I called him out on it, his response was “I never cheated on you – I just never got around to breaking up with you.”
The harassment and stalking continued for months after this moment.
The reason this is such an important part of my life to share is because it didn’t start out this way. No one stays in an abusive relationship for the abuse. It starts out so small and gradually increases. It starts with one snide comment that doesn’t get called out. It starts with a ‘playful’ shove that turns into a fist being put through a wall.
Ignoring red flags could mean life or death. No that’s not me being dramatic. This is me being honest and grateful that I’m alive. I’m so grateful that it didn’t get worse. I’m grateful that I’m a survivor.
The red flags aren’t always the big things. Is abuse of any kind a red flag? Of course! But by the time it reaches that point, you’ve been so broken down mentally that you don’t even know where to go and which way is up.
Some examples of red flags that I didn’t think were that big of a deal are:
- Eye rolls about what I was uncomfortable with.
- Physical aggression that didn’t result in pain, like having things thrown at me. IE pillows, cups, pens.
- Not respecting me when I said I wasn’t ready, but instead mocking me.
- Constantly telling me I’m eating too much
- Policing my phone
- Telling me how to talk to my parents.
- Telling me that I wasn’t capable of reaching my dreams.
- Telling me to suck it up and not be so sensitive (I had yet to be diagnosed chronic illness/pain)
Abuse is gradual
The thing to remember is that abuse is gradual. Abusers are very good at hiding their abuse and making you feel like you’re crazy. They push and pull until you feel like you’re in a vortex of chaos. The craziest part is that you feel like it’s your fault. I’m here to call this out and tell you that it’s not your fault. You’re not crazy. And you deserve freedom.
When I had finally had enough, I broke up with him. It didn’t last long, however, because he begged me to come back. He stepped up just long enough to pull me back in. We danced to “Hey There Delilah” in the YMCA parking lot. He took me out to dinner and a movie. He spoiled me with flowers and a necklace. I was brought back in until I realized that he had been cheating on me.
“I didn’t cheat on you – I just never got around to breaking up with you.” – gaslighting 101
His reasoning? “I didn’t cheat on you – I just never got around to breaking up with you.”
I felt like I wasn’t allowed to feel free because I wasn’t the one to end it. I wasn’t the one who was brave enough to leave. Even though he continually harassed me, I was convinced that it was all my fault, that I wasn’t strong enough to leave, that he pushed me away. So I wasn’t allowed to feel peace.
The harassment went on for weeks until I was able to get a new phone number and was blocked on all social media.
The point that I would love to make here is that it doesn’t matter how you got out. Whether you were pushed out or you left on your own accord. What matters is that you survived. What matters is that you made it out. What matter s is that you’re still breathing. What matters is now you’re able to find freedom, to find healing.
What matters is now you’re able to find freedom, to find healing.
This was not the last abusive relationship I was in. This was the relationship that opened the door to the comfortable uncomfortable. This was the relationship that taught me that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t worth anything.
This was the relationship that made me comfortable with settling, for accepting less than I deserve.
The crazy thing is that after all of that – I have found freedom. It took a long time, and I kept finding myself in relationships where I wasn’t respected. After being in an unhealthy marriage for five years and getting kicked out after he decided to end it, I was at rock bottom. This is a story for another day, and probably deserves it’s own podcast episode. But I do want to say that what I didn’t know was that the greatest gift my ex gave me was that moment. Because in that moment, he gave me my freedom.
A year after that moment, I began to read personal development books. The one that stood out to me the most, the book I credit with completely changing my life, was Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Habits. One of the first chapters in that book is all about “Bringing the Joy.” That book taught me that I didn’t have to stay angry and sad. That I was able to generate the joy that I longed for. That lead me down the path that taught me that I wasn’t doomed to repeat the past. That I wasn’t stuck being the angry, broken little girl. That I had the potential to change the world if I did the work.
I want to be very clear and say that it wasn’t just this magic book that ‘fixed’ me. It took a LOT of work, but that book started me on my journey to healing.
Now I’m happier than I’ve ever been. A lot of people ask me how and why. It really comes down to the fact that I don’t rely on anyone else to provide that happiness for me. I create my own happiness. In doing so, I’ve created a brand new life. A life where I know my worth. A life where I don’t allow anyone to treat me with disrespect. A life where I know that I deserve so much more than what I allowed myself to accept.
This journey to freedom hasn’t been easy, but it is so worth it.
This is the reason that I’m so passionate about helping women see their worth.
The journey that I’ve been on hasn’t been easy in the least. That first relationship with K started me on a chain of abusive relationships until I finally got out of a very broken marriage at age 23. No one deserves to go through what I did, and that’s why I am determined to do my part to change the conversation regarding abusive relationships.
I want to help women see their worth because when they see their worth, they don’t accept any less than they deserve. When women know their worth, they don’t let abuse continually happen. When women know their worth, they recognize red flags the moment they see them. They don’t allow themselves to be questioned. They don’t allow their boundaries to be crossed. I spent most of my life feeling like I wasn’t important and didn’t matter. So I allowed myself to be treated like garbage.
As strange as it sounds, if I could go back and change it I wouldn’t. If anything were different, I wouldn’t be here today sharing this with you. If things were any different I wouldn’t have my son. If things were any different, I don’t know that I would be here today.
I’m now able to help women that have been in this situation. I’m able to help them find their way. I’m able to be there when they need someone who just needs to hear that they’re not alone. That they’re strong and have survived SO much.
If you’re in a situation like this, please ask for help.
Reach out. Even if you don’t reach out to me, reach out to SOMEBODY. You don’t have to stay. You don’t have to know your next step. Just get out.
My DMs are always open on @karleigh.lynne in Instagram, which is where I’m most active. You can also reach out on karleighlynne.com/contact. I am more than happy to help you find resources.
You are strong. You are capable. You are intelligent. You are so WORTHY.
You are worthy of freedom. It’s time to go after it.
Did this resonate with you? Girl – I want you to know that you deserve to live the confident life you deserve. If you’re ready to go after it, join my free 5 day Confidence Course. It’s a 5 day crash course in the foundation of confidence to set you up to take off toward your best life. Click here to jump in!