It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time to pour my heart out again with Shell at Things I Can’t Say.
At the tender age of 15, I fell in love for the first time…so deeply that I lost myself completely.
I ate, breathed and lived for my boyfriend, who was a year older than me. To say this relationship was extremely toxic was putting it mildly.
I had just moved to Northern CA with my family when my dad got a job transfer. While I was broken-hearted to leave my friends in Florida, part of me was excited about making a fresh start somewhere new.
However, beginning over as a freshman at a school where all the kids had known one another most of their lives was hardcore. Upon returning home after my first day, I cried to my mom, "No one really talked to me. It was so awkward. I wish we had never moved."
Within a few months, I had made a few friends and was starting to feel more comfortable in my new surroundings.
That's when fate intervened.
I spotted Jimmy in the parking lot with his best friend one day. There was something about him that immediately captured my eye. He was tall and handsome with the sweetest smile I had ever seen. I had to meet him.
After a brief introduction through a mutual friend, Jimmy and I exchanged numbers and the rest was history, much to my parent's horror.
He came from a working-class family and lived in a modest home on the other side of town. While my parents found his parents to be dull and lacking in style, I thought they were warm and caring.
The more my parents tried to keep me away from Jimmy, the harder I fought with them to give me my own space. It was a battle they wouldn't win for a very long time.
For me, the sun rose and set around this guy. If he said the word "jump", I answered, "how high?" I would do anything for him...and I did.
After a few months of dating, he convinced me that if I didn't sleep with him, he'd get back together with his ex-girlfriend, who still came around from time to time to stare daggers at me.
I felt I had no choice...I whole-heartedly believed I couldn't live without him.
I was young and naive. And I fully presumed that I wasn't capable of being loved. After all, being raised by two people who were completely dysfunctional on their own and too wrapped up in their own little world left me feeling alone and unsure of what real love felt like.
To me, love was proving that you were worthy of someone's attention. Love was selfish, conditional and binding. Love was meant to be betrayed. Instead of making you feel joyous and happy, love made you feel ugly and bitter.
Any time I felt Jimmy slipping away from me, I would do something desperate to keep his attention. I wasn't above threatening to take my own life...or make him feel as if his life would be completely empty without me in it.
He betrayed my trust plenty of times by sleeping with other girls behind my back...although sometimes he was happy to flaunt it right in front of me. Instead of seeing him for what he truly was, I clung to him even tighter...begging him to stay with me, even though we both knew we were tragically wrong for one another.
I allowed him to abuse me, physically, emotionally and verbally. I use the word "allowed" because I could've walked away at any time...I could've told somebody and gotten help. But I was scared and ashamed.
Essentially, I believed I deserved to be treated in such a poor manner.
If I could go back in time, believe it or not, I wouldn't change a thing. My experience in this venomous relationship helped shape me into who I am today.
However, it does make me sad to look back and realize how little I valued myself....so much so that I didn't expect others to value me either. There were times where I felt my life was a mistake...I was simply taking up space on this earth with no purpose, no point of being.
So I clung to the idea of being with somebody who I thought cared about me...because belonging somewhere, even if it was completely harmful, felt good. Love was supposed to hurt, right?
Now, as a parent myself, it makes my heart ache tremendously to think of any of my children feeling this way...so desperate for love and attention that they would subject themselves to any type of abuse.
I long for them to be healthy, strong individuals who can think for themselves and make positive choices, even when in the most damaging of situations. I want them to value who they are as people and to realize what an important contribution they are to society.
Most of all, I want them to love every ounce of their being and hold the same expectation for those they call friends. I yearn for them to recognize the difference between real love and desperate love, but only because they understand what real love feels like.
It wasn't until many years later when I was drowning in yet another destructive relationship that I finally found my inner strength and refused to tolerate being mistreated any longer.
I stood up for myself, used my voice and and shouted "NO MORE!"
It felt good. And it felt real...because, finally, I had learned how to love myself, first and foremost.
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