I recently was going through my Google Drive, cleaning up the mess of documents and spreadsheets from the year, when I found a document that I had never seen before. I opened it, and I was horrified to see that it was a long letter from my ex.
When I first met him my freshman year at a different school, we quickly became good friends. We both had weird senses of humor that fit well together, and living in the same hall, we hung out all the time. I lost touch with him during my second semester, but after I transferred to Penn, I reached out to him again. We began dating not long after.
I've struggled with depression off and on since I was young, and at the time, it was hard to adjust to life at Penn. Towards the end of our relationship, he was kicked out of school and also became depressed. I ended up latching onto him as a lifeline of sorts, and he latched onto me. We spiraled over the course of the next nine months.
I lost sight of who I was. Actually, he actively tried to erase parts of who I was in order to fit his idea of me. He constantly put me down and rewrote parts of my story to fit his. He would get easily upset about my achievements or rip them apart. He would get upset that I was “smarter than him,” and whenever we talked he would shut down whatever I said. When I began to go to a therapist and taking antidepressants, he discouraged me from doing so, saying that taking medicine seemed like a bad idea. When we broke up, he blamed me for a lot of things, including his being kicked out of school.
He also admitted that he thought of me as his wife, and not his girlfriend. One of his favorite movies was “500 Days of Summer,” and he fancied himself “Tom” and tried to make me his “Summer.” The worst part of what he did was the alienation. He told me my parents were terrible people, that another ex had been sexually abusive to me, that my friends were immature, trashy whores who weren’t good influences.
The worst thing I did was believe him. I began to believe that the people who I had loved and who loved me were bad people. By the time I ended the relationship, I had pushed out most of my loved ones, all of whom cared for me.
The day after we broke up, he called me and said that he was going to kill himself.
The next couple months were hell. I wanted to cut things off with him, but I also felt that I needed to be there for him and make sure that he did not kill himself. Every time I tried to cut him out for good, he would say he was going to kill himself again. It was not until much later, that I realized that this was yet another form of control that he tried to assert over me.
After I cut things off with him, he called me multiple times every single day, and he used social media to try to contact me. After I blocked his number, he disguised his number as a restricted number and continued to call me several times a day. He sent me flowers with an unsigned note and left unwanted gifts at my apartment. He contacted my friends, asking them about me. The last straw was when he sent a letter to my parents, berating them for being terrible parents, detailing my depression (something I had never spoken to them about), and asking them to make sure I was okay without him. Thank god I told them about what he had been doing beforehand.
By many people’s standards, I was lucky. He never hit me, he never followed me physically. In fact, I was so lucky, that I legally did not have the grounds to file a restraining order against him when I went to the Penn Police. However, I don’t feel lucky.
I couldn’t look my friends and parents in the eye. I felt unsafe stepping off of campus. I spent most of my days in bed, unable to get up.
Now, a year after we broke up and nine months after I called CAPS, went to Penn Police, told my parents and friends, I still feel ashamed and guilty, and the Google document only added fuel to the fire.
The document was a story I had written that I had shared with him while we were still together. Over the last year, he had written over the document several times, asking me why I didn’t love him, asking me why I thought he was abusive, and telling me I was judgmental. I can deal with that. However, when he detailed his journey to an assisted suicide clinic in Europe and gave me a date, I lost it. I spent the night checking the obituaries from his hometown and crying.
I didn’t find any obituaries, and I am hoping that this was another one of his threats.
I’ve gotten most of my life together now. Towards the end of last semester, I was finally able to step off of campus, and go to Center City by myself again. I’ve learned to function as my own person at Penn, a person who loves to hang out with friends, who loves to drink with friends (he called me an alcoholic at one point for having a couple drinks with friends), who loves to try new things by myself, and most importantly, loves to talk back and assert myself. Now, I love to tell people, “Fuck off, I’m doing my own thing."
But most importantly, I’ve reconnected with a lot of the people that I had pushed away including my parents and a couple friends. I still haven’t talked to most, including several people who were there for me the most. To those people, I’m so sorry and thank you.
On good days, I’m able to cope with the facts, but on bad days, I have a very hard time thinking about what happened to me. Even on good days, I have a hard time thinking about what happened to me as abuse. Another reason why I don’t feel lucky is because I have only recently been able to admit to myself that he never respected me when I said “no” and coerced me into sexual activities I was very uncomfortable with. I have a hard time calling that sexual abuse and rape as well.
I don’t think that there was much I did right in that relationship, but I don’t think there was much I did wrong either. However, I know that no matter what I do from now on, this will affect me. Sometimes, I am so angry at what happened and at other times, I wish I could tell him that I’m sorry. I don’t know what the right answer is anymore. I don’t know if I was abused, even though the bruises are there to tell me that I was. I don’t know if my actions led someone to kill themselves; I don’t know if I killed someone.
I really hope that one day, I will be able to come to terms with what happened.
If you have been or are being abused, reach out to someone. People care about you. If someone tells you that they are being abused, believe them and support them, even when they don't believe themselves.