I'm not sure how to start this. Like how do you pinpoint the very beginning, the exact first moment you realized you were being "abused"? I say abused in quotations because for a long time I didn't think it was abuse, and I realized, for many people, they don't either until something significantly terrible happens to confirm it in their minds. In the beginning, I made every excuse as to why the things that were happening, were happening. Every single excuse lead back to me- everything was my fault, all of it was because of my flaws and something I had done wrong. Nothing was more relieving than the day I realized how untrue that was. It took years, but I have never felt a bigger weight off my shoulders.

We started dating years ago. I thought it was serious, I thought he did too. We did everything together. We talked and played, we went riding with friends, we had late night bonfires and early morning cuddles. We talked about a future. I did everything for this boy, slowly though, everything I did for him seemed to become wrong. It sort of started with a hard squeeze on my thigh under the table at a restaurant because of something I had said, or grabbing my wrist when I turned to walk away. That progressed into verbal put downs- I was stupid, or I was lazy, or what I was wearing made me look like a slut. One night at a bar with some friends he got mad because a male friend had hugged me, and that lead to an argument in the parking lot in front of everyone. All these things I blamed on myself. "I had a boyfriend, why did I let another guy hug me?" "I'm sort of dumb, I shouldn't talk so much." "I knew that outfit looked terrible, but I chose to wear it anyway." All these little things that seemed insignificant would only add up over time, but at that time, I was so unaware.

One night while camping with some friends, I woke up in the camper to notice he wasn't there. I peeked out the window, only to see him sitting at the fire with a girl. I've never really been a jealous type, so I didn't think too much of it, but when I leaned out the door to ask him to come inside to bed considering the time, he screamed at me to go back to bed. Confused, I sat on the bed and waited for him to come inside. About an hour later, he came inside and immediately went to sleep without saying a word to me. I sat there worried, what had I done wrong? Then, his phone began lighting up repeatedly. I shouldn't have been nosey, but my insecurities had the best of me. I read the messages- from the girl he had just been sitting with. They were planning to meet again, he told her I was just a friend, and how badly he wanted her. Of course his hurt my feelings. Then, he woke up and saw me going through his phone. Although I know it was wrong of me to do, I know it wasn't deserving of how he handled it. He hit me. He bit me in the face. He threw things at me. He threw me out of the camper. I had no ride home and no idea what was happening. I called a friend and she came a got me, and I swore in that moment I was done with him.

About a month passed, and just as I thought things were getting better, he called. I shouldn't have, but I agreed to meet him. I fell for every stupid line and every excuse and apology. The next few months were a blur of make-up memories and sprinkles of swept under the rug red flags. How could I have been so dumb? It wasn't until I found out I was pregnant that I realized something had to change. But was I strong enough?

I was never the type to want children. I was only 22, and I was living my life. I worked full time and went to school, and went out on the weekends. I didn't want the responsibility of a child though, and although it was obviously my decision to have sex, I was on birth control that had failed. So with that, and the situation that I had fallen back into, I was devastated. The months of my pregnancy went by so fast. Things didn't get better because I was pregnant, you'd think they would in a perfect world, but they only got worse. This was the perfect opportunity for him to cheat, and all of it was of course my fault because to him I was a disgusting cow. Every day I told myself I wouldn't live like this forever. But by this time, we had moved in together 'for the baby' and I did everything I could to try and keep him happy. Babies needed both parents, right? I came from a broken home, did I really want my child to? At the time in my mind I felt the RIGHT decision was to stay and pray things got better because at the time I thought maybe that was just life, maybe people just sucked it up and endured the pain for their children to give them a happy home. Again, something I was terribly wrong about. The fights over nothing continued. Being pregnant didn't stop him from putting his hands on me. He would also began destroying my things- ripping up my clothes, breaking my phones, and breaking my glasses and throwing away my contacts so I couldn't see. I felt powerless and worthless.

The day our son was born was the most mixed emotion day of my life. It's supposed to be your happiest, and although I was so in love with my son, all I could do was worry about our future. Things seemed calm in the hospital room though. It felt full and loving.

Our son began to grow. He was so smart and happy, so curious and sweet. Every day I worried about what type of person he would grow up to become.

One day he came home drunk on a Wednesday evening. The baby and I were laying on the couch cuddling. He went out into our patio enclosure to 'cook a steak'. The baby and I had fallen asleep. I woke about two hours later at eleven o'clock to the smell of something burning. I walked into the patio room to find him passed out in a chair, the room filled with smoke, and grill in flames and the siding melting off out house. After an attempt to wake him up, I ran with the baby to the neighbors.

Why did I stay even after he had almost burned our house down? How could I allow our son to be put in danger? I still wasn't strong enough to leave...

Once we had gotten in an argument because of the way I parked in the drive-way. Yes. You read that correctly. I parked crooked, and that set him off. We got into an argument. It broke my heart because when we'd fight, our son would follow us around the house, either in his walker or crawling, in the most pathetic way to keep us with us crying "Momma! Momma!” That will haunt me forever that I allowed that to happen... I digress- So he cornered me into the bedroom, ripped off all of my clothing, and I stood there naked as he told me how disgusting I was, how no one, not even our son, loved me. He told me how I was worthless I was. He then proceeded to hit me, punch me, shove me down and pull me around by my hair.

I had never in my wildest dreams imagined that this would be my life. I began to believe it always would be my life, but one night I decided I HAD to make changes.

Again, an argument sparked out of nothing. This time was different though, his hits were more intense. The look in his eyes was wild, not a look I've really ever seen despite the fact these fights have happened countless times. I honestly can't even remember the cause of this one, but I remember holding my son to my chest, with my back towards him as he pounded his fists repeatedly into the back of my head. I felt lightheaded, and over the sounds of our son crying, and through my light-headedness, I heard him say "I will fucking kill you." I fell to my knees, and set our son down on the carpet and watched him crawl away, and then I felt him put his hands around my neck from behind, he began choking me, and he continued to say something but I really couldn't hear it. I don't know why he stopped, but he let go of my neck and I sat there on my knees for a while, trying to regain my focus, and he sort of just walked away. I knew at that very moment I was leaving. Not only for me, but for my son.

It took about three weeks, but I had bought new furniture, moved out and gotten settled with my son in our two bedroom apartment.

I don't know how many times I had been told it was 'my fault' for staying, even by his own mother. It was 'my fault' for putting up with it. I can't count how many times I was told I was stupid for staying, or hearing over and over that it was 'so easy' to leave, and being asked "Why don't you just move out?".

Unless you've been there, you truly do not understand the amount of worthlessness another human can make you feel. You can't know the confusion when you have been manipulated for years, being told how unloved you are, but then being told your by your abuser that they are the only ones who will love you. The mind games. To be told how useless you are, but then after the fight to be held in their arms and told how much they need you. Unless you've been through it or witnessed it, you cannot imagine the pain and even guilt that one feels when you feel completely stuck, hopeless and alone. How desperate when you feel like there's no way out. How wrecked you feel when you see your child with a broken heart watch you be beaten down.

But you are not 'stupid' for staying. I know it is not 'easy' to leave. Unfortunately sometimes it takes that significant moment to push you to the edge completely, and make yourself decide you're going to make a change, and fight for your life. Nobody talks about the difficulty it is to leave or to make the changes to better our life, they just tell you to do it.

I just want anyone and everyone to know that you CAN DO IT.

Without the cheesy "You're worth it" speech, I just cannot stress enough how important you are. You have a purpose, and you DO matter. You CAN change your circumstance, but god damn I know it's hard. Please do not ever feel discouraged, or that it is our fault. Please don't think that this is all life has to offer you.