It gets better ...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Three days ago, I was using my boyfriend's computer and accidentally dropped it. Like that time in The Brady Bunch when one of the kids knocks a vase from a table and leaps in vain to catch it, the scene played out in slow-motion for me.

Plop! It fell so loudly I thought it must have been laced with lead. I didn't wait around to see Gideon's reaction, clasping my hands around my ears and eyes as tightly as possible. Unable to breathe, I thought I might be dying.

Gideon spoke, but his words were muffled. I felt his arm around me and, though I realized he wasn't angry, kept my hands glued to my face so he couldn't see how upset I was. After sitting there practically catatonic for five minutes, I realized why I was panicking so much.

If Gideon had been my ex-boyfriend, I thought, he would have screamed at me and demanded that I buy him a new computer. He would have sat and sulked and shouted at me when I came near.

The last time this happened was September 2013. I visited my ex-boyfriend for the weekend and, while he was checking his email, leaned over to hug him. When I did this, my arm grazed a water bottle on his desk. I watched the water bottle fall slowly, realizing it had no lid on it far too late.

It spilled all over his keyboard, prompting him to jump up so quickly I fell just like the water bottle.

"How could you do this?" he screamed, waving his arms erratically. "I just bought that keyboard! You just have no body awareness. This is all your fault."

Standing up, I began apologizing profusely. I couldn't stop myself from crying, though I knew it would make the situation worse. I was right.

"Those tears aren't going to make me feel sorry for you. I hope you know you're buying me a new keyboard," he said. Looking into his eyes, I thought I must have been invisible. He can't be looking at me like that, I thought. His eyes were beady and piercing, so intense that I couldn't see my reflection in them.

After an hour or so, he seemed to accept my apology and we went to dinner. The mood was markedly different; he was jovial and almost kind. When the check came, he spoke to me in the same lighthearted manner.

"I'll buy dinner," he told me. "After all, you have to spend $150 on my new keyboard."

I ended the relationship before I bought that keyboard, but I didn't escape all the other things he took from me. He took my security. He took my happiness. He took the faith I had in people who care for others selflessly.

When I finally pried my hands away from my face, Gideon told me that it was just a computer and no harm had been done.

But it has, I thought. I wondered if the harm my ex-boyfriend caused could ever be undone. Gideon's mother, also a survivor of domestic abuse, told me later that I am suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, saying the best thing for me to do is give myself time to heal.

Now that a few days have passed, I know I still believe in people. It's not easy, but I've got such a wonderful support system now that I'd be a fool to believe the lies my ex-boyfriend told me. I'm not just talking about my boyfriend, though he's helped me trust again in a depth I never thought possible.

I'm talking about my family and friends; I treated them horribly while in my abusive relationship and they all forgave me before I even asked. I'm talking about my college acquaintances; I acted erratically during those years, yet many of them have been unbelievably supportive when I revealed the reason behind my actions.

I'm talking about all of you who have reached out to me or have been touched by my writing on this topic; I am so lucky to share my story with a community as accepting and kind as all of you.

To my fellow survivors of domestic violence -- or those of you still in an abusive situation -- I hope you know there's light in all the darkness. People are good. Life is good.

And trust me, it gets better.

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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News.