Dedication: To my Mom, Dad and Brother who helped me through this difficult time many years ago.
There have been so many breakthrough moments in which I crossed a barrier to self-acceptance and self-love, moments in which I chose to love me, and to stop sacrificing myself to meet someone else’s needs.
I was in my twenties and was with a young man (exactly my age) whom I had been dating for several years. Let’s call him Adam. It was during the holidays and we were driving back from a party that one of my work friends had hosted. Adam was screaming at me, in a total rage, because he felt I had not paid enough attention to him at the party. He was completely irrational, driving 90 mph, and screaming at me in a voice I could not believe was directed at me. But it was.
After a while, I understood that anything I said just fueled his rage, and at the ridiculous speed at which we were moving, I was genuinely afraid that he would lose control of the car. And then something happened. I glanced over to my right and saw my own reflection in the window of the passenger door. I see it to this very day, that younger version of the woman I have become. My eyes locked onto the eyes that looked back at me. And I thought, “That is me, that version of me outside this car looking in is the real me. I cannot possibly be the woman in this car, afraid that I won’t make it home tonight.” How could I have possibly deserved the anger and insults that were being hurled at me that night?
I made a promise to the woman looking into the car. I promised that if I arrived home safely that night, I would never, ever see Adam again. And I never did.
That younger me understood nothing about emotional abuse. I believed I was in love. I believed I was loved. But in that terrifying car ride, I understood that I deserved better. And I chose me over Adam. I chose me.