I think we all can agree life takes us in some directions that we never would have imagined. Good and bad. For me, it was ending up in a relationship that seemed to have no out. Where the norm was that it was ok to hit a woman because I deserved it and because it was my fault things got messed up anyway. A world that centered around survival every day and at the same time isolated me from anything that I had previously known.

Alone Helpless Confused Hurt Betrayed

These along with many other emotions described every day of my life for a long time. When you hear the words abuser or psychopath, the thing that generally comes to mind is killers or monsters. Well, these are not the only situations where these words can be applied. I applied them to the person I was living with for almost 3 years.

If you looked closely into my life you would have seen the toxic marks, the sadness that never totally left my eyes, a woman who was on the path of self-destruction because she couldn’t understand what happened to her and I blamed myself for it all. The pain of being in an abusive relationship was unlike anything I had ever experienced. You get to a point where you feel so many things, so many bad things that you start to not feel at all. It causes you to walk around like a zombie waiting for something you do to cause him to explode. One of the hardest things I ever had to admit to myself is that I was in love with someone who was using me as a part of his game for his own self-gratification. I was only a pawn to achieve the things he wanted to that day. There was no love even though those words were used. I was going after a goal and I had to admit to myself that I had been fighting for something so hard for so long and I was the only one fighting it. I was the only on that had the dreams of a happy family and a great life. The obvious pain during the relationship was the physical and verbal abuse. I was taken on a path that allowed the person that I knew as me to eventually disappear. I didn’t know who I was anymore and I didn’t even know where the exit door to my own house was. It was a reality that I eventually just accepted.

You don’t even think that you can turn this around.

It became hard enough to get out of bed in the morning let alone try to save myself. I just didn’t have the courage, the strength, or the knowledge to do so. Fear had never been something that had meant so much in my life, but it was all-consuming. It determined everything I said and everything I did. I was made to appear crazy by the person that drove me there. I needed help more than any other time in my life but I didn’t even know where to begin. I mean this coupled with on some days there was still a part of me that thought he would change and we could be happy. I didn’t want to hurt him as crazy as that sounds, right? I had thought of a million different ways to go about it but in fear of him finding out every attempt had fallen by the wayside.

I wasn’t able to come up with a plan on my own.

At the same time, I was not willing to look to other people because if he found out that would be the worst day yet.

To this day it still remains a horrible experience, but it was something that saved my life. The man I was with had been involved in the selling of illegal drugs and because we were so close and had so many things connected I ended up suffering the consequences as well.

Initially, I was imprisoned in my own home.

Now the legal system sent me to prison. I was separated from him, but also anyone or anything else that I loved. I am thankful for the opportunity that it gave me to get my life back, and in this very moment, I can say that God has used all of that bad for good and will continue to do so. That was my way of escaping but I hope that for other women it can be different. That they can leave and have a plan and get back to having dreams of their own again. Surviving a domestic violence relationship is something that you can’t do on your own, and my goals every day now is to help in any way that I can to see that no other woman has to feel like that relationship is just something she has to accept. That she doesn’t have to feel the most alone she has ever felt in her life. There is someone who understands and is willing to walk with her through it if necessary. To help women not only survive but thrive.

It has taken a lot of hard work and there are still areas of my life that I need to work on but I am confident in my future now and that is a good feeling. I know who I am and it is even a better version of myself that I had before. And I was only able to get there because of the help of so many amazing people that God has put in my life since my separation from my abuser. They have given me back the ability to dream again, to take my hurt and use it to help others. I told myself that my pain would not be for nothing and that is how I choose to live every day now.

Jessica Howard is a Board Member for S.T.A.C.I.E. Foundation. 

We invite you to help other women like Jessica by donating to the S.T.A.C.I.E. Foundation.