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David's personal story

I met someone when I was about 19. I had poor self-esteem for a number of reasons. I was bullied at school and had parents that set high standards. Failure was a constant fear in my life.

The person I met spoke to me and said she understood me. A friendship grew into something more.

There were times I had doubts, little “crossroad” moments, like the time she took a kitchen knife to a book I was reading. Or her propensity to go from calm to white hot anger in a second. That white hot anger was usually accompanied by some physical violence which at best was a slap, at worst she would grab my genitals.

Then there were the put-downs, nothing was ever quite good enough and any ideas would be scrutinised by her and her family before I would be told, no, bad idea.

But there were good things too, enough for me to agree to move in after about 18 months or so.

Like others, I experienced the slow alienation from friends and family. Then the slow alienation from who I was and what I believed in. I was labelled an emotional retard and told how a normal person would react to things and how different that was to me.

I would find myself thinking, “what am I doing this for?” Or worse, “why bother going on if this is as good as it gets.”

I hated myself for a host of surface reasons.

All this was my problem. I could never be happy. I had issues.

Then after a particularly bad phase, I was referred to a psychologist. This helped me gain a great deal of clarity and also to believe that what I was experiencing and what I felt was as real as any other person. Deep down, I hated myself for not being true to who I was, and so it was time to stop being a cardboard cut-out and become real again.

I came to realise that the way I was being treated wasn't right and that either that had to change or I would have to leave. In the end it was the latter. Since then it has been a roller coaster. What I can say to people in what was my situation is that it gets better, a whole lot better. Sure there are bad days, but I am a totally different person to who I was in that emotionally and physically abusive relationship. I love my life now and I love who I have become in that life.

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