When I was younger there were plenty of people who didn’t treat me very well. People who abused me (both physically and emotionally), people who threatened my life and aimed to belittle me to make me feel weak and inferior. I was too young to know how to separate myself from these people, and so as a result I become very insecure within myself and closed myself off to basically everyone I met in the following years. It’s fair to say that at the time I didn’t realise the full extent of how badly I was being treated, as in I didn’t tell anyone about it or do anything to stop it. I thought that it wasn’t such a big deal and that they just weren’t nice people (according to my naïve child-like thinking back then). But the truth is, I can’t apologise enough to myself for the things that I went through growing up. I made some poor decisions as to who I spent my time with and the people that I surrounded myself with, for which I feel like I have paid the price.
I am a completely different person now, like to the point where I don’t even recognise that girl back then as myself. A part of me wants to go back in time just so I can look after myself and do it differently, to ensure some of those truly unfortunate things didn’t happen to me. I know this isn’t possible, but I still think about it a lot and how the way I was treated by people was so, so wrong. Now I’m old enough to look back on those experiences and memories and come to that conclusion, but at the time I was none the wiser and quite frankly it makes me really sad to think about now. I didn’t deserve to be treated like that.
I didn’t know how to protect myself. I didn’t think anyone might want to hurt me or have devised a plan for how best to manipulate me into feeling so inferior and helpless. I was so young and all I could think about was how exciting it was to spend time with guys that were much older than me, and the fact that they took an interest in me, out of anyone. I did feel special to an extent, so I was only too happy to spent my time with them. I didn’t see any consequences of my actions, or theirs for that matter. I was just their prey.
I was coming home with cuts all down my arms, other times not being able to walk properly for an entire week. My body would ache and hurt and I was scared of someone seeing it and finding out what was actually going on. That was just some of the physical damage. Internally, I was being manipulated and developing insecurities that would stay with me for many years following. I was repeatedly told awful things, serious threats, while I was being physically restrained and hurt, abused, so much so I don’t feel comfortable writing them down. Instead, let your imagination think of some of the worst things you could tell a young girl and lets go with that, because it’s probably not far off what was actually spoken.
Someone I knew fairly well (had hung out with them a few times and talked to them for a few months) threatened to kill me when things turned sour. They knew where I lived at the time and I was incredibly scared and intimated by them. I became very, very scared. I was too scared to leave the house. I become somewhat paranoid. Once I heard a van park in my driveway and I couldn’t see who was in the driver’s seat. Panicing because I assumed it was them, I started shaking uncontrollably, thinking the worst and that they were here to kill me like they said. My heart was beating so loud I thought they would be able to hear it from outside. I started having nightmares that they were banging on the front door trying to get in, knowing I was inside. When I walked home from school every day I was scared I was being followed. I tried to remember their number plate so I would know if it was them following me or parked outside my house. While I was in school I would get voice messages on my phone with more threats.
The physical marks healed, but internally it took a lot, lot longer for the damage to repair itself. In the following years I was extremely scared and reluctant when developing relationships in fear that it would turn out the same way as those previously. I had serious trust issues. I felt like I couldn’t trust anybody. I felt like everyone I met had the same intentions as those from the past. I felt like everyone was out to hurt me. I didn’t know how to separate the good people I met from the bad people; they blurred into one in my head. I needed to text people for at least a year before I would allow myself to meet them in person because I was so fearful of my own safety, well being and my life. All those experiences of the past were haunting me and I didn’t know what to do. Like I said, I was incredibly insecure and that didn’t go away just because I got older. It would be an understatement to say that I felt really quite damaged by those experiences.
Unless you’ve experienced physical or emotional abuse, you probably don’t realise how the fear creeps into your own head and continues to control you even when the person isn’t physically there. Even when you’re on your own and you know you should feel safe, you’re not because the fear sits inside your mind and eats away at you until paranoia sets in. I do think a lot of that fear was inside of my head, as opposed to being an actual threat, but it was a seed planted in my head by the manipulator himself, so all that I was feeling was a direct result of their actions and my experiences with them.
These days I have too much self respect to allow myself to be treated like that. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. It’s because of those experiences that’s made me even more determined to look after myself now (almost as if trying to make up for what happened back then) and to never let anyone treat me like that again. At the end of the day I would do anything to make myself happy, to protect and look after myself. That’s part of the reason why self respect is so important to me now and why I value it so much. It’s why I’m so incredibly protective of myself now.
Whenever I feel scared, insecure or anxious now, I make sure I’m there for myself. I tell myself that over and over again. I tell myself that no one will ever hurt me again because I won’t let them. I’ve changed so significantly since those experiences and in doing so I’ve learned how to stand up for myself, how to say no to other people and how to look after myself and keep myself safe. I never want myself to be put in a similar situation to that again, or feel the way I felt for so many years as a result of all the things that happened to me when I was growing up and barely a teenager.
That was about 7 years ago, but even so it’s taken me this long to get away from it emotionally and to encourage myself to open up, knowing that it’s okay to do so. For a long time I closed myself off from everyone I met but over the last year or so I’ve started to change that and allow myself to have new experiences that I might have missed out on for the many years that I was withdrawn and unresponsive.
Lucy Rebecca x