To the reader that had to endure a toxic relationship: I know what it feels like. I know how it pushes away who you used to be and all of a sudden you feel like you lost who you were. I know how it destroys your perception of people. I know how it shatters your trust. I know.
I was there. I was the happy girl that was kind to everyone. I gave smiles to anyone that I had ever spoken a single word to in the hallway (which was EVERYONE). I cheered on the girl that was unsure of her abilities. I encouraged the guy that needed help with school work but didn't want to admit it. More than that, I was independent. I managed my own life and my own thoughts and feelings were determined only by me. I was a hard worker and strived to make everything that I wanted it to be.
In fact, after the toxic relationship, I was still seen as that girl. No one knew that I didn't even know who I was anymore. Truthfully, those habits were routine. It was easy to go on and keep up the same image in public.
Despite the fact that I knew about six months into the relationship that it wasn't healthy, I pushed through the relationship. I became a type of crutch for him. I was his support system and I knew him like no one else did. And despite the fact that I knew it wasn't healthy, I cried when it was over. I cried on the drive to school, in between classes, in the bathroom when I couldn't stay in class any longer, at night before bed, and at two in the morning when I couldn't sleep.
No one knew why I really cried. I cried because I lost my boyfriend, right? I was just a hormonal teenage girl being dramatic.
Of course I cried because I lost my companion of a year. But the main reason I cried was so much more than that. I lost myself. I didn't know who I was. I didn't know who I was during the relationship, and I certainly didn't know who I was after.
For a year, I was told how to dress, what activities to participate in, what events I could or couldn't go to, who I could or couldn't talk to, and how I was supposed to feel and think. With that, the independent girl went away. She was replaced with a girl that had the only purpose of being who her boyfriend wanted her to be so he could feel reassured and look better. She wore jeans and a t-shirt every day with minimal makeup because if not, her boyfriend would deem her "slutty" or "trashy."
Her phone, which would once blow up with exciting conversations, was replaced with one that barely lit up unless it was her boyfriend or family. He had blocked every other male in existence from her phone (except for his friends, naturally) and pulled her away from any female friends (under excuses of why they "aren't good people") so that he could be her only priority.
He discouraged her from participating in things that she found fun because there would be too much attention paid to her or too many guys around her. She wasn't allowed to smile at people in the hallway anymore because he interpreted it as flirting, and it showed that she was happier to see them than she was to see him.
But it wasn't all bad.
She loved him and his family.
She loved his sense of humor and the way he was when no one was around.
She loved him when he was happy with her, and she still loved him in the times where she felt worthless because of his way of treating her.
She drove herself crazy with the countless arguments, where she could never be right, that he would always win.
She gave in.
She gave in because she loved him and didn't want him to be upset with her.
She became the role of the "perfect" girl that he wanted. Not only was she his perfect little cookie cutter girl, but she also became a parent.
She knew him inside and out.
She knew who he was and what he was thinking during every moment.
She knew how to make him smile and laugh, and she knew exactly what would make him cry.
She knew when he was taking his depression medicine and when he hadn't.
Most of all, she knew how desperate she was to make him happy.
I can't tell you how many times I felt worthless. I can't tell you how many people I pushed away for the "benefit" of our relationship. I can't tell you how many opportunities I skipped out on for him. I can't tell you how many times I tried to change myself because I never felt good enough for him. And I can't tell you how many nights I stayed up talking to him on the phone trying to fix things that were unhealthy and just could not be fixed.
But toxic relationship effects don't go away when it ends. And ever since, I still do all of these things. I still feel worthless and feel the need to change when it's late at night, when I'm driving home from class, or when I find any spare minute of time where I'm not distracting myself. And to be honest, I don't know how long that's going to last. But I know it's so much better being out of it.
So to you, the reader that found yourself in this situation, leave. A toxic relationship is not worth fixing. It's a cliche of course, but you will be so much better off without. It's going to hurt to leave, but it's going to destroy to stay.
Don't lose who you are.