“Although she is small, she is strong.”
This is the phrase tattooed across the top of my back. The top line is in Spanish (“Although she is small”) and the bottom in Tagalog (Filipino, “She is strong”). Even if this is accurate physically (lol), it also represents me mentally and spiritually. I’ve gone through some rough things in the past and I’m beyond blessed to be where I am today. Though life is hard, I find myself continually flying through the obstacles, though some more difficult than others. One particular event in my life really cut me deep that the scars will forever remain within me.
When I was in high school, I thought it’d be the best years of my life, as what everyone says about their high school years. Too bad mine wasn’t. There were cherishable moments but, for almost 90% of my life during those years, it was nothing but hell. I didn’t know who to turn to because I had practically dropped everyone. I didn’t know who to talk to because I thought I was the only one going through it. I didn’t know what to do when the guy I thought loved me as much as I loved him wanted nothing but to hurt me. Emotionally and physically.
For at least three years, I endured verbal abuse and physical abuse from him. He would scare me and tell me no one would love me if I left him; that I’m no good for anyone else out there; that I’m nothing but a slut and a bitch. I was selfishly taken from another boy who had my heart and, on my part, I stupidly accepted. I was constantly let down to the point where I didn’t know even know how to get up anymore. I was punched to the ground and asked whether I wanted more. I was left to walk alone in the rain. I was told to get down on my knees and show how much I loved him. I was forced to lie to his own mother about the bruise on my face. I neglected myself because all I wanted to do was make him happy. Before everything went downhill, I thought maybe he would be ‘The One’. I was naive and vulnerable and wanted nothing more but someone to love me and give me their undivided attention when I needed it. Don’t get me wrong, he gave me all of that. He just had the worst way of showing it.
I was told not to look at any one of the opposite sex. When I had excursions with my family (all of which he hated because he couldn’t come with), he demanded I tell him who I saw, what I wore and who I was with. At times, he insisted I was lying whenever I told him I’d gone to the mall with my parents. Hell, he thought everything I was saying was a lie so that’s what I started resorting to – lies. The summer I was turning 18, my family took me to Spain — a trip in which he said he’d break up with me if I went on. He wanted me to wear winter clothes in Spain. No makeup, no dresses, no tank tops, nothing that shows legs, cleavage or any part of skin. Of course that was all lies because I dressed in the skimpiest clothing a girl can have. He demanded I call and text him everyday while I was overseas, giving me a whopping $2800 phone bill a month later — he didn’t care. For my 19th birthday, I went out with my friends for drinks behind his back because that was definitely a no-no for me to do under his eyes. Whenever we’re apart, he expected a text message every 10 minutes and, if he didn’t receive anything within that time frame, I’d apparently be ‘with someone else’.
The first few months after the official breakup was brutal. It wasn’t brutal because I was sad we were done, I was amazingly happy he was out of my life. It was brutal because I felt I had nothing and nobody left in my life. I had neglected myself, my friends and my family — who else was there for me? I cut my wrists, I punctured my hands, I threatened suicide. My dad saw how ‘different’ I’d become and offered to take me to a therapist. My parents knew my relationship with him wasn’t great, but didn’t know the depth of it. I spent endless nights crying myself to sleep wishing none of this had happened. I turned to alcohol thinking it’d make the problems go away. I was a wreck and I didn’t know whether I’d resurface again.
It took me a long time to finally speak out about what had happened during those years. Like I said, I didn’t know who to talk to during that time so I kept to myself. Anything that happened, I kept it all inside. I have the best support system a girl like me could ever ask for – friends and family – and they knew how to help me get back up. It may have taken a long time, but I was finally ready to tell my story and smile about everything that happened. Why smile? Because it played a huge role on the woman I am today — happy, grown, successful and in love to last.
I asked a couple of my closest friends to write a story of what they can recall during those years about me. This is what they gave me:
Before social networking dominated the teenage life, things went a little weird. I had a part-time job as I was Getting a little stressed out coz of the play. Then we slowly drifted because volleyball ended and I barely saw you. Christmas and stuff came along. Then new year. There had been times when I was already feeling like I blew it. Or that I wasn’t doing much for you. You were my first girlfriend and to be honest, I had NO clue how to be a boyfriend and everything that came with it – social, sexual, intimacy, etc. Things came way too fast and way too unexpected for me. I guess it’s because I was that type that needed to think about stuff so I did and while thinking I was letting you slide away from my grasp. Was I too young then (not age-wise, but maturity) ? I probably was… I wasn’t ready?
(Oh gosh here it is).
For the little texting and talking we did. At work I knew what I had to do, at the same time you knew what you had to do. To be honest, I didn’t know how to handle it. It was settled on the phone (ffs), now that I think about it, that was just .. Ugh. We both agreed that it’s over. I know I had to let go. I felt such a complete failure. I bawled my eyes out that night after we talked. I couldn’t help it. I thought I was okay with it. I thought I made peace with it. But it happened and so I laid there, just torn. Things ran in my head like a spinning top. I kept trying to figure out where I screwed up. Being a perfectionist, it killed me to know I failed at something. Or that I didn’t know how to be a good boyfriend.
(Oh geez it’s weird that I’m writing this and I’m wearing this green zip up sweater you bought me that you said was grey but it’s not grey)
So for a while I beat myself up for it. I actually forgot other details but I know one thing. I regret a lot of things. When I first saw you and ___ together, things ran thru my mind again. Did I think it was too soon? No clue. Did I think I was at fault? Yep. I watched you two stroll down the halls and all I could think of was that wtf happened? Maybe I DID fuck up. Or maybe I didn’t deserve her. When your friends would ask me what happened I didn’t know what to tell them. All I knew at the time was that I lost you and I fucked up. Well I guess that’s how it is. I’m pretty sure I was zoned out in chemistry for the first time …
Then high school musical practices resumed and ohhhh Emm geee… Those spares we had where we would practice got 10x harder to be comfortable with. Not only was I uncomfortable with the fact that I was trying to move my hips like a salsa dancer but also because ___ had to be there… Like wtf go to class! Not only was I having a hard time trying to practice with my ex-gf two weeks after we broke up but also because ___ was still there looking at ME. He was the one who I should be looking at with a bad stare! I knew he was the jealous type… I was just thinking, if I were a few pounds heavier or a few inches taller than him then I would have done something. But in any case, not that I pussied out or anything.. I just couldn’t find the reason to get mad at him completely when it was my fault that I let you slipped away.
Sad part is I wanted u back then despite what others told me to move on and forget about u. It took a while to forget and move on though. I thought that ___ was right about you and blamed myself even more that I didn’t listen to her. I blamed myself for a lot of things. I seriously thought that you moved on way too fast though. I was still in that phase of heartbreak and you were just enjoying. It was tough – first gf, first break up, first heartbreak… Wasn’t the first time I cried over a girl though.
(** He DID say he wanted to snatch you from me so he gave you what I was holding back to give you – he succeeded.)So the play went on and as far as I know I can only see you everyday in rehearsals and performances for Ice and Chill. I found my friends through HSM. With or without you, I was happy then. I was back to my normal self… Forgot about you… Just lived high school to the fullest. It sucked for you I know. And I don’t wanna brag But for me I had such an amazing end to my high school. Though I felt that I could have been your date for grad And we could have sung again as a duet. I don’t even know why but all I could see was ___ dragging you around like his slave. I wanted to go up to him and tell him that he shouldn’t be that tight on his grip because you’re already with him … Oh well.
When C first told me that her and ___ were talking, a lot, I was worried. Being someone who dated him only a couple of years back, I would not wish upon ANY girl to go through what I went through, especially someone who is my friend. I gave her warnings about how he can get very territorial and hard-headed, how everything has to be his way, how extremely jealous and untrustworthy he is. But I didn’t want to influence her decisions too much. He might have changed for all I knew. Plus, I knew that C was a tough girl and that she can handle her own, so I gave them my blessing. Although him and I did have a bad relationship as a couple, in the past, during those days, he was one of my really good friends, so I wanted all the best for him as well.
In the beginning of their relationship, I kept my distance from them because I didn’t know how C felt about mine and his friendship, being his ex and knowing more things about his past (at that time) than she did. I just didn’t want to bother them. It was already awkward that I was the only one who called him “___”. I just didn’t want trouble, so I didn’t bother keeping tabs on how their relationship was going.The first fight that I heard of (and I’m sure they’ve had numerous ones before this one already) was when she had her photoshoot in the cafeteria and he had asked her to buy him food but the shoot took longer than she had expected. C finally bought him food only minutes before the bell (or was it after the bell?) and, because of this, he said he didn’t want it and threw it in the garbage. When I heard about this, for some reason, I took it personally. It was as if I were brought back to the days when it was me who he would treat that way. I felt responsible for his actions. Responsible that I couldn’t prevent this from happening to C and I felt like I needed to do something about it. I hunted him down and confronted him. “WTF ___ You know you’re in the wrong here.” He replied, “I know, I just can’t help it sometimes.” That’s when I remembered: He’s a smart guy who is full of great wisdom and willpower. Why can’t he overcome that part of him? He always justifies his actions by blaming the other person. That’s his technique. Although, in almost every fight, he WILL apologize but then tell you that he did this because your actions made him do it. What’s annoying is that his explanation will make complete sense, which then convinces you that you are a bad person and you need to be changed – not him. The thing about him is, he doesn’t know it. He has no clue that there exists a factor where he can control how he reacts to things! So, instead of being mad at him, I reminded him of how quick tempered he is and that he just needs to stop and THINK before he gets mad.
After this, I kept my distance once again.
They were a mysterious couple. What I mean by that is they weren’t really open to everyone else. They barely wanted to hang out with the big group and, when they did, they were always the first ones to leave. They didn’t really share any stories of what they’ve been up to, where they’ve been, or how they’ve been. From what we could see, they did a lot of cute couple stuff like matching clothes, they were always holding hands, openly saying ‘I love you’ or ‘love you lots’. They were obviously inseparable. But as time passed by, you see the life in their faces slowly fade away, and the cute couple glow turned into a gloomy smog.
They started fighting more openly in front of people. Although it was never a scrap, everyone can see it in their body language. They were quiet. People started to talk. “There they go again”. “I wonder what it is this time”. “Seriously, C should just dump him”. “He’s taken her senior year away from her”. “She doesn’t even talk to her friends anymore”. “I think her friends are mad at her”.
On her graduation dinner, I was sitting across from them and ___ sat there with a pout the whole night. C could not even enjoy her own graduation night. I felt for her, I really did. But I felt so helpless because of the fact that they were both so in love with each other that they couldn’t see how much it wasn’t working out.
When their relationship was finally ending, I couldn’t believe the shit he was putting her through. He had the audacity to make her beg for him back when he didn’t even deserve it. He had the audacity to make her believe that she was the one who screwed up, when everything is a two way street. He had the audacity to leave her in the dark to cry alone. Good thing C’s a strong girl. Only strong girls like her can last this long with that smart and manipulative guy. Only in this time did I ever hear about how their relationship went. It was passionate, violent and hopeless. I was never really a wrathful person. Although a friend would normally react with so much anger and hatred towards him with the stories she told, I never focused on him. I was focused on making sure she was okay. I sympathized with her and heard her out. As sad as break-ups can be, I was glad it was finally over. I know that this was the start of another chapter of pain and confusion for her. Relationships can really screw up a person’s mind and make you do things you would never dream of doing. It can make you think irrationally for the happiness of the other person.
I’m sad to say that I couldn’t be there for her as much as I wished I had.
It was later in high school, by which time I had already graduated, that you would experience one of the greatest challenges of your life. The fact that you had to go through that so early in life was a clear sign that God had a lot more planned for you. Almost as if it were preparation for something greater, something so important that it would require, not only your strength, but that of all the great people you would meet and would eventually come to support you. I only reassured me that the serenity and beauty I felt from within you was real. I knew I had to do everything I could to make you believe that. To make sure you wouldn’t give up on yourself or the people around you.
As you began to pour your heart to me, I couldn’t help but find a little bit of who I used to be in ___. It made me realize that it wasn’t just you I needed to help. What I thought was simply a task for me to help guide you, led me to believe I needed to help him as well. It also reminded me that I wasn’t alone in what I had gone through, and what I could barely manage myself I knew I had to do all that I could to help you.
There were many times whenever you were sad that I just wanted to reach out and hold you. I wanted to let you feel that someone out there still loved you. I wanted to treat you like a woman should be treated. I knew then that I was beginning to care for you in the wrong manner and that, if I continue to think that way, I would not only hurt you but potentially lose you as a friend as well. It was no secret that I had feelings for you. I knew it was more important for me to be a friend. It was a question I struggled with for a long time within myself. I wanted to know if we were meant to be friends or something more.
As you continued to confide in me, I knew that the best thing at this point would be to listen and just do only as much as you needed me to. To remember never to over reach and to never take advantage of you. It was clear what kind of man I wanted to be and I had to stay true to it and never make an excuse otherwise. For the sake of all the women who distrusts or loses faith. I always wanted to do more for you but I knew it wouldn’t be best. As you continued to remind me that I was a brother to you, I would protect you as such.
Overall, I just wanted to help everyone. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t want to pick a side. Maybe it was the first time I was able to relate to two people at once and that made me so much more open to listening to people and reminding them to ask what the other is thinking and why they would do what they did. Of course, you were my priority and seeing you happy was what I wanted. But I knew that just agreeing with you wouldn’t bring the happiness you needed. It’s hard trying to do and show somebody just that. Most of the time, you just want to do what they want so that they’re happy right then and there. You were a great example of when I had to do otherwise.
There was hardly ever a time that I was really angry at ___. Maybe it was because I felt him and we were so much alike when I was dating my ex-girlfriend. Besides that, I did my best to feel as you felt. It was you, back then, that reminded me to smile. It was because of you that I stayed strong and made it through my own problems. Everything that I am today and the fact that I can still remain positive about life is because of you. There was a lot of things that I stopped myself from feeling. Everything I felt and thought back then I’ve shared with you. If you look back, just remember me and try and see it from my eyes. I think you’ll have a better picture of what I was feeling and thinking than I did.
The scars he’s left me with will never heal; however, I’ve forgiven him a long time ago and I have absolutely nothing more to say.
It’s been about 5 years since all of that happened. Well, to be quite honest, I lost count in how long it’s been because I erased the memory of it all. Wanting to write about it at this time was hard because recalling the events (and having my friends recall their feelings for my sake) has been brutal. I’ve said that I regret ever being with someone like that but, really, I don’t.
This experience has helped me raise the bar in the man I want to spend the rest of my life with and the people I want to surround myself with. Going through this made me want to look for and reach out to those who are going through something similar. I can share my story proudly because it was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever been in. Sure, it may not have been a big thing to some people but it was to me. It took a hell of a long while to be able to speak out, but I learned that it helps to say something. I know what I’ve been through and what I did. I know who I am now today because of my past. I know what I want and who I want.
I wasn’t really sure about life before. I wasn’t sure of who I was, who I wanted to become. When I look in the mirror now, I see nothing but a beautiful woman, though scarred on the inside, who is purely and genuinely happy with everything she’s ever endured. THIS is where I should be and this is where I am.