Hi, I’m Yi. For my day job I work in customer service at an insurance company and over the years I have dabbled in a few different things in my hope to be a modern day renaissance woman. You could say my driving force is the pursuit of knowledge. I was accepted into UC Berkeley after high school but found it very difficult to find the motivation to attend classes or do the coursework. Consequently, I was dismissed from the school and I put getting my degree on hold for a few years. After my experience I found a renewed sense of purpose and I finally went back to finish the classes I needed and in 2012 obtain my BA in anthropology. In the years following that, I have learned the value of understanding myself and having the courage to accept and to love who I am. I love to explore the outdoors and to travel as much of the world as I can. I have been fortunate enough to experience rappelling 165 feet down into the Moaning Caverns of California, re-discover my Taiwanese roots, feed the monkeys of Mt. Arashiyama, and bask in the natural wonder that is Ha Long Bay. One of my dreams was always to learn to play the violin and four years ago I finally believed in myself enough to start taking lessons. I am still mastering this instrument and one day I would love to master another. I definitely hope to keep learning new things for as long as I can!
My story begins many years before I actually met M. Like many people, when I was younger I both yearned to be in love and yet feared true intimacy. Internet romances were created just for people like me. In college I went through a period of developing crushes on just about any good-looking guy who paid me any attention online because in real life I was too afraid to take a real chance on anyone and too much of a fool to understand that a pretty face doesn’t equal a good person. At 21, I began a six-year long-distance relationship with a man I met through an online game. He was a good man who loved me but we were too different and by the time I was 27 I had discovered so much more of life that I wanted to experience, so I broke up with him.
A month after the end of that relationship I jumped into a semi-relationship with someone I met through a dating site. But again, I wasn’t happy with him. I just… stayed. For about 3 months. During that time I remained active on the dating website until I met M. He convinced me to meet up the very next evening. A part of me thought that was strangely pushy of him but at the same time I felt thrilled at the possibility that he was so irresistibly attracted to me that he couldn’t wait. So I agreed. He lived 35+ miles from me and he told me he would “make a mini vacation” out of it, so he got a hotel room. I picked him up at the hotel after dinner and to my naïve eyes, he seemed perfect. He was tall, handsome, wonderfully masculine yet vulnerable, and he smelled really good. We sat on a grassy field and talked for hours. He told me how he was working towards a degree in both psychology and psychiatry, about his PTSD (he was an army veteran), his verbally-abusive father, and the many women before me who didn’t treat him right. The more he told me about himself the more I wanted to be the one for him because I was going to take care of him and I was going to prove to him that I could love him right.
Eventually around midnight we decided to call it a night. I drove him back to the hotel and one thing led to another, as they say. I asked him to use a condom and he said yes, but when we actually had sex he didn’t stop to put it on. I paused a moment to be concerned about that but I told myself, “This felt so good. He obviously really liked me and I liked him. We’re going to be together. It’s okay.” And to be honest, I was a little afraid to say no, for many different reasons. But I believed I was finally and truly in love, so in my headiness I ignored all the warning signs and pushed aside all the reasons he wasn’t perfect.
Almost immediately he showed his true colors. The following week he flooded my phone with calls and texts because I didn’t answer him right away. When I responded, he berated me and accused me of not putting him first and suggested that I had someone else on the side. I felt concerned about it and wondered to myself if this was the start of abusive behavior. But again, I ignored the voices in my head because we had sex already and that meant we were together.
There were many ways he tried to manipulate, belittle, and isolate me during our time together. One time he insisted that if I cared about him I should drive to his place that night to help him with his school work. Never mind my job the next day; I could just call in sick, right? He was good at targeting my most vulnerable spots and then accuse me of not being able to take a joke if I got angry about what he said. He made me feel bad about myself and I felt on eggshells around him. If I dared to be myself and strong around him, I would be punished. I continued through it all, believing that this is what it meant to love someone. I had to take him as he was and sacrifice for him and do what I could for him. I excused most of his behavior on his PTSD and—even though I know I didn’t have the credentials to diagnose him—the borderline personality disorder I believed he had.
I began to seriously question my decisions about two months later. One of my best friends from college was getting married and M was my new, wonderful boyfriend, of course he was coming with me. I told him ahead of time that my friends were flying into town so we were going to have a reunion the night before the wedding. That afternoon he wanted to meet up, I said that was fine but that I would have to leave by 6. When I tried to leave he accused me of abandoning him, yet when I offered to forego being with my friends, he refused. I still met up with my friends but I felt uneasy about his behavior. At the wedding I tried my best to pretend my relationship was fine and that I was enjoying myself. He complained about an old foot injury from his army days that was bothering him because of the dress shoes he had to wear for the wedding. Eventually we excused ourselves from the festivities around 9 because I was afraid to inconvenience him much longer.
I remember feeling deeply unsettled once we left the venue. It was a twenty minute drive back to the hotel room and the whole way he lectured me in a subdued tone. I listened to him talk the whole way back, my stomach in knots. He’d told me once that a relationship had ended because he had hit her during a PTSD-induced episode—was he still capable of violence? Once we got back to the hotel room his words became more vitriolic and his tone more menacing. He never raised his voice at me but the threat I felt was palpable. At one point I was balled up on the bed crying as he threw my own clothes at me and verbally pelted his frustration and anger at me.
Eventually he left me in the hotel room and drove himself home. I spent a restless night alone, convinced that the relationship was beyond repair. And maybe that was for the best anyway because I couldn’t help him. I told him that much in texts that night but the next day he convinced me that this was just a fight and if I was ready to break up just because of a little fight then I didn’t really love him. I insisted that it was better for both of us to not be together. He then agreed with me but wanted to remain friends. We did get back together once very briefly after that before I truly woke up to the situation and ended all contact with him.
For another two years he tried a few different ways to get back in contact with me, even going as far as leaving an unsigned note on my doorstep to call him (I only realized it was him by comparing the phone number). I never responded to any of those messages and I have not heard from him for five years.
My Healing Journey
This was the most painful emotional experience in my life up to this point and at times I felt debilitated by it. I think the primary emotion I experienced fresh out of this relationship was shame. Shame, because I felt so stupid for getting involved with someone who had so many red flags out the gate that I should’ve never even met up with him. It was so clear that I was so desperate for a man’s approval and attention that I didn’t care if he was hurtful. I was proud, however, that I didn’t allow it to go on longer and I knew that if I could rise out of this pain and work on myself to become a better me, I would always know how to deal with the hurdles of life.
When I was still in the relationship with M I had started reading and posting on a PTSD forum where people could go to ask questions and provide support for each other. Even though I recognized that M was hurtful and could never be the kind of partner I needed him to be, I still loved him. So for a while the forum served as an outlet for my feelings and I also used it as a sounding board for starting my recovery process, since I didn’t always feel comfortable burdening my friends with my problems.
At the same time I also filled up countless diary entries. I found that writing allowed me to organize and examine my chaotic and tumultuous thoughts in a calmer and objective way so I can begin to formulate a plan for solving problems. I read many blogs and articles related to dating and having low self-esteem. After a while, I decided that I wanted to start my own dating blog to get my voice out there and I hoped to potentially help someone else avoid making the same mistakes I made.
Most importantly, I refused to let this experience destroy me. I told myself that I was responsible for what happened but I would not let this one thing define me, so I had to rise above it. I took care of me by working out, eating well, and keeping busy with my hobbies and my friends. I will always be grateful that even though I didn’t have many friends close by, I had one true and stalwart friend who was there for me through the entire process and the years after while I was still finding my true self.
The entire healing process took a few years and through a few more heartbreaks and relationships. This experience forced myself to confront my low self-esteem and the limiting beliefs that contributed to it. The end result is that even though I still experience self-doubt at times and I am still learning more about myself every day, I have a good sense of who I am at my core and I try to honor that instead of worrying about who other people think I should be. And I believe it’s having this true acceptance of myself that allows me peace with myself and fortifies me against the bad people and influences in life.
“And most importantly, I know it’s hard and I know it’s scary, but it’s okay to be who you are. Listen to what’s inside you. You are worthy.”
Thank you for sharing your story, Yi! I can relate to it. We are not alone.
What I appreciate most about your story is how you describe how complicated relationship abuse is and what an emotional roller coaster ride it can feel like. From my own experiences with abusive relationships, your story really resonated with me, thank you for sharing and being a part of this community!!
Thank you for sharing your story!!
Wow. I am currently experiencing relationship difficulties and this has been very inspiring to hear. I was in an abusive relationship for 5 years (violence didn’t start until the first year when I was in deep) – and it ended badly by him cheating and throwing me out. I had not fully healed before I got caught up in another whirlwind romance, and it’s no wonder I’m still experiencing pain. Thank you for sharing your story, it’s giving me strength to set the boundaries that serve my higher good.