- by Sara Marquez
I was 17 years old when I realized that I was in an unhealthy, toxic relationship. When you’re young, you really don’t pay attention to the red flags everyone keeps warning you about. I was pretty naïve thinking I could change my ex-boyfriend to become a better person and be his savior. It started with jealousy, then control and manipulation, and soon unraveled to verbal abuse. After several attempts to break up with him, he threatened me so I wouldn’t leave him. I kept thinking to myself, “How could this happen to me?”. The girl who got all A’s in school. The girl who was a social butterfly and made friends everywhere she went. The girl enrolled in clubs and honor classes. I became numb, I couldn’t feel sadness or joy. I started getting panic attacks during class. My paranoia lead to insomnia and sleepless nights as I thought of ways to end it all. Little did I know, that I would soon shut myself out from the world and be stuck in a relationship that seemed like I had no way of escaping.
After a year and a half of pure torture and no will to live, I was able to turn my life back around. I was in the process of almost transitioning schools, when he got kicked out for assaulting another student. As I dealt with depression and anxiety, I received an immense amount of support from my family, friends and teachers in high school who genuinely cared about my well being. I realized this was my opportunity to finally let go, start fresh and move forward. I slowly began eating more again. Instead of sleeping all day, I encouraged myself to start doing things that made me happy and hung out with old friends. I replaced those awful words that were constantly repeated to me, with words of love and affirmation. I began going to group therapy realizing that it’s okay to be vulnerable and that I wasn’t alone. In order to grow, you have to be willing to seek help, talk about it, and tell yourself that the pain you’re feeling can be overcome with happiness.
Looking at myself now compared to the person I was back 5 years ago, I’m truly amazed. I didn’t think I was going to make it. Now I am able to see that happiness is infectious, and can be cultivated onto others, but you have to be happy with yourself first. Since then, my mental health has become an important priority in my life. So to anyone who feels lost or alone, don’t stop living and surround yourself with positive energy. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help because there are so many people out there that care for you. I was in a position where I felt like I had nothing to live for when in fact I was about to lose everything. Life throws you curveballs but my experience taught me that pain is the best teacher. So don’t forget to smile, and don’t forget to love yourself till the end.