By Rebekah Rollston, MD, MPH
PROMPT — Who am I today?
He never hit me, though many nights I wished he would. The jealousy, the yelling, the name calling, the arguments generated from near nothingness, the control of my time, and the constant critique -- of my thoughts, my decisions, my actions, my friends, my family, my successes, my morals -- overwhelmed me with intense feelings of entrapment and anger. Unfortunately, it was just enough to create fear of confiding this in another soul -- for fear of judgment for staying in the relationship, for fear of victim blaming. He never hit me, but if he would, I'd have reason to leave, urgently. He never hit me, so I endured the psychological and emotional abuse that would continue to pervade my subconscious for years after I gained the silent courage to leave.
The critique I endured during that fateful time has caused me to subconsciously question most decisions I make. It has caused me to be silent, rather than assertive. It has caused me to question my intellect, my passions and goals, my ability to make a difference in this world. Most of all, it has caused me to subconsciously assume constant scrutiny from others.
His intense control has caused me to value my time and independence, with each simple trip to the grocery store, spontaneous road trips to my favorite city, and middle of the night excursions to my favorite coffee shop. It has caused me to value every moment I have, because I wasn't fully sure I would make it to live a liberated life once again.
The arguments, the name calling, the yelling, the jealousy have caused my aversion to conflict and the intense anxiety that comes with demanding to be treated as an equal. These things have disillusioned me to believe that my strength as a woman means I'm bitchy and my fear of arguments means I'm incapable of maintaining a healthy relationship.
In the end, I was left broken and afraid -- very broken, and very afraid -- though he never hit me. I'm left with subconscious fears of commitment and attachment, for fear of being destroyed yet again. Years later, new fears, new reservations, new hesitations continue to surface from my subconscious. With each new day, I continue to heal. With each new day, I attempt to love and to be loved.
Rebekah L. Rollston, MD, MPH, is a Family Medicine Physician at Cambridge Health Alliance, Clinical Associate at Tufts University School of Medicine, and Resident Affiliate at the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care. Her professional interests focus on social determinants of health & health disparities, gender-based violence, and sexual & reproductive health. Rebekah is an East Tennessee native, now living in Boston. In her free time, she enjoys running, yoga, hiking, camping, and traveling with her fiancé.