“True emotional healing happens by feeling. The only way out is through.” ~Jessica Moore
Have you ever loved someone so much that you could no longer see who they really were? Or have you ever been young and naive to the danger that surrounds you?
I’m the first to raise my hand and say I did that! I’m a person who trusts people until they give me a reason not to.
Trust can be broken in so many ways by those you least expect it from; those you love and thought loved you. In some cases, it may not be that they don’t love you, but just that they have had a temporary moment of madness that has hindered their ability to think clearly—who knows?
But whatever the reason for their betrayal, it can cause so much pain that you feel it in every part of your body. You know the kind of pain I’m talking about, which is so intense that it feels like you’re being pricked with needles. It’s not a nice place to be.
For me, that moment came on a quiet night in June 2009, which was the calm before the storm that shook my young life. The month before, I had just turned twenty and was looking forward to the summer holidays after finishing my first year at university.
At the time, I was with someone, and we had been together for just over a year. I had told him about certain areas of my life that I didn’t like to talk about because I didn’t think anyone would be able to understand or relate to them.
That’s how much I trusted this person, so when he asked me for my house key, I agreed, although I was hesitant to give it initially. I thought we were cool. I know, before you look at me askance, I was young and stupid. I had been living on my own for about a year and ten months at that point, after moving out of foster care.
On that horrible day, I remember my friend coming to see me during the day and leaving in the early evening. I then remember that shortly after she left, the guy I was with came into the house and stared at me for quite a while. I asked him why he was staring at me like that. He said it was nothing, I just looked different. I said yes, my hair was straight (I usually wore my hair with a natural afro).
But I could tell something was wrong, so I asked him if he was okay. He said yes and walked out. I thought it would be like any other night and just lazed around the flat.
Around 10 p.m. I was lying on my sofa playing my favorite game on the Nintendo DS (Ace Attorney) with my legs up and no trousers on. I heard the key unlock my door, but thinking it was my boyfriend, I didn’t flinch… until the door to my living room opened and I saw a boy with a bandana on his face.
I jumped up quickly to cover myself, and while one of the boys held me at knifepoint, I watched as several other boys with hoods and covered faces took my things. The last thing they took was my wallet, but one of the boys had to ask me where it was.
Due to the shock of what was happening, my brain couldn’t think, so I answered with “I don’t know,” which of course the boys didn’t like at all, as you can imagine. I ended up getting smacked in the face to jog my memory.
It Was Not Over
When they were gone, I quickly got up and ran to the door to put the chain on so they wouldn’t come back in. Lo and behold, one of them came back to get the remote control for the TV. To his surprise, of course, he couldn’t get in, and that made him angry. So he ordered me through the crack to get him the remote and threatened that he’d break down the door and kill me if I didn’t.
Can you imagine being killed over a remote control?
I got the remote and pushed it through the crack. Then he asked me for the password to my laptop, and I didn’t hesitate to tell him. Then he said, “If it’s wrong, I’ll come back.”
During this exchange, I had the police on the phone in the bathroom. When the boys had left, I checked and found that they had taken my house phone, but I still had a spare phone in the cupboard, which I used to call 999.
Just a few minutes after I finished talking to the suspect, the police knocked on my door. He had been arrested not far from my door and the police were able to recover some of my belongings (which were now evidence), including my front door key. The other boys managed to escape, but the arrested boy was later charged and convicted.
That was a tough night for me, but the toughest pill I had to swallow was the realization that those boys wouldn’t have gotten my key without my ex-boyfriend’s consent.
It seemed too premeditated because only he knew how much some of the stolen things cost.
It was the biggest betrayal I’d ever experienced. I thought hearts could only be ripped out in vampire shows until it happened to me in real life that night (at least that’s how it felt).
After the incident, I stayed with friends for the summer, which helped me cope better with the aftermath because I was out of the area for a while. But I also think it took me longer to heal because I was in denial for the first few months.
I couldn’t fully process what had happened. I was finding it hard to get my head around it, and I didn’t talk about it because I couldn’t formulate the right words to express how I felt. I also felt embarrassed that it was partly my own fault for giving him my key.
After the summer I moved to another area in time for my second year of university, and I never saw or spoke to my ex again.
A Little Encouragement
I’d like to say to all those who experience betrayal or survive traumatic crimes that the memory may never completely go away, but the healing will come with time and effort.
This means feeling, processing, and accepting your emotions, reflecting on the situation and thinking about lessons learned, and forgiving and letting go so you can continue living.
The two things I’d advise you not to do:
1. Don’t suffer in silence.
2. Don’t suppress your feelings and pretend nothing has happened.
I did both for many years. It was only when I started talking about what had happened and allowed myself to feel all the different emotions that came with it that my healing journey really began.
My emotions ranged from confusion, disgust, fear, shame, anger, and rage to sadness. They would be up and down on any given day. Sometimes it could be because something had triggered me, and other times just because I was thinking about what happened.
Sometimes the event replays in your mind repeatedly like a broken record. Let it, because you’ll eventually come to a place of acceptance and slowly begin to let go of the pain.
I also found it very hard to trust people after that, especially men. But I realized that the more pain I clung to, the more it prevented me from moving forward.
Not trusting meant I would keep people at arm’s length. I wouldn’t allow them to get too close to me. I appeared cold and detached and thus had very few friends and no romantic relationship for over five years. So I started to forgive.
I learned that forgiveness was more for me than for the other person, so I forgave myself first for not listening to my intuition when I was resistant to give him my key in the first place.
Forgiving my ex without ever getting an explanation or apology wasn’t easy, but it allowed me to trust again. I chose to forgive him firstly for my own inner peace and secondly because I refused to believe that he was that coldhearted; instead, I reasoned that something must have happened to trigger the incident.
Whatever you’re going through, it’ll get better, I promise. Hang in there and remember that this is just part of your story, not your whole story. If you do the work to heal and allow yourself to grow through the experience, it can only serve to make you better, not bitter.