This story is part of the Love Life. Om. Survivor Story Series. All names and personal identifiers have been removed and/or edited. If you’d like your story published, complete the Survivor Story Series Submission Form.

Before the abuse, I was a very optimistic and positive person, a dreamer, an entrepreneur, and a lover of life with a high IQ and love for people. Back in the day, friends called me Sunshine and Smiley. I was determined, independent, and believed all things were possible. If you believe it, you can do it!

I purchased my first house when I was only 19. I was ready to take on the world and excited for my life’s journey. As with everything I’d accomplished up to that point, I dove in and gave my all. My desire was to meet the man of my dreams, build a family, and live happily ever after. Sometimes — or more likely– too often, I was impulsive with my decisions and thought more with my heart than my head. I tried to “force” my dream into reality, leaving my judgement clouded and allowing a spiral of poor decisions.

POOR DECISION #1: I met a man, he moved in quickly, I got pregnant, I gave birth to my first child, we got married (after his divorce), and I divorced him within two years.

Following the divorce, I was devastated. My dreams were dashed. I hated men…or so I claimed.

POOR DECISION #2: After my divorce while sitting in a local bar near work, lo and behold, a man approached and asked to buy me a drink. (Imagine that…LOL?!?) I explained I wanted to be left alone and was not happy with men at the moment. My language wasn’t sweet, yet he was persistent. With humor, he persuaded me, and I allowed the drink and the conversation.

Flag #1 – He pushed through and disrespected my boundaries and wishes.

It seemed harmless at the time. After all, I’d convinced myself I hated men and no one was breaking down my new protective wall. (Ha! How vulnerable was I? I didn’t know what was heading my way.) Within 5 minutes, this man declared he was going to marry me.

BIG flag #2! – I didn’t see it, because I was too busy laughing at the thought but in actuality, loving the flattery. It boosted my mood.

He left the bar ahead of me. When I left, I found him waiting for me outside. He wouldn’t let me drive away until I gave him a kiss. Nothing but a peck but a control tactic that started the game.

BIG FLAGS!! – No need to state the obvious flags there. I was naive and still thinking “love at first site” was possible.

For the next 20+ years after we married and had three children together, I easily could’ve clothed the world in red flags. Sharing the specific details of my abuse isn’t necessary outside of telling you the abuse was intense and involved physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, and all other forms of abuse you can imagine. I’ve been hospitalized, placed in a safe house, and lived on the streets. It wasn’t until a police officer convinced me to get out of state for my safety that my experiences of abuse were heightened and evident to me.

So I heeded the officer’s advice, moved to another state close to my sister, and reconnected with old friends from childhood.

POOR DECISION #3: One of these old friends was a childhood sweetheart who “swooped” in to save me. Despite being extremely vulnerable while in the midst of processing my experiences and emotions, I thought I was in a safe place. I thought this old friend wasn’t physically abusive and therefore must be good.

How wrong I was!

Thus began a new chapter of psychological and mental abuse, far worse than any physical abuse inflicted upon me in the past. I became a victim again without even knowing it.

The atrocities and stories I could share about what I experienced over the course of the next several years with this “old friend” would be horrific for some, but I’m sure many of you reading have or currently are experiencing the same. I believed he was a wonderful person, a great guy, and someone who would never hurt me. He was so good at maintaining a pristine reputation and playing the game. He brainwashed me; I didn’t realize to what extent until after I left the relationship.

It ended with a criminal act, a knife, and a very dangerous situation. I often said to myself, “How could I be so foolish? How could I have allowed this to happen again? I am an intelligent person.”

The old adage hindsight is 20-20 never rang more true for me.

I’m now almost 4 months out of the relationship. After many days in court, a final restraining order, many visits to the police department, lawyers, counselors and other agencies, I’m FREE. Finally, I feel I’m truly learning from my experiences; learning how to process the grief, pain, emotions; and learning how to proceed in life so this never happens again.

My health and well-being were greatly affected by my experiences, including medical and emotional stress and pain of my body and mind. I’m on a course toward a healthier life. I’m no longer being drugged, and my body is responding quite nicely. My peace of mind and positive attitude along with determination to never give up has also had a great effect on my health. I’ve been diagnosed with a brain tumor and other medical conditions in the past. Amazingly, just having a positive attitude and a balanced emotional state makes even some of the worst medical conditions a little better.

I’ve been in counseling and am very thankful for the many agencies and people who are willing to help others and share their experiences so that no one ever feels alone and trapped, which is why I wanted to share my story with you. Sharing my story is also therapeutic for me.

I believe God allowed these experiences in my life over the last 30 years in order for me to survive them and help others. On my deathbed, I’d love to be remembered as a blessing to someone who went through some of the terrible things I experienced. Then maybe, just maybe, I’ll be satisfied knowing I brought some good into someone else’s life.

I used to think everyone was good down deep; I still believe all things are possible with God. However, after much research, I’ve discovered in cases involving a sociopath/psychopath or other personality types, these people will never admit wrong-doing, will never change, and must be avoided at all costs. People who are good and compassionate can easily fall prey to the toxic predators among us just waiting to pounce.

For each of us who have experienced sociopath abuse, it’s important to know the right things to do to get better and to process the feelings of guilt and pain in order to grieve and take all of the necessary actions to heal and learn from the experience before moving on to other relationships.

For me, I believe support from others is vital. It’s also important to be alone to grieve and process the many things that arise and need to be addressed. Healing and recovery can only be accomplished through patience, time, and a deep desire to move on.

I’m now more aware of the lurking “predators” among us and must be careful. But balance is key: Caution without paranoia is essential for peace.

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Paula Reeves-Carrasquillo

Mindfulness Coach at Love. Life. Om. Mindfulness
Paula is a passionate and innovative author, educator, and mindfulness coach.
Paula Reeves-Carrasquillo
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