What If I Never Knew You?

Trigger warning: Domestic abuse

I often wonder, “What if I never knew you?” What if I never knew the man who abused me for half of the four years we were together? What if I never knew you and how it felt to be in constant fear of what you might do to me? What if you never stepped foot into my life? Would I then be okay to just ‘be’? If I never knew you, would I be able to just exist instead of trying to survive amidst the growing pain that still lives inside my body?

What if I never knew you and the physical, emotional, and verbal abuse you used to permanently damage my heart? What if you were a distant memory? What if I never knew you when I was 18 and naive? What If I never knew you to the point of no longer having you appear in my dreams as I lay asleep at night? What if I never knew you and your violent words that would cut me in half? Would I have then been able to trust another man?

Would I have then been able to start anew with someone else who wasn’t so blatantly toxic to me? What if I never knew you and your loveless threats? Would I then be able to forgive myself for thinking it was my fault? Would I be in a good place now?

Would I not be afraid of my own fear because of your cunning looks towards me when you got angry? What if I never knew you and your control over me, my body, and my mind? Would I be able to think for myself? Would I be able to not feel disgusted when I looked into the mirror after you violated me with your touch?

If I never knew you, would I have felt happier? Would I have been able to see my friends like I wanted to? Would I have been able to find myself again? Would I have been able to actually relax? Would I not have felt bad about breaking up with someone who traumatized me? Would I have doubted myself less than I do know? What if I never knew you and your manipulative ways to get what you wanted out of me?

What if I never knew you and your vindictiveness? Would I have felt more safe knowing he was not in my life at all? Would I have felt safe in my own space and my own mind? What if I never knew you when you took my independence from me? What if I never knew you and your hot-tempered ways that always made me fearful?

What if I never knew you and your aggressive hand-holding, slobbery assaulting mouth kisses, and your hugs that made me feel like I couldn’t breathe? Would I be the same woman I am now? Would I be a different person than I am now? Would you have not made me into a woman who doesn’t know herself anymore? Would I still have PTSD from the nights you took your violence out on me and made me your caged animal?

What if I never knew you and the now-awful feeling I get when your name crosses my friend’s lips? I cringe every time. What if I never knew you and your ugly side-eye when I threatened to break up with you if you didn’t change? What if I never knew you and your lying words that were shoved down my throat? Would I then be able to have a voice and to speak my own truth?

For what it’s worth, I think I am at peace with what happened, but a woman never forgets. I certainly won’t forget what you did to me. But I also know that for every woman who has been abused, assaulted, and shamed for telling their truth, it is a long battle, and I will keep on fighting to speak my truth as long as I live. And I will not be afraid of you anymore. I can’t change the past and not know you. But I know one thing is for sure: I am stronger for it. Stay strong—we will get through this together.