I have pictured telling this story a thousand times yet, I never have. It's a painful one to tell, no question about it. But, I don't think that's ever really been the reason why I haven't. To be honest, it was never anyone's business to know this story in the first place, and yet it never stopped everyone from making up their own versions of the truth about it over the years. Today, 19 years later, I have decided to tell it. Not to appease those around me, nor to hurt anyone involved in the process, but because it will heal me - and I pray that it will finally set me free.

On this day, 19 years ago, I became somebody's wife. Something I am certain that most of you did not know about me. I rarely speak about it because it was a moment in time that's best left forgotten. Only, it never really was. It would go on to become one of the biggest mistakes (if not the biggest) of my life.

Before I go any further, I would like to say that I take full responsibility for knowingly walking into this situation. Aware that it would most likely lead to my demise and be the most devastating event of my life. I didn't have the heart or courage to walk away when I should have, and that was wrong. I was afraid and that fear took away my voice. Little did I know then that it was only the beginning. My voice would be forever lost for years to come. After a 9 year relationship, marriage was what was expected of me. He expected it of me, regardless of the fact that he spent those years hurting me, stifling my voice, changing me. He put his time in, molding and crippling me, into the exact version of me that he wanted. A version I allowed him to create. So I gave up. Beaten and defeated, I was willing to spend the rest of my life, lying in the bed I made for myself.

They say that marrying your best friend is the perfect recipe for love. I used to think so too. I mean, who better to spend eternity with, then the person who knows and loves everything about you. The person who knows all your faults, secrets, and fears but adores you in spite of them. Your biggest fan and loudest cheerleader. That is certainly the person you'd like in your corner, is it not? Normally, it would be and it's what we all hope to find someday. But, knowledge like that can leave you open to harm and vulnerable to wolves. Wolves who come to you in sheep's clothing. My wolf loved everything about me when we were friends and then hated every last ounce of me when I became his.

I spent the better part of 10 years with a man who was abusive. It changed me in ways that I cannot even begin to explain to you. Although I've been away from him now for 19 years, I still wake up some nights in a cold sweat, from terrible nightmares of that time. The dreams are always the same, he has found me and I am forced to share my life with him again. It takes a moment for everything to come back into focus but when it does, I break down into tears and thanking God that it was just a dream. That I am safe, in my own house, in my own bed, and living my own life - where he can no longer hurt me.

I tried so hard to be everything that he wanted, but I always fell short somehow. I wasn't pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, submissive enough, and never would be. And yet although I never measured up, he always seemed to be terribly jealous and possessive just the same. I never did quite understand that but then, everything between us was a complete and utter mind-fuck! He demanded to be in control of everything. Where I was at all times, who I spent time with, the music I liked, the places I went to. How long it took me to get home from work, the family /friend events I could attend, the color of my hair, the way my make-up looked. The clothes I could wear, the things I could say, what my thoughts and opinions should be. At first, being the rebellious, free-spirited girl I always was, I rejected this notion and fought him off at every turn. But soon it became pointless. Before I knew it, the girl I once was, was gone. He had killed her and any evidence that she ever existed at all.

There were many, many red flags about our "relationship". Any of which I could have held onto and rode out of there on but, I made the fatal mistake that all of us make in these situations - I thought I could change him. I thought that eventually, he would see that I did love him and that he didn't have to act this way. At the heart of it, he was someone I had known most of my life, one of my best friends after all. Surely he would wake up one day and remember who we were and all would be good again. But, it never happened and things progressively got worse as the years went on.

There was one moment, where things seemed to change. It was when he decided to come over one day and out of the blue tell me that he didn't love me, that he never did and wanted to break up. He said that he was too young to be tied down to just one girl and that he needed to get out there and "sow his oats" and be free. Of all the years we had known each other, he had too much respect for me to just cheat on me - so he left. My family and friends collectively did a happy dance, thrilled that this man was finally out of my life. That I was free at last. But by then, it was too late. I was devastated. He'd completely brainwashed me into thinking that I was nothing and worthless without him. That I should consider myself very lucky to be with a man like him because no one else would ever want me. It still blows my mind how easy it was to believe all of that to be true, and if I am being honest, I have to admit that there are parts of me that still believe this to be true.

Sadly, the break up was short-lived and we were back together again in 9 months. Within that time, I managed to go into a deep depression, gained 60 pounds, and was flunking my way out of college. My whole life was in turmoil, completely revolving around him. Years later, he'd look back and gloat about this time, that I was lost without him in my life. But that was untrue. You see, during those 9 break up months, he never really left me alone. Yes, he went on to date and fuck other women, but managed to follow me, call me and see me too, saying all the things that you want your ex-boyfriend to say to you when you're heartbroken - that no one compares to you. I fell for it, every time.

We got back together, but nothing was ever the same again.

Over the years, his obsession with me got worse. His abuse became more frequent and more visible, to the point where people were commenting on his behavior toward me. This only made matters worse for me. The more they commented, the more I endured behind closed doors. But things became almost unbearable after we were married.

We were married for all of 18 months. A very short-lived marriage most would say but, not me. For me, every single moment of those 18 months felt more like 18 years - with no end in sight. A horrible statement, I know but, you did not live what I lived through at that time. The abuse became physical shortly after we were married.

My days had me preoccupied with work and my nights were filled with his battery. The shouting began almost instantly every night after I walked through the door. It took me too long to get home from work, so I must have gone somewhere after work without telling him. Ceramic plates filled with dinner, being thrown at my head because he believed that I wasn't putting much effort into planning meals for him and it certainly didn't taste like his mother's cooking. The T.V. remote being thrown at me because it took me too long to explain something to him. The cordless phone being smacked upside my head because I was on the phone too long with my family again. Taking my cell phone bill and going through every last number on every page that I had dialed that month and calling them just to make sure that I wasn't speaking to another man. Sending his buddies to the restaurants that he finally allowed me to go to with my friends (when he couldn't be there) just to make sure I didn't flirt with anyone. Calling me ugly, fat, worthless, useless, and that he just wished I would go kill myself, already. After which, he would force himself onto me, demanding sex. Because after all, that's what a wife was for - to cook, clean and satisfy her man. Most of the time, I was too weak to protest but there came a time when I just could not share myself with him anymore. How could I? How could I share a bed with a man that hurt me like this, every single day? Sadly, this happened more times than I care to remember. Which is when the threats began.

The last 5 months of our marriage were filled with him arguing with me continuously about sex and that if I refused him anymore, I would regret it. That he would take me back home to my family and divorce me faster than my head would spin. Or my personal favorite: "Look, I will let you go out and sleep with any men you want, just as long as I get a turn too - deal?!" Yup, this must be love, alright!

One faithful spring night, we were sitting at our kitchen table, about to have dinner, when he looks over at me and begins again with the same old song and dance. This time, I was not going to back down. This time, I was going to do what I had promised myself that I would do, the next time he started. He told me he wasn't happy and that it was all my fault. That I was not pleasing him. I politely stood up, grabbed my purse, and finally found the courage to tell him the four words I had wanted to say for years - I AM LEAVING YOU!