We all have songs that speak to us for different reasons. Lately, the song Heathens by Twenty One Pilots has been hitting a sensitive part of my soul.

The song isn’t even necessarily about my situation, it was written for the movie Suicide Squad (which I haven’t even seen). Yet, several lyrics in the song speak to my experience.

For almost 10 years I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. I basically told no one just how bad it was at home. I walked on eggshells all the time. I never knew which version of my ex I was going to get, minute by minute. Would he be nice or would he be grumpy and take it out on me? Over time, and mostly after ending our marriage, I was able to see him for truly who he is — a narcissistic who is a professional at gaslighting (manipulating someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity).

Outside the home people view me as loving, compassionate, caring, hard working and generally as a good person. But at home I was belittled, my accomplishments were never even discussed because he couldn’t care less about them and I struggled to understand how his perception of me could be so completely different than anyone else’s in my life, ever. The things he would say about me…I just couldn’t grasp how he could think those things.

I knew the marriage was not healthy for me. But I tried everything I could do to make it work. Therapy, meditation, you name it, I tried it. But nothing ever made a lasting difference. Things might temporarily get a little bit better but then they would always fall back into the cycle of him being nice to me, then not-so-nice, then a blow up (from him), an apology (from him) and then an expectation that things should go back to “normal.” After so many years of this I just couldn’t take it anymore. And once I saw how it was hurting our son, I knew I had to leave.

You’ll never know the psychopath sitting next to you
You’ll never know the murderer sitting next to you
You’ll think, “How’d I get here, sitting next to you?”

I’m a few years out from our divorce at this point and with this space I’ve been able to look back at my marriage with much clearer eyes. What I experienced was emotional abuse, even though I couldn’t name it while I was in it. And while I wish, gosh do I wish, that I could block him from my phone, the fact that we have a son together means that this person who abused me for so long, who caused me to feel so confused about myself, has to remain part of my life.

I’ve seen his abusive cycle continue with me via text messages. One day he’ll text me something random, about a song he heard that made him think about me. Then he’ll text me about something else that we both use to like. And the next day he’ll text me a scathing message about how much he hates me, how resentful he is of me and how selfish of a person I am. And then he’ll text me again a few days later, something seemingly nice, like he wasn’t just an asshole to me. I just don’t engage. There’s no point. But I wish I didn’t have to still be on the receiving end of this abuse.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and with how often I’ve been hearing the song Heathen’s on the radio, I wanted to share a little bit more of my story. Because even though I’ve told some people close to me more details about the situation, they still don’t know half of the abuse.

If you, or someone you know, is in a domestic violence situation and needs help, please contact the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence  at 888-774-2900.