No one could tell the struggles that I was going through. On the outside it looked like I had it all together. I was bubbly, friendly, and by society’s standards, a cute girl. I volunteered and was active in all the community service and volunteering events in college, but they couldn’t see the depths of the pain that lived beyond the surface. I didn’t even see it then.

It was my first year of college, I was seventeen going on eighteen years old. I remember feeling an awful feeling in the pits of my stomach when I met him, it was reminiscent of a tornado in my belly. I felt the anxiety whirl throughout my body, round and round. It almost knocked me to my feet. And yet, I couldn’t help but get a sparkle in my eye when he first spoke to me.

The veil went over my eyes, and I was in this trance like state. Mr. M was his name.

Mr. M was the bad boy in school. All the girls wanted to date him and he used this false confidence to charm girls until they went to bed with him. He cheated on all his tests and wore all the latest street-wear gear. He was every ghetto girl’s dream, and the white girls liked him too, because well, he was “the bad boy.” They got to play out their “good girl dates bad boy” rebellious fantasies in real life. He loved the attention. And I unfortunately loved his. Before I knew it, he was courting me and I couldn’t stop thinking of him.

I was dating several other men at the time, though I wasn’t physical with any of them. I remember thinking I shouldn’t pick  Mr. M. “HE IS NO GOOD!” my gut yelled at me. It was that moment that I hushed my inner voice, and said “F* it, the danger is calling me.”

I followed his red flags, one by one, until I was lost in a scary forest, full of demons and dragons. His courting soon turned to jealousy. In the beginning he masked it and I thought it was cute.

“You know you are all mine.”

“I want to see you all the time.”

And slowly the cute jealousy turned into fiery rage. The dialogue became… “Where the f*ck are you going?” “Your friends are all sluts.” “Why were you speaking to that guy so close after class, you like attention huh?” “You are just a stupid, slutty b*tch.” I was shocked. I was spinning and I didn’t know how to stop. This was familiar to me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but violent language and verbal abuse were part of my childhood memories.

Those toxic words were registered in my subconscious as familiar and so it didn’t feel so “new,” and therefore didn’t feel “so wrong.” Instead, in a crazy way this abuse felt like home. A picture mixed of violence and love. That was the taste of love I knew growing up on Hart Street in Brooklyn. Mr. M gave me love just like I knew. The problem was, this love hurt. This love was making me feel so insecure, so weak, so lost, so down. I felt all of my shine leave day by day, and yet, I thought that the only way I could get my shine back was to go back and get it from him. Problem was, it didn’t work. It just left me feeling more depleted than before.

Before I knew it, I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I was like an empty vessel. I had isolated myself from my friends, my family, and from my SELF, and from my soul. I felt so lonely. I was so scared and I felt trapped.

The abuse and cheating escalated, and it took him dragging me by the hair and spitting on me for me to take the first step and say, “I can’t do this anymore.” All it takes is one step. At that time, that one step felt as though I had fifty bricks tied to my ankles, but I knew deep inside it was the right thing. It was the first time, in a long long time, that I could hear and feel my soul say, “YES! This is the right way baby girl. Walk away.” I missed my soul voice, and I kept on – step by step listening to it.

I realized that I didn’t need to choose love that felt familiar just because I experienced that in my childhood and that if I ever wanted to live and be healthy and happy, that I would need to be a warrior and continue to choose NEW ways of love. Love that I had never seen in my waking life. I began to research what healthy love actually was, what healthy love sounded like. I went to therapy. I began my journey back home to me.

You see, I placed my worth in a sick man’s hands and sick and hurt individuals just hurt people. I didn’t realize that, so I kept on going back for more, hoping it would change, but it didn’t. I woke up and realized that the problem wasn’t him, it was believing that I was worthy of that abuse. I realized that I didn’t need to defend my worth, that I simply was worthy and deserved to be treated with respect and love.

My light started coming back. I started to feel happy again, this time with less darkness on the inside too.

Sometimes it takes pain to break you open and heal you. @CosmicChristine
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This was the case for me. I wanted to share my story in hopes that if you are going through a toxic relationship that this inspires you to remember you are worthy, and you are loved and you deserve love. This is a reminder for us all, even if you aren’t in an abusive relationship, that sometimes the way we speak to ourselves is just as bad. Be kind to yourself, forgive yourself, love yourself. I would love for you to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Christine Gutierrez is a psychotherapist, advice columnist, speaker, author, poet, and founder of, an online hub that features psychologically-savvy and soulful advice, articles, videos, private consultations, workshops, retreats (both live and virtual), radio appearances, and television projects. “Ancient wisdom with a modern twist” is the motto. She has been featured in TimeOut NY Magazine, Latina Magazine as “The Future 15: The Healer,” Yahoo Health, Ebony Magazine, Cosmopolitan for Latinas, The Conversation, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Ricki Lake, Lifetime TV, and more. You can also follow Christine on Twitter and Facebook

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Image Credit: Robb North