Picture it: I’m walking with my friends down the hall, laughing, maybe flirting a little, and then I see him.
My heart drops. My palms start to sweat and my mouth feels dry. I feel the heat rush to my face. My heart starts to flutter in my chest like a panicked bird, struggling to get out.
Panic takes over. I have to run away down the hall, or duck into the bathroom, or hide behind a friend. Then it’s forced smiles, fake laughter.
I remember that night, almost two years ago now, when everything changed. He didn’t harm himself, although he had told me he would—told me it was all my fault. For breaking up with him. He continued to harass me all through Christmas, all through February, until somewhere toward the end of the school year he finally realized—I wanted nothing to do with him.
A lot of bad things came of it. There were times when I felt like there was nothing I could do—in a moment where I would once turn to my best friend, I would instead turn and find myself terrified. Most of my teachers moved my seat away from him, but he was there in every single class that I was in, just trying to catch my eye.
I hated him. I didn’t know that sort of hate could live inside me, didn’t know the extent of its powers, its ability to grow. That was a dark few months. I forgot how to be around people—how could I, when he was always there?
I hated him, but I was also terrified of him, terrified for him. He needed help more than anything. I couldn’t help but feel like I owed him something. I was in a constant state of vulnerability and mistrust.
A lot of bad things came of it, the worst of which still existed up until very recently. Just the sight of him was triggering. Just a mention of him made my whole body fling itself into panic. But slowly I got over it. And I just had to tell myself, Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. Everything’s gonna be okay.
A lot of bad things came of it, but a lot of good things came, too. Through that whole time my mother was there for me—loving me unconditionally even when I was in an awful state. I reunited with my estranged dad. He was a therapist, and knew how to help me, free of charge. The terrible time in my life reminded me of the fact that I have an incredible, loving family.
I made new friends—better friends, more loving and supportive than he ever was. Those friendships I made still last to this day. My best friend at the time was Cara. Sometimes, I think that Cara might have saved my life. The long talks we had, the nights we stayed up, everything we did together—it helped me to forget the bad and remember the good, the new. I’ve never thanked her properly, and I don’t know if I ever will.
I became, in the end, a more loving person. I learned to trust, I learned to open myself up. And I’m not going to lie: it took a long time.
But I think I grew from this experience. I’m a happier person now—and wiser, too. I can look him in the eye and know that there’s no animosity there. There’s just mutual remembrance of a Bad Time in Our Lives, a bad time which we both learned to accept and move past eventually.
In the end, the whole ordeal has given me hope, has given me a reminder that things will always get better in my life. It also reminded me how lucky I am, to have two loving parents as well as an adoring stepdad. So, even though I would never admit it out loud, I’m almost glad everything happened the way it did.
It made me a better person. It made me who I am today.