Katie Craig is an remarkable human being. Not only is she is a fighter, but she is the dictionary definition of compassionate as well. Her willingness to share her story is beyond brave. She shows a pathway of healing and growth as she walks us through her painful journey. Her experience teaches to love oneself and to never be ashamed.
Thank you Katie for your courage in sharing your story.
I never thought I would be one of "those girls" in an abusive relationship. I thought for sure I knew better than that. I was too smart to ever be in such an awful situation. I'll never forget the moment I finally realized that I was one of those girls. Somehow, I had slowly let some guy degrade me, abuse me, and use me. I was pretty ashamed to admit I had let that happen to me. For a while, I didn't admit it. Downplaying how bad it had been, I shrugged off people's questions and squashed all the memories of it deep down inside me where they couldn't hurt me anymore.
I’ve rarely talked about this in depth, because I feel embarrassed and it’s painful to remember how I was feeling during that time in my life. It’s only been in the past year or so that I realized how important it is to own our stories. It is the only way we can heal. I’ve tried to take something awful and ugly, and turn it into something beautiful. I've tried to take my brokenness and become whole again and to learn to love myself despite all of the scars and bruises. I’m trying to embrace them and see the beauty that was left behind from an ugly time in my life. So, here is me being brave and telling my story, and hopefully finding more peace and healing from doing so.
I like to refer to my days with Kent as my "dark days". (For those of you who are Twilight fans...imagine Bella, in New Moon.) Except, I was sad because my boyfriend sucked, not because he left me. I didn't know Kent very long before we started dating, and I think if I'd taken the time to get to know him better I would have seen how ill-suited we were for each other.
Our relationship began like any other, I saw a cute boy, flipped my hair, batted my eyelashes, you know, the usual. We began spending a lot of time together, going on a lot of walks and just talking. I'll never forget the cold Rexburg night when we walked up campus to one of my favorite spots to talk. As we were sitting he began to tell me that he had a vision, and God told him that I was supposed to be his wife. I remember going home that night and sitting in my room with my three best friends, and telling them what he'd told me. I didn’t know at the time that this was the beginning of something awful. Our relationship was good for about a week before the manipulation and abuse started. He became very controlling, and did everything he could to make sure he had a say in what I was doing at all times. Whenever he didn't like a habit or personality trait of mine, he would tell me that God didn't like it and I needed to change.
I sort of imagine myself like a balloon in this relationship. I started off as a happy, round balloon that was flying high. The longer I was in the relationship, the more deflated I became. According to him, I could never do anything right. I was a "slut" because I "flirted with every guy I met." I was "disrespectful"l because "I dared to question him about certain decisions." I was "selfish and horrible" because "I only thought of myself, and never of him." He reminded me daily that he deserved me, like I was his prize for every hard thing he had gone through. It was awful. I spent every moment of every day trying to please him and avoid getting yelled at and blamed for all his problems.
The turning point me for was nearly three months after we'd started dating. At this point, I was miserable ALL THE TIME. I found a journal entry that I'd written from when I was dating this guy, and it starts out, "I hate myself. I literally hate myself. I'm the worst, most selfish person in the world and Kent deserves better than me." I actually hated myself. I didn't think there was a single good thing about me. The Sunday night before the first day of winter semester classes in 2014, I was sitting there listening to him yell at me, and berate me and make me feel as small as possible, when suddenly I remember thinking, "I'm so tired of being manipulated." If you were watching me, you probably would have seen a lightbulb come on over my head. It was a moment of clarity, and I realized that I didn't have to sit here and listen to this anymore. Eventually the conversation wound down and he let me leave.
As I went to bed that night my mind was running in circles. I laid in bed wondering how in the world I was going to get myself out of this situation. I so desperately wanted out, but I just couldn't see a way. At about 3 AM my prayers were answered as my friends pulled me out of bed to sit me down and tell me that this relationship wasn’t healthy, and it needed to stop. I remember almost bursting into tears of relief as I grasped at this opportunity to change my situation.
As the night turned into morning we began to realize how out of hand things had gotten. I began to grow terrified and sick to my stomach as he continued texting me throughout the night, as if he knew something was up. At 7 AM I called my bishop because it was the only thing I could think to do. I was absolutely terrified of what Kent might to do me when he found out I no longer wanted to be with him. I didn't want anything to do with him. My friends accompanied me as I went to talk to my Bishop and explain what happened. When we arrived back at the dorms Kent was there and we made it into the apartment just in time to slam the door in his face. He pounded on the door for a good twenty minutes before finally leaving.
As the days passed, things calmed down and he was kicked out of school, I remember being so ashamed. I remember feeling broken and ashamed. I remember having to sit in my church leaders' office as I confessed different things. I now had to begin the long process of healing and repairing my broken relationship with my Heavenly Father. The longer I was with Kent, the more resentful I'd grown towards my Heavenly Father, I truly had felt abandoned by Him.
The following months were some of the darkest and loneliest of my life. I felt that nobody understood what I was going through, nor did they care. I spent many nights in emotional agony, wondering if there was anything to love about me. I would spend days and nights crying and blaming myself for what had happened to me. I couldn't find comfort anywhere and felt truly lost.
It’s taken me years to heal from this experience. It’s crazy to me that such a short period of my life could cause so much damage. I spent a lot of nights on my knees, yelling at God, thanking God, and talking with God. In order to heal, I had to admit hard things to myself and retrain my brain. I made myself look in the mirror and love what I saw there and repeat all the good things about myself. It was awkward and hard. It’s still a daily struggle for me, I have to constantly remind myself that I am not the things Kent said I was.
I’m not sure the scars will ever heal completely in this life, but they are getting harder and harder to see. I am grateful for the experience I’ve gone through and I love the person it has made me today. I thank God for getting me out of such a bad relationship and allowing me to grow into a beautiful, strong person. I watched the Lord mold me into someone who has a greater capacity for love, compassion, and empathy. I can say with full confidence that I love myself and who I am, imperfections and all. It wasn’t an easy journey, but it was mine, and that’s what makes it so special.