I Talked Wellness on National TV While My Girlfriend Abused Me At Home

Young Woman Sitting On Bed At Home

Ol'ga Efimova / EyeEm / Getty Images

Care and Trigger Warning

This is a story about intimate partner violence. Some details in this piece may be disturbing to readers, especially those who have experienced domestic abuse. If reading this brings up uncomfortable feelings for you about past abuse, or if you are currently in an abusive relationship, you can speak confidentially with trained advocates for free at the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

We matched on Tinder. I’d almost swiped left on her picture despite finding her attractive because I sensed a mean glint in her eye, but when I’m single, I have a philosophy that the wider a net you cast, the better your chance of catching something good, so I regularly swiped on “maybe”s. We met for a drink on March 14, 2016. I remember the date because months later, she tattooed it onto our bodies.   

Our meetup had a rocky start; I first found her cold and condescending and later learned she’d thought I was stuck up. I told her I was writing a cocktail book and had spent the day testing recipes. She replied, “Of course you were.” Thrown off, I continued by describing how my first book had reached the number one cookbook spot on Amazon multiple times, including that week. “Of course it did,” she said.

While this sounds like an obvious personality clash, we had such strong chemistry that by the time we left the bar, we’d been sitting with our legs touching for hours. She wore designer jeans, ripped at the knee to expose a stick-and-poke tattoo, and I loved her style: boyish and punky, with nerdy glasses showcasing bright blue eyes. She was 31 to my 38 years, an adept hobby tattooist, and worked in administration at a fashion brand.

Outside, she kissed me, and it was a cosmic experience. When our lips touched, it felt like we had been together in lives past, as if I had been searching for her for centuries. Through that kiss alone, I was smitten and decided her nerves had caused her initial unpleasant demeanor. She was a self-proclaimed introvert who didn’t date much, so I quickly let those details wash away the bad first impression. We left the bar at 11 p.m. and texted until 3:30 a.m., our exchange ending with plans for the very next day once we’d slept.

She called me her girlfriend within days and requested I delete the dating apps from my phone. I was so high on that Prince Charming feeling and so elated at the cozy comfort of dating a fellow bookish introvert that I consented without pause. The sex was blander than I’d hoped for, but with every kiss, the fireworks reignited.

I thought we were cosmically connected, twin flames, bigger than soulmates. Soon she joked about her own home becoming an expensive storage unit because she was at mine nightly—when would she be able to give it up, she asked? I laughed off the suggestion, but she had a point; we were in love, her home décor was like the male version of mine and would meld perfectly, and we spent all our free time together.

After she’d been asking to move in for two months, I consented to July by June. Because I’d been holding off her strong advances, it felt like I’d been waiting for ages, yet I still knew it was far too soon. That was evidenced by my not telling friends or family until after it happened, knowing they’d all disapprove.

There is a saying that when you are looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, red flags just look like flags. I embodied this adage, ignoring her out-of-character, sporadic, angry verbal outbursts. She blamed outside stressors: a friend’s wedding she had to write a speech for, her job potentially not getting its next round of scheduled funding. I’d erred on the codependent side in past relationships, but this was a new level of constancy that I was unable to see for what it was: controlling the situation so I’d have no escape.

Her anger turned physical in August at the housewarming party she insisted we throw for her move-in. I had paused in conversation in a way she found offensive. I was discussing a confidential celebrity client with a chef friend, who changed the subject when she walked over. Seeing my girlfriend’s sudden rage, guests left immediately.

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

For the next four hours, she chased me around our home, screaming obscenities, claiming I hated her and had embarrassingly excluded her. When I attempted to leave, she restrained me by grabbing and holding my wrists and arms, and pulling me to the floor—gripping my ankles and legs so I couldn’t get up. I tried to call 911 in the first hour, but she grabbed my phone and threw it across the room, shattering it. The night ended with her punching a large hole into our bedroom wall, forcefully enough that she broke bones in her hand, then storming out and driving away. 

When she returned the next day, I gave her the ultimatum of moving out or going to therapy, convinced she could be fixed back into the person I fell in love with. The reason I felt that hope and didn’t kick her out was likely because I’d experienced abuse before. As a teenager, I underwent two years of horrific ritual abuse by a group of adult men.

After escaping at 18, I received copious therapy and had led a fairly emotionally healthy life in the two decades since. But there is an internal place reactivated by abuse that makes it feel impossible to leave.

Her harming me that night was like entering a sinkhole; I was transported back to being 16, powerless as four men committed atrocities to me. Forty percent of people who were victimized as children are victims of abuse in adulthood. I would relive the memories of that abuse throughout our relationship, seeing those men in her eyes, my brain unable to convince my body that I was an empowered adult and no longer an absconded child.

She chose therapy and I went into fixer mode, searching the internet to find what illness caused her violent behavior, as bruises dotting the lengths of my arms and legs in the shapes of her fingertips deepened in color.

Borderline personality disorder was the obvious answer. From the inappropriate anger and escalating of normal situations, to how quickly she insisted on moving in, to how disassociated she appeared during a spree of anger as she, normally mouse-quiet, would shout at the top of her lungs then act shocked afterward to how irrational her version of the wrongs I supposedly committed (such as the night before) was—her symptoms were a match. She was soon diagnosed professionally with borderline, as well as anxiety, depression, and OCD.

If you or a loved one are struggling with borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression, and/or OCD, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

That fall, in preparation of its release, "The Thinking Girl's Guide to Drinking" began garnering wonderful national attention. Simultaneously, my relationship became nightmarish with ever-increasing frequency. It was impossible to know what would set her off; I was on edge constantly.

No matter how hard I tried not to say anything objectionable, she found reason to fly off the handle. I'd unintentionally fail to notice her desire for affection one moment, for example, and the next, she was yelling for hours about how I didn't love her, I was selfish, I was emotionally abusive, I was too busy to care about her.

Because nothing I said could calm her down while she was in a rage, including reminding her of tools given by her therapist, I'd instead try to physically leave. Sometimes I made it out. When I did, I went to the library if one was open. If it were too late, I'd drive far enough to feel safe and sit in my car to wait out her fit, convinced therapy would work soon for her.

I was stuck in the paralyzing blackness of an abuse sinkhole, preventing me from breaking up with her no matter how much I wanted to.

Other times she wouldn't let me leave. She was taller, bigger, and more muscular than I and would restrain me physically for hours on end. I'd fight back as much as I could, but through a lens of terror about her breaking my wrists—she always grabbed them first, and chef work was my primary income.

Those days or evenings, after giving up on leaving, I'd lock myself in the bathroom or bedroom closet while she screamed at me from the other side. I preferred the bathroom because it had water and a toilet, but she managed to break through the door more than once.  

She habitually kept me awake all night before media appearances, and I functioned through my career highlight as a guest on CBS' "The Doctors" on less than two hours of sleep. When she allowed me a whole night's sleep before I appeared on Hallmark's "Home & Family" show, I bought her a bouquet of flowers in thanks. I'd been so nervous about her ruining yet another milestone that I was overcome with gratitude when she didn't.

Winter descended, and therapy continued to fall short; I demanded she find a daily behavioral treatment program, and I began attending a support group for families of the mentally ill for myself. 

At the support group, I learned that violence is very common with BPD. I spoke up in those meetings about what was happening because it felt safe, and I wasn't ashamed—other people were also the victims of violence, so, if anything, it normalized it for me. However, I remained silent to my own family and friends.

It felt impossible to discuss because I knew they would tell me to leave her, and I felt too trapped to do that. Outside of fearing what would happen if I tried to break up with her (because she threatened suicide often), I still wanted to help her return to a well, whole version of herself. I helped strangers be well all the time, so how could I fail her, my chosen love? 

I would not get the courage to leave until April, after attending a session with a beloved spiritual healer friend. "My relationship is eating me alive," I told him when he asked what my goal for the session was, in shock that the words had managed to come out of my mouth. In the session, he confirmed what I knew inside: this situation wasn't going to improve.

In the session, he confirmed what I knew inside: this situation wasn’t going to improve.

Somehow, his words penetrated the sinkhole blackness and reached me. Within the week, I broke up with her, kicked her out of my home, and filed for a restraining order. The usual duration in California is a year or less, but based on all the photo and text message evidence I’d collected, I was granted three years.

With my vision cleared, I felt nauseous at having been re-victimized so many years after the first time. I had no remorse at cutting her out completely, the memory of her steadfastly blurring with my past abusers.

When I broke up with her, no one in my world had any idea what was going on. I couldn’t bring myself to verbalize it due to the embarrassment and shame I felt at publicly helping others be well while allowing someone to make me so deeply unwell. Instead, I wrote a poem about it, posted it on my private Facebook, and let the chips fall that way.   

There are many reasons domestic violence in lesbian relationships is underreported: laws offer less protection for same-sex partners, making police more likely to arrest both parties, and treatment may be prejudicial.

Lesbian domestic violence is as common, if not more common, than abuse in heterosexual relationships. It is also less reported. I called 911 on multiple occasions throughout that relationship, but she drove off before help arrived each time. When I told the police she had borderline, they replied that staying with a mentally ill person was my choice, as if I, therefore, deserved to be abused. Not one cop ever suggested I report anything officially.   

I'm sharing this story because the topic of woman-led domestic violence, specifically as it presents within the queer community, is not given the discussion it needs. Women are known only as abuse victims, not perpetrators. I'm also sharing this with the hope that by exposing how different the public personas we see in the media are from the complex humans they represent, we can all have more compassion for one another.

I've had a lot more therapy since that experience and am presently in a healthy, happy relationship. My restraining order expired over a year ago, and I haven't heard from her since the day she viewed the photos of my bruises and told the judge a restraining order was an "excessive" response on my part.

I covered up the tattoo of our meet date with a Banksy image of a heart balloon full of Band-Aids. I display that tattoo proudly—we are all full of scars, and there shouldn't be shame in that. The more we share about what has harmed us, the better our ability to collectively heal.  

LGBTQ Partner Violence Resources

Domestic violence in queer relationships can be incredibly difficult to navigate. Women Against Abuse has a specific set of resources for people in this situation. They offer resources that are location-specific, legally focused, and/or for different ages.

Was this page helpful?
3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Richards TN, Tomsich E, Gover AR, Jennings WG. The cycle of violence revisited: Distinguishing intimate partner violence offenders only, victims only, and victim-offenders. Violence and Victims. 2016;31(4). doi:10.1891/0886-6708.vv-d-15-00056

  2. Jackson MA, Sippel LM, Mota N, Whalen D, Schumacher JA. Borderline personality disorder and related constructs as risk factors for intimate partner violence perpetration. Aggression and Violent Behavior. 2015;24. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2015.04.015

  3. Cannon C. Illusion of inclusion: the failure of the gender paradigm to account for intimate partner violence in LGBT relationships. Partner Abuse. 2015;6(1). doi:10.1891/1946-6560.6.1.65