I was in college and had wiggled away from the controlling thumb of my parent for the first time in my life.
I met this boy in college, a couple years older than me. He was a good-looking, charismatic people-person, with a great smile and had an enthusiasm for life. We’d met because a friend I was hanging out with had an older brother, and this guy was his roommate.
At this point in my life, I knew how to party…hard. I could “keep up” with all the older college guys. I was at that house a lot, partying hard. Eventually, I was also charmed by this guy and we started seeing each other, which really means we started sleeping together.
One day he told me he had a vitamin for me to try. He praised this vitamin, about how good it made him feel and that I should try it. I asked what it was, and he recounted that it was a vitamin supplement and to just try it.
I trusted him, just like I trusted everyone else. So, I said okay and popped the two pills in my mouth, and chased them down with a little water.
We were laying in bed and talking when after a while I started to get a funny feeling. It started as a prickling on my skin. Then an internal heat rose in my body and flooded me as it tried to escape through the my pores. My face flushed and I had red, splotchy patches on my arms and torso. I felt like bugs were crawling under my skin and as the welts rose where I scratched.
I freaked out.
Whatever I had been given, I thought I’d had an allergic reaction and I was going to go into anaphylactic shock. I started crying, begging him to take me to the hospital, because I felt like I was going to die and I didn’t want to die.
Then he started laughing. He thought my reaction was hilarious.
When I wouldn’t stop crying, he told me to calm down. He’d only given me niacin pills.
Niacin is a B3 supplement, used for a multitude of health reasons, mostly circulatory. But, it has some major side effects.
According to Live Science: “One side effect of taking niacin supplements is mild flushing…a feeling of warmth, itching, redness or a tingly feeling under the skin. The flushing is harmless and usually subsides within one or two hours…”
He excused himself in that it was just a joke and he wanted to see how I reacted. I was really scared and mad, but he assured me that it was really no big deal, because I took the pills from him without a question, and what he gave me was harmless. He told me I needed to chill out, and that I was not in danger.
As he downplayed the scenario and blamed me for being hysterical over nothing, I sat there feeling confused. I didn’t understand why I felt so violated and betrayed, but told that I was not and was overreacting. He kept talking, excusing and explaining himself away, until he convinced me that I was a drama queen and it was all for fun. What he was telling me was something I’d been told my whole life — that I didn’t have the right to decide what was harmful for me. I forgave him and stayed with him.
Over the next 12 years he continued to abuse me in multiple ways. Each time he escalated his abusive actions, he’d validate his behavior by gaslighting me to believe I deserved it. I didn’t know better. I was raised in a similar situation with a similar personality and took the brunt of their problems. So, continued my relaationship with this man who committed various acts of unspeakable abuse to me, because I was told I was nothing and should be grateful for even having someone in the first place.
It wasn’t until I was into my early 30’s did I realize that not only was I a battered woman who feared for my life, but I was suicidal and needed to leave, otherwise I would die.
When I think back about this part of my life, I understand the only way I could have seen this “practical joke” played on me as a form of control and abuse, was if I’d had been raised to respect myself, had healthy parenting growing up, or a mentor, or at least someone who cared about my well-being. But, I didn’t.
What I didn’t have growing up, I naturally taught myself by trial and error as an adult. I raised myself all over again at the age of thirty-one, after I left my husband for good.
Growing up and learning about loving myself and becoming healthy took me a long time. But that’s okay, because I didn’t think about how long it was going to take me. I just mustered up the courage and put one foot in front of the other, and started walking down the path of self-healing. I learned how to treat myself with compassion. I learned to set boundaries and teach myself what a healthy relationship looks like.
I tried and failed, tried and failed, until one day I realized that I was a strong, independent woman. Today, nobody would consider playing a “practical joke” on, or who would abuse me in any other way. I learned to set boundaries and stick up for myself. I learned that I didn’t have to “play nice” if someone assaulted me and then gaslit me, whether it was in a relationship, in the workplace, or with my friends and family. In return, I have developed mutually respectful and loving relationships in my life.
That long journey to healing was worth every moment, and I’d do it all over again, because it’s never too late to become an emotionally healthy person.