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"No state that can be called love"

Stefanie is 34, lives in Berlin and writes on Instagram. About her life, healing process and past with an abusive man. Your history.

How did it all start? The conversation with Stef begins with this question. A conversation about a part of your life that you can't and don't want to grasp. But it's also a conversation about how you can glue your "broken self" back together and shine like Stef in this photo.

Stef is 21 when she travels to the United States with her boyfriend to meet his family. The two have been a couple for about a year and a half and have a long-distance relationship between Mannheim and Berlin. Her boyfriend, an American soldier, was stationed in Mannheim at the time. She thinks he's incredibly charismatic, smart, creative, pretty. A man with a very special effect on others, she says. This man goes down on his knees in front of his parents and friends while on vacation and proposes to Stef.

Stef: "I don't even know if I was ready at that moment. But this gesture was so big and somehow it just made sense to me, also because of our story: that he is American and I am German, that his whole family was there I think I said 'yes' because I thought I had to react that way. I loved him, but I was still a young woman. I was 21. "

The two are back in Germany when their fiancé is moved to Arizona. The couple decided to go to America together.

So I came straight into a situation that was absolutely unhealthy, that immediately showed red flags.

Stef: "He then moved to Arizona once to organize everything and to settle in at the station. I lived with his family for six weeks. By then he must have started playing poker. I'll be six weeks later flown to Arizona and was greeted at the airport with the words 'Hey, I have a great new hobby, I play poker!' By then he was actually really into the addiction. So I came straight into a situation that was absolutely unhealthy, that immediately showed red flags. "

Red flags - these are the names of warning signs that indicate domestic violence. When Stef looks at her past, she sees a sea of ​​these flags. Only a few days after her arrival, the moment came when she became afraid of her husband for the first time.

Stef: "As far as I can remember, I didn't want him to go to play. I wanted him to hang out with me because I was fresh in this country, didn't know anyone and of course wanted to hang out with my partner. And that got him Made so mad because he really thought he had to go there now - he had a real compulsion. At some point he just went away and locked me up. He locked me in the apartment until he came back from playing poker at night. "

After she was locked up by her husband for the first time, there were more and more violent attacks.

Stef: "Playing got worse and worse, drinking got worse and worse. Taking out his emotions on me got worse and worse. I felt like I was walking on eggshells. It could explode at any moment. This is not a state in which you can live, it is not a state that can be called love.

This is not a state to live in, this is not a state to be called love.

Twist arms, twist legs. Pushing, throwing food on the floor, choking, that was all there. He manipulated me emotionally to make me think what he's doing is normal and I deserve it. "

At some point Stef realized that she had to get out of there.

Stef: "The moment he got physical for the first time, I noticed:" Shit. "That was my absolute limit and I'm also grateful for it, because I realized: It can't be like that, it can't be like that, this is not my life. I have to get out of here. "

But my big problem was that I didn't know how to get out of here safely at all? I was all alone in the country, I didn't have the financial means, I had my two dogs and I didn't even know how to logistically make it possible to get out of there. There were also threats. He said, "I'll kill you, I'll kill the dogs, I'll kill myself if you go." Still, I said, "I want to get out of here." But I had to think carefully about how I could get everyone out of the situation safely. "

When asked whether one could describe her way back to Germany as a flight, Stef said very clearly: Yes.

Stef: "I confided in a friend who got me an emergency cell phone that my husband didn't know about. I also packed an emergency backpack with the most important things in case I had to run away. And so I did. He gave me one day I took my regular cell phone and keys away. I grabbed my dogs, pulled my backpack out of the corner and ran. I ran to a friend and her husband called the military police.

They then took him out of our house for three days. This is routine and happens all the time when married couples argue. For three days, the soldiers simply sleep somewhere else. During this time I packed my things and moved in with a friend whose address he did not know. There I then prepared my return flight to Germany. "

Before she could go back to Germany, however, she was forced to go back to her husband. In the interview, she describes this time as the worst. She tells how she was kicked unconscious by him and that he threatened to kill her dogs every time she dared to call the police again. At some point, Stef says, the time came when so many people knew about it and were involved that he quasi gave up. That was the moment when Stef could leave. She left the USA with her dogs.

Stef: "I remember getting on the plane with my two dogs and thinking: I'm finally free. But then I arrived here and realized: I'm anything but free. While I was in the USA, I suffered terrified to death and was therefore in an automatic mode.

I was scared to death and was in an automatic mode.

I couldn't even process what had happened there. It was only in Germany that I noticed that I was physically and mentally broken. No matter how much I talked about it, I always felt like I wasn't being heard or seen. It only got better when I did the therapy. "

Stef with her dogs Aoki and Mr. Snoop

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Stef says that she could only sleep with the light on, had nightmares and terrible "flashbacks". She couldn't be touched by men. Stef says she was also seriously damaged by the kicks in the skull. The blockages and tension were so bad that she felt dizzy for years. She could not stand or sit for weeks. Stef has been doing behavior therapy followed by trauma therapy for over five years.

A little "inner fire"

Stef: "I had really deep phases, I felt really bad. But somehow I always had such a little inner fire in me that said to me:" That's not it yet! "And I had a really great therapist.

Strength and love alone cannot heal what has been so broken.

The therapy was the essential building block that enabled me to process, understand and heal as best I could. Who has managed to make my fire bigger again. In between I often thought 'Fuck that shit, I can't anymore!' But I stayed on the ball and that's the best I could do. My dogs, friends, my family gave me strength. But power and love alone cannot heal what has been so broken. "

Stef: "Good. I am grateful that I can share a little what I have learned and understood with others. I would like to briefly be the person I might have needed myself back then. I know that I am already this person for People was and that is probably the best possible thing you can do: Take a bad situation, stomp into personal responsibility, work on yourself, take the time and space to heal and then use that to help other people.

I will always be in recovery, always be on this path, and what happens will always shape me. I'm just so far on the way that sometimes I want to be the voice that gives others hope and warns.

And one more thing: I want to play bass one day! At some point on a small stage. Because that means that I've gotten brave and that I'm strong enough to hold this thing. "

The interview was conducted by Teresa Betz.

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