User story:

...I tried multiple times to break it off. It's hard to walk away from a situation like that.

I’m not going to tell you my name. It’s probably best to write this anonymously, for safety. But I will tell you the story…


It was 2 am. I hadn’t heard my phone beeping repeatedly over the last few hours as the WhatsApp messages had come through. Finally, when I did wake up, groggy and confused, it took me a moment to properly understand what I was reading.

The last message read:

01:52 am He’s messing with my friends, I’ve told them to sort him out.


Scroll back


01:35 am What’s he doing at a club anyway, leaving you to look after his kid while he’s out partying!?


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01:35 am Why aren’t you answering me!?


Scroll back,


00:48 am Is this him?

I had no idea who that man was…
My body went cold.


That’s when I understood what had happened. I jumped out of bed. Anxiety and dread rushed through me.

My ex’s gangster friends had beaten up a stranger in the club, thinking he was the father of my child.

How did my life get to this point?


I had broken it off with this man (let’s call him Alex) about 3 months before, but hadn’t completely severed ties. And we’d been stuck in a toxic space ever since. I had never had to cut anyone out of my life before, so I assumed we could stay friends. The unofficial relationship had only lasted 6 months anyway. But even now, 3 months later, he still thought I was his. I was never his, but that’s the way he thinks.

The arguing started very early in the relationship.

The first fight we had was two weeks in when I wasn’t ready to introduce him to my daughter (let’s call her Jane). Jane’s father and I (I’ll call him Peter), are on very good terms, and we share custody. We had agreed not to introduce new romantic partners to Jane until we were serious. But Alex was offended and suspicious of my friendship with Peter. I had always thought that having a good relationship with my daughter’s dad was a plus. But Alex was threatened by that. He would get cross if I even played a voice note from Peter when he was with me. (Even though, to me, this clearly showed that there was nothing to hide, didn’t it? The messages were purely about Jane!) He couldn’t understand why I would want to communicate with the father of my child – why he would message me to let me know he had safely dropped her off at school, or that she was having a good weekend with him. He assumed we only communicated because we were secretly wanting to get back together.

Things went from very romantic to very toxic, very quickly.


At first, it was just arguing, but soon it became quite verbally abusive with shouting and swearing and threats. In the beginning, I didn’t react very much, but the relationship became so unhealthy that my own behaviour soon changed. I started also lashing out and getting angry – shouting and screaming right back at him.

I didn’t fully realise the impact the relationship was having on me, but others could see it. My friends had been telling me that I kept putting his needs above mine, and always giving him the benefit of the doubt. They also pointed out that I was losing weight. But soon I realised that I had started treating my daughter the way he treated me, as a result of holding in all these toxic emotions. Not as badly, of course, but still.

Alex was possessive and jealous. He always assumed there was something deeper with friendships I had with other guys, and he made me break off communication with them. He used to say I was too stupid to realise they wanted more. He was offended that I didn’t engage with his posts on social media, and he assumed I was hiding things if I didn’t post on my own social media. He was tracking my WhatsApp somehow he had hacked into my phone and he had transcripts of my conversations. I didn’t believe him at first, but he knew the dates and times of messages I was being sent, even when I hadn’t seen them yet. This happened  when I wasn’t even with him, eliminating the possibility of  him being able to check my phone directly.

One day we were fighting about my friendship with another male friend, and he absolutely lost his shit he said “I’ll fucking kill him! He said “You think these are empty threats? I can get it done, he doesn’t get to mess with what is mine!”

I no longer wanted the relationship to go any further, and had tried multiple times to break it off.

The problem is, it’s hard to walk away from a situation like that. In his world, I was his “girlfriend.” Friends and colleagues told me to get a restraining order. But he had never laid a hand on me, so I didn’t think it was necessary. Also, I went to look on the SAPS (South African Police Service) website and saw that I couldn’t place a restraining order unless he had physically hurt me. Maybe I’m wrong, or the site just wasn’t updated yet, but that’s what I saw when I went to look at my options. I was anxious all the time and had anxiety attacks every few days. It was really bad.

It came to a head just before my father died.

I have always been very close to my dad. I used to see him every week but because of the anxiety attacks, I missed the last two weekly opportunities I had to see him. I didn’t know he was about to die. But I wasn’t in a place to let my family see me so anxious, so I didn’t visit. At this time I didn’t realise I was isolating myself, another effect of emotional abuse.  My birthday was 4 months after my father’s death and I told Alex I didn’t want to see him, I just wanted to be alone – to grieve. Again he lost his shit and said he WILL see me, and then he arrived at my house. He couldn’t accept my choice to be alone. He accused me of lying to him, saying I just wanted to spend time with other guys. He was that jealous. I remember I did have the courage at the time to tell him: “You don’t get to break me and support me at the same time.”

I remember saying to him on another day:

“You need to see me broken in an anxiety attack on your bathroom floor before your anger calms down.”

For some reason he thought it was ok to threaten and say he would send his friends to watch me, to make sure the “handover” (his words) with my daughter went fine. As if she were some package! As if I was his property.

I was in a permanent state of anxiety and I’m now on medication for it. (I never was before). But it took me a while to realise how bad it was.

“You see, you get so used to the anxiety that you don’t recognise it anymore  – until you force yourself to slow down and breathe. That’s what Mygrow did for me. (I am so lucky that Mygrow came when it did – the timing really was perfect!)”

I started Mygrow while we were still in toxic communication daily, he just wouldn’t leave me alone. I thought staying in contact somehow helped me control the situation, to make sure nothing bad could happen. I used to send Alex screenshots of the key takeaways from my Mygrow droplets. But you can’t force anyone to change. My messages had no impact on his behaviour, unfortunately. You can only grow if you are willing to become self-aware. Growth is only going to work if you open yourself up to it, and that’s what I did. I really got honest with myself. It made me realise just how bad my anxiety was and helped me to start taking responsibility for myself.

Finally, when it reached the worst it ever got both personally and professionally, I was doing the Stress Management module. The timing was phenomenal. I realised just how hard the heart coherence technique was for me to do. I was so highly strung I didn’t know how to slow down and breathe. That’s when I really came to terms with the fact that enough was enough and I had to make the change – he wasn’t going to.

During that time I used to look forward to my droplet every day – it became a lifeline. Each day I would receive some nugget of encouragement. And so often it landed well for me, just what I needed to hear. By developing my EQ I was able to be honest with myself, and start to care for myself in ways I hadn’t done before. Mygrow made me braver and bolder. The growth gave me the strength to vocalise, it helped me learn how to speak up, assertively – not in some hysterical shouting match.

I realised “I can’t fix this situation” and I needed to walk away, completely.

I have now been able to communicate that it is NOT ok for him to behave the way he does: to beat a stranger in a club, to think he owns me, to never leave me alone and refuse to let me go.

Finally, I have been able to put down boundaries and stick to them, knowing it is time to walk away…

Mygrow gave me the opportunity to build up my self-regard. I realised my friends were right, even after we broke up I was still putting him first. But with a healthy view of myself and my worth, I now realise that being a friend to someone should not come at the expense of your mental health.

I finally understand that it’s not my responsibility to manage his emotions. I didn’t understand that during the relationship.

This week I changed my phone number.

For the first time ever I have completely cut off contact with someone – cut them out of my life. I feel free like I haven’t in a very long time.

And the future looks and feels bright.


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