Thursday, April 13, 2017

the aftermath.

i've been thinking lately about domestic abuse and the women i know who have survived it.  women i admire, intelligent women, driven women, women like me.  it's mind-blowing, the number of friends i have had send me messages after i've written something about the abusive relationships i was in, saying, "i understand how you feel, i've been there," or, "i didn't realize what i was experiencing was so universal, that other women experienced it too," or, "thank you for being open, for being able to say the things that i wish i had the courage to say to my abuser, thank you for your strength".

all such wonderful, affirming things to hear.  and yet.  i don't always feel strong.  i am still healing.  i am still hurting.  i still chase away dark thoughts, dark moods.  i still get hit with flashbacks, when i'm watching movies, or reading, or listening to music.  when someone mentions something that ties me back to my ex - like the thrift store.

in both relationships, i was entrenched in psychological warfare.  in my last relationship, my ex was both my "partner", and my boss.  i must've cried 2-3 times a week, sometimes i wasn't ever sure why i was crying.  i was both happy and miserable.  i loved my job, but it cost me so much.  time, energy, relationships with other people.  i was stressed and on edge all the time.  if i did something wrong at the thrift store, he would tell me it was because i didn't care enough - about my job or him.  everything i did at work would translate into our relationship.

at the same time, i had a feeling in my gut that he was cheating.  i would ask questions, and these too would turn into arguments.  he would say i didn't trust him, and that was my fault.  i always wanted to talk about the wrong things.  i kept bringing up the same questions.  all of these were accusations he held against me.  a part of me knew that he was using what happened between my ex-husband and i against me, playing on my insecurities, making me feel like i was crazy not to trust him, when in actuality my gut was right.

these weren't even the worst moments of our relationship.  there are some things that occurred that i'll never talk about publicly.  out of embarrassment that i didn't leave him, that i didn't run from a relationship that was not meant for me, that i wasn't stronger.  out of fear that i'll be opening wounds, and telling too much.  after everything, after all the things i've said, written, posted about this relationship, i just can't talk about it anymore.  it makes me feel weak.

and maybe this is residual of the abuse.  maybe i still doubt myself at times, in spite of my awareness of my strength.  i realized the other day that i still do not trust new people.  it's part of the reason i don't want to date.  i'm scared to deal with getting to know someone, wondering if they're actually portraying their true self, or if they're pulling the wool over my eyes.

it really hit me that i was struggling with the aftermath of my abusive relationships when my sister  (who also went through a nasty breakup around the same time as i did last year) came to me, her phone ringing in her hand with the sound of text messages from a guy who wanted to date her, and she asked me, "how do i learn to trust again?  how do i put down my defenses?" and i realized i had no answer for her.  because i myself had not yet dropped those defenses.  i had put up walls, and second-guessed every moment of a few weeks spending time with a guy i had liked for a long, long while.  and while he ended our brief "courtship," for lack of a better word, with the quintessential, "it's me, not you," i found myself wondering if i hadn't been open enough.  (not to drag this guy, he's a nice guy, y'all, and i am not offended in the least by how he ended things, and i could not possibly, would not, say a bad thing about him, ever.  i'm only mentioning him in passing to show how hard it has been to open up again.)  did i still keep him at bay, even though this was a person that i connected with on an intellectual level like i had never connected with a person before.  even though i knew this person, and other people i know knew this person, was i still not one hundred percent myself because to be myself would be to show my wounds and my scars and that i am still healing and my ex took advantage of those things when i showed them to him, so was i afraid that this person would do that, as well?

it's a mind-fuck.  you want to protect yourself at all costs, and yet you want to get back to the person you were before the abuse.  back to the person who gave no fucks, who trusted openly, who felt for people in her heart.  now you worry that your heart is broken, that it is frozen to the core, and that no one will ever want to take the time to watch it warm again.  or that you'll never give them the chance. and you watch yourself shy away from the advances of men, constantly deflecting, answering questions of "why don't you join this dating app, or that one?" with answers like, "i'm just too busy," or "it's hard to meet people i connect with intellectually," or "i just have no interest."  you say, "i'm happy on my own," and you are.  except for the moments when you realize just how alone you are (wouldn't it be nice to have someone to go on that roadtrip, see that movie, try that new restaurant with?).  and don't even get me started on dating apps (am i the only person who wants to meet someone the old-fashioned way - whatever that is?).

and you realize you can never return to the person you were before.

No comments: