Trigger warning – this is about abusive relationships/domestic abuse (holy shit I wasn’t expecting it to get this deep, I was going to write a nice blog about self care – will save that for another day)
I often wondered why me? Why was I so stupid not to be able to see what was happening? Why did I have mug written across my forehead?
(For some back story, when I was 15-18 I was in an abusive relationship. I couldn’t see it at the time and for a long time afterwards I couldn’t see it as being his fault, I blamed myself. There’s parts of me that still do but that’s by the by.)
I realised recently that I was the ideal target. I was a little bit lost, disillusioned by the world and not feeling good enough. I was one of those teenagers that was pretty invisible at school, I had friends but we were invisible. And at that time I started feeling strange. Something I now believe was the beginning of my depression. I became more withdrawn, didn’t eat properly, didn’t feel good enough, started writing poems, came to a darker place than I had known in my cushty childhood. I felt like I didn’t fit in and I felt like no one understood me. Lost.
So at some point we started talking. I don’t know why because we used to hate each other, but we did. I spent hours and hours online chatting. Never in person. It was a new experience, someone paying me attention, listening to me, comforting my pain. And it grew into a relationship.
I always thought it was much later that it became abusive but the signs were always there. He was controlling but manipulative with it. How could I be so unreasonable to want to spend any lunch breaks with my friends when I was in classes with them and never him? I obviously didn’t care about him… It only got worse but I couldn’t see it. My need to please was so great, my fear of failure, of not being good enough was overpowering. And so I blamed myself for everything. Took it all and wished I could be a better girlfriend.
I was so young and I didn’t know any different, it was my first relationship. And I was in too deep. I relied on him. He isolated me from friends and family. Damaged all my other relationships. Stopped me doing my hobbies but made me feel it was my choice. It goes on.
And looking back I think ‘what if’ and ‘why didn’t I see it?’ But it’s not that easy when you’re in the middle. It’s not that easy when you’re 16 and you believe that no one else would ever love you.
And after a lot of therapy, I am still remembering things that happened. Little bits of information are coming forward in my mind. I wish they wouldn’t but apparently it means I’m ready to deal with them now. I don’t have to push them down. I can move past it.
But today I can sit and say I know it wasn’t my fault. And I know that he had a shitty childhood but that wasn’t my fault either and it’s not an excuse for how I was treated. And i can see it for what it was, and say (with only a little bit of guilt*) that it was abusive relationship, it was domestic abuse. And it wasn’t my fault.
* because part of me doesn’t see this as valid because I know others have been through much worse. And because others might say well you were 16 how bad could it have been? And why didn’t you leave if it was that bad? (Ok this bit of me is still quite headstrong but it’s not as strong as it was!)
I know I am rubbish at keeping up with blogging now. I have too much going on so maybe I should just stop altogether. But today I have something to say, so I’ll say it.
It’s strange how memories can have such a strong hold.
Sometimes when I walk down a certain road, or I’m in a certain place I get flashbacks, just because of the place.
But in Germany I don’t. In Germany I rarely have flashbacks at all, because there are no places to associate with bad memories here. Here I feel safe, I don’t have to be completely on guard all the time. It’s strange but moving away has been the most liberating thing. And now I don’t want to go back to my old life (but I will have to.)
At Christmas when I was feeling worse again I realised it has to be to do with the place. Even as I was on the train from the airport in Germany, I felt more relaxed than I had at home. It’s such a contradiction: the place where my whole life is, where my family, boyfriend and many of my friends are, is also the place where I feel the worst. Best and worst. It’s like an oxymoron.
I am making the most of feeling free here, feeling happy. But at the same time I’m scared, scared of what happens when I go back. Will it open everything up again? I’m too tired to fight it all again, I just want to live my life and leave those memories behind.
I need to make home safe again in my mind. Or maybe I need to move away as soon as I can. (But does running away really help? Sometimes it does…)
I know I’m stuck in the past. I know it’s over now. I know I should leave it behind me. I know it’s not helpful. I know all of that.
But I can’t.
I can’t control my dreams or the flashbacks. I can’t choose where my mind wanders off to. I can’t make myself forget all of the past. I can’t just get over it.
Just because I’ve been much better over the last few months doesn’t mean I’m not still ill. It doesn’t mean all of this has gone away. It doesn’t mean I can suddenly trust people and put everything from the past away.
I’m stuck and I don’t know how to move forward.
What you don’t know can’t hurt you…
Sometimes knowing can help, sometimes it can make it worse, always it makes things different.
I found out in May that the ex is having a baby with his current girlfriend. It shook me up a bit, and definitely made my path to recovery a bit bumpier, a bit harder.
But that was all I knew. I didn’t know who she is. I didn’t know how many months, or when the baby was due. I didn’t know if it was going to be a girl or boy. And I didn’t want to know.
All I wanted to know is why now? Why is she good enough and I wasn’t?
But I didn’t speak to him about it. I didn’t speak to him at all.
And it’s been in the back of my mind since then. But I didn’t know any details so it wasn’t real (to me.) And I didn’t want to know any more about him or his life now. I had cut him off, severed all ties. I don’t have him on facebook, I don’t talk to him, I don’t text him. I won’t send him a text on his birthday, christmas or new year. Nothing.
And then today I got a text from Artist. She said: Did you know your ex has just had a baby?
And now I know when, and now I know it’s real. And now I know that it’s a girl and was born a few days ago.
I still feel like I don’t deserve that: the relationship, the happy family. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want it now, but one day. And I feel like I’ll never be able to. I’ll never deserve it, I’ll never be good enough.
And he gets it all. He gets to play happy families and ignore all of the stuff that happened in the past. But me, I’m stuck in the past. And one day I’m going to end up losing S because of it. Because I can’t get over what happened with me and the ex, the whole thing was just a toxic mess that I couldn’t escape from. And even now I haven’t fully escaped… in my dreams (nightmares) and in my mind it’s still real (sometimes.) It still scares me.
And then it makes me question whether it all happened at all. Whether it really was “that bad” or whether I’ve gone crazy and imagined it all. Maybe my hatred of him twisted my memories. Maybe the arguments were because I was always doing things wrong… Maybe, maybe, maybe.
All of these thoughts, these questions have been opened up again. All of the memories I have fought so hard to keep away come flooding back.
I am angry and I am hurting. I hate him and I hate myself. I want to speak to him and I don’t. I want to know and at the same time I don’t at all. I want to ask him why I wasn’t good enough, why he treated me like he did, why someone else is good enough to have a baby with and I wasn’t.
But I’m not going to ask him. Because starting contact with him again would never end well. He would try to manipulate me again, try to make me believe he’s a different person now and that things weren’t that bad, that I’m exaggerating. And he’s had enough chances, and he always proved me right. He is not someone I want in my life (again.)
And that’s why sometimes it’s better not to know.
Recently I’ve been feeling a bit fat. I know I’m not obese or anything like that, I am a healthy weight but I think I would feel better about myself if I got rid of the podgy-ness.
So do something about it… That’s what S says and I know it makes sense. I can’t complain about it while not doing anything to change it. But there’s a lot of fears and what ifs…
In the past I used to go running, and it got to an unhealthy stage. I know how exercise can become addictive and I’m scared of that. I’m scared that if I start trying to lose a little bit of weight, I’ll become obsessed with it and won’t be able to stop.
And on the flip side, I’m scared that it won’t do anything. What if I do all this exercise and I still look the same, then I’ll feel like a failure, and that’s one of my biggest fears. Or what if I lose some weight and still feel bad about myself? That’s incredibly likely because as we all know, I’m a perfectionist, and perfection doesn’t exist so I will never be good enough in my own eyes.
And that’s the biggest issue really isn’t it? Nothing I ever do will ever be good enough for myself because I will always feel like I should do better, be better, be perfect. But why the hell should I be perfect? No one else is and I allow them their flaws, but me? Nope, not good enough. Must try harder.
The negative thoughts are (clearly) very active at the moment. S always says I approach things too negatively, and I should try to be more positive. But that’s the whole thing: If I was positive, I probably wouldn’t be depressed would I?! And even though recently I’ve been trying to be more positive about the future, there’s still these niggling voices in my head telling me I’m not good enough and I can’t do it so I may aswell give up.
It’s like there’s an internal argument in my mind the whole time and it’s exhausting. One side is actually pretty positive, whilst the other is very negative and always strikes when least expected.
Another thing that’s not helping the negativity is that I’ve been having a lot of nightmares recently. A lot of them seem to feature the ex and it is freaking me out. I feel like I’m being haunted by him and the way things were in the past. I know I can’t erase him from my memory, I know he was a big part of my life for a significant amount of time, but it was quite a long time ago now, I just want it to fade away.
But anyway, back to the actual point of this post…
I am going to try and start running again. I’m trying to fight the memories it brings back, and let myself move on and start again. I was going to go this morning but I didn’t – I slept badly (nightmares) and was feeling pretty negative (as you can see!) So I’m letting it go for now, and planning to go on Wednesday morning. I’m going to try and plan a short route before I go, and I am not going to push myself too hard (75% is enough!) but hopefully it will help me feel a bit better.
For one thing, it would get me out of bed, which is not always the easiest thing to do! Also, exercise is meant to make you feel happy, and I could do with some of that!
I am realising that this perfectionism is a big issue. I am never going to be happy until I change my goals. Perfection is not a suitable goal, I need to set achievable goals instead. But how do you ignore the thoughts that have followed you for your whole life? How do you fight the thoughts that have been ingrained into your brain and reinforced for years? I’m not sure about that at the moment, but hopefully eventually I will be able to work through these things and will be able to be happy with who I am and what I do, instead of the constant beliefs that I am not good enough and nothing I ever do will ever be good enough. (Good enough for what?)
There are so many questions that I don’t know the answer to, and so many issues that I am nowhere near solving. Sometimes it feels hopeless and like I will never get through it, but I have to. I am determined that eventually I will deal with all of this.
(Sorry about the higgledy-piggledyness of this post, I meant to write about running, but ended up writing about perfectionism…. which shows me that’s the key issue!)
**Trigger warning – suicide**
Mental illness can spring at any time, it can get anyone.
Recently, Stephen Fry, who has bipolar disorder, has spoken about a suicide attempt in 2012. Here is the link to the video where he speak about it. He explains that there is no “why”, no reason, and just because someone “has it all” doesn’t mean they can’t be suicidal. As the president of Mind charity, I think it was really brave and good of him to speak out about this. Being suicidal is something that happens to a lot of people. There is not generally much awareness about this or mental illness more generally, and that does need to change. Frankie Sandford (a member of the band The Saturdays) is another celebrity affected by mental illness, here in the form of depression. This year she has become an ambassador for Mind, and earlier in the year her story appeared in some of the magazines (eg Cosmo, Glamour) to raise awareness of depression and how it is an illness like any other.
It feels very strange that a few years ago I didn’t know anything about mental illness/depression specifically, and yet in the last 5 years, my mum, myself, my best friend and a lot of other people I know have been affected by it. I used to live in a world where (I thought) everyone was pretty happy, strange how much that has changed in the last 5 years or so. And the more I know about it, the more I think that I probably have had some form of mild depression for quite a few years, probably at least from the age of 14, and based on a couple of memories, maybe even in primary school.
I got a text from my best friend (Artist) saying she’s going to drop out of uni because she’s been really depressed for months. I feel like the worst friend ever, I had no idea. She told me uni was much better this year and it seemed like she was happy. I should’ve seen it, I should’ve been there for her. I’m pretty shocked to be honest. She’s one of the ones who I always thought, do you know what, if I was as happy as her I’d be living the good life. She is always so sociable and seems happy, confident too. But this is a stark reminder that it can happen to anyone, anytime.
I feel really bad, I wish I’d been there for her more. I feel like such a bad friend. We are at opposite ends of the country when we are at uni, me in the North and her in Cornwall. It is difficult to stay in touch properly, but this really made me think… Don’t forget your friends, they might need you.
Today’s Daily prompt (Green-eyed monster) reminded me of something that happened nearly 2 years ago now. I’ve probably written a bit about it before, but nevermind.
This time 2 years ago, the ex had just broken up with me and got into a new relationship straight away. I was jealous, crazily jealous of her. What did she have that I didn’t? Who was she to take him away from me? Why did he choose her over me?
He carried on using me, sleeping with me while he was with her. For a while I was under the delusion that he was going to change his mind, that she was nothing serious, that he would come back to me. That didn’t happen*. While he was with her I would purposefully text him in the hope that she would read his texts and find out he was cheating on her.
I became like a
woman girl possessed – I became obsessed with breaking them up, with showing him that she wasn’t worth it. I do not like that side of me, and it is a side of me I have never seen before this and hope never to see again. I was so jealous that she had his attention and I didn’t. He (appeared to) treat her so much better than he did me. I wanted his love, his attention, his care and she had it all. I told her that he was cheating on her, and he told her I was crazy. I was his crazy, jealous ex. And that’s exactly true (except that I was telling her the truth.)
And then I got angry.
I came to my senses, I realised that HE was the evil one (not her). I realised that he was using me, that he had been controlling and using me for a long time and I had been too blind to see it. And then I started doing the right thing for the right reason. Once I wasn’t jealous anymore I just wanted to warn her. I didn’t like her, but she’s still a person with feelings. She still didn’t deserve to be treated badly by him.
And this one has a happy ending actually. Quite a while after she still wouldn’t believe me and I had given up on trying, I got a message from her. It said they had broken up, and that I was right and she apologised for not believing me.
And so in the end,jealousy aside, the right thing happened. But it showed me the dangerous side of human nature. It showed me how calculating and horrible I could be. And I never want to see it again.
I had never realised before how connected jealousy is to anger. The jealousy was fuelled by anger, and the anger was fuelled by jealousy. With some tainted love and error of judgement thrown in there, the whole thing was a recipe for disaster. (I am very glad this is over.)
Today was another hour spent mostly crying.
We talked too of course.
Today we started looking at trauma memories from my relationship with the ex. It was hard, and scary thinking about it all again, but hopefully in the long run this will be helpful.
I used my safe space and grounding techniques to calm me down, and A made sure I was back in the room and ok before I left.
For homework I’ve got to write down as much as I can remember about a certain memory. It is a horrible, triggering memory. I think it’s the worst one; the one that haunts me most. I thought I was going to die.
I’ll probably write a post on that memory when I write it for my “homework”.
No session next week – mixed feelings about that. On one hand it’s a shame because I want to get on with this so it will help asap! On the other hand, maybe it’s good not to take it too fast, and at least I will get a lie in next Monday for once!
On the next session we will look at retelling and rescripting the memory.
I hope that this will help, and maybe one day soon I might be able to feel safe.
Today we also talked about the last week. I told her about Saturday night, and how I’ve been feeling really low this week. I also explained how irritable and angry I am. Everything winds me up. Everything makes me angry. It’s not fair – life is not fair. It makes me angry when I see people complaining when they have nothing to complain about. It makes me angry when my housemate can’t be bothered to go to uni, puts no effort in, and then comes out with good grades. I wonder what most people would do if they felt like I do. Then they would understand, what an effort it is for me to do the everyday things that they can’t be bothered to do. Or maybe all of this is just an excuse, and I’m just lazy?
**Trigger warning: Talks about an abusive relationship**
Dear the Ex
I can’t believe what a mess I am in.
When you left me I thought I would never recover. I thought I would never find someone else. I thought I’d always love you. I don’t though. I hate you now. For everything you did to me, for the pain you put me through and for the way you’ve ruined my life for so long.
I am determined to get through this, because you are not going to win this time. You controlled me and my life for far too long and I’ve had enough. Even though I never see you, never speak to you anymore, I am constantly reminded of everything from the past.
Imagine how it must feel to have flash backs of someone who supposedly loves you holding you up against a wall by your throat. Imagine how much it hurt when someone who supposedly loves you breaks up with you and gets a new girlfriend the next day. You tossed me aside like I was nothing. And now I am nothing. And it’s all because of you.
Three years we were together. I was weak, you were manipulative. I let you control me. I let you turn me into a shadow of who I used to be. I lost my friends, I left scouts, I even moved school for you. And for what? To be bullied, taken advantage of and hurt.
I really wish I never met you. You were trouble from the start. I wish I had opened my eyes and seen what was going on. Everyone else could see it wasn’t healthy, but I wouldn’t listen. I thought they were just trying to ruin it. That’s what you said anyway.
And then when we split up, you carried on using me. You told me you loved me, you told me that you wanted us to get back together one day. You were already with M but you carried on sleeping with me. You told her you were out with your friends when you were really with me.
At first I thought you meant it when you said you loved me. I thought the thing with M meant nothing. And then you told her you loved her. I became a woman possessed. I was obsessed with it. I needed to show her what you were. You told her I was crazy, I was jealous, I was trying to ruin your happiness.
Maybe I was. At the beginning I wanted you back. But then it became more than that. I didn’t know M, I didn’t like M, but I needed to protect her from you.
I told her about how you treated me. I told her that you were manipulative, abusive, messed up. She wouldn’t listen. I told her you were still sleeping with me. She wouldn’t believe me. And you threatened to kill me.
She wouldn’t listen. You lied, you both lied. Said you had split up. Said that it was my fault. And then I found out you were still together. After everything.
And then I went to uni. I got away from you and your manipulative ways. I thought so anyway. You wouldn’t leave me alone. Kept texting and calling, and messing with my head.
It took me a long time to be strong enough to cut you off. I did it eventually.
But I still didn’t feel better. I thought maybe if I saw you, if I spoke to you then I could get some closure, and that would be the end of it. But that didn’t help either. And everytime I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt – I used to give you chance after chance. You always messed it up. You always did something to hurt me. When I tried to ignore me you would threaten me, you would say you’d show people photos of me naked, you said you would kill yourself if I didn’t talk to you. What choice did I have?
So then I realised that was it. I needed to cut you off completely. And no it didn’t erase the memories, and no it didn’t stop the flashbacks or the pain, but it’s stopped you creating anymore horrible memories for me.
If you could see the state I’m in now, I wonder what you’d feel. Maybe you’d be proud; you really did mess me up good and proper. Maybe you’d feel guilty? I doubt it, but maybe. Maybe you’d be sad, ashamed of what you’ve done. Or most likely, you’d laugh. You’d tell me I was making it up – depression isn’t real, that’s what you’d say. I’m exaggerating it, I’m pretending. I’m fine, really, I just need to man up.
But I’m not fine. And it’s your fault. You caused all this. The depression, the anxiety, the panic attacks, flashbacks, feeling of emptiness. And guess what, you ruined my relationship with S too. We split up, are you happy now? Because I’m too much of a mess. Because I can’t be in a relationship. Because when someone gets close to me I get scared. And after all those times you treated me like shit and called me a slut and used me for sex, I’m scared to have sex now, or anything like it. And even though S said he didn’t care, I felt useless. Because that’s what you taught me – it’s all about sex. And this is all your fault. But even now, you’d tell me I was making this up, that it was my fault, that you did nothing wrong.
I am so angry at you for everything you’ve done. I made excuses for a long time, but no more. You are a horrible person. You only care about yourself and getting what you want, you just stayed with me “until somone better came along”, remember that?
I know I need to let this go. It was quite a while ago now. We split up over a year and a half ago. But I can’t forgive you. I can’t get closure because you won’t admit it. And now I’m stuck in this vicious circle – anger, sadness, fear, and round and round and round I go.
I wonder what you’d say if you ever read this. You won’t so it doesn’t matter, but I wish I could know what your reaction would be. You probably think I’m pathetic, you probably are deluded enough to think that all of this means I still love you and I’m not over you. But I don’t love you, I hate you. You’re the only person in the world I really hate. I can’t even explain how much damage you’ve done, but what’s the point anyway, you don’t care.
And the most embarrassingly horrible thing about it all is that YOU ended our relationship. After everything I did for you, after turning me into a robot, YOU ended it. You left me with nothing. And I don’t even get the dignity to say that I escaped, because to be perfectly honest, I probably never would’ve ended it myself. I was trapped. Too scared of you and your threats. How dare you.
What a great first relationship that was. Thanks a lot.