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This Is Why We’re Not

This, tonight, is why were not married yet, Love.

I tell people it’s because we both want to finish school first and don’t want to risk a long-distance marriage, but that’s not the whole truth.

It’s your temper.

I rarely see it, but when I do, it’s explosive. I can’t handle that after living with my mother.

Every few months or so we get into a disagreement about something and you explode in anger, yelling at me. Usually after your outburst I just sit there in silence, scared that it’s going to escalate like it always did with her. It never does, it’s just an awkward silent time.

After every fight, I apologize first, because I know I’m very opinionated and sometimes I talk over you, which means you feel like I don’t respect your opinion. I’m trying to fix that, prefacing my statements with “in my opinion” or, after you’ve told me your opinion, I’ll say “I see where you’re coming from” to let you know that I do hear and respect your thoughts, even as I keep my own.

Tonight, you hit my cat for scratching you. I warned you that if you started playing with him you’d probably get scratched because he’s still a baby; apparently you ignored me. When he did scratch you, you hit him, and I grabbed him away from you and got onto you. I had warned you about him several times and then you exploded, yelling at me about how the cat should know better. A few moments of silence ensued, we started talking about other things, and as you left, I apologized.

I always apologize.

You. Never. Do.

This is why we’re not married yet: you’ve never learned to swallow your pride and apologize, even when you know you’re wrong.

I hope in the next couple of years you get better at expressing yourself so you don’t get frustrated and yell at me out of nowhere. So you can let me know when you feel slighted before it ends up exploding out. I know you have issues communicating your thoughts and that’s why I still happily wear this ring on my finger. I hope you learn to apologize, not necessarily for your actions, but for what your actions caused.

We’re young; we’ve got some growing up left to do. I know I’m to blame in this, too. But I’m not going to marry you when your temper explodes like that. I lived 19 years with that, and I’m not doing it again. You may think it was just a little hit to teach the cat that was wrong, but you did it in anger; if you hit a cat in anger, who’s to say you won’t hit a child in anger?

This is why we’re not.

I love you.

I can’t wait to walk down the aisle and finally take your name as my own. But I will wait. I can wait as long as it takes for you to realize that this is a problem that we’ve discussed before, and maybe now is the time to figure out some strategies to deal with this.

Because, let me tell you, I will NEVER live in a house where I am afraid of outbursts again. I’ve lived through the bruises from my mother when she exploded in anger. I’ve lived through locking myself in the bathroom as my brother exploded, punching through the wall, and breaking the windows out of his car, and I will NOT do it again.
You’ve never hit me, and you probably never will. But every time your anger explodes out of nowhere like that, I’m taken right back to those days living in fear that the yelling is just the first step. I’m not going back.

I love you. Ninety-nine percent of the time you are the greatest guy I could ever ask for, but this has to stop.

Freedom And My Dragon

Every night I dream of escaping… getting out of this self-made prison.

It isn’t always the same, but I always make it out. It’s… so sweet… freedom. I seem to have traded it away so easily while awake and I yearn for it in my sleep.

My own double life.

It makes it easier to deal with the reality I’ve chosen.

Sometimes I fashion my own escape. I win the lottery or I write a great screenplay or book. Then I wait, I say nothing, patiently, quietly, until he is out. I take every trace of me from this house.

EVERYTHING of ME and I DISAPPEAR!

GOD, I love that dream most! I fantasize about where I will go, where I’ll live, how I’ll take care of the people I love and how they will love me back.

I play the lottery sometimes, but I’ve never won more than $50.00. That isn’t going to get me very far. I always tell myself that whomever won needed it more. I try not to think about it too much. Or I’ll cry.

Do you think you can run out of tears? You can’t. I read somewhere that tears are toxins leaving your body, so it’s good to cry. I must have a lot of toxins.

I’m making up for lost time.

Growing up, we weren’t allowed to cry. Someone should’ve told my Father that factoid about tears, although he’d probably have smacked you. So yeah, you would’ve had to duck or send him a note or something.

Really, I don’t think he would have given a damn about toxins. He had a very rigid, narrow view of children and their place in life. It’s painful to admit that I married someone who is a lot like my Father.

It’s tragically predictable.
———————
That’s difficult for me to read, and it was excruciating to live, but I found my freedom.  I had my freedom the whole time. I simply didn’t realize that I had the power to change my life – I thought I had to be rescued. In the end, I guess, I was. It was the best gift I’ve ever given myself.

How I got into that mess is no mystery. I read a long time ago that an abused person will find a way to abuse themselves long after their abuser is gone.

I never saw the cues. The little red flags. I was oblivious to the ones that whispered, “This man doesn’t really love you.”

Honestly, I never thought I could be loved. I had no tools to discern between a good or bad relationship. I grew up with no relationships to speak of – alone is all I knew. Saying “I do” was a way to not longer be lonely. I didn’t realize how much more there was to it.

Life has a way of teaching us the things we need to know. It’s made me much wiser in many ways, yet there’s so much I still don’t know.

How to trust, how to let people in. But, I will show up EVERYDAY. I will be friendly and OPEN. I will be open, I will be friendly… I will not push people away… I will I will I will!

That is my new mantra, which sure beats the hell out of the ones I was raised on.

As a child, I was raised in isolation. My family’s slogan was “nobody in, nobody out” and “you’re not a person, you’re property.” My parents wanted no one to know what went on in our home. They created an insular existence for us.

As a result of the emotional damage of their actions, there were other bits of damage: mistrust, an inability to let others in. This is the dragon I am battling now, TODAY…

I must be brave and try.

Those who grow up in an abusive family know the counting game. You count the days until you can get out, not unlike a jailbird doing a stint upstate. You mark on your inner calendar: three years, forty-two days and I’m outta here! Those sad, painful days marked the beginning of my dream for freedom. What I didn’t know; what I might not have been able to cope with, was that I would never really escape.

I carry my past with me like an ugly scar. Every time I think I have finally healed it, it gets torn wide open. And I see how far I have yet to go.

Every time I push people away, I’m reminded. I have done – and continue to do – more years in counseling then I care to recall. I believe in therapy – I’ve done the work, put the time in. I’ve come to realize how much my childhood defines me. It is a battle that I fight everyday.

Sometimes I win, sometimes not.

Usually the day ends in a draw.

As long as my mother doesn’t call, or some well-meaning stranger doesn’t ask the nosy questions they don’t want the answers to, I’m fine. I try to remember that they’re making small talk, trying to find common ground. They have no idea the pain the well-meaning questions cause. The way it makes my scar itch and burn. I try to skirt the truth to save them the uncomfortable reality, because I will NOT lie.

I’m trying to make peace – peace with memories, peace with a mother who facilitated abuse, with a family that turned a blind eye. Mostly, though I am trying to make peace with myself.

I’m the reminder and I need to learn to let go.

To accept that I am damaged; that we all are a little damaged.

To live in this moment, this life.

To enjoy my existence, rather than mourning what was and what was not.

That is my goal.

I will show up, I will be open, I WILL TRY.

A Letter To My Exes That I Can’t Send

We all have letters we’d like to send, but know that we can’t. A letter to someone we no longer have a relationship with, a letter to a family member or friend who has died, a letter to reclaim our power or our voice from an abuser. Letters where actual contact is just not possible for whatever reason.

Hello Ex #1. You were wonderful. You were kind, thoughtful, loving, attentive. You were there for me through a very rough time when my parents were divorcing. You were loved by all of my family. You were an amazing first boyfriend and I loved you with all my heart. Thank you for being such a wonderful first.

Hello Ex #2. You were revenge on my parents for splitting up and “ruining everything”. You were MANY years older than me. You were fun because you provided everything I needed to escape my shitty teenage reality. I drank and did drugs. You became a heroin addict. I became pregnant. I made an incredibly difficult decision to abort and then a really smart decision to leave you. Please stop trying to “friend” me on Facebook. I am never going to accept the request. You are in the past. Stay there.

Hello Ex #3. You were my self-punishment for the abortion. You were incredibly gorgeous and charming. Then you weren’t. You picked fights over everything. I could never give you enough of my time and energy. I let you isolate me from my friends and family. I hated myself. You hit me. I only ended it because my friend would have killed me (figuratively speaking) if I went back to you. After all, she got a black eye when she stepped in front of me to protect me from your swing. You suck. I was stupid.

Hello Ex #4. You were very charming, sweet and funny. We had so much in common. Eventually I moved in with you. Then you stopped working. I supported us (and your friend) for two years. I kept giving you chance after chance to make something of yourself. How could I leave you high and dry? You had no job. You’d be kicked out of the apartment. Where would you go? What the hell was I thinking? When I finally left, I did it all wrong, but you were just fine. You found someone else to take care of you. I pity her. I was proud of me for thinking more of myself and wanting more for myself than what you were giving.

Hello Husband. It took these exes and so many more for me to grow up and learn self-respect; to learn how to love someone else correctly. And to learn to be loved the right way. Yes, sometimes we argue, but you know what? Those arguments are healthy. It took me a lot of years to learn how to argue healthily. We communicate, we share our feelings and our points (sometimes loudly, but always respectfully), we compromise where it’s appropriate, and give in sometimes, too. We work together to make us work. You always think of me, my needs and how things will affect me before you make decisions. I’ve learned to do that, too. You love me so much. I love you equally. We have a beautiful life and three beautiful girls. We have had some REALLY hard times in the nine years we’ve been married. But we work through them together and we are stronger for it. My love for you grows and my respect for you grows. You have my trust.

Thank you for growing with me.

Three Years Later

Three years ago I started dating my now ex-boyfriend. He was my entire world. I thought that no one would ever be anything close to the level of amazing that I saw in him. He was perfect. I made him perfect in my mind.

He wasn’t.

When we started dating, it wasn’t under the best circumstances. We had been friends for fifteen years. I had just moved out of my parents’ house to get away from their physical, emotional, and mental abuse, as well as their out of control drinking habits. I was dealing with the aftermath of being sexually assaulted and my parents refuting my rape claim – claiming I was just vying for attention. Heh, if only they had any idea that all the times I acted out as a teenager were linked to that one instance.

Of course, I didn’t know that back then.

We ended up moving in together after six months. It was out of necessity, really, since we didn’t have another option.

I loved everything about him. He was tall and strong and handsome and had beautiful blue eyes. He was the only man I’d ever fully given myself to, and he was the first person I ever had an intimate relationship with.

Everyone always teased me about staying a virgin for so long, but I wanted to wait until I felt I was ready. Looking back, maybe I was and maybe I wasn’t. More likely than not, I wasn’t. But in the turmoil of sexual assault, I wanted so desperately to be loved and wanted that I convinced both of us I was ready.

I took us having sex as us being “serious.” I didn’t know any better. Forget that I was 21 and not exactly naïve… I thought I knew it all. I forgave him for messing around with his ex-girlfriend behind my back. I ignored him trying to hook up with his friend’s sister at a party at my house (when he didn’t live there) right in front of me. I looked past how horribly cruel he was to me the moment he threatened to take his own life. He was perfect. More importantly, I was broken, and the only way I thought I could be put back together was the way he was telling me to.

The controlling started small. He would break things off, leave me devastated for a day or two, then come back and apologize, and swear never to leave me again. He felt insecure when he couldn’t perform when we were intimate, but he would blame it on me. Yep, the sexual assault survivor is to blame for everything that went wrong when we had sex. Even when I thought things went well, he had some problem with it. He never even turned off the TV. Christ, he never stopped WATCHING the TV when we were intimate. He would wake me up in the middle of the night to perform oral sex on him… then tell me to go to bed – I was slutty if I wanted something in return.

I learned to stop asking for sex. He would humiliate me and make me feel bad for asking, so we only had sex on his terms.

Eventually the controlling moved out of the bedroom. If I went out, he wanted to know every detail of where I was. It was casual; I barely noticed it at first. I went to a coworker’s birthday party and failed to mention until the next morning that I had stopped with friends to grab a bite to eat at a Denny’s on the way home. He was livid. Why was I hiding things from him? Was I being unfaithful?

Silly me: that was as much protective nature and affection as I got from him. So I chalked it up to him being romantic. Someone anonymously left me a flower at work one day and when he found out, he threatened to sit in the lobby of my workplace and beat the shit out of whomever it was. I laughed it off, but was never entirely sure he was kidding.

Eventually, I wasn’t supposed to dress-up or put makeup on. If I so much as brushed my hair out, he would make fun of me, ask who the hell I was getting all fancy for. We never went out anywhere. I wasn’t supposed to go out much any more, either, or I’d get lectures: “I was gone all the time” or “neglecting my responsibilities around the house.” Even though we lived with three other roommates, it was my job and my job alone to clean the house.

I was supposed to do his laundry. I was supposed to make sure everything was perfect. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere or do anything. If I checked my mail, I had to give him every detail.

When we went out to group gatherings, he’d purposely act like a jackass so we would leave early. He would go out of his way to embarrass me in public so he didn’t have to stay. Work functions, my family get-togethers (he was a golden child at his family’s functions), even hanging out with my friends. He had to talk down to everyone around him.

I was only allowed to go to the bar on the nights he was working security. He had to be introduced right away as my boyfriend to anyone who talked to me, otherwise he would punish me by refusing to touch me in bed. Any affection was off the table: he wouldn’t touch me. He never held my hand in public. He never kissed me in front of anyone. He never once introduced me as his girlfriend.

He’d tell me I wasn’t an equal part of our relationship – I caused all of our fights. And I did. Mostly because if we were arguing, at least he was paying attention to only me. I’d try to stand up for myself, but it always ended with me in tears. He would say anything to make me cry, then tell me I was always crying and he didn’t sign up for my emotions.

This went on for three years. I slipped into one of the worst depressions I’ve experienced. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t shower, I could barely even get myself dressed for work. He hated when I went to work. Forget that I was the only one with anything close to a full-time job (he got paid forty bucks a weekend to bounce at the bar and went to school full-time), and I had to pay all of our bills. He hated my coworkers. They were all scum – I shouldn’t hang out with them.

On the other hand, his parents paid for everything – his rent, his car, his insurance, his cell phone, and handed him gas money every week. They paid for his groceries. I worked my ass off and was expected to pay our rent, utilities, my own cell phone, my own insurance, and for our groceries. What did he do with his money? Bought knives and guns.

When I was raped, my attacker used a gun in places I won’t go into detail about. My boyfriend kept all the guns in our closet, with the door open, on my side of the bed, so I had to stare at them. He complained that I’d never go to the shooting range with him. I can’t be near guns without shaking uncontrollably and losing it, but I went anyway. I fired guns, broke into tears, tried to improve because he was angry that I was a bad shot. But every time I cried, he comforted me, told me how well I was doing. That made him an amazing and caring man.

I was in and out of major depressive cycles. At the beginning of September, I was hospitalized after a suicide attempt. I didn’t know why I wanted to die, I just did. I tried to take a knife to my own throat. He stopped me. He talked me down. I checked into the hospital. I was transferred under a 5150 to another hospital. When he visited me, I tried to show him how well I was doing, because he was threatening to leave me.

I was discharged from the mental hospital, but he couldn’t come get me. If there was no other way, he’d get to it “when he had time.” So my best friend picked me up. That first night back at home, he was so glad to see me. He recreated our first dates, we were intimate on a regular basis, he was affectionate, and doing everything for me – just because. Our lives were finally on track now that I was finally medicated. Right?

A week later, he came home and told me he wanted to leave me – he didn’t love me and never had. He didn’t want to live with me anymore. We agreed I’d get my own place, and we’d work on us from there.

The next day, he told me he had been having an affair with some random girl from at the bar, so I had to move out of the house that day. I told him he couldn’t legally evict me, and I wasn’t going anywhere. He beat the ever loving shit out of me. I told him if he didn’t leave, I’d call the cops. Paranoid as he is, he finally left.

That night, I had been planning to tell him that I’d found out I was pregnant while I was in the hospital.
Where were my roommates? They’d taken his new plaything out to the casino while he dumped me, so, you know, she’d have a nice time and it wouldn’t be awkward for her. Excuse me?

I was angry, hurt, upset. I’d been sick to my stomach and couldn’t keep my medications down, which threw me into withdrawal. I thought I’d never feel again. I had no family, I’d been out of work, so I had no money, and nowhere to go.

I took every single piece of clothing he owned and threw it off the deck. I threw it up in the trees. I dumped it in the dirt. I emptied the entire contents of the fridge onto them and left them to rot in the sun. I packed up all of what had been ours – the bed, all the furniture, the dog, everything and moved into a girlfriend’s house.

I threw away everything that reminded me of him. It wasn’t much – in three years, he’d never bought me a birthday card or Christmas present. He always had the nicest I could afford, but I never even got flowers or a card.

Eventually, I told him that I was pregnant. He wanted proof; I gave it to him. Then I miscarried.

I called him, not sure what else to do. I figured it affected him, too. His response? “Deal with it by yourself, you’re not my problem anymore.”

I had bruises for weeks. The cops did nothing. When I went to collect the last of my belongings from the house, the new girlfriend was in his bed, and she bitched me out. We live in a small community; he runs his mouth every chance he gets: it’s my fault my roommate’s kids hate him; I tried to stab him to death (completely false); I stole the dog (I paid six hundred dollars for that dog and had him before we got together); I left him unexpectedly for someone else. There are a billion lies circulating that I have to deal with. He attacks anyone who knows me out of nowhere.

In that moment, I seriously thought my life was over.

Now it’s been almost three months. I don’t think about him much anymore, and I can appreciate the good memories we had. The more I look back on it, though, the more I realize how many signs I ignored.

So now I’m single. I am spending time with my friends and the people who matter in my life. I’m not dating yet – but it’s by choice. I want to spend some time letting myself heal and figuring out who I am and what I want not only from my life, but also from a life with a partner. I’m learning to define what values are important to me in a significant other. There are guys in my life, but I don’t feel the need to validate myself through them. I stick with my medications. I still go to counseling. I have started attending Al-Anon meetings in my area. I’m working on saving up to move to wherever I decide I want to be. I’m living. I’m surviving.

At the end of the day, I’m only 24 years old. The last three years do not define who I am. They will always be a part of me, and I am so thankful that I was able to learn these lessons before things got any worse. Are there still days when it’s hard? Of course. But sometimes shit just happens.

I can’t take the blame for his bad behavior. My responsibility is not to apologize for him. It’s not to make excuses for him. My responsibility is to better myself and learn from this so I don’t repeat these mistakes.

I ignored the signs for far too long and thought I could love us enough for the both of us. It still ended in heartbreak. I won’t do that again.

But LORD, did it feel good pouring all the disgusting stuff from the fridge all over his favorite outfits!

My Confession

This is the story no one wants me to tell – that no one wants to hear. But this is my story, and The Band gives me the space where I can tell it.

I was always a dancer. Nothing else mattered to me. It was my go-to activity after a bad breakup, I focused on what I could do: dance. Dance became all I ever wanted – my happy place, my home. I knew I was missing out on dating during high school, but no man could compare with dance.

I wasn’t supposed to go to that Big Band dance. I was supposed to be in bed, but my friend dragged me out, still in my PJ’s with stage hair and make-up from an earlier performance. And if I hadn’t seen that guy who hurt me dancing at that moment, I wouldn’t have gone for a drink. If I hadn’t gone for a drink, I wouldn’t have tripped. If I hadn’t tripped, he wouldn’t have caught me. He was Chuck*, a guy I knew through a friend. Soon, he became my own nightmare.

We talked the rest of the night, soon we were always talking, always together, and I found myself falling. Three weeks later, he told me that he’d gotten back together with his ex. We were watching a movie on my couch as we talked, and somehow, that night, we ended up making out — he got in my pants. I hated myself for that: I’m better than this, I told myself, but an evil voice whispered, He’s the only one who wants you. He is the ONLY one who will EVER want you.

He told me tales of his horrible, abusive mother and his girlfriend. He told me he truly wanted to be with me, and, like a fool, I believed him. This is how I became the “other woman.” Three months I sat by, believing that if I showed him how much I loved him, he would leave her to be with me.

Finally, in late January, I told him to decide who he wanted, and to stay out of my life until then.

He called me in March to tell me they’d broken up. We started fooling around again and I felt like less of a whore. Three days after my 18th birthday, in April, he asked me out, and a week later, I lost my virginity to him.

Soon I found myself at college, where I was studying dance. I thought things were great between us until he started threatening me. He’d tell me if I went out with my friends, he would break up with me, or how horny he was; how he was going to “give a shit-ton of chocolate and honey to a girl and get [himself] jumped.” This scared me.

Deep in my gut, I knew he’d already cheated on me over the summer, but I ignored it. I changed how I lived — made myself sick. I started to cut myself again, fell back into my anorexic ways, and hated myself. I was only happy when I was with him.

My wise Mama saw the signs, the downward spiral I was in. She tried to help, and I just shoved her away.
One night, I asked him if he’d ever cheated on me. This started a huge fight and he dumped me. After hours where I begged his forgiveness, promising I’d never to ask him if he’d cheated on me again, he took ME back.
I became so sick, so weak that I blew my knee out. My career was over. I was lost.

Chuck was happy – I left that college and moved home. I was half living with him, and still believed that I was happy. I swore I was happy even though he never took me out, never told his friends about me, canceled dates, and stood me up. I was never allowed to have a life outside of him. Another warning sign I wish I’d noted.

Soon, I was trying to rebuild my life when he broke up with me again: “We need a break so you can focus on healing yourself. But you’re always welcome to spend the night,” he said. Now I know he just wanted to keep me as a bed-warmer.

He left for a family vacation. During that time, I was raped by someone I’d trusted.

Chuck went crazy, calling me a worthless whore when he found out. A month after the rape, after I’d begged for his forgiveness, he took me back. Not as a girlfriend, though, because we still “needed time” to heal.

For the next four months, my life consisted of waiting for him to decide to take me back as his girl. If I denied him sex, if I didn’t risk falling asleep driving from my new college dorm to his place, if I didn’t skip classes to sleep because he’d kept me up all night, I was the most horrible human being in the world. If I did anything to anger him, he would scream, telling me how pathetic I was. When we talked, he talked down to me, as if I were a naïve child, incapable of understanding. If I countered him in any way, he’d yell and threaten me.

Chuck called me right after I found out my Mama had cancer. He managed to convince me he was going to break up with his girlfriend, and we would be together again. Like a total idiot, I believed him. But as my Mama got sicker, I spent less time with him and more with her. He made me feel guilty for it, but she needed me. Just four months later, she was dying.

At this point, Chuck was diagnosed with a disease that attacked his nervous system, but I couldn’t be in two places at once. When he was high on his medications, he’d become violent with me, so I stayed away from him. He was still with his girlfriend, and I was starting to have my doubts about him.

I lived alone at my parent’s house while my Dad stayed at the hospital with my Mama. My school was between the hospital and our house, so I became an expert at commuting. My friend, Tom, would stay the night with me – we took turns sleeping on the floor or couch because I didn’t want him to sleep in my room. When I had nightmares, he’d hold me until I fell asleep.

Dad and I were at lunch the Tuesday after finals. He had driven up to check on me, and as we ate, we got the phone call that Mama was gone. I hugged him as I cried, and went outside to text my friends before going back to force myself to finish lunch. When I got home, Tom was waiting for me. He held me as I sobbed uncontrollably laying on my Mama’s side of my parents’ bed. He held me until my Dad came home, and I finally let go of him.

Tom came to the funeral and sat behind me, rubbing my shoulder when I cried. Dad and my best friend, Cat, held my hands. Cat joined my family for dinner that night; Tom was over the next day.

Chuck sent a text four hours after Mama died. “I’m sorry, hon.” He didn’t come to the funeral. Didn’t even text or call to ask how I was.

Soon afterward, Chuck’s girlfriend asked Tom if he was cheating on her. Tom stayed quiet for me. He gave Chuck, his old friend, a choice: tell his girlfriend that he was cheating or Tom would. Chuck sent the two of us the same text: “I refused to pick between you two, so I pick neither.”

This was two weeks to the day after my Mama died.

I screamed at Tom; I felt so betrayed. But the worst, most hurtful thing that Chuck said to me: “You were nothing but something to keep me happy when she didn’t. I never wanted you. I was happy with her. Why would I ever be with you? You’re nothing to me. And now, because of you and your buddy Tom, she dumped me. Thanks. You ruined the only chance I had to be happy.”

Tom had, after all, told the girl she was being cheated on.

I was sick in bed for four days after that. I stopped answering my phone, deleted all texts from Chuck without reading them – I knew he was just being ugly. Finally, all the warnings I’d gotten and ignored made sense: he was nothing but a manipulator who’d used me. And I’d let him. He’d manipulated me into believing whatever he said. I believed that God had killed my mother as punishment to me for being such a pathetic excuse of a human.

Tom finally came to my door. I hugged him so tightly and cried until I fell asleep.

Tom became my lifeline and soon I was in love with him. He treated me better than any guy ever had, he listened, he tried to help me heal. I tried to deny what I felt for my friend, but when you feel nothing but shattered and empty, you hold on to any other feeling like it’s the only thing keeping you alive. We ended up sleeping together as we tried to figure out what we were becoming.

Tom and I were still trying to figure out what was going on when he decided to tell his ex-girlfriend – one of my best friends – Jane what had happened. Jane broke that night. She told me that I was a whore and never to talk to her again. Tom left and the last I heard from him was a letter confessing that it was all his fault and he was no better than Chuck. Jane moved home after school, and though I have seen her twice, she turns away and pretends I don’t exist while I fight not to cry or run up and hug her. I love her, and I hate myself for hurting her.

Chuck is gone from my life, and my Dad forced me into therapy. I find my wounds from Chuck are still bleeding. Because of him I am depressed, have severe anxiety, am a borderline alcoholic and borderline sex addict. I am also a survivor of emotional and sexual abuse. In relationships, I panic and shut down completely. I cannot handle being yelled at and actually went off on a professor when he began to say the same things Chuck had said to me.

Tom helped me, he made me a better person, and because of him I had the strength to return to my church and my faith after Chuck pulled me from it. I know my only path for forgiveness is in God, and through my faith, I have forgiven Chuck. I cannot manage to forgive myself for the years of pain I have caused. I pray someday I might be forgiven by both Jane and Chuck’s ex-girlfriend, Gina, and that I will be able to hug them each one last time.

Maybe someday.

I pray that, by a miracle, I can talk to Tom and find out how he feels about me. I still love him. The same voice of hope that whispered that my Mama was going to be alive to help me celebrate the end of finals, whispers that maybe Tom and I will have a chance at a future together….

I wish that somehow everything will turn out okay. I cannot explain how much I hate myself for what I did; who I became. I want nothing more than to hug my friends again and to feel that something in my life will be right again. I pray and wish and hope to be forgiven, even if I feel like I don’t deserve it.

This is my story. This is what no one wanted me to say, what no one wanted to hear. But it was time for me to tell my story, and maybe time for the truth to come out.

*Names changed to protect privacy.

Ask The Band: Getting Lost is Easy, But How Do You Get Back?

I spent the last many years married to a woman with fairly severe (clinically diagnosed) Borderline Personality Disorder. I could very easily fill an entire book writing about what that experience was like, so it’s hard to know how to distill it. Here are some things I know-

-Years of being subjected to masterfully performed gaslighting has left me very unsure of all my own judgements and perceptions of reality.
-Years of being degraded and emasculated when I wanted to discuss my thoughts/feelings, being told that it is unattractive for a man to show “weakness” to his wife, has left me uncertain of when its ok to be vulnerable with other people.
-Years of walking on eggshells, trying so hard to do and say everything just right, but knowing that no matter how well I did, the next blow-up/emotional attack was always coming.. has left me perpetually anxious, and steeped so heavily in learned helplessness that I often struggle to even feel that I have any control over what happens in my life. I never used to be that way at all.
-Years of having all my contributions and accomplishments minimized or forgotten, and all my imperfections magnified and carefully score-carded, has left me with close to zero sense of self-efficacy.
-Years of living with someone who is intimacy avoidant and uninterested in sex, but being told the whole time that her disinterest is caused by my shortcomings—because I didn’t last long enough in bed, or because I lasted too long in bed (yes, both of those), or because of the stress I was causing her by me not making us enough money (even when I was bringing in over six figures a year), or because I was paying too much attention to (suffocating) her, or because I was not paying enough attention to (neglecting) her—has left my self confidence so damaged that I almost fear being intimate with someone again.
Probably the worst part, though? During the early “idealization” phase of the relationship, she was incredibly jealous and protective of my attention (which, at the time, I foolishly believed was just because she loved me so much) that, focusing all of my time and attention on her needs, I greatly distanced myself from any male friends I was close to, and completely cut off contact with all of my female friends. So once she flipped me into the devaluation phase, I was left with a partner who had zero interest in me, other than what I could fix or provide for her, and only weak remnants of friendships remained. I was effectively isolated to the point that I spent most of my free time just sitting alone in my basement, wishing things were different.
Isolation is definitely one of my biggest hurdles right now. I’d really like to make some new friends, particularly some female friends since I lost all but one or two, but no clue where to even start. I just really miss having more meaningful conversations and connections with people.
Another hurdle is figuring out how to integrate “what I know to be true” with “what I feel to be true.” For example, I can write down a list of all of my business/financial accomplishments and objectively say I’ve been successful in that area. I know this to be true. But I do not feel that this is true. I can find endless examples of things I’ve done or experiences I’ve had that show most of the negative feelings that I mentioned above are illogical or don’t line up with reality. But again, I still don’t feel that.
I would love any thoughts or advice from anyone who has gone through something similar. What worked? What DIDN’T work? How did you re-connect with yourself? How did you re-connect with other people and build some new meaningful friendships/relationships?