We met in the swimming pool at our high school when I was a sophomore and you were a freshman. I had just given myself an appalling haircut, but you said it didn’t look too bad. I appreciated that
We didn’t get to know each other until I was a senior, in psychology class. We both tested as introverts but were the loudest people in the class. We argued a lot, but it was in good spirits. I broke up with my high school sweetheart and developed a big crush on you. I wrote you a letter to that effect, and you wrote back and used the word “ennui,” which had to look up. I wish I still had that letter.
We went on for years, almost being a “thing” but never made it over the threshold to being in an actual relationship. We dated. We kissed. You asked me one night to help you shed your virginity, and I did because… well, why the hell not? The only other time we slept together was right after your dad died. I didn’t know what else to do to console you.
I fucked around with your feelings an awful lot, and for that I’m sorry. All those times we were “almost, but not quite” were because of me. You were smart and funny and athletic and witty and kind, and wicked hot, and I… for some reason just couldn’t be in a relationship with you. On paper, you were everything I wanted. In practice, it always felt off. I shouldn’t have kept leading you on.
I once dumped you in front of a “no dumping” sign near a canyon. You pointed it out wryly.
You stopped speaking to me nigh on 20 years ago, and you were right to do so. I was a mess, and more importantly, I treated you like shit. I didn’t mean to, but that’s no excuse.
I thought about reaching out to you to apologize. You turned 40 yesterday, and I thought I’d look you up and see what you’re doing these days. I knew you were in a hoity-toity industry and had been for years. I knew you were still in our hoity-toity hometown. I stumbled on your Instagram.
You’re married. You have two sons. Your wife looks nice. You enjoy baseball. You lost much of your glorious hair. You look happy.
I decided not to reach out.
You’ll never read this, but if you ever did– or if I can send a thought out toward you, 700 miles away– I would tell you that I am deeply and truly sorry, that I think you’re wonderful, and that I am so, so happy that you seem so happy. I would tell you that I’m a better person now, that you had a positive impact on my life and taught me the word “ennui” and you were so beautiful and I’m so fucking sorry.
But that would be for me, not for you. You’re fine. You don’t need or want anything from me.
I’m going to talk about some stuff I’ve talked about on here before. Moreover, I’m going to talk about two people, one of whom I’ve mentioned several times, and the other of whom I wrote about so many fucking times oh my god damn. I’m not going to say more than necessary about the one I’ve already said a lot about, and I’ll refer to him as “that dude” and similar. I don’t even want to use initials or old nicknames. And I’ll call my abusive ex “Mike” because that’s his name. He sometimes insisted on being called Michael, but I met him as Mike, and he’s a pretentious, abusive, alcoholic asshole, so I’m gonna go ahead and just call him Mike.
Fuck you, Mike.
As I’ve mentioned many times previously:
I was in an abusive relationship in my twenties.
Right after I dumped Mike the abusive asshole, I met and became super fuckin’ obsessed with some dude and I didn’t entirely let up for YEARS
I have Borderline Personality Disorder and that diagnosis changed my life
These three things, which I’ve ranted about at length, frame this dispatch from Kate’s brain.
I got a direct message on Twitter the other day from Mike. This is what it said:
See how casual that is? Just “hey, sup, let’s talk about how CRAZY the world is, amirite?”
He was a dick. I mean, just an utter bastard. But he wanted to get in touch! Even after I’ve told him over and over that I want nothing to do with him whatsoever! What persistence! What arrogance!
My response to him was as follows:
Other than saying “could ever hope” twice in the same email, I think I did all right! I hope you can understand from this brief message that I was not being vicious without reason. He spent years trying to break me. I owe him nothing.
The last time Mike and I spoke was in 2011. The last time (that I know of) that he tried to contact me was in 2013, when he sent an email to my mother. In fact, I wrote about it at the time. That post is horrifically embarrassing to me now, and I’ll tell you why: I was still being a creepy stalker to the other dude at the time and I kinda just… glossed that over. “We’re both members of a group” I said. I didn’t mention that I’d joined so that he’d have to interact with me. I can’t believe that was only eight years ago. So creepy, Kate. So gross.
But at the time, I blogged
I know what it feels like to be stalked and harassed. I have an ex-boyfriend who continues to try to get in touch with me even after I told him I never, ever, ever want to speak to him again So I know what it feels like to have someone from your past who just won’t go away. And I’ll admit that I’ve been a little, shall we say, obtuse in the past when it comes to other people’s lack of desire for further contact with me. But I’ve learned and I’m trying to do better. I don’t want to be the creepy stalker ex any more than I want to have a creepy stalker ex.
Kate, being a fucking liar.
I like to think that what Mike did is “worse” than what I did to that poor dude I harassed, but what I did to that guy was bad enough. I just went hunting for the time I must have blogged about all the shitty things I did, but they’re kinda scattered all over the place. If you read back, you’ll find them. I find it painful to read them now, but I’ve kept them here as a reminder of what I was like when I was sick and didn’t know it.
What changed, what got me to leave that poor guy alone (other than meeting my husband, which happened after) was my diagnosis of BPD. I found out that all the weird obsessive shit, all the dysfunctional relationships, my weird one-sided friendships… they were all caused by some defect in the way I process emotions. I mean, sure, other people played a part sometimes, and I wasn’t always the best at picking people to get close to. But most of the drama came from me.
The dude is certainly not the only person I fucked over with my mental illness, but he’s the one I can point to and say “ah yes, that sure was messed up…” There’s so much written evidence right here in the archives of this stupid blog.
I know that the greatest and only thing that I can offer him is silence. Peace. But it took me a long time to realize why.
Regardless of where the blame lays for how things ended and what happened before, I have behaved abominably since. I didn’t mean to. I thought I was right to be outraged that I’d been cut out of his life. I thought [his wife] was to blame for keeping us from being friends. I was venomous. I was pushy, vindictive, and petty. I didn’t do much in the last five years to bother him, but what I did was more than I should have. I wanted to make them uncomfortable. I wanted to be noticed. I was angry, and it showed.
Kate, being honest
I left Mike two months before I turned 27. Afterward, he would show up at my apartment, which used to be our apartment, without warning. I told him one day that if he did it again, I’d call the cops. For months (years!) he would interrogate me about whether I’d cheated on him when we were together, and wouldn’t accept that the truthful answer was “no.” He asked if I’d slept with anyone since we broke up, because if I had, he would never “take me back.” I did not want for a single second to be taken back. I’d broken up with him, and I meant it.
I moved back to California when I was 29, and the last person I said goodbye to before skipping town was Mike. When I was back there in the Golden State, I got on a pretty even keel, and I eventually realized that continuing to try to be a friend to Mike was really bad for me. As I said in my paragraphs of viciousness above, the reason he didn’t have any family or very close friends was that he was an awful person. When I told him that he was a shitty friend, and that he’d abused me terribly when we were a couple, his response was, essentially “Yes, but there were many days when I did NOT try to push you down a flight of stairs, and I prefer to focus on those.”
I have not spoken to him in ten years. I have no interest in ever speaking to him again. Eventually, I moved back to Portland, and I told our one mutual friend to convey to Mike that I still wanted nothing to do with him.
I’m certain that this mutual friend is how Mike found my Twitter. He wouldn’t have had to tell him, it would have been enough for Mike to have seen who Mutual Friend followed. So I blocked Mutual Friend, too.
I wish that Mike would have the same big epiphany that I did. There are things that I can never take back. And I can choose to learn from those things, or I can decide to stamp my feet and refuse to accept that this is my fault. And sometimes we do things, or a combination of things, that make it so that someone decides they never want to talk to us again. Whether we think they’re justified or not, we can choose to give them the greatest gift of all: our absence.
Ten years ago I was a fucking disaster of a human being. Holy Moly.
But I feel such sympathy for that fucking disaster of a human being. I didn’t know yet. I just didn’t know. I hadn’t been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and wouldn’t be for three and a half more years. That diagnosis was like a magic lens that make all the fucked up shit pop into focus.
I even wrote about how I’d get hooked on people and not be able to let go. I wondered why I was built that way. I obsessed for yeeeeeeeaaaaaarrrrrrrrsssss about poor, poor K who was, yes, kind of a dick sometimes, but did NOT DESERVE years of fucking birthday emailsfrom me in addition to me joining a Meetup group because he and his wife were in it. Even before I knew what flavor of crazy I was being, I should have known that I was being a creepy fucking stalker.
I was so angry at anyone who didn’t love me back the way I thought I deserved to be loved. I thought I was special and everyone else was cold and shut off. Turns out I was, like, super mentally ill. My shrink says all of those things can be true, I’m a special feelings princess, other people are cold and detached, and oh yeah I’m also like super mentally ill.
I see my BPD as being in remission. Like cancer. Like you gotta keep an eye on it and keep seeing your medical professionals on the regular, but you are not actively growing tumors or bleeding into your brain or anything. Woo hoo.
But there are nights like tonight when I feel nostalgia like indigestion in my gut, when certain songs bring back certain people. The only girl I’ve ever loved is a prostitute in Tucson now. The boy who went on vacation and never came back but didn’t ever tell me we’d broken up. My high school sweetheart who got married again and isn’t speaking to me again probably because his wife doesn’t want him to. Fucking Bruce who hasn’t talked to me since I told him that I didn’t really want to hear about his wet dreams through the medium of text message. And so on, and so on. My ghosts.
To paraphrase the late, great Carrie Fisher: Nothing’s ever really over. Just over there.
I started this blog ten years ago this month. I didn’t realize that before I signed in to post, but it’s a neat little coincidence.
There’s a lot in here that I find embarrassing now. Several things I’m probably better off not looking into too deeply tonight. But I can’t bring myself to abandon it, even with all the ranting about a certain someone, even with all the bravado and outbursts and so much documentation of a time before I knew what was wrong with me and how to, mostly, stop.
I have a very sturdy government job and have been relatively stable and working in government jobs for years now. I’ve been with my partner since Summer 2014, and we eloped last month at our favorite bar. I did a jello shot. I seldom drink anymore. I quit smoking. I quit vaping. I got very fat. It is all very stable, for me, and I think the me of February 2010 would be horrified at how boring I’ve become. But I’m no longer tearing myself apart, and that’s worth something.
And here’s some Frank Turner to sum it all up:
I thought that suffering was something profound,
That weighed down on wise heads,
And not just something to be avoided,
Something normal people dread.
I saw K the other day. I had the advantage of knowing it was going to happen, which was nice because usually one doesn’t know about accidental encounters ahead of time. K and his wife were at the store where my boyfriend works. He knows her from previous store interactions, and I’d seen her review the shop on Yelp… nothing stalkery. We figured out that this customer he had was someone I knew of. I’d told him the background.
And I was on my way to the shop. My car got totaled a couple weeks ago, so I was taking the bus. My boyfriend, T, texted me that H (the wife) was in the shop and I asked “Is he there too?” And he was. So. I had about 15 minutes to decide what I was going to do. I seriously considered hiding out until the coast was clear, but I thought– no. I’ll go about my day. I’m not going to hide, nor am I seeking them out. If they had been there when I arrived, my plan was to sit quietly in a chair until they left. I didn’t want to bother anyone, but I wasn’t going to hide.
Turns out they left just before I got there. We passed on the sidewalk about a block away from the shop. I studied my shoes. I expect they did the same.
I know that the greatest (and, for the foreseeable future) only thing that I can offer K is silence. Peace. But it took me a long time to realize why.
Regardless of where the blame lays for how things ended and what happened before, I have behaved abominably since. I didn’t mean to. I thought I was right to be outraged that I’d been cut out of his life. I thought she was to blame for keeping us from being friends. I was venomous. I was pushy, vindictive, and petty. I didn’t do much in the last five years to bother him, but what I did was more than I should have. I continued to write to him, even after he asked me to stop. I started trying to move into their social group (during a time when I was in the grip of the worst crazy I’ve ever been through in my life.) I wanted to make them uncomfortable. I wanted to be noticed. I was angry, and it showed.
Last night, laying in the dark with T, I told him I had a secret I wanted to confide. And then I told him that I’ve been blaming Her for years, and it’s not her fault. I told him that I’d acted really crazy, even if I didn’t know it at the time (and I kind of knew it at the time,) and that the damage done was my responsibility, not hers. And he said that he knew that I knew that. And I realized today that the act of admitting my fault, and forgiving this woman who had nothing to do with what was wrong with me and K, had lifted a weight off my chest that’d been crushing me since Saturday afternoon.
If I could say something to them, I would tell them how sorry I am. But the damage is done, and they don’t want to hear from me. And damn it, they’re right.
About a year ago I had a dream that I was dying, and K came to visit me because he didn’t want me to die without saying goodbye. I woke up really sad and knowing that this was so unlikely as to almost be ridiculous. And about two weeks ago I dreamt that we met on the street and he forgave me.
But truth be told, I don’t really think about him much. When I lost my mind, a lot of things fell away because I didn’t have the energy or space for them anymore. I didn’t have room for grief or resentment of things long past. Letting go of K was harder than I ever thought it would be. It took almost six years to do it, but finally it just sort of didn’t matter as much. Loving him carved places in me that will always exist, loving him shaped me and changed me and made me very happy and very sad. But it’s been over for a very long time.
Went out to my local karaoke bar on Friday night. Someone I used to date (long, long ago) was there, and I ran into two other people I’d trysted with previously.
It’s a small town, for such a big city.
My tendency to rush headlong into things means I have a lot of “exes” in the greater Portland area, throughout California, and all over the world. I get around, or did once. Both geographically and in the bedroom.
Only a few of these people were ever in a position to break my heart, but several of them hurt me. Most of them? I rush headlong, I get hurt. It’s sort of my thing.
Carrie Fisher once said “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Princess Leia is wise.
I don’t know how to feel truly alive if I’m not wrapped up in someone. Whether I’m chasing after someone or trying to keep them around, other people have always been my favorite way to get high. Maybe the reason I never got addicted to anything more intoxicating than cigarettes is that there’s no drug that can get me as high or as low as infatuation can.
I have discarded people, rather coldly, because they didn’t match up to my idealized picture of them. Some people I didn’t cut off soon enough, hoping they’d change. Others, I walked away from and tried not to look back. But I look back, harshly or longingly. Wallowing is also sort of my thing.
Lately I’m having all these revelations and realizations and re-realizations, and it’s exhausting. What do I do with all this hard-won knowledge? I can try to apologize to the people I’ve hurt, forgive the ones who’ve hurt me, and do better in the future. But my life is sort of a mess, and I’m lonely.
I picked up two women from the grocery store tonight and drove them to a party at their friends’ house. Only when we arrived did I realize that I kind of knew the people there, fellow cabbies, and I was invited to stay. I hung out for three hours in the middle of my shift, practicing being social. But I’m really nervous around people, knowing how I can be. I say strange things. Tonight I was mostly quiet because I know that I have a tendency to act crazy just so I won’t be invisible. I think too much. That is definitely my thing.
I feel a great imperative to be a better person than I was. I’m trying to figure out how. Addicts make amends and stop using their substance of choice. But how do you give up being mentally ill? I don’t know how to put down that particular bottle. And how do you ease your addiction to other humans without becoming a recluse?
Alcoholics make amends when they try to get better. I am not an alcoholic, but I am trying to get better. I wanted to make things right, if I could. Or at least get this weight off my chest, which is maybe selfish.
I am a writer. My experiences, almost when I’m experiencing them, become narratives. My life is a series of stories.
But I’m realizing that a lot of the stories I tell are needlessly tragic or dramatic, that every lost love either was the purest love or the greatest heartbreak or most damaging betrayal. I’ve been spinning and repeating these narratives about how I’ve never been seen, loved truly, or deeply desired and wanted for who I really am.
Part of healing will involve being more honest and less inclined to cast myself as the tragic heroine in all these stores of love gone wrong.
When I was in high school, I weighed (at various times) between 98 and 115 lbs. When I got up to 115, I felt fat. When I was under 110, I felt good about myself.
When I got my driver’s license in early 1998, I wasn’t yet 17. The weight listed was the same as on my permit (back when it was true): 105 lbs. I chuckled to myself because I knew for a fact I’d never get back to that weight again. It was a funny fiction, and something I didn’t bother to change. I had that same info on my ID (including the nearly-identical replacement) until I was 29.
This is what I looked like when I was 17, at about 110, much of which was muscle, because I was in the “best” shape of my life.
I showed that picture to a friend last year, and he said “you look like you were dying.” I responded “I was.”
So much of my self-esteem was bound up in being a pretty girl, in being thin and lanky with perky tits and still able to eat whatever I wanted. When the above picture was taken, I was barely eating, and swimming several times a week. I’d just gotten out of my first serious relationship, and I learned for the first time what people mean when they say that anorexia is primarily a disease of control. Weight is something one can control when the rest of the world is chaos. And I was out of control and, yes, I look like I was dying because I was trying to gradually kill myself.
I gained weight and got somewhat healthy. I was still thin, about 120 lbs., but I wanted to lose weight. Not much. Ten pounds maybe. But I had the tiniest hint of a belly. I thought that if i could start working out again and eat better, I’d be as close to perfect as someone with tiny tits and a shitty jawline could ever be. Of course, I’d never be gorgeous but I could pass for pretty. With some work. Here’s a picture of me and my brother, dancing to “Old Time Rock And Roll” at his wedding in August 2001:
Two days after this photo was taken, I found out that my parents were getting divorced. That summer had been, frankly, horrifying and terrible (my parents’ divorce was just the latest disaster,) and I lost a shit-ton of weight again by that winter, when this photo was taken.
But I got “healthy” again. I gained weight. I was eating badly, and kinda chubby for my weight because I was so out of shape, but I was a size 6.
Around the time I turned 22, the anorexia came back with a vengeance. I went from a healthy-ish 125 (someone described me, at this point, as “fleshy”) to 105 in about six weeks. I’d gone through another bad breakup, couldn’t eat without feeling sick, and got ridiculously thin. There was a lot else that went into it; I was doing a lot of drugs and staying out all night and drinking a lot and mostly eating bran muffins from Starbucks and drinking chai. That’s where I got my calories. My shit smelled like… well, shit. Baby shit. Because I wasn’t eating enough solids, I had diarrhea all the time. I was always cold. Shivering when other people were warm.
This is the time in my life when I really wish that someone had spoken up and seen that I desperately needed help. Some people voiced concern, but many of them just stopped talking to me because I was too much drama to handle. I can’t blame them for that, looking back. Not only was I high all the time, I was sort of a bad person for awhile. And I hated myself, but I loved being thin. I knew I was hurting myself. I wanted to hurt myself.
But, of course, when I hooked up with Mike that next winter, he started force-feeding me. I got ridiculously fat!
The way my thighs kinda… blurp… down in those chubby little rolls was a great source of shame for me. I thought I was ugly and needed to start dressing like a fat old fatty because, well, look at me! I had gotten out of control!
And as the years went by, being with an abusive, alcoholic fucktard took its toll, and when we finally did break up in early 2008, I actually– gulp– was overweight. For the first time in my life. And I was goddamned horrified.
I still felt pretty, still felt desirable… but, y’know, for a fat chick. In that picture I’m probably about 170 lbs. I hadn’t weighed myself in forever, and when I first saw that number, I honestly felt like a failure. I enjoyed the big boobs, but I promised myself that I would lose weight and keep it off and never get that fat again. Over the next six months I lost 30 lbs by dancing, eating better, and not being in a relationship with an abusive, alcoholic fucktard.
So let’s skip to mid-2012. I’m living back in California, but about to move to Oregon. Life has not been swell. I had moved to SF, got dumped by my SF-dwelling boyfriend right after I moved, and then was in a car accident where I sustained a head injury and hurt my back. I was not ok. I’d had to move back to my mother’s, and I’d struggled to get medical care, got laid off from my job, and found out my mom was losing the house and I had to move again soon.
I was, once again, the heaviest I’d ever been. 180 lbs! Holy shitballs, I was wearing size 14! I no longer got skinny when I was stressed out, I ate and ate and ate. This photo was me trying to accept myself. Trying to get it under control again, but safely, smartly, with self-love and all that shit. I thought it would work this time. I resolved to swim all summer when I got back to Portland, to get actually healthy. But it didn’t go that way. Life continued to suck. My job situation remained unstable. I got up over 200 lbs.
And in September 2013, I got into another car accident, which triggered an emotional breakdown, which triggered an inpatient stay at a mental health facility, at which point I weighed 210. My boobs were, and are, HUGE. Well, huge for someone who used to have tiny bumps where other women (my mom included, even at her thinnest) had a RACK. I was always comparing myself to other people. I was always comparing myself to myself.
Which is why I was so shocked when that guy said “You look like you were dying” about that first picture up there. Because I’d always thought it was a great picture. I longed to have shoulder blades that jutted, arms that didn’t pudge, knees that I wasn’t ashamed to show in a skirt. He said something else, too: “I think you’re way hotter now.”
My mind was blown.
Who would want a girl with this body? Stretch marks where there used to be smoothness! Thighs that rub the fabric thin on the legs of my jeans! Arms that don’t fit into some dress shirts! CELLULITE.
I’ve lost something like 15 or 20 pounds in the last few months. I’m eating better. I plan to start exercising. And after almost 33 years of a life that has been, in so many ways, colored by my shame over my body (even when I was super thin,) I think I’m ready to fucking STOP. Just stop.
My self-worth doesn’t depend on which parts jut and which parts pudge. My moral character has nothing to do with numbers on a scale. I’m actually a bit sickened by the fact that I know how much I weighed in all of those photos. Why does it matter? Who cares?
I care, I guess. Some other people might care. But what bothers me now is that my back hurts all the time. I don’t move as well as I used to. Plus-size clothing can be super cute, if you know how to shop, but mostly it’s pretty sad. Trying to buy a cute bra when you’re sporting double-D cups is… hard. They’re all “smoothing” and “minimizing” at that stage. As if fat chicks don’t want hella cleavage too.
When I was thin, I hated my tiny tits, and hated myself for not being more “womanly,” whatever that means. When I got fat, every time I reached THE FATTEST I HAVE EVER BEEN OH MY LORD I hated myself for my lack of self-control. I have always been vain, and I have always felt not-good-enough. These things are inexorably linked.
So now, a bit into the new year that followed the worst year of my life (and that’s saying something,) I’m resolving to just… be okay. Be okay with wherever I am, whatever I look like. Be okay with not being the hottest girl in the room, not having a 26-inch waist, not being “perfect.”
And I have a goal weight. 150 lbs. Because of all the pictures of my body, this is the one that makes me the happiest:
This is me at 29 or 30. This is what I looked like and weighed and how I dressed when I was happy. I had curves, but I wasn’t fat. I had a waist, but I wasn’t skinny. My boobs were a tolerable 36C. I could zip up my Doc Marten high heeled boots. And I went out all the time, and I danced, and I ate a lot of avocado, and while I still thought I was fat and needed to DO MORE so I WEIGHED LESS, I did generally feel pretty good about myself. I didn’t worry about what I ate, but I tried to eat well. I didn’t go out of my way to exercise, but I did get exercise. This is the same era when the below photo was taken:
That’s the biggest I’d smiled in a picture in about ten years.
I no longer aspire to be skinny. Not just because it’s unrealistic, but because it’s unhealthy for me. I worried about my weight so much more when it was close to 100 lbs than I do now that it’s close to 200. I was obsessed. Now I’m merely concerned. I want to be healthy and in less pain and able to move around without having to worry about throwing my back out. I want to have boobs that don’t weigh so much that they yank on my shoulderblades (no longer jutting, of course.) I want to be able to zip my Docs again, damn it.
But I’m willing to be patient. I’m willing to give it time. And I’m willing to love myself, as I am, and be kind to myself. Which is something I never was when I had a model-skinny body and turned all the heads.
I never realized how gorgeous I was, just as I was. I never realized that the prettiest thing about me was the light in my eyes. I thought that my life would be easier, better, happier, if I was perfect, but looking back, I see that I wasted years of my life and so much energy trying to be something that isn’t only unattainable, but illusory. There is no perfect.
And I didn’t write this to solicit compliments, or even moral support. It’s just what’s on my mind right now, looking through all these old pictures and feeling so very sad for the girl in the early ones. In a way, getting fat has been a blessing. Not being anywhere within shouting distance of my old ideas of “perfect” has liberated me, mostly, from the desire to be “perfect.” Because life is short, and I’ve wasted enough of it.
And, well, I think I look hotter now than I did when I was starving. Pot belly, stretch-marks, and all.
I got engaged when I was 22, but I never married. There’s a wedding dress in my closet that’s been tried on at least a dozen times but has never been worn. I had an engagement ring with a diamond on it, but I sold it five years ago for grocery money.
I spent much of my twenties with someone who said I was he love of his life and everything he’d ever wanted in a woman, but it seemed that he was determined to destroy me. Every bit of trust I had, all the love and patience and understanding I had in me, were used and wasted on him. He would reel me in gently and spit me out violently, over and over. And I stayed, and I followed him, and I put up with because I thought that’s what love was.
Until one morning I just couldn’t anymore. I woke up and I was done. There wasn’t a question, I had absolutely no doubt, and I have never missed him. The fact that we remained “friends” for three and a half years after I ended our romantic relationship speaks to the fact that I am a loyal and giving person, but our friendship died the same way our relationship did– suddenly and absolutely. We haven’t communicated since Christmas 2011, and since I’ve been back in Portland I’ve run into a couple of his friends but never him, thank god. I think I saw him at a bus stop one day; it would be hard to mistake that sour expression for anyone else.
I went to therapy today, and it stirred things up. So I’m here now in my bedroom remembering the time he got drunk and tried to push me down the stairs. The day he spat in my face as I drove us home from couples therapy. Or the time he broke the bookshelf he’d bought me the week before and some of the things that were sitting on it. The day he mocked me while I was crying. The New Years Eve when he screamed at me that I was a whore, had always been a whore, would always be a whore, and no one would ever love me if they knew who I really was.
Here’s an email exchange from a few months after we broke up:
I received full funding for this term – over six thousand dollars. Next term they are offering me over nine thousand, some if it being grant money that I won’t have to pay back. Next year I’ll start receiving money from the most recent GI Bill – I’m eligible for seventy percent, as it turns out.
I move into my new studio apartment downtown tomorrow evening. [My band] will be releasing its first album next month, and we’ll begin playing shows. My [job] is still solid.
My fucking troubles are over, dude.
[I immediately respond]
Hoo Fucking Ray, dood. Congratulations. I’m so glad to hear you’re doing well!Continue to be well.
[MINUTES after receiving my email]
Since you’re obviously around, I want to take this time to provide myself with a sense of closure.
Reading your blog over the last few months, I’ve been both horrified by what I’ve read, and also relieved – my every suspicion about your character has been confirmed, and my every reason for leaving you has been justified. It’s sad that you can’t amount to much more than that for which you’ve settled, and I hope you can gain some sense of identity and self-esteem one day through less destructive means.
I still do not want you to approach me if we happen to come across each other in public – it’s not acceptable in the least. Consider me gone forever, because I don’t think that we’ll ever be so much as friends.
I wish you the best.
So then I said:
Yes. Everything has been confirmed. Don’t you feel ever-so-fucking-proud of yourself?
Except, darling, here’s the thing. I’m not cheating on anyone, just like I never cheated on you—but you did cheat on me. I’m not lying to anyone, not like you lied to me, on numerous occasions. I’m remembering what it feels like to actually LIKE myself, something I’d managed to forget while I was with you.
Am I having sex? Yes I am. Am I committed to one person? No, I am not. Maybe I’m not living by the rules you’d like, but I’m doing okay. And no one has called me a whore since the last time you did.
In other words, honey, fuck you. And by the way, I BROKE UP WITH YOU. You didn’t leave me… you moved out and still tried to control every aspect of my life. You harassed me for months, which only stopped when I got a phone number that I made damned sure you didn’t have. You need to get over yourself. You need to get over me. Believe whatever you want about me.
You don’t deserve to be a part of my life. Here’s your goddamned closure.
Twenty-three days after sending that message saying “Consider me gone forever, because I don’t think that we’ll ever be so much as friends,” he wrote back
I’ve been seeing somebody for a little while now, and it’s going very well. As a result, my bitterness toward you has subsided significantly. I don’t know if I’m comfortable with us talking in person yet, but I hope that we can do that some day. I also hope that everything is going well for you, and that you’re getting what you need and want from life – you deserve at least that much.
Take care, Michael
Because he’s motherfucking insane.
And he did this over and over during the eight and a half years I knew him, while we were together and after we broke up. And I put up with it. I kept putting up with it. For years.
Abuse changes you. It makes you not trust other people, but it does something much more insidious– it makes you distrust yourself. And that’s fucking brutal.
The emotional and psychological scars of having been in a relationship with an abuser for much of my twenties, well, they’re hard to shrug off. The abuse fed into my long-held suspicion that I’m damaged, that I’ll never be good enough, that my love isn’t worth shit to anyone. Every relationship I’ve had since has been informed by that abuse. Every time I meet someone I care about, I start to panic about how and when they’ll let me down and how bad the damage will be this time.
The first three or four months I spent with Michael were like a fairy tale. The next four years were hell. I stayed with him in California when I could have left him easily, I stayed at my mom’s house when he locked me out of the apartment, and then I moved to Portland with him, I stood by him when he cheated on me, I took him back each of the literally hundreds of times he told me I sickened him and he didn’t ever want to see me again. I never betrayed him, I never snuck around or called him ugly or told him he should be ashamed of who he was. I tried to give him all the love he hadn’t had as a child. I tried to heal him with my own shattered heart. It didn’t work, of course.
And then I realized that the reason he didn’t really have anyone else is because he is a destructive, cruel, shitty, terrible, unkind, abusive, self-indulgent person with no sense of personal responsibility. He shut out his whole family and changed his phone number so they couldn’t find him. He alienated his friends and mine. He took a starry-eyed 22-year-old who was crazy about him and would have done anything for him, and he turned me into a shell.
I learned, I grew, I changed. I am better off now than I was then. But the scars from that relationship have never healed, may never fully heal. I spent four years of my life in love with someone who tried to kill the best parts of me, and almost succeeded. I spent eight and a half years trying to be the mother, sister, and counselor that he never had or was too proud to seek out. I am astonished that I didn’t run away from him sooner. And if I see him on the street, I can’t promise I won’t scream, or hit, or cry. I hope I’ll have the strength to just turn and walk away. He doesn’t deserve anything more from me. Not even my rage.