The straw that broke the camel’s back
To the straw that broke the camel’s back,
When I first met you I didn’t like you, I got this weird vibe that screamed stay away. The vibe that you were not a good person, that you sucked people in and spit them back out. As time wore on, you wore me down. All the charisma in the world, the confidence had me convinced that maybe my vibe check was off, maybe you weren’t that bad of a person.
At first when I would hang out with you - it was out of friendship. I was searching for something that I had previously felt and I was lost. I dismissed all of your advances and chatter about “how I wanted you”. I listened to your sob stories about your life and how no one understood you. I was showing up as me, to use your words, "I trust from the top down”. I've now come to understand this as I trust too easily.
Then came the fateful night where I came to you broken and grieving and you took advantage of the situation. I was seeking the same friendship I had shown you but you took it to a different place. A place I had said no to before, a place where I expressed I didn’t want to go. It was as if the whatever light was left in the room had faded and all had turned to black.
You took me for an emotional ride after that day. You bounced between violent and love bombing emotional abuse. One night you were telling me that you were going to kill yourself and it was going to be all my fault - that your death would be on my hands. Weeks later, you insisted that everything was fine and that all you wanted to do was show that you cared for me. I cried many times to you about wanting to talk to people and you told me it was no one else's business. They had no right to know "how special we were together”.
You insisted that you cared for me out of one corner of your mouth and out the other side you would curse me. I shared all my deepest fears with you during that time - only to have you turn them against me. When you felt I was slipping you would bring up those fears. You would use them to reel me back in, making me feel like you were the only one that understood me or the only one that really cared for me.
You made me smaller than I was already playing. I pulled away from relationships that meant the most to me. When you punished me, I would punish myself even harder. When I didn’t act or respond the way you wanted, you tore into me. I can’t count the number of times I cried in that house because of things you said to me when I know I did nothing wrong.
My "favourite" parts were when you would tell me that no one was there for you, no one cared about you and that I wasn't doing enough to show my "love" for you. That you do so much for other people and is it too much to ask for someone to show you compassion? As I'm putting groceries in your fridge that I just bought on a night where I had other plans that I dropped because you said you needed me there.
Every time I left you, I lost a piece of me. What else did I have to give? A candle at the bottom of the glass, burning the last bit of wax until the light was snuffed out. There was nothing left to give at that moment. There was nothing left of me by our last exchange.
I've imagined so many times what I would say to you if I ever saw you again. Every time it's the same scene - yelling, screaming and verbally ripping you a part. Telling you that I think you’re a worthless piece of shit and how much you destroyed me. I imagine creating a huge scene and throwing things - just unleashing pure rage…but…in reality...I would rage on the inside while I tell you, in the most calm and vindictive tone, to go fuck yourself and walk away before you could respond. Never looking back and never acknowledging you again.
See, deep down I know that a full on war is what you would want. You would want a scene just so you could point out I'm the crazy one. How I am the terrible person. I know that because of past experience and how you thrive on it. You're a gaslighting, manipulative, narcissistic asshole and I don't want to give you that satisfaction.
I have made myself small and have had that affirmed through the actions/comments of others - that my story doesn't matter, that I don't matter. But now, you can watch me rise from your seat in the back. The girl you know doesn't exist anymore. What you did doesn't hold power over me anymore. I have shed that skin and stepped into the lioness you see today.
For I am woman, hear me roar.
Honest moment - I have struggled to write this. The number of times I've written and deleted, fully went unplugged in this and then reeled it back. A year later after finishing PTSD therapy and I am still too tired to fully rage out and say what I actually want to say. You'd think by now that things would have come to a point where I can just let it all out. Writing for a year to have people read it and starting to tell the journey to friends and family - but it just doesn't work like that. I have come to understand that, for me, raging alone and then expressing rational thought works best.
I've spent the last few weeks preparing for this. Re-reading my old journal, poem book and my therapy work booklet. I honestly didn't remember there being so many pages capturing it all. All the things I used to think about myself, the blue ink, staring back at me from the page. It's nice to see the progression of how it started to where I feel like I am today. How I used to write as if it was fiction and happening to someone else. How I used creative language to express what was going on:
The worst event tied an anchor to your ankle, flung you into the river and held you there. Slowly drowning you before you were able to break the chain - still fighting for air before going back under.
At the end of the work booklet owning my story and using direct language to communicate what happened. There's an importance of owning the story to be able to fully let it go. I feel like when something traumatic happens we use large, ambiguous terms to describe something our brain can't process. Only when we are able to fully rationalize and humanize the experience can we then fully express the incident. It makes everything more vulnerable, more raw, more....lifelike. We can paint all the pretty pictures we want but if people want the truth - they go to the initial sketch, right?
The first time I picked up the binder I remember staying awake till 2 am - feeling right back where I was when I first started therapy. Re-reading the words on the page but my brain not processing it. Just words on a page and skimming through everything, like I was in a fog. This time though, the process of reflection existed. I re-read my account of that night, I looked at the worksheets and remembered what the conversations were around them. Heck, I even chuckled as I remembered my reaction to what my therapist was saying.
There was this one exercise I really struggled with, the challenging beliefs worksheet. You have to state the situation, note where you're stuck, challenge the stuck point (like is it habit or fact, is it extreme of exaggerated, etc), identify patterns and then create an alternative thought to "debunk" the stuck point. I hated this exercise! We would spend entire sessions debating the small points on just one worksheet, when my homework was always to complete at least four. I read them now and I want to cry out of gratitude for the moments we spent on those, a little reminder of my therapists voice written at the top:
Blaming = intent + responsibility
We discussed that point over and over and what I struggled with every time was accepting responsibility for other's actions and decisions. I would mix them in with my own actions and decisions. We cannot be held accountable for other's decisions. On everyone of those worksheet written on the bottom is, I cannot blame myself for his choice. As I type this I am realizing the concept of forgiveness around this. I feel like there is no choice of to forgive or not to. One does not always have to make this choice - it's ok to just let it be. I understand this to be a point of acknowledgement of what happened, document and move on. Essentially I am choosing to let this all enter a space of purgatory for a later decision time where maybe the idea or act of forgiveness is more dire.
Over the last year, the thoughts about 2018 to present have less and less pain attached to the memories. Anger and shame transmuted to gratitude and joy. I feel like the best thing I did was to choose myself over all the pain. To understand it, learn and move on from it. Through this process, I really feel like I have let it go and am looking to the future now - to see what this new found sense of self brings.
That is what's next for me - off into the unknown...and if you sung the Frozen song, you're my kind of person.
Let's go on the next adventure!