14 February 2013
I don't often look back if I'm honest, there's not much to be gained from it but there are moments when something happens or is said and it's like a snapshot rushing up to 'greet' me.
I have a lot of happy memories but an awful lot of bad ones too. They weren't enjoyable but they've made me a better person, I try not to judge, I have a lot more empathy than I otherwise would have, I see the positives in life and I don't stress about the small things. I don't get caught up in pointless arguments and I really could not care less if the small details don't add up.
I don't know, I just see the bigger picture as a result of various experiences.
It's safe to say I am still a bit of an emotional cripple despite working on things, I hate people getting too close emotionally, I cover up hurt and difficult situations with sarcasm and black humour. I don't take people at their word very often and I please myself a lot. I push people away, if I'm finding things difficult to deal with or I feel somebody is getting too close I shut down completely and the barriers come up. There may as well be a fort with razor wire around me sometimes for all the welcoming vibes I give out. Too often my defence mechanism is 'get away from me'. I do a good job of faking it but it is always there, I've never let somebody get close enough for me to be truly and properly vulnerable, not after the first time. I've never since properly trusted somebody with my feelings and it's a vicious circle because I've often been proved right, that it wasn't safe to trust. The problem is, the older I am getting the more I am wondering just how much was my fault with my self-preservation instincts and self-defence mechanisms.
Today was a 'snapshot' day. I had a friend on the phone to me in tears because her best friend (a girl unknown to me) had ended up in hospital beaten black and blue by the 'man' who is supposed to love her.
Now I know the easy answer is 'she should just grow some balls and walk away'. Except it isn't that easy, it never is that easy.
When I was younger, too young to know what I was getting myself in to and running from problems at home, parents moving abroad to take chunks out of each other on Foreign soil instead of home ground, I ended up in a relationship with an older man.
I thought I'd landed on my feet, I adored him. Things were so good for a few months, I started to feel good and 'safe'. He was so good to me.
Then the tiny little digs started, the sly comments about weight, looks, what I wore, how I behaved, what I said, what kind of friends I had, started coming from him.
I was young, messed up from a home life that was at that time like a war zone and seeking comfort in arms I should have steered clear of.
People say 'walk away'. It's like somebody telling you to stop breathing, you believe you need them as much as you need the air you breathe.
The worse he became, the more I craved his love, his attention, his approval. I wanted so much to make him happy, I would have done anything to try and make him happy, I frequently did try anything to make him happy. The worse the verbal abuse became, the weaker I got. The more he pushed me away, the more I craved his affection. The more he withdrew his affection, the harder I worked for it. The more he criticised me, the more I criticised myself.
On the bad days (and there were many) I wondered how I could ever have got myself tangled up with someone like him but the thought of leaving him, or him leaving me, left me feeling sick, shaky and with a racing heart, in tears often. It was too awful a thought to contemplate.
There were times he threatened it and each time, I promised I'd be a better person, I'd be the girl he wanted, I'd love him more.
The power he had was absolute. He never physically hurt me, there were no physical scars or marks but mentally? Mentally he beat me black and blue until my emotions were in bits and my heart felt like it was going to break.
The names, the insults, the cruel words. I felt like it was my fault. As he said, didn't I always push him to it?
I hung on his every word, the often bad ones and rarely good ones. The 'good' days made it all seem so worth it, the high I got from him saying something nice, telling me he loved me, it was unreal. It made me feel like I could change him, like I was changing him. That it wasn't his fault that he said what he did but mine, after all, he could be nice so it wasn't him just being awful all the time, it must have been my behaviour, it must have been me tripping the switch. I must have done something to make him say what he did, to make him threaten what he did.
There were times he'd pick me up from somewhere and say he'd had an offer of another woman's company and tell me how lucky I was that he hadn't accepted it.
There were days on end where nothing seemed good enough but for the odd moment, the odd hour, sometimes even an evening where he made me feel like I was on top of the world.
It's like a drug, the euphoric feeling that it will 'all be okay', the rocketing of emotions when he told me he loved me, the heady feeling of having his undivided positive attention and then he gut-wrenching twist of guilt and upset and emotion and goodness knows what else at having it all snatched away again.
It makes you want more, it makes you crave it until it becomes the only thing on your mind. From your first waking moment to your last thought at night, the plans and ways to gain an affection that should be shown in unlimited amounts, not handed out for 'good behaviour' as and when it was decided.
It messes with your head in the same way a drug would, it's all you think about, the 'hit' of emotion when you've finally found the golden moment that makes it all okay and you desperately try to hold that feeling close and remember every single step that led up to that moment so you can get his approval again except you never do get it again through the same steps because the 'acceptable' steps change each time.
Wearing a skirt = good. I was his woman doing it for him.
The next time it would be wearing a skirt = bad. Other men were looking, I must have been doing it for them.
The constant high-low of emotions, the highs feeling like the greatest love I'd ever had for someone and the greatest love I'd ever receive and the lows feeling like I was never going to see the light of day from the pit I was in a heap at the bottom of, crying my heart up for another misdemeanour, another wrongdoing.
Apologising, promising it wouldn't happen again, promising I wouldn't upset him again. That I loved him, that I'd do anything for him, that I needed him, I wanted him.
Craving his forgiveness for what I'd done wrong, craving his affection and the aching need to know that he loved me too, he needed me too. That it would be okay, that he wouldn't do it again.
Except he always did, it always happened again and it always left me feeling bruised and battered from the inside out.
The sheer exhaustion of working for his affection and the sheer relief when it was given. This time I was home and dry and it wouldn't happen again, he was sorry, he'd never say such awful things again. Telling me that I deserved better, that I didn't deserve him, that I should just go. Go and be happy and leave him, walk away.
Except it always did happen again, he was never sorry and he knew very well that the thought of being without him was unbearable for me.
I'm a tiny build anyway but I went to under six stone while I was with him. I never ate because I was always feeling guilty and if I wasn't feeling guilty I had no hunger at all, no strength in me to physically want to eat and of course the other thing was, if I was slim then he'd love me. That my weight may have been it, even though I was far from fat I felt so unattractive, I felt ugly.
That maybe if I lost weight, that would be the key.
If I stopped wearing certain clothes then that would make him happy for good.
If I stopped wearing the perfume I loved and he hated that maybe that's where the secret lay.
If I stopped wearing heeled boots because they looked like 'slag boots' then I'd finally gain his approval.
If I stopped wearing the makeup he hated then he'd love me for good.
If I didn't return smiles to men who smiled at me then that would make him see how much I loved him.
If I remembered to call him exactly when I said I would then he'd see how much he meant to me.
If I replied to his texts straight away then he'd see how hard I was trying.
None of it worked, none of it stopped me craving the high of his 'love' and his affection. None of it.
Obviously, I walked away, eventually. It was that or end up a complete shell of myself but it was still the hardest thing I've ever done. The sheer pain of walking away from somebody who, at the time, I was convinced I loved.
There is a difference between physical abuse and mental abuse, with the physical you live in fear, you still crave the 'good man' but you live in fear.
With the mental abuse, you live in self-hatred, you hate yourself for not being good enough. For not being who he wants you to be, for never making the mark, for never gaining the glory. Because you hate yourself, you believe what you are told, the things that are said about you, to your face. You believe it all and you promise yourself you will be a better person so the need will no longer be there for it to be said.
The problem is, the drug is always there and for as long as the drug is handing out the highs, there you'll be, waiting for every 'hit' that makes it all worthwhile.
Nothing ever changes, no matter how much he promises it won't happen again, no matter how much you promise to be better for him. It never changes.
It's never a case of 'just walking away'.
I never got punches, or slaps, bruises or broken bones. I never got so much as a scratch to show from him. He left his mark in other ways and as hard as I try to shake it all off, still bits remain. The self-doubt, the lack of self-confidence, the need for approval, to know I have done okay and to know that my best is good enough. To feel content that I am loved for who I am and that really, it is fine, I am fine and I am good enough.
I swing from needing constant approval to not giving a damn and flicking two fingers and my heels as I pretend I don't care. As hard as I try to be 'normal', to not have the baggage, it always comes back.
That was my 'snapshot' for today.
It's the most honest post I think I have ever done on this blog and I was going to say that it was terrible timing doing it on Valentine's Day but it isn't, not really.
Not everyone is going to have a dozen red roses and undying love declared today so appreciate it if you're one of the lucky ones.