Have you ever had a relationship in your life, whether it be a family member, coworker, boss, neighbor, schoolmate, or other social acquaintance, who makes you feel like you need to prepare yourself for for battle every time you come in contact with them?
Perhaps they are masters of the subtle put-down, love to give sneaky guilt trips, always manage to make you feel inferior and “less than”, or simply bring out the worst in you, leaving you feeling regretful and exhausted after the encounter finally ends.
I have a meeting like this coming up soon and it has been stressing me out. While I was laying in bed a couple nights ago stressing about it, I suddenly realized how much effort I had to put into steeling myself before the encounter. I have to put on emotional and mental armor and make sure none of my weak spots are showing. I have to be strong and hide any reaction to their attempts to get to me while in their presence, otherwise it will only encourage them.
It made me sad to think that it has to be this way. It also made me realize why the whole experience causes me so much anxiety and exhaustion. Preparing for battle is exhausting!
She could never let me sleep.
That would put us
on equal footing
and allow me
to be fully awake
she would sneak into my room,
shake me awake
and cry loud, calculated tears
while I practiced
hiding my true feelings
and tried my hardest
to become a limp, gray rock
held barely out of reach.
Last night I had a bunch of nightmares. In fact, I woke up feeling like that was all I did all night – face some of my darkest fears. These nightmares didn’t feature vampires, ghosts, ax murderers, clowns, or spiders…they featured the person I love the most in the world, my husband.
In these dreams my husband turned cruel and cold. He stopped caring about me. He wanted to leave me or even kill me. The betrayals started small in the dreams, with him choosing friends over me and simply being uncaring and dismissive of my feelings, but they accelerated as the dreams went on and turned to him expressing extreme hatred towards me and even trying to stage an “accident” to get rid of me.
Let me say that these dreams ARE NOT representative of my husband’s treatment of me. We have been together 15 years and he has been wonderful. Caring, patient, understanding, loving, forgiving….all of these are adjectives that fit him perfectly. He always puts me first before anyone else, often, even before himself.
So why the bad dreams? My guess is PTSD. When you grow up in an unstable environment with mentally ill, abusive, and selfish people who often put their own desires before your needs, it fucks you up for life. You always feel unworthy. You always feel like the rug of security can be pulled out from beneath your feet at any time. You feel like you don’t deserve good things, and if you do happen to get love and affection, you are suspicious and paranoid about it. How I wish I could just forget the past.
Lately I’ve been dealing with a lot of resentment and anger towards my mother. To explain why, let me share a specific incident that kind of illustrates why I am upset.
When I was 14/15, my mother worked with a guy named Danny who met me and developed a huge crush on me. He was in his late teens or early twenties, but was definitely an adult already. I DID NOT share his romantic interest and made that plain. I had absolutely no interest in dating him or getting to know him better. He bought me an expensive bracelet as a gift, which I immediately returned to him to make it clear I wasn’t interested.
Even with my mother knowing how I felt and that I was stressed out by the attention, she actually egged him on in spite of how I felt or what I wanted. She even gave him our home address and told him when I would be home. So, he ended up coming to my house while I was there alone and banged on the door and called my name for what felt like forever. He yelled about how he knew I was home because my mom had told him so. I never answered the door or responded to his calls. In fact, I hid in the closet because I was scared at the aggressiveness he was displaying.
I felt like I was being stalked, and worst of all, my own mother was encouraging it. This is just one small incident that portrays an issue with boundaries and respecting my privacy that was even more disturbing in other ways which perhaps I will share someday if and when I am ready to do so. I know it might sound odd, but I almost have a feeling like my mother WANTED to whore me out for some reason. I can’t even describe what that did to me psychologically.
Unfortunately, I’ve faced a great deal of abuse in my somewhat short lifespan. Physical abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse. Most of this abuse happened when I was growing up and happened at the hands of people I should have been able to trust and look to for protection.
There is a part of me that desperately wants to be open about all the things that happened and purge my heart and soul of them publicly. I want to speak the truth out loud and shed light on things that have always lived alone in the darkest part of my psyche. However, I find myself so scared to share the truth and feeling immense guilt at the thought of outing those who were responsible. I feel protective towards my abusers because I still love them through it all and feel guilty at the thought of tarnishing their reputations, both the living and the dead.
Why, oh why do I still feel such loyalty and duty to those who hurt me the most deeply and betrayed me the most selfishly and cruelly? Why am I swamped in guilt for just wanting to be open and honest about my own experiences? Why must this battle between my need for expression and my sense of loyalty tear me apart? How do I ever find healing?
* Art by Maranda Russell