I am writing this because I feel it’s time to.
I am writing this because I no longer want to hide from it.
I am writing this because I want to heal.
I received a message yesterday from an ex. The message plainly said, I don’t want to miss you… but I do. I don’t want to still love you… but I do.
I was with him for five years and I left the relationship a little over a year and a half ago. This is not the first message that I have received from him and he has left unsettling surprises in my mailbox a few times.
I am not eligible for a PFA because he has not physically attacked me. I know this because I tried to file the piece of paper.
It was not easy for me to make the decision to walk in there and say, I need to file a protection from abuse. No, he has not physically punched me in the face. Yes, it was over a year ago since he threatened to kill me but I am not willing to just do nothing. I did not make a decision to leave the situation, to travel across the country to get away from him because I still want him in my life. This is not some romanticized story, where I realize later that he is the one and we live happily ever after. This is a controlling, manipulative man who misses having that power in his life.
Let’s jump back to my last couple of months in California.
Cringing as he walked through the door each night, not knowing what kind of mood he was in became something I dreaded. And fighting became a daily activity.
I busied myself with making us dinner. Eager for attention, he would come up behind me. Press his body into mine. Pinning me to the stove and grabbing my boob so hard it hurt. When I stated that he was hurting me, he would make some cavalier comment about how I was boring.
I already knew that I wanted to leave but I wasn’t sure how. My purse was stolen a few months earlier and I knew I couldn’t get on a plane without an ID.
I was tired of being told I was someone he was settling for. It was clear that neither of us were happy and I told him to find someone else, if that’s what he wanted. But “I love you” and “I need you” quickly followed after the yelling subsided.
One day, we were sitting on the porch of the old Victorian home, our shoe box of a studio rested in, and I said the words out loud. I want to break up! He looked out at the road, calmly stood up to walk inside. Closed the door and started smashing all of our dishes against the wall. I put my hands up to my face, as I started to cry. Then I heard him walk past the door, hyperventilating and a loud thud. He passed out on the bathroom floor.
I walked in. I rubbed his arm and asked him if he was okay while I continued to cry. He came to, stood up and said, “I will kill you, if you leave me.”
I believed him.
He asked if we could give it another try, and I agreed.
I knew I was done. I knew I had to leave California. I knew he wouldn’t leave me alone if I stayed.
The following day, I walked the two blocks to the bus station, from work and I bought a one way bus ticket home. I hid it in my wallet, so it was always with me. So he couldn’t find it and destroy it because I couldn’t afford to buy another one.
I didn’t tell many people what was going on. I wasn’t sure if people were aware of the hell I was numbing myself to or who believed the charade that was displayed in public. I’m still not sure I completely grasped the trajectory of everything happening around me. I just wanted to listen to this feeling in my gut, that was telling me to run.
The next month felt like I was living someone else’s life. I pretended to try but I’m horrible at pretending. He knew this. He held on tighter. Called me even more than he already did, to check on me. Asking what I was doing and attempting to be sweet. I felt like I was drowning. When I was alone, I drank and I cried. I drank a bottle of wine a night. Which eventually turned into two bottles.
How did I get to this point.
It’s not like I said, Oh, this looks toxic. Why don’t I give this a try. In the beginning we traveled and we laughed frequently. It seemed like a dream.
But you see, he used my personality to his advantage. He knew all of my insecurities. He knew what buttons to push and he used all of this as a weapon.
He saw my compassion and calm nature as something to exploit. Sometimes I believed, It was okay for his family to treat me poorly because I am calm, soft spoken and they are Italian. It was okay for him to humiliate and berate me in public because his feelings were more valuable than mine. It was okay for him to tell me that men only spoke to me because they wanted to fuck me. It was okay for him to make me feel stupid, when I admitted I did not know something he clearly was an expert on. It was okay for him to rape me, while I was yelling no because we were in a relationship. It was okay for him to alienate me from my friends and family. To treat the people I loved and cared about poorly. It was okay for arguments to end in me exhaustively giving in on my own feelings because I was tired of going in a circle.It was okay for him to cheat on me and act like I was less trust worthy. The displacement was real! And I took it on as my own for long enough.
I take ownership for allowing myself to be treated this way. Not because I want to take any responsibility for who he is away from him but I did not value myself enough, at the time to say fuck this, the first time he spoke to me in a way that I was not comfortable with. I traded my dignity and my self-respect for what I thought was love. And no that does not give him the right to have done these things but being aware of who I was then, allows me to grow from here. Keeps me from accepting anything remotely similar in the future.
A week or so before I was suppose to get on the bus, he went through my phone while I was in the shower. I was making arrangements for someone to look after the cat after I left because I knew he wouldn’t take care of him.
He walked into the bathroom, ripped the curtain open. I stood there naked, feeling vulnerable and trapped. He was visibly shaking, and asked why I was getting rid of the cat. What was I supposed to say? What lie could I have spun? Thoughts raced through my mind, as I stood there looking at him. I calmly said, I am leaving. I am leaving you and I am going back east.
I stepped out of the tub, near the door and as far from him as I could get. If I needed to run I could.
I grabbed a towel. Threw it around my body and walked into the other room. I put on whatever clothes I could find to feel less exposed and walked onto the porch. He followed and we talked. I talked mostly and he listened. I can’t remember the last time he paid that much attention to the words coming out of my mouth. I felt this rush of direct and unapologetic truth bubble up from inside of me. A strength I hadn’t tapped into in some time.
Neither of us were happy. We didn’t belong together. There wasn’t a happy ending for us. There was only this, an end.
His entire demeanor changed, agreeing with everything I said. Seemingly accepting responsibility for his issues, for everything that he put on me and for how poorly he treated me. I became this shell of a person, who once smiled and laughed frequently. I numbed myself and I wanted myself back. Nothing he said or did from that moment was going to change the fact that I was leaving. But boy did he fucking try.
He threatened to kill himself. Begged me to stay. Complimented my strength. Asked me to drive back east with him. His rationale was that we moved west together and should return east together. I said yes at first, than I cried and quickly took it back. How can I leave you and still take care of you, I said. I’m done giving in.
When it came time for me to board the bus, he stood there with me. He cried and I looked around one last time, at a town I loved and didn’t really want to leave. Four days later, I arrived in the same town I was born in. I was home.
It has been a struggle to fully grasp my own strength. To see myself through my own eyes again.
I am learning to listen to myself and getting to know who I am without being an us. The numbness didn’t go away immediately. I still felt disconnected for a while. I repeated old patterns and put myself in situations that asked me to be a lesser version of myself. It sounds cliche but it takes time to heal. To shed past skins and truly accept yourself.