Trigger Warning: For anyone who has been abused verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually please be advised.
I have struggled with repressed trauma my whole life but hadn’t become conscious of it until a few years ago. Last year in particular it became very present because of the mask mandates which made me have negative reactions. It took me a long time to figure out why when I put on a mask I got anxiety, shortness of breath and a loss of motor skills. When I tried to express this to people a lot of times I was told that I am selfish and just making it up. “Just shut up and put on the mask” they’d say.. “For other peoples health & safety” they claim. There was no compassion for me so I struggled to express myself and understand the root of the problem. After sitting with this for months and realizing that I am not alone, it finally made sense. My mother was an alcoholic with what I can only describe as (undiagnosed) borderline personality disorder. She would never admit she has a problem so seeking a diagnosis or help was never an option. All I knew was that growing up was very confusing. She would be really fun and happy but after a few beers she would get angry, then cry, then yell and sometimes she’d get physically abusive. I never understood how she could flip her script on the drop of a dime. She would tell me things had happened that never happened or say I did something that I never did, which always left me questioning my reality. She believed herself so much that it made me wonder if *I* was crazy? I became hyper observant due to this because I wanted to know the difference between what was real and what was imaginary. One time in particular she had me pinned down and wouldn’t let me leave. While I was under her she called the police to “turn me in” and while on the phone with dispatch she screamed “OUCH SHE’S BITING ME, SHE’S BITING ME!”… In my head I thought what in the hell is she saying that for? I am literally pinned underneath her and can’t get away! When the police arrived they split us up in order to get each story. They asked me why I bit her and I said I didn’t. Then they informed me she had bite marks on her inner arm, close to her armpit. I was shocked to realize she went to the lengths of biting herself in order to try and send me to juvenile hall. I told the cops I didn’t do that, she bit herself and they should test the dental marks to prove it. But they must not have believed her because ultimately they left and I was not arrested.
My mother would lock me in my room about once every week and berate me for hours while I’d sit on the floor trying not to let her words seep into my subconscious. She would tell me how awful of a daughter and person I was. That no man would ever love me and I would always be alone. That I wouldn’t amount to anything. I knew that if I spoke up and responded to her verbal abuse or defended myself it would start the clock back over so I had to sit there and endure her venomous words until she tired herself out. I’m not sure where I went during these hour long episodes but I think part of me repressed the memories in order to survive. All I could do was breathe and imagine that I was somewhere else just to stay sane. This trauma has manifested in a couple ways and has affected my life & relationships. Whenever I feel trapped, whether it’s in a relationship or a confined space or at a job or when I’m unable to speak, I feel like I can’t breath. I get claustrophobic and need to get away. I need a level of freedom to feel safe. I can’t even look at pictures of people in caves because it gives me instant anxiety. With masks I can handle them for a short while because I have to in order to go into a grocery store but after 20 minutes I start to panic and can’t think straight. I will bump into things and lose my whereabouts. I think the shortness of breath is partly psychosomatic and it intensifies the longer I wear them. It also changes my personality as I become angry and upset at my surroundings. Fortunately I work for myself and rarely need to endure them but I have a lot of compassion for anyone who is forced to wear them for long periods of time. I haven’t spoken to my mother in over a decade now. Mainly because I needed to break the cycle and not allow my children to grow up in that toxic environment. It’s unfortunate but necessary for my health.
My last relationship was about 5 years ago in which I met a man who I fell in love with very quickly. Within the span of one week I was seeing him almost daily and within a month he already asked me to move in with him and asked me to marry him several times. Every time I told him “no” but I did end up getting talked into moving in with him. My living situation wasn’t the best and he had a bigger house with a basement so he sold me on the idea of giving more space to my kids and providing them a better home life. My lease was up so it made sense.. We could split rent and that would save us both money. Against my better judgement I jumped into that relationship with no floaties and before I realized it I was drowning. This man was lots of fun and openly expressed his love for me but after about one month the “honeymoon” phase wore off and his true colors began to show. He was an ex-military Army Ranger diagnosed with 100% PTSD and a 10% traumatic brain injury. Adding alcohol alongside his diagnosis made him turn into an entirely different person. We would be having a great time and out of nowhere he would become verbally abusive. He was very jealous of my past life and he’d stalk my Facebook profile while I was at work then send me screenshots of pictures of me with men and ask who they were, if I slept with them and why I would leave these pictures up? He would later berate me for hours on end and tell me I was a dirty whore, a slut, a hooker and tell me that my life is an embarrassment. He’d tell me that it’s coming from a place of love and that it hurts him to know I slept with other people and that I’m still friends with them. He even got to the point of harassing my ex boyfriends online and making a very public scene by tagging me and a list of partners I previously had been with then threatening to murder them. It was an out of body experience in which case I found myself hovering over my body thinking how did I get here? How do I get out? I genuinely thought I would have to die in order to be free. He wouldn’t allow me to leave unless I calmed him down and told him everything he wanted to hear. Unless I committed more to him. I ended up deleting my Facebook and discontinuing a lot of friendships just to appease him. After all of that he just progressed and got worse over time to the point of breaking my possessions and even becoming physically abusive. All of this transpired in the span of 6 months in which case I couldn’t even see my kids because I was afraid of them witnessing an episode. It was summer time and my kids liked to stay at their dads where they are closer to neighborhood friends so they didn’t notice too much, however when I started going a week without seeing them they knew there was a major problem. I could only see them if I took them out and then dropped them back off. My co-parent was the rock for our family at that time and it took me months to finally admit what was happening to me. I will save the details of this story for another blog but let’s just say it was as if I chose a partner who reminded me of my mother. He was great, until he snapped. In my head I kept thinking he was going to kill me but I knew that I needed to keep my mouth shut & pretend to be in love with him while I found my escape route. I finally broke free when he took a trip to Burning Man and I didn’t have to speak to him for a few weeks. I got my own place and blocked him from every platform so he couldn’t pull me back in. My life was in shambles and I knew that I had major healing to do. He was my ultimate rock bottom.
Fast forward to this week. I spent years figuring out what happened to me, both in my childhood and my last relationship, reading books, processing my emotions and learning how to love myself. This year I finally feel like I am ready to start dating again. I have been on 8 dates out of my goal of 21 in 2021. Most of them are lackluster and I am very picky so I usually know after the first date if there is potential. There was one man I have been casually seeing for a couple months but he hasn’t put much effort into texting or talking to me between dates. We hung out a couple weekends in a row followed by him only texting me late at night asking what I was doing and if I wanted to hang out. I was always busy or about to go to bed so it took a month for him to realize he had to ask me on a real date in order to see me. We went to dinner and drinks which he paid for followed by going to his house for a movie after. I told him I needed to be home by 10pm to work on music for my gig this weekend. After the movie ended he asked me if I wanted to continue the conversation in his room. I told him “no” and that I need to get home soon. He said he wanted to snuggle for a while first and again I told him “no”. When pressed, I further explained that I didn’t really like that he only texts me late at night and I am not interested in being his potential booty call. I said I was being intentional about dating and looking for something more than just physical. Then I mentioned that he wasn’t the only person I was seeing and I am not trying to be promiscuous. Then he said “Wow, you just want to sleep with a bunch of dudes”… and I responded “Umm… that’s not at all what I said, I said the exact opposite”. He then said “Well you don’t have to sleep with me, lets just go lay down for a bit”. For the 3rd time I said “No. I don’t want to put myself in a situation that could lead somewhere” and he said “Too bad that you’re just the kind of girl who can’t control herself”. I started shaking and instantly got up, grabbed my things and left telling him only that he triggered me and I had to go. I went to my car and started crying but not your standard cry, it was a full blown emotional meltdown including sobbing while hyperventilating. All the trauma from my mother and my ex who both verbally abused me and said awful things like what was just said to me, was right in my face again. It felt like I was back in my room being yelled at and told I wouldn’t amount to anything. I was reliving the abuse as if it was currently happening. After 10 minutes I accidentally honked the horn as my head fell into the steering wheel which snapped me back into reality so I drove home, still sobbing the whole way and struggling to breath. I got home and laid on the floor in the fetal position for another 20 minutes crying until I could finally catch the words to tell myself that I was safe now. I held myself and repeated out loud “You’re ok, you’re ok.. You’re home, you’re safe. You don’t ever have to go back there.. I’ll take care of you, you’re safe”. Even writing this brings the tears back to my eyes.
I finally got up and tried to reach out to a friend. I just needed a warm & familiar voice to calm me down. It was late but my dear friend answered and she just held space for me while I cried and vented to her. She would take very intentional deep breaths which truly helped center me. When I woke up the next day I realized that I had my first panic attack and began to replay what happened in my mind. I realized that the trauma is still very real regardless of how much work I have done to move past it. It is something that I will have to live with my entire life and need to learn ways to cope. I also realized that what happened with my mother carried over to my choice of partner. There is a book I listened to after that relationship ended called ‘Getting the Love you Want’ that resonated with me. It talks about how we choose partners who remind us of our primary caregivers, both the good & the bad aspects. We do this unconsciously in order to fill the void of not getting the love we always wanted but never received. We think these people who remind us of our caregiver will fill the void. The only way to overcome this is by intentionally learning about our shadows and choosing something different. I came to understand that my traumatic relationship was the Universe offering me the idea of “love” from someone who might be able to fill that void. I also realized that this new man I was dating had many of the same attributes as the last and that the Universe will keep putting you in situations until you learn the lesson.
I am actually grateful that this happened and that I saw the pattern so quickly. I was able to get myself out of a bad situation the moment it happened and no longer need to fill some imaginary void with more toxic relationships. I have learned my lesson and I will never let someone treat me that way again. I have filled my own cup and don’t need a person to make me whole because I am my savior. People treat you how you treat yourself and you only get what you’re willing to put up with. Needless to say I will never speak to that man again and I don’t feel bad for leaving with no explanation. He tried to reach out but I have not responded and don’t plan to. The funniest part is that after I left he seemed so clueless that he actually sent me a text asking if I could Venmo him my portion of dinner. The dinner that he ordered and said was too much for him and wanted to share. I laughed out loud! I thought about sending him a bill for my awesome company as my time is valuable and he wasted it… Or sending him a dollar and telling him to buy himself a clue… but I figured that there is no point in speaking to deaf ears and this would make a really good blog post as it is.
Thank you for reading my blog. If you have struggled or are struggling with an abusive relationship please feel free to reach out. I have been there. You are NOT alone. There are resources that can help.