Every story we tell has meaning, and every story will impact our lives in the telling of it. Today, for the first time ever, I am choosing to tell the whole story of my past abusive relationship - every part of it that I could remember. It was quite difficult, actually, to remember some parts of this. Some memories are a little fuzzy, while others are crisp at the edges from being played out over and over again. It was also difficult to write because it brings up old feelings that come with these memories.
I wrote the following details out on a plane journey from Los Angeles to California. I had the weirdest feeling during that whole flight. Memories from so long ago began to bubble up to the surface, and I found myself crying, trying to hide my tears by looking out the window at the lights of the cities so far below me. I felt, for the first time in forever, that I wanted to speak openly about my experiences with Scott - and our five year relationship. I have no idea what will come of this. I don't know if it will help anyone. But I know it will help me. To talk about these memories openly, without fear or anger, but with a clear mind and a sense of understanding and gratitude (yes gratitude) in hindsight - to do this really helps me integrate those pieces of myself that would otherwise be suppressed or lost. And if my words can help just one other person, if they can be a little beacon of hope for one other being... then it will explain those feelings I got that I must share this with the ether, and the air, and the world.
I am choosing to record Scott's name here, and that was a tough choice to make. On the one hand, I do not want to create any trouble for anyone, (especially not for myself). But on the other hand I wanted to make this as clear as possible, and as human as possible. I think that by naming Scott, I can ensure that he is not thought of as some anonymous evil, but is understood to be a real human. Because the people who hurt other people are not all evil, twisted beings. They are humans, with very human qualities and human lives. Only those who remember us from highschool will ever be able to pick him out in a crowd. I have not identified Scott in any other way, only by his name.
This is a part of my story I have only told in bits and pieces, to a very few people... A few friends know the details of it. My husband knows most of it. My mum knows a bit. My family has a few clues. The outside world simply knows that it happened - that I was once involved in an abusive relationship. The true extent of the details I have kept locked shut in my memories for so long, where I visit them rarely.
Let me just clarify here: first, I do not regret that any of this happened to me. Even in my darkest hours I saw the silver linings on the edges of the storm cloud that surrounded me. There are so many reasons I think this happened in my life. Although it was hard, I feel blessed to have been given equal or greater amounts of strength to get through it. I have always been determined to learn from every one of my experiences, and this was no exception - it forced me down, deep inside of myself and my own psyche. I was alone, learning of my inner workings: my shadows, fears, doubts, resentments, anger... all of these things played out so that I could see them working in front of me and could choose instead to fill myself with forgiveness, empathy, gratitude, love, detachment, humility and so many other qualities I became familiar with. Through this, I learned to become independent, and I learned to befriend myself.
Second, you and I both must remember that Scott is a real human being. Just like us. He has real feelings, joys, pains, challenges, triumphs, and his own difficult history. It would be wrong of me to simply present this as a story with a 'baddie' - a hard hearted character that we could not empathise with. I do not wish to dehumanise anyone on this Earth. Our time together was not all terror and heartbreak, there were some truly lovely moments. As with everything, it is full of complexities, and that is how I try and present this story - with some of the complexities - the good times and the mixed feelings left in there. Moreover, I was not the best of people in these times. I was a moody teenager for most of it, and looking back, some of my own actions are quite embarrassing to remember. I was inconsolable at times, and clingy, and even manipulative when I tried to win back the love I felt was slipping away.
It is a revelation to be able to see the humanity in each one of us - to see how we are all akin, one and the same. We all have fears, we can all feel pain, anger, joy and elation. This revelation has been more helpful to me than any other bit of wisdom. It has allowed me to find peace, understanding, and a new life. I shall explain this further at the bottom of the page, where I talk about the lessons I have learned from my experience.
So, with that being said, let us skip back through the chapters of my life, till we land on the one that looks a little dusty...
Five years of my life. Five years of deep diving, gasping, drowning, trying to be OK, or at least look the part, while losing absolutely everybody and almost everything... Remaking myself.
It began one day, in a sunny classroom. He walked in. I was transfixed - there was something about him that seemed familiar. I knew him, I felt it. I remember that moment so vividly.
I fell in love with him slowly, over the course of one or two years. It became my obsession - I loved everything about him. I wished for us to be together, but felt it was impossible. He knew I liked him at some point, found out, and showed that he thought this was quite funny.
One day, he invited me to hang out with him. We meandered around the area of my high-school, and all along the valley, and over large waterpipes, and he lifted me up and twirled me around. I was happier than in my dreams. Later, at the movies with my grandparents, heart in my mouth, I texted him, the light of my phone seeping out into the dark theatre from behind my fingers... I asked if he liked me. His reply was something along the lines of "I guess so."
I was going out with another guy, a sweet young hippy who was very kind. I was only fourteen, soon to be fifteen. I broke up with my boyfriend the next day, told him we needed to talk, sat by the statue in the town center and told him everything.
Then we were together. Me and Scott. I felt lighter than air.
We would go on so many adventures, me, him and our two closest friends. Our favourite adventures always took place in the nearby golf course, where we would go hunting for lost golf balls. Sometimes we would all sneak onto a rooftop, just to sit and watch the world. I remember hanging about by the junk yard near his house and being chased out by the manager. We ran as if our lives depended on it, through the back of the junk yard, down into a river, back up again and into the trees. I remember kissing so passionately in that forest. I remember when he snuck me into his bedroom through the window and locked the door and set his drawers against it so his family could not come in. I remember the first time, my first time, and the rush to get the plan B pill afterwards, running up the hill to the pharmacy. I remember biking all the way from my property to his, one afternoon. I remember daydreams on the grass, the sweet taste of his mouth on frosty mornings, the feeling of watching cartoons in bed together, the way he taught me to make tea and noodles. I remember going to local fairs with his family, or sitting and talking with him as he cried and revealed his deepest secrets.
It began early: the manipulation. When he was mad, he would threaten to leave and go back to his hometown in the countryside. Then suddenly he would start crying and hint at terrible skeletons in his family's closet: secrets surrounding his father and sister and mother. He cried a lot, needed a lot of love and attention and care, which I gave so freely. I wanted to help and heal his heart, I knew this from the beginning. Nothing hurt more than seeing him upset.
He would get mad. At his mom, at his sister and brother, at his dog. I saw him scream at that dog many times, or push her old body out of the way. The screams cut like a knife, I felt for her, wanted to hold her like she was me.
Then he began to try and change me. He taunted me, acted disgusted by my stories. Before getting together we had talked for hours and hours on the phone, me in my sister's room pouring my heart out. He saw me at my most vulnerable. After a while all my secrets were thrown back in my face, he told me he felt sick that I had kissed my close girl friend. He also started to make comments on my clothing - my own creations were "weird," and my skirts were always "too short." He would point out that guys were looking at me and that it was not OK.
He gave me all his songs, they became my own over time. My music taste has been forever shaped by his: 80's and old style rock and roll. He took nothing in return.
He hated my mum, called her terrible names. Once, he came with us to Australia as a guest for our family reunion. My family paid for his airfare. Somehow, he got in a bit of an argument with my cousin, and ended up kicking him, then hid in a room and cried and told me all the reasons my family were bad, implying I had to choose sides. When my father tried to talk with his mother about what had happened, he ran off after flipping the finger at my poor, confused dad.
I used to go on family vacations a lot, but he would call and call and call, racking up hundreds of dollars in phone bills, asking where I was, why wasn't I with him, then laying out all his woes. While I was on one of these vacations, he wrote me a letter that hit me like a tonne of bricks, telling me he was so disgusted by my relationship with my brother, implying there was something more to it, because I had hugged my brother one day after school. I immediately pulled away from my little brother. More slowly, but ever so surely, I pulled away from my whole family.
My family would talk in hushed whispers about us at my grandparents house. They told me several times that they did not like the guy. But, as with everything, the situation was more complex than first meets the eye: my relationship with my mum was already strained for reasons that went back to childhood, and the teenage hormones racing through my body told me I was VERY ANGRY a lot of the time. With no real rhyme or reason, I resorted to blaming my family, and things would flow from 'good' to 'not so good' all the time.
Knowing that my family now disliked him, I felt like a modern day Juliet! I would sneak out at nights, and go hang out with him and a few friends in the park.
Now, if this was the end of the problems, I am sure the relationship would have eventually fizzled out and I would have moved on, cutting my losses and notching it up as just another teenage love affair.
However, it did not fizzle out, it got waaaay more intense and tangled. He began to isolate me from my friends. He had already convinced me, within the first month or so, to cut ties with a group of 'undesirable' friends, and now he began to weed out the remaining ones. When we hung out as a group, everything was fine, but when we were alone, he would point out all their flaws, their hang ups and bad behaviors, (actually, this was not unusual, as he would do this even to his close friends). A rumor started at school about one of the girls in my group because he made it up. Then there was the phone stealing. He would confiscate my phone for hours and I never knew what he was doing with it. I learned, only years later, that there were numerous nasty and mean messages sent to my friends during that time! Not surprisingly, my closest friend and I began to fight. He was overtly jealous when I would spend time with her after school, and would call and complain, even though I spent almost every afternoon at his house. Slowly, I saw her, and the rest of my friends, less and less, with my time taken up more and more by him. The straw that broke the camels back fell one day, when I decided to change some kind of plans that included my best friend to instead invite him, (I forget the details, it is all so foggy now!!!) She had had enough. We were no longer friends.
Now my only friends were his friends.
Meanwhile, we were inseparable. He took my necklaces and wound them around his bedpost. He made me think I was wanted, needed. He loved me, and I felt my life would be so dull and unfeeling without him, I had not much else.
I felt needed in a practical way; I began to pay for most of his stuff: clothing, groceries, soccer games, school outings, takeaway foods, scooter and repairs, treats, anything I could. I got an allowance of around 60 dollars a week for petrol, but my car was almost always empty. I would beg for more money from my parents and would spend it on him. He began to feel that I owed him money, if I had already said I was going to spend it.
I have calculated a minimum possible number, and found that I must have spent over $6000 dollars on him in those five years.
In a fit of madness one day he threw his phone while screaming at me and it broke on the ground in his room. Then he cried. Then he asked me to buy him a new one. This was the first of many phones I bought him. I pulled the money out of my savings in secret.
He threatened to break up with me all the time, but would get so upset if I ever mentioned it. It was quite bittersweet. I listened to so many tragic love songs during this time! In fact, part of me still chuckles at the melodrama of it all, I was a very soulful romantic, even back then. You know, there is a little bit of humour in everything.
Our days were still filled with lots of fun. Although I no longer had my own friends, I had his, and I have many great memories from this time: of racing down steep streets on scooters, our shoes melting on the brake pedals; of teaching one of his friends how to drive my car, with everyone else squashed into the back seat; of after-school trips to the river, swimming under a small waterfall, and how they urged me to jump in from the cliff just as they did. We would always be going to somebody's house to make food or play Halo on the Xbox. However, I was never able to become close with any one of them. In fact, I was not allowed to hang out with the guys past a certain time! He always told me to go home.
As we grew up, I was told to go home a lot - either to my house or his. I felt sad, at missing out on some of those adventures or parties. I remember, on the night of my first prom, I was told to go home and wait in his room, while he went to the After Party without me.
I still loved him so much. He began to stop saying he loved me.
He asked me to do his school work for him. Being a top student, I got him 'Excellences.' In my last two years of high school, I achieved more excellence credits than anyone else in my year, by far. Yet, I would have had even more, had they counted all the assignments I wrote for him. He would be so so stressed, it would break my heart to see it. Moreover, his slowly dwindling affection for me was driving me mad - all I wanted in the world was to be loved by him! I had nothing but school and Scott, and because I hardly had him I began to give everything to school. I worked like a dog. My anxiety worsened, I had panic attacks, cried myself to sleep every night for over two years: deep sobs that racked my body... But I had to stay quiet because I never wanted anyone to question what was happening.
The few times I tried to tell his friends or the girls at school what was happening - about any of it, from the normal relationship difficulties, to our fights, to little jokes about our sex life - he would find out and go bananas, effectually censoring me.
The group of guys began to take my car without asking me, during the school day. There were quite a few times when I went out to grab some bit of homework or lunch, only to freak out, thinking my car was stolen! I must say, though, they were kind people, his friends. They were always nice to me. I think they saw the way I brought him sandwiches for lunch everyday, and how I cared so much, and went to his soccer games, and helped him with school work.
At a certain point, he decided we were no longer officially together, and tried to break up with me but could not go through with it. He had lost all sense of love for me but still needed all my help and financial aid. His mom had left home, and he would call me all the time telling me he was sick or starving, or sore, or needed help. We would still have sex. He knew I still loved him deeply. He never said it now.
There were times early on, and this is so hard for me to say, I have only ever told a few people, but he did hit me - not in way you think, but he would hit me with a golf club, while I hid in fear and confusion under the bed covers. It never hurt but it scared me a lot! When he did that he had this maniacal look in his eyes, and a huge smile on his face. I talked to him about it and the hitting stopped, thank god.
But his taunting never stopped. He would sometimes chase me with a kettle of hot water, cornering me, laughing. He would talk of hurting animals, or abuse his dog in front of me. I had to give back a small puppy my mother had bought for my sixteenth birthday because he told me jokingly he was going to drop-kick it. I was willing at this stage to let myself go through such horrors but was not willing to let an innocent animal suffer. I gave the dog back.
Sometimes, when he was really mad with me, if I was acting too clingy or sullen, he would get up and push out his chest in front of him like a peacock, pushing me with the full force of his body weight, his chest against mine, and he would point one finger at the door and yell "Get out! Get the fuck out!" over and over again until I left. Most of the time I had nowhere to really go, and until I got my own car, I simply had to sit in the lounge by myself after such an episode.
I tried to share with him some of the spiritual wisdom I had learned over the years, tried to share my little stories and he told me outright it was bullshit and I was wrong: compassion was crap and loving yourself was unnecessary. He pushed all those words away like they had burnt him. Furthermore, I began to feel embarassed by my own beliefs, as if they were silly secrets that would get me in trouble.
He would go through periods of completely not talking to me, which was worse than the screaming or anger. He would tell me we couldn't talk for a week or two. Then I would retreat into my painting, doing nothing else for weeks, or I would put all my energy into school work.
He made fun of all my interests too.
He even made fun of me. Just plain old me. It began with the text messages: he would send me these emojis that showed his boredom at all my stories. Even if I talked about my day, or something I had found interesting, I would get a -_- face, and nothing else, in response. The longer the mouth, the more bored he was of my stories... so -____- meant I had to just shut up. Instead, we bonded more through a hatred of other people; through judgement and cynicism. I found that I could make him laugh when I talked badly of others. Or, if that wasn't enough, I could always make him laugh at me, if I acted silly. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and it has taken a LOT of hindsight to see the subtle ways in which he had pruned my behaviors, like a gardener carefully trimming his small bonsai plant. I acted dumb and clumsy for him, just to see him smile. Years later, when a new friend told me I was funny, (bless her, she pulled me from my friendlessness towards the very end), when she laughed at my sense of humour, I was so confused and even abashed.
He would get me to go get him things. Birthday presents for certain amounts of money, that I 'owed' him. I would owe him even if I had said I was going to get him a pair of shoes, and did not, he would equate that amount to something else. I remember a time he even got mad when I was not giving him this money on time. Once, after a particularly large shopping spree, he even told me to go return one of the items I had bought for him, while he lay in bed and watched a movie.
When we were intimate, he would hardly ever kiss me. There was nothing more I ever ever wanted than to be kissed. I felt like a prostitute. I craved and yearned for love so much it ached. All those aches would build up during the day, and at night I would release all of it by crying, it seemed to come out through my tears. I was so scared of telling anyone what was happening though, and did my best to always act normal around other people.
Then something AMAZING happened! One of his friends decided to speak out, on my behalf. This friend confronted Scott for his actions, told him it wasn't right the way he was so uncaring, leading me on. I will never forget that. I have wanted to thank this friend for so long, but have never been given the chance.
The next day, at school, Scott decided to deal with the confrontation by laughing about it, making fun of the very idea! He degraded that friend in front of everyone in the group, and sadly, I remember laughing feebly alongside him, while wondering if he might be right, and if I was betraying this person's beautiful act of kindness.
A few weeks later, during a period of 'not-talking,' when Scott had decided to shun me and things felt so bad I couldn't stand it any more, I got in my car and drove to this friend's house. I sat outside, in the car, trying to work up the courage to go inside and tell him everything. But I couldn't do it, so I drove home again.
It was at about this point that I began to truly 'see' little chunks of the relationship, like pieces of the puzzle falling into place. I was feeling somewhat ashamed and angry. It had always felt a little off, but also confusing. I could never put it all together, the way a normal person could, it was like every bad event was scrambled between all these bits of good stuff and love and pity. I felt stuck.
Now, instead of excitement I felt dread every time I got a text message. I dreaded his response to anything I said. I would ponder what to say and exactly how to say it for minutes, or even half an hour. Fearful of displeasing him, I would pretend to be enjoying myself all the time.
He told me once at school that he hated everything I did, every little thing, even the precise way I clicked my pen.
He broke up with me properly one day, casually, out by the car, giving no explanations. I was devastated. Soon I got a text telling me he was with a new girl at school - an exchange student from Germany. That night I drove to my old friend's house and told her some of what had happened, I was distraught. Then, slowly, miraculously, I began to get over it! It felt like I was opening up to the possibility of a new life! My mum helped me through this time, and my family were all relieved it was finally over.
Unfortunately, the whole thing was not over, it was far from over. A few weeks after getting together with the German girl, Scott messaged me telling me he missed me, saying things he had not said for years, everything I had wanted to hear so badly. He told me he needed me - he was bed ridden due to a soccer injury, and wanted me to come over and help out. While I was there, he seduced me. I was so mad! I told him "fuck you" and meant it! He cried and said he loved me, and that was how I became his secret lover. He stayed with his new girlfriend while also being with me. Eventually, just like old times, he stopped saying he loved me.
When she had to leave back to Germany, he and a friend took my car to say goodbye to her at the airport while I waited in his room. At this point I felt a deep brewing sense of anger, a spark that said: "This is just not right!" While he was gone I did something very daring: I looked around his room, snooped through his shelves... There I found so many tokens of her presence, and in the weirdest way I felt this kind of admiration for her - because he was able to love her, I could see her as someone worthy of love. By this point I had learned how to let go of so many hurts and had found that the pain was eased when I wished them both well. Whenever I felt grief, I would move myself to wish them both happiness. It gave me a sense of peace that kept me going. Back to the story, though...
As I looked through his items, with a sense of deep reverence and care like I was in a museum of priceless things that would never be mine, I came across a card and a few notes written between them: they spoke of beautiful memories, times when he would take her around the city on his scooter. He even showed her the proper way he liked his tea, just as he had shown me. I sighed, it broke my heart to see how he could love her in this way, that he could show up for her at the doctor's office, or make her a video as a present. He had given all my presents back, put them in a paper bag and shoved them in my car.
She was gone now though and I was unsure of what was to happen from then on. We were finished with high-school... I didn't go to several of my exams, I was unable to do much at this point, the panic attacks and anxiety were at an all time high.
When he returned, I tried to talk to him about the situation only to have him laugh at me and avoid any answers as to the future.
He still saw me.
Still asked me to teach him how to drive in my car.
Still asked me to search through my parents belongings for Euros when he booked a trip to France without telling any of his family.
Still asked me to drive him to the airport, then sent one tiny email to let me know he was ok while he was there.
This was the very first time I tried to leave the situation. I didn't know what to call it at this point - we were not labeled, but everyone still knew we were together in some way, and we still slept together and I still supported him for a long time till he finally got his first job. He showed so much contempt for me it made the fire brighter in me: the anger. I began to see everything that had happened, as if I was finally able to understand it. I knew now that I didn't deserve it.
I remember when I decided to stop loving him. I was reading a Harry Potter book, of all things, and I was up to the part where Dumbledore and Harry take the fake horcrux from a cave by the ocean. Suddenly, I was hit with this wave of emotion! I put the book down, and started sobbing, realizing I couldn't do it anymore. After four+ years of heartbreak I was so worn out. I felt like I couldn't torture myself anymore, and knew I had to give myself a break. It took me over two hours of breath-work and deep thought to finally make the decision. I decided I no longer loved him. In that instant, I felt something snap inside me, and it was done. I did it for nobody but myself, and it helped immensely.
I was having imaginary arguments with him almost daily now, trying to piece together everything that had happened, trying to understand. I was just so mad that somebody could do that to another person! Then he would invite me over and I would act normal, but behind the mask I was defiant, seething!!! I felt more free now than ever before.
I began to try and leave.
I told him I wanted to stop having sex. He agreed and then broke that promise to me, even pushing me into the act through loving words, till I repeatedly said I felt it wasn't ok, that it felt wrong. That was probably one of the worst moments of the entire relationship, and of my life. I felt I had broken something inside of me by letting that happen, like I had betrayed my own body, allowing it be taken by a person I no longer loved, and whom I had clearly told I didn't want to do it.
I met a girl in Nelson whose words rattled my life. She was the second person ever to put it straight, not a friend but a stranger. She told me that his behavior was abuse, and that I could leave him, no questions asked. I didn't agree quite yet, but her words reverberated inside me. I felt I had a tiny hand of support. A hand in the darkness. I wish I could thank her now.
I tried three times to leave...
THE FIRST TIME:
I told him the first time I wanted out - right before he went to France. He wanted me to drive him to the airport. I didn't want to, and said I wanted to leave his house that very day and never speak again. But he would not hear of it! He said I was being silly, it was my fault, all of it, and that I could let it go when I dropped him off because I had promised him. I felt so stuck. I dropped him at the airport, and to make matters worse, my mother was there that very same day. I wanted to curl up and die... I had told my family it was over, and now I had to hide from them the fact I had been seeing him in secret. I was so ashamed.
He came back and we were still friends, although barely. He still needed my help, he said, and I was not ready to let it all go, not yet. I was in a great state of shock. After years of having nobody but him, I was beginning to make a few friends: they were all people I had admired from afar in high-school. I was slowly building myself up brick by brick. It felt like a tornado had devastated all parts of my life.
We were going to the same University. I remember, he would make fun of my chosen field of study, saying it was 'fake history,' and was thus 'totally unimportant.' Everything I ever did was unimportant. We would even argue the point and he would laugh when I tried seriously to defend my interests. Inside, I became even more angry.
THE SECOND TIME:
I tried to leave the situation again. I told him how I felt and that what he had done was unfair - he went through all kinds of emotions, laughing, crying, justifying everything. He wanted specific details for every point I made about his unfair behaviour. It ended, finally, with him screaming and throwing things in the kitchen, telling me if this was it, then I could never come back! I ran out, went to a new friend's house to try and calm down. I was worried that he would either kill himself, or me and my family. She talked me through it with such kindness. I felt a bit better and a week went by where I thought it was finally over.
He started texting me, though, saying he missed me and that he didn't understand what had happened, and 'could I come over to try and explain it to him again?' He wouldn't let up. I went over, to try and get closure, but he convinced me to stick around a tiny bit longer, to finish the driving lessons I had promised him. Seeing him again was the weirdest thing: I knew him so well, his every move, his heart and thought, he was the most familiar thing in the world to me.
THE THIRD (and final) TIME:
A short while later I finally did it. I knew it would happen that day. I was excited, angry, filled with nervous butterflies. He had begged me for another driving lesson. I knew that would be the day, the final day I would ever see him. I could feel it. Every bit of doubt, every small lingering line connecting me to him was gone. I wanted to wait for the right moment to tell him.
I arrived and he opened the door, said not a word, then turned away and stomped back into the house, ignoring me as if I had arrived there uninvited. I went into the living room and sat nervously on the couch. This was not at all unusual. He stomped around slamming doors and went to the kitchen for half an hour. Then he realized I wasn't playing his game, came in and looked at me and asked why I was ignoring him. That made me happy. I think it was the first moment of true control I had experienced in the longest time. I sat in the kitchen as he ate. He tried again to tell me why my degree was worthless. I, feeling brave, told him at least I had much better grades than him, (with a full range of A+s). He was flabbergasted at that, and asked me how I could be so rude, and 'did I want to leave?' I kinda laughed. I had nothing left to lose anymore, I had nothing to give, nothing to be taken, it was all gone. We went on the driving lesson, and he got mad as usual at his inability to change gears, and I waited patiently as he cursed. Then I told him I was never going to see him again after that day, when I dropped him off. I said it very calmly and seriously. He said nothing for a while, then I remember him saying the funniest thing that has ever been said! He said it was silly and selfish of me to do so. I actually burst out laughing at that one! It was such a beautiful irony. My heart was racing but I had done it! Moreover, Scott seemed to accept my decision, and was finally ready to let me go in peace. I dropped him off and that was that. On the way home I punched the steering wheel and screamed in joy and cried and did all manner of things.
It didn't end there though. That was the last time I saw him, apart from a few chance encounters on the street. But his ghost haunted me - I was now free to uncover and work through every tiny hurtful behavior or deep inset fear or issue this experience had instilled in me, and holy shit! there were so many. They came up, like toxins on a detox diet, for years afterwards (even till this day) - thick at first, then thinning out to some small instances where I am struck by a familiar old feeling.
I remember the first crush I had after him. Nothing happened of it, but it felt illicit and exciting to like someone else.
I could finally spend my own savings. I bought myself a beautiful coat, and it became a favourite pastime of mine to save my money and go out and treat myself to special things, after years of never ever buying anything for myself. Clothes, shoes, lipsticks, I bought only a few, and cherished them all like treasures.
I still had a fear of receiving text messages for a long time, feeling sick whenever I heard that beep. This happened right up into my next relationship, when I was finally able to identify it and work on it. I will always be grateful to that next guy, as his kindness helped me to realize that I did not have to censor my words.
Every moment was an opportunity for deep healing.
I began to see my funny side again.
I had been stuck in a judgmental, cynical mindset for a long time, and unfortunately my attitudes had rubbed off - I began to see it affect my siblings. Luckily, love and time can heal most wounds. With a lot of both I worked hard to see, love, and understand those people who I had judged for being like my old self, or my old friends whom he had so hated.
I got nightmares of him, and still do on the odd occasion. In these nightmares I have no voice.
I had to deal with many deep rooted sexual issues.
One of the most obvious, but also the most difficult issues I faced was in love...
I felt like nobody could ever love me. This feeling was healed, very slowly, by my husband Oliver. I am so grateful for the compassion and understanding he showed me while I worked through this.
I still struggle with this feeling that people will fall out of love with me over time - that at first they will like me and want be friends, but as they get to know me they will slowly come to hate me. It is very hard to overcome this subtle feeling, but I know (and remind myself) it is not true. I get this feeling mostly with new friends.
Throughout those five years, and the ensuing healing period, I moved from thinking that I was doing something wrong, to thinking that I was simply unlovable, to finally realizing that it wasn't me at all. I can see now that Scott's method of therapy was to move the hurt inside him outwards, into me - and that was why he would sometimes seem so smug and gleeful when I was hurting the most. I can see it was certainly not my fault, and in some ways it was not his fault. Perhaps it was nobody's fault (where can the blame train begin or end?). Instead, it was the result of his childhood, the abuse of his father, his sister and her many problems, his absent mother, his feelings of abandonment... all of it. That poor soul. His own story of woe and ills would possibly be longer than mine. And although it does not exactly excuse his brash and uncaring actions towards me, it does help me to understand him better. Understanding him has allowed me to forgive him, and through forgiveness I found, at the end of that long and windy road, a sense of inner peace.
I am just remembering right now a small story that helped me so much: one that my mum told me about these two little souls and the agreement they made before they came to earth. If you want to read that story, called The Little Soul and the Sun, by Neale Donald Walsch, you can find it here:
In that story, one little soul agrees to be the 'bad' guy in life, so that the other little soul might learn what it is to forgive someone. In order to learn forgiveness, we need something to forgive. I know it might sound crazy, but I am actually so grateful to Scott. He was my little soul, helping me to learn many, many lessons. I don't ever have to love him again, or like him, and I don't even have to talk to him, but I can forgive him and be thankful that he gave me this opportunity to learn so much.
You see, the best method I have found for turning a bad situation around is to look for the silver lining on the edge of the storm cloud. Every terrible occurrence, no matter how extreme, can be an opportunity for inner growth and the cultivation of love and compassion. It would be so easy to stay resentful, and to hold each wrong that was committed against me in my heart like notches on a bedpost... but, ultimately, the only person I would be hurting would be myself. When I chose to see the silver linings of my relationship with Scott, I chose to be kind to myself, giving my heart some peace.
If you, the reader, are interested in learning more about this process of forgiveness, the best book I have found on the subject is this:
Beyond forgiveness, there were many other silver linings to the dark cloud of our relationship. I learned how to see others clearly - I became quite careful in my observations, as I was always trying to read his thoughts and emotions in order to say the right thing. This has become one of my superpowers - I am still able to read and understand peoples thought processes, and can thus empathise with their feelings very easily. It is often said that people who have had to heal their own wounds make the best healers.
I also learned to become independent at a very young age. Don't get me wrong, I was not independent from my parents financially, and I still lived at home. But I learned to take care of myself, in the absence of a friend or advisor. I was my own counsel and my own listener. I made friends with myself, and for that I am so thankful!!
for those who are experiencing difficult relationships...
As I began to open up and talk about my experiences, I began to realise that many of my friends and acquaintances (both women and men), had experienced similar things! Even those people whom I had known for years would suddenly share some deeply kept secret about a past experience. It seems as if so many of us are keeping these things quiet, either out of fear, or shame, or both. When I tentatively mentioned my past to the wider world, I received emails from women who were going through very similar things.
It is not so uncommon to experience abusive behaviour in a relationship. I think this kind of behaviour is much more prevalent than we have previously expected. And it is certainly not as black and white as we like to think. Hurt begets hurt. Oftentimes people who are hurt will go out of their way to hurt others. By speaking about it, observing and reflecting on the true nature of these types of actions (and the thoughts that lead to them), we can begin to unravel the cycle. It does nobody any good, I think, to simply label a person as 'a bad egg' and call it a day. Then we would learn nothing about ourselves and our own behaviour. Because, as much as we don't want to admit it, we are all capable of hurting those around us.
And this is why I am here, telling my tale in full. So you can perhaps see yourself in me, and in Scott.
Through it all, I have learned some personal pieces of wisdom that I would like to share with you now. If you do not find these to be true, of course discard them. I am no expert. But if you find them helpful, then please think on them a while...
1. You cannot help a person that does not want to be helped. You must remember, when you are trying to drag a stuck person out of the mud, and they refuse to move, you are eventually going to end up right there with them in the mud. I learned this the hard way. All I really wanted was to help. I loved this guy, cared so much, and I am sure in some way I did help him - by giving him a stable person to lean on and a love unwavering. But he did not want to change. Period. I could not 'fix' his situation in any way, shape or form. Instead, I ended up hurting myself by continuing to try and help Scott. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to stop seeing someone. It might be difficult, and you might still love them and care for their wellbeing, but you can care and love them without seeing them, if seeing them is just going to continue hurting you.
2. Similarly, you do not have to see a person to get closure, or to find forgiveness. I shall probably (hopefully) never see Scott again. But I can still forgive him, without him ever knowing that I did so. I may never fully understand why he did what he did... Honestly, I have to admit, I did wish for some kind of closure in the years after our relationship. Sometimes I wished for an apology email, and at other times I wished for justice - hoping that, somehow, the wrongs would be righted. I even wanted to go and punch him, once upon a time. But then, gradually, I began to realise that none of those things would mean anything, if I did not find forgiveness. I could receive a million apology emails, and still feel angry and victimised at the end of reading them, if I didn't change the way I saw the situation. So, I let go of those things, and chose instead to simply heal my heart, so it could love again.
3. In a situation like this, you need to love yourself, and then love yourself some more! Put yourself first. Make any tough decision that needs to be made. When I decided I could no longer put Scott first, I decided it because I knew I needed to be there for me instead. I needed the help. It might seem selfish, but here is the thing: in the end of things, it is you alone. You are the only one who will ever constantly be with yourself, by your side. You are the only one you can always, without fail rely on. If you can befriend yourself then you can learn to listen to your deepest needs. If you can listen to your needs, then you can act on them, and look after yourself. Looking after yourself is crucial in this life. If you want to be any help to anyone, you will need large amounts of energy and love to give. Think: teacup overflowing. The overflow is what helps others. I found that at a certain point I had nothing left to give... I had nothing more to give to friends, or to myself or even to Scott in the end, because I was constantly giving him a love I didn't even give myself. You will also need that self love when it comes time to walk away... and when you work through your hang ups and shadows, and when you go through the process of retelling your story. Self love helps a lot with these things - if you can be gentle and kind towards yourself then it will make all the difference, cause that shit is difficult.
4. Forgiveness is an ongoing process. I continue to choose forgiveness. Getting to this point took time... It is pretty normal to go through the motions, after getting out of a bad relationship. First, I felt ANGRY!!!! How could somebody do this to me! Then I felt a little ashamed... people asked me why I stayed with Scott for all that time. Then I felt depressed... then apathetic... and on and on it went, till I began to feel a glimmer of something resembling understanding. It was important for me to feel all of those things, and none of these feelings are wrong. I repeat, none of these feelings are wrong! But I think people can get a little lost on the way to forgiveness, and can get stuck somewhere around the areas of anger and apathy, or worse: depression. It is important to let yourself feel, but also to keep re-examining those feelings. What is it that makes you mad? Why are you ashamed? How does anger affect your life? How does it affect your body, and your heart rate, and your conversations? Do you want to stay angry? Be aware, keep moving towards love.
5. Love and time can heal most wounds. Patience is certainly a virtue.
6. And finally, one of the things that got me through the nights when I would cry and cry was imagining my older self coming to tell my younger self it would all be ok someday. I never knew when that day would come, but I would imagine her sitting with me, stroking my hair in a motherly fashion, and it helped to think that 'this too shall pass.' Now I am here, it is over, and I am she who travels back to stroke the hair of my younger self in dreams, whispering "it will all be ok."