This photo popped-up in my Facebook “memories” feed today. Eleven years ago in July, my freshman year roommate from Ohio University came to visit. We were taking a duckboat tour in Boston when I snapped this photo. It was wonderful to spend time with her.
I look at this photo today and see myself smiling, but remember what I was feeling; I was struggling to be good company. To be the fun person I know I can be. I was exhausted.
At that time I was trying to manage a relationship with an emotionally abusive boyfriend. In the middle of the night before, I’d driven somewhere to discuss some issue with him in person. I believe we were broken up at the time and it was a “figure your shit out” conversation. He was a broken person who was constantly creating drama. Saying he’d show to an event only to blow it off and then grovel later. There was a lot of ugly stuff that happened with him, but I’ve blocked a lot of it out, thankfully (years ago I reread some journal entries from that time and was floored by what messed-up situation it was. He said some truly screw-up stuff to me. It’s so unfortunate how, in that moment, it became normal). But basically it was the classic manipulativeness with communication, the implying that no one would love me the way he did. Blah blah blah.
I saw plain as day what he was doing and how he was never going to figure his shit out (he was a raging alcoholic with mental health issues, childhood trauma and, I learned later, a drug problem which may or may not have been going on when I was with him). I knew I couldn’t “fix” him, but I think I hoped my presence would encourage him to do it himself.
Everytime we broke up I knew it wasn’t done. I knew it hadn’t run it’s course. I knew something would happen; I’d crack the door open by responding to a cryptic text from him, and he’s kick the door down, metaphorically, making his way back in.
I was in a constant state of anxiety. I lost weight. I was always preoccupied with whether or not he would follow through with plans or disappear and not answer texts or calls. For days.
He was especially emotionally abusive during my attempts to end things. He would say things to me which implied he was going to hurt himself. Tell me I wasn’t worth much and he didn’t care about me at all. Tell me he’d always know where to find me. I was living at home with my parents at the time, and even though I knew this guy was more of a runner than a confronter, I still would come downstairs late at night and make sure the doors were all locked.
I hit one year of this on and off garbage and something clicked. I was done and that was it. I cut him off. He continued to be difficult but it no longer got to me, and eventually, he disappeared. Years later I got a voicemail from him, “Hi it’s (Sam)” I could hear he was very nervous, “I just stepped outside and it’s a beautiful day out. It made me think of you, so I just wanted to call and tell you that. I hope you’re doing well” Something to that effect.
My pulse jumped from the discomfort of hearing his voice, but it was kind enough. I felt for him and what he could have been as a person had he made different choices to heal himself. I didn’t respond.
Years later, a friend of his texted me to tell me (Sam) had died from a heart attack (code for overdose). The friend said “He always loved you the most of all, so I thought you should know” It was as if he was guilting me from beyond the grave.
I was raised in a healthy, supportive home. It made very little sense that I gravitated to him. In no way did the example of love and relationships I had in my life mirror that bullshit. It was a strange place to be in when I was with him; Knowing the whole time that I deserve better. That he was not right for me and never would be. But struggling to figure out how to completely walk away. I suppose people do dumb shit when they’re lonely. I knew all along that this was not a relationship I should be in. That it was unhealthy. And yet it still took so long to completely get out of it. But I did. And I know for sure it will never happen again. With anyone