Crossing the Bridge

And this is where my life narrative becomes complicated…. Nov 24th. This year it’s especially emotional and difficult to talk/write about because Thanksgiving also falls on the 24th. It’s been eleven years since the first fateful 24th, but only the second Thanksgiving. Plus, I don’t know if it’s actually more prominent this year than years before, or I’m simply paying more attention but I’ve really struggled with the constant mention of rape and sexual assault in the media. It’s put all of my PTSD issues on 11 in recent months, and the holidays are always particularly rough too. I’ve been a mess. lol. I don’t know if it’s coming through in my writing, but it probably is. It usually does.

ARGH… There is no good way to write this. I don’t even know how to feel it just yet so I can’t really express it very well. Today is the 11th anniversary of the first time I felt the weight of depression as the result from my mother’s abuse. I wanted to die, to the point that I had considered taking my own life. Some one stopped me, and gave me hope. He literally picked me up off of the floor, and gave me the physical and emotional shelter I needed. In addition to providing me with a safe haven, he also defended me against my mother’s initial retaliation. He was the very first person in my entire life to stand up for me and say: Hey, this is wrong. You can’t treat your daughter that way.

He was my hero, a glimpse of hope in my world of oppressive darkness; then three weeks later he became my rapist. That’s where my head explodes and all of my words escape me. It’s always been true, both the positive and destructive nature this man brought into my life. The good times we had together were REALLY GOOD, and the bad times were REALLY BAD. There was rarely an in-between, where things just sort of became mundane. It was always one or the other. There was no rhyme or reason, no pattern or classic signs pointing to the cycle of abuse. It was completely spontaneous.

He was my best friend one moment; and in the next fraction of a second he was my nemesis, and dangerous. He spoke differently, his mannerisms changed, and his eyes lost their usual gentle depth, becoming filled with anger for fleeting moments until he snapped out of it, and he was fine again. Often times never remembering his brief rage, or vehemently denying it if he did. How do you feel about that? Like I’m not asking for my readers personal feelings, I’m asking literally HOW are you supposed to emotionally process that?

I can’t. Every time I reach a comfortable level of acceptance on either end of the spectrum between good vs bad something happens. I’ll go somewhere that triggers a memory, or we’ll bump into each other via cyberspace igniting the conflict all over again. I’m not referencing a conflict between he and I. There is a lot of conflict remaining between he and I, but what troubles me more than our pointless forever bickering is the conflict within myself as I try to wrap my head around one person being both a huge positive influence in my life, and a detrimental negative influence all at once.

When it gets really bad, there are days I wish that he just would have let me go off to die that day instead of stopping me. Or that he would have killed me himself in one of his spontaneous rage moments. Death almost seems better than dealing with flashbacks of the rape, or the time when he grabbed me by the ankle and tossed me off the bed, dislocating my hip. Or the time he grabbed me at the top of the stairs in the dark knocking me off balance, snapping out of his sleepwalking/dream/whatever state when I screamed, barely catching me before I tumbled backwards. Or the time he tried to strangle me. Not the kinky sex consensual strangle, but middle of the night, murder in his eyes, spontaneous rage strangle. If I hadn’t managed to get my knee up far enough to kick him in the ribs I don’t think I’d be here writing this. As bad as those are, the one that really gets me was the time he started trembling, flailing around before letting out a blood curdling scream at the top of his lungs, followed by “please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me, I don’t want to die. Oh, God I don’t want to die.” He was shaking, and sweating, and screaming, and sobbing all at once. I’ve only heard someone scream like that one other time in my life, when an elderly woman watched her husband get hit by a car as he was trying to cross the street. (He survived, just a broken arm and some scrapes) The other instances were violent but all over fairly quick. The last one was fifteen minutes of pure hell, and he never touched me. If all of those instances, barring the rape, weren’t night terrors? I don’t know what the fuck it was.

It is impossible to emote anything comfortably after what I survived with him. I can’t love him because he inflicted so much damage. I can’t hate him, because he saved my life and protected me from my mom. I miss the good times, and our harebrained shenanigans. But I can barely cope with the flashbacks of the bad. I’ve done everything possible to keep him out of my life, but none of that really matters when I can’t get the internal conflict to shut off inside my head. He could disappear from the face of the Earth tomorrow and still haunt me for the rest of my life.

When I first started writing about the violence, I forgave him. I still do. Even after FINALLY getting the truth out of him about the nature of our relationship. It doesn’t really matter if it was all malicious, or just a side effect of some temporary psychosis due to head trauma. The damage was the same. There’s nothing that can be done to repair it that I’m not already doing, and no reason to hang on to hatred or bitterness. I kept the damage to myself for a really long time after everything was over because I couldn’t be sure if his actions were intentional. The same reason I defended, and rationalized all of his bad behavior for so damn long. I wasn’t going to hold him accountable for things that he couldn’t control. I honestly didn’t even tell him about many of these events after he explained his head trauma. Why would I? Why would I tell him all of these horrible things that he did to me, if he wasn’t consciously aware of his actions? I loved him, you don’t use faults, mistakes, or the past against some one you love. To manipulate them or otherwise. 

Through out our time together I had people telling me his true intentions for our relationship, especially toward the end, pretty much everywhere we went. It was always the same: “Why do you stay with him? He treats you like shit. He’s an asshole. He’s cheating on you. He doesn’t love you. You’re wasting your time with him. You deserve so much better.” From SO MANY PEOPLE, I heard those words, but they never slept in our bed and watched him struggle on those nights. They never had to watch him in a panic when he thought I left him, or see him bawling in the middle of the living room floor screaming my name and begging me to stay. Which could easily be called manipulation, if it had happened in the middle of the day. It didn’t. He was sound asleep when I left our bed and moved to the couch; then he stumbled out of the bedroom screaming and crying until he really woke up and gained complete awareness. That’s not manipulation, that’s something else. WHATEVER it might have been. It was something else. Anyone with an ounce of compassion for a fellow human being is going to have a damn hard time leaving after witnessing someone they love in such a state. Plus, all of the violence happened in the very early stages of our relationship. When he moved out of that first apartment he still talked in his sleep, sometimes he had some crazy dreams, but it was never violent. Why would I leave someone who appeared to be suffering/recovering from an injury? EVERY SINGLE ONE of his poor behaviors match symptoms of traumatic brain injury. Of course all of those behaviors also match several other mental disorders, so maybe he just used his head trauma as an excuse. At this point? I really wouldn’t be surprised. Back in the day when we were together? It was easy to stay with him despite the way he treated me.

I will say, if I had correctly processed the memories of the rape instead of repressing them we never would have been in any further sexual relationship, casual or otherwise. I didn’t. I didn’t process it, nor did I have anything more than subconscious memories of it until about three years ago when I started therapy and received my diagnosis. He was (surprisingly) being honest when he said the remainder of our relationship was mostly consensual. I chose to be with him, and I chose to stay. I wasn’t exactly the poster child for sound mental health during our relationship, either. To his credit, even in the midst of being unfaithful he did try to end the relationship a few times before we finally went our separate ways. When he tried I got upset, because as unhealthy as it was I really loved him. Heartbreak hurts. Even when the end of the relationship is necessary, and better for all parties involved it still hurts. I would start crying, and then instead of sticking to his decision he’d take it all back. He would never follow through with it when we were in the same room. The only way he finally managed to end it was by being hundreds of miles away on the phone. I still cried, but he hung up on me before it got to him. So that time it stuck. Well, sort of.

Our dating relationship was over, even still he kept calling me for months afterwards. We even hooked up once. After that and so many months of going back and forth it got ugly. Much more ugly than it ever really had to be, but we both contributed to that. That’s why the woman he left me for (who eventually became his wife) found my blog. He lied to her the exact same way he lied to me, but she has her own agenda. She didn’t ignore it like I chose to do, she used it to her advantage with little regard to how it negatively affects anyone else. Which is where the remaining interpersonal conflict lies. Ever since she discovered my blog, there has been this third party involvement that WILL NOT STOP bringing up the past. I’ve never been dishonest in my recollection of the past before. Why I would magically just up and start lying now is a connection that only makes sense to her in the midst of rationalizing her obsession. In fact, the posts I’ve written really solidifying my desire to move on she’s all but ignored, instead focused only on my suffering like a leech drawn to the scent of blood.

I’m so tired of it all. I’ve reached the wall, the point in time where mulling over the problem becomes the very insanity I’m trying to recover from. With my PTSD I don’t have the ability, nor the opportunity to forget it, and just “pretend it never happened.” Even when the memories and emotions surrounding it all aren’t at the forefront of my mind like they have been in recent weeks, all it takes is one sound, one scent, one situation, to trigger me and send me right back to it. As difficult as that situation has been to move forward from, it isn’t the only thing I have to heal from. I have so much more trauma in my life to address aside from those few years I spent with that man. 18 years worth of unaddressed emotional residue from growing up in an abusive home.  There’s only one issue I have with crossing over that bridge into my childhood trauma and it’s this.

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My grandparents house, the park around the corner at the top of the hill, the memories where my childhood trauma and young adult trauma meet. The only story from my ex and his past that I couldn’t verify/disprove with the limited time and resources I had available to me during my visit back home for the holiday. So I’ve chosen instead of wasting anymore time digging around trying to find the truth of the matter, to do something a little bit unorthodox.

The story he told me goes like this: he was a small time drug dealer/gang member in high school. He was in charge of the distribution at this park, where one day as he was meeting with other people plying his trade, two young girls and their grandfather innocently wandered into the park in the middle of the dealings and he was charged with “taking care of it” by intimidation or violence. Watching these kids, specifically remembering the bright yellow sweater one girl was wearing, he couldn’t bring himself to do it, went home confessed everything to his dad and left the entirely of his criminal involvement behind.

I also have a memory of being a young girl going with my little sister, and grandfather to this park. Completely minding our own business, but feeling incredibly uneasy about a group of men doing something in the parking lot. I was scared for my life, enough that I literally ran away from this place and I was wearing a yellow sweat shirt.

My part, I know for certain is true. My grandparents really did live there, I really do remember seeing the grey Taurus Wagon across the street and the kids who came with it. It’s just in the one instance I discussed it with my then boyfriend, sitting in his car driving around reliving old memories, he related his own version of events back to me after I already shared my own. He might have been at the park that day, and he might have seen me and my sister with our grandpa and he might have been charged with the mission to “take care of us” like he said. It’s hard to tell though because he looked right at me when he said those words. Generally he only looks directly at someone when he’s bullshitting to watch their reaction. If he’s telling the truth, he usually mumbles and looks anywhere but directly at the other person engaged in the conversation. His lies are loud, flamboyant and often over the top. His truth is quiet, subtle, and if you aren’t paying close attention, easy to miss entirely. The scale of what he was involved in at the park and/or the house across the street from my grandparent’s could have been exaggerated, but there was a lot of truth there too. A lot of quiet, subtle, mumbling as we discussed those places.

It’s not a secret after I’ve published it so many times, but it will remain mystery lost in paper records and archives I have no time to continue digging through. A random twist of fate between us a decade before we wound up dating, or merely a well placed lie forever lingering with the seed of doubt. While I can’t be sure if a girl in a yellow sweater at this park started the cascade of fateful encounters between us spanning the past twenty years of our lives, a girl in a yellow sweater at this park is damn sure going to end them.

I have with me today the last picture we took together as a couple. Actually his dad took it for us at the last Christmas celebration we shared with his family.  I’ve hung onto it all of these years mostly as proof that the entire thing happened after my memories were challenged. I’ve been accused, especially recently as I begin to speak out about the violence to a wider audience, of being dishonest. In keeping it, even though I had it stuffed away in a box out of sight, I’ve been keeping a mental road block to my recovery. It’s one of the last remaining mementos I have of “us”, and I don’t want it anymore.

While I’m standing here, (with my Hubs, who’s offering mountains of emotional support for this adventure) I’m hoping that if fate really did bring my ex and I together here altering the course of his life, thus altering mine ten years later; maybe if I burn this photo I can satisfy whatever purpose fate had for us. I’ll never get any sort of validation from him, and I likely won’t see justice for the crimes he committed. This is the next best symbolic gesture I can think of. I know what happened. I know what he told me, whether his stories were entirely true or not. Believing his lies, makes me foolish. Remembering them, does not make me crazy. Writing them down, well enough to impart the captivating nature he told them with does not make me the creator of his narrative. His lies are my truth. It’s not going to change just because it makes him or anyone else uncomfortable.

So… here we go. To a purpose fulfilled, a past forgiven, and a future ahead of us separate from each other. Fate has no holds on us here.

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