December 11, 2012

Ephemily's Crucible

If you have to fracture your soul to create a horcrux, then I think in late 1999, early 2000, I would have been on my way.  When I asked a friend and fellow Samurai whether I should press the publish button for this post, he asked me if it was true and if it was something I feel.  I can answer yes to both questions, even if what I feel and what I remember are the ripples on the pond of the original events.  In short, I was emotionally abused as a young woman. 

I'm not sure why I chose to write about this now.  I know that I am absolutely not doing it for pity.  The idea of that being the emotion I invoke makes my stomach turn.  Maybe it's an effort to show others that even if you're face down in an emotional mud puddle, it's not the end of the world.  Maybe it's because I'm tired of carrying it around.  Maybe it's because I blame the failure of my first marriage on my being gunshy to love.  Maybe it's to ask forgiveness in a sly way for when I become emotionally flaky.  Because of all this, I tend to disengage when I'm unsure about my involvement in a person or event.  I can't say.  I've paced and pondered and chewed my lips for years asking the same question.  In the end, all I can do is type and realize that maybe I don't have to know why this time.






The whole mess starts back in the summers of 1995 and 1996. I spent much of the time I had in town running around with several of my groups of friends in between work and classes for summer school. One of these was the local BBS crowd. Yes, pre-internet, I was involved with the dial-up geeks who conversed with each other online before there was AOL and Prodigy was a BFD. We'd hang out on weekends, and occasionally have "fests" where we'd all go somewhere for a big night out, or when we got older and one or two of us had our own places, we'd have house parties. I remember one night we were playing truth or dare, and somehow, this goofy guy that was a bit of the omega of the group uses his turn to ask me out. It was something like 2 in the morning, and being young, groggy, and hormonal, I wasn't thinking clearly and said yes.

As I remember things, we spent the summer hanging out, goofing off, and being in what teenagers thought was love. It was a strange time. I liked the guy, but I knew he was at the bottom of the pecking order, and I didn't know how I felt about it. I wrote poetry for the guy. Some was flattering, some was not. Somewhere along the line, we broke up. I don't remember the details, but I do recall that it was very much a "don't call me, I'll call you" sort of split.

Some years later, after I'd moved back to finish my degree at the state school about an hour away, I remember that he'd reached out to find me again. He'd called my parents' house asking for me, and they'd given him my current information including my phone number and email address. I was furious with them, saying that they should have gotten HIS information and given me the option as to whether I wanted to reach out. They thought that was silly. What was the harm in giving out a phone number?

How fateful that ended up being.

Somehow we ended up dating again. I'm sure I fell for the whole "But baby, I've changed!" line. We spent a few months commuting back and forth to each others' places, but that was short lived. Since I was still in school and he was trying to get out from under an apartment he couldn't afford, we shacked up in my place once his lease was up. His commute was an hour each way, which wasn't ideal. But hey, the bargain we'd struck was that I'd pay rent and he'd pay utilities, so in the long run, he was getting a pretty affordable place to live on top of the fact that we fucked like bunnies. (By the time I moved out, the bedroom smelled like a combination of lust and the clean rain candles I bought from Pier 1.)

I remember very little about our actual life together. I remember the headache from "My food's too loud!". I remember him getting his first paycheck from his new job and skipping through downtown as we were going to go see a movie (Tarzan, I believe.). I remember telling him I should drive where we were going since I wasn't a drinker and couldn't, at the time, drive a stick. I remember seeing the Matrix and J Medicine Hat together. (Which that night alone is worth a story. Yeesh.) I remember the days we couldn't keep our hands off each other and lost entire weekends to our hormones. Beyond that, it's a bit eroded by time.

Though, were it possible, I would go back in time and choke out a younger me for not kicking the Doofus to the curb for:

Calling me by the wrong name during sex
Falling asleep during sex (same session. Or rather series of sessions. I'll cop to wearing him out.)
Keeping the period stained boxers from our first sexual encounter for years after we originally split.

Had any of those things been enough for me to send the guy home with the Ephemily the home game consolation prize, my world would be very different today. (Yes yes. What are red flags for most people are eccentricities for me. I'm learning how to spot the genuinely crazy.)

What I do remember is the breakups. Yes, plural. Somehow, it seemed like a good idea to break up and get back together over and over and over. Years later, I would call what we had a fatal binary star system where one personality would siphon the life from the other in a spiral to the death.

Our first breakup while we were living together was epic. I mean explosive, tear-soked, possession distance hurling, phone cord ripping, reality TV worthy performances of love gone wrong. Apparently, his resentment for me had been growing steadily, and one Friday he came home very, very late with nary a word as to why or that I shouldn't wait up. We barely spoke that night, and that alone put me on the defensive. The next morning, as I remember, he dropped the breakup bomb in the living room. He was thinking about moving out and calling it quits. I begged him to give it some thought. I shoved my cell phone in his hands and asked him to take it and do some soul searching. Four very panic-ridden hours later, he comes home and says he still wants to leave. That's when the fireworks started.

I remember very little of the details, only that it was perhaps the day I would point to if anyone asked me when I can remember being on my very worst behavior. I remember locking him out of the apartment when he went out to call his grandmother to come help him get his stuff. When I realized that he could still use the phone, I yanked the cord out of the wall so hard that I took some of the plaster with it. I remember taking one of his hand painted warhammer figurines and hurling it off the second story balcony so I could be sure that he felt at least some measure of the pain he was making me feel, albeit, misdirected. I remember both sets of parents coming to keep the peace the following weekend as he moved his belongings from my apartment into the back of their vehicles for the long drive home.  His vehicle, I might add, that I’d given him the down payment for, couldn't hold it all.

For weeks, if not months, I refused to leave the house for anything other than work or school. I begged to be given extra duties at my job so I could have something to keep my hands and mind busy.  I didn't want to have the time to think and be alone with the noise in my head and the pain my heart. I remember being so emotionally unhinged that my body followed suit and having some of the worst stomach problems of my life. I will forever be thankful to my friend and neighbor quite literally fireman carrying me out to his car to drag me to go see the South Park movie because he was tired of hearing me randomly start bawling through the wall our apartments shared. If I could express how much I wish I would have listened to my friends that told me not to go back, that it never works the second time around, I would. You were right. But the heart wants what it wants, and usually overpowers the brain.

And somehow, we did this at LEAST three more times.

The second time he decided to dump me, he did it in the parking lot of his job.  He was in a time crunch, had a project due.  I will believe until my dying breath that was the reason for what he told me while sitting in my car was so he’d drive me away as quickly as possible so he could get back to work.   I was a gnat and he wanted to use a large newspaper on me.

A couple of the things he confessed to were that he enjoyed golden showers and had fantasies of taking it up the ass from other men.  Bear in mind that one of the things he told me the first time we split was that he would get so anxious about coming home to me that he’d have to stop for a breather in the rest stops between on the highway on the way home.  These were notorious for being rendezvous points for illicit gay trysts.  I had assumed we were exclusive, and since I was on depo provera at the time, we weren’t using condoms.  I was so thrown for a loop at the idea that there might have been more to what he was telling me that I made an appointment for a full battery of STD checks the following week.  Thankfully, I came back clean.  But, that was the scariest week of my life.

I think it was about that time when both of us realized we were sick.  I’d long thought that I’d been suffering from depression, but wasn’t able to find a doctor who could ask the right questions to get past the veneer of wanting to please and pretend to be happy.  I was so good at the act that I’d fooled 5 different therapists, even when I was trying to tell them that something was wrong.  Thankfully, I finally found my resolution.  I was part of a medical study that eventually brought Celexa to the market.  While I spent my time recovering from heartbreak and a fractured mind (Let me tell you, being a rational person with a mental disease makes for a noise echo chamber in your head.  There are two voices, the rational and the emotional, and they tend to stage cage fights over the weirdest shit.) he spent some time in the care of a priest with an MD in his name.  When I reached out to ask how he was doing, he recoiled and treated me like a leper.  

It was hard to hear that he wasn’t sure why we were together because we had nothing in common.  (We were both in IT then and still are now.  We’re both textbook geeks, and even in adulthood, we share common friends, though we never interact.)  I remember being told that I shouldn’t ask for affection because my wanting to put my head on his shoulders was too clingy.  I remember being told that I wasn’t going to meet his friends because he wasn’t sure how to explain me.  When eventually I started feeling like I was more an accessory, or a dirty little secret, I pulled away again.

What finally did our existing in each other’s universe in was the day he reached out to me to keep him from committing suicide.  I hadn’t spoken to him in probably a year.  The fact that he’d fathered a child while we were still “talking” with a woman he said he wasn’t even all that fond of (she was apparently loud, and had bad teeth, if memory serves.) wasn’t apparently enough of an embarrassment to him to keep him from showing his face in my life again.  Instead, he reached out, asking for help from me because he knew I’d been through similar dark days and was on a first name basis with my demons.  He came right out and said it.  He’d spent many an evening planning and researching how he’d do himself in.  He was considering suicide and wanted me to convince him not to do it.  He wanted me to throw him a rope and pull him back from the edge.  Use that fireman’s carry that I’d had used on me.

And I am proudly the asshole that told him to get stuffed.

Perhaps it wasn’t the most graceful of methods to write him a letter.  I’ll admit to that.  But, when you’re 22 and still emotionally and mentally fragile, it was easier to get the words out on paper than it was to say them live.  Easier to stand by the convictions you should have had for several years when you don’t have to deflect the objections or listen to the pleading.  Much like Bambi’s first experience with a frozen pond, I knew where my legs were, but was having problems keeping them under me.  I said it, but it was at arm’s length.

I’ve kept that letter all these years.  Originally written on my PowerMac 8500 and composed in my apartment on J street, a  stone’s throw from the state capital, these words were strung together a lifetime ago.  I keep it because I want to remember that even when I’ve had the weight of a building dropped on my back, and feel like I’ll never find my voice, my worth, or my sanity again, I have already done it once.  It just gets easier the second, third, and fourth time.

I suppose if we’re counting, my alter ego that writes this blog was conceived of these words.  There is stern compassion and rabid self-preservation from a woman held together with bailing wire, chewing gum, and a little bit of Zoloft.  To this day, I want to hug that frightened dove and show her that there’s a eagle’s perch for her in the near future. The scars she’ll take from this are less shameful than they are a badge of honor.  That coming through a slow and steady degradation and emotional abuse that would have ruined others, it only tempered her steele and tested her mettle.  That young woman still takes my breath away.

For your reading pleasure, I give you my Dear John Opus.  (I’ve substituted Doofus for his actual name.  It’s perhaps the kindest of epithets I can call the guy.)

Doofus,

             I don’t even know where to begin Doofus, there are so many things to be said, and so many avenues to pursue.  I suppose the best place to start is in the beginning, and for me the beginning starts around last February.

             I had just taken the first step towards getting well, and I thought that you and I were on our way towards a healthy relationship.  I knew that I was sick, and I wanted to do something about it.  I figured that it would be fastest to go thought the drug study.   I was very lucky to have a study psychiatrist that I clicked with, and he seems to really care about seeing me get better.  The way I remember that, it didn’t seem to matter to you whether or not I needed you during the time that I was healing.  It was all about you and what you needed.  The really sick thing is that, even in my condition, I would have done anything you wanted me to if it would have meant that you would have stayed with me.  I also was able to see where you were in pain as well.  I saw much of myself in you, and it worried me.  Still, at the time I wasn’t what you wanted, even if I needed you very badly.

             So, you left, and it was up to me to help myself.  I started to get stronger.  I found myself smiling more, and I enjoyed leaving my apartment just to go to the store or the bank.  In only a few short months, I was feeling myself coming out of a fog, and I liked it!  I felt good about myself as a person, I was getting to know my friends better, and I started to enjoy life for what it is, even if it’s nothing special.  I was able to sit through a full day at work, read an entire novel without losing track of the plot, and I was able to take out the garbage in less than 5 hours.  I was still shaky, but I was confident in myself.  I could feel the woman I remembered myself being under the surface, and I knew that I would soon be her again.  I felt bad about the way I had acted previously, and I was lonely because I missed you very badly.

             You and I both remember how last time went.  We talked for a couple e-mails, and then you came down here.  You told me about being a father, and I didn’t run away.  You told me about your strange sexual fetishes, you said that we were dating on two different occasions, and never mentioned that you were seeing Mandy that night when we made love.  I said I would be there for you.  I wrote to you every day just to say hello and see how you were doing.  I went to parties with your friends and respected you when you said that you shouldn’t come down to my place after the night at Nikki’s because you were still seeing Mandy.  I could have insisted and satisfied my own wishes, but I knew that would only make it harder for you.  I made sure that my cell phone was an Omaha number so you could call me any time you needed me.  I told you that you could use my apartment if you needed to get away, and that I would even find another place to be if you needed to be alone.  I even thought about, and sought after another job in Omaha just to make everything easier on you.  I barely asked for anything in return.  I asked to be respected, I asked to be a part of your life, and I asked to be a special someone to you.  I was denied all of these things.

             Instead, you decided that dating wasn’t an option.  You told me that you didn’t like the way I dressed.  You don’t like jazz, what I eat, and told me I was too touchy.  You didn’t like the fact that I snuggled up during the suspenseful parts of a movie, wouldn’t answer questions I asked you, and refused to both take me seriously and respond to my e-mail, voice mail, and pages.  You lied to me about cheating on me just to get me to leave you.  Heck, just to get me to leave the parking lot.  You were dumping me flat on my ass when I needed you, again, and all you cared about was getting back to work so you could get your project done.  When I was concerned about you and trying my best to give you what I thought you wanted and needed, you chased me off.  When I asked about how your first appointment with your shrink went, you refused to answer citing doctor patient privilege, as if I was giving you the third degree.  You mentioned once that you used a message service while you were at work, but never bothered to give me your nickname.  You never bothered to give me your new phone number, or your new address.  I only know where you are from the one time I was over there for the party.  Even when you called me your friend you never treated me like one.

             I can’t forget two things.  The first being the phrase you said to me the first time you left.  “I don’t owe you anything” 9 months of living together, living off me to some extent, and you didn’t owe me anything.  I bent over backwards for you Doofus, even then.  I was going against my family by living with you.  You had a good deal not having to pay rent, only having to pay the bills.  And remember who it was that gave you the downpayment for your car.

             I also can’t help but hearing in my head every time I think about you the words you said to me when I was begging you to give me another chance even though it was you that was acting out.  You said to me “I always do”.  Doofus, I don’t need your approval anymore.  I don’t need your forgiveness for the things that you do to piss me off.

             I also wonder how much of it was truth, and how much of it was you just playing games with me when you talked about your sexual fetishes.  I had never heard you mention the fact that you were turned on by women and animals, golden showers, and you being anally penetrated.  I, to this day, wonder if you were trying to find something that would get me to throw you out of my apartment.

When I stopped hearing from you, I figured it was forever, and tried to get some sleep. I started going out with friends, solidifying the existing friendships that I have, and even making some new ones.  I gave up on moving to Omaha because I wasn’t going to make anything easier for you to screw up again.  Yes, I disliked my job at the time, but my reasons for moving to Omaha were strictly so we could be closer than 50 miles apart.  That is the extent to which I would have sacrificed for you.  I would have given up a job, an apartment I love, my friends, and any stability in my life for you just to make your life easier.  I’m glad I stayed here.  I’m working out 5 nights a week, I have a social life, and my job is really picking up.

I don’t know what to tell you Doofus, partially because I don’t know what to think of you, your begging for friendship, or what I want to do about it.  I am of three minds on the subject.

The first part of me wants to believe that this is all part of your sickness, because I’ve been there.  I want to be able to be there, and to take whatever you dish out and deal with it privately and show you a strong face to help you with your problems.  I feel that I have it together enough to be able to do that.   I would love to make an extra key for you so you could come use my place as a sort of sanctuary.  I would love to be there for you when you need someone.  I know I desperately needed that.  I would love to just be able to turn the other cheek and forget all the times you have hurt me and write them off as you being sick, that you really didn’t mean it.  I would love for you to be able to look at me as a beacon of hope, that life can get better.  I want to believe that you can learn to be a better friend, to really mean it when you say you’re sorry, and make it a point to treat me better in the future when you’re well.  But Doofus, it’s been three years of eating the pain and trying to hold it all together.  I’m road-weary.  I’m tired of hoping this time is the time that we can keep it together and respect each other like we should.  I’m tired of you acting on impulses, saying that you don’t want me around one week and then realizing that you need me the next.  I can’t take it, it dents my self-esteem and sends me too many messages.

The second part of me wants to just rip you to shreds.  I want payback for all the times that I have been hurt, stepped on, and ignored. I know very well that you’re at your lowest, and anything that I do now would hurt even more.  I could come back on the pretense of being a friend and then just be a bitch.  Boss you around, tell you what a failure you are, how nothing that you’re doing is making it any better, that your life is going to suck forever, and that I’m the best you’re ever going to get.  It’s tempting, very tempting.  But I can’t.

The last part of me wants to laugh you off and go on with life.

That’s where I’m at now.  Here’s where I think it could go in the future.  Nothing that I am going to say from here on out is going to be easy, and it’s going to be up to you to make the decision if this is something you want to and can do.  But I can’t have it halfway.

I need you to think about if you really do want me, or if you’re really looking for something familiar to grab onto for the here and now.

I need to know exactly how you feel about me as a person.  This might take you some time to come up with, but I want you to be honest with yourself, and then honest with me.  I want you to go at this with complete objectivity.  If it’s positive, then good.  We’ll go from there.  If it’s negative, then we can work with that too.

I need to know exactly what you want from me.  What made you write to me, and where you want that to go.  For now, and for the future.  I have gotten so many messages from you, I don’t know what to think.  I want you to sit down, in a quiet room and think about it.  Write it down, take notes if you have to.  But I need to know.

The road to getting better is not easy, and it takes work and a little bit of pain, but it is very much worth it.  I believe that you are at the point where you want to see life start to get better, but there is one more bump in the road.  And that bump is to make an effort to start that journey.  I believe that your efforts are in the right direction, but not quite enough to get you going, and that’s ok.  It took me three years of false starts to get there.  But when I did it was all worth it.  I want to help you, but I need you to make the effort to include me.

I need a reason to believe that I can trust you.

These are all the things that I need to know before we can go one way or the other.  Once you have realized the above, and if you have decided that yes, you do want me around, then I need you to consider the following:

I need an apology from you that actually means something.  I also need to see evidence that it is real.  I need to see you make the effort to correct your behavior so that you don’t hurt me again, in whatever capacity we might be speaking.

I need you to let me worry about you, be concerned for you, and dote a little.

I’m also a package deal.  You can’t say, ok, I can accept the jazz, but don’t dote on me.  It’s all in one, no substitutions.

I need to know how to get a hold of you.  This means, your new phone number at least.

I need you to want to get better on your own and not just use me as a crutch to get by.

I need you to learn how to think about the effects of your actions, and then tailor your actions/reactions accordingly.

I need you to be willing to listen with an open mind and an open heart.

I need you to trust me, and not put up your guard around me.  That isn’t conducive to getting well.

I need you to be able to talk to me on a bullshit level as well as a deeper level.

I need you to give me feedback, not let things build to the point where you’re ready to explode.

I need you to include me in your life and not treat me like some dirty little secret.

I also refuse to see you in the flesh any time soon.  That leads to nothing but problems.  If you’re serious about wanting me as a friend, then you’re going to have to find the time and or the money to carry out a dialog over a distance of 50 some miles.

I also need to know that you got this letter and what your immediate reaction to it is.  If you’re thinking about what I said, if you’re not going to do any of this, etc.  I don’t want to wait for a month before you decide that you have the time, or the want to get around to letting me know.

Until I hear back, I have a few suggestions that you can listen to, or you can disregard.

First of all, find a new shrink.  I don’t like this guy that you told me you were going to.  The thing that signaled the red flags was that your parents picked him out, and that he was a priest.  If you’re serious about seeking help, you need to find someone that’s completely objective about you and your problems.

Second, stop drinking.  I could see that you were using it as a crutch and an escape.  Why try to run away from a problem when you could be spending the time resolving them?

Third, take a step back and look at your job.  Make a list of what you like and what you don’t.  Try to be objective.  I loved my job at the computer shop, but it was for the best when I left.  Your job causes real problems in your life.  Try and find a way of eliminating those problems.  Maybe it’s a transfer to another department, maybe it’s a good long talk with your boss, maybe it’s mouthing off to your AE when she gives you shit.  Maybe it’s leaving all together.  I can’t say.  Only you can do that.  But, I think it’s important for you to give it thought.

Fourth, swallow your pride.  Ask for help.  The big difference between what you’ve been doing in the past and what I think would work better for you is that you assume people will help, or that it’s ok to use them as a resource.  Asking gets you so much more. It’s obvious that you can’t do this on your own, and that’s ok.  Depression and nervous breakdowns aren’t meant to be dealt with alone.  People will understand.  Trust me.

Fifth, be honest with yourself.  There’s nothing worse than lying to yourself in the false hopes that it will make you feel better.  Own up to everything in your mind, accept it, and move on.  It can take a long time to do, but you have to.  Once you have forgiven yourself, you can move on.

Sixth, don’t add anything new to your life that could get out of hand.  If that means leaving me out of it, then I would encourage it.  Trim off the fat and see what you’ve got.  Take stock of the people in your life.  Are they good for you?  I threw a couple of bums out of my life and it made a huge difference.  Take stock of where you’re at in life as well.

I mean no disrespect Doofus, but you’ve never had strong convictions or much direction.  I never used to believe in setting goals, but now I do.  It really helped me to get myself though some rough spots.  I might not have gotten through them unscathed, but I survived.  My best example is my degree.  I graduated from college with a 2.7 cumulative GPA.  We both know that I’m capable of much more than that.  But, the point is, that I made it.  I realized that I was fading fast and had I needed to wait till May to graduate, I wouldn’t have a degree right now.  I’d be waiting for this December to walk across the stage.  It was unpleasant, it made me cry, and I came out of it with less than I wanted to, but I did it.  I reached my goal.  Find a way to motivate yourself.  I know it’s easier to say than it is to do.  Believe me, my mother used to pashaw my complaints about how hard life was.  I know what it’s like when people think you’re a slouch, or you’re unreliable because you can’t get going.  I know and I remember.  But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I promise.

I don’t know if this will work for you, but I would write just to clear my head.  It really helped me in the long run.  I took my journals to my doctor and he was really helpful in helping me to find direction and the rough spots in life that I needed to iron out.  When I felt like crying at the walls, when I couldn’t get out of bed, or if I had to go home from work because I was just feeling lousy, I wrote it down.  Everything I could think of.  It helped my doctor see the side of me that wasn’t in therapy, and that helped him to help me.

I know I’m a nerd like this, but I also did my research about the disease of depression, and all the things that I could do about it.  Know thy enemy so to speak.  By knowing what was going on in my head, I was better able to control myself and at least, appear more rational.

Remember what I said earlier about swallowing your pride?  This is a variation on that theme.  I would often have very bad days when I was at work, for no reason.  If I could suck up my pride, I would go ask someone for a hug.  I know it seems odd to ask a co-worker for a hug, but sometimes that would be what it took to get me through the day.  Touch is amazing in calming the nerves.

I used to be of the mentality that anti-depressants were over-prescribed and often times not needed.  Well, that’s half the reason that it took me so long to get on them, I thought that I could get better just by talking.  Well, I ended up just whining for 4 years.  My advice, don’t be too good for the drugs.  They’re there for a reason.  I did my research on them too and if I had my choice, I would have picked a different one than I’m on, but this one seems to work, so I’m not going to ask to be switched.  But, if the Celexa they have you on isn’t working, shop around.  And remember it can take as long as 8 weeks before you will feel any effect.  It seems like an eternity, I know.  But that first day that you catch yourself smiling for no reason is worth everything.

Lastly, be good to yourself.  You are a human being with faults.  Anyone who says they’re perfect is selling something.  Keep yourself safe above all things.  If that means sleeping on someone’s floor for a week because you just can’t be alone anymore, do it.  If it means that you have to check yourself in somewhere because you don’t trust yourself not to do anything stupid, then do it.  Above all is your health.  Everything else can wait.



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