Revisiting the Past: Oh, Wait. Still Painful.
September 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
My cousin told me that part of being depressed is not being able to let go of the past, and that the only way to let go is to revisit those memories and look at them differently, see the situation from outside perspective to understand why things unfolded the way they did. This is part of “true forgiveness” which requires you to forgive yourself and to forgive the people who hurt you, so that you can let go of the pain of those memories and see them for what they were: yet another example of how humans make mistakes. It absolutely makes sense.
I actually came to a similar thought on my own over the past year and have forgiven myself for the terrible things I did when I first moved back to Alabama. Today I tried to go back further, to go back to the times that really hurt me, to try to approach them from a third-person perspective, to separate myself from the pain and see those events differently so that I can forgive those involved, myself included, and let go.
All that resulted from that exercise was me reliving some of my worst memories and feeling the pain of them all over again and all at once. Through the pain, I saw a pattern and a lightbulb went off. I’ll explain.
No one wanted to date me in high school. Some guys seemed to toy with the idea, flirting with me for a while, but then they realized I was a mess and moved on. In high school, I was very morbid and very obsessed with the idea of mortality, consumed by the grief that accompanies the realization that everyone you know and everything you see, touch, and make, will be gone one day. Essentially, I was grappling with the fact that everything is nothing and nothing is absolutely everything. I cried a lot and made art. Not really “datable.” My dad used to tell me, “Alex, you’re not the woman someone wants to date. You’re the kind of woman someone wants to marry.” Even in retrospect, I think that’s a hell of a good line to tell your daughter as she’s crying because the boy she thought she was in love with (I wasn’t, by the way) starting dating her tall, skinny, blonde best friend who didn’t spend most of her time moping around because she couldn’t get over the fact that everyone dies. Can you blame him?
So I went to college and accepted the first guy who gave me any kind of attention. My first sexual experience was with that guy, a complete stranger, and I was really too drunk to remember most of it anyway. That guy then made it clear to me that I could only see him if we were going to have sex, which I agreed to, but after a month or so he dumped me. I was friends with the guy who lived next door to his dorm room, a guy who I was studying with one day, knowing that my ex-boyfriend (can that word even be applied to him?) was just beyond that concrete wall. One minute, I was sitting on the floor studying for a religion exam and the next minute my friend was on top of me, pinning me to the ground. My dad trained me for a situation like that, so I fought back like hell, even when he told me he would hurt me if I didn’t stop struggling. I thought “What could he do? His hands are too busy holding me down, he can’t do anything to me.” but then he bit my face. Twice. And I froze, only able to scream for help and for him to get off of me, which I did. Thompson was just next door. I know how thin those walls are, I know he heard me. He didn’t care. No one cared. My “friend’s” roommate even came in, and when I asked him for help, he just turned around to his computer, completely ignoring me and mumbling something about how people should lock doors. I had rug burns on the backs of my hands, bruises on my wrists, and bite marks on my face, but no one helped me. I was a girl in a guys dorm. I should have known better, right?
That began a fairly self-destructive year of very bad, dangerous, degrading decisions. During one of those spirals, (when one of his friends was cheating on his girlfriend with me; I didn’t know about the girlfriend at the time) I met Alec and things began to change.
Alec was dating someone else at the time, but he befriended me and we talked every day despite him being in another state. He talked me through these spirals, trying to convince me that I deserved better treatment and that I was worth more than that. I stopped spiraling, starting hanging out with Alec over the summer, and then by the end of the summer, we were hooking up. It wasn’t until the very end of the summer that I realized he still had a girlfriend and hadn’t broken up with her like I assumed he had before he started hooking up with me (anyone who knows Alec can understand why I would be shocked that he would cheat on anyone, because he’s just not that type of person). So I “cheated” on Alec, he didn’t talk to me for a month, then we got back “together,” and then Alec “cheated” on me with his girlfriend. All the while I was hooking up with Alec, photographs of he and his girlfriend stared back at me from his dorm room and his bedroom at his mother’s house. I remember a distinct moment, when we were cuddled in bed together, and I was gearing up to ask him something so my heart was pounding out of my chest. I asked him, “Why am I worth crippling your relationship but not ending it?” and in true Alec style, he waited a long time before answering, “I don’t know.”
By now you’re probably thinking I’m a terrible monster for continuing to be with a man who has a girlfriend, but Alec was my first love. I felt like I couldn’t breathe without him. Every second I was with him, it felt like my life was on fire. First loves are like that, they make you crazy and occasionally very destructive. There are a lot of details that I don’t know about. I know his girlfriend knew about me fairly early on. I know that they were in some kind of open relationship that I didn’t understand. I know that there were lies from her end. Anyway. Maybe I am a monster, but I did it out of love.
Once they broke up, the pictures of her remained and when I pitched a fit about it after a few weeks, Alec made it clear to me that the breakup wasn’t easy despite him having me in his life now. We eventually moved past it, he took her photos down, but he never once printed out a photo of me in the five years we were together. She may have put those photos up, and he just never took them down (which sounds like him), but I’ll never know. All I know is he convinced me I was worth more than how the other guys treated me, but then he went and did the same thing. As the years went on, we had sex less and less, and even though I told him I loved him on rare occasions, the one and only time he said it to me, he later admitted was a lie.
So when we broke up, when I left Alec because I didn’t feel like I mattered or that he really wanted me, I went a bit crazy when I moved home and fell back into my spirals of self-destruction in the same way I did freshman year of college. Once again, a guy cheated on his girlfriend with me, and when they broke up, he still didn’t want to date me, he just wanted the “fun” parts. Another guy only wanted me when his semi-girlfriend wasn’t in town.
And people wonder why I have intimacy issues? People wonder why I have self-worth issues? Well it’s all right there, folks, though I left out most of the gritty details.
It was stupid of me to think I was ready to revisit those memories, to think that I could see them objectively, to think that I was anywhere near strong enough to separate the memories from the intense pain they cause me.
Looking at these memories together, I see the pattern. I see why I’m alone now and why I’ll likely be alone for the rest of my life. I’m not “broken” because I suffer from depression, I’m broken because this is what I’ve done to myself, or what I’ve let be done to me. When you see everything lined up like that, it all makes a lot more sense.
And I will always be broken, because I will never be able to let go of the pain of those memories.
I will never be able to forgive those guys for treating me like that.
I will never see their side of things.
I will never let go.
And because of that, I will always be broken.