Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Some Love is Just a Lie of the Mind.

I told my ex-boyfriend years ago that I wouldn't know a healthy relationship if it bit me in the ass. "THIS is what healthy is, Annie," he convinced me. He veiled "healthy" by essentially buying me off. He was wealthy and generous with his riches, and wouldn't let me forget who bought me that pair of shoes, or put that food on my table when I lived alone and had trouble affording food for myself and my son, or who upgraded my wardrobe to be stylish and chic, or put that jewelry on my wrist or in my ears. Despite having thanked him with vigor at the time of the receipt of any given gift, I had to keep thanking him, because he kept reminding me that without him I'd have nothing. THAT was the healthy dynamic.

The tricky thing about abuse, about Stockholm Syndrome, is that you're convinced that what's utterly and completely fucked up is what normal people do. My mom pointed out, long after the breakup, that I'd come home from a weekend with him and require what usually amounted to a 2-hour nap, and that my lips and face would be chapped and red. I'd return from time spent with him exhausted and drained, just in time for my son to return home from his dad's, having to mentally switch from girlfriend mode to mommy mode, in a seamless, unnoticeable transition. That was maddeningly difficult sometimes. I just wanted to pass out and be left alone, shell shocked.

When he was around my mom or my friends, he was the poster boy for polite interaction. He could charm anyone into thinking he was a cultured, peaceful, gregarious hunk of a fella, and would say things to my mom like, "What a WONDERFUL daughter you have!" All the while, though, he entrapped me into a universe of messed-up, dangerous interaction. To this day, my mom feels pangs of guilt that she couldn't see through his facade, and admittedly, I was very, very good at hiding the discomfort I perpetually endured. I defended him to the end. In my own fucked-up way, I loved him and craved his attention.

There was just enough "fun" coupled with the violence to keep me coming back, and it got me out of the house for the night or the weekend, which was always a welcome distraction. Or at least until close to the end, when I was going to his house begging him, "Please don't hit me tonight." In his defense, when I asked, he would comply.

Despite the fact he tore my ego down to literally nothing with snide comments like, "You're beautiful...to me," meaning he thought I was pretty but nobody else would, or at least that was what I got out of it, I kept coming back for more and I can't even explain why. Intellectually, I knew I was being maliciously abused, but he painted it all in such a light where it eventually did appear "normal." That we were perfectly mundane but not vanilla, refusing to see the fear and terror in my eyes, or listening to me when I'd call out the assigned BDSM "safe word," which was "airplane," which upon hearing it, he was forced to stop whatever he was doing. He was too wrapped up in what he was doing to me to hear it half the time. And I was afraid of the ramifications of uttering the safe word. He'd get into this mental zone, this awful place, where I felt threatened and scared, and his intensity was overwhelmingly intimidating.

I should've listened to Luke, who disliked him from the very beginning, chiefly because he made it abundantly clear that he didn't like my son and there was something innately creepy about him that made Luke uneasy and worried about me. My ex doesn't like anyone's kids other than his own daughter, who is Luke's age, though he treats her like she's a moron who's still 5. If our relationship was "normal," it wouldn't have taken him 3 years to even introduce me to his daughter, under the auspice of it being in his kid's best interest to not know that her Daddy had a girlfriend. Even when I did meet her, which was once, I was introduced as his friend, not his girlfriend, and he insisted on having a third party intermediary presence at the dinner party. Come to think of it, I was never introduced to anyone as his "girlfriend." I was always his "friend." That made me feel belittled and unimportant. An embarrassment. I'd tag him in pictures of the two of us on Facebook, and he'd un-tag himself, not wanting pictures of the two of us to show up on his profile, under the guise that it was to protect his personal privacy, of which he was literally obsessed. That also belittled me and made me feel he was secretly ashamed to be associated with me.

Likewise, I never was introduced to his parents or sister, which I always took to meant it reinforced his "no one else would love you, but *I* love you, isn't that enough?" It embedded in my conscience a feeling of never being good enough, of feeling like a permanent embarrassment. Sure, that's normal, whereas he'd met my whole family and most of my closest friends. He told me honestly that his mother wouldn't like me because I was a blue-collar person of Polish descent, and had an eyebrow piercing. With an endorsement like that, it soured me wanting to meet his parents in the first place.

Being the narcissistic person he is, he told me when we finally parted ways, "You'll wake up one day and realize you're not in love with me anymore." At the time, I doubted that, but it was amazing how quickly that day came. I looked at the grave reality of the last 3 1/2 years and realized that precious little about our relationship was deemed "normal." That's not to say I've forgotten all about the good times, for I do remember what was fun and warm. But the bad memories overshadow all of that in spades.

If only the relentless nightmares would stop. I put this blog to rest yesterday morning after waking up at 5am and went back to sleep for an hour, at 9 am, during which I had yet ANOTHER nightmare about him. Woke up at 10am, with my mom taking one look at me, me telling her about the dream the night before, and her commanding I go back to bed again before work or call in sick, because I looked like hell. Finally woke up at 11 and got ready for my work day.

The nightmare the night before consisted of him wrapping my entire body in duct tape, with me unable to move, and involved comments and actions he did to me in reality. He'd say to me, literally, while on top of me, "Try to move. Use all your strength. You couldn't get out if you tried." I would employ what little muscle I had and he was right; I couldn't move. He'd grab one of my skinny arms and forcefully tell me, "I could break your arm right now if I wanted to. I could kill you and you couldn't stop me if you tried." Phrases like that always terrified me. Because he was serious. I was tiny and powerless, and he was 6'3" and weighed upwards of 280 lbs. He'd excuse his behavior by saying, "You know, I promise I'd never do anything to actually physically harm you permanently." So psychological torture was ok, as long as he didn't actually follow through with successfully killing me. Yeah, that's "normal."

My therapists encourage me to talk to people more openly about the post-traumatic stress disorder and residual anxiety I feel regarding the violence in the relationship, but some of the people who love me most can't bear to hear the full details, which I understand. I want to protect my friends and family, and the stories are all rather sickening in detail, but I feel like the more I admit and the more I share about my fright, the more helpful others will be in helping me to cope and get over it, though I think sometimes that's a pipe dream.

My mom, for example, has a very hard time hearing the details, and doesn't understand PTSD very well. I don't mean to gross her out, but she needs to know why I'm grumpy because I only slept for 3 hours, or I'm too nauseated to eat, or other things that trigger the symptoms. I explained it in full detail to my brother, who is likewise grossed out, but is sympathetic and despite his uber-Christian "love thine enemy," wants to see my ex dead.

It's an unfortunate blessing that my dad is dead, because surely he'd have shot my ex to death by now.

No comments: