Relationships / self-doubt
Part of my healing is understanding how trauma bonded I am to abusers and to work towards a new normal. When I first read that a good romantic relationship is an easy relationship, it was foreign to me. When people commented that they argued twice in a year or can count on one hand how many times they have argued versus marriages in the double digits, I was shocked. Every relationship I had was turbulent, save for the one when I was studying in Boston, away from my family's influence. I was a total pushover in every other relationship. I would choose people ranging from emotionally available, to self-centred and yes, narcissistic. It's gut wrenching looking back because I had the illusion of love to comfort me for a while and now I don't. I have also bought into the "be nice" rhetoric so absolutely that it meant me "being nice" and everyone looking to be themselves.
I left every single one of them after they emptied me out and still asked for more. I would go into it fresh and optimistic, come out of it broken and a former shadow of myself. I would silently let things slide, big things, small things, little things, anything. To me, love meant enduring, the more I endured, the more I suffered, the more I was proving to myself and my partners that I did love them. I thought they got it, well yes, they did, they have no interest in reciprocating. Their respect for me declined as my insecurity grew exponentially. I no longer felt safe, I was completely out of sync, like a battered laptop running on an ancient OS. Glitches galore, feeling completely outside of myself. I am still surprised today that I didn't overheat and go up in smoke or drown under the crashing weight of a sudden tsunami. My only explanation is God looking over me.
After I left, they would ask to reconcile. I would look at them mystifyingly and wonder if it took a break up to be together, was there anything worth salvaging? I walked away only after exhausting all avenues, so once I do, I do. One thing was for certain, their chronic problems would always stand in the way of the deep connection I wanted to nurture. Our level of awareness would never level up, as they grow, I will too. Certain exes would look for me repeatedly over a span of years and tell me I was the best they ever had. Then, I felt momentarily comforted that I have done my best, now I know better, I was the best because most people aren't pushovers which means they don't get their way as often. They were tools as much as I was a fool. That love, if you can call it that (insert epic eye roll), meant that I was to sacrifice myself at their altar. Zzzzzz. Not much to celebrate here other that I truly gave it my best, albeit misguided shot.
Recently, I have been questioning myself what could I have done differently? I was ALREADY a pushover, what more did you want from me? The sad truth is that I have inadvertently become an enabler to their persistent power struggles. Case in point was an ex whose default emotion is anger. She was a miniature Hulk in stature but BIG on temper, I could see the rage emerge in shallow breathes, puffing away like a bull on acid. While I was the reluctant Matador who didn't even get a consolatory blinged out costume to go with.
It was so bad, it was almost comical. She would get mad over parking a car, over a dirty toothbrush she assumed was mine, over the fact that I hated driving. She would emotionally hold me hostage in a corner with my back against the wall. To her friends, she came across as understanding and even kind, she left all the "best" for me and took the best of me. The last straw came when she pounced on my moment of weakness to reveal a series of lies.
It happened after an emergency wisdom tooth extraction, urgently required during the holidays. All the clinics I called were closed so my options were severely limited. The ragtag team of dentists were so incompetent, it took them 4 times longer than usual. I know this because I had the other 2 extracted subsequently, with zero pain and in record time. At several intervals, I could feel everything and it was excruciating. I had to repeatedly ask for more local anaesthetic. The equipment was so shady that it stopped repeatedly. It's quite a nightmare. I came out of the office, visually shaking. I told her about it in the car and she threw out some empty words of purported comfort, along the lines of "I'm sorry you had such a bad experience" and remained mostly distracted.
When we got home, even before the bloody gauze was out of my mouth, she told me about how she was in debt and demanded that I help her pay it off. There were no apology about how I asked her about her finances repeatedly because I could always sense her anxiety. Or how is it that she chose to lie over a span of months. Brilliant. She chose a time when my mouth was still numb from anaesthetic and I was still drooling. I asked her what did she spend it on? I was surprised because she didn't come across as extravagant. Drinking, she replied. As we all know, alcohol cost a ton in restaurants and can really add up. I asked her why can't she pay it off herself? The amount wasn't impossible for her, she would be able to pay it off within half a year if she watched her finances. She became angry with me. Typical. Ask me to take responsibility for her problems when it was hers to shoulder.
By the way, this was the alcohol that I purposefully pulled her away from because she had the habit of drinking 4-5 times a week before I met her. It was also the reason for one of our arguments, she asserted that I was trying to control her. WHAT? I didn't restrict who she went out with and when, I just didn't think it was healthy to drink so much. I even talked about choosing non-alcoholic drinks and still meeting up with her colleagues. She was picking a fight as usual, a chronic repetitive problem.
Come on, life is hard enough. To create a problem when there isn't one is just plain ridiculous, to be so unappreciative on top of it is just ??? Who the hell was she? I asked myself. Yes, so now I had another "child" when I was already a parent to a parent. Shit.
I remember I asked her once, what are you so angry about? She was flabbergasted. She threw her anger at me because she could, ironically because she felt safe, she couldn't even articulate this. I do take my fair share of responsibility, I wanted so badly to contribute to their lives, to earn their love, to fill the hole inside of me. I would bend over backwards until I can't anymore and snap like a twig, be harsh with my words as a last resort to an unbearable situation. I was so guilt ridden and so shame driven that I was unable to address my discomfort immediately and negotiate without fear of reprisal. Even then, those moments are few and never quite as hurtful.
I was always much better at punishing myself. I was quick to apologise and make amends, something they all had difficulty doing. In part because I never did hold them accountable, thinking they would know when they have crossed the line, my mistake is overestimating her level of awareness and using self-denial as my shield. Also, my need for love trumped my knowledge about what is healthy love so from the get go, I would choose all the wrong people, it was set up to fail. It was an exquisite form of self-torture, all too familiar.
So now I am slowly rebuilding trust in my choices, overturning everything on its head while grieving the lost of time wasted on incompatible choices. It's mind-blowing how abuse has creeped its gnarly fingers in the pockets of my life and came up with long forgotten lint, leaving no Kleenex for my tears. Still, at the core of me, lays a seed of resilience. A seed that during days I feel too weak, uses my tears to flourish. I know I will get past this, I have to go through the motions of healing. I am a survivor, always have been. The only way is through and I am coming! I am thankful that I never did compromise my morals along the way, not once. I was capable of doing far more damage or at least throw back the same amount. There have been times when I have been tempted, but I never did.
For all those who are rebuilding their lives, take heart that you have all you need inside. You don't feel like it all the time and its OK. It doesn't go away. You are powerful beyond belief, you just might not know it yet.
You are deserving of a mutually loving partner, someone who protects all the fragile bits of you with a gentle hand and a warm heart. Someone who believes in you, listens to you. Someone who stands in the eye of the storm with you and never say die. This is my wish for you.
To love, light and peace,
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I recently went to a talk entitled Kintsugi: Embracing Our Brokenness, it's part 1 of a 3 part series about healing the brokenness in relationships and embracing the idea of living comfortably with brokenness. Other than enjoying the talk, what stood out to me is what one of the participants mentioned. She expressed her struggle of dealing with lifelong anger issues in the midst of tears.
As a reformed magnet for angry emotionally unavailable people (ahem) and then as someone who experienced not just anger but 23 years of justifiable rage in one full swop, I had to do the necessary deep healing work. Living whole was a possibility, now it's a reality. Post-awakening life is crazy good, it's so good, its hard to put into words and not sound boastful.
My conclusion is out of the 3 main components of healing - mind, body and spirit, while all do contribute to well-being, the last one is the most important and often the most neglected. Healing is best done holistically.
As mentioned during the talk, anger is a secondary "emotion", it's an umbrella for many primary emotions like disappointment, worry, etc. Some don't call it an emotion at all. I'm a huge believer in honouring all of your being, sitting with them and finding your own truths. Instead of putting them in boxes and labelling them with Rah Rah or Blah, which works against you. To fully accept self, you have to embrace the light as well as the darkness. Absolute freedom is acceptance of self and others.
Anger is a reminder to self-care, it's a call to be centred again. It's particularly destructive because of the lack of information. Anger expressed often causes the other person to shut down and do the mannequin challenge. Anger internalised is self-punishment. Both feed reciprocal disconnection, escalating into resentment if left untouched.
As a woman and/or a lesbian, there are many things to be justifiably angry about, discrimination, stigma, misogyny, etc. There's no doubt that the list is long. Understanding the roots of oppression gives you a clearer idea of what is your scope of responsibility and what isn't. Once you understand how you lose your voice daily to these societal forces, it will alleviate the guilt, shame and blame that often stands in the way of change.
Also, your worth is innate, born into, not earned. You might not recognise it yet and it's OK, life is a journey of continuous learning, we are all teachers and students. If you are ready for change, you have already taken a huge leap towards a breakthrough. Force yourself out of your comfort zone too much, too soon and it will be unbearable, you might even give up. Keep checking in with your inner voice, you have all you need inside. Healing work isn't linear, it can be 2 steps forward and 1 step back, it's normal, it's human. As long as you are moving forward, you will enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Be gentle, be kind to yourself, everyone is perfectly imperfect, that's the beauty of it.
To love, light and peace,
You can find the video of part 1 and information about Kintsugi: Embracing Our Brokenness here.
You can find Strawberry Milk by Aster Hung here.
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