This is likely going to turn out to be a long post. I apologize in advance. There's just an enormous amount of brain-clutter these days and the OCD person I am is trying to sort through some of it, organize it. Writing is simply my way of doing so. I also am still trying to debate whether this should be a blog entry as opposed to board pollution, but it may very well end up being both...the message is powerful regardless of where it's placed.
I made the stupidest decision when I was 20 years old. A decision even more stupid, it sometimes seems, than those I made during my own personal mission to self-destruct.
I will set a small timeline in order to better convey where I'm going with this. And in doing so, I dare not touch my suspicions of there being CSA in my childhood. I have tried to remember the details of that, but to no avail. I'm SURE it played a part, even a minuscule one, in my 'blueprint,' but without facts, I can't say for sure what stems from this and what doesn't. And so, I'm leaving that alone. Until the memories that have been repressed decide to resurface, this is not something that it's currently within my power to sift through, and so it's probably best to pull it out of the equation.
So I will declare the rape I experienced at 17 years old to be the catalyst for the behavior that would soon follow.
Shortly after the assault, I broke up with the first boyfriend I'd ever had. A GOOD guy. Very sweet, very kind. He hailed from a strictly devout Catholic family. We'd done nothing more than kissing and some over-the-clothes stuff. We were both virgins and we'd talked about marriage being the best time to 'give' this to each other. We HAD talked about marriage. We were kind of serious/kind of joking, in that teenage dream sort of way. It gave us something to talk about when being physical wasn't an option. But anyway - after that virginity was taken from me, I felt I had nothing left to offer him.
Now, I know that's not the realistic way to look at it - I WAS still a virgin - I hadn't willingly given my virginity to another person. I hadn't given my consent. At the time, though, my brain was not allowing for me to think clearly. All I could think of was how HE felt about it being so sacred. I thought about how it'd be on our wedding night, should that ever become a reality...he'd probably know that he wasn't my first. As if and he'd be disappointed, angry, maybe? It wasn't something I wanted him to feel, nor was it something I wanted to explain as having happened to me, either. And, oh, God, what if he didn't BELIEVE me?
And so, I sent him a lengthy e-mail and told him that I didn't love him, I didn't want to be together anymore. He pleaded, he cried, he begged, he told me he loved me and wasn't giving up that easily. But I was unrelenting. Mean at times. I cut him out. Completely. Eventually, he stopped emailing, writing letters, sending little presents. He was truly gone...along with the rest of whatever was good in my life - discarded. And for a long time, I blamed only myself while I grieved what could have been. I did love him. I did love the thought of him being the first person I had sex with. But that was gone now.
Time went on...I'd say a few months crawled by. I signed up with AOL and began to frequent chat rooms, not looking for anything other than just to connect with someone. I couldn't do it in person; I was too awkward around other people. I wanted to be around SOMEONE, someone neutral, someone who didn't know me, someone who didn't know the girl I was before this monster....ruined me. So, while those who DID know me questioned these personality changes, (that I, almost too flawlessly dismissed as being 'busy' and dealing with 'college stress') I was looking for companionship with people who weren't so perceptive to these new differences.
Really, though..there was an incredible void within, and I didn't know how to fill it. I was indeed isolating myself from people who cared about me - I withdrew socially, I stopped talking to life-long friends and eventually, they, too, followed suit. I'm not sure if that's a failure on my part or theirs - aren't friends supposed to pick up on these things???? - either way, it was just how the cookie crumbled. I fell apart, academically and JUST managed to pass my classes. Not sure if it was a pity-pass by the professors who probably noticed there was something wrong.
Eventually, I did what I thought was the safest, most anonymous way of connecting-but-not-connecting and socialized online more than I did in reality. These people didn't know me. Although I WILL say that I wasn't dishonest about who I was. I was truthful about the important details - age, where I was from, etc. I just wasn't me anymore. These were strangers and I found it was easier to talk to people when there were no emotions attached. I was no longer the cautious, innocent, happy young lady I vaguely remember being. I was now '18/f in _____' and no one really wanted or cared about all the background information. It's just the hookup they wanted, sadly, and after a while, I began to (stupidly) arrange for some of these meetings.
My "first" was a guy who lived a couple towns over. He was a year older than me. Didn't go to my college, which was a good thing, in hindsight. But we'd talked online first for a little while and then met in person. He, too, was hearing impaired, so there was a little MORE of a connection than I'd learn I was comfortable with at the time. I WAS attracted to him; he was very handsome. And he quickly became the first person I consented to. There was a brief, sloppy, clumsy encounter on the floor in his room, all of our clothing hadn't even been removed. As quickly as it started, it was over. And while this meant that I TRULY wasn't a virgin anymore, I can't help but feel like that didn't count, either - during this encounter, I felt absolutely nothing. No pain, no pleasure. Just...nothing.
He WAS a looker, but I didn't love him, I felt dirty and ashamed afterwards, I'm sure a side-effect of being touched for the first time since...that guy. I ignored that feeling, though. If anything, I felt it was a replacement of sorts. A subpar experience to refer back to instead of the bad one that still plagued my dreams at night. He DID contact me a few days after I'd slept with him and said that he felt needed to be honest - he still had feelings for an old girlfriend and he was going to attempt to re-connect with her. He just would rather we remained friends.
I graciously accepted that.
I think, for me, I was only looking to feel something...I wasn't sure what. I was still having my bad days. Nightmares, flashbacks, things were triggering me left and right, I'd begun to self-injure. I continued to isolate from people I already knew. I stopped caring about the importance of the things that truly mattered. I was now fully emerged into a downward spiral.
So when approached (electronically) by men (and women) wanting to meet for drinks or for dinner (which I knew meant sex and more sex) I usually obliged. I'd go, not expecting sex...maybe perhaps I'd be pleasantly surprised and someone actually wanted something of substance. It almost ALWAYS headed in the 'meaningless sex' direction, though. There was one-night-stand after one-night-stand. I began to sleep around, not because it was something I enjoyed, but because, little by little, it began to chip away at my self-worth and in order to feel something - ANYTHING, that's what I needed.
Physically, these experiences were unsatisfying, sometimes painful. Sometimes they'd be courteous to ask if I was okay with having sex. Having once said no and not been listened to, I wasn't taking that chance again. And so I would say nothing in place of the 'no' that I SHOULD have been able to say and instead became a silent participant, even if it was just by way of pleasing THEM in ways they wanted to be pleased. That 'I'll do whatever you want, just don't hurt me' mentality was a constant - and rather than allow myself to be harmed, the submissive side of me would emerge and I'd find myself doing whatever necessary just to get through it.
Eventually, there were more risky hookups...hookups that I am TRULY fortunate did not end badly for me. I allowed for a lot of things to be done TO me - without caring, without feeling, without fear. Numbness completely took over. I allowed for some pretty messed up things, things that PROBABLY could be described as borderline assault, but simply because I allowed these things, they were not. I want to say this is when I was at my lowest point. Secretly, I wondered if this would be the end - would one of them kill me when they were finished? Was I just not cut out for this cruel, unfair world and death was about to become a consequence? Would one of these guys do me a favor and just end it all for me? Was this what I was actually doing? Trying to kill myself?
Obviously, that was not the case as today, I'm still alive.
Okay, so here's what this post is REALLY about.
I have a question for you all - a question that lately I've had to ask myself. Mostly because in some respect, I spend a lot of time trying to justify marrying an asshole. The temporary insanity argument just doesn't cut it as well as it used to - there's so much more behind it all.
So, I met the wasband in the middle of all of this, shortly before turning 20. He was introduced to me by a mutual friend, though so from the start, it was different from previous 'hookups.' AND - he was a cop. I suspect that friend we shared knew that I needed some positivity in my life and while she didn't intend for us to become anything more than friends, she had hoped that he could help me straighten out my life and sort of re-route the direction I was headed in. She did tell me about him, too, before asking if it was okay to pass along my screen name. He was recently separated, he had two small children and he was a 'good' guy - and bonus! He was local.
I met him online first. We chatted a few times before agreeing to meet for dinner. So at this point, my brain's like, here we go - here's the next one, this'll end just like all the rest of them...
But then, it didn't.
We went on several dates (dinner, movies, long walks...oh and there was TALKING! Imagine that!?) before he ASKED me if he could kiss me before I would go home for the night.
I'm not sure what happened to my brain then, but something clicked. Where that 'do whatever you can to keep from getting hurt' went, I don't know. It wasn't there then. I did want to kiss him, yes, but there was also that fear of this turning into another hookup. For the first time, it felt significant, it felt safe. He wasn't pushing for sex. He was patient with me. It felt..not 'right,' but better than anything I'd ever felt before. So, my first thought then was to test him. And myself.
I told him, "Not yet."
He respected my boundaries and didn't ask again until our next date. I obliged this time and we shared our first kiss then. From there, he would ASK me before proceeding any further. We eventually (slowly) became more intimate - and were pregnant with my son four months later. The choice to marry was next - and I was quick to accept his marriage proposal. I didn't think about it. I said yes.
But I have to admit to myself that it wasn't out of love. Shit, I didn't have enough TIME to learn how to love. It's such a complex feeling, one that requires TIME to develop.
But, now there was a baby involved, now I'd met someone who made me feel that it was okay to leave all of the self-destructive urges behind and refocus on something far, FAR more important than ways to hurt myself. And now, I had more to look forward to, I was bringing a perfect little human being into the world and it was time to put such thoughts to rest. The transition from being a nothing more than a booty call or one-night-stand into someone's wife and mother, was sort of forced, but in a way, I think it's what I needed - I needed to be grounded, I needed to be forced into making this choice, even if I was the one to force myself. Otherwise, I really don't know where I'd be now. And so, I took what felt acceptable at the moment and went with it, regardless of the absence of the head-over-heels feeling that usually is the deciding factor in getting married...and so against my better judgement, I said yes to the dress.
I think that for a while, it felt pretty great - I was beating myself at my own game, at life. It's because when we were just starting out, he allowed me to take control. And looking back, this is highly unusual for him - shortly after we were married, he seemingly evolved into an entirely different person and managed to seize any relinquished control back and became the aforementioned asshole. At first, it was usually the money and budget related, or kid-related, parenting fights. Then he would slowly bring up (and criticize) each and every one of my past flaws - possibly due to my still having some lasting, left over, under-the-surface issues despite his 'rescue' efforts.
I think that once I took his last name, he'd assumed that my name wouldn't be the only thing to change. He had expectations that being married would somehow "fix" or diminish anything bad that had happened in my life. I'd attempt to reach out and discuss things that still bothered me. At first, he would listen. Then slowly, he began to become increasingly 'tired' of hearing it and eventually the words, "you need to get over this," came out of his mouth. That was my cue to stop badgering him with such matters. I went to others with it, instead, especially those I felt could relate on some level. When he found out that I was sharing feelings with people other than him, he became angry with me and accused me of seeking attention and that my preference to take some of these issues elsewhere was 'emotionally cheating.' Even though I explained to him that I no longer desired to burden him with all of this, he was still paranoid and untrusting. He needed to see ALL of my communications - emails, texts (now that they were a thing) and instant messaging. If he, Heaven forbid, saw that I was beginning to confide in someone else, or even become close to someone (even though it was strictly on a friends-only basis) he'd get angry all over again and sometimes insult my friends to the point where I felt ashamed even talking to people that I truly liked. To open myself up to someone else, even if it was just to spare him the repetition, he would view as a betrayal - I have absolutely NO idea how that even is the case.
I soon began to suppress EVERYTHING. I just stopped talking. I stopped thinking. I stopped dealing. Whenever something popped up, I engaged in a mental game of whack-a-mole and would quickly banish it back from whence it came. I knew there was stuff still lingering, but it just wasn't acceptable to discuss any of it anymore. And I certainly wasn't going to resort to old ways - I was now married, I was a mother. The beast had been 'tamed,' unsure if this is even the correct way to describe it. Yet, by respecting his wishes, although unreasonable and suppressing, I suspect I did some further damage. Instead of healing through the support that others would have been able to provide, I began to isolate again.
Although I felt I did as he wished, I'd find out that this wasn't going to change the type of person he was turning out to be. He continued to bully and manipulate me and everyone else around him. He continued to put me down when I needed the opposite. Little by little, he broke me down. He made me feel horrible about myself. I soon began to feel that just as I sadly didn't really love him when we agreed to marry, he likely felt the same way about me. Why else would he treat me this way? There just wasn't any other reasonable explanation for it. I soon felt that this was punishment for all the crap I'd done in the past - it HAD to be.
I'd just basically gone from one prison to the next. Getting married and having children and raising a family did NOT fix me. It only ensured a transfer from maximum security to minimum. I'm still so, SO affected (although not as severely) by what's happened in the past, but now I've learned better ways of coping, simply because I forced myself to. I served 8 years in this particular mental prison, he was my 'guard' rather than a husband and he subjected me to the most confusing 8 years of my life. I was paroled and set free only by divorce, which will be close to 10 years ago that it was finalized.
During the time I've been 'out,' I've worked hard to pick myself up. I'm in a healthy relationship with an absolutely amazing woman. When I met her, I was a complete MESS.
I didn't know how to communicate very well offline, with another human being. I'd gotten SO used to keeping to myself. To allowing others to see only what I wanted them to see. Once we met in person, we had an interesting time trying to get to know each other on every level. And that's where I found the love that I didn't know I was capable of feeling. My only regret was having not met her sooner, but I'm not sure if that's how life would have played out if I had.
I have had to re-educate myself on how to properly sort out my feelings, my thoughts. Regardless of being in a MUCH better place now, I'm finding it to be a lifelong process....and the whack-a-mole games have restarted - only I'm now struggling with moles I've never seen before...the moles, when they used to be purely black and white are now teal, pink, purple, red, blue, polka-dotted, striped, etc. One pops up and I'll take a swing, only to find that another has popped up in a different location before I've had time to deal with the first one. And that's when it starts to get overwhelming.
Guys...there's still so much SHAME, though.
I'm so ashamed of myself for the things I did prior to meeting the wasband. I know that I just didn't know how to handle it and I let others handle things FOR me. My personal growth and evolution has provided me the wisdom to understand why I (and others) did (do) these things. I get it. All of it.
It doesn't help the feeling of shame I still get from time to time when I think about the blatant disrespect I treated myself with. I was literally ready to punch in my one-way ticket to the point of no return. But instead, I did something that I thought would potentially be less harmful and would give my life some purpose, no matter the cost.
Has anyone else ever done this?
Did anyone else get married just to escape the possibility of an alternative, less favorable path? In my case, it didn't work out but it DID deflect from a far more dangerous existence. If so, what was the outcome for you?
I think more people than we realize are guilty of this. Not particularly on the same level, but still. I think this is something that I need to be told is normal (under the circumstances) and that I'm not a terrible person for making some of the poor choices I've made. I've already forgiven myself for past indiscretions and accept my reasons for doing so but in the process, I've felt so ALONE with it all. I've felt judged, even though very few people even KNEW this about me. I was and still am my worst critic.
This turned out to be MUCH longer than intended - will also post it in my blog as it's a cross between a post and a cleanse. Regardless, it's one that I'd TRULY appreciate some feedback on, so please don't be shy. Hit the comments below.
Wishing you all an endless supply of hugs, if those are your thing. If not, then I wish you strength, healing and light.