I woke up at 4:08 AM today and the dream was innocuous about someone I know on the internets. I was able to go back to sleep fairly quickly. This will make sense further on.
I’m going to apologize and tell you this is another ripping off the bandaid confessional.
It is what I do best
With all of the emotional upheaval in the last few years, I run through my mind similiar experiences to compare and contrast as to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them. I was stuck on ExFiance #1 this weekend because the relationship with him, to me, was almost identical to my relationships to TheBassist and TheExHusband.1
So I obsess and I stew. Stew and obsess some more. What keeps repeating itself through all of this obsessing and stewing is what a horrible person I am.
It was a good weekend.
ExFiance #1 and I had our first date in August of 1996.
I was working at a Blockbuster and he was working as a welder and he came into my video store 3x a week. I’d flirt with him and he’d flirt back and he will tell you he fell in love with me before we even went on a date! The night he asked me out, we were talking in the parking lot for an hour and “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (and I feel fine)” by REM came on the radio and I had danced in the parking lot like a madwoman.
And our relationship become complicated fast. Up until then, I had never met anyone who was close to being like me in terms of style, desires, and likes. It was heady. He proposed and I said yes, then I ran 3K miles away to San Francisco.
The back and forth started then and got progressively worse. When we had other relationships going on, we’d sleep with the other. When we were engaged to other people, we’d sleep with each other. No matter what state we lived in, we would find a way to fuck. We could not stop fucking our way through everything and fuck all who came between us, they just did not understand.
ExFiance #1 will tell you he put his life on hold for me.
Once I was done being an asshole, a liar, and cheating on perfectly good guys with him, I put my own foot down of my nefarious behaviour, asking him that I wanted to be killed off or made the main character in his life.
He killed me off.
He got engaged to someone else, a Lisa-Lite. “She’s everything like you, but not you. And not crazy” which is always reassuring. By “crazy” he is not referring to my mental shenanigans.
When the fucking between ExFiance #1 and I went completely dead, we tried to be friends and decided to double date with our current partners. I was dating a nice boy from Detroit2, ExFiance #1 had his Lisa-Lite, what could go wrong?
The double date adventure turned out to be a hilarious event or a big mistake depending on who you ask. The nice boy from Detroit looked almost identical to ExFiance #1 and Lisa-Lite looked nearly identical to me.
There was a few embarrassed coughs and remarks made. I don’t remember if we ended up going out or if the nice boy from Detroit and I hustled our way out of there.
I am trying to recall if I saw ExFiance #1 after that, but I don’t think I did.
Until I started working at a bookstore.
2005 was a banner year. TheBassist broke it off with me twice. An old friend removed me from his life. A guy I was locally dating dumped me when I found out that my mother had cancer. I almost flunked the first semester of my first master’s program.
I’m not sure how ExFiance #1 found out where I was working, but he started coming to the store every month or so to see how I was doing. I didn’t think anything about his behaviour. I didn’t read into that he wanted me back, I didn’t read into it I wanted him back. Our toxic relationship was finally over and laid to rest.
Until the day he came in to tell me he had officially proposed to Lisa-Lite, they were planning their wedding (I obviously was not invited), and the big kicker? He told me he bought her a black diamond ring and suggested, seriously, I should go buy a pair of black diamond earrings to match her ring
I looked at him stunned, wished him a happy marriage (What the fuck DO you say in these situations?) and went to the break room and cried. Half hour? Maybe more, maybe less.
That was the last time I ever saw him.
I woke up Monday morning, at 3:20 AM, in a near hysterics. In my dream, I was in front of TheBassist discussing something, of which I do not remember, and but then I mention his (in my dream I presumed this was true) current romantic relationship3. He said the one he had told me was over then, was new now. I said you told me you used to not have feelings for her and it was long since dead. He was silent. I continued on, but now you have feelings for her? He just gave me this look that told me everything.
Then I woke up.
I was emotionally nauseous while I laid in bed and cuddled the fuck out of Teddy.
Sleep was elusive, fits and starts. I woke up 20 minutes before I was to leave for my therapy appointment.
I was not in a good mood.
Being emotionally nauseous is the term I use when I get emotionally shocked. My stomach cramps but I cannot throw up, my throat is a field of acid burn but it cannot be tamed by anti-acids, and my heart aches. Sometimes there is a headache, sometimes not and those cannot be erased with pills.
In the beginning of something ending, I torture myself by sniffing shirts, looking at old pictures, etc. It is anathema to my well being. Then I compartmentalize the emotions, the physical goods, any other reminders of that thing.
It is only then when I feel like I can begin to breathe.
I have never publicly admitted this but I have ExFiance #1 name tattooed on my left calf. It was done when the “relationship” was at its height, when I was convinced I could win him back. Let bygones be bygones, start fresh.
The tattoo was designed as to not look like a name but if you know it is there, it is obvious. When the toxicity was over, the “relationship” buried, I had another tattoo designed to be its mirror now it looks like some tribal bullshit.
And since we are among friends, during the height of TheExHusband and I’s marriage, I had a thorn done on my left wrist to symbolize our love. Why a thorn? TheExHusband was originally to be named Thor and I love medieval history.
Because if I am not anything but predictable, for TheBassist I had one his tattoos influenced onto my right forearm. His reaction was mixed. He loved the idea, but he was grumpy as to my use due to the words come from the first lines of the first song of an album by a band he loves. I argued while that is true, the sentiment is incredibly applicable to me. I believe we left it at that.
(Because I will beat a dead horse into the ground, for months (and it’s scary to say coming up on years), I’ve wanted to do a separate tattoo from to signify TheBassist. I have other tattoos to get, so that one is down the road a bit, but when it is done, it will not be publicly announced and will only be explained when asked.
But I know exactly where I’m going to put it.)
(Because I know you’re going to ask, the tattoos for each of them symbolize a memento mori of the relationship. A reminder, if you will, of what is/was important and what I’ve (fucking hopefully) have learned.)
For ExFiance #1, I threw his engagement ring down a well when I was living in California. The rings were cheap bands we bought at a kiosk in some mall. I have no idea of the things he gave me went — more than likely burned, donated, or tossed out.
Does anyone else get emotionally nauseous? I have no idea. I don’t think I’ve ever discussed this with someone — ever. I’ve realized over the years the general we do not go beneath the skin to the really ugly parts of our psyche. As long as we are shallow, everything is okay.
It is things like this that despite the bipolar, despite every other fucking malady, I’ve always felt like I was crazy.
I brain dumped all of the obsessing over ExFiance #1 to my therapist on Monday. I cried when I was telling the story and beat myself up. “I’m an asshole,” I said. “I ruin everything,” I said. “The back and forth with ExFiance #1 was exactly the same as with TheBassist and TheExHusband!”, I wailed. On and on went the flagellanting of my soul.4
43 year old Lisa is not the same as 24 year old Lisa. Were you diagnosed bipolar then? Yes, I said. Did ExFiance #1 know? No, I said. So he had no idea on the status of your mental health? Yes, I said. Were you medicated? Seeing a therapist? No, I said.
You’re not the same. The relationships are not the same.
Don’t forget how ExFiance #1 treated you. He lied to you. If he cheated on his fiancee with you, he would have cheated on you with someone else. Don’t forget the awful things he said to you. (Brain screams, “But he was punishing me for the constant leaving and going!”) He is not punishing you. When you moved back to Grand Rapids in 2003, he tried to coerce you into sex when you didn’t want to (and almost succeeded) which he then turned into constant “teasing” of not sleeping with him. How he was insanely jealous and had problems with your male friends. He had no friends himself and you are his entire world. He had a child from a previous relationship and did not tell you until much later. Every single compliment was double edged and followed by “you should still be so lucky I still want you5.”
I was desperate, he said. Desperate for him.
I reasoned away everything with I never knew anyone like him and he loved me and I loved him back.
Yes, you may have had issues but do not forget he was an asshole to you. He treated you shabbily.
He was toxic. You are/were better off without him.
You deserve more.
More importantly? TheBassist and TheExHusband are not the same person to each other and they are not the same as ExFiance #1.
Best thing? You are self-aware of the mistakes made and you want to make sure you do not repeat them in the future.
When I came home later, I reiterate the entire therapy session to TheExHusband. I left nothing out. Deep breath, sip my drink, more confessions come out of my mouth. I repeat this pattern until the story is told.
He agrees with the therapist. He and TheBassist were aware and could handle (to a large degree) the crazy. I didn’t cheat and the lying that was told were half-truths about shit that was unrelated to my relationships with them. I was on a long manic streak and then I crashed. It seemed complicated but it wasn’t complicated.
Remember, they have forgiven you for your behaviour because they understand it is more of your crazy than the actual you. TheExHusband reminds you, daily, what a good person you are, you are worthwhile, you are loved, and you’re safe.
When TheExHusband tells me my daily affirmation, I say thank you, but I don’t believe it. I often quip I knew I was going to be a late bloomer, my path in life was not going to follow a traditional template, and I am aware of this. There is one time in the whole of my paper journaling career I write down I am beautiful and I really mean it.
(“You are chaotic good, not chaotic neutral.” “What’s the difference?” “Your do not respond to a situation in relation to how it best benefits you, you respond to how it best benefit the other person.” “Oh.” “And that’s it for your D&D reference.”)
My vanity is not confidence on speed, it is because I feel if I am not following certain protocols, then people won’t like me. I know where it stems from, I am tired of knowing. I just want to fix these fucking issues and move forward.
That is what makes me self-aware. I have the tools, now, to not repeat.
(“I don’t know if your low self-esteem is masked by your blusterness or if you really do have spots of high self-esteem.” “It’s all a mask,” says the borderline.)
It is hard for my brain to acquiescence if what I feel is actually true versus if what I believe is true. I attempt to reconcile that feelings change, even minute by minute; that love is not an either or issue; the world is fallible and I am not crazy if I make a mistake.
These are all things I believe to be actually true but in my head, no matter how reasoned the things actually are, it has been and will always remain all my fault.
Friday night TheExHusband and I head to a local Irish pub that is within walking distance of his condo. I am in a goofy mood, zigzagging across the side walk and playing bumper cars with TheExHusband. Dinner is delightful, I have perhaps found the place to watch English Premier League football and the Six Nations rugby tournament.
Then I hear the bass thump from the other side of the wall. I stop eating. I have grown silent. “I don’t feel good,” I say. “I’ve got TheSads,” I say. “Is it about He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named?” “No. Yes.” “What happened?” “I heard the bass and…” “Do you want to get out of here?”
First I say no. I am fine, I say. I can do this, I think. As I am trying to make this not an issue, it became an issue as a band, unrelated to the bass thumping next door, brings their stuff in and starts setting up for that night’s entertainment. I stiffen. Flight or fight, I need to get the fuck out of there.
It does not help I am wearing a Green Latern t-shirt.
TheExHusband pays the check and we walk home. No zig zagging. No bumper cars.
I cannot articulate what I’m feeling so I bake brownies.
TheBassist is a good person. I said some awful shit (I am too ashamed to link) about him and now I am repentant. The shit I was angry about with him was typical relationship shit I blew out of fucking proportion. Rationally I know he didn’t do the things I said he did (what did NOT help was the greek chourus saying he “might have”.) He loves/d me the best he could; he tried to help me the best he could — even when I wanted him to save me and I could only save myself. He was not an abuser, he gave me everything he had, he loved me unconditionally and I — I have no idea what I did what I did. Mania? Being scared? Unworthy? Being crazy? Untrustworthy? No fucking idea what I did what I did.
I get emotionally nauseous when I think about my behaviour towards him.
I would have left me too.
TheExHusband is a good person. Could our marriage have been saved? I have no idea. I churn myself in knots thinking he will kick me out even though rationally I know he will not. Why does he give me the daily Stewart Smalley’s? As a reminder that I am not such the beast I have led myself to believe. He helps me anyway he can. He pushes when I need to be pushed and lets me cry when I’m having a bad day. He asks me daily if I took my drugs and how my brain is doing.
But he also knows all the work is on me.
I would have made an excellent moirologist. After recounting Monday morning’s dream to my therapist, I say through my teeth, “Look. I go about my day with logic and reason about the relationship. I’ve accepted these reasons and I am trying to move forward. BUT MY FUCKING BRAIN just cannot let sleeping dogs lie. I was haunted by the 2 AM hour when, without fail, one of us would reach for the other and make love. It took me weeks, and massive amounts of klonopin, to get through that period. NOW, it’s the goddamned 4 AM wake-up calls, dreams surrounding him even if I don’t think of him for the entire day. It’s beyond ridiculous.”
“Your subconsious cannot let it go.”
“Look. I cannot be in touch with him, no matter how minute. My ecosystem is extremely fragile. These wake-up calls are not helping.”
“It will pass. Not in the speed you want it to go, but it will pass. Patience.”
Fuck patience. That’s what drugs are for.
Sometime after I came home from my therapist, I googled the fuck out of ExFiance #1 (“The worst thing about being a librarian is being a librarian.”). Within 15 minutes, I find all of his info: email address, current address, phone number, Facebook page, and pictures of him. He seems happy. The non-partisan assessment of his behaviour is forgotten, I am at fault. I will always be at fault. A wave of emotional nausea hits, dissipates, and then I felt nothing.
1. When relating this to my therapist today, she said they were nothing alike. I’m not sure if I believe her or not because it feels exactly the same to me.
2. I stopped my cheatin’ lyin’ ways before nice boy from Detroit showed up. The cheatin’ and lyin’ was only ever with ExFiance #1. Because I am an asshole.
3. I have asked politely, and was told my wish was granted, I was to never know when he dated again, if he ever moved with someone, or if he gets married. If my heart went through the floor for someone I was once engaged to when I found out (albeit in an assholish way) they were getting married, I would be emotionally decimated finding out about TheBassist’s new loves. At least for today.
4. In case you can’t tell, I was raised in a German-Catholic family. We know how to do guilt.
5. This is second to the, “With your face and Cindy Crawford’s body, you would be great at modeling.” comment made to me by a boyfriend before ExFiance #1.