Safe Travels – Part Two

You can read part one here.

The Sunday of that week, I was due to leave my mom’s place and drive almost two hours away, to the small town that I lived in with my ex-girlfriend (or fiance if you want to get technical) for almost 4 years. This place holds a lot of meaning for me. It was where I met my therapist. Little did I know that this therapist would help me find the courage to leave that toxic relationship that I should have ended three years earlier. But it would also mean that I’d have to leave her too. When she offered Skype sessions, I wanted to jump up and hug her (I was already attached by then). It was a really good call on her part. Thank you, therapist.

Sunday morning the four of us (me, my mom, her boyfriend, and my youngest sister) had planned to go for a quick morning outing before I left. When we got outside, my mom’s boyfriend’s car was gone! Stolen. My heart broke for him. He loved that car. He has such a good, kind heart, and goes above and beyond for people, and then shit like this happens. I was so pissed off! The car was ancient and falling apart, but he loved that car. I took him to the police station to give a statement, and when we got back, I thought of maybe just staying there again that evening, even though my B&B in my previous home town had already been booked and paid for. But my mom told me that there’s nothing I can do, so I should rather keep to my schedule. I knew she was right, but I was still hesitant to leave. The good news? A few hours after I got back to my mom’s place the next Tuesday, my uncle bought my mom’s boyfriend a new second-hand car! And this one was in great shape. He’s now made a plan to park this car in a safe and monitored place. It’s going to cost him every month, but it’s a small price to pay for security and piece of mind.

The drive to the town I was going to stay in for the next two nights went by so quickly. It’s usually such a boring drive of almost two hours, and seems to go on forever. But not this time. Even driving back to my mom’s place seemed to be over insanely quick, even though I was driving extra carefully (what with it being a rental car and all). Weird. Driving into the town felt like a kind of “coming home”. It was so nice seeing all those familiar places. The reason I went back there was to go pick up a box of my things that I had forgotten to take when my ex and I broke up. I also wanted to see my therapist in person again. A week before, I had asked my ex whether we could meet at a coffee shop and she could just bring the stuff, but she asked me to come to the house instead. I can’t remember the reason. I went straight to her house. I didn’t want to, because I knew I’d have to see the dogs. I didn’t want to see them ever again because I thought it would only break my heart. I didn’t know how I would feel seeing her again though.

When I got there, the dogs went crazy. They were barking and crying and jumping all over me. For the remainder of my stay, the baby sat on my lap, and the older one lay down against my leg on the couch. My ex hugged me when I got there, but I felt numb… The way I felt the whole time I was there. It was strange being there again. Everything looked different, yet the same. I don’t even know how that makes sense. The wall and frames that housed all our photo’s was still there. But all my pictures had been replaced. I was dissociating, but it’s exactly what I needed.

My ex made me coffee and we spoke a bit about life. A little while into the conversation, she asked whether I would be open to meeting her new girlfriend. I didn’t know how to answer that at first. But then she told me that she’s in the bedroom (I had no idea someone was even there), and wanted to meet me. So I agreed. The three of us spoke for a while. The two of them were very affectionate with one another during our conversation. I just remember thinking, “this is weird”. But I still wasn’t feeling any emotion. It’s as if all the feelings I logically knew were there, were lost in a deep, dark void. I told them that I need to check in at the B&B, so I’d better get going. They both hugged me goodbye, and my ex said “I thought this would be awkward, but it was actually pretty good”. Good to know.

The B&B was lovely. It was so peaceful there. My favourite part was the fountain, which was so soothing and relaxing. I can’t remember much from Sunday evening. All those feelings that I had shut down? They erupted the very next morning. The jealousy, the anger, the sadness. It just hurt. I was emotional the whole of Monday. I think the lack of sleep had also finally caught up to me. I had a session with my therapist later that afternoon, which was the highlight of my entire trip. But I’ll write more about that next time, as it deserves a post of its own, and ties in nicely with a topic that I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now.

On Monday evening I was in a very dark space. I didn’t want to be alive. But I wasn’t suicidal either. I think this place of being is worse than when I’m in the idealization or even the active “planning and preparing” suicidal state. Having a plan and preparing to act on it, brings a sense of peace, even with the intense pain, because you know it will all be over soon. But this weird in-between place is extremely frustrating. The kind of frustration that makes you want to peel your skin off, and scream. But as most of you know, I can’t scream out loud. That in itself is frustrating. I had been feeling suicidal that morning, and even during some of therapy, but it went away after that.

On Tuesday I overslept. So it was a mad rush to get ready and pack up in order to check out in time. That didn’t happen. I only managed to check out about 30 minutes after. Thankfully, the owner was very nice about it. I got myself a cup of coffee for the long drive ahead, and drove back to my mom’s place. I spent the night there, and this time my youngest sister wasn’t with us, so I slept a little better. I had to get up early in order to not miss my morning flight. The next morning, my mom’s boyfriend and I went to go get my car, which was parked a few streets away (the secure place). Since he didn’t have that new car yet at that point, we had to walk. Walking in that city at 06:30 in the morning is not wise. He wanted to go alone, but I didn’t want him to drive the rental car, so I went with him. We took our “weapons” with, and left all valuables at home. It was freezing, but I was warm by the time we got there. That was a fun little walk. I actually really enjoyed it. I felt so sad saying goodbye to my mom. I wish I could have taken her with me.

I had a few misadventures dropping the rental car off, and in the airport itself, but survived. Things that kept going wrong, and silly things I did (or didn’t do). I don’t know where my mind was that day. It up and left. The flight was really good again. Now I’m back home.

Up until Sunday morning, I had felt stuck in between two worlds. Like I wasn’t really here. But I wasn’t back there either. It’s a very confusing space to be in. It’s as if I needed to adapt to being back. But I don’t understand why that would be the case, because even when flying back from Sweden and Mauritius, I hadn’t had that experience. Maybe it has to do with having seen my ex again. Because since that Monday I’ve been dealing with a lot of feelings regarding her and the life we shared. Memories. Seeing her happy with someone else. Seeing how happy she is without me. I’m glad that she’s happy, I really am. But there’s also an element of pain inside.

It’s been so hard. And it still is. It feels like she’s haunting me. On Sunday afternoon I got a text from her, asking whether I was okay because it looked like I had lost a lot of weight since she last saw me (even my mom, aunt and sisters said the same thing- I hate it). I wanted to reply and say “so what, it’s not your concern anymore”, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to hurt her. She also apologized for “throwing *me* in with Girlfriend” and “but I know you still care, because you sucked it up. Thank you for being you”. I didn’t know what to say. She was being nice, and she apologized. So I forgave her for that little incident and thought it would be over now. So I just replied and told her that I’m glad she’s happy and has found love again. I wanted to close the book again with that final message. But then she just flung that door wide open. Telling me that she really believes this girl is “the one” (which she said about me as well), and that she hadn’t thought she could feel so much more for someone than she did for me. That “God” told her that this was the right girl. And for once in her life she felt sure about someone. My thoughts: “Well, did he also tell you not to throw things like that in your ex’s face?” There were smiley faces all over the messages. I had already been struggling after having seen her that Sunday, so these messages shattered me.

I’m feeling even worse than I did when I finally left the relationship early last year. I also keep seeing the last moment I saw her on that day. Our sad, last weekend together where we both knew what was coming, but tried to enjoy the remaining days together. She had broken up with me so many times in the last two years of our relationship, but the next day, she’d be all loving and sweet again, as if nothing had happened. It always confused me. Are we broken up? What’s happening? So I knew that if I didn’t end this relationship, we’d keep going around in circles.

I feel so abandoned by her. But I shouldn’t right? I’m the one who left her! But that’s the way I’m feeling, even if it doesn’t make logical sense. Maybe, without being consciously aware of it, I had held onto the sense of security that maybe I could go back if I wanted to. But seeing her again, so happy and content, ended that. She doesn’t need me anymore. All those times she was in pain and I held her. Those times where she was sick, and I looked after her. Now she has someone else to do that for her. To be there for her. That house that I’m so familiar with, now has someone else filling it with her presence. The dogs, one of them mine (but I didn’t want to split them up- and I couldn’t bring him with me anyway). “Someone else is sleeping in the bed that used to be mine. Doing everything that I used to do in my house”. Even though it was never mine. I had no idea I would feel this way. I go through so many different emotions. Back and forth.

I haven’t wanted to talk to anyone about this. About how I’m feeling. I feel this is something I need to deal with on my own. Like I always used to do. The difference this time is that I’m being gentle and compassionate with myself. A good blogger friend of mine recently wrote a beautiful post on empathy and validation. I really connected with it. Extending empathy and validation to ourselves. It’s easy to give that to others, but when it comes to myself, I treat myself really badly. So I’m trying to change that.

I keep reminding myself that it won’t hurt forever. That it’s going to fade again. But for now, I just need to deal with it as best I can, and be kind to myself.

My therapist asked me on Monday whether there was any unfinished business with my ex and I said no. But now? I don’t know what this is.

First Love

Lonely tonight.

I had her.
I lost her.
She let me go.
She broke my heart.
My first love.
A love I never experienced before or since.
There were others I thought I was in love with.
I wasn’t.
I was just infatuated for a short while.
I had been fooling myself.
But with her it was real.
Unexplainable.
Painful.
Beautiful.
What if she was the one?
My only shot at true love.
My last.
Now meant to be alone.
Forever.

Love heals? No, love destroys.

Anniversary Already?

Logging into WordPress on Wednesday, this popped up in my notifications:

Wordpress

Time has certainly flown by. I started this blog when I left my emotionally abusive partner of almost 4 years. I was moving from the city I had called “home” for those years, and driving to the city I’m now living in. It took me 3 days to get here, and two overnight stays at guest houses. It was during the second evening that I decided to start this blog.

I felt so alone during this time. Alone, scared and unsure about what lay ahead. This blog helped me process my feelings and thoughts, and it still does. I’ve never been one to express my emotions to others, or try to explain the thoughts in my head. So this blog has been really good for me. Just getting it all out there is therapeutic.

When I first started writing here, I didn’t think that I would even get one follower or reader, and now I have 324 of you! How did that happen? When I first started getting “likes”, comments and followers, I felt a little overwhelmed and frightened. It suddenly became very real. After all, I was revealing my soul to the world. I was exposed and vulnerable. I like to believe that part of my newfound ability to be more open in expressing myself, has come from writing these posts. Of course, therapy also played a big part in the “new” me.

I’ve always struggled to keep up with anything. I’d always start off excited about something, but then I either get bored, discouraged, or another idea or project would consume my mind. So this is a big achievement for me. I’ve managed to stick it out for a whole year! There have been a few days where I wanted to delete my entire blog and just disappear from the online world. But you guys have given me a reason to not give up on it. Knowing that a lot of you relate and find encouragement in my posts.

I want to thank all of you for the support, encouragement, and inspiration. I consider a lot of you friends and family. You give me the strength to carry on through the darkest days and nights.

I’m also thankful to my therapist for encouraging me to keep up with my blog, and for taking the time to read my posts.

Thank you.

A Hostile Takeover

I’m an introvert.

When I spend too much time with a person or people, I start getting frustrated. Even with my friends. I need time alone. I don’t want to spend every weekend with people. Sometimes I just want to spend time with myself. Being lazy, watching TV, reading, studying up on things that I find interesting (such as psychology). There are many times where I crave closeness though. And it comes at the worst possible times. When everyone else is so busy with their lives that they don’t have time to spend with me. I tend to fall into a depression then, and feel unimportant and rejected. I’ve never actually had anyone hold space for me while I was going through a difficult time. When I really needed someone, just anyone, I was alone. Which is probably one of the reasons I’m so attached to my therapist. She’s helped me through a lot of dark moments. When I had no one, she was there. She was (and is) my person. I hold onto the hope that one day I’ll find that person who will walk with me through it all, and let me do the same for them. Through both the good and the bad.

Right now I’ve withdrawn into my shell.

I had to photograph a wedding on Friday. I’m a photographer but I don’t do weddings. But I made an exception in this case, as it was a small wedding and I know the bride. I was terrified. One of the reasons I don’t do weddings is because it’s the one event that you just can’t mess up on. You don’t get a second chance. And I just don’t have the confidence that I feel every other photographer has. I wanted to cancel every day for a week, wondering what the hell had come over me in accepting the job. But when I make a commitment, I stick to it, even if it hurts. Besides, it was a job, and I desperately needed it.

It was so stressful. And now I’m working on the photo’s, before putting together the package that they selected. I’m going to be working on it for the rest of this week. At least I enjoy it. All that anxiety had built up over the week, and now that it’s over, I’m exhausted and just want to be alone.

The photo’s came out better than I expected, but less perfect than I wanted. People keep telling me my photography is really good. But no matter how many times I’ve heard that, it just doesn’t stick. Unfortunately our brains have a negativity bias. The bad sticks, while the good seeps away quickly. It’s automatic, as the brain has a high sensitivity to negative stimuli. Fortunately, it can be changed (with a lot of hard work). You can read more here.

When I’m doing a photo shoot, I pretend to be confident, calm and collected. One of the reviews I received said “she was professional, calm and comfortable”. If only this client knew how I was trembling inside, feeling like a fraud. Don’t get me wrong. I love taking photos. It’s the interacting with people that I struggle with. And the fear of messing up.

In other news, my stepmom’s parents are here for the next two weeks (and they might even stay for 3 weeks), and I’ve been exiled from my room. I’m now staying in my step brother’s room (he’s sharing with his sister- obviously in separate beds). There are now 8 people in the house. It’s crowded, and noisy. I want peace and quiet when I wake up in the morning. To be able to sit outside and not hear twenty voices. I’m not a morning person. I have my own bathroom in my room. Now I need to share one with the kids and my uncle. I can’t shower when I want to, I need to schedule it around when they want to shower, and then I’m stuck with lukewarm or cold water. Even the kids get preference over me, which is frustrating.

I think of it this as a hostile takeover, hence the title. See how I blow things way out of proportion? It’s a talent of mine.

In our last session, my therapist used a REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) “technique”. It goes something like this:
My beliefs: I should have my room to myself. I should have all my stuff around me. I mustn’t let this upset me so much. I must get over it. She’s helping me eliminate the words “should”, “have to” “must”, etc. So I’ve been trying to re-frame those thoughts. Instead of “I should have all my stuff around me and have my space to myself” I’ve been saying: “I would prefer to have my room and space to myself, but they’re not going to be here forever. I’ll get my room back when they leave. Yes, it’s an inconvenience, and yes, I’m annoyed about it, and I get to feel that way”. It’s the anger that I’m trying to replace with less destructive, intense emotions. So I’m practicing this (my homework).

Wish me luck for these next few weeks!

Female Attachments

Having written about attachments these past few weeks, I got to thinking about my tendency to get attached to women. This is an emotional and deeply personal post which I’m a little nervous to write.

My parents got divorced when I was between the ages of 3/4.

I have no memory of anything that happened between them before they got divorced. But I remember the moment my dad took me from my mom. I was screaming and crying, but my mother was a shell. She was emotionless. She wouldn’t help me, and just stood there. My dad wasn’t exactly gentle with me during that moment. He didn’t care that he was hurting me physically and emotionally, as long as he got what he wanted. I blocked this memory, or to be more exact, I suppressed it. It would surface every few years, then the process would begin again. After that moment, everything goes blank.

The next thing I remember is being in a new house, with a new “mother” and baby sister (my now ex-stepsister). We were in a new city, far from my hometown. My biological mother was then also living in the area, just across the street, with her new boyfriend. My first memory of him is also during this time. I remember running to my mom’s place one day, and her telling me that I couldn’t stay there. I had to go back to my dad’s house. I didn’t want to. But she took me back anyway.

I don’t know how long we stayed in that area. We moved a lot throughout my childhood and early teen years, with every move taking me further and further away from my mother. I don’t remember much from my childhood. Just scattered pieces here and there. I know I went to my mom every second weekend, and I remember instances of my dad and stepmom telling me that my mother gave me up, that she didn’t want me, and them using that as justification to get me to not go to her for the weekend. But even with all of that, I wanted to see her. So growing up, I believed my mother didn’t want me. That she gave up on me. That she didn’t really love me. That’s what they wanted me to believe. But when I was with her, she wasn’t like the woman they painted as a monster. She wasn’t the most attentive mother. It was almost like she was afraid to bond with me, but I have a few memories of her playing with me. Then, when I was 8 years old, my first little sister was born (half-sister). I’d see her with my sister and she was so gentle and loving toward her. I instantly loved my baby sister, and loved taking care of her when I was at my mom on her weekends. But it still felt like I wasn’t connected to my mother. She still felt like a stranger in a way, and even more so when my sisters were born.

I didn’t want to be at home with my dad and stepmom. There was shit happening there that I’m not going to get into. But I also didn’t want to be at my mother’s place with my stepdad. He was abusive towards my mother, and even (very rarely though) my sisters. I think he was too afraid of my dad to hurt me. He did hurt me emotionally of course, with how he treated my mom. He’d even hit her when we were in the car, driving somewhere. When he was angry, he’d put his foot down on the accelerator, and speed past all the other cars, taking corners at a frightening speed. Threatening to kill us all. My dad did the same thing (my mom sure knows how to pick them). So I didn’t feel safe anywhere. I didn’t feel like I belonged. Like I didn’t have a home.

It would only be much later (in my late teen years) that I would learn the truth about what my dad did (and threatened to do) if my mother didn’t let me go with him. And when I found this out, through my mother, and two other family members (not just from her side of the family), my mother’s reaction the day I was taken from her, made sense. My connection to my biological mom is one of friendship. I do love her though. I just don’t feel that mother-daughter bond with her.

My stepmom was a cruel woman. She didn’t care about anyone but herself and her daughter. But then again my dad preferred my stepsister too, which was made evident time and time again. I was always the odd one out. They would go to her sports matches, but were always “too busy” to come to any of mine. I was good at most sports, but I gave them up quickly, because I didn’t see the point when I didn’t have anyone cheering me on. I guess I shot myself in the foot with that one. I should have carried on without needing their support. I should have been able to be my own cheerleader.

I used to pretend that I was switched at birth, and daydream for hours on end about getting found and rescued by my birth mother. I would always use actresses that I saw on TV, to take on that role in my imaginary world. It seemed safer that way. They would never leave me. I searched for a mother figure in everyone who showed me the least bit of attention. But I’m not looking for a mother figure anymore. I know, and have accepted, that I’m never going to have that. I have a mother, and even though it’s in a different capacity, she’s still my mother. All I want now are stable, healthy relationships. Relationships that will help heal the trauma and abandonment, and the patterns that have resulted from it.

So my experiences with men, starting with my dad, have limited my need for them. I don’t need a father figure, I don’t even want one. In this situation, some people would also look for a father figure in the men they date, but it didn’t happen that way for me. I don’t want a replacement. I have what I have, and life carries on.

In light of all of this, I now understand myself, and my patterns, better. I can see why it’s so easy for me to get attached to women. Even though it’s not with everyone, and it’s rare that I do get attached, it still happens. Now I’m left with a few questions. Will it always be this way, or is there a way to release myself from all of this? And most important of all… should I do away with all attachment? What’s healthy, and what’s not? I don’t know how to navigate this.

Mornings & Evenings

I don’t like going to bed at night. Come 7:00pm, I start getting frustrated that the day is almost over. I’ll stay up as late as I possibly can, until I just can’t keep my eyes open anymore. Which is usually 10:30-11:30pm.

I don’t like waking up in the morning. I always wake up exhausted, and want to stay in bed. It’s been that way my whole life. Waking up, yet feeling as though I didn’t sleep at all. I can only remember a couple of mornings where I actually woke up feeling refreshed and well rested. Once in my early 20’s, the other about two years ago. Just as thinking that it’s almost time to go to bed at night fills me with dread, so does waking up in the morning.

I don’t like sleeping during the day. But I also don’t like being awake during the day.

I know I should be grateful to be alive. But I just feel… Depressed. Empty.

I had a good session with my therapist yesterday, and everything is back on track with us. But instead of the usual euphoria I feel after a session that makes me feel connected to her again, this time I just felt… nothing.

Went to visit Jasmine today, but it felt a little awkward. I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on with me. Why I’m feeling the way I am. My therapist says there’s always a reason behind our depression. That’s it’s not just there, existing by itself. But I haven’t been able to figure out what that reason for this low phase is. It’s been a couple of weeks now.

I want to go to bed, I want to sleep right now (it’s 09:02pm). But I feel this sense of dread. I just can’t figure myself out.