content warning: drug abuse, suicidal ideation

I miss him and haven’t heard from him so I send tender, vulnerable text messages.  His responses are terse and defeated.  In the language of marriage research, we’ve played out the demand/withdraw dynamic–except that I’ve set aside my defenses in hopes of helping my partner feel safe, and when he stops responding I feel defeated too.  He’s going to keep shutting me out, I finally grasp.  This is it, there’s no getting through to him.  He’s been willing to let me struggle for nearly an entire month instead of holding me and loving me and letting me in, which is all I’ve ever wanted.

The day is warm and the sun is shining, but something goes dim inside me and I sit frozen in my car for a long time, tears streaming down my face.  Being with him filled me with such hope and joy and strength.  I feel as though I’ve been lifted a mile straight into the air–and then suddenly thrown onto the ground.  I feel dead and cold and hopeless.  I think I’ll never be happy again.  I slump in my seat and don’t want any part of my life.  I remember dimly that I’m supposed to talk to a friend about staying with her, so I drive to her store–even though I don’t see how that will help now–and have the conversation with her.  I cry a lot.

I’m supposed to teach another class, which also seems totally impossible.  I drive to the nearby home of an out of town friend and let myself in.  I move my pillows and blankets from the cot I sometimes sleep on to his bed and crawl in, exhausted.  I remember the feeling of doing this when I left my abuser and settled into this bed with my cat at my feet, murmuring to her through my tears “We’re safe now, Kira.”  Kira is gone and I’m all alone and I don’t feel safe.  I feel just as frightened and trapped and hopeless as the day I left.  I cry into my friend’s pillow.  I don’t want to keep going.  I want to go to sleep and never wake up.  I set an alarm, and I do wake up to teach my final class of the day.

I weep all the way to the studio and then I do my very best impression of a normal person when my students arrive.  I go to plug my phone in, and with my back to my class I tremble and bite my lip to keep from crying more.  That’s when my one student who knows what’s going on walks in.  She says hi, looks into my eyes, and quietly comes to hold me.  I cry silently on her shoulder for a moment then pull away and swipe at my face, walking to the front of the room where I remain for the entire class.  I don’t have the energy to engage with them directly, so I don’t.  I turn the music just a little louder than usual so they won’t notice when my voice breaks occasionally.  I’ve asked what they need, and I give them what they ask for.  When class is over they thank me and I make conversation, and then I lock the door to the studio and cry some more.  It’s Friday night. He’s flying home.  I won’t be seeing him.  The room seems to have no air in it, and my head throbs.

When I climb once more into my friend’s bed to sleep, I am overwhelmed by grief.  My tears seem endless and I am in immense physical pain.  My head, neck and shoulders are seizing.  I swear I can feel my heart broken in my chest that seems in a vice grip.  My mind contorts to get me out of it–first I think bitter hateful thoughts about him, and then about myself.  I feel humiliated in my stupidity.  I hate him for handing me beautiful, healing hope and then ripping it away.  I hate myself for being a stupid, naive, trusting child.  Of course I don’t really hate him and I don’t really want to blame him, it’s just that the truth of his unwillingness to heal his own issues makes me desperately, intolerably sad for both of us.  I’ve tried to stay undefended for the sake of the relationship, and I feel exhausted and emotionally brutalized.

I’m shaking with pain, I can’t stop crying and I just need to not feel anything.  I remember how I still have some opioid painkillers left from last year.  I know that isn’t what they’re for and that what I’m doing is highly dysfunctional, but it hurts so much I don’t care.  I dig in a box of my things stashed in my friend’s closet until I find them and take two, then lay down and cry some more while I wait for them to take effect.  Tears continue to pour down my face, and then I feel my breathing slow as I grow numb and anesthetized.  I continue to cry, eventually falling asleep.

Despite the Prazosin I have nightmares that I’m arguing with Kevin*.  He’s relentless and I’m crying and frightened, begging him to stop being unkind and to please just hold me.  I wake up crying but I can still feel the numb stupor of the drugs and I drift back off.  Several things go bump in the night and I wake repeatedly.  Each time is a little more painful and frustrating. I feel  pathetic and worthless, crying alone in the morning.

The alarm goes off and I immediately take the phone off airplane mode.  Why am I still hoping to hear from him?  I’m disgusted with myself.  This man has kept me hanging for nearly a month of abject misery while I’ve kept churning out emotional labor to connect with him and assure him that I love him.  Where is my assurance?  He’s told me he doesn’t want to push me away and that he doesn’t want to hurt me, and yet those are the things he keeps doing and here I am still pining for him, consenting to being treated like an afterthought.  I’m too tired to be angry, I’m too pathetic to feel self-respect, but I know what love is and is not.

(to be continued…)

*Name has been changed


4 thoughts on “The Barometric Pressure of Unresolved Trauma (1/2)

  1. Hugs. Don’t lose that vulnerability just because your first relationship after an abusive one isn’t validating. Eventually, someone will return it, and it’s worth it. I’ve definitely been there, but my Partner and I couldn’t be where we are in the crises we’ve weathered if I hadn’t stayed vulnerable.

  2. I kind of almost used vulnerability as a weapon, “Here is all the horrible crap you are signing on to if you date me. Still want to? I dare you…” Probably there’s a slightly *better* way, but at least getting it out there at a critical point when we had a huge fight really helped my Partner understand and decide to stay. Most people don’t stay – heck, pretty much only he and one close friend can I be anything like completely honest with in “real life” – but one good one is worth it.

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