In the Same Town

Sometimes I think I was crazy to move back to Fayetteville.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this town. I feel more at home here than most other places I’ve lived. It has most things I want in a place to live: support of the local community, a diverse art and music scene, all four seasons, exquisite views of the outdoors, and a good base of people.

There are also a plethora of ghosts here. This has always been a place where 90% of the people I run into know who my ex-husband is. He is still very prevalent in the community, and Saturday night, I had to run into him.

On the surface, we can stay friendly. Most of my friends up here are still mutual friends of his as well, so there’s no escaping him. On the surface, everything is fine. Underneath that though is still the hurt, the anger, the sickness that hits when I least expect it. Insomnia has again become a familiar companion at night because not sleeping is still better than night terrors.

I didn’t expect it to still be this difficult. I’ve been nightmare-free for so long. I’ve survived so many things that I thought this would be the same- it would just take time, and that part of my past would no longer be able to reach me. I had a plan. I’ve been through so much healing, and I believed that moving back here would be me saying “I don’t hurt anymore. I’ve taken that pain and turned it into something that made me strong.”

I’ve spent the past two days trying to convince myself that I didn’t make a huge mistake in coming up here. I’ve spent 48 hours thinking of all the good that’s coming from being up here again: I get to be around those friends who are in my same stage of life, who are some of the most supportive women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I get the terrifying privilege of attempting to live on my own for the first time and stretch those wings of independence. I get to have a space that isn’t shared by anyone, which allows me to finally have some peace and quiet after two years of being constantly surrounded by others. There are so many good things that have come from me leaving Texas.

I suppose I just didn’t realize how many ghosts were still haunting me when I wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t notice how strong of a hold someone’s actions still had over me. I wanted to be able to say that I was over it and his behavior, his attitude, his voice no longer made me want to curl up in an attempt to not feel so sick. I can’t say that yet, as evidenced by my past few days. It’s far better than it was, which is a welcome improvement. It isn’t good yet, but I’m still holding out hope that there is some sort of healing that will come in time from being back in the same town.

Frankfurter Dom, Frankfurt, Germany - September 2014
Frankfurter Dom, Frankfurt, Germany – September 2014

listening to: Sleigh Bells

The Hardest Part of the Story

The only thing I’ve ever published on this blog and then deleted is still a hard story for me to tell. It’s one that needs to be told and one that I don’t try to hide, but I was far too emotionally invested to write about it appropriately.

People that have known me for a while remember when I got married back in 2010. Looking back at everything now, I realize that the marriage shouldn’t have happened in the first place because I was already far too consumed by my depression, but in the moment, it made sense. The marriage lasted three years. Most of it is now a blur to me, but there are still some very vivid memories.

I suppose I should start back before I even met him. I should start back at my freshman year of college. That was the year that everything started to change for me. That was the year that I partied far too often and invested time in some people that didn’t have good motives. That was the year that I lost any innocence and not all of it was by choice.

Fast forward to the next year when I met the guy I would later marry. There were moments at the very beginning that should have been clues that there was something wrong with my psyche. If I felt too constrained in a blanket or a hug was too tight, I wouldn’t be able to breathe, my eyes would instantly tear up, and my body would just freeze. Panic attacks would become more frequent as the years progressed, but I should have realized that something wasn’t quite right at the very beginning.

What started off as a casual friendship turned into a pretty serious relationship. I became dependent on him and went as far as to drop out of college and move to another state to be with him. That was when he proposed. Part of the reason for proposing was so that we could live together without the complete and utter disapproval from my parents.

Looking back, the year we spent together while engaged was a year of my emotional and mental health utterly deteriorating. I started waking up in the middle of the night because of panic attacks. There is nothing more terrifying than being unable to move and so frozen that your brain can’t process what is going on around you.

The wedding day quickly approached. I clearly remember wanting to call off the wedding day, but also being so concerned about what others would think if I did that I carried through with it. I was a mess the weekend of. There wasn’t a waking hour that I wasn’t fighting back tears. I thought it was happy nerves, but I’ve never been that out of control with my emotions, and I know now that the overwhelming emotions were more signs that there was something off.

We were married, and things were fine for a while. This is where things get even harder to talk about. I suppose typing it out is easier than verbalizing everything, but there were three different instances during the three years we were married that changed everything. It was a kind of abuse, the kind that is both hurtful and degrading, and I was completely unequipped to respond properly. After the third incident, I finally realized that there was nothing more important than getting out. I’ve always used the same example when explaining this, but it was as if there was a pane of glass that kept getting cracks in it until that third time. That final moment of hurt and abuse was enough to shatter the glass and make me realize just how badly I needed to remove myself from the situation.

I’ve found that this is a tricky topic to discuss for a couple of different reasons. For one, I needed to escape for my own health and safety, but I’m not out to paint my ex husband as an evil person. There are numerous great qualities about him, but I can’t look past the pain he caused me. I’ve never wanted revenge, but I wasn’t about to allow that hurt to continue. You hear about abuse happening, but you don’t imagine it happening in a seemingly happy marriage. You don’t imagine someone who is beloved by everyone who meets him could possibly laugh when confronted with the pain he’s caused somebody.

Secondly, I don’t want pity. I’ve never wanted people to feel sorry for me. It’s in the past now, and just like the other hurtful moments in my life, I’ve learned from it. I’ve learned how to stand up for myself and I’ve learned to be far less tolerant when confronted with similar issues. I’ve learned how strong I can be when it’s absolutely necessary, and I think that strength is my most beautiful quality. I’m proud of the person I’m becoming in my recovery.

So the reason I share the basic overview of this part of my story is this: I want more people to truly understand that there can be pain when everything looks perfect on the outside. I want people to be more willing to help when they think somebody might be hurting. Most importantly, I want people who might be experiencing something similar to know that they can be hopeful, that there is another side and a way out from the hurt. Recovery is possible even after the darkest moments.

Niederrad, Germany- October 2014

Niederrad, Germany- October 2014

listening to: Vance Joy

Not A Victim

I’m sure most women can relate to the uncomfortable feeling of having to walk home alone in the dark and feeling nervous because you know someone is behind you, but you don’t want to act like you’re scared. When you know for a fact that you’re getting followed around a big city in the middle of the day, and the person following you keeps glancing at you and smiling because they know exactly how much they are making you feel uneasy, it’s just as bad.

It was last Sunday. I had been planning on spending the afternoon wandering around some of my favorite parts of the city in order to get proper photos of all these places I’ve loved spending time in the past several months. I headed down one of the main streets, and while I was stopped at a crosswalk, I made eye contact with a man who was probably in his mid-40s. He smiled at me, and while I normally am pretty friendly and smile at most people I come across, something about him unsettled me a bit. I stopped a few times at different statues and buildings, taking photos, when I noticed that every time I stopped, he stopped as well. I tried to play it off as a coincidence, but this went on for over an hour. He stayed far enough away from me, but no matter where I walked, he would be watching me. I started using the giant windows to keep an eye on his reflection, but there would be a few times that I couldn’t see him, so I’d look around, we’d make eye contact, and he would smile this terrible smile because he was aware of just how creeped out I was starting to become. At this point, I had been walking with no chance of losing him, so I stopped at a coffee shop hoping that he would get bored and leave. I waited inside for about thirty minutes, but when I left, he was waiting down a side road. I eventually lost him walking through several large crowds of people and down some alleys and through shops, but the fact that he was watching me for at least two hours still gives me chills.

I feel like I need to point out that I have never felt uncomfortable in the middle of the day like that in Frankfurt ever. It’s generally a very safe city, and I can’t even count how many times I’ve walked around the city by myself. In fact, most of the men here I encounter when walking home at night will cross to the other side of the street or will pass by in what I can only assume is an attempt to avoid making any female that might be walking home in the middle of the night feel unsafe.

This man made me mad. It made me angry because while I’m capable of taking care of myself, I felt out of control in this situation. I have encountered creeps before. Guys that think it’s ok to do things in attempt to see how uncomfortable they can make a girl. I know it’s been said over and over in all sorts of ways, but there is no reason that behavior like that should ever be acceptable.

The first time I ever experienced any sort of action like that was in 7th grade. A boy that had the locker next to mine had been inappropriate towards me several times, and when it came to the end of the year and we were all writing in each other’s yearbooks, he wrote this message in mine: “I’m going to rape you and f*ck you up, b*tch.” I was horrified. I don’t remember what I said to him, or if I said anything at all, but I do remember using white-out and covering up the message before my parents could see it. The only thought I recall thinking is that if my very strict, very conservative parents saw what he had written, they would be angry at me. I was horribly embarrassed.

I think this is the biggest problem. Instead of talking about our experiences or those moments that made us feel scared, vulnerable, or uncomfortable, we tend to be embarrassed and try to hide what happened. I lived with someone who treated me far less than desirable for three years before finally feeling brave enough to tell someone what had been happening and leaving the situation altogether. It’s hard to talk about these things, but this is what needs to happen. When something happens to you that makes you feel sick to your stomach, your concerns should be vocalized. Being brave and telling someone not only helps you, it also helps others that might be too scared to talk about their past. When people know that similar things have happened to someone they respect and trust, they gain the courage to share their own hurts. Talking about these things is the only way to heal, and it’s the only way that people like the men in my stories can be stopped.

Niederrad, Germany- October 2014
Niederrad, Germany- October 2014

listening to: Ani DiFranco