The Good is Better Because of the Bad

I’ve been rewatching Skins. There’s a scene in the fourth season between Effy and Freddie where she looks at him and tells him that all of her bad memories are gone, and she only has love left. She had been dealing with manic episodes and psychosis, subsequently getting sent to a hospital and having constant care from a psychiatrist. This psychiatrist helps her to “delete” all these bad memories, but it eventually is shown that this is even worse for her mental health. She loses so much of who she has become because she no longer has bad memories to remind her of her growth and change.

There have been several times in the last few years where I’ve wished to just delete moments in my life, especially regarding past relationships. I would love to be able to remove moments like my marriage and really even just meeting my ex. I convince myself that being able to delete the hurt and pain, the insecurities and fears that I developed would make me a happier person. I go back and forth between this desire and trying to embrace the failed relationships because they’ve taught me how to be stronger, to stand up for myself, and to leave when it turns toxic. I know that facing these issues is the healthy choice. I just don’t want any of that to tarnish what I have now and who I am now. I’m struggling with balancing my past and my future, and I’m not quite sure how to merge the two.

I had never intended to get married again. I allowed myself to become completely absorbed in that relationship that I lost who I was. I’ve labeled myself as damaged, unlovable, undesirable. I had a couple people come through my life after my divorce that I thought would maybe be a long-term part of my life, but I was unaware of my self-sabotaging these connections for quite some time. When I finally noticed my pattern and the unhealthy consequences, I made a conscious effort to change. When I met Josiah (which is probably a story for another time) and as we grew in our relationship and made the decision to get married, I tried to stay aware of my sabotaging tendencies.

I still feel unworthy. I still feel like my ex and my past haunt me. I still have family and friends who ask me about him and if I’ve heard from him. I suppose the biggest reason I wish I could delete all of the bad memories is because I’m tired of my past demanding to be my present. I’m so excited for what my future is going to hold, and I’m thrilled that I have someone who makes a consistent effort to understand. I know those bad moments will eventually fade until they’re tiny specks in a very distant memory, but I’m trying to accept them as ways to fully appreciate what and who I have in my life now. I think that’s the key in all of this: trying to appreciate the lessons learned from all of the hurtful moments. It’s just a very difficult thing to remind myself day in and day out- the bad is worth remembering because it makes the good so much better.

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Navy Pier, Chicago – June 2016

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

Here Comes the Sun

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Five years ago, I was in the last stages of preparing for my wedding. I was excited and nervous, but ready for the next step. I was marrying someone that my family actually liked, that I had fun with, and that I believed in.

Five years ago, I was also a wreck.

For the couple days leading up to my wedding day, any little word or action was strong enough to cause tears and panic. I remember in the hours before the ceremony began, my eyes were in a constant state of overflowing.

As most brides will tell you, most of the actual wedding was a blur. For the most part, everything went smoothly, and we were surrounded by people that we loved dearly. Everything I had pictured during the months of planning worked out, and the setting was gorgeous. At the end of the ceremony, we walked out of the church to The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” because I wanted to really capture the hopeful feeling we had for the future.

We made it three years.

Many people who have to deal with the pain of divorce find it difficult to remember the good times during their marriage, myself included. Far too often, I focus on the bad: losing who I was and the activities that made me feel alive, the emotional detachment, his inability to understand hurting me in the worst of ways. I write terrible poems about those times (poetry is definitely not one of my strengths) because there has to be a way to express that pain without hurting others. Despite all of that, I’ve been trying to reflect on the good this week: the smiles, the laughter, the ability to relax, just having someone around all the time. Because despite all of the ugly and sometimes nightmarish memories, no relationship is without sparks of good.

I never saw myself as someone getting married, let alone divorced. Yet here I am, 26 and almost two years divorced. Most of the time, I try to just forget that part of my life, but it was the majority of my early 20s. It shaped me and still haunts me. It taught me what to look for and what to avoid. I learned how to protect and stand up for myself, even when 90% of the people in my life wanted me to go in an opposite direction. It forced me to become far more independent and to stop settling.

So now, I think I’m finally able to embrace my past as a married woman, my present as a divorcee trying to take on life completely independent, and my unpredictable and unknown future.

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Caribbean Sea- March 2015
Caribbean Sea- March 2015

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