(TW: Partner abuse)
I had a pretty intense therapy session today and I’m still reeling, still emotional. I just needed a space to make my thoughts about it coherent. So apologies for the massive personal-ness, just keep scrolling.
From the age of 15 til I was 17 I had an abusive boyfriend. Mostly emotional, along with some sexual and physical. The latter I don’t really remember much of, I just know it happened because I kept a pretty thorough diary at the time, but this doesn’t mean it hasn’t affected me a ridiculous amount. I’ve been suffering from some sexual dysfunction for longer than I’ve been admitting it for, to doctors, my friends and myself. Alongside all the physiological treatments, my therapist has been talking about my ex, who I’ll just call J, because he thinks a lot of my problems stem from that - and hey, when you lose your virginity to an abusive arsehole, that sounds like a pretty sound theory. So far, my previous therapists have only skimmed over it, as one small part in a larger history of mental illness, and I think only in the wake of my sexual problems have I really started to acknowledge the harm he did to me. I mean, I have acknowledged it but in a more abstract way, like someone telling you X caused Y and you just accept it without thinking why.
I took my diaries in to therapy today, which my doctor asked me to do in our last session. I was reading some passages aloud to him and crying. Stuff like lists of ‘Things I’ve Done Wrong’ - being thoughtless, asking too many questions (because it makes me selfish), being boring, being uninteresting, being too quiet, too much whinging, too much crying. It’s finished with ‘I am a failure’ underlined.
But that’s not the point where I got angry. No, I got angry at the next passage I read. The point of the bit I was reading was where J had bitten me so hard during sex he broke the skin and when I stopped us having sex he threw me out of his house. But my therapist noticed the part I started with most, and actually had to point out the implications of what I read:
"Then when he tried to grab me, it kept hurting. I can’t help it - a low pain threshold and sensitive skin doesn’t mix well."
J physically hurt me, and I made it my fault that it hurt. I blamed myself for the pain he caused me, because I felt I should have been better, should have been able to take it. And that’s when I felt angrier than I have in a long fucking time at him. You can see just in the way the diary is written that I was cracking - my style is erratic, the words different sizes and spacing, like I was so frantic when I wrote it.
I admire the people who can forgive and forget, I really do. I feel like they’ve figured out some trick that I haven’t, like they’ve finally flicked a switch where they have shed the emotional scars and that until I do the same I’ll be stuck with them. Maybe that will come, and maybe 4 years after finally breaking up with him I should be at the point, but I’m not. I’m actually just fucking angry.
I’m angry because I still have trust issues with men, I still worry about crossing boundaries that I don’t know exist, I still have intimacy issues that make me scared of being too emotionally invested in a relationship, I still can’t make decisions about things in case I make the wrong one, I still keep myself awake at night worrying if I have been selfish, I still struggle not to see myself through his eyes - the horrible hair, the ugly face, the fat arse, I still don’t know how to get angry ‘the right way’ at people who have done something wrong to me and that’s partly because I think on some level I must have deserved it, or I’m so insignificant that it doesn’t matter if someone does something wrong to me, I still don’t always trust my own opinion, especially in the face of someone I’ve imbued with authority, I still don’t put my sexual needs anywhere near the forefront of my mind, I still worry about being boring and uninteresting and I still tear myself up about whether I’m good enough for someone, because there is still J’s voice in my head telling me just how no one could ever love me.
I’m angry at all this, but I’m also angry on behalf of 15 year old me, for whom anger at J would be such a ridiculously foreign concept but anger at herself was far too familiar. I’m so angry that he honed in on someone who was so vulnerable, already cracking under the pressure of mental health pressures and self harm, and stepped on her and broke her further. And the worst thing? He did it for fun.