CONFESSIONS: “When my little brother said I was like a T-shirt for women who shack up with abusers, I knew I had hit rock bottom”
If there’s a contest between life’s ups and downs, ups are in. Some people pop pills to stay up.
Up is nothing to sneeze at, certainly, but I also believe that down is a place where you can do some foundation work for a personal renovation.
My downward journey started . . .
with an early-childhood pattern of dysfunction. I remember playing Monopoly with my brothers while my parents fought loudly downstairs, or writing silly songs in my bedroom while my parents fought loudly downstairs.
You get the idea. As often as possible I would find a bubble of escape — sometimes to friends’ homes for sleepovers, where I would get a dose of “up.”
The goofy banter at their breakfast tables was a sweet symphony compared with the cacophony of crying and pleading in our house. My parents split up when I was a teenager, yet my diaries reflect nothing dark from those days. They’re all about “Mom’s yummy fudge!”, or “the cute guy who smiled at me in the elevator.”
Writing my life “up,” however, didn’t make it so.
I thought I was smarter than everyone when I married a very nice guy with “normal” parents. I’d show my family. Marriage and stability were easy. I could make mine last because I had found love.
But I had a little magnet inside me that kept pulling me to darkness, or darkness to me.
In a picture of us camping, he is kissing our dog’s head and has his arm around me. His devotion is clear to me now. He respected me, but back then I didn’t believe anyone could.
I was in a constant state of fear, bracing myself for when it would all end, when he would leave me for a sweet co-worker or hot neighbor.
“Up,” in other words, didn’t feel natural. After seven years, the marriage was over.
From divorce to down time with a lost soul
After I left him, boy did I visit some darkness. I found a lost soul, a heavy equipment operator in whose presence I felt used, dirty, small and afraid. Something inside me would never allow me to move in with him.
I felt strangely at home in his madness, but would always return home, into the light.
Saturday: Shooting hoops at the local rec centre, just the two of us. I’m losing. First he tries to show me how to shoot, but I keep missing. He’s getting annoyed. I let out a nervous laugh. Quite suddenly, his face tenses up and turns red and he screams, enraged:
“YEAH SO I’M A BETTER ATHLETE THAN YOU. FUCKING GET OVER IT!”
Huh? I back away slowly. The front desk guy comes in and checks if everything’s okay. My boyfriend says, “yeah” and smirks. When the coast is clear, he grabs my left breast.
Sunday: Back in my apartment, the sun streams through the lace curtains. I bake muffins and savor them with a pot of strawberry tea. After breakfast, I walk half an hour through town to the local beach. A group of friends are waiting with guitars. I’ve brought mine, too. I play and sing for hours in the sand with positive, friendly people, enjoying the sun on my face. Even more wonderful is the absence of tension. This is how life should be, isn’t it? But I really should be getting back.
Darkness, light. I juggled those for a year until I was almost hopelessly sucked into the darkness.
I tried to leave the scary guy several times but had a disturbing, recurring thought:
“I don’t want to be happy. I want to be with him.”
When I bounced this line off my younger brother, he laughed and said that that would be a wonderful T-shirt for women who shack up with abusers.
I was smart enough to see the ridiculousness of my ways, always kept a foot on the upside — and one day left the darkness for good.
The light had always surrounded me, but I finally chose to live there.
Life has small, manageable ups and downs. The world is full of darkness, but none as dark as what can happen inside one’s own head.
Today, I’m surrounded by so much sunshine from every angle that I can’t believe I ever let myself slide into that deep, dark pit. The memory of my little “visit” still makes me sick to my stomach. But I had to touch bottom before springing back up.
The author chose not to share that she was stalked at the time she wrote this, in addition to the situation that she described above. Soul’s Code adds it to the record as a testament to our contributor’s capacity to transcend the circumstances of story and narrative.
If this spoke to you, here are five similar articles.
- “Before she was famous, a mystical neighbor changed my life”
- Killing me with kindness
- How Oprah fixed my mom
- Face to face with my inner pain
- A mind-body portrait of depression