I’m finally letting myself show anger, even rage, call people on the bullshit they hand me, their lies, singular or repeated, all of it.
Because I can.
I purged an old, dead email account of its contents the other day. What (at the time) I felt was a stupid move was reading a bunch of those emails first.
I was aghast. I saw myself being emotionally and psychologically abused to a horrifying degree. Had there been a physical analogue, I would have been the woman in the ED who “fell down the stairs”, “walked into a door”, or was “just the clumsiest woman ever, you won’t believe what I did to myself. . .” And I would have ended up there daily, until eventually I landed in the ICU, on life support.
Reading those emails was something that needed to happen, though, because it wasn’t just one relationship, and it hadn’t been just with guys I was “involved” with. I took a long, hard, painful look at the woman I have become, and I’m angry.
I’m angry at myself, but I’m also angry at all of the people who had a big hand in turning me into this woman. Because I never used to be this way. You swung at me, I ducked and hit back twice as hard. You lied to me, I called you on it straight out and gave you the option of being honest henceforth or getting the fuck out of my life. You treated me badly, or took advantage in any way, I walked and never looked back.
I entered treatment for my bipolar, and slowly, but slowly, I began to wear down, and people took advantage of that. Even though I knew I was doing everything possible to be well, and that I had never taken my illness out on others — except for a few, a very few, bursts of shouting and tears — I felt like I was a burden just being in people’s lives, and I had to do everything I could to compensate and please others. This belief was reinforced when friends I’d known for years started backing away; the mother of one of the children I nannied for started distancing herself and telling me how disappointed her child was when I didn’t show up for something because I was curled up in my bed, sobbing, unable to even move (yet I always at least gave her notice that I wouldn’t be there); and finally, my sister, with whom I had always been very close, and my best friend of 20 years both decided to cut off all contact with me, basically telling me that they couldn’t handle “my drama”, and other behavior that was completely beyond my control — even though I was still working my soul to the core trying to prevent them or anyone else from being negatively affected.
Clearly, there was something wrong with me beyond my illness, as a person, and I was lucky to have anyone still in my life at all, so I had to (and did) do anything and everything to keep them.
A sister who walks out on you when you are at your lowest is not a sister. For a long time I have been compassionate, because she genuinely didn’t get it. She couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting well. But you know what, it doesn’t matter if you understand or not; you love someone, you support them. You do not call them “a black hole”.
A friend who uses her children to hold you hostage — consciously or not — because you know they are little and they love and need you, and that if you call Mommy on her lies and bullshit and manipulation she will cut off the contact you have with them, I don’t even have a word for that.
Friends who back away because you are as contagious as a leper, and even if they know that statement is true, who don’t want to deal with the fact that you have to fight constantly to keep your head above the swells while they can get up and live their lives every day are not friends at all.
And new people in your life whom you will put up with, excuse even, all manner of garbage from, all while hiding or making light of how bad things have really gotten, because you’re desperate for someone, anyone, to “support” you and show you kindness. . . Well, that one is on me, but I never would have gotten there without the concerted efforts of the people above. Yes, they had every right to make a choice to remove themselves from my life, but they were cruel and weak and cowardly to have blamed me, instead of having the guts to admit that they couldn’t deal with being spectators to the struggle I was living and the constant pain I was in. Because, had they done so, they would have had to admit to themselves that what I lived every day was an enormous struggle, and so unspeakably painful, and they were cutting and running, abandoning me when I needed them more than I ever had.
For years I have searched for the reason I let my former psychiatrist lie and manipulate and force me into electroconvulsive therapy — I can finally use the word FORCE, for the very first time, and you don’t know what a triumph that is — and at last, I have found it. It was the result of a long line of abandonments and betrayals and manipulations and lies by those I loved and trusted most. I had been made to feel like less than nothing for so long that I had come to believe it as gospel truth, and who cared that the old me, the real me, had been firmly and unwaveringly against ECT with all of her being for three-and-a-half years? She wasn’t standing guard any more, and my opinion didn’t count. How could it, when I didn’t count as a person myself?
That’s something I get to carry with me always. The permanent brain damage, and the post-traumatic stress I have from being anesthetized, having electrodes hooked up to my head, having a current, a shock pass through my brain to induce a seizure in me — sixteen times over. I blamed myself for that, too. Up until about an hour ago.
And still, I put up with bullshit and manipulation and being treated as less than a person by people I love, because it is all I know anymore. Almost three years to the day of my first shock and seizure.
Now, three years and fifteen days after that first blast of electricity, arguably the lowest point of my life, it ends. I’m done. I’m worth more than that, a hell of a lot more. I am often a hard person to have in your life, and that has always been so, it has very little to do with mental illness. But I am the best friend you will ever have, if you are willing to accept me, all of me, and give back.
I am smart.
I am compassionate.
I am intelligent.
I am strong.
I am creative.
I am resilient.
I am supportive.
I am loving.
I am beautiful.
I am selfless.
I have a strong moral compass.
I am patient.
I am understanding.
I am honest.
I am accepting.
I am forgiving.
I am idealistic.
I am open-hearted.
I live my beliefs.
And I once again believe that I am worth it, that I am worth more, much more than I have been given in the past six years of my life. From friends, from lovers, from family.
So I will live my life accordingly from this day on.
Because I can.
“I ain’t a soldier, but I’m here to take a stand. . .”
~ Jon Bon Jovi/Richie Sambora/Billy Falcon
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