Mitchell is going to Phoenix today to visit his sister and her husband. He wasn’t going to (because he finally started working on the waist-high weeds in the yard, and was planning to finish it); but, I encouraged him to do so. I reiterated the importance of making family a priority, and pointed out that it would mean a lot to his mom. And after fighting about it for half an hour, he finally agreed to go.
Had he and my mother-in-law invited me to go with them, I would have gladly done so (and was secretly hoping that the invitation would come)… but they didn’t. And while I know this doesn’t mean that they don’t think of me as family, it certainly feels that way. (There’s that goddam disconnect — between knowing and feeling — again. 🤦🏻♀️)
When things like this happen, it’s hard not to perceive the distance between my husband and I as growing ever wider. I think, “Why doesn’t he understand that I would like to go too?” And at the same time, I don’t tell him that I’d like to go. Partly, because I want him to ask me on his own; and partly, because I live with the constant fear of being rejected. (i.e. I’d rather not express that I’d like to go and be left behind than to ask to go and be told no.)
He Loves Me in His Own Way
These things don’t happen because Mitch doesn’t love me. He just loves me in his own way, and often makes false assumptions about my needs and desires. I’m almost certain that he thought I’d prefer to have a day to myself, rather than travel to Phoenix in my mother-in-law’s vehicle. (I have a weird thing about riding with other people. I like knowing that I have my own get-away car, should I need it.)
He expresses love in many other ways (versus anticipating what I want)… but most of the time, these expressions come as a direct result of me asking him to fulfill a need and/or desire.
For example, this past week I returned to in-person courses at the university. This meant that I was returning to the scene of a sexual assault that occurred in 1996. The thought of doing so elicited crippling anxiety that almost caused me to drop out of school this semester; but instead of allowing that anxiety to put an end to my career as a student, I asked Mitch if he would take a few days off from work in order to walk me to my classes.
To my surprise, my sometimes-awesome husband didn’t see this as a ridiculous request. He told me that he understood my fear and trepidation, and was more than happy to walk me to class… and he did. He walked me to my classrooms, waited outside while I was in class, and walked me back to the parking garage after.
On the second day, we inadvertently walked right past the spot where I was date raped nearly twenty years ago. My heart did a flip-flop in my chest, and I felt dizzy and weak. When I expressed this to my husband, he immediately apologized and promised that we’d find an alternate route to the building after class… and we did. (And in all honesty, if my brave and caring Mitchell hadn’t been there, I would have either collapsed in the midst of a panic attack, or bolted without going to class.)
All of this was most definitely an expression of love and acceptance on his part; and it’s important for me to hold on to that when days like today occur.
As a result of that second day’s event, however, I started to withdraw into myself. I asked to eat out almost every day over the past week, and requested junk food from the market. I also stopped going to the gym.
Why? Because if I’m fat and undesirable, maybe no one will find me attractive enough to assault. (This is twisted logic. It’s true that I was young with a terrific figure when I was assaulted… but that didn’t warrant or justify the assault. In all actuality, it probably didn’t factor in to my assailant’s train of thought, either. Still… we cope with all kinds of sideways thinking in the ever-lasting aftermath of sexual assault.)
Thus, my weight has probably increased a bit, my acne has flared up, and I’m disgusted with the woman that I see in the mirror.
I’m regressing into the person I used to be, instead of taking further steps towards the person I was becoming… and it’s breaking my heart, rattling my tenuous hold on my sanity, wreaking havoc on my marriage, and causing a free-fall into the rabbit’s hole of a looming depression.
It’s also made me over-sensitive to Mitch’s words and actions. I got angry and yelled at him about the yardwork on Friday night. I’m hurt that he didn’t ask me to go with him to Phoenix today. I’ve been short with my own words, and distant in my communication with my spouse… all because I’m haunted by the past.
I want Mitchell to see how lost and frail I am (without having to point it out) — to understand that I need to be with him right now; and I don’t want to have to say it.
Saying it feels like weakness. Having to say that I need someone feels like being revictimized. Not being asked if I wanted to go today feels like being abandoned (something Borderlines do not deal with well); and it makes me angry and sad.
These emotions are a reaction to my past; but my husband — in the present — is the one paying for the sins of others; and I hate it when that happens. (Which is why I sit here quietly writing about my feelings, responding to my husband in tight-lipped one-word responses, instead of screaming and hollering at Mitch about my hurt.)
Unfortunately, that means that all Mitch perceives is anger. He knows it’s there; and it feels as if I’m angry at him, I’m sure. But I’m not. Anger is just easier than fear. Rage is my armor; but the war I’m fighting is already over… it just feels as if it never ended, and I’m on the battlefield alone — looking to vanquish a foe that is no longer there.
So Can I Win? And How?
The only way to deal with PTSD is to trudge though it. You can mitigate the effects through therapy and self-propelled (positive) action; but it’s always there. Lurking in the background, waiting to pounce on the present.
Getting fat (and yelling at your husband about the weeds) is one way to cope; but it isn’t a healthy way to cope. Instead of empowering myself through action (i.e. going to the gym), it simply fuels the internal fires of self-hatred. This hatred was not inherent at birth; it is a lasting side-effect of sexual assault. An ill-fated response to having pieces of yourself violently stolen, never to return.
After all, isn’t that where rapists truly draw their energy from? Clearly, they must pillage their power from others, because they have none of their own. Realizing that is the first step towards healing — to understand that the brawn those bastards wield is only borrowed. Borrowed from the strength they took from you. And if you’re still standing, they didn’t win… because you had enough left in the reserve of self to survive and carry on.
For me, the how of winning can be found in my pen. For whatever reason, I cannot sort the mess of these emotions through speaking about them… but I can come to terms with the disordered feelings by trying to form them into sentences, paragraphs, posts. (But unfortunately, most of the time I don’t sit down to write about them until my formidable ire has become all-consuming.)
Before writing this, I truly felt anger towards Mitch. It was the yard, and the lack of an invitation that were causing my fury and pain. After writing this, I know that it is the past I am raging against; not my poor, procrastinating, sometimes-oblivious husband.
In the wise words of Randy Atkins:
“If you’re goin’ through hell, keep on going
Don’t slow down
If you’re scared, don’t show it
You might get out before the devil even knows you’re there”
And if I get off my duff, and return to the gym, I’ll be able to outrun that horned, hoof-footed bastard should he come to sense my presence. 😏 And then, I need to offer my sincerest apologies to Mitch. I may not have exploded at him like I normally do; but I certainly haven’t been pleasant to deal with.