So hesitant, in fact, that I'm writing this paragraph to further push off what I need to write about. It's fluff, completely devoid of substance, and it's going to do nothing but detract from the whole point of this post. Yet here I am, cowardly hiding behind words that are entirely lacking in a point.
Time to nut up or shut up, Stef.
In my post last week, I let you know that I'd be making an effort to post weekly from here on out. I also hinted that there was something that had been preventing me from writing and that I wasn't aware of it until recently.
Well, I feel like, in order for me to move forward not only as a writer but as a human being, I need to address some things that have been going on in my life over the past several years, to process what happened and work through it so I can leave it all behind me.
There will be no names.
There will be no identifying information.
Even though some terrible things happened, people deserve respect and privacy.
A little over 6 years ago, I met a man. Isn't that how these stories always start?
At first, I was completely uninterested. While I don't really have a type, he didn't really appeal to me in that way, at least physically. As I got to know him more, I found that I appreciated his sense of humor and the attention he gave me, so I gave him a shot against my better judgement.
While I can't fully explain out of respect for this man's privacy why it was against my better judgement, I'm going to ask you to trust me when I say that I should have never been with him. Ever. For many more reasons than one. But I had such a desperate need for attention from the opposite sex at the time that I was willing to look past the red flags in order to feel validated and attractive.
At first, our involvement was frivolous. There was no emotional connection, and we kept everything very light. No labels, no telling anyone, nothing.
Over time, it morphed into pure, profoundly damaging toxicity.
At first, it was subtle. Little lies that I'd catch him in; lies that didn't even matter; lies that, had he just been honest about in the first place, wouldn't have even mattered.
There was also the constant belittling. My needs were unimportant. If I was hurt by something he said or did, I was being too sensitive. He was always right. I was always wrong, and any issues were always my fault. Also, the things that interested me (languages, music, etc.) were trivial and worthless.
One specific example of that is how he would tell me I sounded awful when I sang. I have studied music for the better part of 15 years, and my vocal folds are worth approximately $100,000 after all of my education, practice, and other related expenses are tallied up. I have a great deal of cultivated skill paired with God-given talent, and I sound damned good. He was lucky to hear me sing for free.
I can say that now, but I had nowhere near
the confidence necessary to say or even know that then.
When I set boundaries (i.e. "it hurts me when you do this," "I don't like it when you do this," etc.), he would go out of his way to cross them, just to show that he not only could, but would. He told me that it was to "toughen" me up. Thinking about that now disgusts me.
His "apologies" consisted of giving me things. A computer here, an iPod there... He didn't know how to apologize on an emotional level, so he used stuff to placate me. I'm ashamed to admit that it worked for a time. I was poor and in college, and there were things that I needed but couldn't afford. So I guess, in a way, I used him and his materialism for my own personal gain. For that, I apologize. It was unfair of me.
Gradually, the abuse escalated until it was too much for even me to handle. I used to pride myself on my compassion in dealing with people, but I have since learned that it is one thing to be compassionate, but it is another thing entirely to be an enabler.
Sex was used as a method to control me. It's difficult to explain. Yes, it was enjoyable, but it was the only skill I had that was of worth to him. I wanted so desperately for him to tell me something - anything - that was positive about me, so I bent over backwards to make sure that he was satisfied. It was the only time he was pleased with me, and I sought that approval frequently. It wasn't until further on in the "relationship" that I began to pull away, to distance myself from that activity.
After 4 and 1/2 years, I had taken enough of beating. I was tired, I was getting sick much more frequently than normal, and I had lost all luster and zest for life. I've dealt with chronic depression since I was in middle school, so I'm no stranger to the ups and downs of chemical imbalance, but the depression in which I found myself after being emotionally abused for a long period of time was unlike any I'd ever experienced before.
I knew I needed to get out of this situation. I didn't really know why at that point, but I knew that my life was not going in a direction that was positive. So I made the decision to pare down my belongings and move across the world to Korea. There were other motivating factors, but the main driving force of this decision was simply to get as far away from him as I could.
I was courteous and gave him a year's notice that I would be leaving. He, of course, didn't believe me (I was stupid to think that I'd be successful over there, I'd come running back home for a myriad of reasons, etc.). Luckily, I didn't listen to his attempts to control me, and I planned for the next year. I studied Korean, I familiarized myself with Korean culture through reading, watching Korean dramas, listening to music, and I took part in various culture outreach programs and websites.
10 months went by, and my resolve still had not changed. I turned in my 2-month notice at work, and I think this was the point where he realized it was actually going to happen. I was going to Korea, come hell or high water, and I was doing it entirely without him. I think it bothered him immensely that I was going off-track and doing something outside of his control.
As a result, I think he began grasping at straws for ways to convince me to stay. Looking back on it now, it was obvious what he was doing. At the time, however, I was still so deep in it that I didn't see it.
He began making huge promises. Promises that were commitment-based, life-upheaval be damned. On the last night I saw him, he cried. This is a man I'm not even entirely sure has the ability to feel much less cry, and to this day I'm not sure if those tears were genuine or if they were just an act. I feel foolish admitting that, but it is what it is. Some secrets you never uncover. Others, you don't even try to.
Despite his efforts, off to Korea I went. My stay was shorter than originally planned, but those 6 months were an eye-opening experience that set in motion the train that is currently steaming forward right now in my life.
This is where I am now.
I am no longer in contact with this man. His numbers have been blocked via my carrier, and he has no way to get a hold of me unless it's on my terms. As of this post, I have had no reason to contact him.
I don't think about contacting him anymore. It used to be that I'd see something funny, and I'd text it to him to share in that humor. This would happen several times a day. Now, when I see something funny, I either text someone else, or I relish in the laugh by myself.
Ever-so-slowly, I'm turning back into myself after a long period of losing who I was as a person. I still have a long way to go, but I am realizing that I deserve so much more than he could have ever hoped to give me.
I am currently practicing celibacy (more to come on this next week). As you can imagine, I've been left with some wounds that need to heal, and they're the type of wounds that aren't going to heal overnight. I have no sexual desire at all, and that's mostly due to the "relationship" I had with this man. Sex, to me, is vulnerable and meaningful, and I don't trust anyone with that aspect of myself quite yet. Furthermore, it's going to take a very, very special man to open me back up again. I've learned my lesson, and I don't plan on trusting myself with someone unless they deserve it.
This might seem to be a unrelated, but I've also started taking kickboxing lessons at iLoveKickboxing.com. I'm allowing myself to take out all of my pent-up rage by hitting the shit out of a bag 3-4 times per week. All of the anger and frustration that I've felt toward this man over the last 6 years is being funneled into an activity that is serving to help me grow and be more healthy. If that isn't a productive use of a bad experience, I don't know what is.
After everything is said and done, I have emerged on the other side of a very bad situation. I didn't come out unscathed (who could, really?), but I survived. Actually, not only did I survive, but I'd like to think I've come out of this much stronger than before.
Now, it's true that I still have work to do, but it's a better thing to have work to do than to be stuck in a toxic, detrimental relationship with a man who treats you like cardboard unless you're giving him head.
At the end of the day, this post isn't for you.
It isn't even for him.
It's for me.