I had the most moving, surreal and emotional experience earlier. And it’s helped me to reflect on things, and to calm.
Yesterday I had my therapy appointment. It turns out not seeing her for 6 weeks was actually very useful – the last time she saw me I was physically a wreck, which in turn meant I was psychologically a wreck too. I don’t see the changes but she had a memory of me from 6 weeks ago, and then the image of me before her, and was amazed at the transformation. Despite the state of my head, she said I have more fire in my eyes, and seem more grounded. I left feeling stunned, reassured, and curious. Did I really look so different?
This morning my head seemed to want to show me this. I went to the doctors for a blood test, which took a lot less time than I’d been expecting. I planned to walk straight across campus to the music building. But I paused by the fountains and trees. Sensible head hissed at me you know you’re not safe on your own. Get to the office. But I felt safe. And I felt like I, for myself, needed some time to reflect on my own, in peace, for the first time in what feels a very long time. It’s been too long since I walked down the river with gentle music in my earphones, letting myself cry or smile as was needed, and having some time to piece things together without any feelings of pressure. So I ignored sensible head, and hissed back at the moment I feel so raw and empty that even if they found me and raped me, it wouldn’t be as painful and isolating as life is now. I need some space for crying out loud. Let me live like a 20 year old for JUST a little bit. They’ve already taken so much of my life and normality, I’m sick to f*ck of them ruling every waking moment of my life based on ‘what ifs’. I’m going for a walk by the fountain. And you are going to SHUT up.
Sensible head huffed but obediently went quiet. This way I knew I must be safe – if somewhere unconsciously there was an ‘appointment’ planned, then sensible head wouldn’t have shut up. She’d have drove me so crazy I might have wanted to run into the pond just to drown her out, or I’d have done as she said, but either way – there’s no way she would have just huffed and shut up.
So I went to the pond, rubbing my slightly tingly arm from the blood test and grimacing. I hate blood tests. I always feel groggy afterwards. Urgh.
When I got to the pond, I walked around, hiding under the shadows of the trees. Despite it being on campus, it is always calm and quiet here. Reflective. As I came around a corner though, I stopped dead. Because there, on the other side of the pond staring into the water, was myself. I blinked, but my other self didn’t vanish. I wasn’t scared though, just a bit weirded out. But when I looked closer at ‘her,’ I recognised where she was. I’d stood in exactly that spot a year ago just about, when I was due to go home. My abusive ex was at the time a very close friend – I thought. Without me realising, she’d manufactured situations where I had fallen out with each of my trusted friends in turn. I thought it was just me. She convinced me they were bad for me. That I was bad for them. That the best thing to do would be cut them off until I returned, if I ever did. I trusted her word. I had fallen out with the rest. She was all I had left, and they all trusted her too. Ironically, I can remember thinking I’ve fallen out with them and they probably hate me. But at least they know I’m still friends with (x). They trust her. She’ll keep them updated and reassure them whilst I can’t. Yeah right.
Anyway, I had been hesitant to go ‘home’ and indeed on the day I was supposed to, I didn’t. But she persuaded me it was for the best. That to prove my friends right (they reasonably were nervous of me going back) would be damaging for everyone, “if they think they were right then they’ll really never trust you again. They don’t trust you anyway. You need to gain their trust. Otherwise you risk breaking their boundaries by making only their opinion count. Prove to them you can do this, and you’ll be helping them.” She knew I feared crossing boundaries. Knew that made/makes me feel like an abuser. I had frozen in cold fear when she’d explained that if I stayed, I would be crossing boundaries (how?!) and even though the logic was flawed, I had no reason to doubt her. I believed she had my best interests at heart. “Will you get me if it gets too dangerous?” I whispered to her. “Yes…if I think it’s getting too much I’ll get you out of there.” Again, I believed her. So two days after I was meant to have gone ‘home’, I did.
But I was scared. I was very scared and also heartbreakingly sad that I’d apparently caused so much hurt and upset. I didn’t understand what had happened with my friends, couldn’t really remember. In hindsight it’s because I know the situations were manipulated and created by her, and I had no control….and the subtle threats had registered in my unconscious. Madly, I felt bad that I had made it so she was on her own – she was the only one able to support me because I hadn’t cut her off. I remember thinking this isn’t fair of me. Nobody can cope with this all on their own. That’s what she wanted me to feel though – guilty. And so ashamed of the level of baggage I carry just by existing.
The day before I was due to leave, I had gone onto campus. I didn’t know if I would ever get back. I wanted to see it all again, just in case. And now, in the present day, I was staring at my ghost-self, the girl I once was barely a year ago. I remember it vividly. I had walked to the edge of the pond and stared into the water, as though an answer would surface. I had cried heavily, but silently. My friends hadn’t given up on me, a couple had emailed a load of breadcrumbs which would later save my life, and several others had text me. I had to reply with her looking over my shoulder. But I could at least reply. But I still had them at a distance. And she had made so many sarcastic and angry comments when seeing I’d been text or email – “you asked for space. They can’t leave you alone. They don’t trust you at all. It must damage you so much, to be so untrusted. I wish they took even a moment to consider your boundaries, whereas you are terrified to even breathe out of turn.” I remember sticking up for them, but was already feeling exhausted and ground into the floor. I didn’t think it was her doing. Now I can see what she was doing. How she can talk about anyone not respecting my boundaries is so insane it’s almost laughable…
And there I was, at the fountain. I remember whispering “please God help me…whatever happens just please let me come back…” It was mad. I’d just had a week of serious suicide attempts but was nonetheless terrified of being killed, or worse, being kidnapped for good. So today I saw myself, and saw ‘her’ lips move in sync with the memory. I saw her tears streaming down her face, and her looking so tired already despite apparently being safe. So tired she couldn’t even lift her hand to wipe her face. I saw her lips move again – “I’m so scared…” then a bit later, after glancing at ‘her’ phone – “what have I done to them?” before her shoulders broke with sobs. Then she half-yelled, “help me…” and finally lifted her hands to her face, and sobbed heavily into her arms. That was me. I remember that pain, that fear and loneliness. That guilt. That guilt she managed to keep me feeling.
What struck me, from watching the memory, was how much like a little girl I looked. There I was, in a coat that was too big, and badly dyed red hair, and fear making me look like a 10 year old. I wanted to go over and hold her close, let her cry her eyes out with someone safe holding her. I wanted to shh her. I kept forgetting it was me, because I looked too young. I wanted to say to her “you don’t have to go. You don’t…” I wanted to tell her what would happen, that it would be safer if she stayed. The memories of last Christmas caught in my throat and suddenly I was crying too, but gently and just sadly. I felt very old. Had it really only been a year ago? I just remember that fear of never being able to get back. And fear of having hurt people. Now I understand why I was in such a weird place the other day….convinced I’d hurt people…
Suddenly she appeared, and walked over to me. Now I wanted to scream. The bitch. How dare she. I remember she appeared next to me and pulled me into a hug, telling me it’d be okay. I’d be okay and “you’re better off without them anyway. You were close to destroying them, and they don’t trust or respect you in turn.” I tried telling her that they did…that they were just worried and she laughed “and what right do they have to be scared? It’s your life, not their’s. They’re all on some lovely holiday. They’re not really scared. They’re just saying that to try and control you.” I remember hesitating, and looking back to the pond. Deep down I knew she was wrong, but I remember the tiny flicker of doubt. Because the thing was, I could sense that someone close to me, someone who I trusted, was trying to control me and put me in danger. I just hadn’t yet clicked as to who it was….in fact the ‘friend’ standing next to me. So, in the meantime, anything she said fed the flicker of doubt, fed my already nervous and wary instincts. I knew something was wrong, just didn’t know who or what. I wish I’d realised sooner.
Today I watched myself cry heavily into my ex’s shoulder. I remember feeling safe. I wanted to scream. “Don’t trust her. She’s going to hurt you and others. Get out. Run. Run!!!” but I couldn’t. I had to watch my naïve self. I watched them walk off, and remember how I still felt sick with fear, guilt and anxiety.
After the ‘memory’ of my ghost-self had vanished, I sat down on a bench, and stared at the pond. This year is so different. Why do I say I saw my “ghost”? Because it’s true. That girl was Jade. That girl was just that…a girl. A girl trusting blindly, and so confused over what to do. Still feeling tied to the family. What happened at Christmas will haunt me forever. I look back at the memory of me by the pond now and I can’t help thinking if you were that scared, why did you go?! But I know the answer, really. I didn’t feel like I had a choice. If I stayed, I’d been convinced that I risked damaging my friend’s by making them feel indispensable. If I stayed, I’d been convinced that I would never be trusted. If I stayed, I’d been convinced my siblings would be heartbroken. If I stayed, I’d been convinced there’d be no hope for my parents ever waking up. The weight of the world had been put on my shoulders. And I had cracked.
I am not that girl anymore. I don’t feel any urge to go home, except simply for sadness that I won’t see my siblings. I feel grief, in that respect. The sad truth that I probably won’t see them for many years, really. I am not a part of that family anymore. Not tied to them, I cut the stings. So today when I sat at the pond I wasn’t feeling extreme terror, or so helpless and little. I felt aged, weary, sad and yet stronger. To see the mirror – to see where I was a year ago, and where I am now. It’s woken me up a bit. I understand more what my therapist meant by transformation now. I don’t look frightened and 10 years old. I’m just not that girl. She died this year. Part of her was killed at Christmas. Part of her was killed by her ex. The remaining threads were too painful to keep hold of, and I let them go. I let that bit of my soul go. Gave birth to a new me, as the therapist said yesterday – “the grief of losing your children has allowed you to give birth to yourself, create yourself, ground yourself and start again.” I’m no longer living as that girl trying to cope in a mad world, I’m now a young adult trying to put to rest my past life, so it’s not such a weight but is part of my heart and spirit…gradually with less pain. I feel sad almost for the loss of that girl. Abuse is it’s own kind of murder. I wonder who that girl would have been without that much pain…
But then I looked so vulnerable and lost, and deep down I know… that girl was already drowning. There was no way anybody could rescue her. You did the right thing preserving the remaining parts of her, and letting the rest of her go. Now you’re free, the chains are gone, and you are more aware of yourself. I had a meeting yesterday where I was told that apparently I have an extraordinary ability to look within myself, to understand all areas of myself, to analyse myself with precise detail. I disagreed, initially. But then I realised it my ghost self, who was drowning, who disagreed. My new self, my angry, hurt, strong, vocal and adult self is grounded. Is new.
I am not that girl being tortured or controlled anymore. I am not that girl so easy to persuade to go into danger. I am not that girl who trusted so blindly. The little girl within me has died, and just has the phoenix burns to emerge from the flames…as I was told so long ago….the little girl dying has given birth to a new life, where I don’t go back, and I create myself rather than have myself constructed.
I cried for the little girl I was. I finally realised that I haven’t been 20 years old forever. Once I was a baby. A toddler being raped by daddy and sold to men in masks. I was a little girl. I was defenceless. I wept for the little girl, for the parts of her I couldn’t rescue. I was a girl when I lost my own children.
Perhaps the parts of me that I couldn’t rescue, that have died, are the bits holding my little ones in heaven now… maybe that’s where I can find closure…