Beginning of the Start

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LumiLumi

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Beginning of the Start
« on: September 28, 2020, 11:26:53 PM »
I wrote and told this story live last winter. In doing so I though I had completed my recovery...but really we are never done. I have not shared this since then, despite the fact I planned to.  Anyway, I need some support now and I know most of that support must come from within. But I also need some from people who understand. Maybe this should be in the Recovery Journals, yet it is a good introduction to me too, so I am using it as a hello and a summary of my past. Hello. I am LumiLumi. It's nice to meet you.

Beginning of the Start

I stood in front of the mirror listening to a voice message from my sister. “Great news” she said, “you get to be an aunt again.” It was the last word that ripped at me. “Again? AGAIN! I don’t get to be a !%#^* aunt now.”
 
I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the beginning of the end. Or I guess more accurately, the beginning of the start. No matter what I did or how happy I was, I knew it would not be enough. Still I readied myself for a simple family dinner. I brushed my teeth. I put on my shoes. I did all the things a normal healthy person does. From the outside, I seemed just fine. Maybe if I knew what emotional abuse was, I could have avoided it. Maybe if my parents had known, they could have protected me. But we didn’t know. So I pulled up the hood of my rain jacket, climbed into the car, and, in the torrential rain, headed toward my future. I barely made it 20 yards before the world blurred around me and my insides shattered. I no longer knew who I was. All I knew is that I could not face what was ahead. I stopped the car unable to see through the rain and my blurred vision and just stood in the middle of the street. I don’t actually remember getting out of the car. But I needed some tether to reality and the raindrops fell with such force they stung. The cold, wet bite of the rain was the only sensation that made sense. Inside I was numb. Outside I was wet. I might not be able to face what lay ahead but I could grasp that if you stand in the rain you get wet. At that moment it was my only connection to the world. By the time my friend showed up a few minutes later to move my car and bring me home, I was soaked.
 
I couldn’t understand how I had gotten to this point. From the outside, I had seemed just fine. Inside however. Inside I felt bruised and battered. I had felt this way for a while, but I was strong so I kept going. I believed in personal growth so I kept trying. I had no idea what I was up against so I kept fighting. And then I shattered. The abuse I felt was not violent or malicious. Nor was it inflicted by my parents or a lover. I had no idea that one could experience emotional abuse from a brother-in-law. The media had given me no reference, no warning.
 
A few months before, I had invited my brother-in-law to join me for lunch. We sat in the lobby at my work when he began to lecture me about my life. I was told I could not always use work as an excuse to avoid spending time with him and my family, that my friends were young and immature, that I should stop online dating and just meet someone in the real world, that I was drinking and partying too much in an effort to make up for missed experiences during my failed marriage, and that my priorities were straight up backwards. Now even if I had been making poor life choices at the time, I probably would have been pretty upset. But suffice it to say that my life choices were pretty solid, so I was beyond furious. The thing is though, it wasn’t these words that really got to me. What got to me was that he started off by telling me that my sister believed these things. My sister who had been my best friend since she was born. My sister who knew all my secrets. My sister who I used to talk to almost every day. My sister who I was no longer able to see without my brother-in-law around. Apparently, she believed these things. Apparently, she believed these things and was afraid to talk to me.
 
What got to me was that after a year of seemingly tiny interactions with my brother-in-law, my trust in the relationship with my sister had been broken down so completely that I actually believed him.
 
I have never been so close to yelling. Who knows maybe I did yell. I mean, I certainly raised my voice a little. And I talked quite sternly. But I wanted to full-on yell and scream and swear. All I really remember doing though, is wanting to yell, glancing around the lobby, realizing this was where I worked and every door to every lab hung wide open. I was a professional here. With a good reputation. One that did not involve yelling at other people. So I not-so-politely excused myself and accomplished very little the rest of the day.
 
What got to me was that afterwards, I got some 30 texts and multiple voicemails forcing an apology at me; insisting that I come over so that we could fix things. I wasn’t even allowed the time and space to be rightfully hurt and angry. When I was finally ready to listen to an apology I was told that because he couldn’t understand why I didn’t like him he took everything I cared about and said horrible things about them. This way at least I would have a reason to dislike him that was understandable. It was not much of an apology. Still if the behaviors had stopped I would have accepted it.
 
If it had just been that one time, all I would have is some colorful family drama. But it wasn’t. Most of what drove me to breaking, when taken alone, doesn’t actually amount to much.  It certainly doesn’t sound horribly inappropriate. The stuff that truly hurt was simply that he misquoted me.
 
He told me what I said. And then didn’t listen when I told him what I actually said.
 
He told me how I felt. And didn’t listen when I explained how I actually felt.
 
He told me what I meant. And didn’t listen when I explained what I actually meant.
 
He told me why I did something. And didn’t listen when I explained why I actually did said thing.
 
Really the whole thing started simply as a series of misunderstandings and miscommunication. Both are things that can be fixed. But every attempt only made it worse. I would explain and the next time I was told the same misinterpretation, again. Explain. Misinterpret. Explain. Misinterpret. On repeat until I questioned my memory, my reality, my self. No matter what I said or didn’t say. No matter what I did or didn’t do, it was never enough. It was never the right way. I was always wrong. I began to question the core traits that made me who I was. I started to think that my interpretation of the world around me and all of my relationships were utterly false. It was this pattern more than anything that really got to me. I was at a loss for how to function in the world. Of course the world doesn’t stop moving so I just kept dusting myself off and attempting to get on with life, on the outside. On the inside I was bruised and battered.
 
If it had just been that one time, I could have chalked it up to a bad day, a bad week, * a bad summer even. But it wasn’t. It was a pattern. A predictably unpredictable pattern of pandering, judgement, and destructive words that left me unsure of reality.
 
I have received voicemails from my brother-in-law calling me promiscuous (this while I had been exclusively dating someone for nine months) or telling me I wasted a decade of my ex-husband’s life.
 
I got texts from him pretending to by my sister, from her phone, dragging me into personal conversations.
 
I was accused of using men for my own happiness, pushing some to take drastic measures (noting here that a good friend of mine recently had committed suicide).
 
I was told that if I cared about my father, I would fix the family discord because it was stressful to his already failing health. As if I didn’t know this whole thing was stressful.  As if I wasn’t trying. As if I didn’t love my dad.
 
It didn’t matter how hurtful his words were, I was always expected to excuse and forgive them.
 
My words, however, must be taken back and apologized for. Two very specific words, that I said years ago and are constantly misquoted back to me. I was sitting on the couch, looking at my family. I was having two conversations. Out loud I was explaining how I felt and what brought me to my breaking point in the rain. In my head I was telling myself not to use the words that I really, really wanted to use.  I knew they would not be received well. So out loud I continued on with some flowery description of my feelings. For a split second I glanced away. The conversation in my head came to the forefront.  I was not saying the right words. I should not be afraid to use the words. I was sitting in therapy. Therapy only works if you are honest with yourself. It is a safe place. So out loud I said, “I feel emotionally abused”.  And ever since I have owned that statement because for me they were the right words. 
 
Not “I was.” Not “You are.” But “I feel.” “I feel emotionally abused.” And that I guess is when I realized this was not an ending. It was just the beginning. What came next was up to me. I had to fight to regain the parts of myself that I loved. My practically blind trust in people. My sense of adventure. My ability to jump into the unknown with glee, and my desire to help people.
 
And honestly from the outside I am sure it looked a lot like just dusting myself off and living my life. However, I have never put such thought and effort into how to prioritize my life. I made a conscious decision to do things I enjoyed. I crafted constantly, learning new skills, strengthening friendships, and forging new ones. I often stayed up too late working on a project both because I loved it but also because it kept my mind focused on the present. When I tried to sleep, the negative feelings would tug at my insides. I searched for the kernels of truth in the things my brother-in-law told me. Yes, maybe I crafted too much. Maybe it was a way of avoiding things in my life. I examined this truth. I tried to see it from every angle. I decided there was nothing wrong with crafting too much. I owned it. It was right for me.
 
I challenged my sense of adventure by backpacking for the first time ever solo in the rain. I went to the Smoky Mountains as a way to escape conflict. I knew my phone would not have reception so I could hide from anything directed at me, a built in excuse. It was like walking through a fairyland surrounded by solitude and raindrops.  I re-lived past conflicts and examined all of the possible ways I could have responded differently. If anyone had been around they would not have been able to distinguish my tears from the rain. But I forced myself to focus on each step and the beauty around me. This was my life and my adventure. I reminded myself that I was the only one who could keep myself from enjoying it. I owned it.
 
Certain times of the year were always harder for me, my birthday, Christmas, the month of May. I learned to recognize them and then made a point of filling them with happy memories. For my birthday, I started throwing large Mongolian hotpot parties. I set a huge table, spent the night before making pints of sauce, and every year we set off the carbon monoxide detector. At first my body would tense with anxiety as I prepared. Now I look forward to it every year. My friends look forward to it. Friends of my friends look forward to it. It is my birthday and own it.
 
I learned how to be selfish when I needed to be, and accepted that this was not a bad thing.  I said no and didn’t back down. I defined personal boundaries. Fumbling to put them into words. Stumbling over how to protect them. I had never had to do this before. It was not easy. Before my boundaries were understood without description, without words, without me really even knowing what they were, and for most people it is still that way. But for him, I had to define boundaries. And for my sister, that was the hardest part. I struggled to accept that walking away was not the same as abandoning my sister. I still sometimes struggle with this but I own it, nonetheless.
 
There are two sides to every story and this is mine. I have not been shy about what happened and in the end this may be what results in a permanent rift. But this was my journey and my life. It is mine to share. I talked about everything with my friends. When my confidence in myself faltered they reminded me that my courage and open mindedness and generosity were real. They reminded me that my reality was real. When necessary they challenged my feelings and actions. I listened to them and love them for it. Being open and vulnerable and talking about what happened helped me find myself again. I am different now, stronger.
 
Eventually, I did not have to try as hard to live for myself. But it was not with time that I healed, it was with intention. I made a conscious decision to believe myself, to trust my memories, and to protect my boundaries. My actions and words may not have always been the right ones, but they were the right ones for me and I own them. With intention, I took responsibility for my own happiness. I gave everything I could to contribute to the happiness of my sister and her family. In the end this meant giving up the one relationship in the whole world that I thought meant the most to me, my relationship with my sister, and discovered that in fact the most important relationship I will ever have is my relationship with myself. I hope that someday they can be a part of my life again. But I am not going to change who I am or let anyone tell me who I should be in order to make that happen.
 
I love easily, my friends are family, and my life is an open book to anyone who even thinks to think about asking. And I love this about myself. None of it was easy and I didn’t do it alone; my friends helped. The hard work, however, was mine.

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marta1234

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Re: Beginning of the Start
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2020, 09:46:10 AM »
Thank you for sharing your story LumiLumi. Welcome to the forum. We will always support you, no matter what. And I’m sorry this happened to you. My heart goes out to you :hug: