I was dating someone else at the time, but something drew me to him; something stubborn and young. I saw him from across the church and said to myself, “I’m going to marry him.” The first time I met him was at a bible study in our pastor’s home. I found myself glancing at the door for any sign of him, completely ignoring whatever anyone else was saying. The first months we were together were easy. Ten months later, on my 19th birthday, he asked me to marry him in front of our friends, family and church members. I remember feeling uncomfortable. I remember feeling ignorant, like there was something I should’ve known. I remember feeling strong-willed and cloaked myself in the attitude that I knew what was right for me at the wise old age of 19.
Little more than a year later we were married. We walked back down the aisle together and someone asked us how we felt. I felt empty. Thoughts like, “what have I done?” and “I made a huge mistake,” danced across my head. But I dismissed them. After all, it was too late then.
I don’t think any one thing ended our marriage. It was a cocktail of tiny things that mixed into something that couldn’t be fixed. Less than six months in we’d settled into a routine. He resented me for not working and only going to school, I resented him for not spending time with me. We fought. I’d wait like a puppy at the door for him to come home, he’d peck me on the head, then fall asleep on the couch only waking up to play video games and leave me to do what I wanted alone. I walked out of every fight hoping he’d come after me, a habit I’d learn too late was toxic. I couldn’t articulate my feelings or emotions and harbored painful resentment for the way I thought he emotionally and physically neglected me. Our sex life was non-existent. I felt like a nymphomaniac anytime I’d want to do something because I’d inevitably get shut down. Growing up we were both taught that sex was a sin, specifically sex outside of marriage. But what about sex inside a marriage? No one taught us that was healthy.
We locked each other out instead of learning to grow together and appreciate the other’s passions and hobbies. We lived an hour away in any direction from any friends or family, a situation I refuse forever to put myself in again. We had no support system, no friends, no one to talk to outside of our struggling relationship. Less than two years into our marriage I met someone in college. We talked too much and he became my emotional support. That emotional affair is what some people from my life back then will tell you ended my marriage. I call bullshit.
We separated in December 2012 after he found the texts on my phone. He took the car, my debit cards and my phone leaving me literally stranded. He stayed away for days spewing my “sin” to all of his family. He told me repeatedly our failure was my fault and I was the one with all the problems. We went to therapy once and he refused to speak, telling the counselor I was the one that needed therapy. Not him. After a while I started to believe him.
The first night back at my parents’ was brutal. Pepper was only six months and I’d just lost whatever independence I had. I walked in covered in shame and guilt, something nearly everyone in my life placed on me after they found out. I grew up southern baptist and divorce is this faraway thing that we don’t talk about. And you better not do it, ’cause God wants you with whoever you married no matter what. I cried crumpled in a ball on the couch and they took me to bed. I fell face down onto the air mattress and my sister threw a blanket on me because I physically couldn’t move. I don’t think any of us really understood the magnitude of those days.
My middle sister, Shelby, was in college a few hours away and visited on weekends. When she wasn’t there, I propped my laptop up right next to the bed and put 30 Rock on repeat so I could fall asleep. The suicidal and rampant guilt thoughts were incessant. I still remember the first time I thought about suicide and the sheer shock and pain I felt still haunts me.
In college we had a free counseling center. God knows how I found out about it. I hid my situation for months, pretending like everything was okay as I lost upwards of sixty pounds and started driving a different car, but when I physically couldn’t stop my thoughts I (somehow) gathered up enough courage to reach out for professional help. I made the call and set up an appointment with Katie, someone I would later find out was a psychology student–not a licensed therapist just yet. Katie was fine and let me spill my guts out on the floor for six weeks, three times a week. I started feeling better and actually processed what I could of the separation and pending divorce. I walked away from my last session feeling healed.
We tried to make it work for about eight months, but nothing changed. After I while I shut off my heart and told him I was through for good. Not long after, he started dating someone and married her later that year.
In 2015, I finally got “serious” enough and found myself in a relationship for the first time since the divorce. I made things bigger than they actually were and I was angry a lot of the time. I felt hurt by things that didn’t matter that much and subconsciously pushed him away. I found myself not trusting him (he was untrustworthy, but this has more to do with my issues than his) and spiraling anytime I felt the slightest bit hurt. I blamed him for things and feelings that he had no responsibility for which actually hurt me more. He told me I was a hurricane, but he also taught me how to communicate. Years later I recognize how toxic he was for me, but that doesn’t mean good things didn’t happen. He forced me to speak my mind and tell him my feelings, something I’ll be forever grateful for. We broke up in November of that year and I hit some of my darkest days. It was mere months after leaving everything familiar and moving hours away where I knew him and him alone. His leaving ripped open a part of me I didn’t know existed. For the first time I felt true darkness; physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. The only thing I remember about the next six months is black. I don’t remember sun. Ever. I don’t remember Christmas. I don’t remember friendships or family. All I see is black.
I sought the help of a professional counselor and saw her for about six months to process, again, my relationship with him. He consumed my every waking thought and I couldn’t make it through a single day without crippling anxiety and depression. I couldn’t think or eat and I lost weight again.
I walked away from my last session with my counselor feeling healed.
I dated off and on after that but something nagged at me, pulling me to be alone. I was scared, sure. I’d hardly been single a month from the time I was 14. What would I do without constant romantic companionship? Who would I text all day? Who would say they loved me?
I sought out manipulative relationships to make me feel something. I wasn’t emotionally healthy and subconsciously I needed someone to hurt me because I didn’t know what anything healthy felt like. I’d never been in a healthy relationship and tricked myself into thinking the ones I’d been in and were seeking out were. (You can read more about those here.)
I’d finally had enough about May of 2016 and cut myself off from anything remotely romantic. I actively avoided seeing or texting anyone I’d had romantic contact with and blocked myself completely out of that mindset. The universe heard me and let me be for a little while. Six months later, I felt healthy enough to seek out someone to be my partner. A real partner. And I found him. We spent the first three months of our relationship falling head over heels and committing to “doing things right” this time. We both felt like this was something bigger than anything we’d been part of before. And for the first time, I felt true love.
Six months in, after all my trying and “habit breaking,” my trauma reemerged. I fought hard and got angry at things that didn’t matter. I took every decision he made personally and let him know it. Anything that could’ve been perceived as mildly painful for me was augmented to next level pain. An emotionally unhealthy person will do that. I could hear my tiny healthy self telling my big unhealthy self to calm down. Think rationally. Let it go. But my unhealthy self was too big and powerful and took over the entire relationship. It broke us. And it broke me.
I turned 27 over the weekend. I spent it sitting lakeside with my family and pups and had the best hike and swim of the year. On my way back to Dallas I listed to a podcast on spiritual trauma and it hit me in my core. It hit me in a spot I didn’t know needed to be hit. I sat in my driveway and sobbed. All this time I thought I was just being self-deprecating and not thinking I deserved love but what was actually happening was much more serious. My subconscious has been severely damaged and won’t let me get near to anyone that I might trust or love. My subconscious thinks it’s my failed marriage all over again and my fight or flight reactions come out in full force. For years I thought I needed love to fix me. That if the right person came along, I wouldn’t do or say or be this thing anymore. I’d be healed. How wrong I was.
For my 27th birthday I’m giving myself the gift of forgiveness. I’m trying to forgive myself for the irreparable harm I’ve done to those I never in a million years wanted to hurt. I’m giving myself the gift of professional help. Love cannot fix me. Relationships cannot fix me. There is something wrong in my brain and I’m not operating at full capacity. I’m in pain. And I’m doing everything in my power to heal.
If you’ve been through emotional trauma, you’re not alone. An extremely heartfelt THANK YOU to those that have reached out to me through direct message on Instagram. I’ve never met any of you in real life but your kindness and genuineness is why I love humanity.