Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, you might want to check to see if you are, in fact, surrounded by assholes.
This was SO me last year. I really was depressed and really did have very low self-esteem, but it was temporary and brought on by ten months of emotional abuse. I’m not fully recovered from my time in Arkansas, but I’m certainly close.
This blog is going to serve as a bit of a mind junk dump, so if you aren’t interested in hearing about my time being abused (physically and emotionally) or what it’s done to and for me, you can skip this post.
I’ve been pissed at my ex for changing me, and for teaching me a lot of very negative things about life. For instance, I can now explain that question everyone asks of women who’ve been in abusive relationships: Why do you stay?
At least, I can answer it for me. I can’t answer it for any other woman in any other abusive relationship because no two relationships are alike, no two women are alike, and because I’ve learned that abusive relationships–at least, not all of them, and I expect the vast majority of them–are not how they’re depicted in movies and reenactments. There’s a shocker.
In the movies, the woman lives in constant fear of being beaten, never fights back but is totally submissive to her abusive counterpart–the abusive man is always depicted as a deadbeat, often drinks, and does nothing but belittle his wife or girlfriend the moment he’s home.
My relationship wasn’t like that. In my relationship, there were plenty of good times mixed in with the bad. We’d go out canoeing or geocaching or rollerblading. We’d watch Third Rock or play Kinect or bake something together. We made music together. We laughed together.
And everyone wants to know, why would I stay in a relationship like that for eight months? Quite simply, the good times were as phenomenally good as the bad times were phenomenally bad. And the relationship started out all phenomenally good, with the bad creeping in slowly, so it’s not like I could pick one defining moment where things were just immediately out of control. Combine two adages about boiling a frog and “normal” being simply what you’re used to, and I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. That–and you don’t have to agree with this part, but really, you wouldn’t actually know, so I don’t care if you agree or not–and we actually loved one another. Some people think love is inseparable from things like respect, trust, et cetera, et cetera, and to that I say you’re really romantic and really fucking naive. Love and all that other stuff are NOT one and the same and neither do they always necessarily go together. That’s why love is so hard sometimes. That’s why some people fall in love yet can’t be together. That’s another of the lessons I learned in my time in Arkansas.
Love is its own separate entity, and trying to define it based on other traits strikes me as terribly callow.
So I’m getting way off topic. (Did I actually have a topic?) My point is, Cody said a lot of really nice things to me in the beginning of our relationship–a lot of things that sounded nice, beautiful even, and I felt so honored to be so well respected and cared for by someone else.
Later he negated every kind thing he ever said to me by tearing down my entire character, one trait at a time. At first I hated him for it, but after a while I just started to hate myself. I mean I really started to hate myself. And I’ve come back from that, mostly, except that now I have an aversion to hearing anything that places me on a pedestal. And I’ll be honest: I can accept outrageous compliments from women much better than from men. When men do it it makes me feel so uncomfortable sometimes that I’ll do the unforgivable and ask them not to.
My poor boyfriend has the hardest job in the world of complimenting his headfucked girlfriend in a way she can actually accept. Things every girl wants to hear–how great she is in bed, how beautiful she is, how fun and smart and adventurous she is–he likes to say all that but has the misfortune of having a girlfriend who’s suspicious of and has an aversion to hearing compliments from her boyfriend that are too sweet. If I didn’t have enough reasons to hate my ex, spoiling me for compliments would do it, because I love compliments, and now the hardest person to accept them from is the person I most want to deliver them.
You can see how that may be the tiniest bit frustrating.
But the most amazing thing is that I turned out okay–either in spite of or because of my time with him. I’m not sure which. Before Cody, people liked and respected me just fine, and I them. During Cody, I shut other people out, first to make my life easier (jealous Cody made my life very hard), and later from shame and inability to talk to others about what was going on with me. When I first moved to California I needed my friends like crazy. Sometimes I didn’t want to or simply couldn’t talk to people, but most of the time I leaned like crazy. Some nights, when no one was around to talk, I thought I’d go mad.
When you’re at a point in your life where you almost hate yourself because the person who was supposed to love you despised everything about you, you develop a whole new appreciation for friends and for people in general who treat you decently. You guys who claim to be assholes and wear the term like a badge of honor? I laugh at you. You’ve got NOTHING on an emotional or physical abuser.
For a while I slammed a verbal fist into anyone being a jerk, and even now I don’t take well to any form of intolerance or asshole-ish tendencies, and I see how easily I could have turned into a bitter harpy. Oh, so easily. And I gotta say, I’m quite proud of turning into an even better person than I was before all I went through with him. I’m terribly proud of the fact that I genuinely care about people and that the part of me I started developing with Cody that I actually liked–the adventurous, free-spirited part of me–I continued to develop without him. I used to think I needed him for that part of me to exist, but I find that without him that part of me has shined.
I love seeing this reflected in others’ reactions toward me. People compliment my looks and smarts and humor as they’ve always done, but these days I’m always floored by the frequent compliments on my overall personality and character–people view me as happy, spontaneous, and caring. The way people are always saying this, completely unprompted and without my doing anything out of the ordinary or outside of my normal character, renders me incredulous and makes me want to hug them all at the same time.
Again, part of me is afraid of that pedestal while the other part embraces it.
You can see, of course, how this may be a bit frustrating.