My best friend/other half, S, spent a week and a half in San Francisco, coming back this past Tuesday. While she was gone, I was at the bar almost every night, catching up with other friends, and also grew closer to a new friend, K. It was a pretty great time, though of course I missed S terribly (we’re more than a little co-dependent). When I went to pick S up at the airport on Tuesday, I took advantage of being less than five miles from the cemetery where my maternal grandparents are buried, and brought flowers to their graves. They’ve been gone more than 20 years, but in many ways, the loss is still very fresh. They raised my sister and me, in large part, and after my grandfather died was when my mom started to lose her sanity, and my sister had to take over the maternal role, at the tender age of 14 (I was 11). It was when my eating disorder kicked into full swing, when my father’s alcoholism began to rear its ugly head; in a lot of ways, it was the beginning of the end for our family, though it took two decades for everything to fully unravel.
When I reached the headstones, I placed the new flowers, then sat down beside the stones. Before I even realized what was happening, I began to sob, and I found myself saying, “I’m so sorry. I tried to help her. I tried to save her. I failed.”
Logically, I know that my mother’s mental illness wasn’t my fault. I don’t blame myself for my father’s death (most of the time), but for some reason I continue to default back to the idea that the reason I no longer have a mother was because of something I did wrong, some failure on my part. If I wasn’t me–if I was hearing this from a friend–I would say to them, “Of course it’s not your fault. It wasn’t your job. Those things you think about yourself, that you’re never good enough, that you’ll never succeed, that you’ll never be loved–you think these things because she said them to you so many times they became your truth.” I know this. It doesn’t make those insecurities any less real.
Ultimately, I am incredibly glad that I went, to have a few moments with the man and woman who believed in me and loved me unconditionally, but I won’t pretend it didn’t fuck me up a little. I haven’t been sleeping much since that time, and I was already struggling with hypomania. I self-injured that night, for the first time in months; nothing too severe, but it was still a setback for me.
Thursday night, when I decided to meet K downtown and then we went to wing night with a couple of other friends, I was feeling a little better. I was feeling more secure, and we had a great time at dinner. Then K went to work, where S was as well, and I stayed to hang out with the boys, O and A. O is one of my best friends; A is a more recent friend, one I adore, as well as someone I’ve had a casual sexual relationship with, a friends-with-benefits sort of thing that was working fairly well until it started to get weird; one night when he had been drinking he told me he wanted more, and I told him I wasn’t interested in that. Since, we’ve just been hanging out as usual, and I felt like it was starting to get back to normal. Now I think I was just kidding myself.
I love both of these boys dearly, but they too have their share of demons, and neither of them is a pleasant drunk, so when they started drinking heavily and getting argumentative, I left them behind to go visit S and K at the music venue where they were working. I was deep in conversation with K when I realized that not only had O and A arrived, but they were intoxicated and pretty much at each other’s throats, itching for a fight. Lest they be removed from the venue, I walked up and said, “Hey, guys, keep it down a little. You don’t want to get thrown out.”
O responded fairly well, but A did not. He raised his hand, almost as if he was going to backhand me. In all the times I have seen him intoxicated, sometimes blackout drunk, he’s never been violent towards me, and I was astonished. Another friend, also an employee, witnessed this; ultimately, she and S had him removed from the venue. I just figured he would go home and pass out and sleep it off–until the texts started.
“You’re the reason I just got thrown out. I’ll never forgive you.”
“I blame you.”
“You’re the worst.”
I wasn’t thrilled, but I decided to just ignore it. Then I get another text; apparently he’d gone to the bar across the street, where we all hang out, and was acting so obnoxious that they’d thrown him out of there too.
“What did you tell them that got me thrown out of here too?”
At that point I responded, briefly. I said that I hadn’t said anything, just as I hadn’t at the previous place; I told him that I was worried about him and he was important to me, and that maybe he should go home. A flurry of texts followed, as well as multiple (declined) phone calls. He told me no one liked me, including him. He told me that I would be a horrible teacher, that no one would learn from me. He told me that I should learn to act like an adult, that I was desperate…all the things my mother used to say. I simply texted back, “Do not contact me again. EVER.” And then the kicker came:
“Hate yourself. You should.”
I fell apart. It took everything I had to call an Uber and get myself home. I kept hearing those words in my head, but not in his voice–in my mother’s. It was the flashback to end all flashbacks, culminating in a panic attack so severe it took three times the normal dose of Klonopin before I could breathe normally and even begin to think about trying to lay down and sleep.
At the end of the day, I am certain he meant none of those things. I know he didn’t. But the fact is, he got so drunk that he said them anyway. He said exactly what he knew I used to hear from my abuser.
The primary explanation I gave to myself for why I wouldn’t want anything more from him was because he had a tendency to get drunk and make an ass out of himself; I’ve been there and done that, and saw too much of my dad in him to ever want that sort of attachment. Now I see that he’s even more broken than I thought, that he has the capacity for violence and abuse, and I need to stay away all together.
We’re all broken, my little family of choice. We all have demons. We all have rough pasts. It’s part of what makes us all fit together; we look out for each other. At the end of the day, though, I have to look out for myself first. When I finally made it home, I tried so hard to calm down on my own. I tried to logic my way through the pain and hurt and confusion, and it didn’t work. I self-injured again, this time fairly severely. When I woke today, I was exhausted already, emotionally drained and in fairly bad physical pain as well. I hibernated all day.
I’ve since heard from S that A doesn’t remember a thing about last night. I scoffed a bit when she said that, and told her, “Well, he can check his sent texts if he wants to see a bit of it.” As I said, I know he didn’t mean it, but it doesn’t matter how drunk he was, how much he didn’t mean it–it’s that he said and did these things, and that scares me, for my interactions with him and my own personal emotional safety. And if I could cut my own mom out of my life for these reasons–I sure as hell don’t want to see him again.
Anyway, I just needed to write it down; part of the process of recovering from it, I guess. I know that my decision to walk away is the right one, but it hurts still, to lose a good friend.