I’m folding a couple of the T-shirts that haven’t yet been demoted to dryer status when all of a sudden, I’m thinking about my son’s father’s reaction when I told him I was pregnant. We limped along for another two and a half years, but he never quite forgave me. [i]
That isn’t what I’m thinking about, however. I’m thinking about the day he came to me and told me he was getting a vasectomy. My son was just two. We didn’t talk about his decision, he simply presented it as a fact. We were engaged, living together, and raising a family, but we didn’t talk about his decision to get sterilized. He just announced his plans and requested a ride and post-operative care.
It didn’t occur to me to object. It didn’t occur to me that it was something that could be discussed. Discussion was akin to making demands, and that wasn’t part of the role I was allowed to play. But it occurs to me as I’m folding the Hollister T-shirt that was a thrift store score because we don’t like Hollister the company but I love the tops, that as behaviours go, it was extremely fucked up.
I was going to say, “abusive,” but sometimes blunt is the way to go. We lose something when we soften the language.
The relationship was abusive from every angle. It mostly wasn’t physically violent, but it was abusive nonetheless. I didn’t have boundaries then. I didn’t think I was allowed.
It’s not vasectomies that are on my mind, however, but abusive relationships.
The respite weekend went well, except that I’m not perfect, a fact that came crashing home after everything was done and dusted. The children went home, but I’ve been in a state of triggered anxiety ever since. Not only has my brain been replaying their stay to negative effect – I should’ve played more here, I should’ve cooked a different meal there, I should’ve been quiet about the noise when it got out of hand instead of having boundaries – my anxiety has taken this a sign to engage with enthusiasm. A part of me expects to be jolted awake by a thump at the door and the spinning lights of a paddy wagon.
I’m joking, but just barely. My brain isn’t too concerned with reality when it’s ramping up – I once fell into near hysterics over the thought that I might be sent to debtor’s prison. Since I don’t live in Victorian England, the odds were low.
Panic is hovering in the wings. We’re not separate from our lived reality. As I told my therapist the other day, my daughter managed to get in a shot that hit the mark. I’m vulnerable when it comes to parenting. It matters in a way that little else does. The only shot that would have been truer would’ve been calling me “fat.”
With tender spots, criticisms don’t have to be true.
Her words came roaring back as I started tidying the house, and I started to freak out a little. And by a little, I mean, I took loxapine for the first time in a bit. The thoughts were a little too fast and a little too persistent for comfort. An unfortunate end to a mostly good weekend.
I even rescued a trout trapped by shallow stream waters. That was one disappointed crow.
And while one doesn’t like to drug away uncomfortable feelings as a matter of course, knowing where the road is leading is important information. It’s good to know where the path ends.
The best place to jump off a spiral is at the top.
This is a hard time of year for me anyhow, and I don’t mean because December holds pretty much every important holiday known to man, and this requires for vague reasons (capitalism) that one becomes the embodiment of Martha Stewart for the month. I have some unpleasant memories associated with this time of year and even if the brain no longer remembers, the body knows.
And for “unpleasant memories” you can read “trauma.”
I’m predisposed to being triggered.
I’ve never had much luck with November, to be honest. A shocking number of very bad things have happened to me in the late fall.
I wonder what an astrologer would make of that.
My therapist tells me that the next time I do relief, I should journal not my feelings (which could’ve cued me into the potential for being triggered; my daughter and grandson were on my mind often), but a bullet list of what I did and how things went. Then, when my brain tries to attack me with words not my own, I’ll have proof to the contrary laid out in bad penmanship. [ii]
I’ll be able to hold onto important truths.
I’m not a horrible parent. I’m not a horrible foster parent. I’m not even a horrible human being. Yes, I’ve had bad moments in my lifetime. I’ve been mean and cutting, and I’ve been cruel and snide. I can be a touch rigid and judgmental if I don’t take care. [iii]
I’ve even dabbled in theft, and although some try to justify my petty larceny as a function of my eating disorder and therefore somewhat immune from judgment, I’ve never been able to let it go by looking at it that way.
I knew stealing was bad when I was doing it.
We’re not nearly as unaware as the world seems to think. [iv]
I’m not a monster. The panic and harsh thoughts did ultimately remind me of some things I need to not forget, however. The first is that my daughter has trauma. Trauma informs her life and her decisions in a great many ways. I must remember to remember that more consistently. The second is that I’m allowed to have boundaries. The third is that exercising them can be a little triggering.
I don’t regret growing a spine. I don’t regret the fences I’ve built. I don’t regret learning to set expectations of the world. I don’t regret my boundaries at all. But I wouldn’t mind if my emotional self got on board and gave the self-flagellation a rest.
Flashbacks and memories of things that never happened are a miserable way to spend time. Reality is punishment enough. I’d far rather spend my dread on my Christmas tree. I hate fanning branches.
[i] Most of my clothing comes from thrift stores, and I’m quite lucky when it comes to finding new. New clothes, however, have a shrinkage problem, especially when it comes to cotton. I hate an unintentionally bare midriff, so I hang the shirts to dry until I get bored with the process. Then it’s survive the dryer, or be damned.
[ii] My penmanship is amazing. It’s quite lovely to look at, with swoops and loops and flourishes. It’s also, most of the time, illegible even to myself. I do better with printing, though even then I flip-flop between small caps and lower-case with reckless abandon.
[iii] My brain’s a little too fond of the “one true way” at times.
[iv] People with eating disorders. There’s an assumption by those who treat us that we’re fully and always in denial about our reality. This isn’t entirely accurate, though it is a convenient belief that helps us maintain our disorders.
7 thoughts on “Memories are the darndest thing.”
Weird—my first husband did something similar. When we went to my son’s sonogram (our second child) and the tech told us it was a boy, my ex leaned in and whispered that he would be the last child and that he already had a vasectomy appointment for the next week. We’d discussed children many times and agreed on three, though I wanted four and he wanted two.
I did flip out on him—to no avail. He went through with the vasectomy before our son was even born. I took some evil pleasure in his pain and discomfort during the procedure (complications—the anesthesia didn’t work on him) and recovery.
However, the universe has a nasty sense of humor. After he married his second wife, he got his vasectomy reversed and went on to have two more children…bringing his final count to four, and mine to two.
Definitely fucked up.
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I’m sorry we shared such a nasty experience. How weird is that? For such a big planet, the world is often small.
My ex fell in the shower after we got back home – like you, I revelled a bit in the schadenfreude.
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I’m told that it’s good to find joy in the little things. 😉
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“…criticisms don’t have to be true…” I feel like those can be the most painful. If someone criticizes me for something that’s true, I treat it as a learning opportunity; motivation to implement changes. However, I go amok when someone accuses me of something that I am not (that I pride myself on the opposite and that I KNOW is not true). It irritates me that a) they can’t see it when I’m putting all this work in, b) they don’t appreciate it, c) they are trying to make me doubt reality. All of the options are toxic.
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I like that you break down the lies into reasons why they annoy. They truly are all toxic options, though I’m currently putting gaslighting as my number one hate.
I have no words. I felt your words and I send you love. It’s tough being human sometimes.
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Thank you. It really is. I stand by my determination to come back as a dolphin next time. They look like they’re joy incarnate.