Learning to fall up
"When you experienced this trauma, no matter how long it happened or how many times, your brain instantaneously made judgements about the world, your sense of self, and others. This is why you’re paranoid. Why you trust no one. Why you perceive things to exist that aren't true in reality. It’s why people say you’re crazy, over-dramatic, or too emotional.
"You may not heal in a day, but know this: it is not your fault. Your brain is responding to trauma."
2015 was the year I wanted it to be. A year of just being. But I wasn't prepared for the work that 'just being' would mean. I had my exit strategy and escaped my abusive relationship, but I didn't understand everything it would leave me with.
After reading Sophie's post on the continuing lack of discussion around mental health issues (especially at Christmas), I decided to say something about my own. A lot of good thing have happened to me this year, but a 'year in photos' post or something similar felt fake. So this is the real deal when it comes to my 2015.
At the beginning of the year, I went to Iceland. I had flings. I moved house. I was happy, because it was just me. For the first time, possibly ever, I pleased only me. My mum kept expecting there would be a crash and I would still need my mourning period for the relationship; a breakup is still a breakup, after all.
But the crash never came and I didn't miss him. I went to see a counsellor but there was nothing to talk about. I read books about abuse and although recognising my experience in the case studies, I didn't connect with any of it. I plodded along, living in Aberdeen. I went out with my friend Gavin every weekend. I started running.
And then I did the most difficult thing: I fell in love again.
Everything about meeting Mike couldn't have been more accidental and perfect. It was bliss. I moved in four months to the day after our first date.
But I had a panic attack in the shower one morning after sex. I developed an unhealthy obsession with another girl in our town, convinced Mike was waiting to leave me for her. I had long crying jags on the sofa. Getting through my day at work became a battle. I constantly thought about my weight and lay awake, scratching at my (almost non-existent) tummy fat. I hid in the pub toilet one night, frightened to speak to anyone. I felt like a project and a burden.
Writing that, I can see how far I've come in the last few months and how much work I still need to do. I went back to counselling and the two most important things I learned were:
1. There is no spectrum of abuse. A lot of people (including me) justify it because "at least I didn't have broken bones" or "Some women are murdered! That never would have happened to me!". No. There is a line and once your partner crosses that line, it's an abusive relationship.
2. The amount your brain is retrained during that time is insane. Being in a normal relationship again is like teaching your brain that when you drop something, it would fall up instead of down. A lot of frustration I felt (and occasionally still feel) is that Mike doesn't follow the behaviour patterns I'm used to.
I don't know what 2016 will bring (due to some events that I can't talk about on here yet) but I know I'll get to close the door on all this very soon. I have trips planned and writing projects that are just for me, just for the fun of writing for writing's sake. I'm going to have my hormones tested since my sister found out she isn't producing oestrogen. I will let my boyfriend be nice to me.
If anyone else struggles with mental health issues and wants to have a chat, then please, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or catch me on twitter (@tartandevil). Let's talk the shit out of this.