Today finds me in a reflective mood. I’ve been mulling over my past, what has gone before and how it changed me over the years. Not missing it, wallowing in how badly I was treated or feeling guilty about what I cannot change. Instead, I’ve been thinking about milestones I’ve reached in experience and emotional intelligence. How different types of relationships ended – friendships, professional and romantic – and what they taught me about life. It has taken more than half my “adult” life, but I’m confident that I’ve learned from them at last.
As with anything healthy, it’s a precarious balance. That halfway line between repeating past mistakes and seeing red flags where there are none is elusive. It is difficult to apply logic to the emotional extremes found in relationships with others. It can be hard to let go of the most miserable of situations. Even when we part company physically, emotional ties can be harder to sever. Over time, memories become distorted. We focus too much on the bad times, or miss good times which may have not been that great. Sometimes we dwell too hard and who said what, which of us were the guilty party and forget that we survived it. Not all relationships end that end badly were abusive, but not all that ended well are worth looking at through rose-tinted lenses. As I’ve often been heard to say
“They’re all exes for a reason!”
We miss people though, we miss situations. Though not everything we miss was good or healthy for us, it doesn’t stop us harking back. There is substance abuse in my past, going way back. A number of my friendships and relationships were dominated by getting wrecked. When it lost its appeal (or the supply dried up), cracks began to appear. Alcohol, illicit substances, sex, attention, drama, emotional support are all addictive. Anything is if you consume enough of it. Nothing works for long when you’re running away from yourself.
Through the wonders of year spent overthinking, social media apps throwing the past up and a seemingly endless capacity for remembering trivia…I bring you the “Ex Directory!”
- To the boss who didn’t really want an assistant and so refused to train me up effectively. Then proceeded to bully me at every opportunity for not doing my job properly.
- To any ex who preferred women on a computer screen or with staples through their stomachs, compared me unfavourably to lovers long gone or picked holes in my appearance.
- To anyone who hurt my self-confidence by mocking my weight, physical appearance or mental health challenges. Behind my back or to my face.
- To those who decided I was “Untrustworthy”, a “Bad Friend” or “Possessed by The Devil” (Yes, that happened!) for not doing exactly what they wanted, when they wanted it done.
- To anyone abusive, across the entire spectrum.
- To those who have passed away and are deeply missed.
- To those who can no longer have me in their lives because of my reckless and unpredictable behaviour over the years.
- To those who gave me abundant chances, only to find me ever more unreliable.
Each and every one of you.
Don’t mistake this for some masochistic confession that I liked the abuse and deserved it all. I don’t believe I deserved everything that happened over the years. Nor is it a victim’s list of everything I’ve had to endure, Oh Poor Me! I’m fully aware that life with me can be hard going. I don’t think anyone should have had to suffer because of my actions. Mental illness or not, or I hold myself accountable for what I say and do. The majority of people on this list appear more than once (With a few exceptions) Nobody is born either good or bad; and the human condition has a lot to answer for. I finally realise though, everyone and each situation in the directory taught me something. I find myself at a point in life where I have healthy boundaries, am self-aware and able to take responsibility for things I can affect and change. And it feels really fucking good to be in control of myself! Things I can’t do anything about may hurt, piss me off or send me incandescent with rage at times. Huge a cliche as it is, when others behave badly it says way more about them than it does us. It’s natural and OK to be angry. We’re all terrified of feeling anything but positive nowadays. We trample on sadness, annoyance, fear and anything but happiness…Squashing them down for fear of anyone else realising how we really feel. Negativity reminds us what we don’t want, what we can step forward from. I know how to put it down to where I came from now, and mean it.
It’s true, if we forget the past we are destined to repeat it. Remembering doesn’t mean living there though. There are situations I can see coming for miles now, and avoid. As destructive and painful as they were at the time, they are part of my story. If I haven’t lived through them, I wouldn’t recognise them for the scourge they were. I’ve turned my shame into pride at surviving 100% of my worst times. I’ve new goals and ambitions as a result. I aim to secure a place on the Peer Support Training course at Nottingham Recovery College. I submitted my application yesterday. While I know I’m not guaranteed to be accepted, even completing the form and handing it in felt like an achievement. My goal for the future is making a difference: A meaningful and worthwhile role as a Peer Support Worker. The idea of helping others through shared living experience means the world to me. I know that I have hard work ahead, if I’m to make my dreams a reality. I’m prepared though, ready to go forward instead of standing still. I know that I have it in me to make this a success. I’m not used to having this degree of self belief, but long may it continue!