Dear Diary- I had a breakdown today…
I had a breakdown in the shower today.
Some trivial little thing from this morning suddenly triggered a flashback, as if being alone and naked left me vulnerable and open to attack. The water rushed over me, attempting to soothe my wild emotions but having no impact. My breathing quickened into gasping sobs. I shoved my hand against the tiled wall for support. I was back in his car, back on a night I should have said “No” and simply left. If I had, so much more pain could have been avoided… But he was smooth and I was broken, so it was easy for him to manipulate the pieces of me to get what he wanted.
Why didn’t I just say “No”?
It was like the story of the frog, how if you put it in boiling water it will jump out. But if you put it in tepid water and slowly bring the temperature up, it will eventually boil to death. That was me. I was the frog. And he turned the temperature up one notch at a time until, before I even knew what was happening, I was opening my car door to spit into my apartment complex parking lot.
It was our first date.
It was barely even a date.
I’m not that kind of girl.
But I didn’t know how to say “No.” I didn’t know how to just get up and walk away. I didn’t know how to respect myself more than I didn’t want to disappoint someone else.
I did say “No” later.
On multiple occasions for various things. And he never accepted it. It was just an invitation for him to try another angle, to persist until I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and gave in. Maybe if I had said “No” on that first night… would he have respected my “No” in the future? Alas, that is a question that will never have an answer. God. That night. It was more than five years ago and, in the shower today, it felt so recent, so near, so tangible. I wanted to scrub my skin off. Everywhere he ever touched. Erase his memory from my body. But I know that’s impossible. Two more years and my cells will have regenerated entirely, making up a body he had nothing to do with, but I will have to live with him in my head all my life.
I can never forgive him for that.
Never, Diary. For raping my mind as well as my body. For taking an already broken woman and shattering her so thoroughly. For so skillfully turning me into someone I wasn’t during the short time we were together. For betraying my trust and ruining it for anyone else in the future, no matter how deserving.
I see red flags everywhere.
Compassion, perhaps. Compassion and understanding for an individual who feels so deeply inadequate that they must become a locust, consuming the energy and resources of those around them until they have depleted it all and must move on to new fertile ground. But not forgiveness. He knew what he was doing. It was a pattern I chose to ignore, believing his claim of becoming a better person and leaving it all behind him. His ex before me. The woman after me. A path of devastation and carnage. Compassion I can find, perhaps, but never forgiveness. Not while I have to live with the repercussions of what he did to me.
I will, however, own my story.
I will speak of what happened. I will write of it, Diary, to you and to the world. I will learn from it. I will offer comfort and camaraderie to those whose experiences are reflected in mine. And I will forgive myself for allowing him into my life. I didn’t know any better then.
I know better now.
I am no longer broken, though there are some cracks that have not fully sealed, through which trickle these flashbacks and anxiety attacks. But my voice is loud, and strong, and proud, my “No” resonating with confidence… and my “Yes” just as deliberate. On my terms. By my choice.
I am a survivor, and he cannot take that away from me.