the relationship I had when I was 13.

At some point in our lives, we tend to recreate the traumas or patterns we experienced in childhood. Maybe once, maybe more than once… There’s that cliché but it’s true. We play out all the pain and the longing and the desires we’ve had. This happened to me when I was 13.

I was with a boy who not surprisingly mirrored lots of the same emotional difficulties as me. He was an on and off again runaway/kid who got kicked out, who lived in group homes and was involved in gangs. He dabbled in physical self-harm before he met me and I was already a few months into my own path of cutting before I met him. We met at the perfect conjunction where all of this expedited in me. And I must’ve seemed so crazy now looking back because my head also throbbed with notions of romanticism and emotional fantasies.

He would verbally abuse me. I would frustrate him by withdrawing. We ping ponged back and forth, hurting each other, then physically hurting ourselves, then coming back to each other and feeling safe and reunited and enraptured again. I remember an incident where we hung up on the phone after an argument only for him to call back and tell me he had just hit his head on the bathroom floor so hard it bled. I remember me hanging up on him numerous times to quietly cut myself because I felt so much shame and guilt and self-hatred. I think us eventually coming out with what we did in privacy to each other was a low-key way of trying to convey how much we really felt, and how much nurturing we needed but obviously couldn’t receive or ask for in each other or our parents. For him, it felt, it was also a way to get back at me.

All of this escalated to the day where we were at a friend’s house, celebrating her birthday. I walked off by myself to get some air, or have something to do. He saw me, asked me why, and when I wanted to walk back in the direction of the house again, he grabbed both my wrist, stared me down, and wouldn’t let me go. Before that, I had achieved at hiding most if not all of my fears and insecurities in front of him. I had a tough shell around me that even he couldn’t penetrate and get a hold of and I think he knew and felt that and it was frustrating for him. I’ve always been physically and emotionally uncomfortable around other people, especially people I had romantic feelings for, because of my sexual traumas as a kid and because of my disconnect from my parents. But during that split moment, I saw a coldness in his eyes as he attempted to physically control and restrain me. And I could tell he saw the rush of fear pooling in my eyes as I felt them waver and glisten with real emotion I’d never shown anybody before. I know it was something he was trying to pull out from me and instilling fear in me was his last resort.

I think I’ve always had a problem with really staying in my body because I never felt like it was safe enough to. I was always hiding or acting distracted. He eventually let me go, where I walked off in tears and lied down in the middle of the road. It was nighttime. I don’t know how two friends of mine noticed and found me but they eventually convinced me to get up as a car was approaching. That night has kind of haunted me for a while.

And I’m not sure why I’m writing about this now, 14 years later. But I think I’ve got to let some of these memories out of me because I can’t breathe fully having them all clogged up inside of me.  It was such a turbulent time in my life. I literally played out my inner traumas, I think, and manifested them into something that was reasonable in a way. Something that I could at least explain, have visceral memories of.  Maybe it was cathartic for me.

But what I want for everyone to know is that even though I’ve had my string of still shitty relationships after that, I never let myself go back to that emotional spot. Lots of other different patterns played out, but also, something in me knew not to give in to the delusions of what my smaller self thought love and relationships were. I broke up with that boy a week or two later and I am so proud of myself actually for having the courage and strength to do that. Something in me knew it was done. It was a physical sign, that night, that this was too real and it could’ve escalated even more if I had been ignorant enough to stay. I guess one thing about that is, I didn’t let the projected trauma play out long enough for it to completely consume me. I slowly moved away from it and I still am.

This was a boy who I thought I would die for and die without, who I convincingly thought had saved me, who I felt my pained child self merging with his. I know that probably sounds stereotypical for a 13 year old, but I don’t think the veracity or seriousness of that is negated. I feel like I lived an adult relationship and took on the weight of all that as a kid.

I felt monumentally lost but somehow I think we all need to let ourselves get lost because there is something inside of us that is guiding us back out. We just have to trust that just because everything is not perfect right now doesn’t mean that we aren’t working to straighten and balance the entirety back out. The thing about healing is that it is not in stages. Sometimes you heal something from last week, and sometimes life brings you to heal something from 20 years ago, and just as you are feeling better, it brings you back again to heal again from something from the same spot just from a different angle.  It is not chronological. Healing has its own intelligence that I just don’t think you can be completely in control of. You just have to work to allow yourself to be more sensitive to which tunnel it wants to lead you in. And I guess this was the tunnel I finally had to see myself out of right now.

This all came after a spontaneous moment of deep gratitude.  Where I cried and cried and had thunderous silence of being with all that I had been through. Mostly all the pain. I think I kept that experience with another human being in me for too long and it was weighing on me. To keep relationships with others in secrecy like that is just no good. It puts too much pressure on yourself and you get lost in the replaying of it. It has to be drawn out somehow, processed, like unraveling a thread from a quilt, for the parts to feel light in your hands again. I really feel grateful for the lightness.

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