Last year, this year.

Last year, I had no energy to send any proper presents to anyone. I was four months away from the break with reality that hospitalised me. I was exhausted and upset and scrambling over voices and hallucinations.

This year, I was heading into town to see my friend and I saw my ex.

There he was, standing under the notice boards. He wasn’t a hallucination. He was real.

I ran. I fled. My heart hammering, my eyes wide, head turning to check he hadn’t followed me. I just fled blindly and didn’t stop until I found a shop where we used to go, but I’d drag him in because he hated it. I knew he wouldn’t come there to try and track me.

Next, I phoned two friends. One picked up, R, and I knew I was safe the minute I heard her voice. I cried, she asked me if I was safe. I said I was. The next question was had he seen me? I didn’t think so, although I couldn’t be sure. R thought he hadn’t seen me as he hadn’t tried to talk to me or follow me. Next, she asked me had I told the friend I was meeting what had happened? I told her I hadn’t, so she told me to tell her, then ring back when I had done.

Luckily my friend was very understanding and said that I should wait where I was.
I rang R back and she talked calmingly to me until my friend arrived.

Now comes the part I’m most proud of.

I got on with my fucking day. I had a great time. I enjoyed it! I managed to laugh and joke and shake off the sheer terror that had been the start of my day. Admittedly my hypervigilance and terror resurfaced when I had to return to the station to buy a ticket, but I was managing it well by keeping my stone clutched in my hand, and by leaving it another half hour to return to catch my train.

The worst part by far of stumbling across my ex like that was the feeling that I had to go and beg for forgiveness, that I had to get down on my knees and plead for him back. I thought that part of me had died. I thought that I’d killed it long ago, with realisations of the horrors he’d put me through. Apparently, it’s much tougher to kill than I’d thought.

When I told R what I’d found the most horrible, she responded with the fact that it had taken my ex a long time to get me that way, so sadly it will take me a long time to get rid of that part. She’s right. I will get there, but it’s a scary process that involves thinking you are better than you are, learning you are better than you were last year, and understanding that therapy is working and I am getting better.

H said on the phone to me today (yes, she’s doing a bit better! <3) that I did the sensible thing by running away. I took myself out of a bad situation and focused on caring for myself and sorting out my emotional needs.

That is a fantastic start to the new year.

Nights like this…

Tonight I’m sleepless and trying to exorcise the demons in my head. J and I have just talked and I love love love the smooth, sweet drawl of his voice. That voice anchors me whilst I’m feeling strange.

I’ve been a little dissociative tonight. I’ve been at Saturday family tea- the whole clan, aunties, uncles, cousins- the lot. My auntie was babysitting her best friend’s daughter, who is a shining gem of a seven year old. She played with the puppy, a rare event- Juno puppy is not the world’s biggest fan of children, but this little girl is an old head on young shoulders. She let me read to her. She cuddled up with me and the puppy, her on my knee and the puppy beside me. I felt very safe, but somehow a little sad.

I think what’s triggered me a little is talking about my ex to her. My auntie was married to her abuser, and this little girl knows a highly edited version of that story. She calls him Naughty, so we all do too. We had gone upstairs in my nana’s house to see one of the many family portraits hanging on the walls, and she mentioned to me that she knew that Naughty was a bad guy because HIS smile was not a good smile. All the other people on the picture had big, happy, truthful smiles, she said. Only Naughty’s wasn’t right.

That really hit me hard. SHE could see, through our eyes, the flaw in him, the defect that ate at his core and caused such harm to my auntie that she ended up in hospital, too. She knew, this seven year old, that there was a man not to be trusted- and she could see that through his smile!

She asked why my auntie had even married him in the first place, so I explained that sometimes, the scariest baddies are the ones that pretend to be your best friend. I said that I had been with a naughty man, for six years.

The wise, innocent little face formed an expression I’ve mostly seen on adult faces: she was appreciating how hard that was for me.

“Whew,” she said, “that’s a long time.”

I said that yes, indeed it was, but he hadn’t started out bad. He’d pretended to be one of the good guys, and I had never seen the badness coming at all. He’d added the bad stuff in, bit by bit, until I didn’t know that he was all bad.

Looking at those feathery blonde brows rise in shock, I was struck with an intense desire to protect her. I would have jumped in front of a bullet for that child, and I still will. I would right now. I didn’t want that angelic creature to have to face what my auntie and I have faced- the sleepless nights thinking he is perfect and I am not, the agony inside as he breaks up with you and demands you back only for the cycle to repeat. I felt something tearing inside of me in my chest- my heart was trying to reach through my chest to keep her safe.

Talking to Dr K, my therapist, on Thursday may have stirred a lot up- I was trying to tell her about some of the things I’ve had to endure under him- but this has made me remember long nights waiting by the phone, worrying about ringing him in case it ‘wasn’t convenient right now’. I’d get yelled at if I didn’t ring at bang on ten pm. I feel like time is slipping backwards, like having a rug pulled out from under your feet. I remember the feeling in arguments, that bad feeling of ‘I’m losing you and it’s my fault and you knew I was going to say that, oh god why?!’

I’ve found a song that sums it all up. He never drove, but the car keys are symbolic. They are the keys to my heart, my freedom, my life. They are the things that drove me and the things he took control of, bit by bit. Those phonecalls I tried to make that he aborted with one stern word. The threats of all sorts, the demands, and finally go to sleep silly girl, we’re getting nowhere tonight. I would try not to get too upset but tears inevitably burned my cheeks, that acid tang, and the feeling of being about to throw up came when he called me pathetic. I was trying so hard. I was. I promise I’m trying so hard to be different and more like the girl you wanted me to be, the girl I was when you met me. I promise I won’t go to anyone with my problems, definitely not you, I’ll solve them myself. I know I’m weak and need to stop being such a little girl I promise I won’t do this again I swear I’m not going to hurt you I didn’t mean to oh god don’t say that to me I’m not like that I swear I’m not-

The loop plays on and on, and I drown it out with other things. But, in the background, it’s always there, along with his replies.

Home again, emotional flashbacks, and holiday withdrawal.

Oh GOD I miss J. Seriously, like a hole inside. If not for my puppy I’d be a lot worse than I am right now- I’d be a crying wreck! He’s so calm and logical- after my last post, I went outside to the pool where J and my mum were. J was already in the pool, cooling off, and mum was enjoying a nice beer.

I had a panic attack trying to get in through the door where my dad had installed a very loud alarm- my brain entered that flight state and I started shaking and crying immediately. All that rage and terror came out in tears, but mum and J were there being awesome immediately. Mum came over took me away from the doors and hugged me til I felt better. J was there, shocked, but calm enough to tell me everything was ok, baby, and to put on my bikini and come in the pool with him to relax. Mum agreed, so I did. It worked. Tears faded, shaking stopped, and within FIFTEEN MINUTES (gotta be a new record there!) I was completely fine again, calm, and making jokes with the family and cuddling J in the cool water.

J can spot my mania immediately, and it’s impressive. Bradley has given me a great tip to manage it now I’m home again (boo, being home is not as nice as being out there with J and my family) and I’m going to start it tomorrow. I’ll set alarms on my phone that will remind me to check in with myself, and to stay calm.

So far, I’ve had a tough ride already. I’m aware that I drank too much whilst I was on holiday, so alcohol consumption has gone down a lot. Tonight, I had a cup of tea (fruit tea, orange smoothie tea!) and a glass of water as my beverages of choice. I’m doing this because when I’m manic, as I suspect I’m heading that way now, I do have poor impulse control and drink is usually the first sign of it. I’ve already had some very depressed moments, but that’s not the bipolar speaking.

That’s something else.

I’m in the midst of a bastard of an emotional flashback right now. For the past few days, I’ve felt unreal and dissociated, and horribly depressed, but the depression waned in the evening. Today it got so bad that I began acting unlike myself- snappy, withdrawn, moody, and exhausted. I even yelled at the puppy- at this point, I’m glad she’s deaf! A long sleep this afternoon fixed a lot of that, and I emerged with a better take on the world. I still didn’t understand why I was feeling like shit, but I was ready to give my day another try.

Dancing was fun and went well, and when I got home, I went upstairs to get changed. Pulling my favourite pyjama/lounge type pants on, something in my head suddenly shifted into place and I got it.

I understood that when I was with my ex, I was used as a fix. Because he was jealous of my family spending an unadulterated two weeks with me, I was often subject to derision and scorn when I got home. He’d cold shoulder me, blank me, and finally fix up a meeting with him sometime or place that was impossible for me. I’d inevitably cancel, he’d throw a fit, and then break up with me. I’d be alone, blaming myself and hating myself for nearly two months, and then he’d need his fix again. He’d pretend to relent, he’d tell me he ‘forgave me’ (er, bullshit sir, I believe you finished with me for no good reason) and we’d be back in the honeymoon phase again. Lovely.

So naturally my poor beleaguered brain still think I’m in for some horrible punishment for having fun. I’m reacting like a beaten puppy and I’m shaking in anticipation of a blow that will never fall.

J’s already been on Skype, commending me for my smarts in realising this. I’m pretty chuffed too… BUT GOD I miss him!!! He knows that, of course.

Another remarkable milestone I’ve achieved whilst away is that I’m better able to do real couple things now. I hold hands with J a lot, I’ll go for a cuddle when I fancy one, and, best of all- I was so tired one night I felt drunk, and slipping off into sleep I told J twice that I loved him. He said it back, and I heard the tenderness in his voice alongside the amused chuckle at how sleepy I was. When I asked him about it the next morning, he said I had indeed said I loved him twice and he hoped I remembered that he said it back to me.

Of course I had.

Stuff will be hard now I’m home. I’m trying to take more responsibilities this year, and I’m hoping I don’t overload myself- apparently, therapy this week with Dr K will be the start of lots of tough things for me. I am very aware there are still big issues I need to face. For instance, whilst I was in America, I had night after night of nightmares and J had to hold me to calm me down one night after I told him I was frightened to sleep. Hopefully, I will get these discussed with Dr K and she will help me become less afraid.

There are bonuses, though. I’m taking on more work so I can fund myself to get to America to see J quicker (I hope), I’m finally meeting a good friend I’ve talked to for a long while, I have a snoring puppy next to me and I’m planning dance numbers for a show. There are definite goals to achieve.

Fingers crossed that this year is the year that I get stuff solved, and not another year where I wrestle incessantly with the contents of my own head.

Programme? Change the channel.

The fight against programming is a hard one and it continues daily. Every day, I have to remind myself that it’s ok to talk about how bad I am feeling, or how good I am feeling. I have to tell myself that people want to hear that I am ok and living life well, or not doing great and really need a hand up or a friendly listening ear.

The reason?

My ex hated me being happy. He hated it. He would pick holes in me when I had a good mood, and leave it deflating like a sad old helium balloon. He would get angry with me for crying or getting upset, and would claim that I was being overdramatic, emotionally blackmailing towards him. In the beginning of the relationship, he used to ask me to tell him any of my problems and he would try and help me work through them. After a short while, he changed his tune completely and told me I wasn’t supposed to go to him with my problems, oh no. Why was I so selfish? They were my problem, not his, and I should have known how to fix them all by now.

This is why I feel like I can’t speak to anyone sometimes. I feel stuck and alienated, alone in a world where people speak their mind with a big strip of gaffer tape plastered to my mouth.

It gets hard when I want to tell J about the state of my head, because he is my boyfriend and I truly L word him. Worse, my ex stole those three little words that mean so much and warped them so badly, I now can’t tell J how I really feel. I think he knows but I just can’t be sure til I tell him.

Programming from my ex has really done a number on me. I get so tired of fighting it.

Home and safe.

I’m back in my home town and I am finally feeling safe. I am in pain for no apparent reason- low abdominal pain which I am wondering whether is body memories or not – but at least I am feeling safe. I have felt emotionally conflicted whilst I have been here but I am glad that I am with the family that cares so much about me.

My cousin had a wedding blessing, and we got to see the photos – she lives in America, so we had a video to watch of the crazy reception and the wedding itself. My cousin looked so beautiful in her dress, and my other cousin was calm, smiling and happy beside her. I felt a pang of regret that I couldn’t afford to fly out and spend time with them, but we will see them in Florida again this year.

What I have been struggling with is the relentless programming from my ex. He used to force me to keep all my emotions inside, until he would go cold and quiet for a few days, then unleash the full fury of his anger on me and all my damaged feelings would come spilling out. As I had been keeping everything locked inside me, for fear of “mithering” him, they were ragingly strong and he hated that. I used to apologise for everything when he got like that, and even now I am still programmed to believe that people are angry with me when maybe they are busy, or just haven’t got my text yet.

I feel this way a lot. I feel this way about all the relationships I have had since him. I am trying hard not to right now, but I am feeling the same about J, and I don’t want to. I want to trust that he is just very tired and busy, but the horrible nagging eggshell feeling won’t let me rest. I know that he is just having a hard time right now, and I am here for him, but this emotional flashback is driving me insane.

Does anyone else have experience with emotional flashbacks and how to deal with them?

In other, much better news, I will be seeing someone from a charity to help rape victims soon. I wrote to them asking for someone to help tide me over until I get my therapy, and they have said yes. They are currently finding me someone to see. I can’t disclose the name of the charity because of some long, complicated bullshit, but I am really pleased I will be getting real, practical help very soon.

Fingers crossed my emotional flashbacks subside soon.

Programming sucks.

I hate my illness. I hate it so much. I have had enough of it.

The programming I went through with my ex has left it’s fucking mark. I have been ok during Christmas apart from being positive that J was angry with me, and a quick phonecall disproved that. Right now, I want to reach out, I want to connect and tell someone, anyone, and also him that I’m feeling bad and want help. The voices are not letting me. They want me to go back to suffering and feeling awful again.

Why can’t I tell the people closest to me, the people who have told me to ring them time and again, what is wrong?! Why can’t I say I feel bad and need help?

I don’t think I will sleep tonight.