One of the messages in one’s brain when someone has PTSD or trauma in general is this feeling that what was in the past is really still in the present – at least in their body. They “know” what they’re thinking and feeling was from the past, but their body is reacting as though the past is happening right in front of them.
This has always been the issue for me regarding trauma – with D, with my dad, with others in my past. It feels like one action will always create the same reaction – in others and myself. And so, when the action happens, I brace for the reaction to happen. My brain “knows” it won’t necessarily happen like that, but my body “knows” it will. Because past experience trumps right now.
Yesterday, something different happened. I talked to D. By phone. After 2.5 years of not speaking a word to each other. After 2.5 years of wondering what he thought about my last thorough email about the abuse he inflicted, he actually said yes to a conversation.
The conversation, expectedly, didn’t go well. All I wanted to do was hear what he had learned over the last years and how he had changed given my email. What resonated and didn’t resonate with him? I came into it just wanting to understand. It quickly became defensive, manipulative/controlling, and blaming on his end, which raised my hackles. In the past, I would have shut down, stopped talking, moved into myself, run away. Instead, I told him my boundary as well as the resulting outcome of crossing it – which he swiftly crossed, as per the usual – and I enforced it (aka hanging up and never talking to him again). I hung up, I blocked his email and phone numbers, and I wrote his wife (something I’d been debating for way too long), providing my phone number if she ever wanted to talk. And breathed.
A weight was finally taken off my shoulders. I wanted to believe he had changed. Instead, I found he hadn’t. But in reality, maybe that was what I wanted to see. That 1) He hadn’t changed and he was actually the asshole I thought he was. And 2) That I will no longer stand for abuse by him or anyone else who intends on manipulating me. In other words, *I* had changed. I can see through things I used to fall prey to. I can make boundaries. I can stand by them. I can be in discomfort and not run away, disengage, or shut down. I can end patterns (even with the person who I originally created them with). I can take care of me, even while witnessing another person trying to cut me down. Beyond that, I’ve removed myself from the responsibility of needing to warn his current and future partners. They will see his abuse or they won’t see it. They will call me or they won’t. I did what I could. I gave his now wife a lifeline if/when she begins wondering if she is crazy or not, if all the things are her fault or not. It’s more than I had. And maybe he has changed. Maybe their relationship is healthy. That would be great. It’s doubtful. But now, it’s…not my problem anyway.
Finally, I confirmed all the doubts in my head about him being abusive, about him being manipulative. My story was true because it continues even to the present day. At least with me (I obviously can’t speak to with others). It also shows me my story – that I can’t trust my own judgment because I might continue to be abused and manipulated unwittingly – is false. I have changed. At least in this way. Finally, I can see this part of my life as one volume that is complete, done, and over. The N and D volume has finally been put on the shelf for good to collect dust and fade with time. There is no need to pick it up again. But even if I felt compelled to, it is still just the past, just a book of memories that is no longer where I live or who I am.
Now, I can truly write my own future.