Chances are at some point in your life, you’ve been in a shitty relationship. Or you currently are. If you have not, it’s only because a) you currently are and you’re in denial, or b) you haven’t been so far. Just wait. But if you are, or if you have been in the past, you know how bad shitty relationships can be. But a shitty significant other, if it comes down to it, you could abandon and have nothing to do with, or take to court when they’re not ready to be through. If there’s one thing worse than being stuck in a shitty relationship with someone, it’s being stuck in a shitty relationship with yourself, and breaking up isn’t an option.
Sometimes we fall in love with shitty people, who treat us like and make us feel like shit. The specific terms and particular circumstances of that shittiness manifest differently in all relationships, but in my own experience, I was swift to adopt my ex’s verbal and emotional abuse. The most damaging five words, which he carved deep into my ego were, “There you go thinking again,” as if I’m not entitled to my thoughts, which as you and I both know are golden. But I didn’t know that at the time. These words invalidated my opinion. Every time I spoke, these five words were fast to shut me up. But it was the words that silenced me, not my ex-boyfriend.
I can blame my shitty ex-boyfriend all I want, but the truth is, I’m just as much to blame for believing those words as he is for speaking them. He didn’t create those insecurities and doubts, he only fed and reinforced them. His shitty relationship with me was only a reflection of my shitty perception of myself. I think it’s important to note that distinction, because at least in my own case, my shitty relationship was only a symptom of something much, much worse.
Looking back, maybe I stayed with him because his words, as vicious as they were, were reassuring. They confirmed what I had already suspected early in my writing career: that my opinion wasn’t something worthy to be heard. If it was, I’d have to do something about it. Make a website. Write a book. Books and websites are a lot of work. Putting yourself out there is scary, and saying things is risky, and in a sick twisted way, having nothing of value to say can seem safer, because you don’t risk saying anything. At that point in my life, the self-doubt felt familiar, and there’s security in that.
But there’s no fun in suffocating every thought, emotion and creative impulse. No fucking freedom in that either. It took him leaving me for me to see that. He gave me a face to put to the voices that already whispered inside me, which made it easier for me to disengage from that side of myself, and talk back to those words every time they echo in the back of my mind… “There I go thinking again.” Damn right I do.