I contacted my therapist the same week my ex-husband and I separated in 2017. Things had come to a head, and I was spinning out of control, and in all honesty, I had been slowly unraveling for years. The anger I thought I had resolved was coming back and it was nastier than before…
In my early twenties, I was going to therapy because I knew there was something off with me. I processed my emotions differently and became super reactive in certain situations, that at the time, I did not know were triggers. I tried to contain the explosions and bottle my emotions, but ever so often they would bubble to the surface and hell would break loose. This was not healthy for anybody around me nor myself, so I sought treatment for my anger out of fear of doing something that would ruin my future.
I had an awesome therapist that helped me understand where my anger stemmed from and helped me develop tools that allowed me to express hurt feelings calmly instead of expressing myself through anger. My parents were not coddlers, and as I mentioned in previous posts, my father who expressed himself through anger during my developmental years created a perfect cocktail of turmoil in myself as I ventured out into the world. It is not that I needed anger management, I needed to learn how to process my emotions and find safe spaces to share them in.
I was on the right track for years after my first stint of therapy. I was thriving in my career, I was developing healthy relationships, and it seemed as though the skills I learned were helping me express myself in healthy ways. Surprisingly, when I began dating my ex, I started to make allowances for unruly behavior and chalked it up to me reading too much into it. Months turned into a year, then we decided to move in after a long distant relationship and that is when things began getting messy. The support he guaranteed he would provide started to feel more like isolation, his distaste for me started coming out, and he started to “encourage” that I change myself to keep him happy. The dynamic of our relationship changed from fun and flirty to dark and hasty. Before I knew it, I started to express my emotions through anger (again). I did not feel safe enough to express my feelings to my ex because he would gaslight the hell out of me and I started to believe I was crazy.
He made me feel bad about myself so much that I started to eat my feelings, and when I started to gain more weight, he got meaner. Nothing I did was ever good enough and the skills I had learned had slowly slipped away and the reactivity began. After more than half a decade of being together and a marriage, we both could no longer continue in our relationship. He made the decision to “take a break” after an awful fight, for which I do not blame him. I am very thankful that he initiated what has turned out to be the best time of my adulthood. So, he decided to leave, and I decided to call my therapist. I had regressed and my shattered marriage reflected it.
Enter my saving grace, my therapist. She was happy to hear from me and sad that things had turned out the way they had, BUT she was more than willing to work with me and gave me hope that this setback was not permanent. The divorce, yes, but I could change my lifestyle by bettering my mental health.
I began the process of deconstructing my life with my therapist. As painful and as awkward as my tear-filled sessions had been, I began to feel better about why my personal life was in shambles. I started to have a deeper sense of understanding as to why I reacted the way I did. I was not broken like my ex had convinced me of. My responses were part of a short circuit – a malfunction of an outdated program that no longer was serving me. I had outgrown old coping skills and my shambled life was proof that something needed to change. That something, was me. I had to implement the skills that I had learned in my early twenties and find healthier ways of coping.
The chest that contained my childhood trauma was heavy, and I had to start lightening the load. When I started therapy, I committed myself to making new habits stick. I have dedicated myself to bettering my life for my future self, future partner, and future children. I cannot be the best daughter, friend, or girlfriend if I cannot give myself the love that I have always needed.
A few months into therapy, my therapist had told me that things were going to change for the better if I committed myself to healing the open wounds I had been wearing around for far too long. Change was going to come in separate phases and reveal itself in different forms. One of those forms was outgrowing friendships. She warned me that there would be feelings of sadness and loneliness when I made the shift in engaging in healthier relationships across the board. She told me not to be fearful of the potential losses, but to be open to change. Even if that meant being scared shitless. A part of me did not want to believe that friendships would end. I was in the preliminary stages of healing from ending my marriage, I could not fathom another relationship failing.
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New Years Eve 2019 was eventful and full of unnecessary drama. Prior to attending an event, I hosted a mini get together at my apartment. At the event, one of my guests pointed at a picture of my best friend and I from when we were twenty-one to which I responded, “Yeah, that’s us when we were losers.” An innocent comment, or so I thought, to a picture that showed two kids pretending to be adults. I did not think anything of it, but my friend was not happy. He began to take jabs at me, but this time I jabbed right back.
The argument was coming off the heels of having had a conversation where I addressed things that he had been doing and saying that I was not okay with. When we arrived at the event, he lost his cool and exploded on me. I understand that he was upset about my comment, and that I was not backing down. Something about calling us losers – him a loser – upset him. After he exploded on me, I sat with his anger and left. I was not going to have my night ruined by someone who was unwilling to have a respectful conversation, so I went home and enjoyed my night not having to be around drunk people.
I have not spoken to him since that night. At first, I thought that I had regressed into practicing destructive behavior, but after reading my journal entry, it was the contrary. The reason my marriage and other romantic relationships had not worked was because I chose to make myself little to keep them happy. I accepted unruly behavior and convinced myself that I was not worth having the respect that I so deeply wanted and deserved. I had repeated the same narrative in my head for decades, “You are not good enough.”
Leading up to that night, there had been a shift happening that I had not noticed. There were issues in our friendship for a long time. Fractures that I kept stuccoing and staying silent about because I valued my friendship. When my ex-husband and I separated, my best friend was there for me. He made sure I got out of the house and had fun. We spent a lot of weekends together laughing and painting the town whatever color we wanted. I thought I owed it to him not to say anything. Out of fear that he too would conclude that I was not good enough to be friends with, I stayed silent. But if I truly valued my friendship, I had to say something.
As I mentioned before, a few nights before NYE, we had gone out for drinks where I addressed that I did not like the way he treated me. I did not like how he felt that he could disparage my character and that he could disguise it as a joke. Calling your friend, a “whore” or telling other men that showed the slightest interest in her that she “got around” was not okay. He was making untrue statements about me that had to stop. I told him that putting me down was not being a good friend and that I hoped we could start the new year off on a different foot. One that included not making mean jokes at my expense or making false statements about me would be a good start.
When I joked that we were losers, I did not foresee that it would be the final blow that would lead us in different directions. I thought our fourteen-year friendship, our bond, would last the test of time. In a moment I saw how fragile our friendship truly was, and that night, as I wrote in my journal and on twitter, I no longer was going to make excuses for people who always made me feel so small and unworthy. I was done being the butt of the joke, and I was done being DISRESPECTED.
I had been absorbing the impact of the jokes he made at my expense for years, and it was affecting my self-esteem. That night, I decided that I no longer would be taking accountability for other people’s actions. For so long, I had made excuse after excuse as to why people acted the way they did towards me. I believed I was the problem and that I deserved their nastiness. I held onto that pain and would use it to fuel my anger when it reared its ugly face. That night, I chose myself and shed negativity from my life.
My best friend is not a bad person. He is full of life and laughter and is a good friend. I think we both had gotten so used to the rules of our friendship that neither one of us was ready for the unexpected changes that were happening. We were growing at different speeds and truly going in different directions. Our one and only fight released us both of our roles in each other’s lives. Since that argument, I have continued to grow and, as oddly as this sounds, I still consider him a friend. Just because I have changed, does not mean that there is no room for him in my life. The change means that the rules of our friendship need to be different to serve us both.
I do not know if the universe will ever bring the two of us back together. I can only hold onto the happy memories we both made and look back at that time fondly. Yes, there were unhappy moments in our friendship, but this is what growing up looks like. “Adulting” consists of decision making and series of events that should change our lifestyle for the better. We should not feel obligated to stay in any relationship if it is no longer working and is at the detriment of our mental health.
Photo Credit: All pictures are Mari Rey originals.