Something has come up—hehem… a new project—that requires me to see myself through the eyes of my husband and D. This seems like it wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be a big deal. Heck, maybe now it wouldn’t. Because despite my occasional setbacks, or a random trigger that shows up out of nowhere, overall I’m in a place where I feel good most of the time. Seeing myself now through their eyes might make me cringe occasionally. Or at times make me shake my head and laugh. For the most part, I’m in a good place. I’m healthier now than ever, unafraid to be myself, and I’m confident in ways I’ve never been before. Seeing myself now doesn’t feel as threatening.
But my work requires me to see myself through their eyes over the past couple of years. Maybe even longer for the hubby. This takes me back farther than when I began healing and facing my trauma. The likelihood that I’ll see anything good in myself back then is grim.
This terrifies me.
Because I’m working on fiction, I can adlib. Why ask? Right? Do I really want to see myself when I was hurting and in pain constantly? Do I want to see me pull away when one of them reaches for me? Do I want to know what they felt in that moment?
For D this is a lot easier. I know he lives in the present and doesn’t dwell. If something needs addressing, he addresses it. If I pull away, he knows it’s a symptom and nothing personal. But he’s not known me for fifteen years. The things I worry about most from him would be if he saw me as pathetic. A ‘project’ and nothing more. Or worse, if he felt sorry for me and therefore obligated to put time into me.
I thought these things were worrying me. I rarely ask what he thought in a situation and he rarely tells me. It just ‘is’. So when I began to struggle with this project, I thought it was his initial thoughts—that I naturally assumed would be terrible, with me as some sort of pathetic, ugly beast—that were making me struggle.
After speaking with him about it, I realized while I need to know some things, it’s fiction! Ta-da! I don’t need to know everything. Fiction is fiction.
I went home happy thinking all was well and I’d just write.
The more I dug into it, the more I realized it’s not D’s view of me that is problematic. It’s my husband’s. The view I thought would be easiest because I see him daily.
We’ve been together almost sixteen years now. I still remember his first thought of me as I walked into our training room. He’s told me again and again over the years. His thought? That woman is terrifying. Yes, I put the fear of God into my soon-to-be husband just by walking into a room. Apparently I was throwing off the vibe of, “Stay away from me or I’ll kill you.” At the time, I might have. Who knows? All I know is that I pretty much hated everyone on the planet and wanted everyone to leave me the fuck alone.
But he pulled me out of that place of hatred. And it didn’t even take long. All it took, in fact, was him looking up at me from his computer—mid phone call with someone—putting his hand on my arm and asking if I was okay. For the first time in my life, I answered honestly.
I knew in that moment I was with the wrong person. I’d been with the previous guy over five years. He’d treated me like crap and I’d tolerated it. I was constantly scared at that time, and the more my husband and I got to know one another, the more I began feeling safe.
But safety never lasts when you don’t deal with trauma. I felt safe in the moment, but then life happened. Kids happened. Poly happened. And soon I was terrified all over again. And something pretty major changed in our lives when I finally began dealing with my trauma, and that’s that touch became harder. I pulled away more often. Felt pain rather than pleasure. And each time I hurt him.
This evening as we talked about all of this, it finally dawned on me that I’d rather be seen as pathetic or a charity case than feel the pain I’ve caused simply by having trauma and responding from that place. No one likes it when someone pulls away. No one likes it when they’re pushed away. I hate it when it’s done to me. It often shuts me down. Yet I do it. Especially to my husband and it wasn’t always this way.
Before I began dealing with the trauma, I was very needy with touch. I wanted it all the time because his touch made me feel safe and loved and desired. But when desire and touch became painful, even love too at times, then this need for constant touch quickly went away. In order to keep it up, I had to shut down a little to tolerate it. The more I faced the trauma, the harder this became.
I know it’s hurt him. Not only to see me in pain, but also to be the source of pain simply because he wants to touch me. While the true source is many years in my past, in the moment it feels vastly different.
I don’t want to see me as this monster that pushes people away. I don’t want to see myself as pathetic. Or desperate. Or heartless bitch. I’ve been called all of these things before (and worse), but not by my husband or by D.
Maybe my fear is that if I see myself through their eyes, this is what I’ll see. The pathetic desperate heartless bitch monster that I’ve been called in the past.
Knowing what either thought of me or currently think isn’t something I want to know. And the fact I’m writing a fictional piece means I don’t have to ask. I never need to know what either saw in me before I started dealing with my trauma. I don’t know what they see in me now. I don’t need to know because both are still here, actively helping me when I stumble. Both doing something that neither needs to do. They don’t owe me anything. They give freely. Whether that be patience, kindness, understanding, compassion, and that’s really what I need to know. It’s all I need to know. Because if I was the ‘pathetic desperate heartless bitch monster’ then I doubt either would be here.
So I get to move forward now knowing that I can’t be those terrible things. I do need to have compassion for both the hubby and D though. As well as understanding. Kindness. And all the things they’ve offered to me. Because caring about someone—no matter the depth or detail in which we do so—that has such deep trauma isn’t easy. It eats time and energy and exposes them to at least some level of what I went through. It’s not an easy thing to face.
But I’d do the same for them. And others that truly work on themselves. Because we all deserve to have our pain validated. We deserve to have that pain witnessed. Which means if I’ve hurt one of them, I need to ask. I need to show them the same kindness shown to me. I try, but sometimes that’s hard because it means facing that I’ve hurt my husband or sucked D’s time with trauma dealings rather than fun play. But I can’t be afraid to ask. Whether or not I’m writing this fictional piece doesn’t matter. I can’t hide from the pain and energy I’ve caused/cost them. That wouldn’t be honoring the gift given to me.
I go forth with a better understanding now. And it only took a week, 1400 words, and some tough conversations to figure this out. I think I’m getting better at this whole ‘self-realization’ thing.
Thank you both for what you’ve given me.
~ image by Cristina Romano in freeimages.com ~