Ellie‘s #MadCovidDiaries #Midnight Waffles 15.6.2020
It’s hard to know where to start. I guess as good a place as any is to admit quarantine has not been easy. For the last month or so I’ve felt unable to articulate what I’m thinking or feeling, to myself as much as anyone else. I’ve felt unsettled, I can’t quite concentrate. There’s an emotional churning sensation that makes me feel irritable and anxious, but I can’t quite tap into what it is simmering below the surface. I know something’s going on because at the beginning of lockdown, for the first time in my life, I’d been enjoying a peaceful 8 hours sleep. Now I’m back to 3-4 hours of night-terrors, waking up having a panic attack, counting fresh bruises.
I’ve been able to busy myself during the days, for the most part, with legitimate concerns and necessary actions against wider sociopolitical injustices impacting the world. Perhaps it seems strange to say that, although I can’t really access my own emotions, I’d describe myself as a very empathetic person. Almost overly empathetic, to the point of it being a weakness at times. I once looked after a friend during a psychotic episode, they were very unstable at the time, and the only thing which would calm them down was watching a film, or so we thought at the time. They over-empathised so much with the PG characters it caused them significant psychological distress and we had to find another activity altogether – the distress wasn’t because of the film we chose, it was about their mental state at the time. Sometimes, when I become so angry and upset by the rest of the world that it temporarily immobilises me, I think about my friend. I realise that it’s more about me, and most likely what I struggle to get in touch with within myself, than it is about the reality I’m facing.
I started therapy last week. It’s a huge step. I realised after arranging our first appointment, that for at least the last 4 years my feelings going into NHS treatment has been utter dread. Girding my loins and pulling up my boot straps ready for fresh bullshit. I don’t feel like that this time. I felt… excited, hopeful even. I suddenly felt like a therapy newbie again. The therapist I’ve chosen is trained in EMDR, they still work in the NHS although I’m seeing them privately, and (because of their role) are super aware of Iatrogenic trauma. Our first session over zoom went well. I cried for pretty much the whole hour, but between sobbing was able to give her the basic outline of ‘my issues’. She thanked me for trusting her, especially in light of my previous ‘care’, which I appreciated.
For the next few days I remained tearful. I found myself loosing quite a lot of time reliving some of the things that we’d spoken about, and some of the things we hadn’t. Little triggers suddenly starting appearing in what were before inanimate objects. It’s to be expected, isn’t it. I’ve been round this rodeo before. But it’s not great fun. I hope this time round maybe I’ve got more language and context to try and make sense of things, and to articulate them. I think it’s maybe because of our session, and the things that have been going on lately, that this morning I woke up (after particularly awful night-terrors) and I suddenly knew what to say. I can’t remember the detail of my dream, but it was about my ex. It was so potently about him, I could feel it in the tension in my muscles, I could hear it in the way I was crying and begging, all the emotions came to the surface. And so did the words. Full on word vomit.
I had tried to write my feelings about him before, but never sent the letter. About a year ago when I moved house I found that letter and read it again. It made me furious. The way I’d been undermined, the lack of self-worth I was feeling, the confusion and manipulation. I haven’t spoken to or seen him since. I also haven’t so much as flirted with another human being. I think about him often. Today when I woke up I felt different. It felt terrifying, but so essential, to rewrite that letter. To articulate what happened. This is what I said (for context, we had been friends for at least 5 years before we were more than friends):
You sought a sexual relationship with me when i was physically and mentally at my most weak and critically unwell. I had almost died, and there was a very real risk that i could still have died at the time. I think you wanted to ‘save me’, in your way.
Especially towards the end of our ‘relationship’, you behaved in ways that the majority of people understand would trigger insecurity and mental instability (in someone who you already know to have SMI), such as lying, being secretive, avoiding me, and being hot and cold with affection.
After 18 months on and off between us, you claimed that because you had declared ‘I don’t want a girlfriend’ when you first instigated a sexual relationship, that you had no responsibility over the way your behaviour impacted me mentally, emotionally and psychosexually.
When I became unstable, in light of your avoidance, dishonesty, hot/cold affection etc, you held up that instability as an example of why ‘this would never work’.
I tried to speak to you about the way you were treating me, this was extremely difficult for me to articulate, and I often had panic attacks while trying to do so. You responded with demeaning questions such as “can you remember what actually happened?” (Regarding you saying you didn’t want a girlfriend), insinuating that I was too ‘emotional’ or ‘mad’ to remember clearly. All the while you were unable or unwilling to acknowledge your role in my distress. This is gaslighting – behaving in ways that would trigger me, then stepping back and going ‘look how insecure and delusional you are’. You did it to me over and over again, whilst making me assure you that ‘you’re not a bad person’.
Not only did this hurt me profoundly, it has damaged my recovery, deepened my distrust issues and exacerbated my body dysmorphia. 2 years on I still regularly have night terrors related to you and our relationship. I haven’t been able to talk to anyone about this, because of the fear, shame and disgust you made me feel towards myself. You have never acknowledged or apologised for the harm you caused me.
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