Once, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Her eyes were this color, that’s seared into my mind. I’m like a dog, typically; I interpret sustained eye contact as a threat. But I spent hours staring into her eyes.
I was late to work. I didn’t care. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t care. She demanded that I change, a lot. I didn’t care.
I should have cared. Five years later, I came away with the sense that I was broken. I’d never felt that way before. I was relentlessly bullied as an adolescent, and regularly bashed as a young adult, but I was always certain that my abusers were at fault. I wasn’t hurting anyone, being my weird, gender-inappropriate self. I knew that it was them, not me.
When she and I broke up, for the first time in my life, I thought it was me. I didn’t understand the feeling of self-loathing. I felt broken. There was something wrong with me. I couldn’t relationship. I couldn’t communicate. I was certain that my mental health problems would create disaster in all of my relationships, of every sort.
It was over a year later when I ran across an article about gaslighting. I hated it. I’m not susceptible to that shit. I am an island unto myself, and other people’s opinions do not change me. Uh huh.
Gaslighting, I realized, often isn’t intentional. She would be upset to know that I feel she gaslighted me. She’s a therapist. When we had problems, she analyzed how I’d produced them. She told me, over and over again, that I can’t communicate appropriately. I didn’t express myself gently enough. I was always hurtful when I tried to share my feelings. I didn’t identify those feelings quickly enough. I was always keeping things from her by not recognizing my feelings quickly enough. She didn’t try to gaslight me. She didn’t intend to hurt me. She had her own issues, and they paired poorly with mine.
It’s been three and a half years. I don’t have the sense of self-loathing anymore, but I can’t imagine trusting anyone. I can’t imagine relaxing, and looking at someone, noting her eye color, and not caring whether or not I get any sleep.
I don’t know whether or not I’ll be able to really relationship again. I can’t imagine ever being in love. I can’t imagine trusting anyone again. I can’t trust myself. It turns out that I’m a person who can be convinced that I’m broken. I don’t like that feeling, and I won’t let anyone tell me that, ever again.
I miss relationships though. I crave them. Not enough to let someone criticize my way of being, but enough that I notice it. This week, I’m housesitting in Seattle, and wishing that I had a date, a FWB, or a play partner here, in town. This week, I can host, but all the people whom I love are far away. I want my own, weird sort of relationship with someone local. I’d like to be close to someone. But I’m afraid, and I won’t give up on my Self.