In Sex, Love and Obesity Part 34 we discussed how trauma bonding and a learned behavior pattern of Peter being the person that made me feel better after he had done something to hurt me had left me in a position where I felt like I needed an apology from Peter in order to to find closure on the chapters of my life that had involved him.
For quite some time, I thought that was true, and hoped one day Peter would give it to me. The realization that I didn’t need Peter to do anything to make me feel better didn’t quite sink in until last October, almost a year after Peter and I had broken up for a second time.
Maybe it was a coincidence. Who knows.
When you are dealing with someone who has a tendency of emotional abuse and emotional manipulation, it can be hard to tell when they are trying to upset you and when you’ve misinterpreted something or over analyzed it for malicious intentions. That is one of the hardest things about dating a Narcissist; they are perfect, everything is your fault, and any time you think they have done something wrong; you are incorrect or misunderstood their intentions.
But here are the facts. On October 12th I posted a blog called Dissociative Identity Disorder, Six Women One Mind. The blog was intended to help my readers understand Dissociative Identity Disorder, what it is, and how it was prevalent to my life at that moment.
The emotional abuse, and the volatile arguments between Peter and I were triggering me, and for the first time in nearly 13 years, I was struggling with dissociative episodes again. The blog discussed in quite graphic detail, one of the first instances I remember of being sexually abused as a young child as well as my first recollection of using food, in the form of a doughnut from the local doughnut shop to make me feel better.
At the time, I knew Peter was still reading my blog. We’d last discussed my blog just a month or so earlier when he had contacted me before the hurricane hit. I wrote about that interaction in Sex, Love and Obesity Part 29 – Finding The Courage to Speak my Truths. The blog was posted late in the evening and the link announcing it was posted the following day. The next day, on October 14th, a post appeared on Peter’s Instagram page of a woman’s belly button being compared to doughnut with a caption “Expectations vs Reality”.
Yes, it could have totally be a coincidence.
Or it could have been Peter taking a very back handed jab at the recent blog post. I’ll never know the truth. Because if it was Peter being catty and manipulative, he’d never admit to doing it. He would deny it until his last breath. When a friend of mine commented on the post, his explanation was that it was an inside joke and we we’re reading too much into it. It didn’t help that his current love interest had posted a comment on the thread that read “You shouldn’t talk shit about your ex girlfriends vajayjay like that on social media.”
Whether it was intentional or coincidental, it was ill timing in light of my blog post and in evaluating the situation I began realizing that I was still giving Peter the opportunity to elicit a reaction out of me. It was another example of Trauma Bonding. The mere fact that I still looked at Peter’s social media posts gave him the power to affect my emotions. Peter blew up my phone that day, upset that my friend had taken him to task on the post. I ignored him completely and didn’t respond. That day, I made a promise to myself that I would never look at his social media posts again. If I was going to cut Peter out of my life, I had to do it completely.
Two weeks later, when my ex-husband passed away, I received a text message from Peter
“I know I’m one of (if not) the last people you want to hear from, but I wanted to give you my condolences. I heard about Jason, and I’m very sorry to hear that. I can only imagine the emotions you’re going through. I know you won’t take me up on it, but if you need to talk or if I can help somehow, feel free to reach out. I know you don’t do grief and guilt well, but if you need an ear to listen, I’ll be there for you.”
Peter was right, I don’t do grief and guilt well. But I didn’t need him to help me deal with it.
There were loving and supportive people to help me navigate through it. I didn’t need Peter to try to make me feel better. Truthfully, the fact that he had contacted me angered me. Logic and ration would seem to dictate that if you know someone doesn’t want to hear from you and they are going through something horribly painful, you’d refrain from contacting them. But that’s not how a Narcissists mind works. The Narcissistic mind sees a window. A window that it slightly cracked open and that they might be able to use to show you that they are still there and that maybe, just maybe they can be the thing makes you feel better. It’s a prime example of how they try to feed the trauma bond.
There was a time, I would have responded. A time I would have called Peter and cried on his shoulder knowing he would listen, empathize and understand. There was a time I would have appreciated the offer. But for the first time in all of this, I recognized that if I did, I would be letting a monster crawl back though my window and re-securing the trauma bond. I didn’t need Peter to make me feel better. I didn’t need Peter for anything at all.
This all lead up to a great epiphany.
I realized that I didn’t need Peter to offer me any sort of relief. I didn’t need him to apologize. in fact, I didn’t need him to think about me at all. The days of needing Peter to feel sorry for his actions were over. No more needing him to regret what he had done. I wasn’t going to give another thought to Peter. He did not deserve anymore of my emotional energy.
Because, I didn’t need to forgive Peter; I needed to forgive myself for what I had allowed Peter to do to me. I made sure that there was no way Peter could ever contact me again. Then, I blocked him from sending messages to me via email, text or through social media and after that, I wrote myself a letter of forgiveness.
I had finally began realizing the best revenge, I had against Peter was proving him wrong. It had bothered me that the only thing Peter thought he had ever really done wrong was trying to pressure me into a relationship I wasn’t ready for. But he was wrong. I was ready for a relationship, I was ready to love, to be loved, and to build a life together. I just wasn’t ready to do it with an emotionally abusive narcissist.
Once the right person came along, everything fell into place
Here I am, doing all the things that Peter thought I was too independent and controlling to do. I’m in love with a man who treats me well. We’re engaged, combining our finances, buying a house, and planning a wedding. I’m not doing drugs. I drink socially with my friends rather than drowning myself in a bottle to escape a volatile home life. I’m going back to school to work on a career path that will give me a normal work schedule and allow me to spend more time with my soon to be husband, his family and our friends. I’m happy. Truly happy.
We don’t fight and we don’t raise our voices; we don’t yell and scream at each other. He’s never put me down or made me feel anything less than amazing and appreciated. Sure, we’ve had disagreements, all healthy relationships do. But when they happen, they aren’t emotionally charged yelling and screaming matches. He never puts me down, he doesn’t emotionally blackmail me or pick at my flaws. When he sees me upset, stressed out, or overwhelmed, he reminds me of the amazing woman he fell in love with and unselfishly tries to help me work through it.
For the first time, I’m in a relationship where I am not making compromises I don’t want to make. I’m not settling for less than what I really want. We fit together without trying to force it and work together to try to help each other be the best versions of ourselves. I’m grateful for the life we are living, the happiness we have and for the sense of family and belonging the relationship has gifted me.
Narcissists thrive on your reaction.
My life with my fiancee and his family has shown me that all along, God, the Universe, whatever higher power you believe in, had a plan for me. The biggest realization that I’ve had through all of this, is the realization that the right person cannot come into your life if you keep filling that vacancy with the wrong people. As cliche as it sounds, you can’t move on to something better if you’re holding on to something that you’d be willing to settle for if something better never came along.
I believe that everything happens for a reason. In fact, I’ve been meaning to finish up this series for almost two months. Working two jobs and going to school altered things a bit and the time I would have normally spent on leisure writing has been spent on writing English papers instead. But a few weeks ago, as I was finishing up the last paper due for my English class, I was given a little reminder that it was time to finish this series when I ran into Peter at the local store.
I believe in fate.
Running into Peter for the first time after we had broken up had the potential to provide him with a reaction from me. If you ask me, he was looking for one. There I was standing in line with my fiancee, putting my groceries on the belt at our local Walmart when suddenly, I look up and realize that the person pulling their cart in line behind me at the checkout is Peter.
Had the situation been reversed, if I had pulled my cart in behind his, my fiancee would have heard something along the lines of “Awe shit I forgot the almond milk.” Next, my happy little ass would have turned in the opposite direction, removing myself from what could potentially be an awkward situation and waiting to return until I had provided Peter ample time to check out and go along his merry little way.
Peter didn’t do that though. He stood there behind me in the grocery line. For a moment, a brief, fleeting moment, it annoyed me. I turned to my fiancee and said, “You’ll never believe who just pulled up behind us in this line.” But then, I realized it didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to get a reaction out of me. I refused to make eye contact. I didn’t say hello. Instead, I chose to ignore the fact that he was standing there. Ignoring Peter’s existence in that check out line was a victory for me that some might not understand, it said something very important…
“You don’t exist in my world anymore.”
Peter is a narcissist. So, the entire concept of him being so insignificant to me doesn’t exist in his world. When he told this story, which I am sure he did, it probably included a tale of how I was so uncomfortable in his presence that I couldn’t make eye contact and tried to pretend he wasn’t there. That’s how narcissists think; the world revolves around them. I wasn’t uncomfortable. I was ecstatic. Because this was the moment, that I knew without a doubt, I had broken the trauma bond. I wasn’t trying to pretend he wasn’t there. His presence was simply that irrelevant to me.
I went on with what I was doing as if any other perfect stranger was standing behind me. I felt empowered and proud of myself. “It’s finally over, there is nothing this man can do to force a reaction out of me again.”
If I had ran into him a year ago, I couldn’t have said that.
It took a long time to break those trauma bonds. It took the help of a therapist, the patience of my fiancee, and the love and support of my close friends who watched this whole part of my life transpire. But in the end, finally, I was free. Free from Peter, from the emotional abuse I had tolerated in my life because of my lack of self-esteem and self-worth, and free from the trauma bonds that held my mind captive for so long.
The victory that I felt as I walked out of that store is one, I can’t even explain. My fiancee and I headed back to the car discussing the incident. He gave me a a high five and told me how awesome I had handled this inevitable moment. We had a conversation about how any normal person would not have pulled their cart in behind their ex’s like that. Afterwards, I realized it was time to come back and finish the Sex Love and Obesity series. Life was nudging me; fate was reminding me there was something to take care of.
Truthfully, I couldn’t have planned a better ending to this story. After everything I’ve written. After as horrible as the almost two years of my life I spent trying to love a narcissist was, it was over.
O. V. E. R. Over.
There are many steps to over. I had to get over loving someone who could not love me in healthy ways. Then, I had to get over missing someone who was completely unhealthy for me. Next, I had to get over constantly thinking about him, about what had happened, and wondering if it could have turned out differently. Even when all that was through, I had to get over accepting the blame both he and I laid on my shoulders for this failed relationship. After that, I had to get over being angry, get over being hurt and get over the trauma bond of still wanting him to fix it.
For the longest time, when I thought of Peter I thought “I wish you were a better man.” Now, I look back at the entire situation and think “Thank you for being who you are. It reminded me who I am.”
I think that is the most important lesson in this series. The lessons I learned about myself are what I hope you hear and take away from this series.
I was a victim. I had been a victim ever since I was a little girl.
You see, I spent most of my life looking for a man who would rescue me from victimization. I felt unloved by almost everyone in my life. As a result, I needed people to love me because I didn’t love myself. I didn’t know how to love myself. I fed my feelings with food until I weighed over four hundred pounds.
Then, instead of addressing the real issue, a lack of self-love and a need to fill that void with love from someone else, I blamed the sadness, loneliness and worthlessness I felt inside on my weight and decided that losing the weight would fix it all.
As a food addict, I created a situation where I carried hundreds and hundreds of pounds of feelings around with me in the form of excess weight. My weight was my way of hiding from the world and insuring that nobody would ever abuse me in a physical or sexual way. If the same statement applies to you, here is a warning I was never lucky enough to receive; when the weight comes off, your barrier of protection is gone.
When that happens, you feel vulnerable and exposed. You think that someone will love you because you’ve lost all that weight and you are still looking for someone else to love you. You haven’t learned to love yourself. When you used food as a survival tool, and suddenly food isn’t there anymore, you don’t know how to survive and it’s easy to become the victim all over again.
I didn’t know how to not be the victim.
Once I had shed the weight, I started looking for answers to my unhappiness. I analyzed my unhappy marriage and decided I deserved more. I deserved someone to love me the way I wanted to be loved. But guess what, even when I found that, it wasn’t enough. Clark loved me. He probably loved me enough for both of us combined. But that love wasn’t enough for me. I didn’t love myself and he couldn’t teach me to love myself the way he loved me.
Clark knew this long before I did. I recall his words at the end of a letter he wrote me telling me he forgave me for what I had done. I’d ran to him when things with Peter got bad. He had taken me back. Back into his home and into his heart. Then, when the intimacy I wanted from him wasn’t there and I needed sex to make me feel loved, I ran right back to Peter where I knew I would find it.
“I forgive you … I’ll never forget this though. And I hope for a day … that all the belief and faith I’ve put in you transfers to you feeling those things about yourself and gives you more self-worth and self-acceptance than anything anybody does with their clothes off. I love you. It’s what I do.”
I didn’t understand it yet. I wasn’t there yet.
You see, I still needed someone to love me. But love wasn’t something I was used to feeling. I didn’t recognize it as an emotion. Someone loving me meant they were having sex with me. There was a time that I would have told you that my addiction to food transferred to an addiction to sex. Today, I don’t think that is true; I think my addiction to sex and love was there long before my addiction to food was.
I’d been trained as a young child to equate sexual attention with love. This is what abusers do when they are abusing you, they tell you how much they love you. In my teenage years I slept with anybody and everybody because I wanted someone to love me. When there wasn’t anyone around to have sex with and I needed something to fill the void inside me, I turned to food and found a different fullness.
That search for love in the form of fullness eventually lead to me weighing over four hundred pounds twice in my life, and still not feeling loved. When the weight was gone, and this time around, due to my decision to have gastric bypass surgery, stuffing my face with food was no longer an option, I felt emptier than ever before.
The emptiness amplified.
After losing the weight, the emptiness just kept growing. I lost my Father, one of two people in the world that I believed loved me. My marriage was emotionally and physically vacant. So, I ran to Clark looking to fill the emptiness. When he couldn’t provide the sexual drug I was seeking, I went anywhere and everywhere I could searching for it.
I was right back where it had all begun. A smaller version of myself, using sex to fill a void. Only this time, the sex was amplifying the emptiness. I began sleeping with men who told me they loved me, told me I was amazing, told me I was attractive, told me I was everything they dreamed of, but didn’t want a relationship with me because they were content to stay in the unhappy relationships they were in. I felt more worthless.
So, I ran to Peter. A man that in the beginning, made me feel like a rock-star. In the first six months, before he moved to North Carolina to live with me, in the preening stages, the relationship had all the elements necessary to make it feel right. He thought I was perfect. I was “the one”, I was his “soul mate.” But when that wore off, when my flaws and imperfections began surfacing, it all fell apart.
My self-worth was based on his perception of me.
When he thought I was perfect, I saw myself as perfect, or at least, perfect for him. When he saw a broken and damaged woman, I saw a broken and damaged woman. Likewise, when he perceived me as a flawed failure, I perceived myself as a flawed failure.
The relationship was toxic. An emotionally abusive narcissist with a self-inflated sense of importance and an emotionally masochistic woman who based her self-worth on his definitions of her.
It was an emotional natural disaster. A class four emotional hurricane. But when it was over, when the hurricane landed and demolished everything, that is the moment that I truly began figuring it all out.
I named this emotional storm after myself, because no man deserves credit for what happened next. When the storm landed, I began realizing that everything had come full circle. I was standing in the middle of the remnants of a traumatizing emotional disaster. My relationship with Peter left me feeling emotionally abused in a way I hadn’t been emotionally abused since I was a little girl. I was alone. There was no man in my life to run to and turn to that was going to give me sex, make me feel loved or make me feel better about myself.
I knew that this time, my form of survival could not be found in someone else. As frightening as it was, I was going to need to find a method of surviving on my own.
This is what I want you to hear right now. Survival. As a victim of childhood abuse this is how I would have labeled myself. A survivor. I survived. The thing is, survival has two distinct definitions. Survival means you continue to live or exist. I had existed, by basing my self-worth and self-value on worth and value that others gave me. But I had failed to live.
I thought of the little girl that left the garage in the back of my Grandmothers house so determined to get through life despite what was happening to her. From that moment, every choice that little girl made to survive was a choice I could easily now define as emotional suicide. I existed because others loved me and felt I was worth having around.
I had to stop emotionally killing myself.
In that moment, surrounded by the disaster of my relationship with Peter, I had to make a choice. Either I was going to allow the cycle to continue, take the abuse I felt and walk away content to survive, find someone else that would love me, fuck me, and tell me I was worthy; or I was going to learn to do something different.
It wasn’t an easy choice. The emotional abuse had me triggered and I was struggling with dissociation. It was hard for me to make decisions, and I really do not like change. But living, not existing but living, was going to require I find a way to do it on my own. I had to do everything different this time.
So, I did everything different. Everything. Any time I was facing a decision reminiscent of one from my past, I chose differently. It was like I was re-reading a choose your own adventure book of my life and every time I got to a place where there was a choice to make, I made the one I didn’t make the first time. They say that insanity is making the same decisions repeatedly and expecting a different outcome.
I choose sanity.
Independence. That was my goal. I wasn’t going to need anyone or anything but myself this time around. This time around, I would not allow a man, love, sex, or food to define me. I was focusing on making sure I did not turn to any of those things to establish my self-worth or my self-value.
Hurricane Pandora wasn’t a storm that had happened because of Peter. It was a storm that had been brewing my entire life. But the storm was over now. I realized what I needed to do. I had to stop basing my self-worth and the life I lived on the things that had controlled it for so many years. In order for me to start living, Sex, Love and Obesity would need to stop being the primary focus of my life.
That is where this part of my story ends. Where it goes from here, well, you know what they say, after a hurricane comes a rainbow. I have great stories to tell about my Fiancee, the journey we’re embarking on together and the life we are living. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but it is about life, growth, happiness and a little eclectic yellow farmhouse where love prospers.