There were, it seemed, a thousand criticisms. What I’ve done. What I do, always do and always will do.
My fault, all of it.
Disgusting, disgraceful. Have I no shame?
I’m at him and at him and at him. I keep him prisoner. I’m manipulative, abusive: controlling him, he says, by telling him I’m suicidal or that I have a compulsion to self-harm. I won’t let him leave: I cry – no, wail – when he approaches the door.
I wouldn’t let him leave properly when he tried to split up with me. He was trapped by my misery, trapped by the thought of what I might do to myself. Even my welcoming him back into the house, or offering him dinner, was just proof of a delusion on my part (at best), or another form of selfish manipulation (at worst). Why couldn’t I just give up and leave him alone?
I make it impossible for him to work, and always have done. I deny him sleep by talking about my feelings at night when the children are asleep. I interrupt him at work when I’m not coping. I deny him peace by not coping. I stop him from being able to think.
I talk about the news and want to share articles with him when he comes home, even if he’s got his computer out to work, and is therefore unavailable. I stop him from working and therefore rob him of more sleep later, because he’ll have more work to do as I’ve wasted his time talking.
I shouldn’t be reading the news anyway. I should be using my time more productively.
I want to chat with him because I don’t have a life. I lock myself away and don’t meet friends or lean on relatives (though he doesn’t mean my mother – he thinks it would be best if we were able to cut her off, as do every psychiatrist and psychologist I’ve ever seen). I pressure him because I don’t tell anyone else I’m mentally ill, and dump everything on him (even the general chitchat), when he wants none of it.
I talk and talk. I complain about my past, the hurts inflicted long ago that I should, by now, have forgotten.
I whinge about my family.
I whinge about everything. I am tedious.
I never let him speak. I am incapable of a two-way conversation.
My interests are hypocritical. He asked me recently: how can I claim an interest in social justice or human rights when I’m a controlling, manipulative abuser myself?
And why do I just accept what he says about me? What am I inside: hollow? Can’t I have my own personality? He doesn’t want to be the boss, doesn’t want the responsibility. It’s stressful and exhausting shielding me from everything.
I should never have told him that I feel like a husk of a person. I should never have confessed that, when faced with his arguments, all my own evaporate and I’m left confused and unable to defend myself. Because now he says it back to me and all I can say is “yes, I’m hollow, and no, I don’t know who I am”, and I realise that everything else he says must be true too.
I forget things. Big things, traumatic things. (But not just things I’ve said and done, I should point out. Things said and done to me. It makes grudge-bearing very difficult.)
Which is the real me, he asks: the one acting out of wild, uncontrolled emotion, or the other one, the “most of the time” me?
Why do I want to marry him, anyway? Can’t I see there is no foundation for that sort of commitment? Can’t I see how difficult it is for him when I mention marriage?
I am an abuser. Emotionally, for years, dragging him into my Borderline hell. Trapping him.
I thought I was kind to him, but I was never anything but demanding, he says. I put the effort in to the relationship, he agrees, but it wasn’t love or kindness, it was just me being demanding. My “generosity” was just another way of being needy. A symptom.
Meanwhile, I stopped him from having friends, ruined his career prospects, stopped him from having a life. Stopped him from evolving as a person.
I lash out. I am nasty. I say cruel things I don’t mean. It doesn’t matter that I apologise immediately, accept responsibility and try to make up for it.
It doesn’t matter that I say I know he didn’t deserve to be spoken to that way. That, he says, is an admission that he should have left me, because who puts up with nastiness they don’t deserve? My taking responsibility is just an acknowledgement that he shouldn’t be with me (it’s implicit that I deserve to be alone).
It doesn’t even matter that I’ve changed, that every fibre of my being is engaged in the process of trying to be healthier and better.
I’ve harmed myself in front of him, or I’ve told him or shown him that I’ve done it, numerous times in the past. This is violence. I am a violent person.
I’ve grabbed at him and shoved him and I cannot be forgiven (and this is enough to kill me because I never meant to hurt him, I swear it, and I’m so sorry, I’d punish myself any possible way to prove it). I’ve been someone else’s fearful wife and I don’t want to be my ex-husband, screaming abuse and terrorising my family, telling everyone else it’s all their fault, telling them that’s how they deserve to be treated.
My partner once took our then-baby to work, to a meeting, because he thought I’d harm myself or kill myself with the baby in the room. (My one bit of self-defence here: I would never leave my precious son alone to cry for someone who wasn’t coming.)
But I am abusive.
I have traumatised the love of my life. He is ashamed that he’s put up with me.
I blow up at my daughter. It’s disgusting and doesn’t matter that I apologise. I fail her every day.
I sleep too much and don’t keep a clean house and complain when people don’t pick up their dirty dishes, which I shouldn’t complain about because I’ve never had a clean home, not the whole time we’ve lived together. Maybe if I was a good housewife I’d have grounds to complain about things, but not now. Probably not ever.
Every bad pattern – especially our toddler’s sleep – and domestic problem in this house is my fault, but it’s difficult to fix because everybody has an unreasonable fear of upsetting me.
I’ve cut my partner off from support: he feels he can’t call an ambulance or CAT (Crisis Assessment and Treatment team) after my previous terrible responses.
Lately, I had been a little bit proud of my progress. Things were changing, I thought, in a positive way. Hope and happiness leaked into my heart and made me smile, made me believe that perhaps life could get better.
I haven’t self-harmed in months. I haven’t had all the melt-downs or demanded hours-long talks about my feelings, “demanding comprehension” from my partner (which is one of his absolute all-time pet hates). I’ve had a little more energy, and much less pain in my joints, so have been able to do more around the house. I’ve even been working on redrafting a novel, which I hadn’t looked at for ages.
But all the “progress” is no more than a castle in the air.
I told him that so much criticism is hard to take, too much for me to process at once.
He said he wasn’t mean, that he didn’t say anything that wasn’t true, or bring up anything I didn’t do. He didn’t understand why I felt so miserable and hurt.
“I don’t think I said anything controversial,” he tells me, puzzled, and this is what makes everything so difficult to cope with.
Husk-me, hollow me, has filled up with all this information he’s laid out, accepting it as truth. I can’t find a single good quality hidden in myself. Not a single thing for anyone to love or even like. I have swelled with pain and self-hatred until I could burst. I felt a need, so strong, to harm myself, just to let some of the pain out and ease the pressure, but still, I resisted. I gritted my teeth and rode it out, and I coped.
I feel much calmer now but have no idea how I’m going to bounce, how I’m going to find some compassion for myself and allow myself to heal enough to get back on the wagon and make more progress.
I don’t think I even deserve compassion. He does tell me to be good to myself, but he also disbelieves me when I try to explain why I behave the way I do sometimes, when I tell him it only comes out of excruciating emotional pain, and I’m sorry, sorry, sorry, but it just hurts so much I can’t keep it in.
I don’t even know if healing and progress are possible anymore.
A few days ago, he told me I should think about forgetting the novel, considering my inability to shake off criticism and rejection.
“I’m much better able to take it than I used to be,” I said.
“True,” he said, but went on to say that I’ll probably be happier, in the long run, if I just give up. I can’t help thinking the same applies to every other dream and ambition.
Right now, I just wish I could go to bed and sleep until I wake up, magically transformed into a different, mentally well person. Magically worthy of love and forgiveness. Worthy of trying again to get things right.