“She said, ‘cocktail of mental illness …” Emma relayed the information verbatim from the source.
“She also said that ‘your engagement pictures looked like you were trying to hide an accidental pregnancy with the sweater choices.”
She finished what hurl of insults she had overheard. I felt the full weight now lay upon me.
“That is so hateful,” I said.
I took a sip of my lemonade trying not to choke on the bitterness rising in my throat. Word always travels when people say outlandish remark. When they say them directly to my friends, it has an even quicker return route. I am aware that I have had some pretty hateful words said about me, but this penetrated me in a different way because of the source they originated from.
I had been seriously dating a man named Brad for about two years. I had broken up with him a year prior to this conversation because he had some fidelity issues. By some, one can infer it as a polite way of saying he was a dirty, cheating, lying bag of dog crap. Bless the soul of whoever he dated next because he would repeat the same pattern. He was also verbally abusive, demeaning and ultimately not someone I pictured spending forever with. I had been very close with his family and these are where the comments stemmed from, his sister actually.
“The pictures were taken in four degree weather, was I supposed to be in a swimsuit?” I said to Emma, “… and how is what I wear any of their damn business.”
I skimmed over the original comment referring to “mental illness.” That was simply reaching for straws, they knew me well enough to know that it was not I suffering from the mental illness but Brad.
They knew I have anxiety, who doesn’t? They also knew how well I treated him, and how many times I had to come to his rescue because he was a grown man who was helpless. I was his weird knight in shining armour, saving him from repeated bad choices. The man did not even change his contacts without some manner of prompting. He could have gone blind. He could be blind now for all I know because he lost vascularity in his eyes due to lack of proper contact removal. His mother once mailed him toilet paper because he was too lazy to go and buy the necessity himself.
I was done taking care of him only to be repaid with infidelity. So, I took a hard look at myself and decided he needed to be expunged from my life. I had since been engaged to someone else during the time Emma had seen Brad’s sister while out shopping. Apparently, these flippant comments were said to Emma very early in the conversation. Without a doubt, feeble attempts to hurt me if it returned to me. Emma was my best friend, his sister knew that. I had refrained from making any such comments about her brother because I did not believe anyone to be deserving of such hatefulness.
The comments obviously unnerved me, as much as I did not want them to. I mostly did not want to give them the satisfaction of hurting me anymore. I cringed, thinking about whether or not they were under the delusion that they were somehow better than me. Brad had hurt me enough, why did they want to inflict more pain when I had moved on? As much as I wanted to set a bag of my burning poop on Brad’s porch, I thought better of it. Why would I want to cause someone else unnecessary pain and rip open my wounds? His sister obviously did not feel the same way. She wanted to place flaming feces on my porch using mental warfare mean girl tactics.
His parents were not my biggest fans. Well, they had been. They had mused on the fact that my choices were due to the fact that I lacked Jesus in my life. I don’t necessarily think a lack of Jesus was my issue more that it was in my best interest to be as far as possible from Brad.
I know I am biased because it is me, but I’m not a bad person. I have never received a speeding ticket, or any ticket really, I graduated Magna Cum Laude, I adopt dogs and give to charities. Brad could have easily done much worse, like date some of the one-night-stands he entertained.
“You know it really isn’t their business and you won’t believe this, she also eluded to your engagement ring being ‘fake and cheap.” Emma raised one eyebrow, rolled her eyes and finished her thought by saying, “I think they are just butt-hurt because you didn’t want to spend your life in misery with their beloved Brad.”
Emma was right, I would rather have a couple upset relatives than be in misery myself. The more I thought about it, the more I saw they were unhappy because I was happy without them. I was my own person, and I could exist without him. In their minds, I should have crawled back to him, begging for forgiveness because, to them, Brad hung the sun, the moon, and the stars.
Shortly after we broke up, I had heard Brad reeled over the end of our relationship. That it had really made him turn into a black-hole of sorts. He had nothing to lose, so he did whatever he wanted to without me holding him back or reminding him what it was like to act like a moral human being. He was now unhinged and I knew he wanted me to suffer, living a miserable life without him.
“He followed me a couple times,” I told Emma. “He saw me when I was off work. He didn’t realize I saw him. Also, his new girlfriend had told a couple of her friends that she was tired of hearing about me …”
I didn’t finish what I had planned to say, explaining where I heard about what his new girlfriend had said. I thought about what her life was probably like now. My heart hurt for her. I knew what life was like with him and nothing was ever solid or steady. I never knew if he loved me or hated me. All I felt day in and day out was pain.
Even now, I still hate myself at times because of the ideas he put in my head. He watched my weight, what I wore, and how I behaved. I did so much for him, but he had always been the overseer. He was helpless, but he was in control. I needed to be the perfect, skinny, Christian girl he had dreamed one day he could have. I was the perfect trophy on his shelf, and if I didn’t do as I should, he dusted me off and put me in my place.
Our relationship never lasted long enough for me to really see what he truly could have been capable of, but he would lash out. Countless times he would gnash his teeth if I did something displeasing, spewing hateful words. It reminded me of a feral dog everyone was too afraid to touch for fear of being bitten.
I was in a cage with that dog. I had no doubt, now that I was in a functional relationship, that he had the capacity to do whatever he wanted. If he wanted to punch me in the face, he could. In the past, he had been so angry with me that he put his fist through a wall. Everyday, I’m grateful I was able to get out before it all escalated, but the emotional scars aren’t as easy to overcome.
I look down at my stomach and think about how fat I look. He had told me multiple times to watch what I eat. I look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I am pretty. Sometimes, I see a girl that has too big of a chin and too big of a nose. Before, I didn’t worry about my appearance for something as simple as going to the grocery store. Now, I feel myself second-guessing my choices of outfits or makeup. On occasion, I pull on my eyebrows, pushing them up as I see myself looking back at me. Maybe one day I’ll have to get a face lift so I can be pretty. Why am I not pretty? I hear the voice inside my head say. The voice used to sound like Brad’s. Now, it sounds like my own voice.
That’s what his family didn’t know, the comments they made to my friends, or even if they said them to my face, paled in comparison to what he had said to me. Anything worth saying to make me feel less than human, he had already expressed.
I replay the words to myself, but I listen less. I have since discovered that only a truly miserable person could behave how Brad had with me.
“I am just glad I was able to leave…” I sighed and said to Emma. She nodded in return.
My life would be completely different, and I would not be sharing my life with the man I should have been with the entire time. I wish I had realized much sooner that I could still have a life without him and be happier. That is the most dangerous part of bad relationships. They are so consuming, at the time, it is hard to see the future. I was blind—and still can be—to all the negativity that overtook my life. I found though, that at the end of the day, I’m still me. He can never take that from me.