H. Chris Begins To See The Light

Back to the chronological story of our relationship. By this past summer, my self-esteem had plummeted. Your frequent unpredictable snapping, constant nagging and criticism, and general air of hostility had taken a toll on me. I didn't realize it, but I had this baseline level of anxiety whenever I was with you. This even carried over to when I was alone--it was like you were constantly there, criticizing me, nagging me, or snapping at me. I began to believe that I really was klutzy, stupid, untidy, careless. I lived in fear of your outbursts. I isolated myself from my friends.

The turning point (actually a series of turning points) came in June. Despite the absolute grief I got from you (i.e. how dare I go on a trip without you), I managed to make it to Disney World with my sister. Boy did I need this!!!!! It was so good for my soul, to just be able to spend a few days away from you, and to be myself. I didn't have to worry constantly about what I was doing. I wasn’t continually one step away from being yelled at, or receiving the sulking silent treatment. I could be who I really was, and not only were you not present to yell at me, but I began to realize that that there was nothing wrong with the way I was at all! I could be independent and go on my own around the parks, without you sulking that I was "abandoning" you. I could throw all my change, maps, park guides on the table, without you nagging me to be neat. I could mix all my stuff with Jennifer's, without you being on my back about keeping our own separate piles. I could use the bathroom in peace, without you nagging me to wipe up every drop of water. I could eat at a restaurant without you making a comment everytime I dropped a morsel of food on the table. I could relax. And to my sister, my behavior was totally normal.

Of course, after my trip, I could hardly be enthusiastic about it with you, since I think you were still angry that I went without you. Despite the lip service you gave to me about "you should do some things with your sister so you guys can really talk," the overall impression I got was that it was just not okay to go on a trip without you.

Those four days in Florida were like a little window to me, of how things could be without you. It was as if this blanket of anxiety, which I had gradually come to accept as normal, had been momentarily lifted. But when I returned, it was back to the same old thing. I had gone one step forward (beginning to realize that I was okay the way I was), only to fall five steps back. The last weekend in June, was when things truly hit rock bottom for me.

That was the weekend that your mom was in the hospital. We were having a lot of difficulty, basically with you being abusive towards me, but I suspended any ill feelings because I was genuinely concerned about your mother. Remember that Sunday when we visited her in the hospital? You were alternately hot and cold with me, I can't even remember over what. One minute you'd be talking with me and the next minute you'd give me the silent treatment. Remember when we got back to your place? We had the most awful interaction ever, even down to a physical push and pull. It was absolutely horrible. When I got back to my apartment, I was devastated. I was racked with tears because I thought I was a total failure, because why, after how hard I had tried, did our relationship still cause me so much pain? Then I happened to look at my photo albums from the summer of 1994, when I traveled all over the country by myself, and with friends, on the Stones tour. I looked at my face smiling out from all those photos and I realized that I was nowhere near the same person anymore. I wasn't even a shadow of the person I used to be. All the best parts of myself, my self-confidence and self-esteem, were in the toilet. I suddenly saw for the first time, just how far I had slid, being with you. And to make it worse, I hated myself for having let this happen.

The next three weeks, it was more of the same. You continued to snap at me constantly (e.g. at the movie theater throwing away the can and picking a spot to sit.) However, I took the first steps toward my own rescue. I bought this wonderful book (actually I had seen it on the shelves many months earlier but was afraid to look at it since you were in the store with me at the time), entitled The Verbally Abusive Relationship. Just reading the book, I was astounded at how accurately it portrayed our relationship. I saw you and I, on nearly every single page. What a wake-up call! For the first time, I saw your behavior for what it was. More importantly, I saw that I didn't deserve to be treated that way. This was a big step for me, to realize that our difficulties were not my fault, that I didn't make you act that way, but that you were the one with the problem. On that Monday of my week of vacation, July 22, you snapped at me for suggesting I reserve tickets for Independence Day on my credit card. And for the first time, I stood up for myself!! (I still can't understand why on earth such stupid trivial things upset you so much.) Yes, I showed my anger (which seemed to startle you) and I got off the phone quickly. Then later that evening you called me back, and had the gall to say, "Are you in a better mood?!" AFTER 18 MONTHS OF YOU SNAPPING AT ME, YOU'RE TELLING ME TO BE IN A BETTER MOOD???!!! At that point, I had a lot of newfound strength from reading that book, and for the first time I confronted you about your behavior.

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