CONTENT WARNING: Mention of relationship abuse, mental health and physical illness. Reader discretion is advised.
I like to think I approach life without regrets, but I’d be lying. I’ve said and done things I deeply regret. Especially when I was experiencing post-traumatic stress in my late teens and early twenties, when I was quick to jump on the defensive, easily irritable and quick to anger.
This was a symptom of being so anxious and depressed from my Nan’s sudden passing from cancer, and the mental and emotional abuse from ex. I was scared shitless a lot of the time after. Hypervigilant and deeply hurt and broken. It felt like a never-ending tornado of despair and hopelessness.
Thankfully I’ve moved on from that for the most part, but it still doesn’t detract from the things I said and did in an attempt to try and regain control over my life. I got into arguments easily and just wanted to be left alone, so I could lick my wounds in private. I was cruel with my words, because I felt anyone trying to help me by calling me out, was trying to hurt me.
I’d been so badly hurt by ex (honestly, gaslighting isn’t something I’d wish on my worst enemy) that I was questioning my own sanity in most of those following months in the year after we broke up, hence why I reacted the way I did. I didn’t know if what people were saying was right, wondering if I really was ‘crazy’ and I need to change things like he said. I didn’t know which way was up, so understandably, I was very afraid.
Years and medical help later, I spent a lot of time seriously trying my best to make amends for some of the cruel things I said to those I love. Baring in mind, at the time I wasn’t well, my own mother was very ill. As a grieving family, raw emotions were running high. We were all traumatised, depressed and anxious. We both said things we shouldn’t have to the other and put each other through our paces.
After this time we talked, and talked and talked. All was water under the bridge, forgiven, as we both came to terms with the fact that what we said was not from malice, but because we were ill. While this doesn’t excuse it by any means, it gave us deeper insight into the fact that when someone’s really hurting, you can react in ways that are very out of character. Taking responsibility for our own shit gave us greater agency in not only our recovery, but being a solid support network for each other.
I do still regret the things I said when a tone of voice, a word, or flashback triggered me. And I don’t mean triggered how people often use it now, to be malicious, I mean the actual psychological term ‘triggered’. At the same time, as much as I wish it never happened, I don’t regret the process and recovery. Without them I wouldn’t be the person I am now, but I wish I could be who I am now without having to go through that trauma.
Last year though, something happened. I was a little unsure as to talk about it but I feel it’s necessary, somewhat. I got a call from ex. We spoke for the first time since we broke up, years before. Yes, I’d seen him once or twice when out and about, but I flat out ignored him. I was making my dinner one night, when I get a call from a number not in my contacts (I’d deleted his number of course) but the last few numbers looked familiar.
Could it be…? I thought. No, surely not.
I picked up and sure enough, it was. He put it down to ‘accidently’ calling me. Ye olde butt dial, apparently. I told my boyfriend and a few dear male friends (all of whom are attracted to women) and all unanimously said the same thing: No man ‘accidently’ calls his ex. Honestly, I was surprised he still had my number after all these years. On the other hand though, that thought is rather unnerving. Surprisingly, we actually had a pretty pleasant conversation.
‘This is really pleasant surprise for me.’ he said. Ha! Yeah, I thought, for you.
After a short conversation of awkward pleasantries and the casual ‘yeah I’m moving in with my boyfriend soon’ drop into the conversation (One of the last things he said to me was, very condescending, that I ‘wasn’t ready for a relationship’ because I wouldn’t give into contraceptive coercion. Joke’s on him that I found a nice man and have been with him since) and him saying he was happy for me, I said take care and put the phone down.
I couldn’t believe it. I handled it, and those who’ve had a horrid, abusive ex can relate, stuck it to him. A subtle ‘The Lannisters send their regards‘. I don’t mean to come across bitter, but that moment of ‘fuck you’ to someone who was manipulative and awful to you, is rather satisfying. As my late Nan used to say: ‘God doesn’t pay his debts in money.’ And while it may sound petty, honestly I don’t regret that at all.
After what he did, in that moment I handled myself, assertive and calm. I wouldn’t have been able to before. Even the sheer sound of his voice would have made my blood run cold and I would have crumbled. It proved that to me that he, genuinely, couldn’t hurt me anymore. I was proud of myself, and I knew if I was still having therapy at the time, my therapist would have been proud too.
Granted, I was shaking like a leaf and needed a long hug from my boyfriend after, but it was cathartic. I realised fully, while I may have anxiety anyway, I’ve come a long way from a few years ago. I know this might sound cheesy, but I thought to myself:
Well done, kid. You did good.
While I may have some regrets (hey, I’m only human after all) that time recovering, learning and growing, I had to approach as such as I came out the other side of that. I can’t change the past, but I can learn from it so I can approach the future, hopefully, better.
*One of my goals for 2020 is to be able to commission customised artwork for Life of Violet. If you would like to support my blog, be it for this, or you just want to keep your girl caffeinated whilst I write, please consider buying me a coffee. Xx