One thing I’ve always prided myself on is my resiliency. I can deal with a lot of shit that has been thrown my way in life, and I bounce back pretty quick. Being diagnosed with HIV has been a massive test of that resiliency, and I haven’t come back as quickly from this setback as I have with others. In time, though, things will come back.
I want to go back a little bit, because I realized that, for too long, I allowed myself to be hurt and yes, even abused by someone. I’m ashamed that I didn’t listen to my gut. I’m ashamed that my resiliency failed me, but I’m proud to say that I’ve taken a stand and it is time to move in to a new phase of my life.
This post will be in a few parts because it’s a long story and I think it needs to be done justice.
I’m posting it early (on a Tuesday) because as I sat and wrote this, I felt it was too important to wait. I’ll post as usual tomorrow evening to continue this story.
Many posts ago, I wrote about my now former partner who has an obvious role in this saga. For the sake of this story, we’ll call him Alex.
I met Alex through online dating in the summer of 2012. He messaged me, was friendly enough, and the conversation continued for a few days before we agreed to swap phone numbers and text. The conversations ranged from the silly to the serious – we got to know each other a bit more, we talked about our shared interest in politics – and eventually, plans were made to get together for dinner. We connected on Facebook, we talked on Skype and it was all the typical things that come with meeting someone new in the 21st century.
Red flag number one
We met on Canada Day in 2012, and went to a restaurant near my place for dinner. It was hot (the weather, get your mind out of the gutter!), and I vividly remember what I wore, what I ate and what we did. It’s embarrassing to think about, because I have always been pretty calm, cool and collected – but in this case, I was pretty smitten.
Long story short, that first date was wonderful – dinner, fireworks, movies on the couch and chatting late in to the evening. I definitely felt the connection.
The next morning, I woke up to find that I had been deleted from Facebook, blocked on Skype and wasn’t getting a response to text messages. That stung like nothing ever had before. But, sometimes connections aren’t mutual. I tried to nurture my hurt feelings as best I could, but it really hurt.
A few days later, I was at home (still hurting) and my phone buzzed. I had a Facebook message. It was from Alex, apologizing. But when I look back on that I remember the message well: “I wanted to apologize because my actions hurt my soul,” the message read in part.
At the time, I didn’t realize it, but I do now: the apology wasn’t for me. It was for him. His actions made his soul hurt. It wasn’t remorse based on how he made me feel. If only I had realized that at the time…
Red flag number two
Stupidly (in hindsight), I gave Alex another chance. Things went well enough, but he kept asking to see my phone. He kept asking to look at my texts, at my Facebook, etcetera. You get the picture.
I had nothing to hide, so I put up with this. Big mistake. Red flag number two was the intense, constant paranoia that he carried. He was constantly asking where I was, what I was doing and who I was with. It wasn’t physical abuse, but it certainly was mental abuse. His constant questioning made me feel cheap. It made me feel subservient and it made me feel like I was doing something wrong, when I never was. Red flag number two was huge, and I should have listened to that nagging in my gut to walk away.
I didn’t listen to it because he truly was the first person I loved. It’s not easy to walk away from that. As I read what I have written, it confuses me how or why I loved him. It was so obvious that it was a twisted relationship; it wasn’t healthy, supportive and it clearly was not built on mutual trust.
Red flag number three
Things continued down the line of constant questioning, accusations and arguing. Clearly this was not a relationship meant to last. Again, I should have listened to my gut.
Things ended between us in October of 2012. You would think that at that point, I was relieved and able to rebuild, right? Wrong.
I’m ashamed and angry that my resiliency failed me, as I have already said. My brain and my gut were in sync, telling me how toxic and awful this relationship was. “You’re going to be okay,” I kept thinking. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t get him off my mind.
One day, about two weeks after the breakup, I foolishly decided to call him. I was walking home from the grocery store, in a complete funk over being alone and we spoke briefly. He said he was busy, but to call him later that evening. So, the evening rolled around and I dialed the familiar number, only to be met with “I’m sorry, the number you have reached is no longer in service. Please hang up and try your call again.”
Alex had lied about talking later. Instead, he rushed away to change his phone number. If only I had listened to my gut after that…
Part two will be posted tomorrow . . .
This article previously appeared in Josh’s own blog The Plus Side of Life here.