To the Friend Who Was Emotionally Abusive
If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
I can’t remember you. I can see your hair, your clothes, your presence, but I cannot see your face. I cannot hear your voice.
We went to the beach together. I know that because I organized the trip and have pictures of us together, but I cannot remember what we did, where we went or if we had fun.
My eyes remember what our apartment looked like, but my body does not remember living there. My mind does not recall resting there. I know there was a tree with pink flowers outside the window by our dining room table, and I know that squirrels would perch on that same window while I ate breakfast, but I have no memory of how it felt to come home and exist in that space with you.
I know that you came with me to my brother’s wedding, my grandmother’s 80th birthday party and even our Labor Day picnic. I have all this knowledge of places we went and things we did, but I feel none of it. I cannot recall a single smile, a single joke, or a single moment of those events. I simply know that they happened because there are pictures of us together, smiling away like nothing could possibly be wrong.
Three years of my life have gone missing. You would think I would feel relief at the absence of these memories tainted by your looming presence, but that’s not true. I feel robbed, like something important has been stolen from me. I want to remember those years. I want to remember every moment, good or bad. I want to bask in our late-night outings and our early morning walks, and I genuinely want to remember our fights and rough patches.
That is my life. I lived those moments, I fought those battles, and I deserve to remember them. I chose you. I should get to remember that choice. What you did to me was not fair, but I feel more grief over the loss of these memories than I feel over what you did to me because at least before I knew what you did. Now…I can gather from the sparse, nebulous impressions I have what happened and how you made me feel. But all I had to hold onto and use to anchor myself in the reality of those three years is gone. Every second of it is just gone, and I feel that loss with every breath.
I factually remember a period after our first year of living together where we almost stopped being friends. I think, looking back, that was God giving me the chance to leave or telling me that our time was supposed to be up. However, I chose you. I chose to stay. I worked through the issues and renewed my commitment to you, my best friend, and I did so with a cheerful heart.
When I imagine that moment, knowing what I know now, it feels like a tall stone door closing, shutting me into a dark room with no windows. It feels like a scene in a horror movie where the audience realizes that something awful is about to happen, and they are suspended in the tension of fearing for the well-being of that character, but having no way to warn them about the impending danger. I had no idea what the reality of that seemingly small, obvious choice was, and I would be lying if I said I would choose you again. I didn’t realize that by dedicating myself to the cause of doing life with you, I was chaining myself to a cannonball about to be launched into the sea. The ride was intense, but the destination was not worth the rush.
It is strange to me that although I cannot remember the time where our hearts were entwined, I can recognize the predator stench you carry. I see myself under your fingernails even though I have no memory of the struggle. My mind has no record of our time together, but my heart flinches off-beat when your name crosses my thoughts. My brain has chosen to forget, but my soul feels the bruises from your fingers wrapped tight around my throat.
I wonder what you remember. When you think of our time together, what lens do those memories filter through? Do you even think of me at all, or was it truly a lie when you soliloquized my meaning in your life? What do you say about me, if you even mention me? I’m sure it is nothing good. I cannot imagine a world where you have anything good to say about me. I’m positive you feel completely justified in your choices and thoroughly victimized by the end of our friendship.
The injustice of all of this is not lost on me. Those memories hold minimal significance to your life, and you likely have free access to every single one. You attacked me, and you get to keep everything: your peace, your trust and your memories while I lost it all. I lost everything. You took everything from me, and you don’t even have to care. Your world is still spinning while mine has screeched to a halt as I process the ramifications of your choices as well as my choice to be with you. I chose you, I loved you and I fought for you. Yet I am the one who lost everything.
And the world keeps spinning.
Getty image via max-kegfire.