When I first went out with Mr. Rockstar I’d been out of my previous serious relationship, which was toxic, for almost 2 years. I’d had the time to figure out what had gone wrong, what I’d done wrong, and what I did NOT ever want again. I’d begun making serious changes when I left the ex and the changes kept coming. I was slowly but surely changing for the better. I’d become passive aggressive with the ex. I’d allowed myself to become that way. I’d become depressed, filled with anxiety and stress, overwhelmed with all of it, and angry. That’s right! I was angry. Angry at myself, angry at the ex, angry with life, angry in general.
The anger helped me heal quicker. But the anger also began to hinder me. I became a bit of a hermit. I went to work, went home, spent time with my daughter, and family (parents, son, brother) sometimes, but I shut myself off from the rest of the world. I didn’t go out. I didn’t socialize. I needed to heal. I need to breathe. I needed to find myself–I hadn’t gotten lost, I’d just misplaced the real me somewhere along the way and I needed to uncover her. There were times when I didn’t think I would be able to make it, when I wasn’t sure I was worth a damn, when my self-esteem was so low, so battered and worn that it was all I could do to not to curl up into a ball somewhere in a dark corner and stay there.
Only I’d been down that road before, when I got divorced from my ex husband, and then later when the toxic ex and I split up the first time. I refused to quit on myself. I refused to lay down and die, literally or figuratively. There are those that believe when you get depressed you should just pull yourself up by your boot straps and keep on keeping on. It’s so much easier to say, than do though. My daughter helped me, without her even knowing it or even trying, being responsible for her (it was her senior year of high school) made me get up and go, keep on moving, keep on trying. She’s my youngest, my baby, and I was so proud of her. I owed it to her to at least be as capable, strong, responsible, and healthy as I could be. I also realized that I owed it to myself. And that I was worth it, and deserved it–to be happy, to be a strong, healthy, capable, and happy me.
A few months later, a friend also began to make a difference. My friend Teresa stopped by my job and said, “We should hang out, go out and have a drink…You need to get out of the house…You can’t be a hermit forever…You need to get back into your life and live it…” and I began to socialize a little. I bought myself a few new clothes, dyed my hair, bought some new makeup, and began to actually get out and enjoy life a little. My self-confidence grew. She knew and was casual friends with the toxic ex, but she never chose sides, she never passed judgment, and refused to be forced to by some who wanted her to. Almost 2 years later, she died of a brain aneurysm. Her death was so hard. By then Mr. Rockstar and I had been seeing each other for a couple of months, but his friendship, compassion, and strength helped me, as well as my daughter’s kindness, bravery, and honesty. I was blessed to have others in my life who were there as well–it’s amazing how great a comfort your friends can be without them even knowing it.
I’ll never forget Teresa. She opened her heart to me as a friend, was honest and compassionate, she pushed me to be a better me and to live my life. We’d made plans just the day before she died to have dinner together so she could meet Mr. Rockstar. I know she’d have loved him. And he’d have loved her. They’d have become friends, there’s no doubt in my mind. I know she’s happy for me.
When I first began seeing him, I had to keep reminding myself that my past baggage did not belong in the present. That he was himself, and no one else. I’d changed, I’d already become a better me, but I was still working on myself. My daughter had moved out on her own, not once but twice and was doing really well for herself. She was going to college and working. I was by myself and I didn’t mind being alone. I was happy. For the first time in years I’d finally found happiness, and I’d found it all by myself. I’d slowly begun to be more honest with myself and others. It’s hard to be completely honest with others when you’re not honest with yourself. When you can’t admit that you were mentally abused, or emotionally blackmailed, how are you going to tell anyone else?
What you don’t realize when you’re being emotionally blackmailed, mentally abused, is that others do see it if they are around you and pay attention, They see the control, the transference, the condescending remarks, the disrespectful behavior, the jealousy, the possessiveness…But if you let it go long enough, if you dismiss it long enough, if you ignore it enough, then eventually you don’t even see it, you’re not consciously aware of it–even if your subconscious knows. Once it’s out in the open though, once you can see it, once you become aware and you begin to make changes, real changes, something in you does more than change. It’s like when a cocoon turns into a butterfly, it’s almost like a metamorphosis. That’s how I felt, like a butterfly who’d just emerged from a cocoon.
Mr. Rockstar was so different than anyone I’d ever met. Honest, respectful, kind, generous, smart, compassionate, romantic, gentle, caring, passionate, talented, stubborn and hardheaded but in a normal way…I was amazed. He’d been through such shitty past relationships and yet he was so sweet, so romantic and such a gentleman. I made a lot of excuses for why I didn’t want or need a relationship, for why I couldn’t or shouldn’t get involved seriously with him, but when push came to shove I realized he was IT. It wasn’t overnight, it was a gradual thing because I didn’t trust myself or my judgment when it came to relationships. But once I realized I could trust him, that I should and could trust my own judgment, all of the excuses fell apart. I was left looking into the blue eyes of this man who was so perfect for me it was almost as if he’d been made specifically for me. I let go of the past completely, I threw away the baggage (too many years of it), and I got on board with just a small carry-on bag (and it wasn’t past baggage, it was just filled with necessities: lessons learned, love, an open mind, an open heart, hope, self-confidence, self-respect, honesty, and respect).
I remember when I was about 16, I was filled with hope. I was a romantic. I believed in love and happily-ever-after, and I was so honest I was almost tactless–I was extremely blunt. I had dreams and faith. And somewhere in my mid 20’s I lost most of that (ex husband). By the time I walked away from the toxic ex (42 years old) I’d lost almost all the rest of it. During that two years before I met Mr. Rockstar I managed to get back some of it. It was hard, but I did it. And it was a work in progress, and I’m still a work in progress, but it’s amazing what you can do when you just change one thing.
I have a great family and great friends, and that helped more than words can say. But what helped me the most was taking a long hard look at myself, my life, the choices I’d made, figuring out that people only do to you (emotionally and mentally) what you allow them to do. Had I walked when the toxic ex first began to lash out at me in anger, or demean me, or disrespect me, or turn it all around on me, manipulate me emotionally, I’d have been much better off, but I didn’t because my self-esteem and self-confidence were already lower than they should have been. (I could blame it on being lied to and cheated on in previous relationships, or I could blame it on whatever else, but the truth is, I quit blaming others and began taking responsibility for my mistakes during that two years before Mr. Rockstar, and that is what really made all the difference.) I found that I liked myself, I enjoyed my own company, I was smart and attractive and talented. I also realized that I was worth a damn. I began to make new friends. I began to expand my horizons. And my mind and heart became more open to new possibilities.
But I still wasn’t quite ready for all those possibilities when I met Mr. Rockstar. If it had been anyone else, someone less patient, less honest, less respectful, less compassionate, less romantic-anyone other than him, it wouldn’t have happened. I’d still be single and I’d be happy, but I’d have missed out on the best thing that ever happened to me (other than my children and my grandchild). I’d have missed out on the love of my life if my heart and mind hadn’t been more open to any new possibilities. So I’m thankful. And I’m blessed. I began changing my life for the better for my daughter, and then for myself, and I ended up changing things for the better all the way around because making all of those changes led me to Mr. Rockstar.
Change is never easy. It takes work. And most of us are afraid of change, but sometimes the best thing to do is to make a change.
- How to Handle Toxic Relationships (everydayhealth.com)