PTSD and the sXe Struggle. How Echo found her Voice. How Breaking Edge saved my life

woman with tattoos talking to doctor

Chapter I: Before I seek redemption in your eyes, I have to accept it in myself.

To hear how I became; needs a bit of a back story, but that’s was a lifetime ago, and this is where I stand today.

So I married a Narcissist…It sounds like a repop of an old Mike Meyer’s Movie, and trust me it’s was a comedy; satirical; a non-stop barrage of withering invective. He was handsome, charming. Perfect on Paper. He looked like a cross between Andrew Garfield (circa emo spiderman)and Ledger’s Joker. Moody, witty, brooding.

I felt in him a kindred spirit. Toy Collector. Straight Edge. The next 13 years can only be described as a madding descent down the 9 circles of Dante’s Hell.

Chapter II: And then blade broke.

As my mind caught up with my broken spirit, in that car accident on that brisk Feb 2016 morning; later peeking to blaring crescendo in that year’s Thanksgiving; I realize only now that the decision I made to drink vs drown may have saved my life. That one horrific blasphamistic act broke the bond he had with me. 

He saw me as Null and Void, for when “I turned my back on what we held so dear,” it tainted his idyllic fantasy of the “two kid’s playing house” and eventually lead to him divorcing me. But it didn’t get easier, not for a long while They say “no one can put you in hell; you put yourself there; but they can make it worse..much worse”..and he did. As I sat there in “his” empty house ( it was always his house; everything was) that quite

Thanksgiving Night of 2016; less than a month after my mother’s passing; drinking that bottle of Ravenswood wine, playing with the few friends I was “allowed” on my video game, I realized something. I was having a way better time alone than I had in nearly a decade and a half. When he came home that night and found me giggling and having a good time… Terror struck me. As he stood there in that doorway I saw the veil fall and the sting of venom that poured from his eyes and his mouth.

Chapter III: Pay no attention to my wife, her mother passed and she’s having a hard time. No really; don’t talk to her.

The Previous told everyone when my mother died not to talk to me. Insult to injury he admitted it. Boldly. Dismissively. He said he was protecting me. What he did was seeing me seek a support circle to question what was happening to me.

Chapter IV: Two X’s in my past and my future ahead of me.

I refuse to call this man my Ex, for he was a bastardization of Straight Edge and I won’t give him that honor. He lived a life of debauchery, and though he didn’t drink alcohol or smoke pot, he stockpiled cases and cases of energy drinks and lit those gaslights so bright I was put on a decade’s worth of Anti-Anxieties, Anti-psychotics, Anti-Depressants; but nothing seemed to work. I was told it’s “my fault”, that I didn’t leave. That we each played a part in the disillusion of our marriage,and to stop blaming him and move on. I chalked it up to loyalty. An Oath was an Oath, and that Vow in my mind was to the death. “Loyalty to a fault” I told myself. But it was a half-truth. And If I was to tell the whole truth it would be that I was addicted. No, it wasn’t to drugs or alcohol, or cigarettes…I was addicted to the Narcissist himself, ya see I was his CoDependant, the Empath the that Vampire fed on. The more I tried to be the perfect wife; the worse it got. And when I began to falter, his poisons manifesting into physical symptoms; my immunity dropped. I was allergic to everything. I had 61 medical procedures done in one year including labs, EMGs in my limbs, CAT scans, heart stress tests, and then finally a doctor broke out a harsh truth…”This is stress..and it will kill you. Whatever you are doing…you need to stop. If it means quitting your job.. you need to stop.” And as I sat there, seething to myself, I thought. “This doctor just said, “it was all in my head”.Something that my Previous had been feeding me for years…that I was a “hypochondriac” and then my Previous; who accompanied me on EVERY doctor’s visit( I found out later ERs and doctors ask if you are being abused and have somewhere safe to when you are seen but they didn’t because he was always there); bowed his head and looked very sullen. But the doctor didn’t say that I was a hypochondriac, she called it “stress conversion” but I didn’t process that. I told myself, “Well tomorrow I will be having an MRI maybe they can tell me what’s wrong”.

Chapter V: The grey skies…they calm me. It’s not like sunny days, where you have to put on a fake smile.

And as I left that imaging clinic and walked into the lobby I noticed my Previous wasn’t there. The nurses told me he left just after I went in. I was livid. I was feeling pretty bold, and I lost my temper. I never raised my voice to him; ever.. “Where are you!!” and you know what he told me? “I am at home, eating crackers…I was hungry” and there I was feeling like an asshole; phone in hand, going on 13hrs with no food; hung up on him and I felt bad. I waited in the cafe eating my cracker and cheese plate; one of the few things I wasn’t allergic to yet, drinking my soy latte; knowing a shit storm was about to befall me. But it didn’t. He came in, sat down. I didn’t look at him. I finished my food, tossed my recycling in the bin, my napkin in the trash and walked quietly to the car. He got in. Started it. Turned it off.
Looked down and said. “I’m done.” I looked at him and repeated to him clarifying I heard what I heard “You’re done.” My reply? ” Ok.” I knew what that meant. That was our agreement set 13yrs prior. “Don’t Hit me, Don’t Cheat on Me and Don’t Murder Me, when you’re done just say that you’re done, and we will walk away”. It’s funny how little I asked of him and how much he took. “2/3 wasn’t bad,” I thought to myself and at the exact moment, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a very long time. Relief.

Chapter VI: “I think you’ve had enough”.

But “Enough” about him. For a year and a half, I drank. Slowly at first. I was a lightweight you see. I hated the taste of beer, made me want to vomit after one sip. The red wine was ok. It didn’t take much. I would be “responsible,” I told myself. I would wait for my “Friday” I would sit at the corner of the bar, mind my own business; headphones in; learning karaoke songs; to sing with coworkers; because this surely was how “Normal People” enjoyed themselves. I had no idea how to be “normal” I didn’t talk to people. I didn’t drive. I didn’t talk on the phone. I stayed home. I read books, I was a maid, a cook, a caregiver for a dying dog, and a 20yr full-time employee at my job. This was new territory and I was afraid of the world. I tried to blend into society. My coworkers didn’t know what to think. Some thought I went insane after my mother’s death. When actually I just stopped accepting the bullshit. I had done a complete 180. The Previous and I work together, and he being he, and I being we, my new me didn’t fit into their mental mold they were familiar with. And then I tried Cider. Apples, those fucking apples. I learned quickly like Snow White, what a poison apple can do. And then they turned on me, everyone last one of them. By this time I was getting used to it. Slowly but surely I became; not only to my Previous; but to my coworkers, my job, my friends, acquaintances..a persona non grata…I was the plague. I never cared much about what my family thought. My friends were my family and now I had no family and no friends and for every fist full of dirt I cast aside as I tried to crawl my way up that slippery slope that I had slid, Atlas dumped a ton more.

Chapter VII: The Second Law of Thermodynamics: Entropy

And then the Chaos started. I had made arrangements for the loss of my job. I was being practical. I had lots of contingency plans when things went wrong, that’s from years of walking on eggshells. If I lost the apartment I got? I’d live in my car. If I didn’t have food to eat? I’d volunteer, eat samples. Anything to stay off social services. I decided to get a bartending license, they made good tips I hear and if I volunteered they would teach me for free. I liked learning. It kept my mind occupied. If my mind was occupied it kept the darkness out. I learned basic Russian, sign language, juggling; the Greek Alphabet, and tried reinforced the German that I taught myself in the ’90s, but I didn’t have anyone to talk to, so it just slipped away. I spending hours watching educational programming, YouTube, Pinterest anything I could get my hands, as Artax and I slowly sank. I began researching if I was, in fact, the Narcissist in the relationship, surely something was horribly was wrong with me for this to happen.  Because he was good and just in everyone’s eyes. The dutiful husband taking care of his crazy wife. And when he cut me loose and I bolted through that gate like a sighthound after a rabbit, and just like that the Second Coming of Chaos was upon me and I raised my hands for that Rapture.

Chapter VIII: Food for thought.

Then I was reminded where I belonged.

At that point I weighed 210lbs. I could barely walk 10ft without shortness of breath, back pain, knee pain. I had 2 stress-induced coronary events. I had already made the effort the eat better, mostly out of necessity, going back to what I knew ..the familiar. Money was tight. I had to pay my bills for the first time in 13 yrs, and now I had a car payment, insurance, rent. I had forgotten how to pay bills. I wasn’t allowed to know where the money went. If I wanted something I had to beg ..state my case.. but mostly I just gave up and realized it wasn’t worth the effort. There were several stops I would visit as a daily routine. The old places I loved. The health food stores. I was a permanent fixer at the sandwich counter by work in the old days. It was a cheerful place..where everyone knew my name. As the decades passed I’d venture in and they would remember, those were the happy places before the Previous. The smell of incense and handmade soap and wheatgrass, I missed that. One new place had $1.75 cups local roast coffee, another .50 an lb. organic ugly fruit, the bulk bins, the hot breakfast bars, the fresh cut flowers, it all flooded back to me, and I began to heal.

Chapter IX: Redemption song, It’s all I ever had.

One Sunday afternoon  I happen upon a man at one of the stores, I never saw him before. I knew most of the workers by then, but not him. He was young, blond, beautiful. Something mysterious laying just beneath the shy humble smile. And then I saw it. His X. My mind; usually knowing the right sarcastic banter to dole out, I was a gamer girl and all; stopped. As I stood in that line and the seconds ticked by 45, 46, 47. I had to think fast; my turn was coming. What would I say? What could I say? 
And there was my cue…

Obligatory greetings tucked neatly aside. I quietly mentioned it; nearly whispering it. You see…We didn’t speak of it in public in my Previous life ..ever. And here he was bold and brave making no apologies. “I told him “that’s a very interesting tattoo you have…Are you Straight Edge?” And a smile sparked across his face as I fought back my tears. “Yes,” he said. I asked him “what is your name?” And he told me. I corrected him “No… it’s not..it’s Unicorn”. He thanked me graciously, I think it made him blush, but It wasn’t about that.

Chapter X: Your name is like a golden bell hung in my heart…

I: Everyone gets a name. A throwback to my gaming years. Some people come with names, some earn them. Unicorn. The common man will pass by with blind eyes, not seeing, not knowing, not caring…but for those who believe, it’s unmistakable. He didn’t get his name in a new “dating app” sense, or even in the elusive Gone in 60 seconds “Elenor” sense.  This one got his name because I believed I was the Last; another lie I was fed by the Previous “at your age I’m the best you can do, enjoy having a trophy husband” and there he was, another like me…and then I told him with all the courage I could muster in my trembling dying body.. “I was Straight Edge once.” Judging by his angelic features probably the majority of his life. And with that, he looks down; his face could only be described as his heartbreaking, just as mine was. And I felt for the first time something new. Disappointment. A black sheep from the start I never cared if I disappointed my family. That was a given. Ground me? /scoff when you are punished for existing, idol threats holds no water. But that there, that look he had… mattered. It mattered more than anything ever did up until that point. You see, 3 days later I was to do my first bartending shift for a 4th of July Party at a local Volunteer Club, something inside me told me I couldn’t let this go…I couldn’t walk out without..something. I gave him the invitation card I made letting people know about the party. I handed it to him as I walked I way; my voice cracking as I trailing off. “I know it’s not your thing but”.. I closed my eyes as I turned my head, heart splitting like dried timber.

Chapter IX: The Walk of Shame

As I walked up the 10 steps to my empty apartment I started to cry. Really cry. For 14 hours, my soul split. I could only describe the pain as having lost your faith, and then seeing everything you held so dear standing before you, and you wanting it back so desperately. And realizing that moment when I had nothing I still had my Music. And I leaned off my spinning carousel rabbit, for just a moment, I grabbed that dangling Promise Ring, clenching it tightly in my aching fist harder than any fist the most disciplined pugilist could muster. And I knew then, I would fight for it. And that misplaced loyalty wasn’t to be wasted on anyone but myself and my new goal.

Chapter X: “I’m a little afraid to go home. I’ve been mortal, and some part of me is mortal yet; I am no longer like the others, for no unicorn was ever born who could regret, but now I do—I regret.”
“I am sorry I have done you evil and I cannot undo it…”
“No—unicorns are in the world again. No sorrow will live in me as long as that joy, save one—and I thank you for that part, too.”

The last I saw of the Unicorn, he too had turned his back. I took one last glance at him; a final memory; his arms crossed; speaking defiantly to a coworker; and slipped out that shop door with not so much of a nod; not knowing really if he even saw me, but It mattered not, because I saw what I needed too. As I let the Last solid foothold I had in my old life fade into the distance, I struggled to convince myself it was for the best. We all needed to know that wasn’t doing it for him, and yet he was my grounding. When things got a bit too chaotic and I’d pop in just to see something real, to know it would be ok. But now I had to learn to be on my own to find the others.

Prologue:

Has it been easy? Hell no. It’s been 1 year, 4 months, and 15 days as of this writing since I took back that Promise Ring. I am learning to deal with emotions I never had before. Learning triggers..soo many triggers. Learning boundaries. Self-discipline. Self-love. Learning to question what’s being told to me and trusting my intuition. Accepting that people will never understand and will turn their backs on you, and allowing them to; giving them space and trying to reconnect a few months down the line. Most don’t and that’s ok. New places, new faces I tell myself; helps keep it in perspective. Every day is a struggle. They say I am a survivor. But I don’t want to survive, survival is about eating, having a warm place to sleep, clothes to wear. I want to live, to thrive, to succeed to the best of my abilities. Fighting every day to keep the bad apples out and still being able to let the light in. I practice Gratitude. Each day I’ll lay a new brick, building up my fortitude. Reforging that shattered blade. And always remembering that not every day is a good day, but it is good in every day.

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