The on-again, off-again girlfriend

This is the one that fixes you just to break you all over again.

Mirror selfie, facelesss, heart-shaped hair bun

This post was written years ago, in 2017, under the perspectives of unidentified parts of myself. There is no way to know for sure who was who and when, therefore it was all of us.

We met online, by chance, through a shared interest. “Just friends” was our official relationship status at first, but through this shared interest, we developed genuine feelings for each other the more involved we were. She was intoxicating, cool, and collected. I fell hard and fast, like taking NyQuil. As we were together, our mutual friends would call our relationship “epic”, one going as far as to ask if there was a way to keep up with it.

I was about a year older, but that never seemed to matter. She was mature in the ways I wasn’t; we complemented each other, one of our inside sayings being “perfect fit”. We both lived in small towns on farms, though she was ahead of me time-wise by an hour — me being nocturnal posed issues, but when I started working, it wasn’t so bad. Things were going well, and though I was afraid because she was the first woman I’d found myself being in love with, I kept thinking, “She’s the one.” ’Twas the first relationship I’d had wherein I didn’t feel unbelievably bored, trying to force feelings with a friend, as I had with every guy I’d been with since I understood the point of dating.

Her name was Hallie.*

But as work and my home life overwhelmed me, what with my mom ransacking through my personal life because I was finally happy, I began tumbling out of order. I was thrown a lot of miracles: I learned Hallie had been cheating on me with an ex-boyfriend of hers who bullied me in exchange for him to stop; I had out-of-body experiences, feeling as though I was watching another person do and say things while I stood afar, unable to control my body; I blacked out on occasion, at random times, and wouldn’t know what I’d done for several hours; and I saw a car drive into the ditch in front of the police station and explode into a ball of fire on the way to work one morning.

Let me love you until you can love yourself.

I forgave Hallie. She promised to end it, promised to be better, promised she’d do anything. She’d ripped my heart out, put it in her pocket for a rainy day, took it out, and broke it into too many pieces with a sledgehammer — but she said she still loved me, still wanted and needed me. I didn’t have anyone like that, ever. Piece by piece, she glued me back together enough for us to be okay again, happy together. “Let me love you until you can love yourself again,” she said; for the next several months, that become another one of our “things”. She said she loved me enough for the both of us, and I let her.

Selfie taken while laying down; hand facing palm-up over face

I was diagnosed with major depression and PTSD during that time; two years later, I’d be diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder  –  episodes of psychosis** (I blacked out right up to the last chance to stop suicide attempts) and multiple personalities, or “alters”. I quit my job to focus on my mental health. My maternal grandmother supported me until the next day, when she told me she didn’t know what to do with me anymore since I was no longer working. I explained how I’d saved up money for this and would be okay to go without a job for six months, to which she replied, “This isn’t normal. Don’t you see that this isn’t normal? This is what I’m talking about – you don’t care about your future.”

I needed to take care of myself. I knew that if I kept going like I was, swallowing the hurtful remarks and psych term epithets as if they bothered me not, I might not jolt myself out of a suicidal episode of psychosis. Through prayer and support from a paternal aunt, I moved from the farm to the city and in with my paternal grandparents. I no longer paid for my own internet since they had it, and I had better cell reception in my suburbanite bedroom than I had standing on my cedar wood dresser in my rural bedroom, so Hallie and I talked more, for longer periods of time.

The more we talked, the more Hallie and I argued. At one point, Hallie and I broke up due to her annoyance at my hurt feelings over the way her friends would treat me. “I’m sorry,” I cried, promising not to express my hurt over it again. We got back together, but that time, I noticed a shift in the tectonic plates of our relationship.

We fought at least once every other week. She claimed busyness, more often than not choosing to hang out with her friends instead of spending time with me. I understood, and believe, a vital part of healthy romantic relationships requires each party to maintain healthy outside relationships as well. I wasn’t jealous, we just didn’t talk as much anymore — and she would text me when she was drunk about how I cute I was, sure, but she’d also tell me how much the guys she was hanging around liked her.

Clue game board, cards, character tokens, and weapon tokens

She started playing games. If I pissed her off, she’d go and spend time with the guys — she was bisexual. I had no issue with her bisexuality. I believed not in the stereotypical nonsense, but in our relationship — all our time together had to count for something, so I hung on. I clung to our inside sayings and jokes and trusted it wold be me she came back to at the end of the day, to whom she confessed her love and told goodnight. And she did, after realizing it didn’t bother me — that I wasn’t going to be jealous of her spending time with guys just because she was bisexual.

One afternoon, I wanted to talk to her before she went to work. I asked her personal questions. She’d always freely asked me personal questions, so I was curious. Being in a relationship for as long as we had and never having had that talk, I felt it was appropriate and not so far-fetched it was appalling. I asked her if she’d ever had sex. I, having been raised like I was, hadn’t. Also? I had never considered I might not attracted to guys. I was intimidated by it, because teens have sex, and I felt like the one teen who never had. I worked up a lot of guts to ask that question.

It all blew up in my face so fast. She replied, “That’s so rude! You don’t just ask people that.” I refuted, saying that we were in a relationship and this was the kind of thing couples talked about. “I spent a lot of time trying to word it respectfully. I didn’t mean anything by it, I’m just inexperienced and curious, because…I mean, it’s normal for me to be curious,” I said.

She didn’t speak to me for three weeks.

When she finally replied, we fought. “I’ve been busy,” she said. “I don’t always have time for precious little you,” she said. “You haven’t once apologized,” she said. I asked, “What for?” and she reminded me of my “rude” question. She sent text after text of vitriol – everything she hated about me, again and again pointed out within a minute apart. After the tenth one, enough was enough: “I can’t take this right now,” I replied, “I’m crying so hard I’ve just had an asthma attack.”

“GOD YOU DO THIS EVERY TIME. IM SO SICK OF FIGHTING WITH YOU,” she replied. Hallie went on to say I never find fault in my actions, always expecting her to apologize for things she didn’t do, and that I only see myself as experiencing bad things and having issues. She said it’s always about me and it’s not fair. “ESPECIALLY IF WE WANTED A RELATIONSHIP GOD DUDE … MAYBE I’LL TALK TO YOU LATER SOMEDAY.”

I didn’t reply that 3rd December, 2013 day. I saved the text in a Gmail draft, though I fear it’s forever ingrained in my mind. I had no words – where was I supposed to begin? Things were great when we didn’t fight, but when we did…that was the first time she made talking to me again a statement. I’d always worried before, if she’d talk to me again when she stopped talking to me because she was angry at me. It felt like I was being punished, but I’d just taken it. I was tired of the pain – I wanted myself to remember, “This is the Hallie you always forget – this is the one that fixes you just to break you all over again.”

Hallie texted me a few days later, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.” I didn’t reply, and a few days later, she texted me again. “Babe? I said I’m sorry. I miss you.” No reply.

Come January, she texted me to say she had a new beau. I said, “I don’t care. Why would I?” Later, she’d tell me there were a lot of guys who wanted her. When that didn’t rile me up, she told me a few days before Valentine’s Day she had a girlfriend. “She’s good to me.” That stung, but it was the final straw for me.

“I wish you were a guy,” I said.

I knew it’d hurt. That was the point.

Because heterosexual relationships — they’re supposed to be easier, right? My 22-year-old brain was still grasping the fact that everything I’d shared with this person had been some kind of lie — a game? I couldn’t fathom it. I was a new kind of broken, and all I could do was feel it.

I don’t blame her anymore. Four years past, I can mentally point to where we both went wrong. I wanted to hurt her as she had hurt me, but nothing sufficed. I still don’t know if anything bothered her — if she ever felt as intense emotions as I’d experienced, or if perhaps my brain had concocted them because my mental health had degraded so much, and I wasn’t raised in a loving environment. What we experienced was the version of love I’d been raised to believe as such, so I kept going and trying.

We wrote letters to each other during all that time, despite my shitty pen pal skills. For my birthday, she mailed to me a Love Actually DVD, strawberry-flavored Pocky, a Disney Princesses blanket, SunButter, stickers, and a mixed tape. It was adorable. It was also confusing. She texted me asking if I’d received it. A friend told me to send it back, but for inexplicable reasons, I couldn’t talk myself into it. Before the birthday gift, she’d mailed me a Harry Potter Snitch bracelet. Though I don’t know whether it was intentional, it felt like a bad sense of humor: I received it when I was hurting; I felt it symbolized the end of our relationship — the bracelet broke in the mail.

Hindsight’s a real shitty mind-fuck. We were both young  —  perhaps too inexperienced for the depths of our relationship. I was too unskilled to understand what that shift meant  —  what that feeling of indifference to our relationship meant; I was too inexperienced to pull away. I’d been raised to believe taking care of myself was wrong, so I was constantly putting my well-being after that of others. I wanted to please people with every fiber of my being. I don’t anymore.

I’m not so quick to give in and open up, and I haven’t worn my heart on my sleeve since she sledgehammered all over my heart and left me to pick up the pieces  –  and I have. I learned that I have to take care of myself and love myself before I can let anyone else do it – I’m a much better judge of character than I was before. If I don’t love myself — if I don’t care about me — how I can I trust someone else to? There’s no way to protect my heart unless I care for it myself first. Likewise, ’tis not easy caring about a whole other person whilst my self-love is underdeveloped and borderline nonexistent.

* Name changed on purpose.
** We now recognize this experience as switching alters.

I decided to publish this post, despite all the reasons not to, because during this experience, I was all alone. I told little other people who weren’t involved. I was living in Narnia, freezing my toes off.

Looking back, I know that that was not love, but at the time, all those feelings were real.

I still think about her frequently, still find myself wanting her even though she was entirely wrong for me, and I’m sure those residual feelings are the result of other alters’ emotions instead of my own.

We were both at fault, is how I, Izzy & Co., tell the story when/if other people ask. This misery carried on for about four years, off and on until we realized she was just constantly putting our heart into a blender.

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Comments on this post

That was a pretty intense read. I can only imagine how it felt in real life, without the awareness you now have. You are an incredibly strong, brave, and insightful person. I have to agree with the sentiment that hindsight is a mind-fuck 😛

All we can do is keep moving, keep growing, and keep trying. You’re doing all the things!

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