When “I Love You” Is a Trigger
No one is prepared for the reaction
I have always been resistant to love. Even when I feel it, I’m quick to toss it aside like a hot potato. He had only known me a month, and he already saw it. But he stood out on that ledge and uttered those three little words anyway.
Granted, we had just finished off a bottle of fancy tequila so that might have added to his courage. He could never have anticipated my reaction. Even I was shocked by my outburst. As if it wasn’t under my control.
Anger bubbled up inside my body, burning my chest and burning my cheeks with hot tears that boiled over before I even realized I was about to cry.
“NO,” I shouted at him before leaving the bed and enclosing myself in the tiny hotel bathroom.
I glanced at myself in the mirror, unable to even meet my eye. I saw a blotchy face so screwed up in pain it hardly resembled my own, and the room began spinning. I was naked, but my knees were weak, and I sank onto the bathroom floor sobbing.
He can’t love me, I thought. I am too broken. He doesn’t deserve to love someone like me. And that is what I told him when he finally coaxed me to let him inside. He couldn’t possibly love someone so screwed up.
I’m not enough
I felt fragmented mentally, physically, and spiritually. Nothing about me felt okay in that moment, and yet some part of me wanted to be near him, to believe him, to let him hold me. But that isn’t how I reacted when he reached out his arms.
“Don’t touch me!” I shouted and ran from the bathroom to a corner of the bedroom, behind the bedside table. There was a dark corner created by the cheap teak furniture, and I huddled in it sobbing as if I would be impossible to find.
I pretended I was scared of him, making myself smaller to disappear into the floor. But it wasn’t him I was afraid of; it was those words he said and the feeling that they triggered.
He stayed in the bathroom for a few minutes. Giving me space? Contemplating running away from the deranged lady on the floor? Is he regretting those words?
But then he came, he spoke gently to me. Put all my fears to rest. He told me that I am not broken. He called my best friend and put me on the phone with her. Once I explained what had happened to her, my reaction seemed dramatic. I crawled out of my hiding space and got into the bed. He didn’t touch me.
Part of me felt triumphant; I managed to push him away with just one of my outbursts. In the morning, I could walk away.
“Do you want me to give you a shower?” he asked gently.
“What?” I was shocked to hear his voice.
“You were laying on the bathroom floor in the hotel naked. Do you want me to help you wash off? Or do you want to sleep?”
“Sleep,” I replied. He still didn’t touch me. I was too repulsive, and now he had pointed out, covered in germs.
“Can I hold your hand?” he asked timidly.
“Why?” I snapped.
“Because I want to hold you, but you don’t want to be touched, so maybe….” His low voice trailed off. Tears were streaming down my face again as I slowly inched closer to him until our pinkie fingers brushed.