Don’t respond to this.

The last place I thought you could see through my eyes.

I first thought about speaking to you again after Mother’s day, last year. Your first without her. Still and always a glutton for punishment, I was browsing through your photos and notes and stumbled upon your entry about her death. We talked about it when we were together, I’d seen this love and this heartbreak before, but mostly I saw confusion and anger. Reading your words, I was reminded that you had lived a life that I had never heard, had a full heart cultivated by a woman I would never meet, and a soul so vulnerable that it took everything in me not to love you again just because I wanted to absorb all of your pain. I was reminded of that version of you that you had worked so hard to, and succeeded so well at, hiding away from me. This pure, emotional, kind, and genuine person who bares all of his teeth in photos and holds his arms wide open at his sides to capture as much of the world he can possibly hold. This person she raised, this person she left behind when something inexplicable blew through and flipped the switch in his world.

This has been a theme throughout our time together. Me convincing myself that you are a genuine person, and it’s what’s kept me coming back. Welcoming you back. Falling so clumsily and shamefully back into you. You wrote me a letter once, and placed it between the petals of a bouquet of flowers. It listed out things I have heard some men say to me before, some things friends say to me before, some things I have said to myself before as a reminder that I am not the monster I make myself out to be when things do not go as planned. I read that letter twice. I had to sit down, I let some tears fall, I let my breath escape. I wanted to throw it away, walk out the door. I don’t remember how the rest of the day went after you promised you’d never leave me alone again. That statement was writhe with metaphor. I do remember telling myself I could only believe one set of these words, the letter or your promise. I chose wrong.

I barely think about you now. It may be because for as long as I’ve known you, I never got to know you. I filled in all the holes of the wall you built with a narrative of my own creation, which did nothing but contribute to the pain and suffering of an already breaking and aching heart. You are not without blame. If I wanted to torture myself more, I would run down the checklist of the things I realized I actually endured. If I wanted revenge, if I thought it would make a difference, I’d cry out accusations until my throat was sore and my ribs were as bruised as I’ve made my skin these past few months.

They say that victims of trauma are especially vulnerable to developing emotional attachment issues. This means that every new relationship feels really fulfilling and every rejection feels like the world is crashing down. There is not a day that has passed that I don’t think about what happened to me, but I think less and less about how your attempt to make me feel better was just you showing how good you are at offering support. They say not every victim suffers from PTSD, but often reactions don’t start for weeks or months after it happens. They say a lot of things and none of them feel real. None of them seem to fit. But I think you know that. I think you know what it’s like when the world stops spinning, when you look around and it feels like the air you are breathing is different air from everyone else. Maybe you even know the sound of the other world sucking you back in, after you’ve spent too much time in the void. Maybe you know the feeling of blinking your body back into reality, like unblurring the sleep from your eyes after spending the night in an unfamiliar and regrettable place.

I’ve never wanted to leave this world so badly before, that I’ve done the math and mapped the places and counted the ways that I could end my life. My body shakes more hours of the day than it doesn’t. My eyes are so far sunken into my face that every glance in the mirror is staring into a black hole. I described this to someone recently as the dark cloud that’s followed me around my entire life has somehow shrunk down, invaded my body and is now trying to expand and burst its way out again. I have a million particles of anger, sadness, fear, confusion, disappointment, and regret floating through my veins and out of my lungs. I spent months feeling like everything was taken away from me, and suddenly everything has rushed back in to drown me from the inside. I can’t trust myself anymore, the one person that’s always been there for me. A few months ago I checked myself into an outpatient program. I’m not sure if you knew that. I finished early. I felt better. I convinced someone I love to get help. He finished early. He’s feeling better. We’re cycling through phases of trying to fix each other instead of acknowledging that people are not objects. We are not meant to be fixed. I think you knew that, too, but I didn’t.

Thirty years on this planet. So many times I’ve felt I haven’t lived enough. I was recently told I have so much baggage. It’s made so many, too many people, run away from me. My only baggage is that I’ve lived a lot of life. People have quit for far less. I don’t know how to get justice for what’s happened, I only know how to punish myself more to replace the pain that’s overpowering my busy brain. What is it like to live life any differently than this?

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