I’ve mentioned before that I’ve found it incredibly helpful, at least in hindsight, to have been honest with myself, and today I want to expand on that. Of course, “hindsight” is the operative term, for I didn’t have (take) the time to go back over my journals until much later, after the complete dissolution of the relationship. I’d been deeply involved in my school program at the time, so, likely as an academic-survival mechanism, I journaled what happened each day, and then set everything aside, including my emotions toward it, and plunged into my daily school tasks. And thus, these journal entries didn’t get reviewed and scrutinized until much later.
This “setting aside” of the emotions to “just get things done, because things have to be done” (like school, work, parenting, and so on) is a double-edged sword. The act of setting aside emotions does indeed prevent emotional breakdowns and also the breakdown of one’s ability to accomplish tasks–at least for the time being. After all, if you’re in tears, processing the last episode of abuse and trying to decode it and recover from it, it’s hard to meet with your boss, write that school paper, discipline and guide your children, or carry on life’s basic functions. Being able to forget about it for the moment and “power through” the day’s demands is a superpower…
…with a price. You and I both know that these emotional traumas accumulate, dear ones. They even begin to accrue interest. Setting them aside does not make them go away, nor dissolve them or resolve them. Ignoring or dismissing our own emotions and instincts allows them to fester, and eventually, our brains, bodies, minds, hearts, and souls, begin to congest, cannibalize themselves, and disintegrate. Eventually, the piper needs to be paid.
When journaling throughout this past year and a half, I’d often been tempted to gloss over details and/or sugarcoat them. My objective and semi-detailed descriptions were often followed by justifications and rationalizations (“he said shocking and heartbreaking things to me. Maybe it’s because of his childhood/lack of relationship experience”, etc), but I did record the observations just the same. I tried to include conversation topics, even direct quotes, along with my efforts and attempts at finding solutions and resolution and his responses/reactions to them – anything and everything I could remember.
Even after I graduated from my school program, which left a vacuum of spare time, I hadn’t yet looked back over these journal entries describing a highly toxic and decaying relationship that never should have gotten that far, or perhaps never should have been. I kept journaling every morning about the day before and then doing whatever, which always included texting with him, until he got off work, and then spending the entire evening with him.
Maybe I could have saved myself several more months of abuse by taking the time to review these journal entries earlier. Or, maybe not. My belief system suggests that the events played out exactly as they should have and needed to. I don’t berate myself for not having looked back sooner, because I believe that everything happens for a reason.
What matters now, is that I have begun to face the music, sifting back through the journal entries, especially now that I’ve gotten three weeks of distance from my ex and I’ve achieved a separation of sorts. I know it’s not a complete separation (we’re still texting), and it might not even be sufficient distance (I probably still engage with him way too much). However, it’s enough distance to be able to examine these journal entries with a more objective eye.
Is it reflection, rumination, analysis, validation, vindication? Some might say maybe any one, combination, or all of the above. The way it feels to me, however, is very eye-opening. It reassures me that I’m doing the right thing, and encourages me to keep going and stay away. Reading what I’d written does verify that this relationship was incredibly toxic and that I was indeed correct to get out. It shows the progression, devolution, and provides a timeline. It’s healing, too, because it reminds me of the chaos and heartbreak I left and reminds me never to return to it.
The brain wants to remember the good times, and hangs onto the false shred of hope that tries to convince us there just might be a chance. The journals reveal the opposite position and solidify it in my mind. They reveal that the abuse and manipulation and headgames began long before I even realized, much earlier on in the relationship than I had been aware.
This is not to paint myself as a victim. Only to remind me not to become one (again). It’s an important distinction.
I don’t get a visceral satisfaction from reading the journals, like an itch that gets scratched. It’s quite a cerebral activity for me, and I’m grateful that I have a solid evidentiary timeline of events. Not only is this gaslighting-repellant, but it’s also very real and raw about just how bad I had let things get before finally leaving. Again, not to beat myself up over it, but to learn from it and rise above it.
It’s all about the learning and rising, after all. ❤