#17: Dear Tina,

Dear Tina,

You can blame a song I’ve been listening to for the last few months for this moment of bravery. My favorite line is “looking for heaven found the devil in me,” and there was your face, and I knew it was time. Because loving you found everything I hated about myself. I allowed myself to change so you could love me, and in the end I just hated myself. That, ultimately, is my burden and the biggest crime I’ve committed against our relationship. I am sorry for that, because no one deserves to be in a relationship filled with hatred. But I am done regretting you. I am done feeling shame, and horror, at what I had allowed myself to become.

But I can’t take it back, and I won’t take this letter back. It’s the proverbial “damned if you do, damned if you don’t moment,” and I’m going to let it happen. Let people hate me. Let people look at me differently. Let them see what they want to see because I’m not hiding anything anymore. I won’t give you the satisfaction of keeping me undone. This may be a shot in the dark for peace, to relinquish the demons I’ve kept buried within me, but I’m going to let it happen.

 Your name brings up so many conflicting feelings within me that half of the time I can’t even get a clear picture of what I even want to say to you. Something that, as you are well aware of, was something I always struggled with when dealing with you. Finding words, finding my own point of view…finding my voice. I had it when we first met.  I was kinda loud, and out there, but there was something about me, something different. We would talk for hours…about nothing, about everything. With everything that had happened with Rachel, it was a breath of fresh air in my life…being able to speak freely and without worry.
Then it all changed. Somewhere along the way I lost my voice. I became nervous, and scared, of everything that had to do with you. I was afraid to piss you off, afraid to wear certain clothing, afraid to say the word no. I became a liar. I became unreliable and I became a horrible friend. When you called, I dropped everything I was doing. I started resenting track for taking me away from you. I left classes early, or just skipped them completely, because you asked me to. I went from being “Faith,” to being “Tina’s girlfriend.”Neither one of us knew the consequences of that, or if we did we just didn’t acknowledge what that could mean. Hindsight is 20/20 right? A part of me would love to go back in time and tell myself to walk away from you; to run when I had the chance. The other part of me would let it be, because I needed the lessons I learned with you. I needed to know what it meant to be a monster in order to live a better life.

But at what cost? Because the price I paid loving you is a debt I will forever be paying. Because I’m so sick of keeping it all inside. The embarrassment, the fear; it all sits in my stomach like some cancer. Staying silent would mean paying a price I refuse to pay. Bearing the labels you have dared to give me is something I refuse to live with another moment.

The last time we spoke, you spent an hour telling me how horrible of a person I am, and blaming me for the problems in your life. How it took you a year to get passed all the abuse and shame I caused you. How, with me out of the picture, your life thrived. I sat there, and listened to you. I listened to the desperation in your voice. I listened to the need to avoid the debt you racked up on your own in our relationship. I listened to you as you, once again, refused to accept the fact that you caused so much damage to another person’s life, that they changed for the worse.

I listened to the pain enter your voice when I told you that I was okay. That I finally started living. I listened as you realized your biggest fear in our relationship…that I could, and would, always survive without you. That I would always be better without you. I listened as you tried to shove that guilt through the speaker of my phone, and I laughed, and I felt your anger. You wanted me to be a wreck…to be the mess I was when we were together. I laughed because I know you better than you ever allowed yourself to know yourself. I laughed, and shook it off, because I finally was able to tell you point-blank, that I am not the only asshole in that relationship. We were both to blame. I took that mantle, but I refuse to carry yours, and I laughed at your anger as you tried to one up me, realizing with each moment that I legitimately didn’t care. Like your number, I let my world forget you. But you didn’t want to stay gone, you wanted validation for your own hang-ups.

Here you go:

Yes Tina, I did become abusive. I won’t lie or hide that truth. I have scars littering the once smooth skin of my arm as constant proof of that abuse. Alcohol is only drank on special occasions, and while I still have pain medication in my cabinet, it is only used when the pain stops me from physically moving and never taken more than 1 day in a weeks time. Let’s face it baby, out of the two of us, I abused myself the most and we both know it. I abused myself, because the abuse at my own hand was more bearable than what occurred at yours.

Remember our fist fight? Amazing what you remember when something triggers a repressed memory, and I repressed the night hard. I mean, one would have to when realizing that a person who supposedly loves you so damn much would be willing to throw you under a bus in order to play victim. And did you try. I had people hating me I never knew, for things I definitely didn’t do, and all you did was tell me that people were spreading lies and I should tell you who they are. But you thrived off the attention. I’m pissed I never called you out on it before now, but it’s better late than never, especially since it was some of your friends who sought me out and told me exactly what you were saying about me.

I had just been released from the Emergency room because of a severe asthma attack, remember? You screamed at me while I sat in the ER Room, and I just remember wishing that you would walk out of my life and never return. I remember looking at you, and feeling cold, but that might have been from the medication being pumped through me.

I hated myself so fully that night. That same feeling had flooded me when my friend and I were rough-housing one night a few months ago. We were wrestling and he pulled me down into a headlock, and I swung my fist around to break the hold, and there it was, that entire night. Not being able to breathe, the ambulance ride, you crying and screaming at me, trying to kick me out of your car in the middle of the road, dropping me off in at my dorm. Us arguing outside your car, the tightness in my chest as I tried to keep the air in my lungs, me grabbing your arms to get you to just stop and talk with me, and then the fight. You pulling me into the headlock, me swinging my arms to get out, your hands ripping through my hair and pulling my bandana completely off while ripping my hair out of the ponytail. Us finally breaking apart and me moving to your car to get my stuff so I could just get away from you. You body-slamming the door shut as you tried to get me away from your car, almost catching my hands in the door, and me shoving you away from me.

I watched you spin down the car, get caught up on your side mirror, and fall to the ground. I remember the sound of your head hitting the pavement, and I remember my heart stopping. I rushed to you, but according to you, you were unconscious. But I as at your side in a second, the straining in my chest getting worse as I checked your pulse, checked for blood or broken bones. I went through my entire first-aid training checklist as I struggled not to sob over you. I remember everything I said, “I became him, I became my father.”

A coworker of mine saw the entire fight, you know that? Her and I spoke about it a few months later, but she saw the entire thing. From the yelling, to the headlock, to my swinging arm, to the push, and me checking you over. I broke down to her, telling how ashamed I was. That I had become my father, that I was an abuser. I would be better off shot…that I was worthless. I carried the guilt of the night for years, even though for so long it was just a blur in my mind. I carried the guilt, and the hatred, because when you came to you started crying, told me you hated me, and took off. I called the cops, I remember…I called them and told them everything that I did. I told them everything, right then and there. I asked them if they wanted to arrest me for hurting you. They told me no, and they would get back to me.

Funny…how you always told me after that day that you had a fat lip, a black-eye a bunch of other injuries…yet when I saw you 2 days later, no bruises…no cuts. A bump where you hit your head, and the area you said you had a fat lip was the area you always chewed on your lip. Not saying you weren’t bruised up at all, because I know who I am. I know my strength, but a follow-up with the cops gave me everything I needed to know. I never told you that part, that the cops contacted me afterwards. I was sleeping on a friends’ couch because I was terrified to be anywhere where you could find me, and they called me.

I should have walked away from you as soon as I got off that phone. I should have washed my hands of you. I should have made you someone who I used to know, that figment of my imagination that was never really there even if I caught a glimpse of you. I should have fucking left the minute I realized what had truly happened. But I didn’t. Instead, I fell back into the role you molded me for. I became even more terrified, more submissive, more pathetic. I listened to you as you told me how much you were afraid of me, how abusive I was, and how you were willing to work with me if I went and got help. I needed it, and you loved me enough to give me a second chance, but I had to earn it.

My friend never knew why I allowed myself to fall to the floor that day we were horsing around. Why I didn’t let anyone see my face, and when they did, all I did was laugh. I laughed and smiled, and let the night continue on as I slipped away for a moment. I had to, they would have asked me why my breathing had gotten heavy, and tears were in my eyes. The entire night flashed through my mind in seconds, and years of self-hatred, rage, loathing, and disgust filled my entire being and it had frozen me. That has only happened one other time in my life, and that was when I was clocked across my face. I froze because suddenly I was 3 and my father had smacked me straight across my face. This time, I froze because the truth of us filled me within a second.

I am not innocent Tina. I was a part of that fight. Was I scared? Yes, I was fucking terrified. Everyone thinks I’m this big, strong person, but in a fight? The strength drains from me and I’m that 3-year-old again. Oh I can hold my own when I need to, but I am so terrified of my strength that I physically get sick at actually causing anyone pain. You know this, because I cried the night I accidentally hurt Charlatain’s ribs. You held me as I cried, remember?

On top of that, fresh out of the ER and still recovering from a severe back injury, I could barely grasp a cup. Remember? You panicked because a cup of water had slipped from my hand and you were embarrassed because my hand was shaking so severely but I refused to go to the ER. But I still swung that night. I still fought with you. I pushed you. I was responsible for that bump to your head, and any other bruise to your body. Maybe I was even responsible for that bump on your lip…that lasted the 2 years we were together because you kept gnawing there. But I am not innocent, because there were days I gave as good as I got, and I know it was my fault for letting anything ever happen to me.

But I will not carry the burden you want me to carry. I refuse. I won’t, because I will call out everything. Nothing will be hidden, call it my bitter-ex syndrome, because even though many will say I should keep my issues drawn, I won’t. Every degrading remark, every moment you tore my character and my confidence down, I will lay out for the whole world to see, because you had the audacity to call me 3 years later, to remind me how fucked up I was to you. You called me, 3 years later, to tell me how worthless I was…except you called the wrong girl.

Remember the times I wanted to have sex, and afterwards you told me I had forced you even though you had said yes when I asked, because you weren’t in the mood? Guess you never counted the times you would touch me when I was unconscious…guess I mumbled yes at some point. How about when you told your friends about how I’d smack your ass when you walked by me, but you would conveniently forget to tell them how you would slap me across the face and laugh because I always got upset when you did that.

How you used to call me stupid, and useless, when you didn’t get a good grade on your homework because I didn’t do the assignment correctly? Calling me white trash when you thought I wasn’t around, and getting pissed off at me because I wanted to spend New Years with my family, instead of going to the city and doing nothing with you, and your friends that I didn’t like because you badmouth them whenever they weren’t around. Making me walk almost an hour with you to pick up your car when you knew walking more than 10 minutes left me shaking in pain because of my back.

Screaming at me about how you did so many wonderful things for my birthday and that you should end it with me…just because I asked if I could stay home instead of heading to the beach, because I was sick. Remember the 104 degree fever that raged through me that night we got back from the beach and the concert? You left me alone for 2 hours to hang out with your friends downstairs while I cried through the pain I was in, and what was your answer? Well, I bought you soup?

That you sacrificed so much to be with me? That it was my fault that you always threatened to leave, because if I just did what I was asked you wouldn’t argue with me? How every time I would go away for more than a day you blew up my fucking phone, to the point my friends would turn it off and hide it from me. And what would I do? Panic because you would get upset with me, and I didn’t want you angry. You went to DR for 2 weeks, and I called you twice. I mention leaving for DR or Ireland for a month, and you pitched a fit, pushed me, and stormed away from me. Remember the weekend I spent in Provincetown? You should, because you were calling me every fucking hour and arguing with me. I bought a claddagh ring that weekend, and I wanted to give it to you because those rings mean so much to me…

I never gave it to you…I couldn’t justify ever giving you one.

And I fucking stayed. I stayed through every snarky comment about my weight, about how I wasn’t over Rachel, how I would be worth something if I just did this or that? How if you didn’t love me, you wouldn’t care so much, but that you can leave me at anytime and find someone better. I fucking stayed. So yes Tina, I am at fault too.

It is my fault I let this happen to me. It is my fault that I fought back with you that night. It is my fault for not listening to my friends, who slowly dropped from my life, because they hated you. I should have listened to my coach, who asked me what was so wrong, because I stopped going to practices to be with you.

Hey, remember the time I had to drive you, and your two friends back from Cooperstown, because you wanted to go wine tasting 3 days before my 21st birthday, and you all got drunk? I got to play designated driver…except I didn’t have a license, and I got to listen to the 3 of you teasing me for doing the speed limit all the way back? Hey remember when you told me to stop at the liquor store, and then you got pissed off at me because I refused to let you drive the rest of the way. You said it was your car, and I played it off saying that I just wanted to drive. But really, I was just tired of always being in your passenger seat while you drove drunk, or high, or hey both.

The fucking irony, is that it may seem like a lot of shit that would have broken any relationship, but you and I had good times together. We laughed, and loved, and it was those moments that I convinced myself that all of this was just isolated issues. You were struggling with school, you just had a bad day, I shouldn’t have said those things to you. Yea, it was wrong to ask for sex when you weren’t in a mood, and yet it was my fault that you needed to get high and relax. I just needed to be a better girlfriend, because we had good times, and you loved me and only got “real” with me to make me better.

And I know I am not fucking innocent. I remember every time I took my frustrations out on you, screaming and yelling at you for no reason. When I made you feel like shit about yourself; when I made you feel like you were second in my life. I remember the hurt looks when I nonchalantly said something without thinking how it might hurt you. I remember spending days begging for forgiveness. I remember always saying sorry for making you cry. I remember telling myself to do better, to stop being such a fuck-up.

I also know being with someone who cuts is difficult, and scary, and I know….I know you were scared of my depressions because you weren’t sure if one day you would come home to find me dead. I know it wasn’t easy; I know I’m not easy to be with. I know that I’m not innocent in any aspect of our relationship. I know when I pushed back, I gave as good as I got. Nothing excuses my actions and I wish I had been a better person during this time. But I wasn’t. I became what you spent months telling me I was…I became worthless.

I know I had started to drink a lot. I did so I could fall asleep at night. I would pass out on the couch so I wouldn’t have to sleep next to you. I know that is fucked up to admit. I took pain-medication because it made my head fuzzy and the world shiny, because the world was getting too angry, violent, and painful to deal with anymore. I would take 4 or 5 hydrocodones, some vicodin, a percocet here and there. I chugged cough medicine, and I swallowed my pills with alcohol. You and my friends told me I had a problem…well they told me that I had a drug, alcohol, and girlfriend problem, you just told me I had a drug problem. I know you couldn’t understand why I wasn’t letting you help me, but honestly, you were part of the problem. The violence I was committing against my body was bordering on deadly, and I didn’t care because it took my mind off the pain I felt being in your presence. It controlled the anger I felt every time you belittled me, hit me, and degraded me. I know it is another fucked up thing to say, but it’s the brutal truth…since you are so fond of that form of communication. It took Charlatain telling me I was going to kill myself to wake me up to what I was doing. Not you…because at that point, it took someone who truly loved me to help me…not someone who deigned to love me, to open my eyes to the fact that I was self-destructing.

We broke up 3 months after I stopped popping pills. I had started telling you no. No to staying up all night doing your work while you slept. No to hanging out with your friends who told you that you weren’t worth much, and told me that I wasn’t worth anything. No to spending my money on worthless shit because I chose to pay my debt instead. No to missing class. No to sleeping at your apartment. No to missing work. No to the vacation you wanted to take because I decided to study abroad in Ireland. No to missing track practice even though I couldn’t participate. Hell, I even said no to sleeping with you. The 3 months after I broke through my withdrawals, I managed to take my grades from almost failing, to a 4.0. You would get pissed off at me, yell and scream and push me, because you thought I was always off helping my friends instead of you…when the truth was, I was off with my friends as they helped me get my grades back in order.

My friends hated coming over my room if you were there because you would shoot daggers at them, start whining because I wasn’t paying attention to you, and would be a bitch to them. They hated when you hit me for no reason. Even Charlatain called me on that shit, about letting you get away with talking down to me and getting angry whenever I said no. God knows how many times I wished I had just clocked you one for real…Every time you told me I wasn’t beautiful, or worth anything. Every time you ever hit me for no reason, and laughed at me when you did it. I wished I hit you back so I could give you a real reason to call me abusive…but I didn’t. I didn’t sink down that low, and I’m grateful you never pulled that kind of evil out of me.

I was still drinking during this time, but not as bad as I had been. But I knew the end was coming. I knew and a part of me was grateful because I couldn’t take another year of your bullshit. I couldn’t take another year being told that I was selfish, worthless, fat, pathetic, and that my family wasn’t worth anything as well. But I stayed, because I convinced myself that it was my issue, that I had to just get better at making you happy…but looking back…a deeper part of me just wanted you out of my life. I was just too scared to do it.

I remember talking to Rachel on the phone the day we broke up. I was telling her how you weren’t a horrible person, and that you had been amazing to me when I was sick…at first…until you just got pissed off at me for always being sick. But I sat there, defending you to my ex-fiance, even though I was praying you would do something, or say something, that would free me. I needed you to free me. I knew you had cheated. I knew I was willing to cheat to get you to leave me.

You called me, told me some joke about a dream, and I damn near cheered with relief. You thought we shouldn’t be together anymore. Remember what you said? “In my dream, the person I was with wasn’t you, and I think that means something.” I was smiling, Tina, goddamnit I was smiling. It was a line you’ve told me before, about a dream, but this time was different. I had Rachel on the other line, and I knew it was the moment I needed, because I wanted to talk with my cheating ex-fiance more than I wanted to hear your voice. So I shocked the hell out of you, I know I did because you got so fucking quiet, when I agreed with you. When I told you we should end it, that I would be your friend, but that we should end it. Because, after 2 years of crying and fighting every time you told me I wasn’t worthy of you, that I wasn’t worthy of anything, that I was nothing…I stopped fighting for you. I made your worse fear come true that night.

I proved that I didn’t need you in my life, because instead of you walking away like I know you always planned to do, because it would make you look better…I finally did. I walked away. You saw me a few months later, and I was laughing and smiling…I was the girl you met before we started dating. I know it pissed you off because you lashed out at me afterwards….even if you were still wearing my clothes…yea my coach talked a lot.

I have been labeled a fucked up person, and an abuser, by people who knew you. They’ve approached me over the last few years, to accuse me, to rail their hatred at me…but then they would end up sitting with me for hours and talking. Never once did I bad-mouth you, you know? Never once did I call you a spiteful bitch, a cunt, a mother-fucker. Well…maybe to my sister who held me and told me that no abusive person sobs like a 3-year-old for thinking they are abusive….but I never bad-mouthed you to anyone else, not even my own mother who severely dislikes you. I said that we both made incredibly stupid mistakes, that we brought out the worst in each other, and that we just had a toxic relationship in which I own up to every fucked up thing I did.

Cuz I know every fucked up thing I did. I know I am no picnic. Don’t think I don’t. Name one thing, and I will own it. Lying about the damage to your car? I own it. Fucking up your birthday? I own it. Hitting you when I started hallucinating on the sleep medication you told me to take? Yea, I own that night too. I did drugs, I drank! I own every lie, and I own every single moment that I was an asshole. You were right about many things about me…I hated your friends! I hated your family, except your nieces they were sweet. I do think you are stuck up, selfish, two-faced, materialistic, whiney, and only gave when it made you look good. Yes, I faked more orgasms with you than I can count.

That day you got angry at me because I left in the middle of an argument to help a friend? I was at Natalie’s apartment because I couldn’t stand to be near you. Remember when you got angry at me because, instead of going home straight out of class, I went to the library? I was writing a paper about how much I loved you, and how proud I was to be yours for my Writing about Love and Loss course. I tore up the paper that night and erased it from my hard-drive, because you screamed at me in front of your roommates. Hey, remember the time you told me to just go ahead and kill myself because you were tired of waiting to see if I would actually do it?

Yup, there…I said it, and I own being that asshole again. I own my bitterness towards you. Hell, I’ll even admit that I found it hilarious that you were hurt that I didn’t remember your number when you called me last September. As much as I have been harboring all this anger and hurt in regards to you, I never had the urge to call you and blame you about all the bullshit. That’s just a type of sad I could never get behind being.

Because, as much as everything I’ve just written to you about had bugged me for the last few years, you were never worth the effort of calling about it. And even though it has been months since you called, you are not worth me hurting anymore. So if you want to blame someone for your issues, find someone else, because it won’t be me. The girl you once knew? She’s gone. A bitch may have taken her place, but I’m an honest bitch. Listening to you on the phone that day just solidified every truth I knew about us, and after a few months of rolling these thoughts in my head, I know I am the better person. It may have almost cost me everything, and hell this letter might cost me more, but you changed my life when you entered it…and my life is better since you left…and I am done with your regret.

So these are the last minutes I am willing to give you. I truly do hope you have a good, happy life. Everyone deserves to have a fulfilling life, and I do not wish you a single harm, or ill-thought. I do not apologize for the length…I had a lot to hash out. Hell, you may never even read this, but that is okay. I might put this on my blog. I might send it to every single person on the planet; I have nothing to hide, and the world can hate me for it, hell you can hate me for it. That pathetic, excuse of a girl who was with you 5 years ago is dead somewhere between New York and Iowa. If this destroys me, so be it. I’ve laid out every hurt, every bit of bitterness that is in my heart because of you, and I will shake it all off because I’ve never felt this relieved.

So here is my goodbye. I may be an asshole, but my conscience is clear…because no matter what you do, or think, about me, there is nothing you can do to ever hurt me again. Call me what you want. Let everyone hate me for all I care; let whatever will happen, happen. I’m free. I may be ugly, fat, useless, I may have been your personal punching bag to the point I flinch every time someone raises a hand to me…but I am finally free of you, and because of that…I plan on dancing with the sunrise.

-Faith

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