The last four years have been horrendous for me. I started having repressed memories, feelings, and thoughts erupt out of my brain and my self in June 2015. It was pretty awful, and it was like nothing that I’d been through before. This is because even when I was in abusive situations, I still had many moments of feeling safe, relaxation, gratitude, happiness, and comfort. Yet, when I began to actually get healthy for the first time, I felt more uncomfortable than I ever had before.
People say that if you grow up in an abusive environment that as an adult you actually can feel comfortable in abusive situations, and uncomfortable in healthy situations. This is exactly what happened to me when I met David.
After my last abusive relationship ended in 2013, I decided that I would no longer date men who were alcoholics/addicts or had substance abuse issues. In fact, I really just wanted to date a non-drinker who was not a recovering alcoholic/addict.
My sponsor encouraged me to make a list of what I wanted in a man. I did, and found that I basically was looking for someone who was similar to myself in healthy ways.
Up until then, I usually bonded with men over drug and alcohol use, family backgrounds, or shared deviant behavior, and by 2013 I was able to see this pattern. It was no surprise, then, that I did not put anything like “we have similar families” on it. Instead, I listed things like “doesn’t drink”, “believes in God (general idea of God, not necessarily Christian God)”, “plays music”, “has a college degree” and so on and so forth. But what really happened is that I made a list of who I actually am.
I wasn’t sure that anyone was going to live up to the requirements of my list. Looking back, I can see how a list like this would make it hard to find a partner because it was so idealistic. But I found one anyways.
I belonged to a few internet dating sites. One day in October or November 2014 I got an email from my current boyfriend David. I had a couple of pictures at that time on my profile. One was your basic cute girl photo of myself that was taken at a AA Halloween Dance. I was dressed up as a poodle girl and looked pretty attractive on it. Another photo was of me playing my baritone ukulele in the Bellingham Ukulele Group.
I started playing the ukulele and joined the Bellingham Ukulele Group in July 2014. My mom gave me a baritone ukulele, which is similar to the guitar. I played the guitar growing up so it was easy for me to play this type of ukulele. When I look back at my participation in this group, I can see how it was likely one of the propelling factors that got me out of AA. This is because I became very involved in a group that was not a cult in any way and that provided me with true happiness, whereas my happiness in AA was riddled with thought-stopping, Groupthink, and mind-control. But, the ukulele group had none of these things, and being in it opened up my mind once more to learning new things once again and being with a group of friends outside of AA. It really brought me back to some of the best times in my life when I was in bands and audition-only choirs.
The picture of me with the ukulele on POF wasn’t special in the way that it didn’t show off how I look and wasn’t your classic selfie. However, it did show my true self more than the others. And this was the picture that David noticed. He actually plays ukulele himself, is in church choir, and was in choir in high school. So he sent me an email asking if the ukulele was a baritone, and had many questions about my life as a musician.
So I happily answered him, and the rest is history. I know play soprano as well as baritone ukulele (he bought me a soprano during our first Christmas together) and our house is filled with way too many instruments.
This story, though, is the beginning of the story of when I finally found myself doing truly healthy things in my life and started to really move away from AA. David is not a member of any 12 step groups, so simply spending time with him resulted in my deprogramming from these fellowships without even knowing it.
But as I grew more healthy and began to distance myself from AA and my family, I began to grow anxious and uncomfortable. My life had always been filled with addicts/alcoholics or better put people with substance use disorders, whether it be with my family, AA or friends. And, I’d always been in abusive environments and/or hung out with abusive family members. For once, then, I was not doing these things nearly as much, and as I grew healthier I became even more uncomfortable.
But, as I said, this actually is a sign of growth. And even though I knew this, I still felt like I was going around in circles for years even though I actually was not. I felt like everything around me was just terrible when. I think, though, that a lot of the reason why everything felt horrible was that I was dissociating pretty severely due to having the memories and was also experiencing severe derealization and depersonalization, which are not a lot of fun.
So my feeling that everything was horrible was backed up because of the severity of these dissociative symptoms. These symptoms actually peaked about 6 months ago when I really started accepting the trauma that I’ve been through, and have been lessening ever since. It’s been really difficult to accept the abuse and my past but I am learning to do so. I am also learning how to feel safe after learning about and processing so much abuse, as it was terrifying to do so.
The truth is, though, that over the last four years or so it has been extremely difficult for me to relax and truly be happy and comfortable at all. People say that healing from trauma is not any worse from the trauma itself, but in my case I disagree. It really was extremely difficult for me to deal with all the repressed trauma and emotions that I had, as well as the depression and heightened dissociative symptoms that resulted from all of this. Because of this, I can’t really say that the healing from trauma was any better or worse than experiencing the trauma itself.
So this brings me to Friday evening. I was feeling bored and wondering what to do. TV seemed out of the question because I tend to watch it too much, I didn’t feel like playing music, and I didn’t feel like it was a good idea to read some of the books that I have because they bring up heavy emotions. That didn’t sound like fun on a Friday evening.
I decided, then, that maybe I would play a video game. My favorite video games are simulation games. I thought about the Sims, but realized that my game had become a bit boring and repetitive. So I searched through Origin for a game.
I came across the city building game Cities Skylines. I have this game on the Xbox and did play it a few years ago, but was having problems with death waves, which is where a bunch of the population dies at once. Cities Skylines is actually free with my Origin subscription, so I downloaded it and bought a few expansion packs.
Even during healing and integration I’ve managed to play some video and computer games here and there, but still didn’t fully relax while playing them. But on Friday for whatever reason I was able to just let myself relax and have fun playing the game. It really was the first time that I’d truly enjoyed myself for a while. I gave myself unlimited money in the game just so that I really could have fun with the game and make my city just as I wanted, as a treat to myself. I played for three hours straight. It was a lot of fun!
And I feel like I was able to relax because some part of me gave myself permission to do so. As I said earlier, I am beginning to feel safe again, and am feeling comfort and hope because I seem to be on the right medications and achieving things in my life here and there. Also, my dissociative symptoms are beginning to decrease and the world is beginning to feel real again.
I’m so glad that I am able to have fun again. It’s been a long time coming. And, I’m glad that I just hung in there during the part of my healing process when it felt like things would just never get better. I’m happy today to finally feel like myself, even though my “self” is not really any self that I’ve been before.
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