Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness...
January 29, 2014 8:46 PM   Subscribe

...and I don't know how to carry it. It's so full and so heavy and I am tired of dragging it around with me. I was in a year-long relationship with someone who had exceptional needs, a complicated personality, and who was overall, a Jekyll-and-Hyde type, a Janus. It left me feeling scoured and empty. I am struggling with how to resolve All the Bad and actually want to live my very own life again, instead of the life-shadow I had to fit myself into for and because of him.

This is kind of a complex bundle of issues, so I ask that you bear with me while I try to articulate all of this. I might ask some follow-up questions later on, so I'll try to stick to theme, here.

So, from April 2012 through March 2013, I was dating a tortured-genius, Jekyll-and-Hyde type of guy. He was like no one I have ever had the privilege of knowing before, and I think at heart, he was a truly good person whose life circumstances, poor decisions, and resulting cynicism broke him and skewed his ability to be a functional human being. He had extensive mental and physical health issues as both an adult with Aspergers Syndrome and due to his veteran status, having seen active duty in Iraq & Afghanistan. As our relationship developed, I think he was working through some deep, caustic shit from his past, with me as proxy, and it took a toll on both of us. Our relationship was a lot like the one in this thread. Except for me, two months after we split up, he killed himself. We hadn't talked for two months (No Contact rule, don'tcha know), and the first time I saw him again was in his casket.

I've been in weekly therapy for the past year. Because of the stress of my relationship with him, I lost my career-job, then my side-job, then my car, almost my housing, and then because of all of that, almost lost me, too. I am currently participating in a partial hospitalization program as I continue trying to rebuild my life. I am very blessed to have family support right now, but I don't really know what the future holds, yet. Through my previous therapist, I've been able to work through a lot of the whys surrounding why I was in this kind of relationship, with this particular person, how we affected each other, etc. I have a good handle on all of that. I know what I did wrong, where I failed and made bad decisions, etc. I try to remember the good things about him and why I cared so much for him in the first place, but I do realize that I was trying so hard to see him through my rose-colored glasses and wanting so deeply to fix him because of my own baggage, and will him to live, that I stayed far past the point that I ought to have left. I cannot get over the guilt that my own fallibility and unresolved personal baggage influenced the path that he was on, and that I contributed to the problems in his life that led to him committing suicide. I can't forgive myself for not having the strength or presence of mind to end it sooner, to not get involved with him despite the glaring red flags, feeling like a shmuck for trusting him and caring for him, etc. And then I am angry at what he'd had to endure in life, how veterans are treated in this country, etc. He never really got the help that he needed, so I rail against the unfairness of it all.

I have trouble with re-experiencing memories, wrestling with past events, and so on. I still live in the apartment where we lived together, have to sleep in the same bed where we slept together, etc. I've redecorated as much as possible, but it's like...a skim-coat of normal over a nightmare. I have a lot of depressed & PTSD-ish stuff going on, like sleep disturbance, racing thoughts, hypervigilance, anhedonia, emotional eating, apathy, nightmares, you name it. I hate it and it sucks, and I want to stop being this...sad depressed lump who is worn out by the energy it takes to live. (Hence the PH program. This is my first week and I can already see that it will be incredibly helpful.)

Even when I try to use CBT/DBT skills, redirect thoughts, distract myself, etc., I can't always stop myself from obsessively revisiting the things he said to me that still hurt, the stuff he did that at the time made me want to lay down and die from a broken heart, etc. (He cheated on me once when we were semi-broken-up, was carrying torches for exes and was open about it, was maybe having an emotional affair with someone via FB...ugh.) I don't know how to explain to myself, in a way that makes any sense, why he did what he did...I engage in distanced-outsider versions of psychological reasoning: he was in pain, he hated himself, he hated his life, he resented what people had that he didn't, he had unprocessed relationship traumas, etc. I am working hard on practicing mindfulness, detachment, tell myself it doesn't matter anymore, that he made his choice and he's gone and I can't change the past, etc. I'm afraid to feel anything, because if I will, it will hit me like a tsunami. But then I wonder, what is the point of feeling any of it? He did what he did, I did what I did, we fucked up what we fucked up, and now he's dead and there's no do-overs, no verbalizing forgiveness, no chance at friendship. Nothing. Because he's dead. And I can't mourn him without painful memories, guilt, regrets, shame. I feel stupid for missing the good, sweet Hyde side of him, and wonder if it was all a long con, a trick, to make me feel as stupid as he often seemed to think I was.

He was emotionally abusive and tended to be violent when drunk. When he wasn't, when he was down in a hole, he had constant suicidal ideation and asked me to commit suicide with him. He had unresolved stuff with the women of his life...his mother, his sister, previous girlfriends, friends, his ex-wife. (They were separated but still legally married, but had been separated for four years w/extremely minimal contact.) I think that deep-down, he hated/resented but still deeply needed all of the women who had ever failed him, and because I am an over-giving, caretaker type (yes, working on that in therapy), he was working out that stuff with me. He gaslighted me constantly, criticized me constantly, played hot and cold, etc. He blamed me for everything that he could possibly blame me for, yet never took responsibility for anything. All of our emotional problems in the relationship were my fault, because I wouldn't play therapist for him, because I was jealous and paranoid (but he never did anything to make me suspicious, ohno!), etc. He had definite narcissistic tendencies and was convinced that he was destined for fame, and so used that as a fulcrum on my self-esteem...his criticisms of me were generally because "I was awesome and never let anyone see it, " and he was "trying to make me great."

He was very much into poverty activism, class theory, etc. He despised any hint of "bourgie" thinking, politics, lifestyle, etc. when he saw it in me. (I worked my way up from an upper-blue-collar/lower-middle-class upbringing to have a simple life where I could support myself without anyone's help. It was extremely stressful and hard for me, but I was succeeding at it, until I got involved with him.) He criticized me and made me feel guilty for things like...having pursued graduate education, having a low-$40K office job, having a decent apartment with things in it (despite them mostly being from Craigslist or hand-me-downs or Target), etc. He criticized my depression and anxiety as character flaws. He criticized me for having the supplies to do X or Y activity (crafting, photography, art) but when I was often too depressed to engage in it actively, he'd criticize me for being a dilettante or "not being a true [whatever]" or "not being devoted to my craft," etc. He criticized me for working too much and then criticized me for how I paid my bills or what I spent my money on. I couldn't do anything right, and he never did anything wrong.

I wish that we had talked. I don't know that I could or would have ever gotten back together with him romantically, but I might have wanted to be his friend, with time. I wrote him an email after we broke up, said a lot of things, and asked him to get into therapy. I know he was bad for me. My family and friends were so relieved when we finally broke up. I regret not talking to him when he made an attempt (what I understand now in hindsight) to reach out to me, about two weeks before he died. I feel guilty for how I failed, my bad decisions, for all the times I let him manufacture a crisis that kept me from getting the help that I so badly needed. I regret that our relationship was such a hot mess and I am angry at him for being such a dick when he was otherwise a truly incredible person. I'm angry at him for so many things. I'm angry that only a very few people close to me really know what he put me through, that so many of his friends and acquaintances think he was Mr. Incredible, and that those people are painting me as the crazy raving ex. I'm angry that his gf-after-me got to play the grieving widow and get all of the support from his friends, while I was the one who almost killed myself keeping him alive for an extra year.

I'm angry at myself for being angry at him for being a jerk, and then I feel guilty for being angry because he had so much on his plate and clearly his coping mechanisms were eroded and maybe I should be more understanding about why he was a jerk. I don't know how to wrap my head around any of it, because it's not clear-cut. He was an incredible, wonderful person who was sometimes exceptionally shitty to the people he was closest to, and whom he leaned on the most. I guess I can take a perverse sense of pride in that...if he was that awful to me, I must have meant something to him? Because we're the hardest on the ones we love the most? :(

I know that this is a.) long, and b.) quite a bit to wade through, so thanks in advance if you made it to the end. If anyone can speak to how they dealt with bad relationship trauma in their own life, or has advice on how I might be able to wrap my mind around all of this, I would greatly appreciate the input.
posted by cardinality to Human Relations

This post was deleted for the following reason: Total sympathy for the situation you're in, but AskMe isn't the right place for this kind of processing exercise. -- restless_nomad

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