One of the things we don’t realize, with a surgery, is how difficult and painful scar tissue can be. It binds up the places beneath your skin, thick and difficult and invisible until you make a movement that places tension on it. Which brings pain. And if you do not listen, more pain.
Having excised my ex and his abusive behaviors from my life is a really great start. My protection order is good for another year, the divorce is finalized, and life is regaining some sense of normalcy. From all outward appearances, someone might think me hale and healthy.
Yet for the first time, as I share more time with Guy, I am realizing how much emotional scar tissue remains, however normal I appear on the surface.
My therapist observed yesterday that I am extremely ‘threat-sensitive’. I suppose it is a type of hyper-vigilance, a portion of my awareness constantly on alert for situations that might provoke anger. Or, in my world, provoke danger, as those situations were often one and the same. Our discussion yesterday included many good observations, including a discussion on how pain (physical and emotional) can carve pathways into our nervous systems. Therapy cannot break apart those soldered nerves. It can not erase the ‘ruts’ our emotional wheels seem to fit in so well. What it can do, is help us to identify where those pathways begin. Help us develop better coping skills that provide alternative options, different and better pathways.
Yesterday afternoon, sitting on the couch across from my counselor, a mug of peppermint tea warming my palm and teasing my senses, it occurred to me that healing is going to take a much longer time than I realized. The pathways of my mind are so rutted, so protective, that even now I am safe my body reacts in preparation for the worst.
The frustrating piece is how safe I feel with Guy. At first he was so considerate, gentle and thoughtful I felt a little suspicious that it was just an act. I am not used to being with someone who isn’t in the midst of a constant turmoil of mood swings. Six months from meeting him, I’m finally beginning to believe that what you see is what you get. He’s the same guy with his friends, with me, in meeting my parents, when I met his parents.
He asks questions. He listens. Due to the rocky relationship between his parents, he’s thought a lot about what he wants in a relationship of his own. Mainly, this equates to communication. Nothing he does startles me, and it’s not just because he’s being careful or walking on egg-shells, it’s just kind of who he seems to be. Happy, easy-going, content with life but still considering things that will help him better himself.
Being with him feels like a safe harbor after a long journey across a tumultuous ocean. I don’t know how long my stay will be, though it is obvious he really likes me and has long-term ideas dancing around in his head sometimes. Right now I can’t think of the future too much, can’t make promises I don’t know if I will be able to keep. But it’s nice to have that safe harbor, while I tackle school, and work on myself.
Yet certain situations cause my body to lock up and my throat to close over any potential words. Some moments, it is as if I have a pair of hands that lock around my throat, and choke off any chance of sharing something that makes me vulnerable. It has nothing to do with the gentle man himself, but the years of history that bore the constant threat of violence.
The one thing that gives me hope? He is willing to meet me wherever I am. If we have to talk about things over text, he will do that. When I shared that I really respect his desire to communicate, but it is hard for me to get through my anxiety sometimes, he started bringing up topics on his own. First asking, is it okay if I ask about… ‘this or that’? It’s that moment of initiating deeper conversations that seems to provoke the most anxiety.
I suppose when it comes to it, I really believed that I had to be responsible for my healing. And yes, I need to be the one to take responsibility for myself. But healing doesn’t have to happen in a vacuum, and probably isn’t very effective that way either.
This post has grown more focused on relational things than I intended, but I suppose, considering that is the source of most of my ‘scar tissue’ it makes a lot of sense. I have a long road, yet, to travel, but along with Guy, I have my family, my friends, my therapist… I’m not alone.