A tale of young love subdued by self-destruction
On the day that my boyfriend of almost one year broke up with me, I could hear my screaming soul resorting to measures beyond my control. That day changed the trajectory of my life.
Obsession sneaks up on a person with abandonment issues. When a heart is frozen solid to escape the pain of betrayal, the risk of opening it up again is low. The heart does not soften quickly. A fortress of walls, bars, defense mechanisms, manipulation, and a need to stay alive, by any means possible, determines one’s fate.
November 10, 1987, both of us naked, waited in my room for the heater guy to arrive. After my mother left my family, these types of chores became my problem. My father furiously worked, leaving me alone to settle household matters. I enjoyed the independence and pretending to act like an adult. Being robbed of my childhood never reached my radar.
“I love you, and I will always love you.” My boyfriend said. “But I think we should stop seeing each other.” Except for the pounding of my heart, my body froze. On my knees, naked, in a dimly lit room, waiting for the heater guy, I begged and pleaded with him to reconsider. I sobbed and shook, yelling freakishly loud, that he must give me another chance. He alleviated my sense of loneliness, and he had become all for which I lived.
Begging someone on your knees at dusk, naked, maybe one the most vulnerable positions a person can endure. I knew I was too quiet, too young, too uptight. I did not drink like the other girls. At parties, I would follow him around, shy, afraid, like a noose around his neck, until I was too much for him. He wanted to be free. If only, I could be loving enough to let him go be happy.
However, my greatest fear is being too much for anyone. I let my guard down. I trusted that love was enough. But life is not fair, and at that age, I was unwilling to accept that.
Eventually, he rescinded, and he agreed not to leave me: the most significant blunder he made. He did not know how fragile and mentally unsound of a person he was dating. My life was filled with trauma, and I was only fifteen years old. My mother had left. My father had been to rehab, jail, and left me alone night after night. I waited for love to find me, and when it finally did, I was not letting go without a fight.
After the break up/makeup day, I swore to the devil, God, my higher power, and any entity that could hear my pain, that I would do everything in my power to hate his guts. I knew this would take time. But for me, I needed to be ready to break up again, which I knew would eventually happen. This time I could not be caught off guard. This time I would be prepared.
My first rule would be to stop crying every day over the fear of losing him. Endless hours spent shedding tears about a breakup that had not even taken place engulfed most of my alone time in our first year. I did not know why the break up was such a shock. I had prepared for it. I guess I felt if I worried about it enough, it would never happen.
A young girl who copes with fear can travel down extremely unhealthy paths. Paths that justify making poor choices become breeding grounds for heartache. From that day forward, I would be EVERYTHING he wanted me to be.
He asked me to dress slutty. I stole my dad’s credit cards and shopped at the mall for tight mini skirts and an array of half tops marred in red and black.
He wanted pretty nails. I can smell the acrylic glue now, chemicals passing through my nose. I had given up dialing the phone when my nails became fancy because my fingers were no longer functional.
He wanted me tan. No problem. I lived at the beginning of the tanning salon era, and I would walk 16 miles round trip to the tanning salon when I could not find a ride.
Hairspray and makeup covered up what was once natural beauty. I had become a real-life Barbie, soulless, and manufactured.
What he wanted most was for me to be skinny. The lengths I would go to stay thin when I was already quite thin would take me to back alleys of South-Central LA scoring methamphetamines on school nights. I would stay on drugs and lose 10 pounds, then switch off, over and over again for two more years.
When I was not doing drugs, I picked up smoking and drinking instant black coffee to stop myself from eating. My nourishment depended entirely on my boyfriend’s love.
That was the choice I made. He did not ask me to make it. He did not know I was secretly planning to sabotage the relationship by growing so resentful of doing what he asked that I would like my life better without him. I was a con. He was the bait.
If I could turn my obsession for him off, I would have. Unexplainable demands to be loved by him circled my every thought. I began drinking alcohol and socializing with people. The ease of the warm liquor pouring down my dry throat allowed my insecurities to disintegrate, and suddenly I was funny, loud, and gregarious.
My inner child knew all of his insecurities. I had figured them out in the early weeks of our courtship. I decided to ask him about his saddest moment so that I could get him to cry, and he would begin to depend on me. The plan worked, and he was sobbing in less than an hour after the question being asked. And this was even pre-breakup/makeup days. My wrath, he once claimed, knew no bounds.
Tall, sporty, athletic guys made him feel worthless- the average jock of his class. I befriended this group and began to party with them because I knew on nights that we were separated; it would make him jealous. Always, around 2 am, he would drive to my home, throw a rock at my window and join me for the night to make sure I was home, alone, and with him. I had him where I wanted him. But I was not angry enough.
Then it happened; the infidelity. One SoCal surfer showed interest in me. Better yet, he was a man! Ten years my senior, I began an affair with him to boost my self-esteem and to have a backup plan in case my boyfriend stopped loving me. I shudder when I think of that old creep. Luckily, my boyfriend forgave me after I was caught making out with the guy outside of a party we were both attending.
But love is a verb. And none of my actions were loving. Relationships are built on loving acts of trust, and my choices were the antithesis of that. How I could think that enraging myself against him was a good idea strikes me as insane. But I learned that young girls can go insane to get their needs met.
It was not all bad. I laughed with my boyfriend, he serenaded me some nights on his guitar, bought me dinner, and treated me like a queen. Our roles had switched, and I was on top. But I did not hate him enough to break up. I still loved him so.
On a girls’ trip to Mexico, my boyfriend and his friends followed. We stayed at a campground, and they stayed at a house on the ocean.
My boyfriend and I had temporarily separated. “You would not make a good wife or mother,” he confessed. Being a good wife or mother was the last thing on my mind at sixteen. I hardly understood what it was I did wrong.
However, we made up, once again, with the backdrop of the Pacific ocean over rocks on a hot, dusty Mexican campground, belligerent and drunk.
Our relationship was tumultuous at best. And we expressed our undying love for one another that sunny day. By then, my addiction to drama far surpassed my need for a healthy, loving partner. And after we fought and we cried, I felt complete.
But I woke up, sunburned on half of my body, looking silly and realizing everyone had left for the night. My friends, my boyfriend, and his friends all went into town to dance and drink the night away. I spent the night talking to some guy playing the guitar in the dark. I was relaxed, still mildly intoxicated, and receiving the attention from the opposite sex, I craved.
The way to the bathroom was pitch black. But I found it anyway. As I strolled back to the guitar-playing guy, a girl runs up to me, screaming to stay away from her boyfriend.
“I do not know what you are talking about. I have a boyfriend,” I explained. She slapped me across my face. I had never been hit. The shock of her slap momentarily derailed me, and I lost track of what had happened at all as she ran into the night.
I went to sleep alone. No one had returned that evening except my boyfriend’s sister, who became the bearer of bad news. “He got arrested, and Kristie bailed him out. He is with Kristie,” my boyfriend’s sister divulged. Kristie, my new best friend’s best friend, was also with my boyfriend. My friends drove the car, and all I could do is wait in Mexico for everyone to return.
The stabbing pain of betrayal by my best friend plunged me into a deep panic. I contemplated why I did not prepare for this unforeseen scenario. It mattered not. She was my ride, and I had to act pleasant if I ever wanted to go home.
For three nights and four days, I waited. My mind cruelly imagined my every fear. Thoughts whirled through my head. “He was in love with Kristie. He was kissing her. He was having sex with her. And, most important, he was having fun with another girl.”
I had nowhere to turn. His sister and her friend stayed with me, and we tried to make the best of it. I could not show anyone how distraught and humiliated these events made me. My heart had hardened long ago. I wore my façade and acted as if I had not a worry in the world.
Such cognitive dissonance constructed future triggers in me that would haunt me for life — the stress of the unknown painted pictures of impending doom. I could feel cortisol ravish my body like a walking flight or fight creation. My nerves played tricks on me as ingrained photographic memories that played out in my mind for many years.
Surviving those four days took all the strength I had. When my friends did return, they said nothing to me. Kristie calls dibs for the front-seat home, and we were stopped at the border because she wanted to keep a champagne bottle as a souvenir of being with my boyfriend. We stood outside the car as the Federales searched for drugs. My life felt over.
I could not look at anyone. But the others were laughing, establishing a link inside me that friendship equals pain. All I knew was that I was alone-my biggest fear realized. The pit of my stomach dropped, and my vulnerabilities formed ulcers in the lining of my intestines.
I had felt this feeling before when my mother left. At that time, great strength accompanied me. I thought I could survive her loss. But this time, I wanted to end my life. I had nothing left to live for, and no one left to show me love. And that is the most painful feeling in the world.
Being a teenager is hard enough, but I threw myself in a mix of people who did not respect me because I did not respect myself. I appeased them so that I could have friends. The accountability was mine, but I felt crushed like a victim.
Weeks after we arrived home, I laid low. My boyfriend showed up at my house, declaring his undying love for me. I was almost at the point where I hated him enough to ask him to leave, but not yet.
We spent the night together for six more months every night now. Our relationship deepened. He felt forgiven. I felt forgiven for cheating on him, and we discussed moving into together after my senior year ended.
But that gnawing feeling in my stomach would not go away. On the outside, my life appeared to be doing well for high school standards. I was dating a college guy for three years, entering into my senior year, driving a sports car, slim, trim, and aware of how to reach optimum performance in my social life. In fact, I got cocky.
I reached a point where my boyfriend was so comfortable with me and so in love that I could finally break free. I had planned this for so long, and it was finally happening. I broke up with him with two other older guys lined up. He was devastated.
On the night of the breakup, I threw a party for my boyfriend’s best friend. My packed house began to unravel, as kids broke mirrors, turned the electricity off, and my boyfriend showed up even though he was upset. In my bedroom, I had a guy waiting while I buzzed around the room to talk to my friends.
My boyfriend spent the evening talking to one girl that I did not recognize. I did not think anything of it because I felt she was ugly. And so when the police showed up, and everyone left, I went upstairs to the guy passed out in my bed.
Intoxicated, I slipped into some lingerie I had bought at the $5 store. Satin blue nightie, thong underwear: I was asking for trouble. When we began to kiss, I realized he was taking things too quickly. I said, “NO,” over and over again, but he would not listen. I am still on the fence if this was date-rape or if I asked for it. Either way, the guy slipped out of my house and never spoke to me again.
I woke up the next morning, free, single, and wanting to be dead. My boyfriend began to date the girl he met at my house, and he began to hit on all my friends. It turned out; he knew my insecurities, too.
In the next six months, I withstood torture. Looking back, I created my own nightmare. But I was just a kid who was abandoned by her mother that needed someone to love her and a father figure to replace my own father’s absence.
To this day, I have nightmares about this time in my life. They are called trauma dreams. I have them 4 to 5 times a week. I cannot shake my wounded feeling of defeat and terrifying fear that I will be left alone. Over 30 years ago, mistakes were made that cannot be undone. Step by step, I am trying to heal from a situation that I buried deep within my heart, promising myself to never uncover the brutality of what I felt.
But those feeling have a way of manifesting themselves. One cannot hide from their pain. Time is not a friend.
My unusual way of handling young love shows me how damaged a person I was after my parents divorced; maybe even before.
I would spend my years in relationships with men who were emotionally unavailable until I met my beautiful husband. It is no coincidence that he is a psychiatrist. The thought of that makes me laugh every time but it also makes me realize, I am in good hands.
I never want to return to who I once was capable of being. But I would turn to her now and let her know she was doing the best she could. And that all is forgiven. Of course, the trauma continues. It is a long road filled with these memories and many more painful events that led me to dark places. I would tell that young girl to hold on because I am coming for her. And now that I have, the world is my playground.