I’ve come to realize a true, deeply-rooted trigger, is that I have an immense fear of losing people I love. Understandable after all my losses, but there is another element I’ve had to take a lot of time to uncover. It’s the concept of losing loved-ones in a flurry of imposed shame. After losing my father, and what was, for a long swath of time, my family (my dogs, my wife, my in-laws) all at once, like a bus crash… it crippled me with fear. Flooded me with cortisol and whatever cocktail of chemicals that have come together to truly cripple me. All things I’ve been aware of and have worked on. However there was another element I’ve only now begun to understand, and its one of those “blockages” that aren’t so easily understood or unraveled. 

Amidst the largest betrayal of my life, when I was told it was my fault, that I deserved it, all this while she was taking part in the affair and obfuscating it from the world, lying to me and gaslighting me, insisting that it’s all in my head, that she was sick of me bringing it up. I, in my mental state at the time, and a result of 15 years of this behavior, began to believe her when she told me that I deserved it all. When I later confirmed she was having an affair, she lied to her parents about god knows what, but it results in them lashing out at me, and ceasing contact. But I didn’t do anything more than plead with my wife to not leave, to try again, to give me some time since my father had only just died less than a year prior.  It went from “We’ll definitely keep in touch,” to “This was just as much your fault as hers,” with horrible text messages from both of them. The only thing that had changed: my ex knew she had been caught. In an effort to protect her image, she destroyed mine with anyone she knew may call her out, anyone who might tell her “What the fuck are you doing?”. She manipulated her parents into thinking I was a terrible person, all to justify her actions under their image of their daughter. She gave them a free pass to conclude, oh, thank God it’s not our daughter who could do such horrible things. I understand that this was all a huge family affair, and I don’t blame her parents, because they only know what they’ve been told, and they want to believe their daughter.

Regardless, I felt as if her mom/dad/brother had just died in a car crash, because they were instantly gone, and always will be. Worse yet, on top of processing this immense loss, I felt the shame of imagining what was told about me, that deep drive to explain myself that still rears its head, because suddenly these people I loved so dearly seemed to hate me, all for things I never did. I desperately wanted to explain to them that these things weren’t true, that I did nothing but try my best. But I knew I could never break the illusion their daughter had cast, because, if broken, they would have to wonder “What does this say about me?”, and that is too powerful a protective shell, and one maybe I’d be selfish to break. But the shame of what they think of me is still a very prominent burden, and its manifested in an extreme fear of people thinking things that aren’t true of me.

Unfortunately, that’s part of life. No matter who you are, there will be someone who sees you as an enemy. People will twist their own perception to maintain their peace, regardless of how toxic and fractured that peace truly is. They will hurt, and point fingers, and tell you it’s your fault. And then they’ll leave.

We are always only our own islands. And I mean that in a way that I feel is actually positive. We must take care of ourselves, care about ourselves enough to know when the haters are simply wrong, and know ourselves enough to recognize when they may be correct. When we rely on ourselves, it becomes easier.

I hope to get their one day. I hope to escape this forest of doubt and self-loathing, of bathing in shame and fear that was put upon me, of pricking myself on these constant thorns found along a path I never asked to take. I have been running for so long now.

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