Guest Post, by Erin Green – Hidden Strength

June 22, 2015.

That is the day that I died, and a new me came to be. It was the first whole day of summer after the solstice, so I suppose it was only fitting for me to have a new beginning, but it wasn’t exactly my choice. However, it was a long time coming, and I needed a push to finally make a change. My push came with the change in the seasons.

What happened that day? Something that I never thought I would experience, that’s for sure, but before I get to that, I have to back up and tell the whole story for it to all make sense.

About four months earlier, I met Jordan. Jordan was, on the surface, a very quirky guy: quiet, shy and reserved, but most saw that as a good balance to me and my personality, which was usually outspoken, talkative and upfront, so to some, we made a good pair for this reason, and for the most part I agreed. Jordan and I were together often, and in the public eye we had a happy relationship together, but the truth, as always, is more complicated. What no one knew about our relationship was that both of us were slowly dying, but in different ways.

My first impression of Jordan was not a good one, because he seemed too scatterbrained for me, yet I agreed to meet with him a second time after that. I will forever wonder how my life would have ended up had I not texted him back after our first date like I originally wanted to, because I know things would not be the same. The second time I saw him, our interactions went far better. He had graciously bought me a bottle of wine, so I invited him into my apartment to drink it with me. A few hours and glasses of wine later, I woke up with him asleep next to me, and I wondered why I had let that happen, and that was the beginning of my descent.

Letting someone sleep over at your place after a fun date is usually not a big deal, but in this case, it was the night in which I forever gave up my freedom to sleep normally in my apartment as I knew it. After our night together, Jordan stuck around for another night, and then another. Because our romance was new I thought nothing of it, but when he wouldn’t leave after several nights in a row I began to wonder why not. He then revealed to me that he was homeless and had been staying with various people before me, and because of where he and I suddenly went he assumed it was okay to stay in my apartment. I was shocked, but felt very sympathetic and tried to help him out in any way I could, and if letting him stay with me at least a few nights a week was what I could do, I would. After all, I actually had a place of my own with no roommates, so why not?

In the weeks that followed, I hoped that Jordan’s situation would improve, but my thoughts turned out to be just wishful thinking, because it continuously got worse. Not only was he homeless, but he also was without a job, and not even bothering to look for one. Because he was living with a disability he got a small amount of SSI each month, but not enough to survive off. Before I knew it, he was in my apartment more often than not, living in my space and eating my food without permission. Whenever I bluntly told him that I needed my space, or that my food was not for his consumption, he would always give me a sad remark like, “Oh okay, I guess I’ll just go sleep in my car tonight then,” or “Well I don’t know where my next meal will come from,” playing with my emotions to get me to cave in and let him do as he pleased. This went on for weeks, weeks that became months, as I wondered what to do about my life and our relationship, or what shards of it remained.

As a result of Jordan taking up my space, time and resources, my life began to crumble, and those that were around me saw it, despite my trying to hide it. My friends didn’t see me as often, and when they did, he was always with me, because he claimed he always needed someone to “take care of him,” in his inept condition. My boss would tell me at work that I was constantly making mistakes, and that the quality of my work had gone down, and looking back I’m amazed that I never got fired because I was so distracted all the time. Jordan had begun to consume every aspect of my life, and I wasn’t really getting anything in return. When I wanted to speak out about things that I cared about, he would often shut down my feelings, because he deemed his to be more important, due to his disability, financial situation, etc. My problems like my finances didn’t feel like they were entirely mine anymore, because he always had something to say about them, since after all, his life was “worse” than mine, so what right did I have to complain. This entire time I never had any nerve or sense to tell him that enough was enough, that he couldn’t and wouldn’t control me anymore, and that he wasn’t allowed to mooch off of me anymore. Instead, I let myself give in and wither away, completely oblivious to the self-destruction going on inside my and his own mind.

By the time June rolled around, I somehow still wanted to stay with Jordan, but did not know in what capacity, because he still wouldn’t look for a job, and his health appeared to be declining at an alarming rate. He often claimed that he wasn’t able to work due to his chronic pain, and by the second week in June he suddenly took his invasion of my apartment to a new level. He said his pain had gotten so severe that he had to rest every day, which basically meant he lay in bed and rarely got up. When I left to go to work in the morning, he stayed in bed, and when I came home, he was there where I left him. It all just stressed me out even more, having basically a human lump just taking up space and air with me, and somewhere along the line I started to wonder if letting him go wasn’t the worst thing in the world. But where would he go in his condition? That, if nothing else, was what always stopped me when I considered making him leave.

When I was getting ready for a meeting at work one morning, I almost didn’t leave because he seemed like he was in bad shape, more so than usual. He urged me to go, because it was an important meeting, so I reluctantly went and wondered about why he was so silent and wanting me to go. It wasn’t until I came home a couple of hours later that I knew.

When I opened the door, I saw him curled up on “our” mattress, surrounded by empty pill jars with a Costco-sized bottle of whiskey next to him, a glass half-drunk right beside it. He had kept a box of fentanyl patches in the closet, one of his medications for his chronic pain, but this time he had covered his chest with them, and was lying in bed half-conscious as a result of it. Naturally, when I saw this I snatched the one bottle with pills still in it from his bedside and frantically dialed 911. He still had enough energy to attempt to swat the phone from my hand, but he was unsuccessful.

In the moments between then and when the EMTs arrived, I looked at him and asked him angrily, “Jordan, is this really how you want it to end? IS IT?!” He looked back with his bloodshot eyes and whispered, “Yes,” before slipping into unconsciousness. Moments later an ambulance arrived and removed him from my apartment, and once they were gone, I sat down and let it all sink in.

As I looked around the apartment, where all the damage had been done, where my space had been invaded and my home wrecked, empty jars of pills everywhere, I snapped out of it. For the first time in months, I put my own health and life first and said, this is too much. He had been ruining my life for too long, so it was time to end things.

While he was in the hospital, I visited him more than I probably should have, but I was still figuring out what to do. I knew I couldn’t continue going about things the way they had been going, but what was the best alternative?

Two days after he was admitted into the hospital, he was released, and I came to pick him up in his car. When we were alone, I was finally ready to say it, and I felt proud about my decision as well. I told him that I was glad he was alive, but he would not be allowed back in the apartment. He stubbornly asked me why, as if he didn’t already know what he had done to me. I explained to him, gently, that he had been disturbing my life and my space for too long, and I needed to take my life back, but he refused to listen and begged me to let him stay, as he was apparently thinking that he would just return to the apartment and live in it while I worked and paid for it as if nothing had happened. I shook my head in disgust and said no, more firmly than ever, because I had seen the error of my ways and knew I couldn’t do it anymore.

When we arrived back at my apartment, which I was ready to claim as mine again, I handed him the key to his car and explained that I had taken his key to the apartment back, which he would get back once I felt he had earned it. I hugged him and told him that I would talk to him tomorrow, but at that moment he had to leave. He reluctantly did so, and I sighed with relief once he was gone and I was alone in my place, because I had finally taken initiative and claimed my space back. Of course, it didn’t last.

As promised, I tried contacting Jordan the next morning, but I got no response. I tried texting him several times and left a voicemail or two, but still nothing. At first I thought maybe he was angry with me for telling him to leave, so I thought I’d give him some space, but when an entire day had passed and still nothing, I began to worry. I filed a missing person report and put out a search for him, and tried to go about things as they were planned. But in the back of my mind, I knew something wasn’t right.

This is where we come back to June 22, 2015.

After still hearing nothing from Jordan or the police, I felt that I had to take matters into my own hands. I went out walking that night, in search of Jordan or his car. I hadn’t thought to look in my own neighborhood, because it almost made too much sense, but I would find out that it didn’t.

I hadn’t even walked two whole blocks up the road before I found it, in a line of cars just like any of them, but the windows were fogged. My heart stopped and I had to turn away, because I knew what I would see if I looked inside the windows. I ran home and called 911 again, and this time the police showed up, and I took them to the street where the car was parked. I handed them the key, they unlocked it, and a few minutes later they made it official: Jordan was dead, as a result of an overdose. This time he had succeeded.

Now, you might think that when I first got the confirmation that he was dead, that I was saddened by this whole turn of events, which I was, but that wasn’t the strongest emotion I felt at that very moment. When I announced to the world on my Facebook page that Jordan was gone, I did play it off as a tragedy, which it was, but because no one really knew what he had done to me, I suppressed my true feelings, which I now regret.

Because of the abuse that he made me suffer through in the months leading up to it, my first thought when it was confirmed he was dead was, in fact, relief. Relief because finally, I was free. Free from his manipulations and hold on my emotions, free of the guilt he had placed upon me for just wanting to simply live my life and not be held down by him anymore, free to live my life as I wanted to really live. But, of course, I held that all inside, because why would I dare to feel relieved when a person so close to me takes his own life? Someone who I made the world believe truly cared for me?

I did feel guilty, and maybe a bit heartless, that I felt that way, so I buried those feelings, but as I write this, I’m ready to comfortably say that burying my feelings did not help me cope at all. They, in fact, just ate away at my conscience, because for so long I romanticized our relationship as one made in heaven, only to be cut short by him and his inner demons, when in reality it was truly hell on Earth, one that I was luckily able to escape from, but at a heavy price.

Like any abusive relationship, this one was difficult for me to feel like I could get out of it, because I was letting my feelings take the reins and steer me down a destructive path. I write this to let everyone know that while yes, Jordan was suffering in his mind, he was not the only one suffering, because he threw his depression onto me. Although he never physically harmed me, his manipulation of my emotions via his depression is still abuse, a form of it that I feel is never taken seriously enough. I didn’t want those who knew me to know that he abused me, because they were saddened by the fact that he was gone above all else. Although suicide is never a way to deal with anything, I still feel relief when I think about the fact that he is gone, and believe that there is a special place in hell for those who abuse others the way he did; I hope that’s where he is now. At first my depression resulting from this was because I thought that I could have done more to save him, and why didn’t I, but when I asked myself honestly, I realized that was all a lie, perhaps a knee-jerk reaction to what the world was telling me I should feel. When I was being honest with myself, however, I realized that my depression was stemming from the fact that I let him manipulate me so much before he died.

When I think about it that way, I have to ask myself, am I a cruel person for being happy that he’s dead? Is it wrong of me to feel no mercy for him at all, because he didn’t open up about his depression to me very much? I’ve asked myself these questions so many times – why didn’t I leave him, why did I let it get to that, and why wasn’t I able to wake myself up until I actually saw him trying to kill himself? I will always feel guilty about it, for myself and not for him, but perhaps this is a lesson to project to anyone else who is going through it.

To anyone going through an abusive situation, I want to first say, stop blaming yourself, and don’t hate yourself for it. There is always a way out of it, and you are strong enough to rise above it, whether you believe it or not. I am writing this because I want to tell you that I hope you see yourself as deserving better, and can follow your gut when you know something isn’t right. Also, if you think that I don’t feel guilty all the time because I got out of my situation rather easily, you are also very wrong. The reason why I feel that I have to write this and honor my true feelings is because, as a survivor of domestic abuse who has emerged to talk about it, I want others going through a possibly less “escapable” situation to know that I am with you, because had Jordan survived and never tried to kill himself, I may have still been in that horrible relationship to this day, being treated unfairly yet never leaving it.

Since Jordan’s death I have indeed become more independent and willing to stick up for myself, but unfortunately in real life it has often translated into isolation and being overly defensive, even aggressive, as a result of feeling unable to trust others again. Jordan was the last person that I really let my guard down to, and I know that my social life has suffered as a result of being betrayed the way I was. I also have naturally not been able to fare well in a romantic relationship since then, and when I entered my next relationship with a much better man, I wasn’t able to be a good person to him because abuse had become so normal to me. Even though he always had the best intentions and never did anything to hurt me purposefully, I felt that I needed to yell at him and inflict pain whenever possible, just because I could. One of my ways to deal with being abused was to become an abuser myself, and to become such a horrible person I don’t know was by far the worst repercussion of it all. I never wanted to harm possibly the greatest person I’ve ever known, but now all I hope is that the man that I harmed later on can forgive me, though I understand if he can’t.

My life has never been the same since June 22, 2015, and every year on that day I sit and reflect on what changed in my mind that night. There are still many ways in which I will never be truly happy with myself and my decisions, but I also want to believe that somewhere in there, there is a sliver of hope, because I’m still here to talk about it. I also want to believe that everyone will come to appreciate honesty as opposed to prescribed feelings about suicide and abuse, because it doesn’t always happen the same way. I did feel like a lot of my emotions that I showed when talking about Jordan before were forced, because I didn’t want to confuse or scare anyone with the truth, but I’m no longer afraid to be honest with everyone. I just hope that my honesty goes a long way, and that it is appreciated just as much as my “sympathy” for Jordan was.

To those of you who can relate to my story, at any point in time, just know that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to release those negative emotions, or those that may not look as appropriate in the eyes of the world. Your feelings are yours, and you should never suppress them; however, don’t use your abuse as an excuse to be a horrible person to whoever tries to help you later on. I’m saying this to you and to myself, because that is the part I’m still learning, and hopefully one day I can find a happy medium in a relationship without abuse, from myself or my partner.

Though I no longer have any desire to talk about Jordan or reminisce about any times that I spent with him, I will say that there is one thing that I learned from him, and that is to share your feelings, which he never did. Just being honest with myself and my true feelings when looking back on this whole situation has made me feel like finally I can let it all go. Though it is impossible to completely forget June 22, 2015 and everything surrounding it, I’m hoping that in the years to come, I can go through this day and smile instead of cry, because while it was the day that my life as I knew it ended, it was also the day that I found the strength I always had but had forgotten about. I think we all have that kind of strength hidden in us, so have you found yours yet?

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