This is the next installment in our anonymous Secret Stories series.
My story starts, really, about four years ago, when I was sixteen. Or, really, the experiences that I’m going through now were properly seeded at that time, but my whole life has really been leading towards this point.
I was bullied for years in school, felt like a bad person and an ugly girl, and had an eating disorder (which I only realised later) from when I was about twelve to when I was seventeen or so. I still use food to punish myself sometimes, so I don’t let myself think about it. But that’s not the point, although it does explain some of my actions.
When I was about sixteen I had a traumatising experience that I never really accepted; I was away from home and had some inappropriate contact forced on me – not that I was raped or anything, but this was my first experience of sexuality, and needless to say it was damaging. On top of a very rocky relationship with my father and a destructive relationship with my first boyfriend, it shaped my ideas of men to be fairly unhealthy and damaging ones. Then I met Sam.
I met him when I had just broken up with my previous boyfriend, who emotionally manipulated me the whole year we were together and tried to for a long time after. For the first couple of months, Sam was everything I could have hoped for: funny, intelligent, generous, loving. I can’t really pinpoint the date that it started to change, but I still see him as that affectionate boy even now.
Sam started to get really impatient with me when we had been together about six months; there was some trouble with friends of mine who were bitching about me to him behind my back, and instead of questioning him about why they thought it was okay to do it, I abandoned my friends (though they were never very supportive or inclusive to begin with).
I began to feel like an outsider, and the depression I had been suffering from for years began to get worse and worse. Sam used it as a tool to manipulate me with; my fear that he would leave me, and that I would be alone, was so obvious that he knew I would do whatever he wanted.
I think on a level he enjoyed making me suffer. He must have some insecurity issues of his own, I understand now, but at the time I just felt guilty and inadequate. He was very close friends with a girl he knew from college and would often tell me, “If you weren’t so great I’d break up with you to go out with Sadhbh.”
All in all, it was a period of chronic insecurity and instability on my part, and when we eventually did break up (after him asking me to move in with him) I was heartbroken and could barely function. I stopped eating, leaving the house, socialising. It got worse when I found out he had been cheating on me with Sadhbh before we broke up, and that they were together afterward. For months he lied to me about his relationship with her, and to her about his relationship with me, and would keep getting with the pair of us while we both continued to love him unconditionally.
I haven’t the faintest idea what motivated him other than sincere confusion, or insecurity, but both of us girls ended up the worse for it, feeling inadequate and bitter. I don’t think he really cared about the damage he caused by comparing us to each other, or by telling me it was my fault we’d broken up because I was depressed, or by other acts of needless cruelty and blatant indifference to both of our emotions; although he’s changed a lot since then. I tried to leave it behind, and this is where it gets tricky.
Instead of becoming a healthy, fully-functional adult, I threw myself into college and work, got drunk whenever the opportunity arose, and slept with near strangers. I tried to have a relationship with someone else once or twice, but in the back of my mind ran the refrain, “If you go out with (blank), you can’t go out with Sam, and Sadhbh will have him, and he’ll forget about you,” on top of my fear that any relationship will inevitably end in pain and anguish.
Most recently, I met an amazing guy who I do really care about, who I love despite not being in love with him, and I freaked out the same as usual. I cheated on him with Sam, and then with another person who I’ve known for a long time. I broke it off with him by explaining what is really the truth about my fear of relationships. He doesn’t know about the cheating, and I hope he never finds out, because he thinks the reason we broke up is that he isn’t good enough for me.
He blames himself and I’m worried he’ll get depressed about it (he has a history of it) and feel miserable, and knowing that I was with someone else could only make it worse. He won’t talk to me now. I want to apologise to him, and to the younger, more innocent version of myself for allowing myself to become so desensitised and cruel. I can’t tell him what happened because it’s all over now, and it would cause him such needless hurt, but selfishly I suppose I want to get it off my chest, because I feel so guilty and sad for the person I’ve become, so here it is.