This is a reflection piece — not just for myself, but for her. For that reason, I’ll be writing it to her. She was the main character in Love Yourself.
I’m a rollercoaster
You’re a dead-end street
But won’t you stay for awhile?
I wish that you’d never leave
I have it figured out. Mostly. Maybe. At least more than last time. I just read through our Twitter DMs from last year, and as dumb as it feels to see 29-year-old me lay claim to the self-control I ended up not really having, I see it all more clearly now with the luxury of time and space.
I used to say you felt like a drug to me. I said it to you, I said it to Ryan, I’ve said it in therapy. And while, yes, I have written about being addicted to intimacy in general, there has been no one quite as potent as you.
ChatGPT, explain trauma bonding like I’m 5:
Alright, imagine you have a special toy that you really love and play with all the time. But one day, something bad happens, and the toy breaks. You feel very sad and scared because you lost something you care about.
Now, imagine someone comes and gives you a new toy to replace the broken one. They are nice to you and make you feel better, like a superhero saving the day. You start to feel a connection with this person because they were there when you were feeling really upset.
But here’s the tricky part: sometimes, this person can also be mean or hurt you, just like the toy broke before. But you still remember the nice things they did for you, so you keep wanting to be close to them and make them happy, hoping they will be nice again.
Okay, that tracks. I met you during the throes of Peyton grief in early 2019. The remainder of that year held the worst of our crimes. In 2020, during a period of anger and fresh betrayal, I wrote that scathing piece detailing you as a narcissist and holding you responsible for making me feel crazy. Below that piece is the predecessor I’d written 2.5 months earlier, which walks the reader through a long and emotional monologue about hating myself. The next year, in 2021, we rekindled after I got dumped, fell apart again, and grew a bit in the process. Last year, we tried and failed one last time after my Virgo-inspired meltdown and made the most progress we ever have.
We’re well into 2023, and it’s been about 8 months since I blocked you on everything yet again and demanded that we stay apart for “a long, long time”. I even deleted your number, assuming you probably wouldn’t block me back.
In the early months of this year, I joined your friend’s community as she started to stream more and more. I could only assume what you thought about that — it really didn’t feel like it had anything to do with you, but I still found reasons to justify it. Consciously, I felt protective of her and things you’d told me about her, and that made me want to support her. Subconsciously, I probably just wanted to stay close to you in some way.
I never had any intentions of making contact with you, but inevitably, you’d appear in her chat. Most nights, I pretended you weren’t there, but one night, I whispered you to tell you to listen to Gracie’s album (I wonder if you ever did — it feels so perfectly written for our perspectives, hence this piece being sprinkled with her lyrics). Another night, I decided to gift you a sub as a gesture, writing in chat “reminder that I don’t hate you”. If I hated anything, maybe, it was the choice you made — not you. Specifically, the choice to stay silent as I pleaded with you to speak to me during a period of major emotional chaos. But I didn’t hate you then and I don’t hate you now. I don’t even really hate that choice anymore, and that’ll make more sense in a minute.
Well, do you think we could talk?
’Cause I’ve been tryin’ to tell you
How you’re the one that I turn to, mm
But I should probably stop
Instead of forcin’ a breakthrough
It’s just that I’ll always choose you
I’ve been focused on myself this year more than ever before and have made huge strides in self-care. For the most part, I’ve completely invested in my health, my family, my future and career — something you’ve committed to doing for yourself for awhile — with maybe a few “distractions” here and there. Plus, your friend eventually stopped streaming, and that little connection I had left to you faded away.
And yet, I’ve still found myself craving your presence in particular moments. I feel like I can best describe it by comparing it to something else. I remember when I had those six procedures on my eyes. The recovery was so agonizing, and I experienced that feeling of Percocet taking the edge off as a special kind of high (way more intoxicating, for example, than a dose when I wasn’t really in pain). And somehow, in these particular moments of pain or emptiness, the thought of laying down next to you — in silence, platonically — seems as powerful as that Percocet high. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve long been aware of this spell I’m under, but I could never quite explain it. How could someone who once hurt me so badly feel like the only cure for my heartache?
Note: None of this article I’m about to link is an attack or meant to be. You will see the words ‘narcissist’ and ‘abuse’. Please know that it’s only meant to reference how we ended up here — not who you are.
Why Do Trauma Bonds Feel Like an Addiction?
Society often questions the credibility of victims of abuse who choose to stay in their invalidating, devaluing…
I’m a forest fire
You’re the kerosene
I had a life here before you
But now it’s burnin’
I know I know better
And you’re ignorin’ me
Still, if you asked me to run away
I’d go easily
We’ll always have our initial connection and whirlwind romance. But you didn’t bond to me the way that I bonded to you. And so when we rekindled time and time again, you could never feel the same intense way I did — as much as I tried to will it to be at times. Our circumstances formed a one-way bond, and for the past 3 years, that bond has kept us from being the friends we would otherwise be. We made a noble, concerted effort to overcome our past without even really understanding what was in our way.
We can probably never be normal. It sucks. It sucks because there’s more between us than just my dopamine-fueled attachment and your loyalty to me. There’s history and two people who genuinely care about each other’s well-being. It sucks to force myself to accept that it’s too dangerous to even try. Is it really? I ask myself in this moment. I don’t want it to be. Can this bond be broken without full sobriety or the cleanest cut? Is there a way for us to be without needing you to nurse this wound and burden yourself with that responsibility?
If we were to ever make another concerted effort, not only would our friends probably admit us somewhere, but I would likely always crave more. It’s hard to imagine that changing — it’s chemical after all. Do you just avoid all of your cravings or do you face them and learn to manage them? I remember in 2019 when things fell apart between you and her, and I longed for one more exhilirating weekend with you before I fled SF. The desperate pursuit of that feeling never went away — I’ve only smothered it to the best of my ability. No one meant for it to unfold this way, but it did. No one saw this particular bond developing or how to stop it. Shit happened and we have both grown so much along the way.
And like always, two things can be true at once: I see a real connection between us, and I see an unbreakable bond. I want a healthy friendship with you, and I want the feeling you give me. That paradox has tormented us for years.
I’m a shameless caller
You’re a full machine
But won’t you answer tonight
And say somethin’ nice to me?
And you don’t have to mean it
You can lie to me
But if you asked me to run away
I’d go easily
My therapist (a new one, a BPD and addiction specialist who doubles as my psychiatrist and has been wonderful these past 5 months) says that to make amends as an addict, you do it for yourself — not the recipient.
In Twelve Step recovery from alcohol or other drug addiction, a direct amend refers to the act of personally addressing issues with people who have been harmed by our behavior or our treatment of them as a result of addiction. As outlined in Steps 8 and 9, the practice involves going back to those individuals to acknowledge the harm or hurt we have caused them and demonstrating our changed behaviors in order to provide them with the opportunity to heal.
Here is my best attempt at sharing my amends, putting aside all the events and how/why we got here:
I almost lost it
I’ll heal eventually
But faster if you’re next to me, next to me
But I’m tryin’ hard not to be
I’m better when you’re next to me, next to me
I take responsibility for how I acted throughout the entire course of our relationship, but especially throughout our last attempt. I felt your genuine effort. I didn’t understand the feelings and chemicals driving my behaviors, even though I sensed them and observed them. I couldn’t figure out my expectations, and they only grew and grew until you could no longer meet them. It was on me to manage those expectations and be prepared for however things unfolded. I could write out reason by reason why I behaved the way I did, but I’ve grasped that reasons don’t entitle me to behaviors. It all makes sense when I think about my dad. It doesn’t matter how triggered he claims he feels — that doesn’t entitle him to be unapologetically abusive. Framing it that way reminds me to stay the course even in the face of triggers, suffocating emotions, relationship complexity, and so on.
My therapist often says this line about people with BPD: “there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just not built for this world”. In ways, that actually empowers my deep-seated victim mentality. I’ve said some something similar a dozen times before: not being built for this world feels like an unfair punishment and a storm I shouldn’t have to weather. But, a lot of people are dealt a losing hand, and they still find a way. I know the strength I need to muster to play this hand right.
I’m sorry I didn’t have it figured out. I’m sorry I didn’t have the strength. I’m sorry for not really knowing how to fully break the bond. I’m sorry for the impact I’ve had on you and our relationship. I would like to amend my behavior.
To close part 2, I’ll say this: there’s no one out there I’m rooting for more than you. To succeed, to grow, to find peace, to learn to love yourself. I always will.