Sometimes, darkness is easier than light.

Some time back I posited: Do men cause clinical depression? After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve come to believe the answer is, yes. When I say I believe my relationship with Mack caused my depression, I don’t mean I was sad about the relationship being over. I wasn’t. I wanted it to be over. I wanted him out of my life. Completely. Out. But being involved with an abusive asshole for a year, and the energy it took to perform the mental gymnastics necessary to not acknowledge the abuse and throw him out, the amount of energy it took to deny reality, wore me down. Wore me out. The tentacles wrapped around my legs, slithered up my waist and around my neck, and slowly pulled me deeper and deeper into the black depths of nothingness. I wasn’t hunkering down in my home all weekend because I was too sad to face the world. I just didn’t give a shit. I couldn’t be bothered. The thought of being around people seemed like so much work. Why go to all that trouble? And while I cried, I had no idea what I was crying about. I wasn’t crying about him. I was just crying. I was crying because I felt overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the weight of it all. The weight of all what? The weight of choosing such an unhealthy partner, yet again. The weight of my fucked up, dysfunctional childhood, haunting me, still. The childhood that presses me, over and over again, to choose men who are abusive. Each one, a different flavor.

First, there was Joe. Joe was physically abusive. I was in my twenties, and he was fifteen years older. And my boss. Yes, I was in a bit of a pickle, getting out of that one. Eventually, I ended it. Or tried to. He stalked me in all the classic ways. Repeated phone calls, gifts (flowers, jewelry, a bag of panties on my doorstep), parking outside my apartment and watching my place, watching for a sign of me. Parking behind my car in the morning so I couldn’t leave for work without engaging with him. Going to my parents’ home and telling them how much he loved me, could they talk some sense into me? Attempting to break into my apartment at night. Terrified, I called 911. Looking back, I see how close I was to becoming a domestic violence statistic. (Approximately 1,500 women are killed each year by husbands or boyfriends. About 2 million men per year beat their partners, according to the F.B.I.) Oddly, he never threatened my job to keep me in line. Later I would find out they knew he had been abusing me. A co-worker had called human resources. So he couldn’t touch me at work. Eventually, after he was asked to leave, he found a job in a city 250 miles away. The stalking stopped. Mostly. He still sent letters for quite some time. And over the holidays a few years back (and twenty years later), he called my mother, said he was in town and would like to see me. She told him I’d moved to another city and didn’t give him my number.

Then there was Daryl, whom I met on eHarmony. Yes, eHarmony. He looked terrific on paper, which allowed him to slip through their 258-question screening application. Turns out this tall, handsome, blonde, charming, West Point/Berkeley graduate was a sex addict, pedophile, and diagnosed narcissist. (I find it disconcerting that eHarmony thought we matched on 29 levels of compatibility.) And he was sexually abusive. I won’t talk about those eleven months, here. They’re too dark; still too painful. Even five years later. I will say that several years after it ended he called to tell me the police had broken down the door of his condo with a warrant. They were looking for child porn. He was proud they found nothing. My guess is, it’s on his computer at his office. He called to tell me he thought it might have been me who tipped off the police. It wasn’t. But still I worry about his young niece whom he babysat from time to time. I should have reported him. She’d be around eight, now.

And, of course, my latest flavor of abusive partner was Mack. In comparison to Joe and Daryl, Mack didn’t seem so bad. Annie (my therapist) said, when I told myself, “This isn’t that bad,” that should have been a flaming red flag. Looking back on things, the cycle of abuse was the same. The only thing different was that the abuse was psychological and emotional, rather than physical or sexual. (If you’d like to read more about that, have a look at this post: I think now I’ve experienced every type of abuser there is. And the good news: I made it out alive, and I’ve never had a repeat of any discrete type of abuser.

Yes, abusive childhoods fuck you up. But when I compare myself to my siblings, I feel lucky. All three, a sister and two brothers, are alcoholics. My brothers have been in and out of rehab more times than I can count. My eldest brother is like a cat, cheating death time and time again. Most people would make the most of the second, third, and fourth chances. I guess when you’re dodging so much pain, and you’ve never gotten help with it, second chances don’t seem like such a gift. My other brother, 2.5 years older than me, currently is detoxing in the hospital. He recently was diagnosed with mouth cancer (caused in part, no doubt, by all the smoking and drinking), and was supposed to be getting radiation. Instead, he drank himself into oblivion, fell at home, and hit his head. His son, who doesn’t live with him, but who happened to stop by, found him nearly unconscious on the sofa, blood all over the floor, vodka bottles strewn about. He got four pints of blood. The doctor said if his son hadn’t found him when he did, he would have died. As the doctors were working to stabilize him from the blood loss, the alcohol withdrawals began. He’s in restraints and there’s a nurse in his room at all times. If he won’t go to rehab when he’s ready to leave the hospital, it seems they might force the issue. After all, he is a danger to himself. Even if he does another stint in rehab, unless he at long last looks under that big black rock, there’s bound to be a repeat.

Yes, Mack didn’t seem so bad. But, of course, he was. Oh the clarity that comes with emerging from depression. Sometimes the dark pit seems better than shining a light on reality.

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