Holy shiz, yesterday was Big Mouth’s first year anniversary. Time continues to mystify me.
I started this blog shortly after my wedding was called off and I returned home from Europe. The first post was both an apology and a goodbye letter — an apology because I felt like I fucked a lot of people over in my runaway bridehood and a goodbye letter because I would soon sprint back to Europe under the guise of needing to “find myself” — the empty claim of every 20-something runaway ever.
I wasn’t as candid then as I am now and there’s finally enough distance for me to be honest about what happened.
Here’s the explanation I gave in my first post:
“As most of you know, I bought a one-way ticket to Barcelona after my engagement to Dustin was called off. What you don’t know (but may have guessed) is that the abruptness with which the latter occurred was completely my fault. To my friends and family, it looked like another impulsive 180 degree switch on my part. It looked like a manifestation of Borderline Personality Disorder. Dusty and I were about to live a punk-ass version of the American dream. We moved to a small town, enrolled in school, got jobs, had a nice house, stability, etc. and then I went to Europe and everything collapsed.”
Here’s the truth: A year and a few weeks ago, I attended a two-week writing conference in Lisbon, Portugal. A few weeks before that, my fiance and I had moved to Duluth, where we would soon get married and — *gasp* — start a family. I had warned Dustin repeatedly about my aversion to monogamy, but he wasn’t having it and I decided to sacrifice outside desires for the sake of stability. It didn’t work out for me. Two days into my Lisbon trip, I was ready to pounce on my AirBnb host, whose late-night movie choices (Vicky Christina Barcelona, etc.) made it painfully clear that the sexual attraction was mutual.
Ashamed, I immediately told Dustin about my blossoming lust for my Portuguese AirBnb host. He wasn’t happy about it. I told him I wanted to hold my host’s hand and maybe kiss him and maybe, just maybe, I was 100% struggling not to have sex with him. Dustin, feeling trapped by my unceasing desires, finally caved, telling me to “just fuck him and get it out of my system,” though I know he hoped I had enough respect for the relationship to resist.
I had sex with my host — a lot of it — and once I started, I couldn’t stop. I flew from Lisbon to Barcelona and had sex with three men in four nights; first a Spaniard, then an Italian, and finally a Frenchman who said he could rape me on a bridge. I couldn’t stop drinking, either. The two went hand-in-hand. My sober self was modest and discriminating. My drunk self was a chaos-seeking slut. My drunk self slurred through late nights at El Puerto in Barcelona, where hoards of travelers and tourists gathered to play music and fuck each other and piss under bridges until eight the next morning. My sober self said things like, “I wasn’t that drunk last night,” which my Italian friends would counter with, “You could hardly stand up. You were wasted and flirting with everyone.” I told them they were full of shit, refusing to face it. Facing that would mean facing Dustin and his furious family and my furious brother and my furious friends. Facing it would mean confronting my growing urge to kill myself.
I’m going to stop here and share my journal entry from July 13, 2015. It was addressed to Dustin.
“I haven’t written in three days. I’m sorry. I’ve been living in a dream world, caught in the romanticized vision of a European summer. This way of life is not sustainable. People party so hard and stay out so late, even on Sundays.
I walked for about six hours yesterday, with no destination in mind. The streets smell like piss. I’ve been doing this thing where I measure my self-worth based on how much attention I get from men when I’m walking down the street and when they don’t look at me, I feel empty and purposeless. That’s where a lot of this (my desire to fuck other people) stems from. I was gaining weight (while dating Dustin) and feeling disgusting and unwanted in my body and the new male attention revived my self-esteem in admittedly hollow ways.
People just want to fuck. I could be anyone — they just want what’s between my legs. I’m nothing special. Just another woman.
After my walk, I napped and then went to the port, where a group of Cubans lured me in and had me watch the Cuban music by the water. They were extremely aggressive and kept touching me and trying to make me dance. I scooted close to another girl — a redheaded Russian who told me that her ex-husband jumped off a building and died after their divorce. I went home miserable.”
** Quick side note: Later that night, I went to a grunge bar in El Raval (a hipster-ish neighborhood in Barcelona) and sent Dustin a Facebook message saying that I didn’t want to come home.
“I woke up to your Facebook announcement (he announced that the wedding was off) and went completely numb. I’m humiliated. Von said he would be there to talk to me but couldn’t promise that he wouldn’t cry, which then made me cry.
I’m disgusted with myself. I sometimes think I’m doing better, that the mental illness has been cured and life is good and stable, and then it blows up. I blow it up. I get so fucking scared. I switch. I’m wondering if the doctor was right about me being bipolar, especially after your mania comment.
I’m trying to make sense of what’s happened. I know I wasn’t well when I left. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it was the relapse or the lack of therapy or what. I’m not trying to feel sorry for myself. I’m angry at myself — angry that I pretended to be okay and didn’t seek help earlier.
I wanted to stay in Europe to see if I could be a whole person on my own. I was tempted by the idea of freedom. They say it again and again here: “Be free! Be free!” This isn’t freedom. I am a slave to the men who give me sexual attention. I sacrifice who I am for them. Who the fuck am I?
I am the problem. I lose people because of my own behaviors, not because people have done anything to hurt me. It happens again and again and again.
It’s hard to hear how difficult I am to be with, but you aren’t the first to say it.
I am a disappointment. I know this.”
Jesus, writing these words again feels like curling up on hot coals, though I know I’m not living that life anymore. It feels like ages ago. It feels like this morning. It feels like something I try really hard not to think about because it hurts too bad to remember how many people I’ve hurt.
After utterly destroying myself in Barcelona for three days, I flew home and spent three nights with Dustin in Duluth. One morning, we had breakup sex and he came inside me almost immediately. He later said, “If you’re pregnant, you have to come home and have this baby with me.” I crossed my fingers til my knuckles cracked that it wouldn’t happen.
Dustin wasn’t perfect, either. I know now that it’s a blessing the wedding was called off, even if the circumstances were fucked up. But, really, how often are weddings called off without some sort of shitty catalyzing event? I’m not a statistician, but I’m guessing the numbers are slim.
I tried my best to clean up my mess and then returned to Barcelona on August 3, 2015, mostly out of cowardice. I went back to Chicago on September 23rd. What happened between those dates will stay between those dates, at least for now. You can find a lot of it on this blog, but it’s too much for one post. Suffice to say, I stopped drinking on September 23rd for very good reason. I haven’t touched booze since.
I’m writing this post because it’s a reminder that people can and do change, especially addicted people who choose to get sober. My life is still chaotic (I’m a chaos addict, certainly), but I haven’t made promises I can’t keep around weddings or long-term relationships or monogamy. I’ve been in three relationships this year, all of which have failed, but they’ve failed when and because they were supposed to. And I have accepted their failures, rather than trying to superglue the broken pieces back together to form Frankenstein relationships. Cuz, really, what’s the fucking point? Why stay in a miserable partnership with someone who screams at you in the street? Who pulls your hair in public? Who cracks your fucking windshield and rips the handle off your passenger side door and accuses you of not loving them?
Here’s why: We’re all scared shitless. We’re afraid of the self-hatred that sings us to sleep at night. We’re afraid of our own light, so we look to lovers to help us carry it. We lose the ability to lift ourselves up. We lose personal power.
(We’re lost daughters in search of daddies.)
I know there are exceptions to this. I know there are people who embrace singlehood, who scream “FUCK YOU” to the men who leave them on street corners at four am, who block phone numbers and turn cheeks and rise repeatedly from the fucking ashes of their mistreated selves. I wish I was one of them. I wish I refused to play games with manipulative, egotistical fucks who get off on using people. I want to be a badass. I want to stop chasing after the boys who push me on the playground and spit in my hair and call me names.
There will be a follow up to this post in a few days, probably about insecure attachment styles and trauma cycles around abusive relationships and about the awful oscillation between self-hatred and narcissism, but, for now, I want to return to Big Mouth post numero uno.
At the end of said post, I wrote a list of things I hoped to accomplish upon my return to Europe. I managed to cross a few things off the list while fucking my way through Italy, Spain, and Corsica, but the real work started at home. It started with getting sober, moving in with my goddamn parents, staying abstinent for four months, completing a dickton of therapy, and writing my little heart out. Today, I’ve worked through most of what I was struggling with last year, accomplishing almost every goal on my list, save for the book-writing.
From “One Week Left…:”
- Learn how to love myself, not just occasionally.
- Learn self-sufficiency.
- Learn how to be trustworthy again.
- Practice being honest before shit hits the fan.
- Learn how to say no.
- Figure out how to set and maintain boundaries.
- Learn how to validate myself without using men or sex or self-objectification.
- Stop acting. Start being true.
- Stop putting so much stock in money and materialism. (Wow, that’s a stupid pun).
- Learn how to be alone. Sit with it. Revel in it. Deal with it.
- Stop trying to impress other people.
- Be less judgmental.
- And, for the love of God, write this goddamn book I’ve been working on for three years.
Jesus, my life is so much better now. To quote my hipster guilty pleasure band, Tame Impala: “They say people never change but that’s bullshit. They do.”
They really, REALLY do.
Okay, cool. I’ve been working my naked tush off on essays for school, but I’ll be back with that follow up post in a few days. For now, I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my piece about Barcelona, aptly called “El Puerto.” Perhaps I will someday finish and publish it. Today is not that day. Here y’are:
“The port is home for the forever homeless, for those who refuse to acknowledge the passage of time, for those who turn weeks into a single night. It leaves you with an unceasing appetite for that first high, when the songs were unfamiliar, the faces were fresh, and the hangover an isolated experience. When the magic dies and the first fuck fades, you’ll go back for more. You’ll sit on the same steps, maybe ten meters to the left. You’ll hear the same songs, maybe with a new saxophonist. You’ll see the same people, maybe a new traveler from Switzerland. You’ll go home with a new man, maybe with a bigger dick, maybe uncircumcised, but he’ll fuck you in the same position. You’ll wake up hungover again. Your yellow dress will be filthy, your face shined with sweat, your knees cut and muddy, your thighs stained with bruises.
You swear that tomorrow, you’ll tell the drunken Frenchman to fuck off. But the next time darkness falls, you’ll hope he calls again. You’ll check your phone once, twice, three times. You’ll try to engage with your friends from your other universe — the one where people have jobs and dreams and who fall asleep at normal times and don’t wake up hungover and self-hating — but then you’ll feel your feet walking in his direction. You’ll try to find him. You’ll try to cure emptiness with more emptiness.
The morning’s hangover is the evening’s drunk. The cycle repeats itself, ad infinitum. The girls remain holes with soft lips. The men remain vibrators with wandering hands. The songs remain white noise. The beer remains piss. The pills remain placebos. The sun sets over the same sails, the same steps, the same patch of grass, and when it rises, it all looks like shit. You’re nothing but cum-stained cretins.
You are an actress. You are yesterday’s lunch.
(You’re a five-year-old girl, still sucking her thumb.)
Maybe someday you’ll learn that it’s not the booze, it’s how you drink it. It’s not the sex, it’s who you fuck. It’s not humanity, it’s the company you keep.
And maybe the next time someone asks why you’ve chosen to live like this, you’ll have the answer: You are trying to survive by walking backwards with closed eyes.”