color key — blue: mental health; yellow: relationships; green: self-reflection. contrast of light and dark correlates with bright and somber tones of voice.

Putting Yourself First

Putting Yourself First

Putting Yourself First

Putting Yourself First

I wanted to leave the town I was in. High school had been overtly angsty and inclusion/acceptance was something I had been seeking from an early age. Even though my mother was nothing but supportive, male figures had been lacking my entire life and for some reason, that was who I was seeking validation from.

We first met when I was twelve and he was dating my 17-year-old stepsister. She dated a lot, so this was no different to meeting any of her previous or future boyfriends. 

Four years later, he contacted me via the internet. I was 16 and was nearing the end of year 11, halfway through finishing my art major. His mum had an exhibition coming up in the city that they lived and he had asked if I wanted to help set it up. It was out of the blue, but what a great weekend escape and opportunity to visit somewhere I hadn’t been.

Fast forward a year of a heart-breaking secret relationship in which:

I had lost my stepsister’s ‘love’ and talking rights to anyone we mutually knew (which was 90% of the people I knew). I had attempted to contact my father, only to be openly disowned in front of his colleagues and become apparently nonexistent, as he ‘didn’t have a daughter.’ I lost my virginity and assumed that would bring a loving and unbreakable bond in the relationship, only to find out he was with different girls on the weekends I wasn’t visiting.

The one girl I found out about was younger than me I met her sitting opposite me in a group of people I had considered friends. She was sitting on the lounge and I was on the floor, he was acting completely normal in that I didn’t seem like his ‘girlfriend’ to anyone who didn’t know, just as she didn’t either. It’s wasn’t until he offered her a drink and their knees were in close proximity that I saw the similarity in their bruises. He had taken her virginity on the floor I was sitting on last night, I had arrived on the bus that morning. 

Not being able to make sense of it, I waited until we left. On the way back to his place, holding hands now that we were out of sight from people he knew, I asked who the new girl was. He simply told me her name and mentioned that he thought we would be great friends. After some silence he told me he had something to confess, he’d kissed the new girl. I felt sick and wanted to go home, book a bus that instant and leave. But he assured me that that was it and there was nothing to worry about. So I stayed through the weekend and whatever we did, she was invited. It was so uncomfortable and when it was finally time to leave, I cried the entire bus trip home. It took a week, but I’d decided that was it,I didn’t want anything to do with him.

Three months later, I moved in with him. He’d contacted and explained he didn’t realise what he’d lost until I cut him out. 

Five years later and we were married. I still don’t know how I did it. I remember downing a bottle of spirits to gain the courage to walk down the aisle. Obviously there were happy times, but I never trusted him and everyone would always state how lucky he was to have such a lovely partner. 

The entire year after the wedding I felt trapped and suffocated, without realising I felt trapped and suffocated. I was physically healthy, eating and exercising like people wish they could. Yet, my skin was covered in rashes and breakouts like you wouldn’t believe. I even gave myself shingles with all the internal stress I couldn’t voice. My body was trying to tell me how depressed I was, but I wasn’t listening.

Seven years into the relationship I called it quits. We had an open conversation and I explained how unhappy I was and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t trust him. His own friends told me how he spoke to girls when they were away on trips. We both cried, but I felt relief. 

We lived in the same house until the lease ran out. He would see other people, our agreement was as long as they weren’t in our friend circle and he didn’t bring them to this house, it was fine. 

Of course the agreement was broken and we had to start telling people. Everyone was so confused and so disgustingly sorry for me. As if I was obviously the one getting screwed over and this must have been his decision. I couldn’t care less about explaining the truth to people, only the few I considered actual friends. 

It’s difficult when everyone pities you, yet you’re at the strongest you’ve ever been. It’s also difficult when he can do whatever he wants, but when you find the love of your life, he tries to derail it.

It’s difficult to put yourself first, but when you do, there is nothing else like it.

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