The cave you fear to enter…

Part One

Följande inlägg av Lovisa Rydén är skrivet på engelska, då detta är språket som hon främst använder i sin roll som författare. Användandet av ett (för inläggen på RSMH:s blogg) nytt språk görs i förhoppningen att nå ut till fler personer med psykisk ohälsa.  

TRIGGERVARNING: Texten innehåller berättelser om sexuella övergrepp.

There are monsters among us. Cold, dark creatures that suck the joy from our limbs isolate us in rooms full of people and tell us we aren’t good enough right after we cross the finish line. They are made from silence, from truths unspoken. They follow us around, reminding us of the secrets we carry, constantly whispering about how they define us, about how others will judge us, and slowly convince us that we are the monsters. 

Before I begin the main story of this post, I will let anyone reading this know that this post will be triggering. It probably will be triggering for me too, but I figured, why not live a little? I’ve been a little bored lately, and there is nothing like trauma to make you feel that you’re alive! Jokes aside, if you are having anxiety or feeling depressed, or if you are triggered by sexual assault, this might not be the post for you. This does not mean that I’m planning on describing details or aiming for this to be a dark post, but I know enough about triggers to give you a fair warning.  

When I was a teenager, I fell in love with a boy that was a few years older than me. In the beginning, the relationship was great (as all these stories go), and it was a really healthy relationship. He was a really good guy who genuinely loved me. He is probably one of the few I’ve been with that actually loved me for me – there is no one better at sarcasm than the universe. It was good for a long time, but as these stories go, it didn’t last. When my illness changed from cyclothymia to bipolar type II, I lost control. He (like all teenagers) had a bunch of crappy behaviours, and my mania (which I call myself when I’m manic because I am not my illness) came down on them like the curse of Cain. Considering my knowledge of psychology and human behaviour, he didn’t stand a chance. I became severely mentally abusive. I was fighting to stop, but because I had never been sick this way before, I could do even less than I had been able to before. And when I lost control, he lost his mind. 

 For most of my life, I remembered the rest of the story in the following way. I was constantly trying to find ways to manage my illness. The only way I knew how to stop was to program my brain, never to harm anyone I knew in any way, including self-defence. This was obviously problematic because programming my brain that way meant that I wouldn’t be able to decide whether to defend myself or not. It was basically like putting a block over any harm/defence-reaction inside my mind. But eventually, things became so bad that I did just that. I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing. It worked for a while, but as his behaviour declined further, my mania’s behaviour seemed to become psychopathic for no reason and tortured him emotionally in a way that I never imagined I could. He became suicidal, I became suicidal, I tried to end my life, and eventually, our relationship ended in chaos and mayhem in the style of nutcrackery. Today, I’m thankful that we both got out alive. 

In the following years, I would medicate my body to the point of being injured in desperate attempts to find the right treatment. Anything to make sure my illness could never affect anyone like that ever again. It took about seven years, but in the end, I became so well medicated that I’m almost entirely stable now. During these years, I began to develop behaviours that I didn’t understand, including several phobias that I had never had before. My agoraphobia and social phobia became so bad that I wouldn’t leave the apartment unless I had to and couldn’t be home alone for long on my own. I also developed facial blindness, which meant I couldn’t recognize people I knew when I saw them in situations I didn’t expect to see them. I have walked straight by so many people I know that I’m still too scared to look at people when I’m out walking just in case it would happen again. My previous fear of heights became so bad that I could barely walk on the top floor of houses I hadn’t been in before if the floor was made of wood, and my fear of deep water (and things in it) even made it hard to swim in swimming pools. Logic and phobias have a complicated relationship, don’t they? I had always been an extrovert, and although I wasn’t prone to stupidly try dangerous things, I had never been afraid of the world. At this point, I was hiding indoors so that no car could hit me, and I even stopped seeing old friends because of my social phobia. I couldn’t understand it; I could only hide. The other strange behaviour that I had developed was in regard to sex. As before, I still didn’t sleep around, have one-night stands, or do anything sexual outside of a relationship (it’s just the way I am), but for some odd reason, I stopped caring about sensitive photos. Nothing graphic, of course, but the fact that it didn’t bother me confused me. It felt like I was just sending a picture of my room that someone had asked for. It wasn’t like I sent them to half the country, the number wasn’t high by any means, but considering how conservative I had always been about sex, the fact that I didn’t mind sending them to the people I did was odd to me even back then. The third area of strange shifts in behaviour was in regard to saying no. I stopped being able to say no to 80% of the things I wanted to say no to in every aspect of life. I have always been one of those obnoxiously stubborn know-it-alls that wouldn’t change their minds if God himself asked them to, but out of nowhere, my voice was gone. My defences were down, and there was no one and nothing to protect me from danger. I knew it, and so did all the wrong people.  

My following relationships can be summarized as one toxic and/or abusive relationship after the other. In the end, I began to date a guy who had (undiagnosed) anti-social personality disorder on the lower part of the spectrum. I didn’t mind because I figured that it might make him less capable of being hurt if my illness would somehow go insane again since I didn’t know why it had the last time. Long story short, the relationship ended up being just as bad as you probably expect, and he ended up being one of the most mentally abusive people I have ever known. When he became jealous and was too proud to talk about it, he spent two years breaking me down, and in the end, he owned me. I’m pretty sure that he would’ve been able to persuade me to jump off the balcony of our flat if he had wanted to. One of the areas I couldn’t say no within was (obviously) sex. Difficult for most people at one point or another, but it’s even harder when you are falling down the rabbit hole, while the person who is meant to love you is the one ripping away any safe landing over and over again. One night after a party, he wanted to do something that ended up hurting me. I had unsurprisingly agreed to do it, but at this point, he was using the fact that I couldn’t disappoint him in any way he could to get what he wanted. He would rationalize it by saying that I should just be able to say no, and if I didn’t, that was on me because I had agreed. This clearly becomes beyond ridiculous in the shadow of the five years we’d been together, during which I had never been able to speak up for myself properly and during which he’d been making the problem significantly worse by breaking down my identity through manipulation, neglect, and coercive control. His reaction to the fact that I got hurt was, unsurprisingly, not what it should have been. The lack of remorse to the fact that he had hurt me and that he chuckled as if he thought I was cute when he finally bothered to react to it disgusted me to the core. Despite all the brainwashing, I knew that what had happened was wrong and that he had crossed the line. When you love someone, you stop if they get hurt. Hell, even if you dislike a person, you stop if they get hurt. So what if they had agreed in the first place? It’s called being a decent human being. It isn’t a grey area, and it isn’t rocket science. Instead, he decided that he just wanted to do what he wanted to do and used the fact that I’d say yes to anything. My well-being didn’t matter. Somewhere in the back of my mind, a nuclear explosion went off. I could see all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, explaining things that had never made sense as the world crumbled around me, and the blast turned who I was into dust. 

Remember how I had tried to save Ex nr 1 of this text, and it worked for a while but then got completely out of control? How I fought for years to make sure my mania could never get out of control again? How I changed in bizarre ways, and how I had begun to accept the unacceptable because I couldn’t say no? Well, it turns out that the universe had decided to rip out a few pages of the book of my life and reschedule the issue to a later date. The real story was different. Significantly and horrifically different. In 2019, two months after the current boyfriend had triggered the latent PTSD-bomb that had been lying in the back of my mind, I had my first introduction to the real story. Short version: flashbacks really suck. You don’t know how long they last in real life; all you know is that life just picked you up, pulled you out of the real world, and dropped you into the worst nightmarish moments of your life. You can’t get away, and you can’t change anything; all you can do is relive it; act after act, moment by moment, feeling by feeling, over and over. As if the devil had been studying Shakespeare but didn’t grasp the whole story-aspect, became bored and made a b-level PowerPoint presentation of his favourite moments in hell, playing it on repeat. 10% of me was aware that I was lying in my bed because I could feel the sheets, but the rest of me was back there, in the flat, saying that I didn’t want to, and fighting to protect myself but being unable to. Unable to because I had programmed myself that way to save the monster that was destroying everything I was.  

Part Two of Lovisa’s story is released on the 14th of February.



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