Yangshuo, China 2011

This morning, I woke up with an email from my ex after nearly four years of silence. The email was full of self-serving apologies. Sawyer was urging me to believe he was a changed man and had gone through a spiritual transformation. He hoped I was well and told me he wasn’t expecting my forgiveness but “needed to get it off his chest.”

Years ago, this email would have ripped me in half, starting deep within me. It would have then travelled up my throat, making me cough with anxiety before paralyzing me from head to toe. We had been together four years total. By the fourth year, I was so emotionally abused, I had to leave the city to get away. Nevertheless, he was and still is my first love. Whether or not I believe now what we had was love, back then that’s all I knew. I fought hard for him to keep loving me until it made me so sick, I had no choice but to run.

I was lucky, I was able to escape and met my husband eleven months after breaking-up with Sawyer. I’ve had to unlearn and re-program my actions and reactions ever since — especially when it came to love and relationships. The email took a left turn when Sawyer finally exposed the real reason why he was emailing me. It wasn’t for the apology (which he had done last we spoke, after another one of his “transformations”). He needed to clear his name. He felt compelled to tell me his now recent ex-girlfriend was lying about him. What he had done to me, he had not done to the girl who came after me. I don’t believe him, but that’s beside the point.

Does Sawyer believe that him not mistreating his recent ex-girlfriend absolves him from what he did to me? Does Sawyer think this piece of information about his character can heal me from the pain he caused? Why did he feel compelled to clear his name to the one person who knows it to be true? Does he think I forgot how bad it was? Or maybe he’s the one who has forgotten.

They say you marry your father, and boy, am I ever grateful my ex always refused my marriage proposals. It took me years to realize how similar my father and Sawyer both are. My daddy issues were glaring, but I was blind. One obvious red flag was the fact that Sawyer had less of an age difference with my father than with me. When we met I was twenty years old and Sawyer was 34. He was a man, and I was dying for someone to teach me how to live.

Last year, I ended my relationship with my own father. There were many reasons — primarily alcohol. Before I cut off all contact, my father sent me an email stating he had forgiven himself for his own actions towards me when he was under the influence. His logic was simple. Since he was drunk at the time of the incident, it inherently erased the intent and impact of his words and actions. He had used such loaded words against me, so scarring, I had to go back to therapy to repair the damage he had caused. Still, my father told me my anger had no place in his life. He had forgiven himself for what had happened. It was time to move on, and I was now over-reacting. It was our last exchange as he chose alcohol over his own daughter. I had to mourn my father while he was still alive and living in the same city as I.

This echoed in my head as I read Sawyer’s email. So similar in their own beliefs and actions. Two emotionally immature grown men, expunging their actions with a simple apology. As if there was no collateral damage to their emotional violence. I refuse to placate their feelings by my own silence any longer. This type of behaviour needs to be exposed and to stop. I’m sure Sawyer still believes he knows me better than most. He has seen me broken so many times, he most likely mistook the person he fell in love with as my actual self and not the remnants of the trauma he was causing. I’m sure he expects an answer, some kind of lyrical apology from one poet to another. Instead, I’m writing this essay. There was a time where Sawyer defined who I was as a person, but not anymore.

I am much healthier now. It’s taken me five years of intense healing to realize how much I’ve allowed Sawyer to bring into my life. How much he had controlled the intricate depths of my own psyche. Sawyer will never admit to emotional abuse because he will never admit it was his fault. Even now, in the email he apologizes for the monster he once was, removing his own humanity from the whole equation. As if it would soften the repercussions it has created in my own life.

I’m very grateful for my husband Aldo. He has been so patient as I peered into the brokenness of my emotional wounds to understand who I truly was. He held my hand, kissing my lips and wiping the tears from my cheeks as I cried about another man. He understood I wasn’t crying about lost love, but about the violence, I had experienced. I went from one realization to the next as I crumbled knowing Aldo was there to catch me.

It wasn’t until two summers ago, I fully grasped how broken I actually was. Aldo and I went out for drinks one night and ended up at the pub I used to drink at when Sawyer and I were together. It was like walking into a time-warp. I realized nothing had changed, as anxiety rose in my chest like quicksand. Back then, I still coped with my anxiety by getting black-out drunk and proceeded to do exactly that.

Unbeknownst to me, I had created the perfect storm for a PTSD flashback. Aldo became Sawyer and I was back in 2011. What happened during my flashback isn’t important to the story. What’s important in this narrative is that I had an episode. I had been so traumatized in the past, I fell into a pocket of visceral memories within my own mind. Only then, did I realize the violence of it all. It has been five years since our break-up, and nine years since we first met and I’m still affected by our relationship. Still affected by the words he had used to eviscerate my own identity.

Sawyer is right, I don’t need his apology. The work I’ve put in, to recover from our time together taught me his apology is worth nothing to me. Like my father’s apology means nothing to me. They are apologizing in order for them to feel better. It has nothing to do with me or my own well-being. Sawyer’s email means nothing to me other but to prove I have finally healed. He is not interested in the impact of his actions, the after-shock is not on him — it’s on me. It’s a mere side effect, like my PTSD is a mere side effect. Or how I still jump with fear in public when my mind tricks me into thinking I’ve seen Sawyer disappear into the crowd. Some people mistake this for emotional longing. It’s not. It’s trauma, and I will call it by its name. I will never allow Sawyer to deplete my power again. My voice has become louder than his now that I am my own power and my own inner-strength. This is a promise to myself — the pattern has been broken.

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