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To Breathe Again

by Lou Wild 7 months ago in Relationships / Identity / Humanity / Empowerment
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The closet can suffocate

To Breathe Again
Photo by Matt Hardy on Unsplash

TW: child abuse, sexual abuse, infant loss, self harm, suicide

I’ve had to let a lot of things go – mainly people, and old versions of myself I didn’t always completely hate. When I first came out, I thought I was fully prepared to lose everything. My family, my friends, my sense of normalcy. Granted, normalcy never felt good, but it was still something I craved. I liked fitting in with the crowd I grew up in; the ease of doing whatever someone else expected removed the conundrum of making decisions.

My husband told me I was bad with money, so I allowed him to take full control over both of our incomes. My church told me my body was God’s temple, so I followed their rules and refused piercings and tattoos and never drank coffee or alcohol or smoked anything. My parents told me I was special, so I didn’t try very hard at anything, because I believed I inherently deserved it. My siblings told me I was bossy, so I embraced the role. My coaches told me I was a leader, so I tried to lead. My society told me I was a girl, so I chased boys.

It was the last expectation that broke me.

little me :)

I lost my innocence when I was around three years old, though I don’t know the exact age, to an older man who lived near my grandparents. He wore thick glasses and had a moustache and smelled strongly of cigarettes. I understood how to make myself orgasm before I knew how to use the toilet. I was the plaything of peers, due to curiosity, until I was ten. I was raped when I was 18. I didn’t tell a soul for three years. He’d convinced me it was my fault, and I believed my crowd would shame me for getting myself into the situation.

I married a man who’s past was his present. His hurt became mine. I grew to be his outlet for his pain, and for three years, my relationship with sex became that of turmoil and hatred. It hurt. It didn’t feel good. It revolted me.

I lost my child to tumors growing alongside her in my belly, and the idea of getting pregnant again not only sparked uncontrollable fear, but rage. I was filling out my checklist the way I was told to my entire life. I’d given up control of myself for 23 years, and what did I have to show for it?

1. I don’t know how to use money

2. I am a stranger in my own body

3. I have given up on every single thing I’ve started

4. My rage over my injustices have turned me into a bad friend, sister, and wife

5. I don’t trust or like men

6. I want to die

I had a list, in short, that felt an awful lot like a great outline for my suicide note. I felt like I was drowning, and the effort it was taking to stay afloat didn’t feel worth it anymore. The cuts I made on my skin weren't giving me any control anymore. I wanted to join my little person that I never got to hold; I wanted to go wherever she had gone.

“I think I’m gay.”

My first gasp of air came after those words fell out of my mouth. My mom was on the other line; she began to sob. Maybe she was crying because I was also crying. Maybe it was because she knew what it meant for my marriage. Maybe it was because she realized that her little girl, who she’s loved fiercely since the moment of her birth, had been drowning her whole life. I don’t know why. All I know is we sat on the phone for several moments, just listening to the other trying to catch her breath.

“You need to try and work it out.”

“No, Dad. We’ve decided. I’m leaving. Neither of can keep doing this, and neither of us deserves to.”

The second breath came as I packed my bags to leave. I took everything I could, and promised I’d be back for the cats the moment I had a safe place for them to stay.

The third breath triggered something in my brain; it was as though I’d finally learned to breathe properly for the first time in my life. It was the way she smelled, and the way her lips felt against mine. The way I fit perfectly against her. The way her arms felt like the first safe space I’d laid in since I’d been a child. The way her eyes met mine and saw me. Buried deep beneath the rubble of past selves, behind walls with no doors or windows, she found me. She was the first person who ever truly saw me. All of me.

The doubt blurred my vision. I got lost, because I’d never really made my own decisions before. I told her I needed space. I tried to return to what I’d become comfortable with, even if it meant tying weights to my ankles and jumping into open sea. At least it was a space I understood.

I sank.

I stopped eating. My hair fell out. My skin became pockmarked and full of painful acne. I stopped sleeping. I stopped working. I think I was trying my hardest to just disappear off the face of the earth rather than face one simple fact: I had to power to choose, and it terrified me.

I don’t know what changed, but enough time passed that I began to realize that the future I’d seen with her had not just been a fantasy. It had not just been a vision I experienced during the euphoria that came with confirming my suspicions of my queerness. No. The images of us standing in front of the Disney castle, us on a cruise, us at our wedding – me with piercings and tattoos and experiencing life on a plane I never believed possible – were all things within my control now. Maybe it wouldn’t be with her, but the future I craved more than anything else could be mine if I just chose to take off the weights and swim to shore.

I messaged her. I left the church. I lost my friends. I saved myself.

My family surprised not only me, but many people. They didn’t turn me away or shun me, though many of my extended family did. As I began to show them who I was, it was as though they’d always known. They recognized the girl I’d been, but they got to know the woman I am. And they loved me. They didn’t love me “in spite of,” but because of. They’ve shown me in many ways that their love for me does not stop. That it never had, despite what I’d believed.

The woman who taught me to breathe will be my wife in October. I got my cats back. We now have four together.

It still hurts, some days. Seeing old friends post and realizing they’ve stopped following me. Seeing relatives commenting on my straight sister’s engagement, while not so much as reacting to my own. Learning of my friends who are growing their families, knowing full well it will be a long road to grow my own. In those moments, I sometimes wish I was drowning again. I sometimes miss my truest self being invisible.

And then I look into her eyes again, and they remind me to breathe. They remind me that what I lost had never really been mine. They remind me that this version of myself is the truest, realest, most genuine version I’ve ever allowed to surface.

And fuck anyone who doesn’t like it.


About the author

Lou Wild

I like stories

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