Me, Too. You, Too. Us, Too.
By: Vyky Saiz Illustration: Ruby Taylor
I have been wanting to write this for a long time, but I had no idea where to begin. Every time I sit at my desk to start, I become extremely overwhelmed by all of the emotions that flood back.
I was really impressed by the “Me Too” campaign because it’s not easy to admit to others, let alone yourself, the anguish that sits inside your chest after that. I do have my own “Me Too” story, but I’m not actually here to talk about it. I have dealt with, survived, and healed myself through that entire experience.
It was an extremely long process to recover from because it wasn’t just one moment that I had to relive. My “Me Too” story consists of seasons of intoxicating love followed by violent episodes, all piled on top of each other. We were the greatest and saddest teenage love story.
When I sit quietly and think back to almost 10 years ago, the first images that appear are the scary ones. The yelling, the bruises, the begging, the airbags exploding, the screaming, the knife at my chest.
But you know what she remembers? The lying, the favors, the manipulating, the exploiting, the cheating, the promises. I spent years only talking about the pain I went through before forcing myself to realize there was a major facet to our story I was ignoring. I had to actively work toward filling in the missing pieces. I thought I was seeing the scariest parts of my past, until I realized the scariest part was who I became. The hardest part of the recovery process was admitting my participation and saying sorry- and meaning it.
Laying a hand on someone is never an appropriate or reasonable way to deal with a situation but neither is taking full emotional control of someone. Being a teenager only feels tough when you’re a teenager. When we met I was extremely depressed. I couldn’t think long-term and was struggling with codependency before I even knew it was a thing people struggled with. All I knew was that I felt lonely and she completely let me into her life without hesitation. It was nice to feel powerful and wanted for a change.
This may seem pointless so many years later, but it’s actually something that I think about every day. I don’t know if she’s reading this, but I want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for telling you that I would always be there for you and then running away. I’m sorry for saying it would never happen again and it happening the moment you trusted me again. I should have stayed behind with you instead of jumping on the bus when she called. I’m sorry for asking you to drop everything, having you move 300 miles for me, and then throwing you out 24 hours after you arrived. I shouldn’t have called or answered if I knew I wasn’t ready. And all of this is only a fraction of it all. Hell is what I put you through and there’s no excuse for it.
I’ve learned that it’s best not to apologize unless you actually mean it. Even with that, it’s not always to tell if we do, but it’s not always easy to tell that we do. In the moment, emotions are so high and we often manage to convince the other person to trust us again. They believe us—not necessarily because we are expert liars but—because we believe ourselves. It’s not until we find ourselves committing the act again that the lie is forced to be addressed. The reality is that saying sorry has to mean you’re actually working towards not committing the behavior again. Recognizing the signs and situations that may lead to negative outcomes but also being self-aware of who you are and what you actually want. The popular phrase “I know you better than you know yourself” is only true because that other person doesn’t sugar coat our worst flaws. We could be equally honest with ourselves if we wanted to, but it takes practice.
Being sorry and actually meaning it doesn’t always go together. If you find yourself saying “sorry” blindly or, even worse, using it as a way to manipulate (or purposefully not saying it to hurt the person even more) then it’s time you keep this in mind:
Don’t Forget, But Heal
Outright forgiving and forgetting is useless because if you don’t process the pain at all, it will fester. Instead you need to practice letting go and healing from the hurt. Try putting yourself in the other person’s position. It doesn’t make what they did any better, it just makes it easier to swallow.
Do I Do That?
Our brain’s primary goal is to survive, so it’s easy for our perception to get clouded by our pain. Take a moment, let the dust settle, and self-reflect, but most importantly, stand tall and accept responsibility. It’s important to not internalize that acceptance and start bashing yourself. If you do that you risk your apology becoming about you and still not being how the other person is feeling.
The world isn’t perfect and there no clear step-by-step guide on how to simultaneously care about ourselves and others at the same time. Intention is a major part of that, but don’t deny someone’s ability to see right through your words and actions. If you keep those two pieces in mind, you’re one step closer to opening yourself to a whole new lens of reality.