In September, I took what was supposed to be a week off Instagram but what turned into three months instead. When you temporarily disable your account, it gives you 10 options as to why:
“Just need a break” is the one I chose. Admittedly the thing I needed a break from most was sabotaging my relationship, but I figured one way to do that was to give my mind a break from constantly comparing my life to the lives of others. I’m not blaming Instagram for my relationship woes, it’s shitty decisions I make on my own with all of the self-awareness needed to stop them that was the problem. What I’m saying it that my head is full of nonsense at baseline, so I thought it would be nice to stop the external input of further nonsense for a while.
Aside from one or two times reflexively opening the app only to be bummed when I remembered the sabbatical I had taken, I didn’t really miss it. And that’s probably because I was able to get my scrolling fix elsewhere. My Facebook involvement remained relatively the same, and that’s at less than one open a day. I’m not sure what it is about Facebook nowadays but I don’t care much for it. Is it for an older generation? Or maybe it’s because I mostly only keep it for career-related purposes. My Twitter engagement also remained relatively the same which is nil — I’ve never been an avid tweeter, mostly just a lurker.
My need to scroll ended up being satisfied by the news app. I suddenly knew all about the impeachment inquiry in the states, the close race between liberals and conservatives in Canada, and about the eleven elephants that died trying to save a baby elephant from drowning in the Haew Narok Waterfall at Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. After that first week I felt as if I could contribute to the conversations that were being had in politics. I felt like I had an opinion and that it could be backed up by facts. I felt like the break was helpful. But, I also felt like none of that mattered.
And the reason it didn’t matter, was because I realized there was only one thing or rather person I could rightfully blame. Instagram wasn’t ruining my relationship. Instagram wasn’t keeping me from reading. Instagram wasn’t keeping me on my phone. Instagram wasn’t keeping me from being productive. No matter what distractions I remove from my phone, I could always find a new way to procrastinate. Keeping up with the news was simply a way to give my procrastination an air of pretension. Bottom line, I found out that the thing I “just need[ed] a break” from, was not holding myself accountable.
Now excuse me while I go onto my two different Instagram accounts to promote this blog and my podcast @thescriptisbetter. What? It’s not procrastination, it’s work!
According to google dictionary, of which I am not sponsored, to gaslight is to, “manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.” Up until a week ago, I was not familiar with this term though it was an experience with which I was all too familiar.
My ex was a master of manipulation. It would start off by me making some completely reasonable statement like, “I’m just going to go relax in a bath.” Next it would become unfair of me to have alone time when there was nowhere he could go to get away from me. I’d offer options, “go for a walk, go to the gym, have a bath of your own” to which I would be told that I’m not understanding his point. Am I crazy? His point was that he had nowhere to go to be alone, wasn’t it? He then clarified that he didn’t want to go for a walk, the gym isn’t relaxing for him, and he didn’t like taking baths. Okay…? I wasn’t sure how to solve his problem because I couldn’t find what the problem was anymore. That’s when he would let it come out, “the problem is that you shouldn’t have to need alone time.” But everyone needs time alone. He would counter by saying that he didn’t need time away from me. But WAIT! That’s not what I was saying, I wasn’t saying “I need time away from you specifically, I was saying I need time to myself.” Then all of a sudden, I was told I was being selfish. And I’d struggle to find anything that proved otherwise. I would stand there in a moment of confusion as the reality of who I had believed myself to be my whole life was being dismantled. Then after a long moment of silence, “you can come with me?” Posed as a question because I was grasping at straws to figure out what he wanted. I’m not selfish and I wanted him to know he was loved. He’d run over and kiss me. Ten minutes later I’d find myself in a cramped bath that was anything but relaxing, telling the man squished up against me “I love you” while the woman in my head screamed and banged against the walls of my skull for someone to save her.
When he wasn’t in the mood for a bath, he’d come in and sit on the toilet while I took one. And if it wasn’t the bath, then it was drinks with coworkers, which then morphed into drinks with friends, which eventually became doing anything at all without him. In hindsight it is so easy to see that what he was doing was wrong. But in the moment, all you can do against the psychological attacks on your character is come to the conclusion that this is what compromise looks like. That is until the day you look in the mirror and all the changes he skillfully forced upon you don’t look like compromise, but actually look like abuse.
I was lucky enough to get out of that relationship, made possible in part by two friends who could hear the screams from inside my skull. If not for them, I would not have found the courage to stand up for myself. If not for them, all understanding of who I am and what makes me unique would be long gone. And here’s the hardest truth: if not for them, I don’t know if I’d still be alive.
Rifling through my “memories & keepsakes” box the other day, I came across a collection of photobooth strips. While many were of me and my ride-or-die best friend, there were an equal measure of me with ex-boyfriends. I looked at one specific set of 4 black and white 2.5 x 1.5 inch squares showing me and one of my exes seemingly in love and all I could think was, “ugh, I look so cute.” Is that weird? Most people would be reminded of that failed relationship and think any number of damaging things like, “you cheating fuckin’ asshole” or “how could I have been so clueless” or even worse, “I miss you.” But, nope. Not me. I feel nothing. Except vanity of course. Seriously though, so cute!
And it’s for that very reason that I never throw photos like these away. In a perfect world, I would be in that photobooth alone and when it got to the fourth photo where we are oh-so-adorably smooching, he’d be replaced by some fierce individual like Idris Elba or Cara Delevingne. Babe. And then the photos would cease to be of me and my ex, but me and my future. DREAM BIG PEOPLE.
In a world with 7.6 billion people, the odds are that I am not alone in this form of photographic memory hoarding. And it goes deeper than just photobooths. Three laptops, each spanning about 4 years of my life from the age of 19, that wreak of exes. Kisses, dinners, holidays, trips. Disposable cameras developed to include a CD copy so those kisses could be immortal. Did I really think we’d be together forever? My pride doesn’t want to let me say yes because it means admitting that I was stupid enough to make the same mistake over and over. But, it’s the truth. And whether it’s considered “healthy” or not, it’s something I will probably never stop doing. My only hope is that the next person is actually the real deal.
DISCLAIMER: If we have ever been in a photobooth together, YES I still have the photos, NO you cannot have them back, NO I will not throw them out, and YES it’s possible that I’ll post them with you replaced by someone more deserving of my time.