I have two skeletons in my closet.
The first one is about 5 foot 8 and he wears glasses. He’s my ex-boyfriend. He is filled with pride and security, his bones moving with purpose; he is confident in every single step he takes. I am petrified of him. He never had to say a word, he didn’t have to move a single inch, yet the thought of him terrifies me: the way his fingers grasped my shoulder as his chin rested on top of my skull, every moment asserting dominance over me.
The second skeleton is just 5 foot 2. She’s crawled up against the edge of the closet, scared to make contact with the other skeleton. Whenever I see her, I feel disgust and regret crawl up in my body. She is the me of just a few months ago, animated by insecurity and the need to be validated by others. I can recall the way her fingers tapped on the table, how she crawled around her bedroom floor, night after night, hoping to find a way out.
I have two skeletons in my closet. They’ll always be there, no matter how much I hide. Even when the closet doors are closed, they’re just inches behind the wood, waiting to see the day of light again. They’re no longer alive, yet they have more control over me than ever.
I used to play a game with the skeletons. I used to pretend they didn’t exist. I would walk to school and sit in class with my chin up high, like I had not nothing to hide, despite my own terror. Wherever I went, I felt paranoid, like the skeletons were following me. I could hear the sound of the bones clacking against the cold, hard floor, begging for another chance.
The reality is, I can sugarcoat it like that. I can make it sound poetic. Nothing, however, can hide the fact that I’m scared of my ex-boyfriend and the person I became when I was with him.
I am afraid of my ex-boyfriend because his friends continue to taunt me and refuse to let me move on. I am afraid of my ex-boyfriend because his snarky remarks about me are relentless. I am afraid of my ex-boyfriend because he applied for the same colleges I did. I am afraid of my ex-boyfriend because even after everything, I still allow him to haunt my brain every day and occupy my thoughts.
I grab onto the lingering goodness, the good memories I still have of him, hoping to forget about the bad parts and live a happy lie that will allow me to heal. But that’s simply not the way things work.
Why do we allow this to happen to us? I’m not the first one to ever experience heartbreak, nor will I be the last.
When I let go of my toxic relationship, I saw a glimpse of hope that I’d never seen during or prior to the relationship. I am showered with hope and light, but sometimes it feels like it’s being sucked out from me unwillingly.
I’ve heard my fair share of advice from friends, and they all told me that I need to put my eyes on the future. As I’ve attempted to do so, I realized that you can never truly focus on the future when there’s pain from your past.
I’m not a qualified psychologist by any means. I took two years of psychology in high school and am still terrible at reading social situations at times. But I do know that I don’t need to forgive or forget: I just need to understand. I need to confront the pain that lies within me. I need to stand up to the skeletons that I carry.
To be able to escape from your past and your pain is to acknowledge it. Even if confrontations are not your forté, I’ve come to find that being honest with yourself about what happened and why it happened is the power that pushes you forward.
The skeletons are still in my closet, and I hope one day I won’t feel obliged to look after them anymore.