Like all bodies on earth, mine goes through changes. My brain knows this truism, and usually, I know both the why and the how of its changing. I know why my body has changed of late, and my brain is ok with that. What's hard right now, though, are the unwelcome memories and associations that my body's recent change is bringing up for me.

Several years ago, I was in a relationship with a really bad person. Not only were we terrible for each other, but she also brought out the worst in me. During the year and a half we were together, our dysfunctional relationship and her ever-declining sexual interest in me directly correlated with the weight I gained due to depression and our extreme incompatibility leading to a relationship based almost exclusively on cooking meals together and watching the television.

Horrible Ex manipulated me in many ways, but her all-star tactic was through her withholding of sex and affection. When we first dated, she couldn't get enough of me. Our chemistry was hot, and though I knew our personalities and lifestyles were quite different, I thought that the passion was enough to make a relationship. But just two months into our dating, she pulled a classic bait-and-switch. Suddenly, she didn't want to be creative in bed. She revealed to me that she didn't like lingerie and actually, she also didn't like kissing, so we wouldn't be doing that anymore. Both giving and receiving oral sex were no longer on the table, because oops, she didn't forgot to mention that she didn't like that either. I could forget about having sex more than once a week, and never too early in the morning or before bed, and definitely not if she was tired or hungry or cranky or stressed or whatever excuse was most handy. Eventually, I stopped trying to initiate and waited pathetically for her lukewarm invitations when they came.

I could write a whole separate volume on why I stayed, but I did. And in the last 6 months especially, I was fucking miserable. We'd spend weekends together on the couch, eating in silence and watching some movie that one of us inevitably hated because we could never agree on what to watch anyway. Sex was infrequent and perfunctory on her part, though I was so sexually deprived that I was still hot for it even at our worst. And at the very end, she blamed my weight gain over our relationship on her disinterest, and I was beaten down enough to eat up every word.

It's clear to me now just what a manipulative, lying sack of shit she was, but that terrible 16 months that she spent chipping away at my self esteem, and the way that I learned to blame it on my body's natural response to the awful situation, has been extremely hard to extinguish.

Fast forward several years, and I'm in a much better place emotionally. I've done a shitload of emotional work to heal from that time, but lately, it's been flooding back for me. Over the past several months, I've had some injuries that have limited my mobility and as a result, my body is at about the same size as it was when I was at my unhappiest with Horrible Ex. And though, like I said earlier, I know why my body has changed and my brain is at peace with that, a big part of me can't help but feel the crushing weight of self-hatred and feelings of failure that I felt at that really low point in my life. Combined with my shitty job situation and fear about not knowing what's next for me, I find myself lately in a bit of a depressive funk with more self-doubt about my self worth than I've had in years.

I kicked Horrible Ex out of my life three years ago this fall, but it seems as though she's the gift that keeps on giving. Sometimes I feel as though the residuals are like a fucking case of bed bugs; you can starve them for a year, but they can still bounce right back into your life, wreaking havoc and wrecking the peace if you give them even just a little taste of blood.


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