To what extent *Alexia has affected me, I don’t think I’ll ever fully know. Friendships are easily formed and I can relate to others relatively well, so for the longest time I thought that while it still affects my self-esteem to a certain extent, it largely didn’t hinder my current life. Perhaps, though, this was wishful thinking?
Upon reflection, I realize most of the stories I recall about Alexia I place at the age of eight or thirteen. I can remember third grade, second, first, K-5 and K-4 about as well as the next person, but parts of fourth, fifth, and sixth? A complete blur. It’s hard to accept that such a thing is possible, chucks of memory gone or, more likely, buried deep in the subconscious. Not many people have vivid, concrete memories from the age of four or three and instead remember stories after they’ve been reminded of them by family friends or their parents, but the fact that there is a significant shift in recollection between those two ages makes the diagnosis of PTSD that I received that much more realistic. The diagnosis was given upon me telling of flashbacks and after questioning, being able to only recall tidbits of my time with Alexia. It wasn’t until a year or two ago that I started trying to date these memories and thought, “Damn, a lot of stuff happened when I was eight!” Or did it? Is this the age that Alexia’s influence and hold on me grew from the one she had from three to seven?
It’s not that I don’t have memories of Alexia before I was eight that are disturbing and signs of emotional abuse, but the more “potent” ones are placed later in our friendship. This makes sense since it would be frightening if Alexia really had achieved that high a level of manipulation at the age of, say, six; eight seems slightly more plausible.
Additionally, this is not to say that I don’t have any memory of the end of elementary school or the start of middle school. I remember the faux “court case” with Alexia in fifth grade and our bonding over another girl who we perceived to be a threat. I remember people saying our fifth grade teacher was going to be really mean, but I loved him. I remember September 11th, as almost all Americans do, and the slight emotional brake my mother experienced soon after. I remember getting my hair cut for a magazine and how horrible it turned out, how my brother told me I looked like an alien, and how Alexia laughed at me. I remember going to London with my family. I remember my first middle school social and the boy who laughed at me when I asked him to dance; I even remember the song: “This I Promise You” by N’SYNC. I remember waking up at 6am obsessively to make my mom curl my hair under so no hairs stuck out in the back. I remember how detached I started to feel about my friends and how school became an escape for me. Perfection was my one control over my life that was becoming increasingly out of control. But that’s about it.
It may seem like a lot to remember, but over the course of a few years, that isn’t much to go on. And a lot of those other things I only remember because people have reminded me of them, flashbacks not having to do with Alexia (of which there have been a few), pictures, and diary entries. But, how did I feel at this age? A weird thing to find strange not remembering, but I can remember pretty well what general feeling I felt at other ages. Diary entries have been an eye-opener to my mind at these semi-lost years. The entries are relatively void of emotion, or if there is emotion, it’s overpowering and sporadic, usually after I say anything negative. Mentions of Alexia are far and few in-between, only occasional frustrations I’m having with her, listing who my friends are, and apologies for becoming frustrated. The portrait of Alexia from my diaries is one of a person who I frequently misunderstand and is a devout, close, and caring best friend. My words are wise beyond my years, almost to the point of emotional-detachment.
I've only had one substantial flashback over the past couple years, so I am beginning to wonder if those memories will ever come back or if they even should. Maybe they are too intense, too emotional, too great for me to wrap my head around. My mind most likely is trying to protect me, and maybe this is a good thing for now.
My luck with men has never been that great, though I feel like this statement carries a bit more validity at the age of twenty than it did when I would say it at fourteen. I’ve never been the type to have male friends other than the ones my girl friends are dating. Going to an all-girls high school and being involved with theater throughout those four years makes for a small dating pool, on top of my mother’s overprotective attitude toward me and boys. After my mom died, I was in no state to try and seek a boyfriend, nor again did I know anyone I would/could date. By my senior year I developed a crush, but he didn’t want to pursue anything since it was close to the end of senior year.
First year of college brought two consecutive failed relationships, though they failed for various reasons that have little to do with my past. The rest of my freshman year I again didn’t really know any guys except for those on Writer’s floor, but we were all too close in the Writer’s Living/Learning Community for any healthy hope of that. I turned to casual makeouts on dark dance floors in clubs; I never bothered to learn the names of the strangers I shared drunken hookups with, or remember their faces even. This didn’t affect me much; I found it easier to get out some of my pent up sexual frustration without the emotional baggage. This didn’t mean, however, that my desire for a real relationship was far from my grasp.
Sophomore year was more promising than freshman year, mainly because I had done a lot of growing up. Horny-drunk Molly though was still prevalent, but I actually had some guy friends. Ireland was supposed to be my opportunity to have wild-crazy sex with hot foreign guys without much of a reputation following me back home, but I soon realized the possibility of that happening was unlikely. I joined a club of mostly guys and had more guy friends than ever before.
While in Ireland, I decided, I needed something void of complication, simple, intoxicating, and controllable. By March I found someone who I cared about. I was giddy, confident, and content. He was hot, funny, kind, and hilariously awkward. Then it happened: I felt something. “Shit, shit, shit!” my brain told me. I really sucked at this whole no-strings-attached. Rather quickly I accepted that I just needed to breathe and let my mind relax without the pressures of labeling everything.
But…it scares me. This isn’t a story of the past, it’s the present, here and now, so current it’s unbelievable. It didn’t scare me because I was unable to keep emotion out of it or because it happened. It didn’t scare me because I thought it was a sign I could never have a true relationship. It didn’t scare me because it made me vulnerable and I could possibly be left confused and heartbroken. It scared me because of what it reminded me of that I knew all along, deep down.
I keep men at arm’s-length because it means so much more than a friendship; it means accepting that I am desirable. More importantly, it means I could be worthy of that kind of affection. Alexia fucked me up, yes I know this to be true, but I always wanted to ignore the scars that no amount of therapy could heal: that feeling of not deserving. I am still sometimes that little girl that no one could love, no one wanted, and only Alexia would accept out of pity and duty. I love myself now better than I have before, but the idea of letting myself go is a reminder of that abuse. I will get past it eventually, I tell myself, but the process is long; it’s taken longer than any of my other setbacks that I’ve worked through over the past seven years. I can do it though, I tell myself, because I have to; it’s the final piece of the puzzle on my path to recovery.
(*name changed to protect privacy)