Guided by some vague semblance of instinct, here I turn.
I’ve felt very stressed out lately. Well, stressed out here and there, not all the time, but intensely at times. Sisters and mother are driving me crazy, and Sullivan pulled another nasty move last week the day before I went on vacation. Then on vacation, I ended up having a major panic attack the first night and another a couple of days later. I get panic attacks when I’m concealing very strong emotions from myself without realizing it. See, I can analyze a situation very thoroughly and figure out a lot of the motives and nuances involved from different parties and such, and word my logic well for someone else to understand…but I may miss at times the basic fact that the situation I’m analyzing may be absolutely tearing me apart, emotionally. Then later on, I’m sitting somewhere quietly, and suddenly I feel like I can’t breathe…
I hate it.
My emotions are sometimes subconscious, it seems. I guess the extent of them most often is.
I remember last year one time my mother had gone into the emergency room with strange symptoms of lightheadedness. A fire had broken out in the back of her classroom and she had been wheeled out of her school on a rolling chair by students, who reported that she just suddenly became unresponsive. My mom blamed a sudden dizziness that overtook her and couldn’t remember being taken out of the room. Turned out that it was likely ptsd from a fire that broke out around her many years before that one of my sisters had been briefly trapped in. I’d spent all day communicating with her and felt mystified, sort of worried, but otherwise fine. And then at dinner that night out, I suddenly couldn’t breathe and couldn’t be in the restaurant anymore and had to leave before my food even arrived. My mind was somehow concealing from me just how upset I was about what happened to my mother. It does that a lot. I’ve been trying now to just assume that anything happening to anyone close to me is going to upset me greatly, and pre-empt panic with stress relieving tactics. It helps to think specifically about what my emotions are or might be. They tend to naturally be drawn out that way. Sometimes, of course, my reaction is immediate and intense, but many times, it’s delayed or obfuscated. Maybe a good part of me has just trained myself, through necessity or convenience, that my own emotions are just not all that important. I usually much prefer dealing with someone else’s. I consider other people’s emotions to be important. Hurting someone’s feelings feels awful to me. I simply can’t do it most of the time, even if it will make my interactions much easier.
So, the day before my vacation, Sullivan texted William that he needed to talk to him, that the four of us, him, William, Owen (whom he is now back together and living with), and me, needed to get together and talk something over. We still needed to pack, and told him that, and told them we were leaving the next day on a trip. He said it was urgent and that both he and Owen really needed to talk to us. William asked him what it was about and he said it was about some texts he’d sent William that William showed to Owen while they were separated by the court for a few weeks.
I remember William had asked me if he should show Owen those texts in which Sullivan claimed, regarding his violent assault on Owen that he was arrested for, that it was all Owen’s fault. In them, he claimed that Owen was pouring him drink after drink and encouraging him to drink all the liquor down, knowing that Sullivan goes crazy when he drinks a lot. He claimed that Owen caused the whole thing and that it was just an ordinary fight, that he himself had done nothing wrong. When William asked me if I thought he should show them to Owen, I said I wasn’t sure. I saw the potential benefits and consequences, and told William to just do what he thought was best. He decided to show them to Owen when we met with him because he was very concerned for Owen’s physical safety, as Owen was considering taking Sullivan back once the legal angle of the incident was settled. Owen was shocked to see the texts and said it was very different from what Sullivan’s parents were telling him. He wasn’t allowed to talk with Sullivan until the court date. He asked us our impressions of what Sullivan was like in previous relationships, and we both told him what we had observed and thought. Owen told us it was different from what Sullivan had told him, but that what Sullivan had said about those relationships didn’t make much sense.
So, when William asked Sullivan what it was about, he made it seem like Owen felt betrayed by us and that he was angry at us for telling Owen “lies” about him. The two of them had resumed living together about a week and a half or two weeks before, as soon as the case was dropped. I tried to smooth it over via text by telling Sullivan that the reason William showed Owen the texts was that at the time, he was concerned for Owen’s safety, and he told me he hadn’t understood what had happened between them at the time, but that later on, he’d texted us taking more responsibility for his actions and telling us he felt really bad about what he’d done. He did say those things, after William had pressed him about it and guilted him, I remember, much later than the time we met with Owen. Sullivan asked me why we hadn’t shown Owen those texts and told us he really wished William had. I told him that we wouldn’t have had a chance, because we didn’t end up seeing Owen the second time we’d made plans. Owen never contacted us back that day, and I had assumed that he was either stressed out or had been called in to the hospital to work. We didn’t want to press him or add stress to his day, so we just let it go. Sullivan seemed very responsive to that, and asked if we’d tell Owen what we would have told him that second time, if we’d seen him. I told Sullivan we would, if they could meet us at our place on the early side of the evening, since we had to pack. I also told him that we hadn’t thought to tell Owen when Sullivan had started to take (honestly, just the tiniest bit of) responsibility for his actions, because the two of them ended up back together a couple of days later, and then we assumed Sullivan’s behavior and treatment of Owen would speak for itself. He asked if we could come over to their place, but we really didn’t have time, plus I felt strange about going to the same place where Sullivan had nearly strangled Owen to death, as I knew I’d be thinking about that, though I dared not tell Sullivan that reason. Anyway, he conceded to come to us, and they arrived around 6 p.m.
I greeted them and let them in. Relations seemed normal enough except for Owen looking very horrified and worried. I sat them down and poured them some iced tea and we just chatted normally for a few minutes. William walked into the room, and Sullivan glared at him and just started unleashing hell on him. He just began yelling so loud all of these insults at him and expressing so much anger toward him. William put him right back in his place with every accusation. Sullivan screamed at him about showing him the texts, claiming he was only showing him parts of the back and forth texts, just what he wanted Owen to see, and claimed it painted a false picture for Owen. William told him he’d handed Owen his phone and that Owen had seen the conversation on both ends, from start to finish, and Owen told Sullivan that was true. Sullivan started screaming that William should never even believe anything he says because he should know Sullivan likes to make his stories more colorful and dramatic for him. William asked him if he was saying then that everything he ever told him was a lie, and Sullivan didn’t know what to say and stammered a bit and changed the subject. Owen was sitting next to me and I noticed he was shaking all over and looked petrified. He verbally agreed with a lot of things William said back to Sullivan, and based on a lot of his answers, I understood then that he hadn’t been angry and hadn’t wanted any of this ordeal, that it was all Sullivan and that Sullivan was angry at William, not at me. Owen looked like he wanted to cry and he looked like he was panicking a lot. I almost reached out and held his hand. I let William continue to put Sullivan back in his place for quite some time, and then I grew tired of the whole thing and wanted it to end and wanted Sullivan to leave. I remember at one point, Sullivan had screamed out amid a long speech that if we wanted him to leave, we needed to tell Owen what we “would have told him that night” when we were supposed to meet again, a night it turns out Owen was called in to work at the hospital.
When it seemed to flow with other things being said, I loudly told Sullivan that maybe it would help things if I told Owen what we would have told him that night. Sullivan dramatically offered to leave the room if we wanted to tell him in private, but I thought to myself, But I’m only saying this for your sake, Sullivan, and told him it was fine if he stayed in the room. If we had asked him to leave, he would have been so mad, anyway. So I smiled and told Owen Sullivan had begun to take more responsibility in some of his later texts to us, and that as I had said to him when we did meet, maybe Sullivan had just needed more time to process the harsh reality of the situation. Owen chimed in that I had said that to him when we met, that maybe Sullivan just needed more time to process it. I then said to Sullivan that while I understood what his friends said was important to him, that the most important thing was how he treated Owen, that if he treated Owen really nicely, it wouldn’t matter what his friends said, that Owen would know Sullivan loved him. The conversation got a little bit lighter for a little while, and social, and then they left to let us prepare for our trip. Before they left, Owen confessed to me on the couch when Sullivan was elsewhere that he didn’t want to do this at all, that he thought the whole thing was a bad idea and that we handled it really well. He leaned in very close to me and seemed to want to just cling to me in a big hug while saying it. I put my hand on his shoulder and said I could tell he’d been nervous about it, and he said he’d been secretly freaking out the whole time. Tears came to his tired eyes and he almost started crying. I really felt for him. I talked with him for a little while, as he seemed to want comfort from me. I got the impression he found me to be a comforting presence. Probably the only comforting thought for me that came out of the whole talk.
Owen chatted a little bit with William in the kitchen while I made small talk with Sullivan shortly before they departed. When they left, William told me that Owen told him in the kitchen that this had all started the night before. He’d said that Sullivan had been behaving the way he had before he’d attacked him. He said he’d been doing that thing in which he has to do everything Owen does at the same time, same pace, and can’t do anything different from him, and doesn’t want Owen to do anything different from Sullivan either. Apparently, Sullivan had gotten angry that Owen went to go use the bathroom when Sullivan was saying he didn’t have to use the bathroom yet, and had begun yelling insults at Owen afterward. He wasn’t drinking, but he started seeming very psychotic, and Owen told him that based on that night and the night of the attack, and what friends had said he’d been saying, he wasn’t sure if he could trust him anymore. Owen told William that he didn’t apologize to him for his behavior, but latched onto the “what friends had said to him” part, demanded to know more about that, and then ALL of the anger he’d been feeling toward Owen was suddenly transferred to William. He said he picked up his phone to call William angrily in the middle of the night, but Owen stopped him. Sullivan finally agreed to wait until the next day to contact William.
I was unhappy with the events that night, with the way Sullivan was screaming so much at William, but when I found out about Sullivan’s real motivation behind wanting to resolve the matter, that he was using it in proxy to solve his relationship woes, or to make himself feel like they were solved, I felt additionally disturbed. The knowledge that Sullivan was also using our interaction to mask his own psychotic behavior toward Owen, and the very thought that he was involving William and me in the same kind of psychotic thoughts and behavior that he took further into violence on the night he was arrested, freaked me out more than I could even grasp. I knew I was unhappy about it, but I didn’t know until we arrived in Ocean City and had trouble finding an adequate room in our hotel at first, because a lot of them smelled intensely like mold, that I was indeed very deeply disturbed, frightened, and angry.
I don’t really want to deal with Sullivan anymore. I know William gets his inhalers from him, though, since Sullivan has prescriptions for practically every medicine available, and I know I’d feel guilty avoiding Owen because of association, but I just don’t think I can handle him at this point. I don’t think he’s a safe person to deal with, with both his violent and psychotic tendencies, and his distinct lack of boundaries with people, and I don’t think I should tell him this directly either, because I’m afraid of what he’s capable of doing when angry. I’m not sure yet. Still not sure how to handle this. Maybe I’ll just ignore him for the most part, or keep things very superficial when he texts me, and just make excuses if he asks to hang out in person. I don’t know. Still thinking about it.