The topic of mental health has been weighing heavily on us. We thought long and hard about what we could share in May for Mental Health Awareness Month. But we realized the only authentic thing to share was the personal thing. It took us some time to figure out what we wanted to say, but we finally have the words.
It's raw, it's vulnerable. It's not what a surf brand should share. But it's a female experience. A human experience. An opportunity to share in a way that might unite us.
It's a story about finding yourself in a toxic or abusive relationship. If you've ever been in one, know there is help. There are resources and there is therapy. There are people who get it. The following is anecdotal, but if you're going through it, please know you're not alone.
To My Ex's Ex:
I didn’t know until it was too late that he discarded you suddenly just like he discarded me.
I didn’t know you could travel the world with someone, live with them, actively try for a baby with them, and they could casually walk out on you on their way to work, never to return again. That they could shun you. That they could turn people you loved against you. Because that's what happened to me.
I’m sorry I believed him when he told me you were crazy and abusive. I’m sorry I believed it when his close girlfriends told me you were toxic. It should have raised alarm bells, but I willingly believed it. I call myself a Feminist, but even I didn’t stop to question the label “crazy”. If I’m honest with myself, I probably wanted to believe it. Because if it was true, it meant that I was chosen. Different. Special.
He told me you had been abused in your past relationships. Me too.
He would use your history to explain how you became an abuser to him. But that's not how it works for us, is it? No, we’ve been the type to latch on. To hold on even tighter. Because his “shut the fuck up” and his “you’re so fucking annoying” and “you’re so manipulative” felt familiar. His ghosting, his silent treatments. His abandoning. All familiar. It’s sordid, but when you know abuse intimately, you stay when you should leave. You stay quiet when you should shout. You hate yourself when you should love.
And did he constantly gaslight you the way he constantly gaslit me? Our arguments confused me at first, but broke me in the end. He would accuse me of making things up. Or that I had completely forgotten whole conversations. That I was seeing things. I thought I had gone insane. I became more and more anxious. I became severely depressed. I didn’t trust myself anymore. He said you were the same way. That you lived in another reality. Is it true? Is it because he gaslit you too?
Did he put you down? Tell you that you weren’t enough? Not nice enough? Too much? Too loud? Too opinionated? Did he loathe you when you disagreed?
I started having fits of rage - cries of desperation and frustration to speak my truth. I felt trapped and controlled. Didn’t it feel like you’d die if you didn’t fight your way out of his distorted lens? He once told me that his former girlfriends were bipolar, alcoholics, and abusers. Did that ever make you stop and wonder? The only ones who seemed to escape scot-free were the ones who put him on a pedestal and kept him there.
He has an incredible public persona, doesn’t he? Mr. Sensitive Creative Guy. Mr. Good Guy. Even I have to admit, it’s foolproof. And it works hard against the aggressions that happen behind closed doors. It used to make me angry that his friends couldn’t see. That his family didn't know. That they never scratched below the surface. But he once admitted that he cared too much about protecting his public image. So I can’t blame them, can I?
Did you ever catch him in his lies? Big lies and little lies. Perpetual, compulsive lies.
What really got me were his lies about secret dalliances. He would lie about messaging a married ex to reminisce and opine about her lackluster marriage. He lied about messaging a crush love songs for 6 months while we were together. He lied that his current girlfriend was a client when he met her secretly last summer. When I discovered it, he said he would go to therapy. He wanted to work on himself. He never wanted to hurt me again. He showered me with flowers, chocolates, and promises to work on himself. We had lengthy hours-long conversations unpacking why he did what he did. But that too was a lie, wasn’t it? How many times did you fall for it?
A few weeks after he walked out on me and our home, I ran into him at the airport. He had come up with a new story by then. He said it was me who was crazy. Despite his gaslighting, I dropped my bags and gave him a huge hug. I told him in his heart, he knew the truth. That when he strips away the facade, his persona, that his heart knows the truth.
But his heart was oddly hateful. Did you ever notice that?
His closest friends and collaborators? He hated them with a vengeance. He wished his closest friends would break off their engagement. He resented everyone for copying him. He thought his business partner was entitled and inexperienced. As many hateful things as he was telling them about us, he was telling us about them. I know now this is called triangulating.
Did you ever sense that? How much energy he pours into protecting himself, his lies, and his image? As scarred as I feel, I know it’s worse for him. There must be so much deep shame that lives inside.
You must have waited with bated breath to see how things would unfold with him and me. I hope now you feel reassured. Did it feel validating to see him replay the same patterns? I hope you know you’re not crazy, or abusive. Because it all happened to me too.
I used to make him dinner every night. Snag weekly tickets to his brother’s favorite pop-up. I would plan surprise staycations. Surprise dates. I planned a family wedding. I sent his mother gifts. I made relationship check-in documents. With that much to prove, I really was abusive. I was abusing myself. And that, I had to learn.
What did you discover about yourself? What stays imprinted on your heart? And what have you healed from? Do you feel free? I know I do.
I have so much more respect for women now. For what you must have endured. For what I endured. The ways we all endure, silently. I hope it didn't make you bitter. I hope it made you realize how much our experiences matter.