real life

She had been through so much. And he'd gone through it all with her. But it still wasn't enough.

Kayla Ramsay

 

By KAYLA RAMSAY

The following is an excerpt from Warrior Princess, a memoir outlining the effect of childhood trauma on present-day experiences. In this extract, our writer discovers that the success of her marriage has little to do with her husband, and everything to do with how she perceives him.

I’d forgotten how to listen. I’d forgotten the very reason I fell in love with him; the way he could watch a documentary, read a book, or hear a story – and recite it all back to me so perfectly that I could fall into his world, and feel safe and welcome. Because unlike the worlds I knew before, his were controlled. He was both the hero and the master of his adventures, and he could change the story as he pleased.

It was two months since the New Year, when he’d raised doubts about the future of our marriage. I hadn’t seen it coming. Since then, my whole world had come undone and I’d found myself lost, tangled and formless in the frayed strings of my former self, so tightly and wrongly woven around misconceptions of him, of me, of us.

We took a road trip that weekend, and he drove with his hand on my knee like a man afraid. He looked over at me with that combination of sadness and strength, knowing I was lost to myself, but not to him. Not yet.

As he drove I sat curled up on the seat beside him – and he began gently, gently calling me back with the sound of his voice again. With his stories. And soon my own voice was calmed and soothed, and the other voices quietened. As the hours passed, the walls of my mind strengthened their boundaries. The shuddering stopped, and clarity began to descend. He told me stories that at first, sounded just like a distant hum. Stories of machines, spy thrillers and science. And as I listened more, they became stories of spirit, heroism and strength.

“He drove with his hand on my knee like a man afraid.”

And it was now that I could look in his eyes as though looking up through water. Seeing him, looking at me through the rippled glass and reaching his hand down.

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And I began to realise that he’d seen clearly all along. It was me who was drowning, looking through the distortion and the pain, turning away and letting myself sink down, down into darkness.

And then I saw it; the exhaustion in his face. The load he’d carried so willingly and so lovingly.

The pain of living with this hurricane of a woman every day, who he wanted so much to protect. The sense of failure when he couldn’t. The love, and everything he’d protected me from. And the pain of me, telling him it wasn’t enough.

I had been blind to all his work. I had been deaf to all his stories. But I could see him now; his armour torn down by pain, his eyes wide with exhaustion. His shoulders slumped and hands open. I’m here. I’m here. Why is it not enough?

And then flickers of memory rose from the night. A nightmare of being hunted and being woken by my own trembling, but slipping back into sleep, soothed by his hand stroking my hair. And with the memory came others. Dreamlike slithers and sensations of his hand holding mine as we lay side by side. Of his hand stroking my cheek. And my head being lifted gently back on to the pillow.

I looked down at his hand on my knee now. Those hands I fell in love with. The ones that protected me in the darkest nights, and held me so tightly when I was afraid. The hands that found me in bustling crowds, and secured me in my fits of madness.

Silently I turned my face to the window and kept listening to him talk. I just kept listening. There really are no words you can offer a person who has already given you more than you could ever have hoped for.

Kayla Ramsay is a writer, journalist and survivor who writes on a range of topics including mental illness, trauma, womanhood, love and spirituality. She is currently working on completing her first manuscript, blogging and writing at www.kaylaramsay.com.

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