My picker might not be broken anymore

My picker was broken. I just realized that might be better.

“What’s a picker?” you ask.

It’s the thing inside of me that picks the people I allow and invite into my life on an ongoing basis. It used to just refer to the men I’ve been in romantic relationships with but I’m realizing it is also referring to friendships. My romantic relationship history has been on a spectrum from dismal, at best, to harmful. My friendships have been a bit better, but still very problematic at times. I’ve been hurt a lot by both kinds of relationships, as I’m sure many of us have. It all started in childhood with the circumstances I was raised in and the people I was raised by.

TW: Trauma triggers ahead regarding childhood trauma and mental health issues

My mom was a teenager from a broken home who had never really been given stability and roots when she got pregnant, married her first husband, and had me. Additionally, she experienced undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues. My parents were married in November, I was born in June, and they were divorced by August. We moved from California and landed in Texas, eventually. She was married two more times by the time I was six and she was 22. Wow! I just did that math. I hadn’t realized exactly how young she was when she married my second stepfather…who happened to have been a pedophile. Now, I suddenly understand how I wasn’t the only one he groomed, manipulated, and took advantage of. I have some unpacking to do. I guess I have something to discuss with my trauma therapist later today.

Anyhow, moving on.

After the events that took place in her third marriage, we moved around a few more times until she found her family in Portland, Oregon. So, we moved up here to be close to her father and brother. Within a short period of time, my relationship with her deteriorated badly, as did her mental health (unbeknownst to me), and she signed guardianship of me over to my uncle (who was only 15 years older than me). I was 12. Subsequently, she moved back to Houston and, within a couple of months, killed herself. She was a few weeks away from her 29th birthday. Within a short period of time it became evident that substance use/abuse was an issue in my uncle’s home and within a couple of years his marriage broke down and at 14 I started taking on adult responsibilities, such as taking care of my infant cousin so much that people thought she was my child.

We moved several times within Portland until I landed back in the apartments my mom and I had first lived in when we arrived in Portland. That’s where I met my oldest child’s biological father. I was 16 and he was 30. It took me awhile to figure out that my first “adult” relationship was actually just another form of child abuse. We lived out of cars and hitchhiked across the country and lived out of cars for three and a half years, manipulating and conning people for money and survival. I had my son during that time. I was 17 when he was born. At 19, in a bout of domestic violence, my neck was almost broken and that was the last time I ever saw my son’s father.

From that point forward, my relationships were with men who weren’t available emotionally or in a materially supportive way.

Then I had my first mental breakdown at 22, had an aborted suicide attempt, dropped out of college, and spiraled out of control. I got pregnant with my second child at 23, and was a single-mom of two at 24. During the pregnancy, I met the best man who wanted to be supportive in all ways, but I wound up pushing him away because I didn’t want to need him so much on any level. I wasn’t ready to be dependent on anyone. I suppose I was afraid of losing something I didn’t think I deserved, so, I just chose not to have it in the first place. Two years later, I met the father of my youngest child. We had an 18 year, more on than off, relationship characterized by his anger and my depression. By that time, I was so traumatized I didn’t believe I could have or deserved anyone better and tried so hard to make it work that I developed complex PTSD to the point I still don’t remember the physical abuse my children tell me happened to us.

A little over eight years ago, within a few days of our child’s fifth birthday, I left him. It took me from December 2013 to June of 2019 to break from my co-dependence with him and be able to move toward independence and self-sufficiency. He just got married this past weekend and I finally feel free from him, except for the fact I still have to interact with him as the co-parent of our child.

I’ve spent the last eight years in therapy and working on my healing and recovery. I’ve discovered I have Bipolar II Disorder, cPTSD, and Binge Eating Disorder. It’s been a long road and, apparently, there’s still more to this journey.

I’m tired of doing it alone. Finding out he was getting married last week precipitated me getting an account on a dating app. I’ve been on apps before which resulted in passing in the night experiences. So far, this one’s different. I’ve made two matches whom I’ve actually met face to face.

Will I form a lasting romantic relationship with either? I don’t know. What I do know is that the caliber of human they are is unlike any of the men I’ve invited into my life before…other than the pastor and elders of my faith community. Open, honest, communicative, empathetic, non-judgmental, kind, and generous are the characteristics I’ve witnessed in both of these men. If nothing else, I’ve met two people I’m willing to bet are going to be good friends in the long run.

How can I tell this? I spent at least an hour in conversation with both of them before we even ordered our meals. Our meals took a long time to finish because our conversations continued and went deeper. After we ate, we chose to spend even more time together, in conversation. We learned about each other’s lives, current and past. We shared our beliefs, mores, and values with one another and found a lot of common ground. All together, each encounter lasted at least three or more hours. Even if we never encounter each other again, I feel like I’ve been seen, heard, understood, and accepted. I’ve never felt that way by any man or very many people at all throughout my life.