The words would come out of my ex-girlfriend's mouth at the drop of a hat. "You're stupid," Niki would say. It was almost casual, the way she would insult me like that. She would smile and look at me anytime I did something slightly strange (like trip over nothing while walking down the hall or drop a heavy bag on my foot) and say, "That was stupid" or "You're so stupid." She would often say it after we got grades back and I did better than her. The next time I did something kind of dumb, she would roll out with, "God, you're stupid." I think that she needed to do it to feel superior.
The problem with that is, when you tell someone that they are stupid every day, they start to believe it. I let her tell me I was stupid to the point where I honestly believed that she was the more intelligent of the two of us. Even when we took a class together and I got and A and she got a C, I believed with all my heart that she was smarter than me. I would ask her almost any question I had, fully expecting her to know the answer or be able to find it for me. I was like her child at these moments, believing her to be a source of unending knowledge. Which, of course, she wasn't. When she broke up with me it was at a bad time: the week before Spring finals and moving out, and my laptop had to be sent in to HP because the motherboard had melted. Still, when she left my room after breaking up with me, the first thing I did was sigh in relief.
Now, two years after our break-up, I can look back in retrospect and realize that the only thing I ever did that was stupid was letting her make me feel that way. When I am in a relationship I am one of the most romantic boyfriends in the world. I took her out to eat at nice places, I took her to movies, I would make her dinners we would eat to candle light outside in warm weather. You would think someone would repay that in kindness.
The worst part is that she is not the first person to do that to me. As a child, my father always enjoyed having control and power over me. When I was smaller and he was less fat and unhealthy, my father was a man to be feared. I remember sometimes hating going to his place because he had multiple times hit me or thrown something at me. He settled down when he got on meds for high blood pressure, but even my mom has stories from when they were married like a time he put his fist through the wall near her head. And I remember a time when he yelled at me on my friend's porch and her dad told him that if he ever yelled at me like that again he would call the police. But the tides began to change when I hit puberty. I was growing into a strong young man from swimming and his knees gave out. I was taller and faster than him. I was doing well in school.
Instead of being proud of me, however, he began to put me down. He would make fun of me for not knowing something to the point of hurting my feelings. If he was wrong about something and I knew the correct answer, he would lie and say that he was just testing me. If my hair was slightly different than the cut he preferred, he told me I looked like an alien. If I was dressed nicely and looking good, he'd call me a fag or "gay bait" depending on his mood. And no, he didn't know about my sexual explorations and he still doesn't know anything about my sex life. My dad is very conservative and would never forgive me being any different.
My dad's teasing got to me really bad. Like with Niki, I let myself believe that he was right, that I was stupid. Or I was ugly. Or any of the other number of spiteful things he said to me. It got to the point where I developed clinical depression. By my senior year of high school I believed him so much that I was subconsciously doing things that made me get bad grades. I pulled away from my friends, family, loved ones, even Paul for a while, and was trapped in a shell of misery. I didn't know what to do, especially because my grades had gotten so bad that I was close to not graduating high school. Because I was such a good student, I only had to actually pass one class to graduate, but I was failing that class.
I even missed some big cues that I had depression. For example, one day in Health Class I had to present on Male Depression and I remember listening to their stories and thinking, "That's not depression. I feel that way every day." Obviously this should have been a clue. But it wasn't until later that I finally realized I had a problem and looked for some help. Typical of me, I found a therapist on my own and began going to see him regularly. No, I'm not going to tell you I had sex with him, but he did help me out greatly. And fortunately for me, my teachers were very understanding, allowing me to make up the work I had missed and I managed to graduate high school in very high standing. Not top 10, but close enough for me.
And as far as my dad goes, last summer I was getting to the point with him where I felt like if he didn't change his attitude about me then I would have to cut him out of my life entirely. So I sat down with him and said, "Are you disapointed in me?" and let the question hang before I continued: "Because if you are, then you might as well forget about me. I'm an amazing person and I'm doing great things. And if that isn't enough for you, then nothing ever will be." After talking to him for over an hour I heard two words I never thought I'd hear: "I'm sorry." He isn't totally better, of course, no one changes that fast. But he doesn't treat me as badly as he used to.
Still, the question remains: Why do I let people make me feel like crap? I know on a base level that I'm very intelligent and attractive, and men and women tell me those things regularly. But sometimes the depression creeps back in and all I see in the mirror is a hairy blob turning into his father, or I can't remember something and for a moment I hear Niki, my father, or any of the other people who I've been in bad relationships with over the years, say in my head, "You're stupid."