[Possible trigger warning: abuse, suicide, cutting, eating disorders]
So many of you wonderful ladies have checked in over the last few weeks, I just wanted to give an update. I'm doing okay. I'm actually doing a lot better than okay. I've had moments, hours, and even entire days of genuine happiness and peace in the last few weeks. I haven't felt that in years. I was so deeply entrenched that I thought it was me. I thought maybe I had depression or anxiety. Don't get me wrong, I can be high strung sometimes. This was different. This was the affect of living with someone with those issues for so long I couldn't separate the two.
I was anxious because I knew he could go flying off the handle at any moment. I walked on eggshells because I never knew what would set him off. I was sad, and even suicidal at times, because I was constantly trying to not only find my own bliss, but create a beautiful childhood for my children AND manage the emotions of a grown ass man who was never, ever satisfied. I was told daily how it was all my fault. I wasn't providing what was needed to fix the situation. I made him want to blow his brains out. I wasn't fulfilling my vows and being the support person I was supposed to be. Why wasn't I pulling him out of this? I didn't know how to listen, validate, or show compassion. It was all me. I was selfish. How could I do this to him?
With time I begun to lose myself. I cut regularly for years, only stopping when I finally had the divorce papers in my hands. When my self worth would plummet I would gain a sense of control by slipping back into eating disorders. I thought I was a generally optimistic person, yet I felt little hope. I didn't think I was ever coming back.
I became adept at dissembling in public - smile, focus on the kids, tell people he's tired, not feeling well, having a rough day at work, or just irritated with me, ignore anything passive aggressive. It was okay if I was miserable and uncomfortable so long as the children were creating nice memories. If it was a particularly bad day I would suggest going to the park so the kids didn't have to notice what was happening. It was all about protecting them. If I slept with a knife under my pillow some nights, or found myself stepping closer when something physically intimidating happened to try to challenge the behavior and show I wasn't shaking when I was, well...at least they were safe. I didn't have the means to support them by myself, and he was a good enough dad.
Somewhere in all of this I got incredibly lucky; When faced with living in fight, flight, or tend-and-befriend, my instinct was tend and befriend. I focused on tending my children, and building my community. In reaching out during this time of desperation I accidentally stumbled upon a friendship that would lead to finding a soul-sister, and a mutual idea for a monthly event that would turn into an incredible community. Somehow I became so lost I had no choice but to begin finding myself, and I was blessed to be surrounded by a tribe of fierce, loving lionesses.
During a senseless fight he became enraged with me for saying that if supporting me made him angry, I was just going to talk to my best friend about things instead. When I tried explaining the immense pain and grief I was carrying, that he never let me talk about, and how deeply the loss of my daughter was affecting me, how much I missed her, that I felt like I had failed her, and all of the ways the loss was destroying me he screamed, "I don't give a shit about any of that." And just like that I felt any love I was carrying extinguish and go cold. From that moment I knew there would be no saving us, yet it would take me another five months to build up the courage.
When the catalyst I was waiting for finally arrived and I was pushed over the edge a part of me felt immensely grateful. The next few days, as I watched so many 'lasts' go by - mourning the life I thought I would have and fearing for my children - were excruciating. I thought about changing my mind. I thought there was no way I could do this. I felt guilty and selfish. I thought the pain my actually kill me.
And then it finally happened - We spent our last night together, he left the next morning for the last time, and he went to his parents after work. I was afraid of sleeping alone. I was afraid of loneliness and being overwhelmed. I waited for those feelings to creep in. I waited for the relief to fade. It hasn't. I sleep just fine on my own, and things are getting done. I find myself excited for the peace after bedtime, when no one wants my attention and my time is blissfully my own. When I'm with someone I luxuriate in every beautiful moment because it is my choice, and my time is being freely given. I am a better mother - calm, centered, and less likely to snap because I'm not going through the day with a constant countdown in my head saying "this many hours of quiet left..." When he does bring drama into my life I now have the control and can end the situation when I no longer find it productive.
Now, as I sort through the patterns, signs, and red flags I have realized that even without hitting 'on purpose' this was abuse. I am seeing that these patterns have followed me my entire life. I have lived, at best, 6 months of my life without being in an abusive situation. Enough. I will not go back. I now understand my aunts who left unhappy marriages and spent the rest of their lives clinging, joyfully, to their independence. I understand now that loneliness is not nearly as frightening as poor company. I see that love that hurts is not love at all, and is not something I will suffer ever again. I have spent three decades catering, coddling, and placating. I will do everything I can to ensure the rest of my life is spent in defiance of this paradigm.
So, to all of you lovely souls who have reached out, please know that I am so much better than okay. I am happy, and at peace, and that feels absolutely incredible. To everyone who gave advice on this process, sent resources, walked me through what the experience was like for them, or sat by me through seemingly endless tears and questioning myself ad nauseam: I cannot thank you enough. I love you all, and I am here for anyone else who may ever be heading down this same road, or anything similar.