[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 effect 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 cried nearly daily, usually when everyone else was in bed, 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, ignore anything passive aggressive, tell people he's tired, not feeling well, having a rough week at work, or just irritated with me. 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 of fighting I would suggest going to the park, or a museum, 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, had the keys to the gun lock box hidden away, 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 shared dream 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.
After years of holding on, and loving through ravaging storms, it all came down to 9 little words. Nine words, thrown out in anger and given little consideration, were the death knell of our marriage. They were cruel and thoughtless, but more than that they were said about the daughter I had lost just two months before. Just like that I felt any love I was carrying extinguish and go cold. I spent the next five months playing a part, and desperately trying to rekindle that part of myself. As the abuse began to trickle past shut doors and into rooms where my children could witness it I begun to prepare. I would do whatever I had to to protect them.
When the catalyst I didn't know I was waiting for finally arrived and I was pushed over the edge a part of me felt immensely grateful. The next few days, spent watching 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 may 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 cruel 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.
Now, I am so much better than okay. I am happy and at peace, and that feels absolutely incredible. I cannot say 'thank you' enough 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.
If there is anyone at all who needs a listening ear through their own storm, please feel free to comment on this post, or reach out to Wild Woman Wellness Center for my contact information.