June 22, 2013_ This morning my pain is intense and my PTSD has been triggered. My children are coming home tomorrow after two weeks with my abusive ex-husband and I am flooded with worry.
My anxiety is not the result of any fact that I know today. I haven’t received a call from my children that they have been physically abuse, or even emotionally hurt. But, my anxiety is high nevertheless.
When I have the time to dig into those feelings, I try to understand what is going on inside my head and my heart. I don’t want to. I would rather avoid facing the wounds inside of me that are caused by having a relationship with an abusive, narcissistic man. But, I know that if I don’t face it and let myself cry, then I will not be healthy for who knows how long.
So, I sit in the morning quiet and let myself go there:
1. After 20 years plus with this man in my life, I am still in shock and want to believe that the bad half will go away or was all some joke and the good half will be back. I married this man and procreated with him because I wanted it to work, have a family, have what everyone else wants: A peaceful, happy family life to live out. I ignored all the signs, all the lies and hurtful actions of him early on or chalked it up to immaturity. Later, when it got really bad, I put on my “I can love him enough to fix him” hat and dragged us both through an army of therapists … rarely speaking about abuse but instead focused on cooperations, compromise and communication. I believed that the abuse was a symptom of our bad marriage. If the marriage got better, than the abuse would stop. It is hard to believe that I still cling to the idea that some how some way, he will change.
2. Mostly, though, I hear the far off voice in my head that explains how it will go… I will always be a target in the sights of an abuser because, I’m here. That brings me so much pain. Imagine what life would be like if your rapist lived around the corner and had court-ordered access to you. That is what is feels like for me every day. Sure, I can stuff it down a lot, or hide from the thoughts for periods of time, but mostly, I live with the dull ache of a trauma victim who can never quite feel safe. Most people who are not trauma victims or abuse victims believe, falsely, that I should be able to just get over it and move on. I wish with all my heart that I could. I’ve tried, hell, I keep trying. But it isn’t that easy or simple.
I live with an altered life than before meeting my ex-husband. I will always be vulnerable to his self-serving games in some degree and there is not much I can do about it. Because, and it has taken me years of therapy to understand this, I don’t control it. I can only accept it. My ex is an abuser and will always be and only he has control of that. No matter how much I try to get away from him, to run for safety, I will always be tied to him through out children. There is no final peaceful end zone. I now have one minor child and one who is 18 and just because the courts are no longer involved in our older child, doesn’t take away the vulnerability. My ex continues to manipulate our oldest for his own gain and at best, I can only watch in horror and hope that God and my love will help him handle it and understand it and not because co-dependent to a father who really only cares about himself.
3. My stepfather was emotionally abusive and treated my mother and her children badly for 25 years. As a child, I had hoped and believed that one day, the man would be exiled from our lives because my mother would wise up and leave the man. It never happened. Peace for me and my siblings finally came in only two ways: emotional detachment from my mother and the death of my mother. My mom died at a relatively young age and that is what finally brought the abuse by my stepfather to an end for me. I could finally turn away from him for good and never experience the abuse again. I was able to finally process and heal, but it came at such a great cost. I often will say that I would give anything to have my mother back, but I sometimes wonder if I would sell back the peace I have away from my stepfather’s abuse.
4. Most of our society, close friends, lawyers, judges, etc., don’t understand the abusive/victim relationship and just how emotionally damaging and unfair it is. Maybe it is because, like me, no one can quite believe that anyone, especially someone who looks normal, can be so cruel to another person, or a member of their own family. Whatever the reason, I can’t tell you how re-traumatizing it is to have to battle the misunderstanding of the hell that I deal with. Abusers are excellent at redirecting blame and dismissing and minimizing abuse. There is nothing more gut-wrenching that trying to sort through those feelings as a victim. I already blame myself of the abuse I suffer in more ways than I can write. When a loved one, or an attorney or counselor buys into the notion that it takes two to tango or that now that the marriage is over, the fighting should end, a victim just feels lost and hopeless all over again.
My ex shifts the history of our life over and over to suit his current story. His story about himself play out in just a couple of ways, a. his is a miracle who somehow made it through a horrible childhood in which he was seriously mistreated by a drunken mother and absentee father so the standards for his conduct today are lower than everyone else. He should be applauded for everything that he has accomplished since he did it on his own and if he doesn’t know how to act within a family or a circle of friends, he has a good reason. OR b. he is so mistreated by (fill in the blank) that he is entitled to strike back with whatever means he has.
My ex doesn’t stop, ever, to think about how his actions effect anyone, ever, except how they might treat him as a result. He creates a stream of pity and awe from those who he wants to keep around in order to maintain a stream of “love” toward him. This is like the one way street of harvesting a crop. A farmer doesn’t fertilize the field because he wants the corn to feel better or be treated well. He spreads the BS so that the plants will produce for him. This is the same for the abuser.
He also stomps on anyone who he thinks he can in order to shore up his self-image of power and superiority. And only he knows the delicate dance of self-thinking and image project that is necessary to be both passive and aggressive without ruining the whole think.
5. I used to play a pretty critical role in this dance, I still do in fact, but I’m not in control of most of it. But, when I was married and shortly after, I thought I was able to touch the right nerves to prevent abuse. But, I wasn’t. I used to get hit a lot when I was married. Soon after, my ex was afraid that I would tell what he did to me, so he switched his story to show the world that he was a great ex-husband .. he got pity from others and kept me from telling on him. He found a way to benefit from it all and I thought it worked. Our children had civil parents in divorce and that was my incredible hope for them.
The role I played, and now see, to keep it tolerable …. I would always real him in when I saw he was headed toward hurting me or the kids. I would talk to him and face him. I would confront him and “teach” him … because afterall he always played the role of poor nearly orphaned boy who didn’t know better. I believed him. So, I would coach him or instruct him that his actions, he may not realize, is hurting some people.
When he was unduly harsh in punishment with our children, I would calming speak to him about why that wasn’t a good idea from one single parent to another … and he, would listen, but never agree. I would then make some statement about what consequence might come, maybe to him, if he were to ever hit the kids. Dropping hints that he might not like a visit from the police.
Sometimes, I would try to appeal to his better nature of why he shouldn’t say move is “new” girlfriend into his house the day after he introduced her to our children. Or maybe he hasn’t thought about how that might look to a judge. Sometimes, I would stand firm on issues that I believed were absolutely in the worst interests of our children, like spending weeks away from home in his sole care, where they would have no escape if he began to hit.
But, these “games” were extremely draining and got a lot harder once he married and had a new supply of attention. It became harder for him to keep going with the story-line too. She was very insecure, understandably so, and couldn’t understand why he spent so much time touching base with me. So, the story had to change.
He started making false accusations toward me and picking fights that were based in fantasy. He screamed at me one day in a parking lot, that I had abused him. This was strange only because he never denied the abuse before. Not in front of attorneys, not in front of counselors, not even at a spouse abuse intervention group where he was suppose to be in therapy to stop hitting me.
I knew then, the I was in over my head. I couldn’t keep us with the speed of his spin or the level to which he would sink. I wouldn’t go there. I may have been playing a game with him, but it was with purpose to protect my children and stop abuse. I honored him when he seemed “healthy” and I played to get us to authenticity. I had hoped that by trying to see thinks his way, although I didn’t have faith in it, we could stay somewhat healthy as co-parents.
I set boundaries, not because I was some broken controlling bitch, but because without them, a lot was at stake for us all. I didn’t want to have to call the police and ruin all of our lives. I didn’t want my children to live with the result of going over a cliff because my ex didn’t have the best judgment.
But, judgment wasn’t the problem and trying to mitigate that deficiency was a mistake and pointless.
Instead seeing a woman trying to stay ahead of expected abuse, both emotional and physical, for herself and her children, society sees a woman who is crazy, holding onto the past, and bitter.
6. Family law is broken and society is responsible and that sucks. Call me what you want, bitter, resentful, damaged, crazy … it doesn’t hurt me as much as the reality that for me and my children, we will always have an abuser in our lives … a man who will may hurt us for any reason at any time and with no warning. A few miles from my home, my abuser lives and that thought can cause my anxiety to skyrocket. It is not fair that I am forced to co-parent with a man who has no limits to how he will hurt me if it suits him. But, it is true and I do not have the power to change it. When we first divorced, I moved 6 hours away from my abuser. Less than a year later, he moved three miles from my home, tried to socialize with my brand new friends, and lied to our old ones. He sued me twice, first for child support reduction despite his new job that more than doubled his income, and then for custody of our teenagers five years after our divorce. He abused me in this way because he could and still can. He is allowed to use the court to harass me as much as he wants and as long as he has friends and attorneys who tell him he is right then he will keep it up. I have to live with this daily and it sucks.
7. My ex is not well and won’t likely get well so this is my life. It casts a dark, muddy light on it that I would do just about anything to make go away, except the few actions that would work … walking away from my life or my children. I wouldn’t give up the children, their birth, their happiness for anything in the world. Nothing would cause me more pain. I have sacrificed my life in many ways for theirs. Oh not like some hero … far from it … I have been a mess many times with my children. Weak and broken and lost. But mostly I can be strong for them and I strive to be stronger every day. I want the best for them, even if I am unable to give it. I am never unwilling. I pray that God will protect them where I can not. I pray that God will lead me where I don’t know where to go. I seek professional help so that I can learn how to navigate this for them. I don’t want the only answer for peace to be death or an end.
8. My heart breaks for my children. My first born is such a sweet young man who only wants everyone to get along and doesn’t understand why that doesn’t happen. He wants his family to be normal and together and he doesn’t want any more trauma in his life. He is hoping that there is something he can do to make that happen … just like me so many years ago. He is on his own journey that will have more pain and that he won’t likely understand and I wish I could find the right words to help him, but I don’t know what they are.
My children didn’t get the best childhood that they deserved and I’m like any other mother out there …. I wanted them too. My guilt runs deep that I gave these children their father and then gave them a divorce and then didn’t stop the rest of it. I didn’t have the power to do it and I am so sad about that. My children are precious and special and when they get home tomorrow, they will have feelings that they don’t understand … what they are, I won’t likely know … but I can guess.
At best, they will long for a single household, married parents and peaceful family relationships. At worst, they will have to decompress from whatever emotional hoops their father put before them and now have to try to figure out if I am the enemy or the mother they have always loved.
So, I sit here this morning. Crying and writing. Trying to let out the feelings that keep me up at night and cloud my mind. I want to have the normal life that others don’t understand why I don’t have. I want to live in the moment and enjoy. I want to go back and start over and pick the person who is healthy and not an abuser. But, I can’t. I have to live with that mistake forever. And I have to fight the urge to run from my feelings and pretend. I have to fight trying to think my way out of this mess and just feel how bad it feels. I have to fight wanting to “do” something to fix it and just feel it.
And I have to live with the truth that I am different than others. I am not married to my soulmate or best friend. I am not without damage. I don’t trust people much, but so desperately want to. I have a deep disappointment that will never go away and I will loose people in my life because of it. Not many people want to hang out with someone who isn’t normal.