The thing that most annoys me in dealing with PTSD is the nightmares. It just doesnt seem fair to have you worst life experiences triggered while sleeping, all helpless and unsuspecting like.
Worst yet, is waking up to the realization that your worst life experiences are reoccuring, but in an alternate reality sort of way. You cannot even tell yourself it’s not really happening, because it is.
You’re having a nightmare about some of the worst abuse you endured in your first marriage, only to wake up and want to curl up in the safest place you know, the arms of the man you learned to shed every scar away for, but he’s not there. He’s not there like he vowed he would always be, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. He’s not there like he swore to you he would be, while tears streamed down your face and you begged to never feel this pain again. He said he would never put you or your kids through that again. That the only way out was death. The guy who talked about dancing with you on your daughter’s wedding day. He’s not there.
You’re awake but it’s a living nightmare.
You can’t wake up.
Another sleepless night as I sit here poking through the ashes of thoughts in my skull, wanting it to go out, but finding these ambers that kindle the thoughts burning again and again.This whole weekend was like that. I would just put one burning thought aside when another when burn.
It started with a comment. One that could conveniently be written off as a joke and drunkeness had it not been so painfully true. A comment from a “friend”. The friend who always has drunken things to say to me that they can write off as drunken. The problem was that this comment wasn’t of the usual drunken context. It left a horrible taste in my mouth.
It was about Jer and it was a betrayal. It hurt me for him. It made me angry to know that I would bear this laden truth forever, that it would haunt me and that it was delivered so carelessly that no accountability would ever be taken for it. Deniability. Cowardice. Whatever you want to call it, it made me sick.
This is the person Jer often emulates and here was the proof that it was never necessary, that Jer is better than every other man in his life has ever been and he never gives himself credit for it. He weighs himself down with the burden of not being good enough, not worthy, never realizing he always was … at least to me.
But now, armed with this truth, it suddenly became clear that it was never about him being enough for me, it was about me, the kids and I, us … not being enough for him. He always needed more and he always sought it from the likes of these people who would never love him the way we could, but this was his choice. That was the truth and there’s nothing to do with the truth but accept it. It hurts. There’s going to be a grieving process. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fall out of love with that guy, wherever he is.
Then as I sat amongst our mutual friends Friday evening at a birthday party with the kids, I looked over at one point and saw Gino’s Dad staring at Jedi. I was instantly horrified by my carelessness. Here, I am sitting with my son, alive and well, the same age his own son should be now had cancer not cast its long shadow into their lives and as he gripped his wife’s hand, I felt like a giant asshole because I taken this precious commodity, life, for granted. Yes, we have an obscene amount of issues presently, but we also have our children alive and available to us daily and if that in and of itself doesn’t make us feel profoundly blessed, well, we’re assholes.
(Note to Self: Stop being an asshole.)
I wanted to text Jer and tell him to stop being an sshole too, to wake up and take a look around at all the blessings he’s been given in his life that he’s taking a giant shit on, but having arrived at the aforementioned realization that Jer’s perspective is not something I can change and still being perplexed by his passing up this time, I just allowed myself to be present in the moment. I left my phone in my pocket, put my arm around my son, pulled his head towards my lips and kissed the top of his head. He’s a teenager and he let me … I count this another blessing.
We arrived home to the news out of Paris. I was instantly horrified by what I heard and saw and with my daughter within ear shot, I instantly thought about how scary this could be for her and how to handle it. I thought about Mr. Rogers advice to “look for the helpers” in these situations, the people that run in despite their fear, the humanity. It wasn’t long before I found the #PorteOuverte (translation: #OpenDoor) that Parisians were using to offer shelter those seeking such after the attacks. That’s what moved me to tears. That’s the story I told my daughter to take away from the situation.
She asked me “Why?” and I didn’t know. We heard some theoritical chatter regarding radical Islam when she turned and asked me why any religion would believe that their God would have them kill other human beings, mothers, fathers, children, siblings. I talked to her about rhetoric and how it can be taken out of context when it suddently occured to me, that even our military falls into Christian rhetoric during acts of war. Praying in the fighting bunkers? Have they never shouted to God during a battle? Could Muslims exposure to this be their entire view of Westerners? These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night.
Saturday and Sunday were filled with goodbyes. Not “see ya later” types, but last words you ever get to say to someone type goodbyes. Saturday, I received word that my Uncle was in the final stages of dying. As I grappled with the idea of getting in my car and making a pilgrimage to his side, I stopped and closed my eyes and thought of our last conversation. It was Labor Day weekend. The night before my world blew up. But, we had laughed together and smiled, talked and hugged. His last words with me were: “I love you very much”. I decided I was ok with that. That’s how I want to remember him.
Sunday, I found out that a woman who shares a scleroderma diagnosis with me and whom I have come to greatly admire, was also in her final stages of life. She asked for my mailing address and told me that she wanted to send something, that it would be a goodbye but it wouldn’t arrive until after she’s “flown away”. I got to tell her that I loved her and that she had reminded me of my worth as a human, whether I was sick or not and that I would always be grateful for that. I promised to stay involved in her precious granddaughter’s life. It was bittersweet in that Im glad I got to say those things to her, but it was goodbye.
With all of this sentiment about the preciousness of life and gratefulness abundant in my heart, I told Jer that this weekend’s events had brought about a realization of the ridiculousness of our situation. I told him how blessed we had been to be given this life, together, with the kids and just how much it grieved me that we had taken it all for granted, but worse still, that there was absolutely nothing more I could do to change his perspective, to make him love me, us, the way only he can and it was time that I stop beating my head against the wall and tearing my heart out of my chest offering it up to him with vulnerability, trying to bring about an absolution that may never come. It was time for acceptance of all the things he had said and done proving who he is now and to grieve the loss of the love of my life.
My love asked me if this meant I was done, but there’s nothing for me to be done with. It was never my choice. I gave everything, was his best lover, his greatest friend and biggest fan. I helped all his dreams come true, stood by his side through it all and the first time I faltered, he could not bear the weight on his own. It was not enough.
The truth is, I wish that he could materialize from my dreams and live them out with me for the rest of our days. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop dreaming of him making it right or taking up the fight for our marriage and family. It is my heart’s greatest desire, but I regress and accept, as I must.
I may not understand what has or will happen between us right now, but I will remain thankful for you having been a part of my life.
I am thankful that you made me believe in love again when I had lost all faith in it ever being possible for me again. I am thankful that despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, you chose a single Mom with three kids to forge a family with. Ill always be thankful for the many ways you stepped up in the kids lives when you didnt have to. I will always be thankful for the ways you proved to me that I was worthy of being loved just the way I am. Because of that I wont ever settle for less for myself or our children.
That’s why I can’t stay.
In spite of everything that has happened, I will remain thankful for what once was.
At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.
As my marriage was ending, I struggled with shame, feeling alone in my own personal hell.
However, as my journey continued and I started to heal, I connected with others who had walked a similar path, and I discovered that I was not alone. Many voiced similar feelings experienced during their divorce, and more than once I heard “if only I had known what to expect.”
As homage to those that have split from their spouse, as well as those currently on their own divorce journey, I offer this communal list of what to expect:
1. We will doubt ourselves, and feel so afraid of the Unknown that we will reason that even though we are miserable, we are at least comfortable, and that we can endure an unhappy marriage.
We will try to convince ourselves of this, even though in our hearts we know that it isn’t true. But we will tell ourselves lies and reason with ourselves that we shouldn’t split—for the kids, for the finances, etc. We will bargain with ourselves because we are scared. Know that this is normal.
2. The roller coaster we feel when the decision is made to separate is unlike anything we ever experienced.
The regret, the grief, the pain, the confusion, the overwhelming, the fear, the desperation of wanting to be loved after our spouse is gone.
But even though we don’t know it, there is a weight that will slowly start to ease from our shoulders—the same weight that we denied all this time when we told ourselves nothing was wrong.
3. Our self-esteem may shatter, and we will be desperate for love and validation.We will think that nobody will ever love or want us again, and we may be tempted to date immediately and latch on to the first person who pays attention to us. We must resist this urge to attach ourselves, even if we have not had that romantic touch or intimacy for a long time. Trying to fill that void with another relationship robs us of the chance to heal.
4. Although we may tell ourselves that we’re fine, we will need a support system.
A therapist, a support group, good friends, or the non-judgmental anonymity of online forums. Whatever combination of systems we choose should help us attain two objectives: creating a safe place for venting, and helping us find constructive, healthy ways to cope with the divorce.
5. We will feel like we are getting sprayed with an industrial fire hose.
The number of “to-do’s” and “should-do’s” regarding emotions, finances, legal issues, custody and other logistics will come with incredible urgency. We will feel paralyzed and overwhelmed.
Understand that splitting is a process. Like any process, there are things to address immediately (safety, shelter, income), things to address a little bit later (understanding legal and custody issues, finding an emotional support system) and there are things to address longer-term (ensuring our separation agreement is something we can live with, making sure we and our children are adjusting). We will need to remind ourselves that divorce is like a marathon and it requires patience and persistence. We must save ourselves the stress by accepting that not everything has to be done right now.
6. We will have no control over our spouse’s behavior.
For serious offenses (threatening harm, cleaning out our savings account or wracking up debt on a joint credit card), we will absolutely need to take action. But there will also be annoyances that may not endanger us, but will anger us. It may seem like they are trying to make our life as miserable as they possibly can, which could result in a long, drawn-out, expensive, soul-sucking divorce—if we let it.
We will need to remember that although we can’t control their behavior, we can control how we react to it. Our decision to take the high road despite how they act is entirely up to us. Like most things during the split, it will be easier said than done.
7. We will be tempted to make decisions based on emotion, rather than logic.
We will forget that divorce is a business transaction––a splitting of assets and incomes. The logical part of us will understand this, but the part of us that is hurt may spend months fighting over things that have nothing to do with business at all. During the legal process, we will be forced to choose our battles. Choose wisely.
Lord knows he checked out mentally long ago but I told him to leave physically. I can’t handle his ghost on my couch that stalks the kids and I’s emotional sanctuary.
I have to re-examine my life alone. I have to face the reality that he’s never coming back.
I don’t know where this road leads. There’s parts of me that think it leads right into the treacherous pits of hell. There’s another part of me that thinks maybe that’s where I’ve already been. I’m hoping the only way out is up now.
God knows, I’m crawling and clawing at my surroundings trying to regain my balance and find some foundation to build upon. I’m being careful to not hastily build on quicksand. I’m doing a lot of examination of my surroundings and those surrounding me. I’m taking stock of intentions vs. actions, reaching out more to those that are willing to take action with me. I have no use for lip service. Put up or shut up.There’s work to be done. Lend a hand or get the hell out of the way.
Mostly I’m just promising to love myself in a way that maybe I never have. I’m loving my body and soul. Taking time to care for each. And so, I need to recommit to being here more often and writing more. That’s part of taking care of me. I always show up for my kids and friends. I know that about myself. I love that about myself, however, I need to be more selfish. I need to make time and space for my thoughts and feelings because no one else will, unless I recognize and make them a priority. I’ve given myself permission to have bad moments and days, but not all at once. If I slip and stumble, I will do the next right thing for myself. I will not allow myself to get stuck in these moments and days though. I will continually reach deep down inside myself, or even outside myself if need be, to find the momentum to keep going.
I don’t know where this road leads, but I will keep going.
Jer signed a year lease on his own place and is in the process of moving all his big ticket items out of the house. I guess that makes the separation “official”.
I had hoped that something different would happen, anything. I kept hoping he’d be the one guy in my life to stand up and fight for me, but instead I’m just here shadowboxing, prepared to swing at something, anything.
He had said that his intentions were to take this time and space to work on his own issues so that if we stood a fighting chance, he’d be able to fight. Words vs. actions doesn’t seem that way though. Im grown enough to recognize that.
As his best friend was helping him move out yesterday, I heard him say, “If this is a bluff, I’m not helping you move your shit back in.” It made my gut drop. My gut said this was something I couldn’t ignore. That’s his best friend. What exactly, if anything, has he said to him about his intentions?
I don’t know. I just don’t want to deal with any of this. I’d just like to awaken when all the dust is settled and decisions are made so I know what to do. And so, we have this Sunday’s song …