Learning to sit with it.
I will admit, over the last couple years there have been quite a few things I have not wanted to think about. Unfortunately, my brain would not give me a choice. I often get flashbacks, and when I do, I can feel myself freeze and wince from the memories. They are painful. Even today I walked past one of the spots where he bent over me screaming in my face threatening to hit me and making motions like he was going to punch me with all his might. His angry grimacing face inches from mine just appears in my mind. And even as a memory I can feel that restrictive control and the fear. In some ways it is worse now than it was at the time, because back then I did not know any different. Now that I know the difference remembering the way I lived is even more painful. Because now I know it was completely unnecessary,
I told my trauma therapist this week that I cannot believe I ever came to accept that relationship and the things that happened in it as normal. The things that were happening were so outrageous, how could I not see how incredibly toxic and controlling it all was. My therapist pointed out how that behaviour had been normalized through years of repetition and gradual escalation. Obviously it did not start out that way. In the beginning he was wonderful, he seemed like a dream come true. There were some red flags, but he seemed so charming, kind and giving, it was easy to dismiss them. I did not suspect what was coming at all. I always found some rational explanation for the bumps. He was jealous because his ex cheated all the time. Not to worry, I will show him how loyal I can be. He doesn't see his son because his ex is so crazy. I never thought for a moment he was lying to me or misrepresenting that situation. The noose was tightened through a very slow and gradual process. The good times gradually got further and further apart, until finally he dropped his mask completely. By then it was too late, I was caught in the trap.
So now I sit with the knowledge that I threw away years of my life and gave up on so many of my own goals and aspirations for that man. Now that I am away from his control and his perception management, I can see him for who he really is. He is not at all the man I thought he was. The puzzle pieces are coming together. I have realized I was completely duped. That is really really painful. There is so much loss, so much completely avoidable misery and frustration. So much damage to the children having grown up in a completely dysfunctional household. What was I thinking? Why the hell did I stay with that man?
It is in the contrast when you really see it. When you are no longer walking on eggshells. When you longer have to deal with his idiotic decisions and mistakes. One of the tactics is to launch vicious attacks, so that you do not have time to think rationally about what is happening. You just accept what the abuser is saying. There is even a name for it in neuro science. It is called inhibiting the neo-cortex, it is basically a freeze response where you just accept what you are being told because your brain cannot process and think critically due to the vicious onslaught.
Living away from that insanity, my brain has had the opportunity to reexamine the events of my marriage. His cheating, his lying, the way he charmed every one. (I have learned not everyone was fooled, there were those who saw right through him, they just didn't know how to tell me) Now, Life has become so much easier, for all of us. There was never any chance I would ever even remotely consider taking him back. Yet the kids still say to me, what ever you do, don't let him back. They worried about it. None of us want him around. No one wants to live that way again.
So why is it, I cannot just simply enjoy and live my life. Why am I still haunted by these terrible memories. That was the question I asked my trauma therapist. Because really I just want to forget. When I see him I am embarrassed that I was ever in a relationship with him. I can see how pathetic and weak he truly is, the wizard behind the curtain has been exposed. He is not the all powerful, capable, all knowing man I thought he was. He is a weak pathetic fool that huffs and puffs to get his way. He asserts control just by sheer force, by adopting the guise of knowing and confidence he caused me to capitulate and hand my own power over to him. I gave him the control and I allowed him to dominate me. This is also very painful. But at that time I really did not know any different. The warning bells of abuse were not going off as he never hit me. So I told myself, I was just being overly sensitive. If I just be a good wife and do better, things would work out.
But the reality that I can see now is, there was never a chance at all that it would work out. The rages were not momentary flashes of temper. They were deliberate attacks on my sense of self worth in order to elevate himself and maintain control. He didn't care how much he was hurting his family, as long as he got what he wanted, maintaining his position of king of the house. Maintaining the image of the good guy that had to put up with me. No one should have to live with the name calling, insults and threats that we lived with. My therapist said "You have a lot of empathy for that Carolynne that lived in that home". I am still dealing with that sadness for that girl that stayed, thinking that someday it would get better. I am sad for her confusion and pain. I am sad for her that she couldn't see that she could leave. I am sad that she couldn't see that she wasn't the problem, it was abuse,
It my session this week I realized that I cannot just push those feelings away. I have to allow myself to feel those feelings and process them until they no longer have an effect on me. I have been told by many that this type of abuse is something that stays with you for the rest of your life. I am starting to believe that might be true. Some damage just cannot be repaired. I can never get those years back. I have to live with the outcome of that marriage, the barriers that kept me from achieving many of the goals and dreams that I had. I have to forgive myself for not seeing my own agency, and not seeing that in fact I did have choices and options. But at that time, I was in a prison of psychological abuse and control so those doors truly were invisible to me. At that time, I firmly believed there was no way out.
Its a strange dichotomy when you have tremendous grief and regret living beside newly discovered freedom and peace. It still amazes me and fills me with wonder when I realize I do not live with yelling and screaming now. The wounds are still there, I still hear him telling me everything that is wrong with me. How horrible I am, and how lucky I am that he puts up with me. He recently said to me, that if I get into another relationship, I will see Ted wasn't so bad. Is he delusional? One thing I have learned is that the majority of men DO NOT treat their wives that way. Does he really think that it wasn't that bad? INSANE.
So, the past few days I have realized just sit with it. Allow myself to feel that pain of regret. Stop trying to push that pain away. Just allow it to sit, maybe I will need to cry it out some more. I did not deserve what he put me through. I have to give myself the compassion and care that I did not receive from my husband. That's the only way to find healing.
One day, I will get through a day without a memory of those horrible years. Today is so much better than what I knew before. I had a lot of healing to do, its a long road and I have to forgive myself for not just being able recover as quickly as I hoped I would. It takes time.