Two steps forward, One step back - Healing isn't linear

Healing isn't quick, and it isn’t linear” When I first heard those words I thought “Yeah, Yeah, not me I am heading straight for healed. I am not going to be lounging around this place. I am moving on.” I didn’t think I would ever slide backwards. I am thankful those words were said to me. Otherwise, I would judge myself and feel guilt for not being where I think I should be by now. Recently I started listening to an audiobook, The Body Keeps Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk PHD. In it he describes the trauma he saw while working with Veterans. I never had anyone die in my arms, my buddy wasn’t blown up while we were eating lunch. What do I have to complain about? How can I be this messed up by what happened to me? Am I weak? Was that really abuse? Was it really that bad? I have no injuries. Maybe I am being overly dramatic. Even as I sit writing this blog, and I have concrete evidence of everything that happened. I still find myself asking if I imagined it all. Asking my friends yet again. "Am I am making a mountain out of a mole hill?” Luckily they understand needing the on-going validation is a part of the journey. I am so thankful.

Intellectually, I know it was real, and it was devastating for me. It’s very confusing to me that I have any doubt. The conditioning to doubt my own instincts is obviously still in effect and is still strong. It’s painful to see my marriage for what it was, facing that I stayed so long. I want to believe he was the man he portrayed himself to be. That really we just grew apart, I didn’t waste my young adulthood on him. I saw him as a good man that had occasional had anger issues, I believed he had a good heart.

I didn’t recognize what was happening was abuse, that anger was strategically deployed to manage me. He wasn’t just flying off the handle. He knew exactly what he was doing, and it was a choice he made. He decided we would live in a house full of anger and rage because it got him what he wanted. The effect on us, and the emotional damage he was inflicting didn’t matter to him. He felt no guilt. The abusive anger was a tool. (More on this in the book Why Does He do That, by Lundy Bancroft) He told me all of that screaming, yelling and chest thumping was completely justified. It was all my fault because I was a stupid bitch. Once I learned how to be a good wife and behave properly he would stop and he would be a good husband. He was going to teach me how to behave. In his own words he is admitting the purpose was behaviour modification. You don’t have to take my word for this, you can hear him for yourself in this recording. I am sitting here a little stunned at the memory. I remember how it felt, I remember feeling so helpless. Nothing I said made any difference. Facts didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. The only thing that mattered was what he said. If he said it, it was THE truth. If you happened to make a point, he would quickly deflect to some thing that happened years ago.

Why did I keep trying? That is a question to explore in another post. I never learned to walk away when there was no hope. I was fully invested in maintaining the façade. I desperately wanted to believe. Day after day I plastered on my best smiling face. I was thinking I had to learn how to adapt to the world I lived in, and learn to be happy in it. Adapting my world, getting out, never crossed my mind. I foolishly thought things could be fixed. I remember when my 90 year old great aunt listened to his recording to me "You have to leave, there is no other way" I still didn't want that outcome. Finally facing the fact I was in a completely empty marriage was extremely difficult. It’s hard to acknowledge that all the things that were your foundational truth are not true at all. I know what it was, but my heart still wants to believe something different. Being placed in the position where your are driving yourself to the hospital in the middle of the night in labour, or a Christmas Eve despite promises all week there is no Christmas tree for your two small children, you have to accept he wasn't a supportive partner.

How can I possibly be questioning this. If one of my friends were to tell me the same stories, I wouldn’t even hesitate, its clearly abusive. One memory has been playing in my mind the last few days. I was trying to tell him what was going on in our house wasn’t normal, and him screaming at me was not ok. I remember his voice full of anger and rage. “This goes on in every house on this street” “There is no normal, everyone is like this.” Today, I think of this and I realize, he would say ANYTHING, to get his way. I am quite positive he really knew that it was not in any way normal or acceptable, because it definitely was not the way he behaved anywhere other than when we were alone in our home. Thinking about this makes me so angry. Because I can see know the things he told me and the way he screamed at me just to keep control. I was overpowered. I was trying to be rationally and logical with someone that would say ANYTHING to win. But for everyone else he was nicest guy you ever met. I think it very unlikely anyone around us at the time would have ever believed what was happening the moment they left.

I never saw my relationship as abusive while I was in it, it just was what it was. I was unhappy, it wasn’t working out, but I never would have told you that it was abusive. How could I accept what was happening was normal. I still don’t understand. One of the most frustrating things, is that I was unable to defend myself from it. At the time it was like a blitzkrieg, I was completely overwhelmed by the speed, aggression and verbal power that was barreling my way. It often came completely unexpected, one minute everything is fine, the next he is towering over you contorting with rage. It never occurred to me, he didn’t want things to be fixed. For him, things were perfect just as they were. I was completely submissive and in the dark. He was doing what ever he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it. He was the man of the house. King. While he dominated me, he felt very powerful. For a long time, our marriage worked really well for him. Up until I finally caught on to an affair. Then he lost control and what was once tolerable became horrific.

While I didn’t understand the dynamics of what was happening, I definitely felt the impact. I often felt completely immobilized. Sometimes, I still feel that way. There can be days where I am incapable of doing anything at all and I spend the whole day on the couch. I have to tell the kids to got get McDonalds for supper, I just have no energy to cook. Then you beat yourself up for not having it together, and feeling like a failure. Why am I still stuck here, its been 3 years. But, in reality, you really need that time. Your heart and mind have been wounded just the same as if you had broken your leg. When something is broken, you need to give it a rest and give it time to heal. Then there is the guilt, for not doing all the things you feel you should. For not being over it as quickly as you want. For needing to stop everything. It feels so irresponsible. I am supposed to be working, cleaning my house, maybe do some volunteering. But sometimes, I just can't.

What I want is to forget. I want to forget how he screamed and me when 6 months pregnant “I am having nothing to do with your fucking kid” I want to forget him going up the stairs hollering “WARDEN! WARDEN!” while pointing aggressively at me. At the end of our marriage, he acknowledged he knew the emotional and physical toll that he put me through. He claimed at the time that he didn’t have many friends still needed me to be his friend. I believed he said this because he found himself facing a void. I don’t believe he actually thought the marriage would end, he was trying to get me back under control, like he had successfully done so my times before. I believe he thought he was going to put me in my place and carry on. He didn’t have a circle of friends to rely on, and he wasn’t genuinely close to those he did have. He was going to have to face himself, and that was a pretty bleak world. Without us he had pretty much nothing. He went through a phase where apparently his mental health really suffered, and this was also my fault. He has quickly remedied this by getting a new family. New kids, new wife, no actual change, just new faces. I won’t make that same mistake.

Is it even possible to be friends with someone after recognizing that they systematically terrorized you for 27 years. Why would I want a friend that had spoken to me the way he did, that had done everything he could to crush my spirit. He said he had wished he had tried to make me happy. An admission that during our marriage he wasn’t even trying. While I was turning myself inside out to make it work for 27 years, he wishes he had made an effort. I wish I had walked away sooner. I believe that for him, it was a brief moment of genuine regret. I also think that keeping a friendship link would be a way to work his way back in at some point in the future. When he split, he said he would still like to date me. (umm no thanks) He also said, “Maybe I will come back and take half the farm again” I was having NONE of that. After we separated, I realized I had to have a complete break in order to straighten out my head from the massive mindfuck of our marriage. Every time I heard from him, or saw him I was right in the cage he built for me. No we can never be friends, I don’t even want to remember that I ever knew you.

I once was with a male friend when my former husband walked into my barn, and my friend said, “I knew exactly who he was, you changed immediately, instantly submissive.” Breaking free has not been easy. There are reminders everywhere. I am still in our family home, I see the trees he planted. I remember him taking off for a bike ride down the driveway. For a long time I was still finding items he left behind. One day I tried to give him back some pants he had left in my drawer he said "they are garbage, that's why I left them there" Such a revelation of who he is, just leave me with all his junk, expecting me to take care of it. Such a classic representation of our marriage. I also found the memory card that had pictures of our front door from the camera he had hid to monitor our front door for years. I had known it was there, but I discovered the camera had been there since 2014, much earlier than I had been told. It makes me think, what else don't I know?

Disturbing memories keep painfully poking me. Leaving my home, I get a sense of dread. At the corner store, I scan the parking lot for his car before I pull in, I feel apprehensive that he might show up when I am inside. I keep a wary eye out at the grocery store, afraid he might turn up at any moment. At Costco, I am grateful to wear a mask, I can hide. I comfort myself with the thought that he likely can't afford a membership there, so I likely won't see him. Someday I will live where there is no chance of an encounter, I will fully claim my life as my own. I am committed to keeping things stable for the sake of my children, so for now home is here, but I am looking ahead to when I can change my reality. One day he will be nothing but distant history.

If I don’t “do the work” or take the time, I will just be bringing that baggage into my next relationship with me. That’s not what I want. The kind of relationship I envision for myself, is worth the wait, and it is worth the work. Its worth the set backs. I am a human being, worthy of acknowledging I can't do it all. Sometimes, I still need to put everything down and go back into healing mode. I have a lot of life in front of me. If I learned anything from my marriage is that healing old wounds is far more complex when a new person becomes involved. You confuse who is responsible for what, and old subconscious triggers can cause new problems. I want to have a relationship, where its caring and loving. Where we laugh, and do fun things together, supporting each other. I want to be able to be there for someone. One day.....

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All