"The signs of abuse are often talked about in hindsight. “Looking back, I knew something wasn’t right.” “Now that I think about it, there were warning signs.” These are phrases commonly brought to the fore when it is revealed that someone has exercised abusive or even homicidal behavior. While it might seem strange, the reason for the disparity between real-time recognition and hindsight recognition is this: abuse is often covert." - Better help
YOU CAN'T HOLD A JOB!!!!! he snarled at me as he lunged toward me halfway across the bed. His eyes were glaring with pure hate as he mouth curled with aggression. The memory is seared in my mind. I had just walked in the door of the bedroom, and I remember him saying something to me right before this, but that part is a blur. When ever he did this type of thing, I usually held totally still, the freeze response. I do believe I suffer PTSD from these assaults, for months after our separation even though he was out of the house, I still would get the flashbacks. The verbal assaults were as vicious as being kicked in the head.
This particular time, being frozen was also mixed with disbelief. "I can't hold a job?" "What?" Technically, I have been employed by the same employer for 22 years. What changes is my position, and each of those position changes has been a promotion. Promotions that I actually worked hard to obtain. To say I can't hold a job is actually insane. I have done really well in my career.
He had successfully gaslight me repeatedly over the years,. But even in my traumatized brain this was unbelievable. He was losing control at this point. His attacks were beginning to escalate, and he was doing whatever he could to try and regain dominance and place me into a submissive position. He was starting to get desperate. It made him more dangerous.
Now I know, that's exactly what they will do, they will go after the areas in your life were you are successful. If you feel good about yourself, that's a threat. They need to knock that down, kill that spark. When you do finally get out, its one of the things you have to rebuild, a sense of competence.
I was a student when I met him. I had just finished first year university. (OMG what was I thinking) He treated my education and then subsequently my career as this cute little thing I did. Don't worry your pretty little head about too much sweetie. It wasn't actually important. Nothing that I wanted or did was important, my needs were always second. I accepted this as a given at the time. Its only know with some time and distance I am starting to see how absolutely insane it was.
I remember being at work, it was my very first real job. At that time I was the executive assistant to the president of a manufacturing company. A really good opportunity with lots of promise. My then husband was watching the kids, and he was upset about something. (I don't remember what now) and he said "If I hurt these kids it will be your fault". I actually thought I was being really savvy and tough and I told him if he laid one hand on those kids I would be calling the police. I really thought I was in control and so smart. But really, I was ignoring a massive red flag. When you have the father of your children, calling and inferring they may hurt your children, it tends to have a pretty negative effect on your job performance. Honestly, looking back I don't know how I made it.
That particular incident was pretty early in our marriage, within the first 5 years. I only had two kids at that point. How come I didn't recognize that behaviour for what it was. ABUSE. I remember hanging up the phone, sitting at my desk and just shaking. I wish I could tell you it was the only time I sat shaking at my desk during my career. At one point, I actually ended up taking 4 months stress leave from work because of something at home. But that's, a whole different post that I am not quite ready to write about yet.
To anyone out there reading this, if you recognize any of this in your life. I can assure you it does not get better. It just gets worse. I spent years trying to find the key to fix it. A friend of mine told me at the end of my marriage, "What you were up against was insurmountable" That was really hard to accept. But I know now to be true. You just waste years of your life on a hamster wheel of misery. Of course, its interspersed with good times, but those are designed to give you hope, to keep you hanging on so you will keep running, chasing that ever elusive dream he sold you in the beginning. Back when he was your sweet, thoughtful prince charming.
I thought I was strong, and tough. I could cope. I really didn't think this behaviour was affecting me. The truth was, I was tired all the time. I had trouble focusing. I thought I was lazy. He of course was more than happy to reinforce my lazy belief. I struggled a lot. I had a hard time remembering details. I also tended to be a bit anti-social. I avoided my co-workers. I was also very reactive and quick to anger. ( a feeling I now have not felt in quite sometime)
I realize now, I would have done a lot better if I was not dealing with everything that was going on at home. Those feelings of confusion and struggle, to that degree, is not really normal. Now I am realizing, I am much more capable than I had given myself credit for, and I could achieve a lot more than I had so far. I have energy now, I can do a lot more in a day. Its amazing.
I had gotten so used to it, that I thought that was how life goes. For most of us, it really doesn't have to be that way. I thought getting divorced and moving on with life on my own would be hard. And, I won't lie, it was, in certain ways. However, that pain and struggle can be dealt with and eventually you come out the other side.
Living in that marriage was much much harder, and miserable. You can delude yourself, and tell yourself your happy. But I know in my case, I didn't even know what happy was. I didn't start to really experience happy until the past couple months. The more distance there is between myself and that relationship the more I realize how life is full of colour and joy. I am actually feeling my emotions, its not that dull grey ache. I spoke to my therapist about this, she said, you were probably depressed. OMG I spend twenty something years depressed. And all it took to cure it, was to get rid of him.
Recently, I started a new position. It took me almost 2 years to get it. I had to win a competition and get into a pool, then I had to market myself. Its no small task to achieve, especially as you get higher up the ladder and the competition gets tougher.
This is the first job I have had that has been untainted by the weight of having him in my life. And I have noticed some huge differences already. I find my mind is clearer, I can focus. I can remember details. I am very organized. I realized, this is who I really am when I was not dealing with that crazy making destabilizing behaviour at home. I am really excited about it, it is a position with a lot of opportunity. I am responsible for myself and it feels good. I am don't have anyone sneaking rocks into my rucksack deliberately making things more difficult. (and yes they do know what they are doing, read Lundy Bancroft, the link is in the resources section) .
I can't hold a job. No, I can't and I am damn proud of it. I plan on not holding this current one for more than a couple years too. Not holding a job has put me in a position where I can easily pay my bills and my comfortable retirement is assured. I love being able to look after my children's needs. No one is hungry, and I can spoil them a bit. Most importantly, not being able to hold a job meant I could leave him. And that was really why he said things like that. He wanted to ensure that I was dependent on him for everything and if he could convince me I was a loser that failed at everything in life, then he was have full control.
I am a very successful, educated woman with a very good solid career. I had a lot of support available to me. I had the means to leave. Yet, I stayed in an unhappy marriage for 27 years. 100 percent believing I couldn't make it on my own. If this is happening to you, don't be hard on yourself. It happens a lot more than you think. You are not alone. There are resources to support you.
But, first, you have to recognize what is happening. I hope that this blog might be part of helping with that.