You don't forget things like that overnight.
I promised this blog would be a documentation of my recovery journey back from a severely emotionally abusive relationship. I could pretend its all just been a steady climb of success, but that's not true. It's been over three years since my separation and a year and a half since my divorce was finalized. You would think by now it would all be ancient history. We have both moved on, he is remarried. It's the past.
The trouble is, its not. You cannot just forget 27 years of emotional abuse. It's a long difficult journey to repair the emotional damage. Yesterday, I was working in my office, everything seemed fine. Suddenly, I was consumed by anxiety and fear. I felt that all to familiar feeling of inner turmoil. I could no longer focus or concentrate, I felt like I was going to throw up. I have no idea what triggered this feeling, it came from literally no where. But it happens to me often. I will suddenly feel that assault, the voice booming in my ears. The absolute helplessness. Suddenly I will see his face, teeth clenched threatening to punch me in the face, calling me a whore. It makes you want to scream. But its a phantom you would be screaming at, the events are long in the past, but the emotional impact is still present, still consuming. I have spent most of my adult life feeling this way. While I was married this was something that happened to me all the time. More than once I had to take extended leave from work with a doctors note to deal with the emotional wreckage. I could not cope. A couple years of freedom is not going to erase it.
Sometimes I doubt myself, was it really that bad? Am I imagining things. Am I exaggerating? Just being a drama queen. Maybe I am just wallowing in misery. Recently, I sent my lawyer a copy of the recording, along with some of the evidence of abuse that I have. (perhaps this is what has been triggering me, there is a court case coming up) Shortly after I sent it, I was thinking maybe she is going to think it is nothing. I am overblowing it, exaggerating. These doubts always creep in when I share examples of some of the things that happened. However without fail, the response is always complete shock and disbelief and the level of psychological abuse he leveled not only at me, but my children. I wonder how it is that I could be living in with that level of insanity, and somehow think it was normal. Still have doubts that it was not normal. I guess that's all part of the healing. Coming to terms with it, learning what acceptable behaviour is, fully integrating it was wrong and no one deserves to be treated that way. He always told me it was normal, it happens in every house on the street he told me. I was exaggerating. The way he treated me is just what happens when people have arguments. He was a wonderful husband, and I was just an ungrateful bitch he tolerates. Classic gaslighting. He also told me that when ever he got angry it was my fault, if I changed it wouldn't happen. Everything he said and did was completely justified. I was such a bitch I left him with no choice.
I know he knows what he did was wrong. I know he lives in fear of exposure. I remember him freaking out because he thought I told the doctor what was going on. (I know he reads this, and yes I most definitely did, there are medical records detailing what happened for that specific incident). Personally, I believe one of the reasons he got remarried again so fast is, one a narcissist can not function on their own, and two he had to make a display so he could portray the problem really was me. If he was able to have an apparently happy relationship with someone else than the problem was clearly the ex-wife. In this case, I know time will tell that tale. Without therapy and actively working on his issues that were the foundation of his abuse, he will not be able to hold it together. Sooner or later he will slip back into his old pattern.
As far as justice, there is really nothing I can do about it. He is never going to acknowledge what he did, there never will be an apology. He is a classic abuser, he spent a lifetime refining his craft of covert manipulation. typically new partners don't t believe it will happen to them, but it will, its only a matter of time. I was in those shoes, I know where that trail leads. I never believed it would happen to me either. He will maintain the façade until he has full control. One day, his future partners will need help, they may need proof of his behaviour. This blog may help. In my case, the signs were there early, the real beginnings of abuse did not start until the 3-5 year mark.
He has his believers, they support him whole heartedly. There are people who will never believe it happened or recognize the severity. He is always a wonderful considerate man to outsiders. Neighbours, clerks, co-workers would all tell you his is thoughtful, kind and considerate. But that's not who he really is, that's just his public face.
It's my job to slowly work my way through it, and accept that. I need to find peace without justice, and somehow learn to put it all behind me. Maybe at some point learn to forgive. But I am no where near that yet. I am slowly learning to be honest about my feelings and tell people when I am struggling, that I need to step back. I never used to do this. I always hid my true emotions, I would never allow vulnerability. I needed time off, I would lie about why. Being honest feels so much better, and less stressful. This is a big step forward.
I often have moments of rage, anger at the mistreatment. Its often the contrasts that spark it, I could be walking enjoying the peace appreciating and the thought will hit me about how so much has changed and suddenly the memories of being berated and the stress floods back to me. The anger at the unfairness, the deliberate manipulation and infliction of pain on my psyche. Back then, I didn't have the means or the strength to defend myself. I was not able to argue back. While emotionally I felt the impact, psychologically I could not see what was happening. Now that I can see it, I get infuriated. For me, I still feel the blows, the force of his words were like punches. Internally, I am crumpled the floor. The aggression and intimidation are as real today as they ever were, I can still feel the physical impact. It also affects my daily movements, when in Ottawa, I never feel comfortable walking in my neighborhood for fear he will drive by. Everywhere I would go, I watch afraid he might turn up. Even seeing him destabilizes and upsets me.
It's trying to cope with that anger, I have no outlet. It just sits there and simmers. There is also anger at myself, for not leaving sooner. Because in the end, leaving really wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. He trapped me in that relationship using fear of the outside world. It had to get to the point where I didn't care what happened to me I was leaving, and once I made the decision it was easy. In the end, I discovered, none of those fears had any basis in reality. You realize you had been duped. The bars on my cage were purely psychological. I could have save myself and my children so much anguish and pain. I could have stopped so much damage.
When you break a leg, you can tell when the bone is healed. People can see the cast. But when its your spirit, your emotions, the fundamental foundation of your self belief that has been destroyed. Its significantly more difficult. The wounds are invisible, but they are there and they are deep.
Anyone who sees me, would think I am completely fine. I know for a fact that I do not come across like a victim that is suffering. From the outside it looks like I have conquered and prevailed. I appear to have all the trappings of a successful escape. Much like during my marriage I appeared to have a wonderful loving marriage that was envied by others.
The fact is, while my life is going exceptionally well, there is no doubt I have emerged victorious and strong in many ways, I am not over it at all. I still stumble, I still struggle.
I think that is why organization and financial stability are so important to me. I need to minimize surprises and distress. I try to reduce risk as much as I can so I can maintain my sense of safety. I am still afraid. Part of the struggle is, there are other predators out there who see a victim, someone they can take advantage of to further their own aims. They take advantage of your lack of boundaries and self confidence, your desire to be nice and keep the peace. So while you are healing you also need to protect yourself from these opportunists. How long will it take to work through it and finally be truly free. Who knows. It's day by day. The good news is, there are a lot of good people out there that will support you. One of my main triggers for crying is when I receive kindness. It overwhelms me because it is something so new. I had gone so long without it. I had grown accustomed to the emotional harshness of my marriage and learned to bottle up my pain.
So, sometimes you just need to cut yourself some slack. Recognize you are still healing and treat your emotional wounds the same as you would treat physical ones. Today, I did nothing. I did not clean, I did not go outside, I did nothing but sit in silence. I needed quiet today. What ever it means for you, do the things you need to do to take care of yourself to the best of your ability on any given day. Recognize, its going to take awhile, you will have set backs. The struggle and the setbacks are real. Your feelings are valid, it did happen, and it was a bad as it felt like it was. Its not being overdramatic.
Even though the events are in the past, the repercussions are real today. Love yourself enough to be gentle and give yourself the time you need for healing. Your not crazy.