The recovery?

I started this blog with this sentence;

This is my story and this is the first time I am putting this in writing.

As I started writing it I realized I am still not ready to share it at least not fully.  There is a stigma to being in an abusive relationship, embarrassment and a guilt.  When people find out there is always this reaction of leave him.  You should leave him.   Why did you stay with him?  Those words are so easy.   Those words that fall off the tongues of well meaning friends, family members even Church leaders and therapists.  Just leave.  And if you stay than it can’t be that bad, because you stayed you went back.  You are embarrassed because you know you should have left but you stayed too scared to leave.

When you are in an emotionally abusive relationship it’s easy to minimize and justify their actions.  It’s easy because you have lots of practice and they have told you repeatedly that this is YOUR problem not theirs.   You are the one who has an issue therefore you are the one who needs to change.  I can not begin to tell you how many conversations I had where I was given a list, literally a list of all the things I needed to do, in return I would ask for respect and help.  The first time I would fail to meet these unrealistic expectations it would start again and be justified by you aren’t willing to change either therefore I am justified. Name calling becomes so common place you develop a thick skin to it, you know it’s wrong but in your mind you think you are making a bigger deal than it really is.   That’s how abusers get away with it.   They tell you you are worthless, the isolate you so you believe you need them, they make you believe that their behavior is normal and you are the one who is crazy.  They make you believe you can’t do it without them.
 Even when he threatened divorce he did it in a way that reinforced those beliefs.  “I can’t wait until I can divorce you” – “when I divorce you, you won’t be able to make it without me” – “I can’t wait until we are divorced and you have to beg me for help.”  Those statements although all slightly different convey the same message you are so worthless I can’t even divorce you.  I don’t want to be with you but I have too because you can’t survive without me.    When you hear this again and again you believe it.  It was even a sentiment he shared with family and friends.  It is scary to leave and hard and unknown and what if they are right.   For me I don’t have family here, I didn’t have a safety net, I was alone and HAD to do it on my own.
People who know me now would barely recognize the woman I was 5 years ago.  Yes I was skinny, and had the nice house and car and the trimmings.  On paper I had it all.  A successful husband, I just had my second child, we were financially secure (not rich but secure)  A revolving door of neighborhood kids would play at my house.  I had my life.  Everything on paper that I wanted.  But I was miserable.  I woke up every day knowing I would cry. Knowing I would commit some misdemeanor that was so offensive it would deserve a verbal assault or a punishment.   I would be cut off financially, have my phone turned off, or just belittled and called names in front of friends and family.  Believe it or not I rarely voiced my opinion or shared knowledge for fear of being told I was wrong to think that way.   If I didn’t parrot his opinion than I was immediately wrong and stupid.  Many people are surprised to find out I am not from Texas because my lexis matches a Texans if I ever pronounced a word British it would immediately be made fun of and called out.  I taught myself to speak Texan after being reduced to tears for asking for silverware instead of cutlery in a restaurant.  I was blessed that for the most part I was left alone and by left alone I mean he was not at home, I would go weeks not knowing when he would next be home to disrupt our lives.  Left alone with two kids was it’s own challenge and despite the financial security I never had access to more than enough to cover our most basic needs even when I was working I never had access to money he told everyone I spent it all but I never had access to spend it.  I never knew if he was coming or going, when or if he would be home.    I dealt with surgeries, Dr’s appointments sick kids, school issues on my own. None of it would ever be good enough I was expected to have super human abilities and would be blamed for anything that went wrong.   When things did go wrong I would be told you need to fix this but offered not help or support.   Asking for help from my husband, friends or families was seen as a weakness and when I would reach breaking point that friends would step in to help there was always a price to pay for my weakness.  Even in the weeks after a c-section with a preschooler at home I was expected to return to work before even my follow up appointment work full time and keep the house and family perfect on my own.  I was never allowed any grace.
I was asked last night if I miss it.  If I miss being married.   I miss the security but that is not him.   I have things I long for but I never had them so I can’t miss them.  That’s a strange realization.   I was with my now ex husband for nearly 10 years and yet I never had any of the things I value in a relationship and I am looking for now.   I know they exist.  I know I am not crazy.
For me breaking point came when my children started treating me the way their father did.  That was when I knew I had to get out.   But even then it took time to get ready to leave.   My ex will tell anyone who will listen that he gave me what I wanted I wanted a divorce he just went along with it.  He completely forgets the millions of times he threatened with it.    When you live your life hearing that he wants out, it becomes a question of when not if.  At some point you have to make a plan because what if this time is the time he follows through.  So yes I was the one that finally pulled the trigger.  Yes I wanted this divorce.  Once I pulled that trigger all I felt was relief because we were doing it on my terms.  Pulling the trigger on divorce was the first step I took to regaining the power in my life.

I am still broken.  I still justify his behaviour and think I am not good enough and I need to do better.  I live constantly feeling like I am letting those I love down.  The only voice in my life who says this is his yet I still allow myself to believe it.  I KNOW I shouldn’t.    I know that one day I will meet someone who will love me for me.  I know I am only human and doing the very best I can.   The thing about abuse is it only takes one misplaced comment or incident to take you right back there to make you question whether they were really right.  I am not skinny enough, pretty enough, smart enough, kind enough to be worthy of love.    I know my value is not determined by others but after years of being told I have no value it takes very little for me to question it again.
Even as I write this I question whether I am just another woman complaining about my husband maybe it wasn’t that bad.  The truth is it was worst.  There are so many things I am not ready to share yet.

I recently had a conversation with a family member where he spoke to me in a way similar to how I had been spoke too by my ex.  I reacted extremely strongly and immediately took steps to protect myself from.  It surprised me how strongly I reacted to the situation.   How easily it was to make me start defending my worth, my intelligence, my right to have my own opinion. 

 Unknowingly he tapped into a place in my psych that is extremely broken and pulled me into an abuse pattern he could not even recognize.   The thing about abuse is it never ends.   You learn to identify it and defend yourself but once you have been broken at the very core of your being you don’t ever full recover.    You rebuild, redefine and strengthen but you can never go back to a time before that abuse.    You can teach yourself to ignore the seeds that were so carelessly sewn into your being by a partner who did not value you but they are still there.  They creep out when you don’t expect them and if someone starts to water them they can start to grow again.  
I can give you the speech about how I am supporting my children, I truly am happy and love my life, I am surrounded by friends who value me and my opinion.  All of that is true.  This life right now is million times better.   I survived, I rebuilt, I faced my biggest fears and I overcame.   But I am still broken.  I started this wanting to write about my story and how strong I am on the other side of it but as I started writing I realized that would be a lie and I wasn’t ready to share it all yet.   Maybe I never will be.

You have me confused with someone else!

Yesterday I was asked how 2 years post divorce I have my shit together.  I really wanted to turn around and see who they were talking to.

Shit together?  Me?  No you must have me confused with someone else!! My shit isn’t together.  I just had a panic attack crying trying to figure out how I was going to give my kids an Easter.  My shit is NOT together.

This question got me thinking though.  For one what does it really mean to have your shit together?  Two do any of us really have our shit together? Three why do we feel a need to put up this face that we are holding it together?

I don’t know the answers to those questions.  I do know that I don’t have my shit together though.  I work way too hard, long hours and am often over stretched letting things fall to the wayside I shouldn’t.

I do know I have laid in bed at night crying because I don’t know how I am going to pull everything off that I NEED to do this month.

When I am asked how do I do it I don’t have an answer because I don’t know how I do it and if I really am doing it?  But really what choice do I have.  I mean it’s not like I can really resign from being an adult and just not go to work and pay bills and house my children.  I am not doing anything spectacular I am doing exactly what I am supposed to as a parent and why that is surprising to some is beyond me.

I guess my point is that even when the outside appearance is that things are good frequently behind closed doors there are tears and stress.  We just never know.

Not the life I signed up for…

Last week over several glasses of wine and some vodka with girlfriends we started talking about our #pastlives.  The life we had when we were married, stay at home moms, when we went to the gym, and play dates at the mall, and posted cute pictures of our kids at the park enjoying the sunshine.  When we only bought organic food and thought feeding our kids chicken nuggets was paramount to child abuse.  You know the life we signed up for.  

Not this life of single mamahood where we work long hours, sometimes feed our kids ramen because it’s all we can afford and have not taken our kids to an actual park in months. 

A few days later the question was asked if we knew ten years ago where we would end up would we still make the decisions we made.  Well this is my answer.  Yes!!! Without a shadow of a doubt yes!!! Obviously because if I didn’t I would not have my kids so that of course is the obvious reason but it’s more than that.  This is not the life I signed up for but it’s a damn good life and it’s MY life.  I did make the right decisions, I did everything I was supposed to do and I still ended up here so no I would not change it.

This life is messy, and stressful and full of tears and heartbreak and feeling helpless.  This life lacks the luxuries of my #pastlives  but this life is mine and it’s great.

Single mamahood is a challenge that forces you to be a bear like no other challenge.   You find a strength in you that you did not know you had and you are forced to be the grown up that your kids need you to be. 

My kids and I have become a team, bonded through the change – its us against the world.  When we moved into our new house we sat down and decided what we wanted our home to look like.  What rules did we want and how we wanted to live.  It was all of our new start and we got to decide what we wanted our family to look like and create it.  When the kids walk into my house often with left over attitude I frequently tell them to turn around leave their attitudes at the door and remember who’s house they were in.  Since they were involved in creating this home they respect it.  We still have challenges they are children but there is a clear expectation they set out.  We have become a team and I have become a better mother.  I did not sign up to be a single working mother but I did sign up to be the best mother to my kids I could be.

The process of healing from a divorce has been a huge process of self discovery.  There has been a lot of internal soul work, forgiveness of others and myself, and understanding.   There came a point when I realized the compromises I made were more of myself than I should have compromised and I have got to rebuild those aspects myself.  I have become a hybrid of my old and new selfs.  The advantage of being rock bottom is that when you pick yourself up and rebuild yourself you can choose which parts you leave behind.  I did not sign up to have my heart broken, but I did sign up to be true to my heart and love fully and that is in my future.

When you go from having a large amount of disposable income and suddenly go to a single income it’s a shock.  A big shock for everyone.  I not only had to learn how to budget again but live on half the budget I was used too.  If you ever want a learning curve try living on half what you are used too.  This forced us to really look at what our needs vs wants are.  I don’t know if I have got better at it or if we have just got used to it but it no longer feels like we want for anything.  Instead of going out for dinner and movie we do movie night cuddling on the sofa, instead of going to arcades we do game night at home.   Instead of schedules packed with activities and lessons we play basketball in the drive way and are working towards running a 5k together.  We have found new different things to fill our time and most of the activities actually focus us together.  The first time in months I had extra money I went to store and bought all the foods I thought we missed – I asked the kids what they wanted for dinner and they replied with breakfast for dinner.  I was beating myself up for months that I was not feeding my kids meat every night for dinner but in reality they were happy with breakfast for dinner, grilled cheese and tomato soup, bacon sandwiches and home made burritos.  When I realized they were happy with “budget food” it was actually a relief.  I did not sign up to live paycheck to paycheck, but I did sign up to teach my children the value of what they need vs what they want.

The hardest and biggest change for our family was me going back to work.  Sure I had worked on and off during my marriage but usually part time and often at home so I could still be there to focus on the kids.  It’s a huge difference compared to Mom has a full time job a career even that she is trying get promotions and grow because she is supporting the family now.  Mom was no longer there to help with homework.  Daycare, after school club became our lives instead of the park and play dates.  Tears usually mine over missing school events.  A life that if it’s not on the calender it won’t happen because Mom is stretched as thin as she can humanly go.  Our lives are on a schedule the kids have learnt how to be more responsible because Mom physically can’t just come rescue them.  I did not sign up to be a working mom but I did sign up to raise independent responsible kids who understand the importance of working for our goals and I get to lead by example.

Being single is hard after years of having a spouse to go every where with you.  It was hard for months I did not go out for dinner, I was not comfortable eating out alone with the kids, I didn’t want to date and my married friends went out with their husbands.  It took a while for me to find my tribe.  I have strengthened friendships with married friends we now have a monthly girls night out which they need as much as me, I also have new single momma friends who are on this journey with me.  I have friends – not mothers if my kids friends or wives of my husbands colleagues but people who like me for me and just me.  I have started dating now as well.  Between friends and dating I have a social life again, I am trying new places I never would have before, discovering new things about myself and most of all having fun.  I did not sign up to be single and dating in my 30’s.  But I did sign up to live life to the fullest and now I am.

So no this is not how I imagined my life would look at 34.  As I sit here writing this in the dark with two sleeping kids in my bed because they heard something outside.  No this is not the life I signed up for – its better.