I’m very unsatisfied with yesterday’s post, which turned into a bit of a rant about my first husband and some statements about how I wasn’t really as bad as he said I was. That’s not really what I meant to say nor really what I needed to process. There’s something else going on for me, something I can’t quite put my finger on yet.
One piece is that I have felt the need lately to share widely about how bad my first marriage was, particularly the last year. At the time, I didn’t share it very much because I was so ashamed that I was in that kind of relationship. I think now I might be looking for some kind of validation: Yeah, that sucked! There was no excuse for his behavior! Good for you for leaving! Aren’t you glad that’s not your life anymore?!
Last week in my session with E., I spent most of the session jumping forward and backward through the ten years of that marriage. This is how he hurt me when we first got married. This is how he deserted me in my moments of need. This is the time he tried to make me get an abortion (I actually won that battle, good for me). Here’s the dreadful thing he said to me when he knew I was suicidal. And on and on. Even though I have worked with E. for years, I had never told her these things. We had plenty of other topics to discuss.
Partway into the session, she stopped me. “It’s good you are giving me a big overarching picture of what it was like for you. A lot of the time, as you know, the best healing comes from deep processing of a single event. Do you want to pick a single incident and dive more deeply into that?”
I got stuck there. Not because there weren’t any specific examples to think about, but because I wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted to process. Was it a question of why did I stay? Was it a question of why did I choose him in the first place? Maybe I want to know why I believed so much of what he told me? I had no direction, no purpose. Why was I even talking about this stuff?
So we sat there, quiet for a while. Then I think E. felt she had cut me off too soon. “It’s okay if you want to stay with the big picture for a while. I’m not rushing you into a healing process. I don’t mean to say you are doing it wrong.”
I talked a while more, going back to my same pattern. He told me to choose myself which graduate school to attend, and then when I did, he blamed me repeatedly for picking a place he didn’t like. He went on a trip when I was three days overdue to give birth. He said I was a pathetic failure at everything I ever tried. Blah blah blah.
At the end of the session, E. said I could write more about this and maybe find an event I wanted to work on more deeply Or I could come back and talk at a big picture level again next week. Yesterday’s post was one attempt to write about it But it didn’t illuminate anything for me.
So what’s the real issue?
Right now I think it might be this: the way I feel this year reminds me of the year I left him. The other time in my life I was as depressed as this year was the year I left him. My anxiety was very high then too, as I made the decision to leave, not knowing what would come next. And now I’m about to go on leave from a good job that I have had for almost 16 years. When I go back in January, I am not sure if it will be to the same role or a different one. I suspect it will be something very different, and this makes me nervous. It reawakens in me a level of professional uncertainty that I haven’t felt in a long time, and that in turn triggers some of the negative messages Miguel used to give me. You are just a fake. You don’t really have anything of value to offer. You can’t do anything right.
Maybe it’s not that old marriage that matters, not anymore. It’s just that as I work through a deep depression (which I’m gradually coming out of, I think), as I finally process my memories of childhood sexual abuse, and as face an uncertain professional future, my mind and even my body go back to the time when I felt like this before.
I may need to rewrite the letter to myself and make it not about all the reasons I felt bad as that hellish marriage fell apart. Instead, it should be about all the ways that now is not then. It should tell me that if I got through that messy time, I can certainly deal with this messy time as well.