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.
It’s Ok to trust yourself despite the harsh things said to you in the past by someone you loved, or thought you loved. Hearing those things makes it hard to forget, so it will take diligence to confront each nasty remark, obviously made only out his own insecurities.
To me, and what I’ve read, you are listening to your deepest needs and yearnings, call it the soul, that deep recess that whispers, or sometimes yells, ‘Help!’ You are respecting that inner voice that has said please listen, work on this.
And in order to do so, you had to made big changes but still in a very thoughtful and careful way. You will focus on very hard issues without the extreme pressures of the job.
I am in great admiration of how you are handling all this and making it possible for all of you to work on what won’t be ignored any longer, and doing so in a very thought out, careful manner. You know what you are doing, and are so capable.
First part of me: Oh, thank you!
Second part of me: No, can’t be, I am not handling it well, what do you mean? I don’t feel capable, I’m an idiot, wasting my life going in the same emotional circles for years.
Second part revised.
It’s hard to see my strengths when I’m in so much pain. What I’m willing to face must be deeply traumatic to have caused catastrophic roadblocks to my goals, dreams and wishes.
How I manage to power on despite them is a testament to my courage, strength and capability.
I am an especially powerful woman for doing everything I can to work through the devastation of past traumas others have caused by their evil choices.
I am unique in my array of talents and attributes that have made me who I am and keep me fighting to continue on, even with so many obstacles. What tenacity…perseverance…and resilience, refusing to let my life be wasted!
This is so beautiful, thank you. I’m going to print it out on nice paper and keep it.
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As a woman processing a history of partner abuse, I’m running very parallel in my thinking lately. The most difficult truth I had to accept was that part of me felt I deserved the abuse. As I said in my post today, the man who hit me never said anything to me my own head hadn’t said for years.
It’s important to pull yourself up and look around, to reassure yourself that no, you’re not there back in that same space. You’ve moved on and grown as a person.
Let your words flow. Let the accusations come. Don’t judge what you write. It’s natural to want validation and assurance that you weren’t in the wrong. And you weren’t.
You’re also not in the wrong now. You’re asking yourself to move outside your comfort zone once again; what brave warrior could say more? The you that is will survive the changes you face. Be well, sister.
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It is a process and a journey. And the depression and the anxiety and your job and going on leave…I so get that. It’s ironic, I’ve been at my job for almost 16 years this coming February. And I still feel like a fake and no one ever told me that I was, I just feel that way. And if you are like me, you needed to write and as you keep writing what you need to work through will become evident. I also need validation at times that things were not okay. Yet even at that, I often think people are just saying things to make me feel better and I probably overreacted at the time and it wasn’t that bad…it’s complicated. But soon you will have more brain space and feel relaxed. Fair warning that my first week “off” was excruciatingly difficult. While I know I made the right decision and I need the time off, it is awkward at times and I second guess myself and I feel weak and pointless…but I know those are lies and it takes a strong woman to admit she needs time off to heal herself!!
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It sounds like you are being a bit harsh with yourself; maybe Miguel is part of the real issue, maybe you can’t separate your current feelings from the past feelings, and if you needed to rant about that asshole, then by all means, do it.
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Hm. Maybe. He was emotionally very abusive and controlling. Sometimes I dismiss that as not really so bad, as thought it didn’t also leave scars.
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