I’ve been busy, and for the last four days I’ve inexplicably woken up at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep (and I am SO TIRED as a result) but somehow in the midst of all this I figured something out.
I can’t make myself not be the person who spent 7 years in an abusive marriage. I can’t not have PTSD and wake up in terror with nightmares about what happened (at least one of those 4am wake ups came from a nightmare about it) and I can’t actually get away from the ex because of the kids we share. I can’t even adequately protect them unless and until they’re willing and able to testify about the abuse in his household, because he has a legal right to his children.
I can’t make the income change dramatically. I can’t wave a wand and make the bills go away. I can’t even replace the broken dining room table and chairs (we are literally down to ONE working dining room chair and everyone else is using desk chairs).
There’s a lot of inherent helplessness in the system, is my point. My own personal efficacy is limited.
But I figured out the way to get around it.
I’m reframing all of it. And it’s brought me so much peace this week.
If I hadn’t been in that abusive marriage, I would not be able to appreciate the husband as much as I do.
If I hadn’t been in that abusive marriage, I wouldn’t have the understanding of abuse and powerlessness that gives me the ability to empathize with anyone who is suffering.
If I hadn’t been in that abusive marriage, I wouldn’t have sought the therapy that I needed, really needed. Not just because of the marriage itself, but because I had a traumatic childhood, too. (People don’t just accidentally marry an abuser and stay there for almost a decade…)
I can even understand the people who say things like, “why did she stay, then?!” because they don’t have this background, they can’t possibly see it the way someone with this background will. I feel actively sorry for people who say that they cannot understand why someone would stay with an abuser or a cheater, because I see the blinders they’re wearing. It’s the same way you’d feel about someone who never learned math–they’re hamstrung by their lack of knowledge, but that’s not their fault.
If I was working full time, this baby would be in daycare. I would miss all his little smiles and achievements. I’ve worked in daycares, I know that they are not nearly as nurturing as being home with someone who loves them. I could pay off these bills, I could replace the dining room table and chairs, I could get my hair cut and buy the husband some decent work clothes. And those are all important things. But they aren’t as important as the baby’s happiness. They aren’t as important as my own happiness.
So instead of being stressed about the lack of actual flooring in the partially remodeled bathroom or the desk chairs at the dinner table, I’m seeing it as the price of our happiness. And it’s a price I’m willing to pay.
The hardest reframe is the suffering of the children who spend time in my ex’s home. The stories they tell–often of their half-brothers, who have no advocates–are chilling. Just last week, their stepmom bodyslammed the 4 year old to show him why he should not do the same to his 2 year old brother. That’s…I cannot…why? WHO DOES THAT? Those poor poor little children. I’ve reported the things they do to the boys but no one will investigate the abuse in that house, since the ex sued the department after they found him guilty of abusing ours in 2008.
But even that has a positive side, too. They come here, they get a vacation from the harshness and the misery of his home. They’re learning strength and resilience, and they’re learning how to express themselves clearly when they’re discussing things that are difficult and emotional. These are all valuable life skills, and many people don’t get them till they’re adults and the stakes are higher.
And the rest…it will pass. Every year the trauma eases slightly. It’s been 8 years now that I’ve been out of it, and the PTSD is still strong and still hampering my daily life, so I don’t think I’ll ever really be out of it, but I’m off the anxiety medication and very rarely need one of the short term anxiety medications. I do need the depression medication still, but I have hope that perhaps one day that can taper away, too. I’m better than I was.
The insurance cost will drop in January, by about a hundred a month. The husband is overdue for a raise. He’s trying to get a technical certification that will push him into a higher income range, which could happen as soon as summer.
Every year that the kids get bigger, they get stronger and tougher and more able to articulate their situation. It’s inevitable that in time they’ll be able to tell someone in authority what happens there, and then their time in that terrible place will drop considerably, perhaps even completely.
It’s not easy, but its possible. And it’s important to remember that these things, terrible as they are, come with advantages and benefits that people with a smoother life lack.
(WordPress keeps telling me to tell people to vote, which OBVIOUSLY. I’m not going to tell you how to vote but if you live in the US, you should definitely go vote. And seriously, ponder the consequences of your vote, let’s not end up like those people who voted for Brexit and were horrified when it passed, “I was just angry! I didn’t think it would happen!” Don’t vote angry. Learn from the Brits.)