Day 26 of Blog-tember brings another juicy prompt:
How have you changed in the past year?
This is a very difficult one for me, because I’ve been confronted, in this last year, with so many changes I didn’t ask for and didn’t want. So many things have been broken, so many things can never be repaired, my world was – literally – turned upside down, and I’m still processing it all, still trying to deal with the emotions, the hurt, the pain. The feelings of being trapped and stuck and that time is passing me by.
This time last year, we’d been forced to leave our home, left the country where we’d been living and my husband had abandoned us en-route to my home country. I was still expecting him to join us, as he had promised, where we had decided to school the children. He never did. This time last year, I hadn’t yet received the notice that would change my life, our lives, forever: the notification that my husband had (falsely) accused me, under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, of having kidnapped our two children.
This time last year, I hadn’t witnessed my husband turn in to an openly abusive man nor lived through him being diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. This time last year, I wasn’t a single Mother. This time last year, all of my personal possessions had not been stolen, so I was working normally, in the business that I’d set up, and run, for 11 years. This time last year, my life was a new one but we were settled in my home country, near family and friends, my two children happy to be there, happy for all the new and wonderful experiences it could offer them.
Fast forward a year. All of those things have happened, have passed. My relationship with my husband has broken down irrevocably but, despite all he has put us through, all of his cruelty and all the pain I have lived through because of him, I still feel the sting of our wedding vows biting at my conscience: “…in sickness and in health”. He is ill, has a psychiatric diagnosis. Part of me, the wife, tells me I should be there for him, to help him through this time in his life. The other part of me, the mother, tells me that I have to look after my children, at all costs, and that excludes me having a relationship with my husband.
I live this dilemma every single day. Every single spare moment my brain has, it races round and around my mind, pulling me one way, tugging me the other. I feel like a rag doll, stuck in the middle of two bickering toddlers. I pray to God, meditate with Buddha, that they don’t pull me apart or unravel me even just a little bit. I honestly don’t think I have the strength in me to put myself back together again.
I’m usually a really good decision maker, in that I make decisions fast and quick, based on what my intuition tells me I should do. This one, however, has me stuck. Torn.
Apart from being torn by a decision I have not yet been able to make (how much of his behaviour, for example – if any – do I report to the police?), I have been changed, by all of these events, in innumerable ways.
I’ve always been an optimistic person, who believes in the power of good, who lives in kindness and generosity and who believed, strongly, in love. I’m still an optimistic person, still do good whenever I can, still live in kindness and generosity, but the woman inside me, me, Helen, feels a hurt so very deep, that I’m not sure how – if – I’m going to get over it. I don’t know, any more, if I can believe in romantic love.
I remember I loved my husband so much, so very much. I loved his kindness, his gentleness, his soft voice. I loved the way he was with the children. But, since events of the last year, I can’t remember these things about him. I can only remember that I felt these things about him, I can’t remember them about him. I can only see him, in my minds eye, as a monster, shouting, hitting, pulling, screaming, mouthing obscenities, lying, manipulating. I can’t get past what the condition has done to him to see him.
Some days I accept what the Dr tells me, that his condition means he wears a mask and has no real self. I accept that at the rational, diagnostic, level, but I can’t accept that at the personal, emotional, level: does that mean it was all an act? He never really loved me? If so, that’s too much to bear, quite frankly. How can more than 10 years of marriage have all been a sham, an act? How deluded must I have been to have not noticed something was amiss. The Dr tells me, when I ask him this, that people with this condition are very skilled at delusion, at manipulation and make believe. He tells me, yes, a lot of what he presented to me would have been false, literally what I wanted to hear so he could manipulate me in to behaving as he needed me to behave. This doesn’t help, I tell the Dr, it doesn’t help.
How’s a person supposed to grieve in a situation like this? Pack bags, chalk ten+ years of a life up to experience and then just move on?
I can’t. I simply can’t. I refuse to believe that all of those years of my life were a sham, a pretence, a marriage with a masked shadow. So I go over and over and over everything. Every tiny thing, every conversation, every interaction, every comment from friends on his behaviour, I comb them all, looking for answers, looking for something that will tell me the Dr isn’t serious.
My life with this man, this commitment I made to my life with this man – all the sacrifices that meant for me – must have meant something.
This has been the most difficult year of my life. I naively thought that when you make a commitment to someone, a strong commitment, with wedding vows, that those commitments, the forces behind those commitments meant something. Marrying my husband was the most honest and open thing I have ever done, as it was undertaken from a position of complete honesty, of complete openness and hope – so much hope – and I can’t, I simply can’t believe that it was all a sham.
I’ve changed. This Princess – who believed in good and evil and the power of good over evil, and happily ever after, and all the things the fairy tales and our good hearts tell us – has had to grow up. Had to face the fact that there is evil in the world, not just outside, away from our doors, but inside our own sacred space. I’ve had to face the fact that there is evil inside all men, however well you think you know those men.
It’s been a difficult lesson that I’m still processing. I don’t know how to move forward. I hope for a sign, for multiple signs, to tell me how to proceed. I pray. I open my deepest recesses, searching for answers. It’s a profound journey of self-reflection and self-mastery.
It’s hard. Every day it’s hard.
It’s not like grieving for the death of my father who died too young or for my grandparents, who were so beloved. It’s a grief that doesn’t even know how to begin, let alone go through its normal stages.
But, as is typical for me, I feel, deep down – somewhere – that it will all be OK. Life has taught me that with grace and honesty and openness we can face even its biggest trials.
Little old me, my deep and battered soul, my stabbed and aching heart, I love you, little old me. That love can never be blighted. Little old me, will you take me on a journey of recovery? Will we go places, together, we’ve never been? Will you hold my hand when I’m fragile and tell me everything will be OK? Please. You’re all I’ve got, you know. We need to come through this.
Hopefully brighter, more brilliant, than ever before.