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I See Through You

When someone you love changes into someone you don’t know anymore it is the most terrifying experience in the entire world. When someone you loved, and who you believe loved you, turns into a complete stranger who is capable of hurting you seemingly beyond repair, it leaves you broken and questioning your own sanity. The man I was with for 16 years, married to for 11, had 2 beautiful children with, 3 dogs, multiple cats, 2 homes, a lifetime of adventures, a shared language of silly words just for us….That man is gone. I will struggle with the hurt and utter confusion around this for years.

People have thrown out the phrase ‘mid-life crisis’ and ‘nervous breakdown’. They tell me that he will come to his senses eventually but I know he won’t. And to be honest, I don’t want him back anymore. He is happy now with his new life. He is seriously dating the girlfriend and identifies as polyamorous. He is a part-time dad and has a very full social life. He is now a vegetarian who wears earrings and a gold necklace. He has changed from someone who was loving and caring and supportive into someone who is combative, capable of gaslighting me at every turn and generally emotionally toxic.

The reason for my post this morning is that I wanted to share with you a conversation my ex and I had just yesterday via text. I want to share it and analyze it with you so that I can process it more deeply and hopefully help other people out there see through someone else’s bullshit. Being able to separate oneself from, and identify gaslighting, emotional abuse, and shaming can be extremely difficult. If it is happening to you, the first step is recognizing the behavior. The second step is knowing that it IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Your feelings and emotions are valid. You are worth it. Absolutely.

Here is the conversation; he had asked me if I could watch the kids so he and his girlfriend could go away this May – I have obviously changed people’s names for the sake of anonymity.

Me: “My decision is this; If your need is for me to babysit while you are going away with (Julie) then I don’t feel comfortable doing that. So, in the future, do not ask me to do things like that.”

Him: “This requires me to explicitly tell you when I’m doing something without (Julie), which is none of your business. I therefore won’t ask you to watch the kids, period. I will reciprocate that. Don’t ask me to “babysit” the kids either. You are making things unnecessarily difficult, so I don’t feel obliged to make them any easier for you.”

Me: “I am not, (Mike). And I am sorry that you feel that way. You are being combative and immature. I can’t support your relationship all of a sudden. I haven’t been okay with it since June. I don’t need to know what you do with her or anyone. Just leave me out of your planning if it is with her. I am happy to do it for other things. Put yourself in my shoes, one time. It doesn’t feel good. And that has to be okay. I need to do this for me. I can’t please you, or anyone else, all the time anymore. And you need to see that you’re essentially shaming me for stating my needs because you are judging them as not valid. I am not letting you do that to me anymore.”

Him: “You are missing the point. If I ask you to watch them, I will have to explicitly tell you that my plans do not involve her, which is none of your business. Call me all the names you want. I am just reciprocating, that’s it. It’s no longer any of your business who I spend time with. If your support of me is conditional, then I don’t want it at all. I’m not shaming you. I’m giving you my response to your “boundary”. Are you shaming me for wanting to spend time with (Julie)? What you are doing looks a lot more like shaming than my response to it, but it isn’t shaming. But if I’m shaming you, you are certainly shaming me.”

Me: “I’m not shaming your relationship with (Julie). I don’t want any part of it. I’m really sad you don’t see that. I’m done here.”

Sigh. Big huge sigh. My initial reaction to even being asked to watch the kids on what is typically his night was one of very mixed emotions. I was torn between wanting to be with them, wanting to preserve my space and my night alone, always wanting to help out, and of course, not wanting any part of being his babysitter for a getaway with the girlfriend. I started to fall down into that hole in the sidewalk that has swallowed me time and again these past three months. Until I saw his texts for what they really were. Emotionally unhealthy and abusive. Threatening and angry. Once I was able to separate myself from that utter ridiculousness, I felt empowered and in control. I saw the entire conversation from a place of calm clarity. I jumped right out of that hole. And damn, that made me feel happy.

I set a boundary. I was calm, clear, confident, and non-combative. I realized that I needed to do this for ME. His reaction was caustic, shaming, and argumentative. And I’m sorry, but it was very immature to threaten me with withholding help with our children should I need it. He further attacked me with denial of my need, deflection of my feelings, and then accusations around what he interpreted as me shaming his relationship with the girlfriend. There was no validation. No understanding. No compassion. No empathy.

BLAME. SHAME. DEFLECT. RESENT.

He can have all the relationships he wants. He can find childcare when he needs it. I have every right to set my own boundaries just as he does. What I will not tolerate is his continued denial of my boundaries when he perceives them as ridiculous or shaming. They are not for him to judge. I am worth it. I am worth it. I AM WORTH IT.

I think about the girl who wanted so much to please him, support him, and try to be someone she was not. I think about all of the abuse she suffered as the man she loved turned into someone selfish, caustic, and narcissistic. A man who continually put his needs before hers. The mere fact that I spent much of 2016 questioning my own sanity breaks my heart.

 It’s a new year; a new me. This is a new beginning.

I will not fall prey to his bullshit anymore.

 

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Visible Girl

As 2017 entered and I got to say goodbye to the worst year on record, I began the beginning stages of trauma body work, with my therapist. I also began EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). If you haven’t heard of it before, it was developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD, an American psychologist, as a breakthrough therapy with special capacity to overcome the often devastating effects of psychological trauma in the late 1980s (http://www.emdrhap.org/content/what-is-emdr/). It doesn’t wipe out traumatic memories but instead allows the brain to access them in a non-traumatic manner.

The first thing we tackled was a certain white van (she told me that was a first and we had a good laugh about that one before we started). The girlfriend has a white van and SO MUCH shit went down inside of that van that I started to call it the ‘fuck van’ and developed an aversion to white vans everywhere. I would be driving to work and see a white van and my breathing would get shallow and my chest would get tight. It sucked. And even though we haven’t begun the actual intense work of EMDR yet; we did some visualization involving the fuck van, and it worked. I practiced being present in my body while my therapist said the mantra, ‘you’ve got this, this has no meaning anymore, this has no control over you anymore’; you get the idea. I drove to work just yesterday and there was a white van on either side of my car and I just started laughing.

The next thing we dealt with was a visualization of the girlfriend. That was more difficult. All I can say is, I want to pull her hair a bit LESS at this point. I will consider that progress.

The third thing we began to tackle was my ex-husband. That was brutal. I stopped breathing all together. And tears streamed down my face as I pictured this man who broke my heart mixed in with the man who was my best friend for 16 years. I spent so much of my life in 2016 trying to be someone I wasn’t; trying to get him to take down the fortress of walls he had put up against me. I was the invisible girl who was treated like shit and yet I stayed, clinging to the hope that he would ‘see me’ and we would go back to what we had once been. My visualization involved one such moment:

I was sitting on the front porch and texting with a friend when he came biking up the street; home from work. He saw me and hopped off of his bike, walked over to me, grasped my head in his hands and said, “I see you”. I was ecstatic. Overjoyed. Filled with hope. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god! He is back! The man I love is back and we are going to be ok!’. It lasted for 24 hrs. He went back to her, back to his walls. That was the last time he let me back in. I haven’t seen him since.

All of that really happened.

Here is the part that didn’t: Instead of him coming up and fixing me, making me feel worth it and that I was ‘enough’, Another me walked up behind him. I looked at myself sitting on that bench and said, ‘We don’t need him to feel good enough. You are strong enough without him; without anyone. Come with me.’ And I took the hand of that broken girl and we fused together. I could still feel her hurting inside of me, confused, scared, alone. But we became one whole and solid person and we walked off of the porch together, leaving that man standing there alone.

We walked away and did not look back.

gas·light ˈ/ɡaslīt/ verb gerund or present participle: gaslighting manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

I need to talk about gaslighting.

I think that I have been reluctant to tackle this subject because I still don’t firmly grasp what it is. I have been puzzling my way through it for months now. Someone first brought it to my attention in July 2016. I did the research then but I was in such a state of denial about the man my husband had become that I put it aside. I wasn’t ready to face one more scary truth on top of a mountain of others.

I understand the manipulation – the purposeful tactic of twisting someone else’s truth in such a way that their ability to process their own emotions becomes stunted and confusing at best. I suppose my disconnect comes from the question of intentional versus unintentional. If someone does not know that they are gaslighting, does that absolve them from the purposeful and often narcissistic intention behind it? Or is gaslighting simply gaslighting and it doesn’t matter the intent behind it? It just is?

I know that this occurred time and again in the last year of my marriage. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I was told that I was ‘wrong’ or ‘crazy’ or that my ‘story’ was false, a misperception of the truth. That I was making him out to be a malicious person when he did the hurtful things he did out of a place of hurt and desperation. He has told me that he has forgiven himself for the hurt he caused me and the pain and the suffering he inflicted. He says “I am sorry” like a parrot. When I told him that most of my family will likely never speak to him again, I got another round of: ‘your perception is wrong and you need to believe that I am the bad guy to justify why I left, etc. etc.’ (paraphrasing here). When I call him out on the fact that it feels (to me) like he has left me for a much younger woman, again, I get the ‘I left you for the new me’ which discounts my belief and my hurt and my story. Enter in the constant confusion I still feel.

When I told a friend that my ex had ‘forgiven himself and come to terms with the hurt he inflicted on me’ that friend replied, ‘well la di da. I am so happy for him’ and I think that is how I feel. I have begun to delete my ex’s messages without reading them because they only serve one purpose: to completely undermine my perceptions of the truth. My emotions and my feelings around what he did and continues to do. WRONG.

I have finally begun to completely let go of my self-doubt around my story. I have spent countless hours bawling my eyes out questioning my own sanity – isn’t that gaslighting right there? The minute you think to yourself, “Maybe I am wrong? Maybe I am the crazy one? Maybe I don’t know what really happened? Maybe he was justified in his actions?”.

And if he believes that his story is the true one – that he left me for the ‘new him’ and he made some mistakes etc., and when I tell him that the entire situation looks very different to most everyone else, am I gaslighting him? If denying someone their story or their truth is gaslighting, then it would seem to me that we are all biased and we are all gaslighters to some degree.

Maybe the difference lies in the intent? Malicious and purposeful shaming and belittling. An intentional dagger straight into the heart; straight into the mind. I know that my ex has never once questioned his own sanity; his own truth.

I have. More times than I care to remember. His statements over the past year were some of the most hurtful and damaging I have ever encountered. He said he was sorry. But sorry doesn’t make it go away. Sorry doesn’t put the pieces back together. Sorry doesn’t fix this marriage.

From: https://www.davidwolfe.com/10-signs-victim-gaslighting/

If you identify with these 10 signs, you’re most likely being gaslighted.

  1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
  2. You start to question if you are too sensitive.
  3. You often feel confused and have a hard time making simple decisions.
  4. You find yourself constantly apologizing.
  5. You can’t understand why you’re so unhappy.
  6. You often make excuses for your partner’s behavior.
  7. You feel like you can’t do anything right.
  8. You often feel like you aren’t good enough for others.
  9. You have the sense that you used to be a more confident, relaxed and happy person.
  10. You withhold information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain things.

Request for Help

This is tough. This is humbling myself beyond what I ask of my friends in terms of childcare support. The phrase ‘first world problems’ keeps running back and forth through my head. But I think that phrase is an awful one. It is dismissive and undermines the reality of my pain and my struggles. Problems are problems. Tough situations exist for everyone. Perhaps the difference is in the magnitude of said problem?

This is raw and real and I am done worrying about it. It feels like I am doing my children a disservice by not actively trying to figure out a solution for our security and our future.

If you cannot contribute I totally understand.

If you feel comfortable doing so, please please share this post. I’d be forever grateful.

Amy

https://www.gofundme.com/familyhomeforever

Anger

Anger unfurls it’s cloak around me,
through me.
It comes from within me;
deep
inside.
I wear that cloak of crimson and
pull it tightly around my body.
It chokes me,
tries to strangle me.

Yet it protects me,
shields me.
Keeps me safe underneath
that crimson drape.
For under there,
I am fierce.
I am a warrior.
I am unstoppable.

Step aside,
Get out of my way.

Do Not Judge Me

I have been thinking a lot about judgement.

Judgment of thoughts, feelings, and emotions, to be specific. Over the course of the past few months I have noticed that I have the tendency to judge my thoughts and emotions and this is an automatic thing – a learned response. I question everything that I think and feel (is this right? No, I shouldn’t be feeling this way) and I believe that this is because the man who I had lived with for the last 16 years was in charge of my emotions and, to some degree, my thoughts too.

Scary, isn’t it?

I know with certainty that neither of us realized that this was the case. It wasn’t our intention to leave me completely devoid of any ability to ascertain what the hell was going on in my mind or in my heart. But having trauma leaves you with this inability to access your emotions and your basic feelings because you become completely adept at ignoring them and packing them away. I remember sitting in bed with my ex and him asking me, “How are you feeling?” to which I replied, “Tired”. And he said, “Aim, that is not a feeling”. After he pointed that out to me, I honestly could not answer his question. I had no idea how I was feeling in that moment. Not feeling is a coping mechanism that gives you the false sense that life will be easier to manage if you ignore your emotions. Avoidance is paramount because no one who has dealt with trauma wants to stare those scary feelings in the ‘face’.

For me, it was vital that my husband help me to regulate my feelings when they felt out of control. When I would get triggered and become emotionally unstable, I would look to him for support. He was the one who would help me feel better, gain control, and feel safe and secure (all anyone with trauma really wants and needs).

But then things shifted. Last summer, he began to untangle his emotions from mine. He began to separate his being and his person from me. And I panicked. Though, at the time, I did not understand why.

Enter in his resentment coupled with my confusion, hurt, and longing for support, and we were faced with a huge and awful mess. He realized that there was a freedom and a life outside of the neediness that I continually displayed. What I have realized and accepted is that yes, I was needy. Yes, I was completely dependent. BUT the fact that he bailed on me when I was broken and at rock bottom is, in my opinion, unforgivable. Of course, there were ways we could have handled things better, differently.

But that takes two people. Not one.

And now, these past few months, as I learn to separate my emotional self from him, I am left with these confusing feelings and thoughts and my automatic judgement around them. Part of the confusion is the gaslighting that most definitely occurred last year. He would tell me that my perspective was WRONG. My feelings were WRONG. My story was WRONG. And the most hurtful part – he told me time and again what a ‘fuck up’ I was and how ‘crazy’ and ‘psycho’ I was.

Every single time the person who supposedly loves you most in this world says things meant to break you, you break. Little by little, piece by piece. Until you decide that you are done being broken and you realize you are sitting in a pile of your own rubble. I believed him when he would say those things to me. ‘Holy shit’, I would think; ‘I am crazy and psycho and a fuck up’. ‘I can’t do anything right’. ‘I am at fault’. ‘My blog (this blog!) is self-indulgent and absurd bullshit’.

WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

I fell for the gaslighting every single damn time until one day I didn’t. I started to hang up the phone when he would scream at me; ‘Grow up! You are acting like you are entitled!’ (to his money when I couldn’t find a job). I have begun to delete his long texts when I know now that all they are going to do is hurt me. I delete them without even reading them now. I am creating a safe space for my heart and my feelings. Because my feelings ARE valid and they ARE real and if I am angry I have every right to be angry. If I am sad and lying on the kitchen floor sobbing, then that is exactly what I need to be doing in that moment.

People tend to be uncomfortable with emotions.

Stop crying!

Put on your armor!

Pull on your big girl panties!

Distract yourself!

Well, I say NO. I am entitled to feel my shit no matter what my ex or anyone else may think or say about it. I am done questioning myself with the ‘why?’ or the ‘is this right?’. I am entering into a space of acceptance and acknowledgement. No one is in charge of my emotions but me. There is a freedom and a deep love of self that has accompanied this realization. I get to feel my feelings and I get to choose who I let into my life and into my heart.

Because I am absolutely worth it.

And this friends, is the best thing so far to come out of the hell that is this divorce.

I Have Come to the Conclusion

Nelle Fertig

I have come to the conclusion
she said
that when we fall in love
we really fall in love with ourselves–
that we choose particular people
because they provide
the particular mirrors
in which we wish to see.

And when did you discover
this surprising bit of knowledge?
he asked.

After I had broken a few
very fine mirrors
she said.

Circling the Drain

I’m not writing for anyone but me this morning. No audience, no blog followers or Facebook friends. I haven’t written in a while mostly because I don’t know what to say. There is nothing new to report. Nothing I haven’t already discussed in some form or another.

Life seems to be circling around an emotional drain. I am running in circles, hitting walls when they pop up in front of me. Falling down. Finding myself at the bottom of that damn hole in the sidewalk. Nothing makes any sense and then suddenly, everything is clear. I am angry as hell one moment, and then sobbing with hurt and sadness the next. Happy as can be and excited for a future with new possibilities, and then crying on the floor in the fetal position.

Repeat. Recycle. Redo.

I am exhausted.

The abandonment and rejection have taken the forefront for the time being. I was the one that told him to move out. I was the one who filed for divorce. I was the one that said with certainty, I AM DONE. So why is my brain playing tricks on me? Why is there a longing that will not quit? This man did unspeakably horrible things to me and I know this yet, I still want him back sometimes. But that person, the person who kicked me when I was down is not the same person I was married to for 11 years.

That person is dead.

Is this how it goes? The grieving process? Many people have said that divorce is more difficult than death. Having been through both, I am not sure what I believe. They both suck. There are parallels certainly, similarities I guess. Loss of a relationship, loss of an intact family, a life together, a future filled with hopes and dreams. All of it. For me, losing my dad at 9 years old is so tied up with the fact that my husband has left me for a new life and a new love, that I am left reeling and raging all over again. I am completely tangled up. My 9-year-old self is hurting and she is PISSED.

I guess though, all I have is right now, and yes, divorce does indeed suck. It feels easier to know that when someone dies they (usually) don’t intend to leave. With divorce, someone decides that they are done. Yes, sometimes divorce is amicable. And to be honest, I am not sure this one isn’t. My fear of abandonment coupled with the codependency makes it nearly impossible for me to sort through my emotions at times. My husband told me just the other day that he has left me for the ‘new him’ and that he has ‘never been happier’ in his life. That hurt me to my core.

I know we weren’t perfect. I know there was a restless boredom that was there in our marriage, a shadow of something unsettled and nagging. I don’t know if we would have made it one more year; one more decade. I have NO IDEA. I guess I just feel like we deserved more of a chance than we got. Those two people who met in their twenties and got completely lost and simultaneously tangled up in each other, don’t they deserve another chance? A shot at seeing what is there, beneath the hurt, beyond the codependency and the pain of trauma. I know that I deserved more of a chance than he was willing to give me. This family, these children, this relationship. None of it seems to count. 16 years of my life down the drain. Lost for good. What the hell happened?

He is happier than he ever has been and I am left reeling.