And what a year...
Sometimes, when things in life start to unravel, you don't notice the frayed edges and errant strings until it's too late. Then you're just standing in a pile of tangled, twisted string trying to figure out how to put it back together. The blank screen before you, with all the empty space just waiting to be filled, feels like an enemy in those moments. If I start to share the cracks weaken further, the dam breaks, it all becomes real. And real is something you can't allow.
My husband, a man I love very much and who I had committed to spend my life with, had demons. We all do in one form or another, but some people have demons that take over their hearts and their minds and their lives so completely that in the end all you have is a heap of ash where your life once stood. Sometimes people end up in a hole so dark and so deep that the will to scramble out eventually relents to the urge to just roll over and embrace the ugly solitude.
When the first glimmer of a problem became apparent, I stood firm. Laid down some ground rules, started looking for programs and resources to help. When it emerged again and again, I found a counselor who was willing to take on the challenge and made sure we kept regular appointments. I gave him space and allowed him room to sort through things. Finally, the last straw dropped. I told him to pack his things and go, because my self respect was too great to allow such treatment, even unconditional love has limits.
Then I died inside.
I never thought hurt could be like this. So all encompassing. Every nerve in your body screams with pain, and eventually it all goes numb. Emotional trauma became physical. I lost so much weight that my clothes began to fall from my frame. I was physically unable to eat, even the smell of food made me nauseous. I had to prepare my children's lunch next to the kitchen sink so I could vomit. I didn't sleep, then I slept too much. I avoided everyone and everything, with the exception of one friend who would get calls and texts from me at all hours, sometimes quite lucid and other times raving and incoherent, raging in circles demanding answers like a rabid dog chasing its tail.
And the rage, oh the rage... I had never before felt such complete, white hot, life altering disdain for another person. I was overwhelmed by my anger and by the betrayal that had been enacted upon me and my children. More than once I slid into my husband's cubicle at work and spit seething whispers of anger into his ear while he sat, unmoving, never looking me in the eye. In those moments I lost myself, became someone I didn't recognize. All the work I have put into being a respectful, honorable, loving person would disappear in an instant and I turned into small pale version of the Incredible Hulk. Instead of using my fists to smash rock I was using my words and rage to emotionally decimate another person, or trying to anyhow.
To him, we were irrelevant. He maintained through it all that he loves me and it wasn't about me and I didn't do anything wrong and he's just not made to be selfless and he's not cut out for marriage. My tears and pain made him angry. He had moved on, why couldn't I? I searched for, and found, specifics on his repeated betrayals that left me more twisted and shattered. And still he ignored it, moving on with his life, seeking out all the things that he knew would make him happy.
I returned to our counselor, now mine alone. I forced myself to talk to new people, even though all I wanted to do was hide. I started trying to turn off the questions and the pain and stop the downward spiral of anger, hate, and despair that I was allowing to control me. Sometimes I had a day where I could smile, and even if it was fake it was a start at trying to move on so it counted for something.
I learned a lot. I have learned so much about other people's capabilities and our
expectations of them. Judging someone by OUR criteria sets them up to
fail. If you judge someone's love for you by the way you want them to act, you'll just guarantee both of you walk away disappointed. I identified my center and started moving back to that place. I accepted that it really WASN'T about me. I realized that I am phenomenal. No, really. People I met were blown away by me, admiring things I just couldn't see within myself. After the millionth person says the same thing you kind of have to step back and reassess.
At some point I started to pack away my sorrow and my anger and move my life forward. Good days weren't as far apart as they had been before and bad days were mostly manageable, even if they were still jagged around the edges and felt an awful lot like recovery from the flu. I accepted that I would be doing this on my own again and I started to make it work. Not perfect, but the train wreck was being cleaned up a little at a time. Sometimes, in spite of that angry sucking wound in my chest, I took a breath that didn't hurt. Sometimes I laughed. And sometimes, where I least expected it, I found love in the world.