Thursday, 17 June 2010

Why I stayed

Now that I am hitting my stride or at least not falling over my own feet, people are feeling more comfortable asking me questions about the mental breakdown that resulted from my depression and separation from my husband.

The thing people should know firstly is that it is ok to ask. There are few things that have happened in the last year that I am ashamed of. In fact, I'm proud of the way I have handled what has so far in my life, been the worst part of it. I did not just learn from the experience but I blossomed and came out of the muck a better person than she who entered.

Would I wish the last few years of my life on anyone if even just for the learning? Gawd no! No one deserves to suffer the abuse of a narcissistic spouse and the ensuing pain when you are left high and dry to pick up what is left when someone throws an hand grenade in to your life and leaves.

But shit happens and if you don't learn techniques to cope then life is going to eat you up and puke you out. One of the best tools I possess now is the ability to clearly articulate my thoughts and communicate the issues I face with people around me.

Often, a person believes that to be strong you must solve your own problems and by that they mean keep it to yourself... suck it up... deal with pain on your own.

Yes, happiness is intrinsic. You make it and you make it go away.

Yes, mental illness is in your head. No matter how many people try to help you and tell you what you need to do to fix it, the will to do the fixing lays in your hands.

No single other person but you is going to turn the tide. The gun is being held to your head but the trigger is yours to pull. The weapon can be moved away from your temple and the safety flicked on. The thing is that it is you shooting yourself otherwise. It sure as hell feels like it is happening to you but it is you happening to you. Medication - Therapy - Lifestyle Changes will all go towards improving your situation and each one of those alterations are up to you.

You can not wait for someone else to save you. I had to be a self-rescuing princess!

So, the question I have been asked the most lately is one that I expected much earlier on. I guess people didn't push it because they thought I would take it as criticism or judgement... and to be honest... yeah, I probably would have. Now, I feel removed from that pain as if it happened to someone else. I can listen to the question without bursting in to tears. I can try to form the answer. In responding to their queries, it resolves in my head. This could be because I'm the kind of person who talks my way through the problem space and sorts it in to some semblance of sense along the way. Not all of us work that way so I do not write this to give advice but to talk it through with you... with me... with my brain.

The question is "if your ex-husband treated you so badly then why did you continue to stay with him?

It is a damn good question and one I had to ask myself once I realised that I was better off without that destructive influence in my life. It is hard to remove that uncomfortable feeling of looking at the skeletons in a friend's closet but come for the ride.

There are many reasons not to list all the things that were done to me over the final two years of my marriage. One of the last things he asked me was "Do you think I liked doing those things to you?" and to this day, I don't know the answer. Knowing what he was thinking then or now is not something I shall waste my time and thought power on. If you are not that kind of person then you will never be able to truly understand the monsters who are.

What I can explain to you is why women stay with men who destroy them. It may sound like cliches but let me work my way through them for both our sakes.

He wasn't always like that Of course he was. It just worsened slowly over time and I didn't see it because at first I was blinded by puppy love and then I was blinded by loyalty. An abusive person is just that. They start with minor verbal abuse then mental abuse and it escalates to breaking things and people. You convince yourself that he was once loving and the kind of person who would never hurt you but if you really think back, you remember how controlling he was and the consequences worsening over time when you pushed back against his will. It takes time, distance and exposure to other people who are not cruel to see the difference. To see how you should allow yourself to be treated and how you definitely should not.

I loved him and knew he loved me Someone once said that love is pain. Do not listen to that idiot. Love is joy for everyone involved in it. There are tough parts but it should not be painful. Love stories with suffering and sacrifice are all noble but don't think that it should be like that. I thought putting up with the misery of his moods and tourment was part of what I needed to do to prove I loved him. The lows were so low but they made the highs feel so high. In reality, I had to realise that true love is a calm ocean that has stormy days once a while and not the other way around. If he loved me like I loved him, he would not have treated me the way he did. If I had realised that then I would never have allowed it.

For better or worse Marriage is an important institution and so is the Supreme Court. At least the latter does not allow cruelty to persist. Marriage for the wrong reasons, like me thinking I might as well or he'd move out, is really not right. It is about love and forever and babies and forever. It is a decision to be taken seriously. Especially the part about "for better or worse". Unlike me, be sure that there is far more better than worse before you even enter in to the contract. I thought marriage meant enduring through the hard times and it does but you better make sure you are agreeing to hard times with the right person because if they aren't going to stick around for your bad bits then they aren't worth it.

So, I stayed because I thought that was what love was. What life was. I was wrong. If you are being abused or hurt a lot by your partner then you must walk away or at least get help for both of you. Don't stay and be a cliche like me. Be stronger. You can survive on your own. I didn't think I could because that is what he taught me. Now I know that I can and I'm a much better and happier person because of it.

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