Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Madness takes its toll--please have exact change ready.

I know, I have suddenly been blogging a LOT lately!  Fear not, I will probably peter out of things to say and go dormant again for a while!

My therapist was encouraging me to do certain things to cope with my issues, such as art ( I should really get back to doing some of my more creative pastimes) and journaling, which is what my blog is!  So, for now you are stuck with my incoherent rantings!

My therapy the other day was a little hard and as he told me I would probably be processing through it, I thought I would blog about it.  I don't like to talk about my ex-husband a lot, especially online, but as this is my journal and I need to process, I'll say what I need to say this time.

I said in my last blog post that I have been wrapping my mind around the fact that I am flawed mentally and emotionally.  There are many contributing factors to my issues, such as the genetic lottery I won by inheriting depression or the fact that my dad was verbally and emotionally abusive to me growing up.  I have been forced to face and process some of the ugliness that has caused me to be the way that I am.  I used to hear voices, I have panic attacks, I suffer from depression so dark that it causes physical pain and were it not for medication, I don't think I could survive it.  I know there are people who have suffered horrific things and I am so thankful that I have not experienced these things, but I know that all the factors that combine to make me who I am make it hard for me to function on a daily basis.  There are some days when just breathing and going about daily tasks is exhausting.  There are days when I want to fold in on myself and disappear.  I beg and cry out to God to come quickly because I long for heaven and an end to the torture I feel inside.

There are probably two major happenings that have caused my natural brain malfunctions to overload in recent years.  The first was my dad's death which I have talked about in a previous blog, so I'll not belabor that event.  The summation was that I found my dad dead in his home and he had been dead for five days and was decomposing.  It was a traumatic experience that haunted me for a very long time.  I still have my moments, but for the most part, I have been able to get past the guilt feelings and view the situation more matter-of-factly.

The other major event was less a specific event and more of a time period culminating in an event.  Seven years of marriage to my ex-husband, during which time, he cheated on me numerous times, moved out of the house numerous times, possibly fathered other children, gave me a cancer-causing STD, disappeared often, hit me, possibly engaged in an escort service, was arrested for fighting a few times, had an alcohol problem, once scared me by talking about murdering one of his girlfriends to make things "right" for us, etc.  During that time, I felt so mentally and emotionally damaged, I could barely think straight.  I couldn't decide whether to leave or not.  I couldn't make decisions.  I would decide to divorce him, then change my mind.  I couldn't tell if I could trust him or not or if he was lying or telling the truth.  I was confused all the time.  I knew I had Biblical grounds for divorce, but the Bible also said to forgive 70 times 7, etc.  I couldn't even tell how I felt or what I wanted.  I once wrote down a list of pros and cons of whether to leave or stay and I filled up page after page.  I had many, many reasons I stayed, but I also had many, many reasons I wanted to go.  For seven years, I lived in a hell of turmoil that I wouldn't wish on anyone.  I was extremely suicidal and went to get help.  I got on some anti-depressants and for the first time, my mind cleared and I was able to think straight.  I finally made the decision to divorce and felt a peace flood over me.  Just when I thought things couldn't have gotten any worse than they had been, they did.

Even though he was living with a girlfriend, he continued to text and call me all hours of the day and night, alternately yelling and screaming and threatening me and then turning around and confessing his undying love and begging me to take him back, sometimes all in the same day.  When I finally started turning my phone off at night, he started showing up at my house in the middle of the night.  I'd answer the door so he wouldn't wake the children, but also because after spending 14 years married to this man, I had a hard time thinking he was a threat.  But after this went on over and over again, I started to see more and more instability in his attitude and behavior.  One night, when I answered the door, I felt an inexplicable jolt of fear and for the first time, I began to think that this man really could hurt me.  I started to wonder if we would end up one of those statistics on TV, the husband who kills his estranged wife, children, and then commits suicide.  I found out later that he was hiding at my house that night because he had tried to strangle his girlfriend and the police were looking for him.  Sometimes when he would show up, he would be angry.  Sometimes, he was crying or very distant and acting suicidal.  He had already spent 5 days in the local mental hospital, and while I thought that that had been more about getting attention, I still believed that there was something wrong with him.

I don't know the extent of his stalking me, but I know he was.  I don't know if he was listening at my windows at night or watching me as I went through my day or following me around or parked down the street from my house, but he knew things he couldn't have known otherwise.  I never saw him or caught him stalking me, which is almost worse, not knowing how he did it or what he saw and heard.

After I signed the final divorce papers, I went out with Scott, who is now my husband.  I have blogged about that night before, so I won't detail it again, but the short version is that he was in my house with the children when I came home.  He had been calling me, threatening to run off with the children.  I had a restraining order, so all of these times he was at my house, I should have called the police.  But, this time he was IN my house and began to shove me around and throw me around.  For a brief second I contemplated the knives that were within my reach, but I knew that if I went that route, I'd have to be prepared to go all the way with it.  I could tell he had a very thin layer of control and was shaking all over.  I could see that even though he was roughing me up, he could do a lot worse and wasn't.  If I pulled a knife, I knew that the control would snap like a rubber band and if I wasn't prepared to use it to stop him for good, he would take it from me and kill me.  And I knew I couldn't do that.  For one, I am squeamish and stabbing is up close and personal.  For two, I didn't think it had escalated at that point enough that deadly force was required.  For three, I couldn't do that in front of the children.  So, I abandoned the thought of the knives.  Sometimes I wonder if I should have.  Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I could have gone through it.  Maybe I would feel better, but I know my kids wouldn't.  Not long after that, he grabbed me by the throat and basically said he would kill me if I didn't tell him where I had been.  I didn't tell him.  I knew that knowing I had been out on a date would not pacify him, it would ramp him up even more.  And, even though I knew what it might cost me, I felt I had to stand up for myself in some small way.  So, I choked out one word: "no!"  The next thing I remembered was hitting the floor and being unable to move for what seemed like an eternity.  I was aware that the kids were nearby, so I assumed they had distracted him or stopped him from what I believe would have resulted in his killing me.  When I was finally able to move, I shoved the kids out the door and we ran and called the police.

He was arrested, but since he hadn't been arrested for the incident with his girlfriend and since I had been dumb in not calling the police for any other time, this was a first offense and he got a slap on the wrist: anger management and probation.  I was scared to death.  Every noise outside made me think he was coming back to finish me off.  I couldn't imagine dropping the kids off at school, praying he wouldn't pick them up and run off with them.  The thought of going anywhere and looking over my shoulder, wondering if he was following, watching, going to kill me terrified me.  He knew all my friends and family and would eventually find me no matter where I went, so I did the only thing I could do: went with Scott to Kansas City to feel safe and to think.

I feel like something broke inside of me that night.  I don't feel like I have ever been the same since.  I had had such a hard time seeing him as a danger since I had lived 14 years with him, but ever since that night, I have a hard time seeing him as anything BUT dangerous.  Sometimes I think I must be overreacting and he's moved on and remarried--he couldn't possibly still want to hurt me.  But, even though I try to convince myself of this, his behavior--his anger and yelling at me nearly every time I try to talk to him--keep that doubt in my mind.  He occasionally has what we call "meltdowns" where he sort of goes off the deep end.  For example, one of these meltdowns included him calling me and leaving me a long suicidal voicemail, apologizing for everything and telling the kids goodbye for the last time, etc.  Those instabilities worry me too about what he is capable of.  I had thought he was calming and was being easier to deal with, but his anger has really escalated in recent months.  I can't talk to him about the kids without him getting angry and yelling. I dread having to talk to him.  He blames me for everything and undermines my authority to the kids behind my back and encourages them to make fun of Scott.

I have had nightmares ever since that night that he is coming back to hurt me or take me.  I have panic attacks.  My chest aches and I can't breathe when I have to talk to him or see him.  I feel like I am shattering into a million pieces.  I would do almost anything to get out of having to deal with him.  I am so relieved when he doesn't show up to pick up the kids, I almost feel giddy.  Some days, I feel like I am a hair's breadth away from a total breakdown or a mental institution.

Not long ago, when he was yelling at me when I tried to talk to him about Billy's behavior, I lost it and started yelling back.  I usually try to keep the peace, not rock the boat, bite my tongue.  But, this time, I couldn't.  I didn't let it all loose, but I couldn't be a doormat any longer.  Immediately I felt better that I had stood up to him, but sooner than I'd have liked, it wore off and I was afraid.

My doctors have diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and I have been in therapy.  I didn't want to go back to therapy after having gone to counseling off and on for years, but my doctor, whom I highly respect, said, "you have to pull your hand out of the toaster before you can begin to treat the burn."

My therapist used a technique called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) this week.  At first, I thought he was nuts for thinking that my eyes following his fingers back and forth would help me deal with this.  I don't totally understand the science behind it, but something about the eye movement activates both sides of your brain and helps you process trauma.  As he had me think about the situation and follow his finger movement with my eyes, the feelings bubbled over and I began sobbing uncontrollably.  Then as he had me think through calming thoughts, I was surprised as I started to feel better.  He had me think about the support I receive from my husband and I thought about how he would never allow me to again be in a dangerous situation with my ex-husband.  That helped me to calm down some--to know that the likelihood of him ever having the opportunity to hurt me again was slim to none.  Then he asked me to choose a safe place I can go to in my mind.  He said it could be a vacation spot or somewhere I have never been or an imaginary place.  My first thought was Heaven.  That is the safest place possible and how could you be any safer than in the Lord's arms.  But, imagining that as my safe place made me cry because it made me terribly homesick.  So, I decided to instead use the beach where we had our cruise.  He wanted me to recall the sounds, the feel, the sights.  I imagined us lying on the warm sandy beach, looking into the crystal clear water, seeing the fish and the ship and the people all having fun.  Safe because it was so far away from my ex-husband with no worries or troubles.  Then I remembered the smell of the BBQ and the sound of the island band playing.  I started to snicker, remembering the band singing, "I shot the sheriff," in their Jamaican accent.  How amazing that I could go from sobbing to giggling in just a few minutes.  I'm sure I am not totally there yet, but maybe this therapy isn't as silly as it originally sounded to me.

I am looking into hiring another lawyer to change the jurisdiction of the case to Missouri since we both left the county we were divorced in.  I am also looking to tweak a few things, such as the pick up location.  We were court ordered to meet at police stations because of the history of domestic violence.  However, he moved out to the middle of nowhere Kansas with no police stations nearby.  He expects us to come to his house to pick the kids up, which I am not comfortable with.  He generously (read with sarcasm) suggested that the only other place he would meet at was the deserted sandlot across the street from his house.  I want to address this issue, along with the child support.  I also contacted the court trustee to inform them that he has moved and has stopped paying child support.  He is supposed to be under their supervision for the next couple of years and if he violates their parameters, he SHOULD go to jail for six months.  I doubt it would happen though.  He has been violating everything all along and they don't do anything about it.

I hate having to go back into a fight, since I don't like to rock the boat.  But, I have to do what I need to do to feel safe.

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