part sixteen

This has been a very difficult history to write. I’ve taken a break from writing for a bit because I’ve certainly stirred up lots of stuff. I’ve shared my writing with only two people here in the real world and it’s been ummm…hard. I feel like it’s needed though. I don’t know how I know it’s time to do this. I simply know it is.

I had a dream a few days ago that has stuck with me. I was getting married…to my ex…there was the beautiful dress, the cake, the guests, the whole damn thing…and I was beginning my walk down the aisle and the next thing I knew, I was in the reception room with a gazillion people and I didn’t know if I’d gotten married or not! And no one would tell me what happened between the time I began walking down the aisle and that moment in the reception hall. I woke up crying and wondering why on earth no one would tell me what was going on.

When I left off two weeks ago, this was the last line:  I felt guilty for being grateful someone else would deal with R for a few days. I just went back and re-read that line and it’s true. I did feel guilty.

The honest truth is I feel guilty for most things, most of the time. Even now. I’ve had people tell me or email me that it’s all my choice now and I know that. I believe it. I live it. Every single day. I know I have choices now. For the first time in my life, I really believe that I get to choose. I wish knowing that I can choose made a difference in how the crap feels when it comes ’round. Because choosing to live my life differently does not mean that the crap doesn’t show up. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t feel it when it does. What it means is that when the crap shows up as it is liable to do, I get to feel it, think about it and then decide if I’m going to let it rule my life or not.

All that said, I’m feeling the fear and doing it anyway. On we go…

What was originally supposed to be a hospital stay of a few days turned out to be seven months in and out of the psych ward. My husband would be released into my care and wind up back inside the hospital within days. He even left unathorized once and was arrested at our home and taken back. During this time I could not ever leave my daughters home with their daddy so we went everywhere together. Whenever we arrived home, I would leave the girls in the car and go inside first because I never knew what I would find upon my entry. I didn’t want them to find him dead or bloody or any of a number of things.

Once when we returned home, R was in our bedroom and I went in to check on him. He began yelling and threatening me. I walked out of the bedroom to make sure the girls were ‘ok’ and told them to sit in a chair untiil I returned. Then I went back into the bedroom to attempt to get R to agree to go to the hospital. It was much easier if he agreed. Instead of agreeing, he slammed the door to keep me inside the room, broke the glass on top of a nightstand and held it to his wrist yelling “Now look what you’ve made me do!” He would alternate aiming the glass and himself and at me. It was a frightening time. After an hour or two, I finally convinced him to allow me out of the room so I could check on our girls. They were still sitting in the chair I’d left them in. Can you imagine? A four year old and an 16 month old not moving? It makes me sick to my stomach to think of it now.

I got the girls and we went to a friend’s house to play. It was much later that I returned home alone to see how things were going. R was asleep. He woke the next day in a much different mood and I was able to drive him to the hospital with no excitement. That was one episode of many and they were all more or less the same. Different triggers, different methods, all scary and trauma filled, all faced in that unemotional, detached state that chronic abuse victims live in. I look back now and don’t have any idea how we made it through all that.

I know we attended meetings and I know that brothers would ask about my husband. I have no clue what I told them or how they responded. I don’t remember anyone coming to my aid and I don’t remember asking for it either. During this time, my girls and I did attend a summer convention of JW’s and I remember running into a sister from the congregation I grew up in. She took one look at me and said “Trace, what happened to you?” I said “Huh?” She looked directly into my eyes and told me I “had the look of a holocaust survivor” in them. She proceeded to say “You’ve changed, honey. It’s obvious to anyone with eyes that you’ve lived through some hard stuff.” What could I say to that? What did I say to that? Something along the lines of ‘Yea, things are tough sometimes.’ I had no more desire to attract attention to myself and my situation than most women who live in such situations have. I knew it was my fault. I knew I wasn’t good enough to expect better and I knew it would continue until R was stablilized on the right meds.

During all the hospital stays and med changes and ups and downs, I was contacted by a social worker. I had no idea why a social worker wanted to talk with me. I do remember it made me nervous though. I spoke with this woman for probably 30 minutes or so and then R entered the room. She spoke with him for a bit and he mentioned his dad committing suicide when he was 10 years old. I’d known about this but was so angry with him for bringing it up now. What the hell did it have to do with why he was in the hospital? I said something like “I don’t know what his problem is, I lived without my father for my whole life and I’m fine. He needs to get over it.” Oh yea, by this time I was all understanding and stuff.

Geez. It makes me nauseous to remember I said that. I don’t know what, if anything, R said to that but I do remember what the social worker said. She looked at me very directly and with the kindest voice I’d heard in a long time replied “So, you understand what R deals with when he thinks of his father a bit don’t you? It’s interesting how people with similar histories end up together isn’t it?” I cried. There’s a big suprise eh? This social worker recommended that R begin seeing someone on a regular basis to help with the situation and she thought perhaps I’d like to go too. I don’t remember what I thought about that but I know I called a few therapists and scheduled an appointment with one for a few weeks later. I was determined to do whatever it took to help us live a better life. Little did I know…

to be continued

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7 responses to this post.

  1. I believe you when you say this has been difficult to write, but I bet it was even more difficult to live it. How you can ever look in the mirror and see anything other than the strongest woman in the world, I’ll never know.

    Reply

  2. {{{{{{{{Traci}}}}}}}}

    Reply

  3. Oh, I hope you can ease the guilt that you feel about so many things. Self-love and self-forgiveness are important things to give to ourselves.

    Reply

  4. My professional experience taught me that there are more people in this world that blame others for their problems that you can imagine. Add that R blamed you for his actions to your own history, and it is no wonder that you struggled as you did/do. Also, Traci, if no therapist has told you this, when we live with people we tend to pick up some of their characteristics, habits, patterns ourselves. (It is simple survival, and yes, you were a holocaust victim.) When those people in our lives are mentally ill, we unfortunately begin to “feel” so ourselves. Consider your 2 babies on the couch … they’d *already* learned the patterns and their own survival skills at that young age. In positive situations, that is why spouses of many years can finish each other’s sentences but for you, the sentence that needed completed was quite different, wasn’t it?

    Traci, I admire your strength of living through all this and for now telling it, for your own cleansing and also to potentially help another person caught up in some such scary drama. You are truly amazing and inspiring. I hope you will one day be able to recognize how each awful piece of your history has been turned, through your strength, into a brick of the foundation for the wonderful woman you see in the mirror these days.

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  5. Traci – I think you are probably finding out how healing the writing can become. If nothing else, it gives you a kind of shaping control. No-one can tell your own story, your own perspective, other than you.

    You had an overwhelmingly difficult set of circumstances to navigate. I know that there is so much more to the narrative.

    You have always done the best that you knew how to do, which is all anyone can you. You learn as you go along, and each choice empowers you to make better choices in future.

    Focus on caring, kindness – and don’t leave kindness and compassion for yourself out of the picture.

    They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but it can sure leave a lot of scar tissue. Visualization is a fun thing to do – I rub cocoa butter onto patches of rough skin, and imagine that I am also soothing away and healing all the other kinds of “scars.” Don’t laugh – but sometimes when things are overwhelming, I actually pat my own hand and say “everything will be all right” to myself. It seems so silly. But sometimes you just need to hear that, and it helped a lot – especially in my younger years.

    I hope that you know that you can contact me anytime you like.

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  6. Traci:

    I add my voice to your other commenters. Your are indeed being courageous and once & for all getting stuff off your chest so as to move on. Sometimes that is necessary. It certainly is brave.

    A comment on your posts, since I am a JW and familiar with both their plusses and minuses: I’ve found in my life that some terrible things happened when I was doing good, and some good things happened when I was doing terrible. Thus, I’ve concluded there is no connection between our actions and what happens to us the next day, as if God were monitoring our course and rewarding/punishing us accordingly, even for minor things. He has bigger fish to fry. Some things just happen. Some things are just the luck of the draw. (on a macro scale, maybe the punish/reward model is true….the Bible would seem to indicate that….but certainly not on a micro, personal scale.)

    You have several times indicated that such and such a outcome perhaps indicated God’s displeasure, and so you’d try to adjust your course, and you’d be hurt when it didn’t seem to change matters. Such thinking is not unusual among JWs, or most other religions IMO, certainly ones in which there is the concept of sin. I do not believe the faith is the source of it. A dysfunctional background tends to be the source. I will concede, however, that if one does have such baggage, the congregation can appear to play right into it. (Some of the members, as with all of us, are themselves from dysfunctional backgrounds, so they might REALLY play into it.)

    Our sense of worth and value is instilled in us at a very young age. If that’s been screwed up, it takes forever to undo the damage, and it is probably never undone completely. A person with a well adjusted sense of worth can easily put in proper perspective the (in my view correct) concept of inherited sin and imperfection. Should others, even elders, overstep proper boundaries, perhaps “laying a guilt trip,” a well-adjusted person knows how to take things in stride.

    You are taking steps to heal, Traci, from some nasty happenings. I commend you like everyone else and wish you well. I was a little hesitant to comment, since your series does not appear to be a “guy thing.” But, being a JW, I can appreciate your background as none of your other commenters (I think) can, so I thought I might still put in my two cents.

    Reply

  7. Hi, Traci. I am still trying to digest all of the above, but before I comment, I think I need to read the other parts that came before. Just wanted you to know that I did read, though. Will get back to ya’ later. Hang in here, grrrl!

    Reply

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