You know when you aren’t fully sure where that itch in your back is? So, you lightly scratch as much surface area as humanly possible until you find the spot you can sink your nails into and satisfy that deep scratch? Yah? That’s where I’m at. Knowing I’m so close and finally feeling some relief-yet knowing that the best is yet to come.
I did a thing this week and started EMDR therapy (virtually, of course) to tackle my ongoing battle with PTSD from a codependent, toxic and abusive marriage. Recovery from abuse is a funny thing because if you’re anything like me? It takes time to realize what actually unfolded and to let go of the way you THOUGHT things should have been. Strange, I know. But, completely normal and one of the many things that makes me human. Yet, I knew this was something I needed to tackle in order to achieve the peace I’m so desperately seeking.
Therapy is a gradual process and although I walk away feeling better after most sessions, I know it’s going to take time to open and ‘shelve’ all my jars of issues. Before we even began EMDR, my therapist asked me what my happy place was to keep in her memory bank for, I suppose, those rough moments. And for the record, my safe and happy place is in loved ones arms… my kids have superpowers, I swear. Insert heart emoji. ❤
So, we ‘scratched the surface’ this week and I went back to two of the first incidents in my new marriage when I knew something was so incredibly wrong.
I was happy. I had a perfect little girl, was recently married and was expecting our first son. My husband was renovating a home for us and although I was about to be uprooted to a new town and was feeling totally on edge, I was looking forward to building a life with him. I was adjusting, not well at times, but I was learning how to live again and trying to make the best of everything.
We decided to take a road trip over Thanksgiving weekend and headed out to see some extended family down in Ottawa. I was super pumped to spend some time with my cousins, aunt and uncle but was equally excited that my parents and sister were going to be there, too. And hey, my Uncle is legit one of the best cooks around, so there’s that. He’s the reason behind my love for parsnips and brussels sprouts… most delish, ever.
So, anyways, It was a great couple of nights and I remember sitting there, drinking my non-alcoholic bevvie (preggo, duh) while we all enjoyed our time around a fire. I remember being extremely relaxed and loved watching my new husband get along with a group of my most-loved people and we left back to our hotel with full hearts.
The next morning came (as they always do) and the guys had arranged a game of golf, so I took my daughter and spent a lovely afternoon with an old colleague and dear friend. I got to see her new house, catch up and generally enjoy her company. Except, I got so caught up that I came back to the hotel an hour later than I said I would, but we’re all adults here and it’s no big deal, right? Wrong. This was the first time he laid his hands on me.
I came back into the hotel parking lot and I knew something was wrong. His eyes were as if something had come over him and my husband was gone and replaced with a shell of himself. I figured it was a couple too many bevies on the golf course and he just needed a rest. I said an awkward goodbye to my friend and we went back up to the hotel room and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I had to get my daughter out of this situation really quickly- so, I dropped her off to my parents room so my husband and I could sort our issues over. It didn’t take long for things to escalate and this was when I was thrown into the hotel bathtub for the first time and had the hotel phone chucked at me. I was somewhere between ballistic and shock and without a word, he took off immediately and my over-emotional and lost soul went on a wild goose hunt in a city I knew nothing about, with my sister and mother. It was hard for us to not only accept, but it was hard to watch a loved one suddenly act so out of character. Hours later (yes, we searched for hours) we eventually found him in the seediest area and I just remember apologizing profusely and feeling happy when he agreed to come back to the hotel room with us. It was like I had won the trophy… my husband, back in my arms and we would figure it all out. Meanwhile, I’m bruised, shaken and officially a victim of domestic violence.
What’s even more insane is that I continued to let it happen.
He was eventually charged from this time after another incident a short month later and it actually resulted in a no-contact order between us, which clearly gutted me. I had to move our daughter and myself back into my parent’s home and pretend that my husband just didn’t exist. I wasn’t allowed to talk to him, see him or have any sort of contact with him. I was so weak, because I just wanted that pain to go away as quick as humanly possible, that I lifted the order after a month because I just cried and cried. I couldn’t accept the fact that I had been ‘abused’ and truly believed things would never escalate again.
But, they did. And it got worse. Every single time.
Was I perfect through it? Obviously not. I ran my mouth because it was my only defence mechanism. I’m still learning that I don’t need to run my mouth because I’m no longer in a situation where I’ll be abused. But, it made my brain ‘break’ in a sense and I’m working my tail off to fix these broken pieces to give me my most potential life. That’s where this therapy comes in- I need to learn how to delete all these flashbacks and images from my brain and continually remember that physical and mental abuse wasn’t normal, isn’t normal, and it will never be normal. I deserve to realize that.
I’ve really done some deeper introspection this week on how I normalized domestic violence. I would always accept the apology and be able to move on to the thought of a better day ahead. I was brainwashed because my self-confidence and worth was at the lowest of lows. He even started disappearing for nights at a time, and I always forgave him because I was okay with the fact that he came home to me and would basically gravel at my feet after whatever escapade had gone on. He made me feel so lucky that he continued to choose ME to have a life with and that he was the best I could ever be with… because I didn’t look as good as him and carried around some extra baby weight. He was never committed to our life and his agenda seemingly always consisted of another baby and would sell me on it (it wasn’t a hard sell, as I love being a mother.) But I kept giving, angry at times, but continued to give until I decided to change my role. And that decision came after many, and I repeat, many incidents. Trips to the grocery store for milk ended up being 12-hour trips and I can’t even tell you the amount of nights I sought shelter elsewhere because of the fear of his state upon his arrival home. I’m not entirely sure what void I was trying to fill and without overthinking, my goal here is to build self- confidence and focus on my values so I don’t settle for anything less.
I know I deserve security and I know I deserve support. I know I deserve to feel love and I deserve to love someone properly. I know I’m capable of both giving and receiving this sort but I need to make sure I’m in my best possible self to make it work. And I’ll get there, one surface scratch at a time.