Once upon a time, I paid a lot of money for and invested a lot of time in trauma therapy. This was court-ordered during my divorce settlement and was the best thing, in my opinion, that the judge ever ordered. My therapist and I didn’t click right away. It took about two to three sessions before we found our groove. I haven’t seen her in a year and a half and there is a still a therapist-shaped hole in my Monday afternoons.
The *reason* I haven’t seen her is because she decided (and I suppose her credentials as a therapist enable her to do so) that I had gone as far as she could take me. That I had looked past the trauma of an abusive marriage and was going forward with my head held high.
So it remains interesting to me that there are still people, to this day, who believe I am not healing properly from the trauma that was my marriage.
In considering this, I’ve decided to delineate the ways I have healed.
I am a better parent now than I have been in my entire twelve years of parenting. In my kids’ early years, my entire life, everything I did, was colored by my fight or flight instinct. This included my parenting. And my children suffered. I took my focus away from them and focused on pleasing their father, on having everything in the house to be up to his standards. I punished them for transgressions that did not deserve punishment because that is what he wanted. I did not treat them as people but as subordinates. In the past four years, I have reconnected and bonded with my children in a way I frankly never knew I could. We still have tough days. But I know my children well and they know me as well in turn and we are a cohesive unit in a way we have *never* been in *twelve* years. That’s healing.
I have reclaimed my home. For more years than I care to acknowledge, I lived in a home that was a work in progress. The work was never finished. My children lived in a home with bare, white walls; in a home where 2 x 4’s with exposed nails were piled on the dining room table because they would be used for some project, somewhere. In the years since my divorce, I have painted every room of my house in colors I have chosen. I have, with the help of my father, brother, and good friends, finished the home improvement projects that were half-assedly started 10 years ago; I have given each room its unique personality. I have created my own private oasis in my master bedroom and am no longer sleeping on the bed he got when he was 15 years old. I have spoken myself into my home. And perhaps most importantly, I refinanced the home out from under my ex-husband, per our divorce decree, and it is mine. The name on the deed is mine, and mine alone.
I have grown my faith. This is, perhaps, the biggest part of my journey that is up for debate. I don’t go to church. Church, one particular church, was responsible for a large portion of my trauma in the aftermath of my separation and divorce. In fact, and this is another blog post for another time, this is the one piece of trauma that my therapist stated she was not able to resolve. But I digress. I literally have panic attacks when in the vicinity of a church. I cannot be around “church people”, I cannot listen to sermons. I cannot. But, strangely, I am closer to God than I have ever been. I don’t feel–and this is a bone of contention for many people–that I have to be in a church building to grow my relationship with God. He knows how I feel. He knows the panic attacks. He knows it all. And while it is true that I do not voluntarily take my children to church, it is *also* true that if they ask to go, I will take them. Because I am a mother above all else. They don’t ask, and whether that’s because they are protecting me (which is not their job) or because they have suffered some of the same traumas and cannot articulate that, I will never know. It doesn’t matter. If my kids want to go to church, we go. If we don’t, it does not mean I am a faithless person who is rejecting God. It means I know Him and He knows me and we are on the same page.
I am co-parenting. Not only am I co-parenting, but I am the only one co-parenting. (Thereby negating the definition of “co.”) I give up time that my children are scheduled to be with me so they can attend activities they enjoy doing with their father. I do this almost without question. Because that is what is best for them. I communicate information about school events, sports tournaments, injuries, illnesses, and anything on the children’s minds or hearts to their father. Because that is what is best for them. And I continue to do this when he does not. When I am informed of emergency room visits only because the hospital calls to check on the child that supposedly went to the emergency room, I turn right around and send him an email telling him that all 90 teeth belonging to our three children are scheduled to be cleaned. I inform him of literally every event or appointment in their lives that he, as their father, has a right to be informed of. He has not shown up to a single one of them. I continue to inform him. Because that is what is best for the children.
So it turns out my therapist was right. Not that I ever doubted her. I am making progress and, though I am still actively being abused by my ex husband, I am a stronger, healthier person than I was before I even got married. I know who I am. I know what makes me tick. And I am, at days away from 40, the happiest I have ever been in my entire life.
Which seems healthy to me.
“The human heart has a way of making itself large again even after it’s been broken into a million pieces.”– Robert James Waller, “The Bridges of Madison County.”