Category Archives: Great Escape

the Great Escape: part 5, the end of the end

The saga continues.  Who knew it would take so long?  Look elsewhere for part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

When we last left off in this soap opera, I had just discovered that Mr. X had canceled/blocked my attempt to move half of our savings, which legally belonged to me, and my attorney advised me to move.  I made this discovery just before I was to go pick up X and drive him to the airport, which was to be our last time alone together, according to my plans.  I went ahead with the plan to pick him up and give him a ride (despite knowing he was onto me), partly out of shock, partly out of denial that anything could go really wrong.  I probably wouldn’t do the same today.  I also wasn’t 100% sure that he was reason the transaction was canceled–again, denial runs strong.

I arrived at the house, expecting X to be ready, with his bags at the door, as he would have been for any other trip.  I parked in front of the house and left my things inside, including my purse, the doors unlocked (we had a very safe neighborhood, and I expected to be back  in the car in a couple of minutes).  When I walked in the door, X was very unlike himself, hyper and not ready to leave at all.  The whole mood that day was very eerie.  We both knew I had tried to move the money, and we both knew he had stopped it, but neither of us acknowledged it.  We kept playing our “normal” roles as husband and wife.  I helped him get a couple of things together, we made small talk.  At the same time, he knew, he knew.  He had read the old blog already (I later got confirmation of this, but at the time I had no idea), and he played mind games with me the whole time.  I had moved my passport out already; he decided to take his passport for his in-country trip (why?), which is kept in the same place–so, I told him I would retrieve it for him.  He told me he was having a problem logging onto our bank account and stood over me as I “tried” to log on, also.  Then…

He told me he left some things in his car, which was parked at the side of the house where I would normally park.  The next thing I knew, he was walking to my car at the front of the house, going inside it…I was freaking out, because there were papers from the attorney there…but he was in and out so quickly he didn’t have time to get to any of those…he made up some flimsy excuse–he was looking for his ritual items for prayer (tallit and tefillin)–why would they be in my car?  As the attorney’s papers seemed safe I forgot about this and just tried to hurry him along to JUST LEAVE.

Somehow I got through the ride to the airport.  As I was pulling away, all I could think was–I never have to be alone with him again, I never have to be alone with him again.  On my way back to work I stopped by a pharmacy to pick up a prescription, and as I went to pay, I discovered that my debit card was gone.

Suddenly, all the business with his searching for his “tallit and tefillin” made sense.  If I had parked at the side, as usual, he could have gone into my car without my seeing him at all.  His being in and out of my car so quickly–too quickly to mess with any paperwork, but just enough time to grab my debit card.

He stole my fucking debit card out of my purse.

Later, when I talked to Cherry and I told her about how weird and hyper he was that day, she said, well, sure, he was about to commit a crime.  A crime I could never prove, but he did it.  As my attorney said, the card was in my purse before he went to the car, he went to the car, the card was no longer in my purse.

Of course, I reported that card as stolen to the bank.  I had a new card by that Saturday (thank you Fe.dEx!) and used my new card, until Mr. X had my new card cancelled on Sunday.  Yes.  Yes, he did.

By that time, I was staying at DD’s.  I stayed at our house on Thursday after X left, but the aura or the energy or something in that house just wasn’t right and I couldn’t stay there anymore.  I slept better on her pet-hair filled couch than I did on my own king-size bed.  Oh, and all of my angst about X’s well being and his being suicidal (or practically so) after I left?  Well, after he stole the debit card I knew that he would be fine, just fine.  And that was when I decided that Miss Famous was coming with me.

So, the rest of the savings disappeared (no, not just “his” half of it) and I was actually locked out of it with some kind of password (“Oh, you should speak to your husband, ma’am.”).  You can believe I won’t be dealing with that bank anymore.  I took some of the checking, but left enough to cover the outstanding checks, but good old X emptied out the rest.  His last ATM withdrawal was for $60.  He emptied it down to the last little bit.  Bounced checks galore, bank fees galore.  Weird things also started happening, too, like our realtor calling me and telling me he talked to X, who told him we had split up (before I had even left).  My gut told me he found the blog; later my gut was confirmed by a friend whom he told that he found it.  I just wasn’t careful enough.  I thought he wasn’t watching.  He may have been watching everything for a really long time.

I hadn’t really been eating or sleeping, but staying with DD (which stands for the Dynamic Duo, which she and Mr. DD definitely are) took care of the eating, and the sleeping somewhat.  Mr. DD just cooked stuff and put it in front of me and I would eat.  DD packed my stuff for me (I was pretty distracted) and labeled all the boxes and Mr. DD taught me how to erase the history on my computer–a valuable life lesson.  Mr. DD packed my stuff in his truck and got it out of the house to keep at DD’s parents’ house, so it would be safe, “just in case” (lots of paranoia going around in those days).  DD made me lists and kept me sane (or what passed for sane in those days).  I told DD that they saved me, they saved my life the same as if they had pulled me out of a burning building, and I would never, ever forget it.  And I won’t.

My mom drove two days to get from where she was to where I was.  The original plan was to spend the night at DD’s parents’ house (no pet hair everywhere) and start fresh in the morning.  She arrived on Monday, March 30 around three in the afternoon.  We decided to forgo the restful night at DD’s folks’ house.  My mom, Miss Famous, and I left town that very night, and I haven’t looked back.

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the Great Escape: part 4, deciding the decision

If you happen to be new to this saga, you can find the previous installments here:  Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.X

So at the end of the last post on this story, I found my self in the ultimate, “Oh, shit” moment.  I had just started reading Patricia Evans’s  The Verbally Abusive Relationship (which I just happened to have on my bookshelf–thankyouverymuch social work education), and was in shock because I recognized myself in its pages.

This was on Friday, March 13th.  I finished the book by the end of Saturday (while trying to keep the book hidden from X, no small feat, indeed).  On Sunday, I spoke to my friend, Cherry (the friend I refer to below), and to my mom.  Here’s what I said about it in my old blog:

And yesterday I called my mom.  I opened up a door there.  I don’t want this to be a secret anymore.  I’ve been hiding this, protecting him, and taking part in my own undoing for so long–because I never wanted anyone to think badly of him, of us.  Before today I had only ever told one friend about the things he has said to me, the belittling, crazy-making, scornful, sarcastic things he says to me.  I was so ashamed.

The next few days are somewhat of a blur.  I know that I was very much of two minds, and I was miserable.  I just kept saying , “No, no, this can’t be!”  This person I loved could not be an abuser!  I just could not integrate the information; it was as if I had been told he was an alien.  (After all, I helped other people who had been abused.)  And this, after everything I had been through.  Another part of me, the part that believed, the truest part of who I was, knew I couldn’t stay.  So I was split.  On Wednesday or Thursday (so March 18 or 19) I talked with my oldest friend by phone.  She commented that I kept saying that I didn’t know what I would do (stay or go), but I was talking like I was going to go.  My biggest grief was the dog, because I knew that leaving the dog would break me even more, but I didn’t see how I could take the dog from him.

Ah, yes.  About that.  You see, I was afraid that he would be a wreck if I left.  I was afraid that he would be suicidal.  Not that he had ever threatened suicide or anything like that, but I could just picture him in the corner with a bottle of pills and some razor blades or something…I now see this all as part of his manipulation from the beginning.  Always “afraid” I would leave.  Every fight mean that I was out the door.  So much of my agony during those days was about the pain I would be causing him.  As Cherry told me (in a different context, but still true), he trained me well.

At one point I found myself bargaining with God, offering to give up any chance for a child, ever, to just make him better.  Make it so I don’t have to do this thing.  Make it so he doesn’t have to hurt more.  (Trained very well, I would say.)

By the time a week had passed, by the next Shabbat, I… well, I’ll let the old blog tell you this one, too:

Around last Friday or Saturday I started feeling a peace about leaving.  And if there’s anything I’ve learned in my thirty-two years on earth, it’s to follow the peace.  When I think about staying, my stomach ties up in knots; leaving, I have peace.  Well, I should clarify.  When I think about having left, I have peace.  The actual transition process does not actually seem like a peaceful one to me.  But I am working on the details.

Over a week had passed, and I still had not opened up with anyone in my same city, and I knew I needed to.  Because of Mr. X’s position in our religious community, I knew that anyone in the Jewish world was out (again, I was protecting him–well trained).  That left people from work.  The problem was, I didn’t really have any friends–religious community, work, anywhere else.  I had work buddies, but nobody that I was really close with.  After some debate, and an insistent nudging in my brain, I spoke with my workmate, DD.  I hadn’t even known that she had previously worked at a domestic violence shelter, but there you have it.  Even though I had a “peace” about leaving, my time frame was quite fuzzy, and I was even thinking that I might stay a few months.  DD did her damndest to convince me to take advantage of Mr. X’s upcoming out-of-state job interview THAT COMING WEEKEND and get the hell out as soon as I possibly could.  I was still trying to pull the warm blanket of denial over my head, and didn’t think that I could get it together that quickly–I mean, in less than a week?  Was she crazy?

Well, all it took was really one evening together with X after feeling really committed to leaving and dealing with his mind-fuckery that I realized that the leaving date would need to be sooner rather than later.  The next day, I spoke with my supervisor at work, came clean about the fact that I hadn’t really done my job/paperwork  for about two months and explained why, got her blessing to get out of Dodge as soon as possible, and received some unsolicited advice to get an attorney ASAP.  Oh, yeah.  Mr. DD just graduated from law school (he was finishing up at the time), so DD was also pretty into the idea of my speaking with a lawyer.  I knew, also, that with some of X’s “issues” there would be no “trial separation,” and that divorce would really be the only way.  At this point I was still planning on leaving Miss Famous behind, as a “comfort” for him, as the last thing I could do for him.  Ahem.

Wednesday, March 25, I met with my attorney, whom friends of DD and Mr. DD helped me find.  I was about 95% sure about the whole thing, so he said he would draw up paperwork, and I could come back two days later to sign, or discuss it with him.  He also advised me to get half of our savings out, as it legally belonged to me.  That evening I started moving half of the money (online only account, it takes time to process).  The next day X was to leave for his out of town trip and was to be gone until Tuesday.  I felt fairly safe trying to move the money, as I was basically “mommy” with the money and took care of all the finances.  Much of the time X didn’t even seem to know how much was in the accounts, as every once in a while he’d have a minor freak-out and we’d have to sit down and look at everything together and then he’d calm down and see that we weren’t broke, after all.  The thing is, I could have blocked him out of the savings account, changed his password, etc., got my half of the money out, but I didn’t.  I purposefully didn’t.  I just didn’t.  Stupid, but I didn’t.

A couple of other things happened that Wednesday night.  I finally got a weird vibe about him and Dolores, the “friend” and married neighbor with whom he had been spending so much time.  She had come over for something, and, I don’t even know, something just struck me as off about the situation, that there was more going on there that meets the eye.  But my thought was, “Well, at least she’ll be here to comfort him.”

The next day was Thursday, March 26.  I went to work, and just before leaving to go pick up X to take him to the airport I went online to check on my transaction (to move half the savings out of our joint account per my attorney’s instructions).  Something looked like it had gone wrong with it.  Yep, he found it.  And cancelled the transaction.  And then I had to go drive him to the airport.  Freaked out?  Um, yeah.  Just a bit.

I suppose I could have called him and feigned an emergency meeting and asked him to get someone else to take him to the airport, but that denial was still good and strong.  He had never gotten physical with me, and so I just told myself that he never would.  Now I look back and I think how dangerous it was for me to go back to the house alone with him and drive in the car alone with him.  But I did it, thinking the whole time, that it would be my last time to be alone with him, that I just had to do this one last thing and I would be free.

To Be Continued…

The Great Escape: Part 3, desperate survival leads to awakening

You thought I’d never get back to this, didn’t you?

Previous two installments are: Part 1, The Beginning of the End and Part 2, Painful Realizations.

When I left off the story, I had been making some big realizations: 1–my family seemed to accept me more than my husband (which was the opposite of what I had been thinking for, oh, years), 2–Mr. X had some big-time problems with how he dealt with stress and how he treated me and our problems were mostly stemming from that fact, 3–as good as he looked on the outside, to other people, he had never given me unconditional love and acceptance and he would be an albatross of a helpmate if a child were ever in the picture.

I had gone to visit my family in late February, and immediately after returning, Mr. X would be leaving to go on a job interview in the same city where he grew up and where all his family lives (since his family was there, he would be extending the trip to make it into a visit, as well).  At that time, our lives were really up in the air because he had decided not to renew his job contract after the middle of the summer, so we didn’t know where we would be living, we had put the house on the market (in this economy!  Aaaaaaagggh!!), and I couldn’t even think about looking for a job until we knew where we were going.  I really didn’t want to move to that city, but a big part of me just wanted to have something settled.  Of course, I was really happy to have the break from X for so long.  During this time there would be some outward displays of affection (such as cooking meals I wasn’t hungry for), but they always seemed like tests to me, and my reaction had to be just so, or the passive aggression and cruel insinuation would kick in.

So you can see why I was looking forward to the break.  I was also looking forward to a break from the, ah, “community obligations”–X is clergy (nice, huh?  I knew you’d like that!), and when he would be gone, I would also take a break from my role as the “lovely wife.”  This element of the relationship is enough for ten blog posts so we’ll just leave it at that, but you should know that I was really excited to have my weekend to myself, among the other days.

(The one thing I didn’t like about being apart from X, were the phone calls.  Phone calls when his mood was ok were fine.  Phone calls when his mood was not ok–which could come without any notice, really–were pure torture, and somehow I got the blame (how did that always happen?).  When I had been at my mom’s on that last trip he would call me up and literally not say anything.  I would tell him about what was going on (with the nieces and such), and he would criticize me for not talking about things of more substance.  Right…)

During our time apart, I ate a lot (if you know my history, food is my numbing mechanism of choice) and I read a lot of fiction and a lot of blogs.  I felt a little sick from a cold, but I think I was mostly sick with grief, though I was still covered up with denial about that.  X was excited and happy about his job possibilities and very excited and happy about living in that city.  I didn’t like the thought of it, but did like the thought of being able to start planning for the future.  I was really worried about X’s job, however, as I thought it was too big of a change for him, too different, and was worried about how stressed he would be if he got that job and how that stress would come out on me (this last part was not so clearly articulated in my mind at the time, but it was there).

During that time, or right after, I also realized that I could not have children with X.  In my old blog, I alluded to this, but not nearly as clearly it was in my mind.  In my mind, it was crystal clear:  regardless of fertility treatments, adoption, or miracles from heaven, I could not have children with this man, not before he got some serious help.  For someone who wanted a baby as badly as I did (do?), that was perhaps the most painful part of this whole thing up to this point.  No wonder I couldn’t spell it out on the old blog as clearly as I might have.

When X returned from his trip, he was certain he had the job, and would just have to wait a few days for the confirmation.  Well, the job fell through, after what seemed like an endless waiting period, and his stress turned inward initially, but then found its favorite victim again soon enough.  We were already well into March by this point, and my life was endless drama at home.

I now look back on this time period very differently because, of course, he found the old blog.  I don’t know when he found it, however.  Everything was always a mind game with him (I see now), but I don’t know when the blog started to be a part of it.  I’ve looked back over at my old posts and remembered conversations we had, and wondered if he was just throwing my own words back at me.  I’ll never know, probably.  I know for sure at the very end, this is what was happening, but I don’t know if already at this point it was.

During this time, X’s friendship with “our” friend and neighbor, Dolores, seemed to be strengthening.  I, for one, was just happy when she would come over so that I would not have to be alone with Mr. X.  They were hanging out more and more, and I wasn’t thinking much about it, even when they would keep hanging out after I would go to bed, or not even start hanging out until after I went to bed.  I really don’t think there was anything physical going on with them, at least not before I left, but emotionally?  Who knows?

As March progressed, my desperation deepened.  I mentioned going back to counseling to him at least twice, and he was extremely cruel the last time, so I didn’t bring it up again.  During this time, my migra.ines had really ramped up, and I was having them every day.  I had seen my doctor, and she had tried a couple of different medications, including a daily medication for prophylaxis, and I had started to see an acupunc.turist.  Even now as I type these words, I feel the shaking returning, which I haven’t felt in a long time.  If I had to use one word to describe those weeks, I would have to say, “survival.”

One Friday evening, in the middle of March, just before Shabbat (sabbath) started, for some reason I cannot explain rationally, I picked a book off of my shelf.  It was one of my social work books that I had from an internship I did at a domestic violence counseling center (yes, irony, I know).  I think I was just looking for some idea, for something to make things better, even just within myself.  The name of the book?  The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans.

I read about three pages and said, “Oh, my God, this is my life.”

To Be Continued…

Pesach flashback #2: spring cleaning

I’ve talked about Pesach (Passover) a bit before, and these thoughts about chametz (leaven) have been rattling around my mind ever since, well, ever since I packed up and left.  As I said before, when I was packing up and leaving was the time when I would normally be preparing the house for Pesach.  Said like that, one doesn’t really get the significance of the task.  Suffice it to say, there are many jokes made about going back into slavery in the days and weeks before Pesach in order to get our homes ready to celebrate our freedom from slavery.  Ha, ha, ha.  Jendeis has a good description of her what her Pesach prep entails.  Pesach prep in my house with Mr. X was generally a little more intense than her list portrays, and every year he would change what level of cleaning he was comfortable with (so some years were definitely harder than others), but her post should give you an idea if you are interested.  Basically–clean everything really well, use different dishes, kasher (make kosher–often means boiling) utensils or other items that are able to be kashered.  Clean entire house of any crumbs of food, etc.

This year, around the time that I would normally start planning out the cleaning schedule, I was figuring out if I was going to leave my husband or not, so my regular Pesach concerns were kind of out the window.  At the same time, I was aware of the time of year and that I wasn’t making those plans.  So during the time that I would normally be vacuuming under the couch cushions for crumbs, and scrubbing out the cabinets, and ridding the house of all foods with chametz in them, I was instead deciding what items I was going to take with me in my Great Escape.

I already made the connections to the journey out of Egypt elsewhere.  The actual preparation for the journey, however…as I said above, I was very aware of the time frame in the Jewish calendar, and somewhere between the subconscious and the conscious I knew that this packing, this preparing to leave, this was my Pesach preparation.

So what is chametzChametz is leavened bread, bread (or bread products) that have been allowed to rise.  Spiritually, chametz has been likened to pride, anger, even death.  Traditionally, one is to literally burn the last bit of chametz in possession before Pesach begins.

After I knew I would have to leave, in the few days before X left for his out of town trip that would give me the opportunity to escape, I found myself looking at all of the things around the house, and I realized I could leave them all.  I realized it didn’t matter at all, all of this accumulation that had seemed so important just a few months before.  If I had to, I could have walked away with nothing.

I didn’t walk away with nothing, but I took very little.  Just today I spoke with my homeowners’ insurance company.  I almost laughed when they asked about my possessions at my current residence.  The things I took fit in my car’s trunk and the back of my mom’s truck (cover closed), with room to spare.  If I hadn’t brought Miss Famous and her varied necessities, my trunk would have been empty.

I hadn’t realized how cathartic it would be to go through my things and say, “No, no, no.”  No, I’m in too many photos with X in that outfit, no, I’ve always hated that shirt.  No, I’m not bringing any of this, any of that, thank you, but no.  And it felt like with every item I left behind, I was freeing myself a little more, stripping off the chains one link at a time.

And it didn’t stop with the physical items.  It seemed in those days that I was literally breathing him out of my body, sweating him out, crying him out.  All of those years that I was pushed into a smaller and smaller space with fewer and fewer choices, all of those insinuating sighs and cruel words–I sloughed them off with my skin.  This was my chametz:  the daily dying that comes with needs deferred too, too long, the deep wound of a love returned by hate, the exhaustion of avoiding unavoidable landmines.  This was the year I started seeking out and burning the chametz.

The Great Escape: part 2, painful realizations

When we last left off, Mr. X had just inexplicably cut off the seemingly successful marriage counseling, only stating that he “needed a break.”  The last session with counselor Number Two was at the end of November or the beginning of December, I’m not sure.  Things seemed neutral throughout December, but tension must have been building, because I remember that New Year’s Day was a pretty bad day.  I also started my old blog in December, and did not tell Mr. X about it (though I planned to eventually), so things must not have been too peachy, though I don’t remember anything specific happening (other than walking on eggshells, sublimating my own self and needs for his, living in fear of his anger and disappointment, you know, the usual).

By January, it was as if we had never been to see Number Two at all.  My timeline is somewhat fuzzy around here, but sometime in January (I think toward the end)–something broke.  There was this one weekend…I think it was MLK weekend…

OK, most of the time, X was so covert in his abuse.  He would do and say things that would be very difficult to prove later.  Passive aggression is his calling card.  So much of his abuse was in the insinuating question, the tone of voice…if I later “called” him on it, it was like he had deniability.  But this particular weekend, he said very overt things, maybe this is why it sticks out in my mind so much.  There was “cold war” the whole weekend, but two main incidents where he said very cruel things to me.  The thing is, both in this instance and later, when he does these more “overt” abuses, it backfires on him and strengthens me against him.  These more obvious things–I can’t argue them away.  I can’t convince myself that they didn’t happen.  I can’t tell myself that they were my imagination.

After he had said both of these things to me, it was like I said above…it was as if something had broken in me.  I knew I couldn’t trust him, I couldn’t open up to him.  From that moment on, I started an experiment.  I don’t even think that I would have worded it like that at the time, but I think that’s what it was.  I was pleasant to him, I continued to do most of the things that I had always done for him (like laundry, etc.), but I did not react when he would have one of his moods, or make side comments to me.  Well, most of the time I would not react–I do recall asking him to go back to counseling a couple of times.

I think that this “experimental” time was really important for me.  Through this, I was able to unequivocally prove to MYSELF that this stuff wasn’t about me.  I knew what I was doing, and I knew what he was doing.  I was staying calm and I knew that he wasn’t.  I could finally see so clearly that our problems weren’t 50-50 or even 60-40 or 70-30.  I could finally see clearly that our problems stemmed from inequality in our relationship and from the way that he treated me.  But I still didn’t have the word “abuse” for it.

In February, I went to visit my family in another state.  I saw my sisters, their husbands and kids, and my parents.  I had a wonderful, wonderful time and felt amazing love and acceptance the entire visit.  This is significant because part of the narrative of my marriage with X was that only he fully accepted me, my family didn’t.  (This came out of some conflicts we had when I first got together with X and converted to Judaism.  It did take my parents and younger sister a little while to get used to the idea that I had converted, but a lot of time has passed and they have grown a lot.  They have given me nothing but love for quite a while now.)  It kind of blew my mind when I got back to my and X’s house and felt such emptiness, when I had felt so great just being at my mom’s house.

Another thing about that trip was seeing my sisters with their husbands and kids.  I remembered wondering how exactly I would manage to deal with a baby and Mr. X  at the same time and concluding that it would probably be easier to just be on my own with a baby than to be juggling a baby, the eggshell walking, his moods, etc.

My mom drove me to the airport and on the way there, she talked about how well my older sister is doing (she hasn’t always been doing as well as she is right now).  My mom told me that she thinks a big part of why she’s doing so well is that her husband loves her and thinks she’s beautiful no matter what, and that my mom is so happy that my sister finally feels like she has unconditional love from a partner.  I remember feeling like I was stabbed in the chest upon hearing this.  I had never had that with X, EVER, not even in the very beginning.  I never felt totally secure in his love, ever.  I always felt like I had to be dancing around, working for it, changing something about myself for it, holding something about myself back in order to keep it.

And that’s no way to live.

Next:  How I realized that’s no way to live.

The Great Escape: part 1, the beginning of the end

This is a story that I want to tell.  Maybe  you know part of it, maybe I’m repeating mysef for bits of it–but this is a story I need to tell.  This is the story of how I left my abuser.

I’ll tell the story of how it all started another day.  I’ll leave the story of how he wooed me and romanced me and slowly wrapped chains around my soul for another day.  Today I want to tell about how I got free.

Before I can tell the story from a month ago (has it been that long already?), when I was driving away, or even two weeks before that, when I first really realized that what I was dealing with was abuse, I need to go back a little further, to let you understand how I was even able to see it, to understand how I had somehow become strong enough to open my eyes to my own life.

We (that is, Mr. X and I) ran into the brick wall of infertility in 2007.  It was so very devastating to me, though at no time were we ever told that we would never be able to have children; we just kept running into roadblocks.  Within just a couple of months of dealing with the roller-coaster, I was in as deep a hole as I had ever been, and seemed to find my only comfort in food (but only when I was alone, and there was always a lot of self-loathing attached–so it was quite the cold comfort).  I started seeing a counselor to help me deal with the devastation of infertility and, oh, so quickly did the therapy’s focus expand to what I called in my other blog “my myriad issues.”  During this time I was so overwhelmed that I could barely take care of myself, much less keep all the balls in the air to keep Mr. X happy, too, so I felt immense guilt about the problems in my marriage (a.k.a. his being pissed that I wasn’t taking care of him like before).

Between the counseling and work I did on my own outside of our sessions (the books Overcoming Overeating, When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies–among others) I started to get healthy.  This was particularly true from March of 2008 onward, from which time I started to seriously work on my food issues–which were really a mask for my emotional issues.  In fact, X would later tell me that he “knew” I had decided to leave around that time–Spring of ’08–which was not true, but, then again, maybe it was.  I had no intention of leaving at all, but perhaps the moment I chose good for myself instead of the dregs, the moment I thought of myself first instead of always always always last, perhaps that was my choosing, perhaps not to leave, but definitely choosing the best path for myself, whatever form it would take.

Looking back on 2008, it seems now that the healthier that I got, the worse our relationship got.  Now that I have the benefit of hindsight and the framework of verbal and emotional abuse through which to look, this is clear to me.  At the time it wasn’t.  At the time I just knew that my marriage was getting worse and that I was seeing more and more clearly that my husband had some pretty serious problems.  At the time all I knew was that when I would choose to meet my own needs, it would somehow backfire and I would end up miserable.

At some point in the summer of  ’08 Mr. X went to counseling, too, under the guise of dealing with his work stress.  We would talk about our counseling sessions (this was back when we still talked).  At one point he said something about “running out of things to talk to [his counselor] about.”  I didn’t really understand that then (especially because I could see that he had PLENTY to talk about), but now, based on that, and some other things he said, I’m pretty sure he never opened up to anyone, especially a counselor.  Unless something pretty drastic happens in his life, I don’t really see him ever really opening up to anyone, including (especially?) himself.

We made two different attempts at couples’ counseling in the fall of ’08.  The first was a total disaster.  We went together to see X’s counselor (my idea–I thought he’d feel more comfortable).  We fought the whole time–the counselor had nothing for us, that I can remember.  The second attempt at counseling seemed a lot more successful, but I have a different view of it now than I did at the time.  Number Two took the view that her job was to help us reconnect to our positive feelings for each other and so we really didn’t talk much about our problems while in her office; she got us to try to remember what we liked about each other.  And it seemed to “work” in that we fought less for a while and I felt happier for a time.  Looking back, it seems that we were in an extended honeymoon/calm phase (of the cycle of violence/abuse).  And just as I question how I could not have seen what seems so obvious to me now, I also question that marriage counselor and I wonder how she could have missed the signs and some of the things that were said in her office–right in front of her.  The difference is that she wasn’t inside the relationship and that she was a professional and had an obligation to be on the lookout for things like abuse.

Just when I was getting nice and comfortable, just when I was thinking we were starting to build a foundation of good feelings, Mr. X surprised me (and counselor Number Two) in late November by telling us that he “needed a break” from counseling and wanted to stop our sessions.  That was all the explanation he gave.  I was very upset, because I knew that we were not “strong enough” yet.  Number Two told us that if we found that we “needed” to come back, her door was always open.  I knew, though, that if we got to that point, X wouldn’t want to come back.  Eventually this proved to be correct, but I’ll continue this story another day.

Next:  Continuing the downward spiral.

Pesach Flashback #1–coming out of the narrow place

I said that I had a lot to say about Pesach, still, and that I would keep saying it, so here goes, I guess.

So Pesach (Passover) celebrates our redemption from slavery in Egypt.  The name for Egypt in Hebrew is Mitzrayim, which literally means “narrow place.”

How interesting that the place of our communal slavery takes the name of a narrow place–a place where you can’t move freely, a place where you might feel trapped on both sides.

When I was with Mr. X, it seemed like so much of my life was spent walking a balance beam.  There was no room to stretch out to the right or to the left.   Everyday my focus was first on him–his mood would determine more than anything else how my day would go.  I was always on edge, constantly looking out for situations that might tip his fragile balance.

And yet I told myself how fortunate I was to have found my “soulmate.”  He would give me just enough to have me believe I was happy, or at least that if there was a problem, it was with me.  At least, he used to do that.  The last few months were the last few months precisely because I had learned to say “no,” and learned it better and better, but it never stopped scaring me, and I never stopped feeling the edges of that balance beam, fearing that I could fall off at any time.

I never did fall, but I jumped, and my hands still shake from time to time from the effects of it.  But I am off of that balance beam for good.  I am out of that narrow place.  As hard as this time is–divorce, the practicalities and legalities and the healing and the hurting, it is so much better than living in those cramped quarters, not ever knowing if I was truly loved or not.  Now I know that I wasn’t, not really, not by him.  But I am now, by many others, and that knowledge is freeing.

As I was driving away during the Great Escape, through the small towns and across the state lines, it’s as if the geography of the countryside itself  was reflecting my escape from Mitzrayim.  The further I went, the sky seemed to open up as the land flattened and the trees became more sparse.  It seemed as if the land itself was unlocking and standing open before me for the rest of my life, and all that lay behind me was Mitzrayim, was dark and tight and narrow, and all that lay ahead was bright and wide and mine for the taking.  And these were a few days before Pesach and I was so aware of that time, that I was running from my own slavery, that I was going out to my own promised land, and that I might have to spend some time in a desert before getting there, but that I was on my way and I wasn’t going back.

“In every generation one must see oneself as if one had personally experienced the Exodus from Egypt.  As it is written:  ‘You shall speak to your children on that day, saying, this is how the Holy Blessed One redeemed me from Egypt.  It wasn’t merely my ancestors who were redeemed, but the Holy Blessed One also redeemed us with them…'”  (from the Haggadah)