Tonight, I have one more cost to add to an abusive relationship. The relationship started in the fall of 1990, until I left in the spring of 2007, so one cost is sixteen-and-a-half years of my life. Another cost was quite dear, three stays in the mental hospital and one suicide attempt. Sixteen years without friends outside the office or the house. Sixteen years of impaired relationship with my parents. Years of impaired spirituality. Years of believing I was worthless. Years of psychiatrist care and talk therapy and medications that messed up my mind and my body. Ninety extra pounds from those medications, and all kinds of issues surrounding my weight. Years of believing I really didn’t deserve any better, any different. Years spent convinced I was a failure as a wife, a mother, a human being.
In 2007, when I told him I was leaving, of course, he didn’t believe me. He tried to convince me to stay, brought out the dirtiest weapons he could muster when I didn’t budge, thinking that this would be just like the other times I’d tried to leave. I felt like a grade-A frigid bitch during those weeks, holding fast to my message: You say this time is different, that you want to change; I really hope you do, but I’m not waiting around to see it. I don’t trust you, and I’m not staying here any longer. Our son decided he wanted to live with his father full-time, and only spend half his weekends with me. Add to that cost: one son.
Tonight, our daughter told me that she wants to live with their dad full-time now, too. So 21 months after I left, 4 months after the divorce became final, the cost has now increased one daughter. Of course, she said she didn’t want to hurt anybody with this. And she doesn’t understand why I’m not ready to have a hug from her and go back to having fun. It doesn’t help that I’m overwhelmed at work, trying to work into new responsibilities at church, struggling with bills, 12 days from surgery, sick for the 6th day and not appearing to get better. I don’t have the resources to cope with one more thing, but here it comes anyway: One More Thing.
My daughter… she’s such a special girl. She shines and sparkles, like I did in high school. She is the heart of any group she’s in. She is bright and smart and empathetic and compassionate. She’s on fire with passion, and she makes a difference in everyone whose life she touches. The house is different when she’s in it; her presence is larger than her body, and when she leaves, there is so much empty space remaining.
Tonight, when she talked with me, it wasn’t argument and shouting and fireworks. It was mature, thoughtful, and most importantly, her voice. In previous conversations, it has been easy to see the hurt and fear and venom coming through her from her father. In this talk, it was in her voice. This is not the vengeance of a spiteful abuser, using the only weapons he has left. This was my daughter, choosing her father, choosing not-me.
Sixteen years. Three mental health hospitalizations. One son.