As I go for my morning walk around this lake with such beautiful mountain views and what was once the world’s tallest fountain, in a state so far from where I grew up, I find myself wondering… “How did I get here? This is definitely not a life I could have ever imagined living”.
I thought about the day that everything changed that led me to this place.
There are many moments and experiences that shaped me and the trajectory of my life. But, on that Christmas Day, in 1992 everything changed in a way I never could have imagined possible…
It was the first anniversary of my mother’s death. I knew it would be a difficult day so I made arrangements for my children to spend the day with my in-laws.
I wanted them to have a joy filled day. I wanted them to experience what I knew (or believed) I would not be able to give them.
I was definitely not in a good place. I felt grief, regret, fear, and uncertainty.
Grieving a parent at the age of 23 is typically pretty challenging. And, between her death and this anniversary, my father also died.
Grieving parents for whom you have issues with abandonment, betrayal, and neglect is even more complicated.
It felt strange because I didn’t have a particularly healthy or close parent/child relationship with either of my parents. My father played almost no role in my life. My mother was depressed and disconnected. Like many in this type of situation, I was her caretaker. Yet, I felt this depth of emptiness.
I wasn’t able to understand it at the time but, I was grieving not just for what was lost, but what would never be.
I missed my children and felt like a failure for not being able to give them the day they deserved.
I don’t remember how it started, like many arguments between partners, I’m sure it was something small.
As is often the case, because I was struggling without being able to acknowledge it and talk about it, the argument became much bigger.
… Or at least my reaction to it became much bigger.
I felt hopeless and defeated. I was filled with grief, but didn't recognize or understand it. I was hurting but couldn’t acknowledge it.
At one point in the argument, I left the room, went into the bathroom and slammed the door and sat next to the toilet, crying.
One of the things I learned as a child, as a way of coping, was that physical pain was “easier” than emotional pain…
In that moment, as I sat up against the wall next to the toilet, with my knees pulled in, crying, I began to bang my head on the wall behind me.
My husband was angry… he was also scared. He didn’t know how to reach me. He didn’t know how to fix it.
The more he tried, the more angry, more defensive, more hurt, and more self protective I became.
Then he did something that mortified me. Filled me with fear… and shame.
He called 911.
He wanted me to stop hurting myself. He wanted me to be okay.
I came out of the bathroom when I heard what he was doing. He handed me the phone to talk to them. I hung up.
But, as is the case with 911, when I didn’t answer their return call, they showed up at our door.
I didn't want to answer it. And he wouldn't. I knew they would not go away and they could possibly end up forcing the door open.
I opened the door to two uniformed police officers standing there. Their car in front of my house. I lived in a very small community, houses right next to each other.
All on Christmas Day. I felt humiliated. I was angry at him for calling… for putting me in that situation. I was embarrassed.
I told them everything was fine. Of course, they didn't really believe me (probably a good thing because they could see that I had been really upset). After a few more moments of talking to us both, they left.
I was much calmer (or even more defeated).
My husband shared his concerns and told me I really needed to get help.
This did not make me feel any better. It was a reminder of how “damaged” I was.
It was a reminder of my failure as a mother and that my children were truly better off where they were.
While this was one of the most difficult days of my life, it also turned out to be the biggest catalyst which ultimately led to living a life I never imagined possible.
The next business day I contacted the only place I knew of to call.
I learned about the Center for Prevention of Abuse when they did a presentation in my victims of violence class that semester on their programming and issues around sexual abuse and domestic violence.
I called to ask for a referral for counseling. The woman asked whether I had experienced abuse? I said, yes but, that's not what I'm coming for.
While I didn’t say this to her, my decision to seek counseling was because I believed my husband deserved a better wife. And, my children deserved a better mother.
I knew I was struggling with my mother’s death, so that's what I told her I was going for. She replied “well, if you've been abused, you can come here and, our services are free".
I liked the woman who did the presentation. After, I even thought I wanted to work there after graduating.
So, I thought, okay. That's where I'll go.
I set up an appointment for their next available session…
The rest, as they say, is history. … And to be continued. 🙂