Sometimes life gets heavy.
Sometimes life gets REALLY, REALLY heavy, and all you can do to keep going is to get pissed. GET MAD. It helps. The adrenaline and fury are like rocket fuel inside your head, and they will carry you through and over a lot of obstacles.
Just like any tank of fuel, though, it does run out eventually.
Yeah, the last week or so has kind of been like that.
I used to be married. For ten years I was married. On the outside our relationship looked great. We attended church. We had good friends. We WERE good friends. I was a good wife. I kept the house clean, cooked, did laundry. I did not complain about my position or station in our relationship; he was the head of the family and I was second-in-command. All major decisions were made by him, financial, religious, spiritual, family, work. I followed the Christian Creed, “wives submit to your husbands.”
I am a forgiving person. I am a trusting person. I let things go easily, as long as we’re willing to talk about it.
I let MOST things go easily.
Some things I just have a hard time with. Some things I can’t easily let go of.
I have baggage. I have stains and wrinkles and cracks. When I was a kid some things happened that now define me as an adult, and although I hate those things and hate that I am DIFFERENT because of them, they are still there.
To be mentally, emotionally, and psychologically safe, I have only ever had one rule with regard to sex:
That’s it. INSIDE that rule there are no others, I am open and willing to anything inside that rule, but the boundary around the rule itself is built high and thick, like a fortress. There is only the one rule, but that rule is non-negotiable, rigid, unbending, and immovable. It does not wiggle, it does not give chance-ies.
I cannot, have never been able to, and will never be capable of tolerating pornography, infidelity, or adultery. Cannot. WILL NOT. In my head and heart I believe that sex is to be had between two people at a time, and JUST. I do not share. I will not BE shared. I believe that sex is mental, visual, physical, and emotional, all at the same time. Looking at porn is adultery. Period. Perhaps both parties involved have agreed that “that kind of adultery is okay,” and they’re just fine inviting other people into their relationship in that way. That’s not my choice to make for them, and if they choose to do that it’s not for me to decide otherwise. FOR ME, though, I decided at a very young age that “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPE.” Not going to happen. Not on my watch, not in my life, not in my relationship. Deal breaker. WILL NOT.
One and a half years into our marriage, my ex had other plans.
We fought. I cried. I fell apart from stress and anxiety. I stopped eating, because Ana and Mia convinced me his adultery was my fault. “If you were thinner, this wouldn’t be a problem.” I called him at work whenever I found evidence of his choices. He hid it from me. He lied. I yelled. I cried some more. I threatened to leave. He apologized, I caved, I hoped that it was the last time.
It was never the last time.
I KNEW what this was doing to me on the inside; pornography in my own home and relationship was like a scent dog that beelined for the hidden baggage in the back of my mental closet. I did not want to deal with those bags. I HID THEM ON PURPOSE so I could be sure they didn’t bother me anymore. I put them in the darkest, back-est, quietest closet in my head, shut the door, sealed it, and put an armed guard in front of it. “DO NOT ENTER.”
Then he made his choices, and the bags in the back closet started whispering to me.
Financially we were a mess. I worked then handed my paychecks over to him. Eventually I got pregnant and had to stop working. In order to pay for food and insurance I applied for food stamps. It sucked. I don’t think that financial assistance is a bad thing, and I do know that there are a lot of people that need it, but I don’t think we needed it. We SHOULD NOT have needed it. We were two grown adults, I am resourceful and intelligent, we should have been able to make it on our own.
We were a mess.
I was a mess.
For eight and a half years, I was a mess. Miserable. Dark. Lonely, broken, aching, lost.
Then one day I woke up and decided.
Something had to change. I HAD TO CHANGE. Once you wake up, though, no matter what you decide it is going to hurt. Change HURTS. To go from point A on path A to point anything-but-here on path somewhere-else takes sacrifice. With sacrifice comes suffering. With suffering comes pain.
Change hurts. That’s why it is rarely ever done, why we hesitate to do it, and why we have to fight so hard once we start.
Just after my 10th wedding anniversary, I packed up my shit, packed up my three kids, and I moved out.
I moved back home and moved in with my parents.
That part bit WORSE.
In order to not tell anyone else’s story, I’ll just say that “things in that house were rough.” The house was dirty, unloved, and barely lived in. People didn’t live there, they “existed.” It was like purgatory. It was sad and draining and grey and dull.
I did my best to turn things around. I spent HUNDREDS of hours in the yard to clean it up. I remodeled the bathroom. I scrubbed and washed and vacuumed and dusted and then started again. I rearranged furniture, upgraded fixtures, and made the house into a home. By the time I had to leave, the house felt good. The aroma of my parent’s home was pleasant and inviting. The kids brought life to a dying house, and we left it better than we found it.
Over the four years we lived in that house, my relationship with my mother deteriorated. It got ugly, and it stayed ugly. I was not considered to be an adult because I was accepting her help, “only children live in their childhood homes, you are not an adult as long as you live here.” I was questioned, doubted, negated, guilted, shamed, and manipulated. I started seeing someone. She did not like it, and as a result he was not made welcome in her home. I was given a curfew. My mother (and a lot of my family) felt that they knew what was best for me, and unless I did what they said I was not worth talking to.
The last straw came just before Memorial Day. We argued, and during that argument I reached a new emotional low. It is one thing to be despised by a stranger or someone that doesn’t know you, it is something else entirely to be despised by your mother. I decided that I could no longer cope with her disappointment, that if we were to have any semblance of a relationship EVER AGAIN I needed to leave as soon as possible, and that I would start packing as soon as I got back from the annual camping trip I take with my kids.
About three weeks ago I started packing.
Most would agree that moving is kind of a pain, but it is particularly so for an OCD-er like me. I like having all my stuff in one spot, “a place for everything and everything in its place,” so putting my things in boxes and spreading the boxes around is a huge anxiety trigger. “MMMMGGGHHHSTOPNOWPLEASE…”
Oh, and I have three kids. Did I mention that part? Three kids means A WHOLE LOT OF STUFF. SO MUCH STUFF, plus disruption, plus chaos, plus moving mostly by myself, PLUS the move under not-so-great circumstances triggered memories and emotional baggage of the LAST time I moved.
IT BIT. All of it. Memories and so very, very many feels.
Saturday of last week (eight days ago), I moved. I had been packing for a while, a couple weeks, but last Saturday was “the day.” Boxes into the car, boxes into a truck, and my bed. My bed moved. Home is where my bed is, and that night was officially spent in my new place.
Sunday (seven days ago) I went to pick up my kids from their dad. He spent Saturday night and Sunday morning with them. They see him a couple times a month, more or less, for a couple days at a time. I miss them like crazy when they’re gone and I was glad to have them back.
On Monday at 9.30 am (six days ago), I received a phone call from my ex-husband’s parents. It was odd, I thought, because I hadn’t heard from them in over four years. They were quite disappointed and angry when I left, understandably so, and our lives drifted apart. I answered the phone with my standard “This is Erin,” and waited. I had no idea what they needed from me.
She was sobbing.
They had entered my ex’s apartment, found keys, passwords, account numbers, observed that he had labelled all his things to bequeath them to his loved ones, and then found the note.
“Call Erin, have her tell the kids I went for a hike and got lost.”
The police were notified. Search parties were organized. Family flew in to help look for him. Old friends were called to perhaps shed light on his whereabouts.
I learned my lesson with my divorce and told my family what was going on, instead of waiting until I had “more news.” They were shocked but supportive.
As for me, I have never, ever, ever been more angry or furious in my whole entire life. It was the kind of angry that settles in your bones and blurs your brain, the kind of angry that exploded over and over inside of my head, twisted my guts, and drove me to compulsion for wrathful vengeance.
Monday was a furious blur. I was packing and moving and trying to work. The kids were in school. They found no sign of my ex. The police called off the search, because “no crime, no search.”
Tuesday was a furious blur. I had meetings for work, then Field Day for the kids at school. I was in charge of a station and spent 5 hours in the sun. I took some phone calls off and on and talked to a few people about the situation, but I don’t remember who I talked to or what I said.
Tuesday afternoon they found his car off the side of the road in Western Washington, near North Bend.
Tuesday evening they found him in the woods, drifting from pills and gin, fuzzy and waiting to die. He admitted to an attempted suicide.
Tuesday night he was admitted to the hospital, very early Wednesday morning he was transported to a behavioral clinic and put on lockdown.
Wednesday (five days ago) was a furious blur. It was the kids’ last day of school. I had meetings scheduled for that evening. I know I was there, but I don’t recall what was said.
Thursday evening the fury started to fade.
When the anger goes away, the feels come flooding in.
Anger is easier.
Anger is SAFER, because the feels need to actually be worked through. Working through things is hard and scary. No matter how much we try, though, the feels ALWAYS catch up.
The angry tank of jet-fuel-rage does eventually run out, and all that’s left is the hurt underneath.
Thursday night I cracked. Ugly crying. Sobbing, yelling, more sobbing. The Mister talked me down and held me while I cried. He said “You have so much to focus on that’s good and right and healthy, worry about US. Worry about things here, and just keep going.”
Just. Keep. Going.
Damnit. And oh my Dear God, I LOVE YOU MISTER. You are my anchor.
I’m not sure why the attempted suicide of the man I used to know has caused me so much grief. In an attempt to make sense of the swirling pandemonium of thoughts and feelings in my head and guts, I wrote them down. Like a pensieve, only different.
1. HOW FUCKING STUPID CAN YOU BE, YOU DUMBASS.
This is just one more way that his irresponsible, impulsive, “do what fucking feels right” choices have interfered in my life, and the lives of my kids.CHOICES HAVE CONSEQUENCES, even those we don’t see. Just because you’re not around to see what happens after you pull the trigger does not mean NOTHING happens. It just means that you’re not there to reap what you’ve sown, which IN AND OF ITSELF IS TOTAL BULLSHIT. Sowing a field full of crap and then making someone else harvest is absolutely the purest form of selfish.
2. Public Service Announcement: If you do decide to kill yourself, do it quickly, do it in the tub to minimize mess, and make sure that the people that love you find the body. “Doesn’t that seem harder for them? Wouldn’t you want to spare them the trauma of seeing the body?” Yeah, no.
Dealing with the trauma of suicide is not nearly as tormenting and draining as dealing with “I have no idea what has happened.” At least when you find a body you have CLOSURE. No body means no closure. As a mother I would never, ever, ever stop looking for my child. NEVER. Not until I found a body or found them alive, and then there would be equal parts anger and relief and grief. You might think you’re helping by dying alone, but that is not HELP.
3. If someone chooses to die, don’t you think they should be allowed to do it? If they decide to quit, shouldn’t there be some long term consequence to that decision? After watching his family scramble to find his ass, you think there would be some retribution. PAYBACK. Something.
As a child, if we said “I QUIT” because we got frustrated we were no longer allowed to play. I apply the same rule to MY kids. There are no take-backs for throwing a fit. What is the ethical equivalent for attempted suicide?
5. I don’t think I’m a very gracious person when it comes to quitting. “LAURVICKS DON’T QUIT” has been so deeply ingrained in my head that I honestly do not comprehend. DOES NOT COMPUTE. I have hit a mental wall, which is equally interesting and frustrating. I will be thinking about my aversion to and foundational conviction against quitting for a long, long time.
6. “Thinking about suicide” and “attempting suicide” are somewhat related, but not even close to the same thing. Between the ages of 7 and 33 I thought about dying at least twice a day, EVERY DAY. I thought about how and where and why and who would find me and who would care. I thought about who I would leave behind. I thought about dying often, but never one time did those thoughts switch gears from idle to action.
THINKING IS NOT THE SAME AS DOING.
If you have ever entertained the thought of death, it does not mean you are suicidal. It does not mean you’re NOT, either. If even for a second your thoughts switch from “thinking” to “doing,” STOP DOING. Stop thinking. Get help. Do not wait, do not think you’re too smart or strong for help, do not assume the impulse will go away on its own. Reach out and call out and ASK SOMEONE TO HELP YOU.
Support is a huge, huge deal. You need it. *I* need it. WE NEED IT. Ask for it. DEMAND IT.
7. Someday, hopefully a very, very long time from now. I am going to die and leave my kids behind to fend for themselves.
The time between then and now is unwritten and unknown; it could be two days, it could be sixty years.Is it worth the risk to waste even one minute?
I have so much to teach them and so much to learn from them, it is not worth all the money or objects or possessions in the world to waste one second of time. DO NOT WASTE TIME. Death is coming for us all sooner than we’d like, do not waste the breaths or days on things that do not matter.
Just… just live. LIVE HARD. Go hard. KEEP GOING. Just keep going and keep swimming and keep trying, because this is the only thing we know for sure. This right here, this RIGHT NOW is all we have.
Don’t waste it.
8. No matter how shitty your life, no matter how dark or empty or sad or disordered your ANYTHING, not one single circumstance trumps The Power of Choice. NOT ONE. No predisposition to alcoholism can make me take a drink, I have to choose to do that. No predisposition to heart disease can decide for me how well I eat or how much I exercise to prevent heart issues, I have to make myself get to the gym and eat clean food. No predisposition to violent behavior because I lived a childhood full of abuse can decide for me how I treat my kids. My childhood is not hitting my kids, I would be. Alcoholic relatives do not get me drunk, I do. Mental illness does not kill me, I do that.
We are the masters, authors, captains, and owners of our own lives. Nothing else can own us unless we let it.
Want something better? CHOOSE. DECIDE. It will be hard. You will hurt. It will be a long journey, but you absolutely have the power to change your path. I’ve done it twice. It sucked both times, but everything I have ever dreamed of is on this side of fear and pain.
This last month has changed me. I am harder. I am tougher. I write this now with a niggling thought that “maybe this is the kind of shit you shouldn’t be putting in a blog,” but it is REAL. It is raw and real and NOW, and I am better because I have put it out of my head and into words.
Also and mostly, if I can write this down it means I’m alive. I’ve overcome.
I’ve won, and I live to fight again tomorrow.
Just keep going, you guys. JUST KEEP GOING. Do not stop.
Death can have my life when he pries it from my cold, dead fingers, and even then he’ll have to catch me first.
Praying that it is the same for you, too.
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We will be changing ourselves and the world, one relationship at a time. Comment below, I look forward to hearing from you!