Breaking the Rules of Decency
|coming out of the fog (Photo credit: theloushe)|
I really thought I could put it behind me and I've been working on moving on. But one of the reasons why I was semi-estranged from my father is because he took my ex's side, didn't ask for mine, and had some "old-fashioned" views himself. A "letter" from my cousin brought it all back in the worst possible way.
The below letter is snipped to the relevant paragraph. The rant from my cousin was the last straw. I've been keeping my grief pretty much to myself (grieving in public goes along with airing dirty laundry) but I am filled with such anger, grief, and if she were in my sights ... The point is, emotional and mental abuse is real.
Hi, Annette. Long time, no speak. How are you? My mom and I have been better; we just found out about Mono's death -- despite your efforts to keep it from us.
[snip] And don't try to sell any bullshit reason why it was too much trouble to contact us to either me or to yourself. My mom was Mono's sister. I was in regular contact with him. Regular enough that I could tell you what you've been up to for the past few years, including your epiphany of the "abuse" you suffered, and that crap with your mommy dearest's letter. I could go on, but that's not the point. The point is we're not strangers, nor were we estranged from Mono. You should have told us.So, first I blew up on FB in response to her nasty missive.
Then it got me thinking and writing. When your marriage counselor tells you that your chronic back pain, migraines, insomnia, S.A.D., severe anxiety attacks and other health issues are a direct cause of the verbal, sexual and emotional abuse you're under, that you are suffering classic Battered Wife Syndrome, that it would be best for you and your children to separate, you start to believe and understand that the abuse is real, even if he never laid a hand on you (but you know, the walls would say differently).
And that is what makes it worse. There is nothing visible, so people don't believe you. You get adept at putting on a show. At diffusing potential explosions. The only thing you become focused on is keeping the peace, calming the tirade, not letting other people see how you truly live. And it's slow and insidious. I didn't see it happening until it was entirely too late. I thought I was "doing the right and Christian thing" by staying in a loveless and abusive marriage, even when outsiders were constantly telling me he had anger management issues -- and then I made excuses for him. That's another sign that things aren't right.
The only people who noticed my personality changes were ones who knew me before marriage. But they all lived in another state and I rarely spoke or saw them (isolation). The ones who I met during the courtship and marriage basically told me to suck it up and that I was in the wrong. They were getting only half the story. His half. And that is mostly my fault. At the time I was too ashamed to tell the whole story. I was ashamed that I had let it get so far. I was ashamed that I didn't have the courage to leave. I was ashamed that I had put my children into such a toxic environment and I felt powerless to change anything. I didn't trust my own judgement. When I finally started speaking up, I only told it to a trusted few. And then they understood, and stood by me. But the shame was still there.
But I never got up enough courage to tell the whole story to my father. I figured there are some things that a father does not need to know about his daughter. I admitted to a twisted version of what happened just to keep the peace and move on.
Unfortunately, he continued to believe the half-truths and lies that my ex told him, painting me as an uncaring wife, neglectful mother and adulteress (he forgot to mention to my friends and father that it was his idea in the first place!).
My father who taught me to be a strong, independent woman. My father who taught me to fight for myself, and if I couldn't, that he would be there to fight for me. That he would protect me. That I could trust him to be on my side, no matter what. And it hurt that it wasn't enough for me to remind him that he raised me, and knew my character, and asked him to think about what could make me change so much. What could have happened to make me lose my smile, be guarded, and hell, NOT TALK?!
So no, I'm not and never was crazy. The abuse wasn't made up just because there were no bruises or broken bones. It wasn't an excuse to get out of my marriage. It's not all in my head. It never was.
I just never had the courage to talk about it before. And I will regret that for the rest of my life. I thought I still had time to repair my relationship with my father. To let him know the truth, and how it hurt when he chose my ex over me, how it hurt to have our relationship so damaged that I couldn't talk to him, and as so many people brought up during the funeral, my father was one of the easiest people to talk to. Ever.
He was good at helping people get through the difficult and trying times they were going through. He would listen. He would make you laugh. He would remind you that everything would work itself out and be OK. And now he's gone.