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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

You Didn't Have to Hit Me

Dear You,

When we met I found you fascinating. You were fierce and intelligent, and best of all – you liked my weirdness. That first time you kissed me it was like all the dreams of any pre-teen girl coming alive in my whole being. Fireworks sparked off in my brain, my toes tingled, my heart skipped a beat, and I could think of nothing else but you. You never bemoaned my habit of bursting into song; you saw that as a vital and beautiful part of my personality. One time you told me that my uncanny ability to pull up the perfect song for that precise moment – no matter the moment – was one of your favorite things about me. You loved me.

Then we moved in together. You got to see, and get to know, the other side of me. My depression introduced itself to you and made itself clear that my soul was its territory. At home I was anxious and sullen and sedentary; nothing like the ambitious and proud woman you knew when we were homeless, and being out and about was not a choice, but a mandatory part of existing. My anxiety and post-trauma stress marked their parts of me off as well. I saw you trying to love me through it, I promise.

I saw you worrying about me. The way your eyes grew dark whenever that weaker side of me showed up. Then your dark side made sure I knew that there were parts of you I could never have. You see, I have scars on my soul from trying, with those before you, to reach past that ugly self in them and take what did not belong to it back. That’s probably one of my favorite ways to get hurt. But, it just made you resent me.

We were resolved to make our lives work out, together. We got married. I won’t ever forget the way that you looked at me. I wore a wedding dress that was 4 or 5 sizes too big and had pins and clips holding it to me from behind. My hair was fiery red and shaved into a Mohawk. But, damn, I looked good – didn’t I. In your eyes was a look that said: “You are all I have ever hoped to find in all my life and I cannot wait to spend forever getting to know you.”

Then you got a job. My grandparents had been helping me pay our rent for a few months at that point, and that support was running dry pretty quickly. On top of that, I had gotten pregnant with our beautiful little girl. I pressured you hard to find and keep a job. Hurray, you found a good one, which paid full time at better than minimum wage. You had a bus pass that never ran out and a steady income. I am not good at money management and I overstepped often and on stupid things. That resentment I had seen before came back.

Then you said it. “You are so stupid!” And it felt like my whole self had shattered at your feet. I got angry back, and I know I am ugly when I am hurt – and that time I was badly hurt. You weren’t ever quite the same. Suddenly you were totally critical of everything about me. My art was no longer inspiring, intricate, or incredible. No, now it was more of the same, mundane, odd, and useless. My singing no longer drew you in like it had before. Now it seemed only to annoy and alienate you – even though it was the only thing I thought I could do well.

Then I got really sick with the pregnancy, and I was practically bedridden. I couldn’t hold food or water at all, my body grew weaker, I developed a fever, and I lost a ton of weight – from 145 down to 103 in 3 weeks flat. My doctor confirmed that I had developed Hyperemesis Gravidarum and that it was particularly severe. I needed to go to the ER anytime I went more than 2 days without holding fluids or food, and that was a lot. We considered abortion. If I couldn’t get my weight up, we would lose the baby anyway – and possibly me if we waited too long. Then my blood pressure went up, and up again, and up again. I was really sick at this point. You were your grand old self again. You understood that I was weak with your child inside me, and you grew to fit the places my strength had left empty.

You watched me break again at 28 weeks pregnant. I realized, to my horror and agony, that if I stayed pregnant while I had an open case with the Child Welfare department (something you took as part of me and had also stood beside me for) that we would lose our little girl too. No other reasoning would ever have justified what I did next. I surrendered my rights to my older child and closed the case nice and tight. I cried for a few days and sank into a really hard depression. You praised my courage and my strength – even though I felt that I was so weak that you could have been forgiven for euthanizing me.

Then my water broke at only 32 weeks. Almost 2 weeks they kept me pregnant, that hospital did, until at 3 days shy of my 34th week they had to induce me.  Our little girl wasn’t moving, and my stats were nowhere near as good as they wanted. So, we had a baby, 6 weeks and 3 days early. Before blacking out I remember hearing her cry and knowing that she had managed to start breathing. I came to and you’d put her on my chest. She was breathing, and so small that I was frightened of moving her. There were no efforts to nurse; her tiny body was unprepared for that challenge.

We did pretty well as new parents. You went back to work, and I stuck to the business of being a mommy again. I breastfed our daughter faithfully, allowing her to also get formula to help her weight go up, and to give me time to recover from the hard pregnancy and produce enough milk. A few times we got her onto only breast milk and that was always exciting. You praised my hand at motherhood. But then, there was that angry side of you again.

Pretty soon my mistakes seemed to outweigh my successes. You insulted me frequently. I was suddenly worthless, stupid, useless, needless, and inconvenient. When I expressed that I was suicidal your response was that I should do it. You didn’t know that I tried that night. That’s why I went 3 days without breastfeeding at all that first time. I had overdosed, entirely unsuccessfully, on my old antidepressants. I had grown so accustomed to believing what you said about me that, now that you were insulting and attacking me, I believed that too.

You told me I was crazy, so crazy happened more often as I adopted that view of myself. Then stupid happened, as I stopped having any faith in my intelligence and I became anxious about my skills in any field. Next, it was that I was a failure as a mother, and I began to really hate who I had become. I wanted to die more than ever before and I eventually stopped breastfeeding so I could try without risking hurting her. When 3 more attempts were so unsuccessful that they went unnoticed, I relactated and started breastfeeding again, in hopes that it would boost my morale.

Then we lost our home and had to move in with my parents in the High Desert. I guess you could pretty well blame it on my complete lack of money skills. Oh. wait… you did. We fought more often than ever, and your list of descriptives for me grew ever the longer. I was sometimes impressed by the creativity of some of your insults. You believed, after a bad trip a few years ago, that you were literally a god, and my level of imperfection was an insult to you, and to our daughter’s genetics. I cried more often, stayed in bed more, started cutting myself again, started drinking to numb out the wounds you left on who I had become. The more you cut into me, the worse it got, and so you would cut deeper; almost as if cutting parts of me away would reveal someone you had killed a while before that point.

Then you hit me. You slapped me hard across my cheek and I found that old fire in my heart. I ran, leaving our daughter safe in the home of my grandparents – with you parenting. I knew if you hurt her, they would deal with you appropriately, but I was on my own. I think it actually hurt you that I was able to fall in love again after you. You grew colder than before and showed me that it was always about your ego. Then I had to move back in to avoid the winter. We fought again – as was expected – and now you weren’t shy about putting hands on me. Even worse, you told me that I deserved to die. Apparently, you don’t remember it; which means that if someone pushes your buttons enough that you black out and hurt them without any forethought.

You may never grow up. It’s not my place to say. But you do need to know, you don’t have to hit me to hurt me. I know how to handle being physically attacked. Those wounds heal. But here I am, a state away from you right now, and your words echoed in my ears for an hour tonight. That hissing tone of voice, the hatred in your eyes “You deserve to die!”

The crazy thing is… sometimes I still believe you when you say things about who I am. You successfully destroyed all of who I was when we met. But there’s something you should know, right this moment; I am rebuilding from the wreckage. These new and stronger parts of me are like well-grafted branches on the tree of my life. I am better than ever and finding out that I am really good at things. Guess what, I am a freaking awesome mother, and singer, and painter, and sketch artist. I make the best lover, with the warmest of hearts. All the things you made me believe were lies, and you are a devil in your own right for speaking them about me when you knew I would buy it.

There is no hope for our marriage. We will never be able to make it work because you think you have no flaws, no imperfections – that you should not have to put up with anything less than perfection – and I am as I will always be, imperfect and somewhat damaged. That’s just me hun, and I am learning to love that about myself again. You can no longer rob me of my own identity and I will never love you like I once did. Someone else has filled your shoes.

The One That Got Away

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