This part of my story* has been almost two years in the making… well, the writing has taken two years. There is enough detail to write volumes, but I’m not going to share all of it here. So many of you have reached out to me and have followed our family’s journey since it began online a little more than two years ago. Thank you.
From the time I was a little girl I knew I could do anything I set my mind to, usually the first time I tried it. And man, if I set my mind to it, I was all over it. That’s why I ignored the deal breakers in my marriage for so many years. I was too focused to realize I was hurting.
My heart hurt for a long time. Years. You're not supposed to feel lonely when you're married. Somewhere along the line he forgot that he made a promise to love, honor, and cherish me and instead left me all by myself. He had no idea who I was or what my dreams were made of.
I happily did every routine with the kids, each and every day. Every toilet bowl. Every bowl of macaroni and cheese. Sure, there were sweet exceptions, but the boys learned that Daddy tucking them in at night was a real treat instead of a habit. He worked close to 100 hours a week, sometimes more, for years. We needed him but there was always one more meeting, one more client, one more dollar to earn. It's not about the amount of time he was gone; it's about what he didn't do with the time he was home. He no longer made an effort to really know or love me.
I never would have left. Divorce was not an option.
In September of 2007, less than one month before Mabel joined us, God got my attention.
Some people have a heart attack when they overdo it. My husband had a mental breakdown and became psychotic. There came tests and treatment and medications. I kept the kids at one end of the house while “Daddy rested” in the other. The boys were 5 and 7 and I was 9 months pregnant. The first meds worked well enough and got us past delivery day for Moo. On a Thursday night a month after she was born, he broke through those meds.
The next few days at home were a horror worse than anything I'd ever watched on television. Certainly worse than anything I thought I'd ever feel in my life. And I was alone. It was dark and scary in our house. He had visual and auditory hallucinations. His emotions swung crazy-fast and wide, like a pendulum. His eyes were empty and glassy and he seemed hollow inside - like a shell of a person. More than once I hid in the closet, just for a few moments at a time. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I helped him eat, use the toilet, and walk. His short-term memory was gone. He was awake nearly all night. If he did sleep, he woke up screaming, grabbing on to me. He told me about visions of violence and utterly horrid thoughts. I was terrified to lay down and go to sleep. I felt so guilty that I was afraid, but I WAS TERRIFIED.
He spent almost two weeks in the hospital. Our tenth wedding anniversary passed while he was there. Details aren't important, but his hospitalization was dramatic and awful, and possibly scarred me for life. I am so thankful that the doctors helped get his disease under control. His condition is manageable when treated, but it is what it is. I had to be realistic. It will happen again; we just don't know when. What if I wasn't home? What if I needed to shower, or go to the grocery store? What if I was sleeping? I had to protect my children. So we lived separately and went to therapy.
Once we were apart, all of the trash I had buried for years came bubbling right on up to the surface. I can’t tell you how pissed off I was once I really let it hit me, how abandoned I had been for years. How abandoned the kids were. And he wasn’t faithful. Oh boy, was I ever pissed. Living through that experience and the subsequent separation opened my eyes to what I need and deserve in my life.
On Friday of last week, my divorce was finalized. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel on the days leading up to that final court hearing. The closer I got, the more I felt this big ole’ bursting feeling inside of me. A hippopotamus of joy was sitting in my chest.
On Friday, I sat in the courtroom and listened as the details of our divorce were read. I listened as my ex-husband agreed to the same details, including taking the kids for a month. Later I listened to my two sons so excited to see their dad for the first time since April, as they packed their suitcases. Mabel was practicing jumping. Then, three hours later, the kids and I sat parked in his driveway with those packed suitcases and realized ... Daddy wasn’t home.
My lawyer later told me that he called and said he didn’t want them this summer.
He had changed his mind.
He sent his girlfriend to meet us in the driveway. She told the children that he wasn’t going to take them after all. Said he’d see them at Christmas, maybe. My heart broke in half right then, when they looked at her with hopeful eyes. Then the little tears started streaming down.
It was a sad while that we sat in the car and hugged. But you know what happened after the tears?
They smiled at me. They giggled. They were mad, sure – and bits of that came out, too. But God saw fit to remind them of how strong we are. He reminded them that He is their Heavenly Father. He reminded them that when you're down and out you just pray... and then go have pancakes at Bob Evans with Mom and Nana.
And so on Saturday, the four of us drove home to Da Plains to enjoy our summer. We are excited. It’s not exactly like we’d planned, but it’s going to be amazing.
I met someone new.
It's early and new, but life goes on. God has once again reminded me that He wants me to be happy, too. After all, He doesn't promise us that our path will be easy or straight, only that He will be there to guide us. He knows what is next and gives us the tools we need to go through the healing.
*Please understand that there are two sides to every story. These details are those perspectives that are burned into MY brain and soul; they are the way that I alone lived through this experience.