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Changing the conversation

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Dear Richard,

We’ve recently welcomed a new year and today is your birthday, so it’s to be expected that you’re up late taking stock of the state of your life and I’m not surprised that you seem to be finding yourself unhappy. I can certainly relate to that sentiment.

I was so unhappy about turning thirty-four that I tried to kill myself just a few days before. Nobody knew. Nobody found me. I just woke up alone on the floor in a puddle of my own excrement and realized that since I wasn’t dead, I had better get my ass in to work. Once I got there, I passed out on the stockroom floor and my manager drove me home assuming I was sick with the flu.

When I walked through the door of our apartment building, I found Dave and Sandy busy cleaning the hallways. I told them what I had tried to do in our apartment. They took turns holding me as I cried on stairs inside our building. They walked with me back into that apartment. They helped me clean up the mess and then took me out for a sandwich afterwards.

You probably don’t remember that day. I remember you spent that day checking out different pawn shops around town with your nephew, searching for eclectic treasures while your wife was trying to end her life in the home you had forsaken

Whatever it is you’re feeling today, I hope it’s not as bad as that. But if it is, you can always do what I eventually did – reach out for help. I know you’re hurting because of the way you’ve been lashing out at me. I used to fallaciously believe that in order for someone else to understand my pain, I needed to make them feel as badly as I felt. I did this to the people closest to me… and I did it to you too. For that, I am deeply and sincerely sorry.

In the first year of our separation, many of our conversations centered on my behavior while I was in the midst of a psychotic break. Let me remind you that even the law doesn’t hold people accountable for their actions when they are in a state of psychosis – up to and including the action of murder.

I may not have murdered anyone, but I did hurt people. I probably hurt you the most with my withdrawal and disdain. I blamed you for things that weren’t your (or anybody’s) fault. I was so angry with myself and hurt by the world around me that I couldn’t stand to be myself anymore. So I found a way to stop being me. I became a person I didn’t recognize and did things I now only vaguely remember. And I’ve learned that it’s best to leave those memories in the past where they can fade.

But still – just earlier today – you demanded I dredge up those dark memories all over again. In the entire first year we were separated, you would shame me relentlessly and tell me how our failed marriage was entirely my fault. I had no doubt that you were right, so I would tell you how very sorry I was and how deeply I regretted my behavior. I internalized all your blame and put all the responsibility for the failings of our relationship on myself . But I know better now and I am better for it.

It’s time I changed the conversation. I’ve made my confessions and owned up to my actions. I am able to do this because I worked really hard to “fix it” as you would so often urge me to do. I know you meant that you expect me to “fix” our relationship – as if it were entirely my responsibility. (It’s not.) But since I can’t change the past, I can only do what is in my power to build myself a better future. For me, that brighter future had to start with not feeling so miserable all the time and to stop making everyone around me miserable too. 

I spent several weeks hospitalized in a psychiatric treatment center. And then I spent several months in an Intensive Outpatient Program where I began to learn how to be myself again. I’m still doing that – every single day in every therapy session, every support group, every chance I get to spend time learning to be myself both alone as well as in good company. I think a big indication of my improvement is the relationships I’ve cultivated. I have friends again. There are people who like me and enjoy my company. But most importantly, I like myself once more. That’s where it all starts.

And so, my birthday wish for you is that at some point today and for the rest of your whole life through – I hope you like yourself.

Sincerely,

Your Wife

***

January 3, 2019 @ 12:04 a.m.

12:04 – I miss touching you.

 

12:06 – I miss the way you would hold me as we would fall asleep together.

 

12:10 – If I let you come back to me. How would it be?

12:12 – Could I trust? How would you show me I could trust? What would you do for me? To show me that you are mine???

 

12:13 – You need to restore my trust in you too.

 

12:14 – Tell me… show me… convince me…

 

12:15 – While I was homeless I was raped, robbed, beaten, abused, and abandoned by not just you – by my parents too. Those wounds need healing if there is going to be a relationship.

12:16 – Sadly, my mom is not ready for that – but that’s another issue entirely.

12:17 – Trust must now be repaired on both sides if there is going to be any chance for us.

12:18 – It’s not a one-way street any longer and perhaps it never was. You seem to forget that I’m a very different person now – or rather, I am myself more now than ever before.

12:20 – Since we separated, I have been hospitalized for mental health twice, been to the emergency room about a dozen times for various ailments from chest pains to abdominal cramping, and spent six months in an intensive mental health treatment program while still holding down a job.

12:22 – I have learned how to maintain my sense of self without resorting to an alternate personality to deal with the things I find overwhelming.

12:22 – I – your wife – was always faithful to you.

12:23 – You told me once you understood that.

12:23 – …but perhaps I failed to make myself clear.

 

12:24 – ??

 

12:24 – I was always faithful to you… always.

12:25 – That’s why I gave you the Journey album with the note – forever yours, faithfully.

12:26 – I’m sorry if this is confusing for you. It’s been confusing for me too.

12:27 – I literally forgot who I was for awhile and was not myself.

12:27 – It hurt too much to be myself. I wanted to die. Being someone else kept me alive.

 

12: 27 – And how many affairs were there? I really am trying to move past things but if you for some reason maintain that things didn’t happen…

12:27 – How many? Who?

 

12:28 – Things happened when I was not in control of myself – when I let an alternate personality take over.

 

12: 28 – That is not a direct answer.

 

12:31 – I was always faithful to you. It is not helpful (and actually quite harmful) for me to discuss what an ‘alter-ego’ did without a therapist present

 

12:31 – What things? What things happened? I need to know what things. How do I know those things won’t happen again. I need to know

 

12:34 – You can’t know that any more than I can know that you won’t allow me to undergo such hardship again. As much as we both want assurance, neither of us can tell what the future holds. But you can know that I’ve done a great deal of work on my mental health because I never want to lose myself like that EVER again… it was pure hell.

 

12:35 – So you are saying that during our marriage, your behavior was so terrible that it needs a psychological professional to explain???

12:36: K.

 

12:37 – I’m saying that I refuse to give that alter-ego any more power over me, no more time in my life, or space in my head. Talking about those behaviors again would not be therapeutic – it would be harmful to my psyche. Besides, I’ve already answered those questions before.

12:38 – And after I answered all your questions, you leveled me with a confession of your own – a confession that SHOULD have been made during couples counseling.

 

12:38 – I think that you giving voice telling me what happened would start building trust.

 

12:39 – I already told you all those answers. Why do you want (or need) to hear them again?

12:39 – What GOOD would it do? What purpose does it serve??

12:41 – If the purpose is to make me feel small and shameful, I will not do that. I’ve learned how to set healthy boundaries and that’s what I’m doing now… I couldn’t do that before because I did not know how.

12:48 – As I’ve said – I answered all your questions on the day you moved out. Answering your questions that day (and every time you have asked since) has not done any good or helped you feel trust in me as far as I can see – it has only inspired more destruction and shame.

 

12:48 – Forget it. If we cannot discuss what real things have happened between us… I don’t know where to go from there. Pretend I never messaged you with any hope for us. It starts with real conversation about real things that have happened. There is no progress without that.

 

12:49 – Okay – if that is what you want… but you know I am right.

12:50 – I have stopped hurting you. Isn’t it time you stopped trying to hurt me?

12:52 – I have lived with the consequences of my actions and endured far worse than anything I ever did to you. If you can’t find a way to cope with that fact, that is on you… but I do forgive you.

Even if you never forgive me.

 

Happy Birthday Richard…

I wrote another poem for you.

***

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