The threat of divorce had become an empty threat. The words no longer carried any weight. The only emotion I would feel at all was relief in the thought that perhaps he would finally go away and leave us be.
I’d learned that the words spoken and the promises made in the years leading up to saying, “I do” were nothing but words. They were spun to paint a picture of the life I had always dreamed of. They checked all my boxes. They made me believe in a reality that was never real. And he never intended on keeping any of them. My, how I’d learned.
I found myself becoming empty inside. Becoming a corpse that feigned smiles and laughter and heart and walked about fulfilling the duties all expected of me. But inside I was fading. I felt nothing anymore. And when I did feel, it was only rage.
I would attend weddings and have a running monologue in my head answering each question the preacher would ask of the couple with “until you don’t”, “until you change your mind”, “until you stop caring”, “until he hurts you too many times”.
I would sit in a church pew and work through a mental list of to-do’s and budgets and how I was going to survive another 80 hour work week with three children and a spouse that refused to assist me. That more often than not seemed to be doing anything he could to get in my way. I could not listen to the sermon, the word, the truth. I didn’t want to hear it. I was angry at God.
I would see a happy couple exclaiming to the world that in nine short months, they were to be parents and gag. Disgusted at their smiles and joy. Feeling nothing but loathing and probably jealousy but it only manifested as rage.
I hated puppies, kittens, and anything that would seemingly make everyone else gasp in adoration and emit an “aw” at the very sight of sweet things. I did not find them cute or useful or anything I wanted to be near. All I felt was was rage.
I watched my students with their hopes and dreams and futures laid open wide before them and was envious. I wanted to go back to that freedom. To that excitement. To that expectation that anything could be. Instead I was slowly rotting inside and oh so consumed by the rage of it all.
It had been four years since I had felt rested. Four years of carrying the weight of all my responsibilities on my shoulders while my monster heaped on more and more and more with no intentions of carrying any of the weight. Four years since my unexpected pregnancy. Four years of running ragged by day and being up with small children by night. Four years of extreme exhaustion. Four years with little to no sleep. Four years of feeling unsafe. Four years of walking on egg shells. Four years of an abuse cycle that became worse with each passing year. Four years of losing myself piece by piece by piece.
fa·tigue – /fəˈtēɡ/
NOUN 1. extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness 2. weakness caused by repeated variations of stress.
Symptoms include: chronic tiredness, headaches, dizziness, sore or aching muscles, muscle weakness, slowed reflexes and responses, impaired decision-making and judgement, moodiness, irritability
My body had begun to show signs of the exhaustion, depression, and constant battling. My long hair which was soft and healthy went limp and began to fall out in chunks. I started experiencing migrating pain throughout my limbs. Dizzy spells came and went to the point that I was on the verge of having extensive medical testing done to find the source. Migraines became a regular visitor. And yet the expectations of my job and home life did not lift and I forged on.
My insane schedule combined with the restrictions my spouse imposed left me extremely isolated. I did not have time to call friends and catch up. I did not have the ability to reach out for anyone else. I did not have a moment to even check in with myself to see what was becoming of me. Quick glances in the mirror as I raced to the next moment in the endless cycle of fulfilling everyone else’s needs but my own showed a stranger with sullen eyes, limp hair, and a haggard face. No one noticed.
I began to daydream of a life without him. One in which I would just know that all responsibilities fell on me without the bitterness of knowing he was sitting in the basement drinking his beer while I took care of our children. One in which my children and I lived in a small little house with sunshine pouring in the windows instead of the black cloud that hung relentlessly over my home. One in which I could fall asleep beside my children each night and not be kept up for hours after they’d faded away to satisfy his sexual needs like a puppet on a string. One in which the money I earned would buy what I wanted instead of another brand new wardrobe for him while I was still piecing together the rags I had worn since college.
And even with all this, I still believed that I loved him. I still believed that things could be better. That he didn’t realize the toll he put on me. And in reality, he had me believing it was my fault we were so unhappy. I wasn’t smart enough, fast enough, sexy enough, thin enough, pretty enough, rich enough, funny enough, giving enough. I was never ever giving enough. I was lacking. It was my fault because I’d chosen to have our youngest baby. It was my fault because I didn’t prioritize correctly. It was my fault because I’d left my shoes by the door that one time. It was my fault because I didn’t clean the bathrooms often enough. It was my fault because I should make time to exercise. It was my fault because I didn’t want to be on birth control since he’d gotten fixed. It was my fault our baby cried so much. It was my fault that I was never enough.
I remember so often he would tell me, “You are either choosing not to understand why I am upset with you or you are stupid. We both know you aren’t stupid so this is a choice you are making.” And I’d churn his words over and over in my head trying to figure out why I was so stupid because I truly couldn’t understand these moments. I couldn’t understand why he was so angry about my shoes, the meal I made, the thing I’d forgotten to put on the calendar, the bill we received from the pediatrician. And I knew it wasn’t a choice I was making to not understand. And I’d beat myself up for my stupidity and inability to keep my husband happy.
I remember constantly trying to think ahead of every scenario so he would not become upset with me. “If I get off work right at 3pm then I can run to the store and go by home to clean really fast without the kids then I can get to their daycare by 5pm and have dinner laid out on the table and homework done by the time he walks in at 7pm. That will just leave cleaning up the kitchen and bath time by 8:30pm. I can fold laundry while I finish up this lesson plan and be sitting by him like he likes by 9pm.” It was an exhausting cycle to keep up and always failed in some way. Always left him disgruntled. Or just plain angry. And more often than not, it left me feeling useless and lacking and so very tired.
I knew something was very wrong but I had no idea what. No idea how to wrap my mind around the enormity of what was actually occurring. The only thing I could process was that something was very very wrong. I believed I was dying in some manner. Either cancer or a tumor of some kind. Maybe an aneurysm was about to burst. I knew I was about lose it. But I didn’t have a clue what that meant. I pictured it to be like in the movies when someone just has had enough and begins to throw chairs and pull mirrors off the wall and shatter them at their feet. I didn’t picture the subtle way in which I was about to destroy my world. And rather than a room in rubbles, it was to be my life.
In my efforts to keep all the plates of my life/responsibilites spinning in the air, I took a turn that would cause each and every single one to fall to the ground and shatter in one fell swoop. My version of a tantrum. Or maybe the only way I could see to save myself. The desperate act of a desperate woman.
More to come.