I was with my friend M.E., an acupuncturist and healer, and we were working on my feelings of shame about my divorce. We had worked my shame to a point where I felt pretty okay, but when we made a final pass at it, shame came on strong.
A new shame.
And by a new shame I mean an old shame.
A very old shame.
The shame of my birth. The shame of being a bastard child. The shame my mother must have felt.
First being pregnant with me, and then, the shame of having to give me up, of not being able to take care of me.
The shame enveloped me. The failure.
Don’t tell me those pre-verbal feelings aren’t real.
They are. They hurt. Even now.
The new shame attaches to the old shame. The non-verbal attaches to the verbal. And breathes life.
My husband is depressed. And maybe it’s even bigger than depression. I’ve tried to help him but the very nature of depression can keep someone from getting, or receiving, help.
In the eleven years I’ve known my dh, he has never seen a medical doctor. Not a single check-up. Every appointment I’ve made for him, he has cancelled.
In the past couple years, he hasn’t always taken care of himself. He was always my sweet love, but he didn’t always look good or even smell good. One evening at dinner a few months ago, my daughter said to him, “Dad, you don’t look right.” His answer was this: “I don’t look in the mirror anymore, sweetie. That’s not me anyway.”
I was so disturbed by this, but I didn’t know where to begin. We’d been down this road already. So. Many. Times.
Jump ahead. We tried a new therapist. I said right off as the session began that, as much as I loved my dh, this was my last try at couples’ therapy. I honestly felt the problem wasn’t within our couple-dom, but within my dh. And I dug deep, very deep, to be able to say in front of my dh, in front of the therapist and in front of God, who sat across from me, encouraging me, that I believed my dh was depressed, maybe even in need of medication. And to stay living under the same roof, I said, my bottom line was that he go to anger management classes.
It’s hard to understand how an effort so keen and so arduous can fall on completely deaf ears. But he didn’t hear me. It was frustrating as hell. Disheartening. And sad.
For three years prior, my dh and I had been coming apart, badly. During his rages I would try to communicate to him how he was destroying our marriage and that if things continued this way it would end in divorce. He’d yell for me to “Go ahead and call the lawyers.” He didn’t care.
Later when he’d “sobered” up, he’d say “Well, I guess we both say things we don’t mean.” I couldn’t get him to take me seriously.
About a year ago, I told him in the midst of a bitter argument (one I knew I could never crawl out of) that I, for sure, officially, wanted a divorce.
I’m not sure what happened next except that after a long conversation, where pain hung in the air like smoke, we committed to try harder and for awhile things were better.
But then, five months ago, I started to accept that things were not getting better, the rages were increasing and that I couldn’t fix them anymore.
A pivotal moment: Money was tight and my dh was obsessed about it. It was all he talked about and it was all doomsday scenarios…and, most importantly, it was all my fault. He proclaimed often that I wouldn’t do anything to help our financial situation when in fact I had cut everywhere I could think of. So one night I had been doing some serious brainstorming and I had an idea to save some money (small change but still) by changing how we rent videos.
As I began to talk to my dh about my idea, things began to move in slow motion. Something was wrong. It was wrong that I was filled with fear. It was wrong that I had rehearsed this conversation over and over again in my head before talking to him. It was wrong that I was trying to back-pedal and please and placate, when suddenly my dh flew off the couch, yelling and calling me names. “You are such a child! When are you going to grow up? When are you going to listen? When are you going to wake up?”
He followed me around the house, outside, inside, raging at me. Finally I locked myself in our office and fell to my knees. FELL TO MY KNEES. Hard. Hands clasped, I prayed a real prayer. The realest I’ve ever known. I emptied myself completely and I knew God would answer.
“Please God. Please Jesus. Just show me the way. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. I’m lost. Show me the way. Tell me what to do and whatever it is, I’ll do it.”
And it was Jesus that came to me. And he said – wait, I don’t mean to be blasphemous so I’ll acknowledge this was filtered through ME, ok? So, Jesus said, “Throw the fucker out.”
And that’s what I did. The next day I told him I was done. I wanted a divorce. And he said, let’s go to couples therapy. And since I told Jesus I would walk whatever path he asked me to, I agreed to go.
And that's when we went to the new therapist. But my dh said the therapist was biased against him. He blew up at her during our second session and called her “unprofessional.” He didn’t want to go back and I didn’t argue. Walking the path.
Later that week I went to see HIS therapist with him at his request. Oh God, I’m walking the path. Whatever you put in front of me.
This was more difficult than I can describe. I was terrified. I was certain I was digging my own grave. It’s really painful and draining to continue to speak your truth in front of people who don’t want to hear it. And I had a good feeling that my dh’s therapist was one of those people. But I was willing to give everything and anything a shot.
Somehow in that excruciating session, my seriousness was broadcast and received. I was done with the status quo. I wouldn't do this dance anymore. We came home and decided to divorce. It was devastating. The reality was a crushing rock on my chest. I wanted to throw myself in traffic to end the suffocating pain. But in that moment my dh at least understood. And something happened in him. He changed. Right in front of me. He admitted his wrongs. He took responsibility. He promised to be a better man even if it meant losing me. And it wasn’t just words. There was a vibrational change. A deep revelation and I couldn’t help but believe in it.
So after a few days, we decided to give it another chance. For weeks it was all-new. Special. We took our first overnight trip together without kids. Magical. Renewing. Weeks turned in to months. We made US a priority and it felt different.
One evening, my daughter wanted me to watch a TV show with her. I explained it was a school night and when she started whining I said, ”We’ll watch it over the weekend. I promise.” My dh stiffened and left the room. I could feel it. That old electrical charge was back. Present in the room. I quickly got my daughter to sleep and found my dh in the kitchen, upset.
“I wish you wouldn’t promise her things.”
“I don’t want you even using that word. Promise.”
“I don’t ever want her to know that word.”
“Because promises aren’t kept! Promises aren’t real!”
“You don’t keep promises! You made promises! Vows! And you didn’t keep them!”
And then, the love of my life, the man I had re-committed myself to over and over and over again, he punched himself. The most shameful of all acts between us. He hurts himself. He puts bruises on himself while I watch horrified. The sound is un-bearable. His fist makes contact with his lovely face. Nausea rises up in me. It’s repudiating.
My love is sick. He’s ill.
And despite all my vows, I can’t put him back together again.
And that’s failure.
And that’s shame.
And that’s my truth right now.
Thank you thank you thank you for reading me.
And I thank God for my well-lit path.
I love you.
(Mirror, Mirror - Part Three soon to come.)