This blog post has taken me 37 years to write. I am meeting with a writing tutor next week who is helping me develop my thesis paper to prepare for advancement. My thesis is surrounding trauma, but is still developing.
What is my trauma? For years I thought it was born in my childhood. Little did I know that because of my high tolerance for abusive assholes, I continued to add layer after layer of trauma well into adulthood. Until the roof finally gave out and collapsed. I suffered a bought of severe depression. I was hospitalized after cutting. I went through EMDR to heal. I made it through to the other side. My marriage was on track, my husband was finally supportive of my need to create, my children were happy and healthy. Surely my nervous breakdown was because I was weak. But no more. I was back to feeling like myself again after being absent for years.
Then came the next round of pummeling. My husband told me he was gay. I asked him to leave. I was completely heartbroken. All I did was ask him to spend a little time with me. Not a date night, not a trip, just to go for a walk with me. But he said he couldn't, because he was gay. I went through every cycle of emotion. Anger, humiliation, grief, then finally peace and serenity. I became supportive. I became his cheerleader. I adopted the idea that maybe we weren't supposed to be married after all. Maybe our role in each other's life was to be supportive friends. But it wasn't easy.
I watched the kids on his nights so he could go to LGBT functions. I watched the kids while he went on dates with men. All the while I cried over the break up of my marriage, our loved ones congratulated him for being strong enough to live as God had intended. Poor him. Having to live his life in the closet all these years. All of a sudden I felt that my entire marriage had been one big sham. What had all this been for 12 years? A month after our split he found a boyfriend. I saw his photograph, knew his name, I was with my husband shopping for our kids when he bought his boyfriend a Christmas gift. I was hanging on to a ledge by my fingernails looking into the razor-toothed mouth of depression...again...
So I enrolled in graduate school, and got accepted, and decided that no matter what, I could not slide backwards. At the very least, I would stay on flat ground and produce art to stay busy. Returning to my alma mater was like running into outstretched arms. My exhale was audible when I stepped into the building again for my first day of class. Two months into singledom down. But how many more to go before the pain stopped?
It was two months in that I had the wind knocked out of me yet again. My daughters told me their dad said "I love you" to someone on the phone. Ouch. My response was that it was probably to his mother because she had been trying to call him. They said no, but that it was to another woman. Impossible, he said he was gay. He said he would never be with a woman again. He made fun of our girl parts in front of me and our daughters. I asked him to leave because he was using me as a crutch to avoid stepping out on his own. He was being co-dependent and I refused to be his cover. I asked him, expecting him to correct the kids. But he didn't. He told me he was in love with a female co-worker and they were getting married.
That was when the rage erupted. "I am not gay, I was never gay," he confirmed. "I just never loved you." Words I will never forget as long as I live. And the trauma continues. How do you move forward when those words have branded your heart? It is no longer an open wound, but not yet a scar.
So I paint and write and draw, over and over. I am hoping to expel the demons that hover over me like vultures waiting to attack my soul. The night before my final critique, I spent the night in my studio finishing my work for the semester. I threw out all my ideas of what the pieces were "supposed" to look like, and I worked from my heart. And I cried. I had not cried that hard since the first day I asked him to leave. I put my earphones on and cried. I couldn't hear myself, and I didn't care if anyone else heard me. And they did. I didn't notice my concerned studio neighbors peering in to check on me, then leaving when they realized I was okay and needed to get it out. It is hard for me to write this now without shedding a couple of tears. I hurt for the woman I was even just a month ago.
I try to remember good times, to remind myself that not everything could have possibly been smoke and mirrors. My children certainly aren't. My art isn't. Maybe that's it. I'm finally okay with that. Do I miss him? No. I have no feelings about him whatsoever, and that is genuine freedom. The situation still shocks me. If I spend even a minute thinking about it, I'm left scratching my head thinking, "what the HELL was THAT?" I am still mourning the loss of myself all those years.
Today I told someone this story that did not know my personal life. She asked me how I was today. In all honesty, I like myself more today than I have in the past 37 years. I love myself. I love my girls. I love my work. I love my friends. I love my life. I would not change it for the world. I am emerging a beautiful and strong person. I may not be happy as to how this transformation came about, and the growing pains hurt like hell sometimes, but it is happening and I can't stop it. I document everything in some fashion. Mainly journals and paintings. Influenced by an artist that showed all the good, bad and ugly in her life, I took the picture above in my studio on the night before finals to document the face of trauma. I also took it as a reminder to myself how far I've come since then.
I won't lie and say I'm "great!" I won't give you a huge smile and say everything is okay. But I can see the parts in my life that bring me joy and happiness, and when I smile it is from deep within my heart, it is genuine. I can love again with an open heart. I am alone, but I am not lonely. When I see the picture above, I look at her, the sad woman in her studio, and say, "what happened really sucked. You deserve a good cry. When you're finished, get up and get back to being amazing."