One year ago today, my life fell apart.
My ex husband filed for divorce from me on this date, last year. He, being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), had decided to escalate our issues to their highest level. He would file for divorce to “get back at me and prove me wrong.” I felt a sigh of relief. Finally, I could end this horrific battle. Finally, I could escape the cage I’d been living in for years. I was actually RELIEVED that he wanted to divorce and I could get out freely.
The very next day, he engaged in a typical “split” (those with BPD often split from all or nothing thinking – “I love you entirely”, or “I hate you entirely” – there is no in between). After filing for divorce on a Monday, by Tuesday he was begging me to stop it. He “didn’t know what he was doing.” He was “so horribly sorry.” He would “kill himself if I made him go through with the divorce.”
By Wednesday of that week, 2 days after receiving my divorce papers, I got the call that my mother had been life-flighted to a major hospital near me. She had suffered a heart attack. I had no idea if she was still alive, but I knew I needed to get there. My ex, per usual, had made it about him. “Well what are you going to do with the divorce?!” he pressed. Shocked and numb I couldn’t believe I was married to this person. I thought, ‘YOU filed for divorce out of spite, my mother is fighting for her life, but you’re worried about what YOU need?’ After a few hours in surgery, my mother had survived her heart attack, though the fight was far from over.
By Thursday of that week, my father, 10 years sober, had relapsed. The stress of my mother’s heart attack had hit him too hard and he was unprepared to handle the emotional trauma.
In one week’s time everything changed. And my life had never been in worse shambles.
I had been fighting through an emotionally abusive marriage for years. My ex husband had gotten to the point of such inconceivable delusions, and his BPD had taken over his entire reality – taking the whole family with him. He threatened me incessantly, and he began alienating me and coaching my stepson against me.
Over the next few weeks while trying to tend to my very broken parents, my ex husband marched down to the courthouse and stopped the divorce behind my back. I hadn’t had time to answer the filing and so he took matters into his own hands. I will never forget the darkness in his eyes when he told me in one of our many therapy sessions, how “I don’t want a divorce. I was just trying to show you how awful you are. If you want to leave, you’ll have to do it yourself and (my child) will forever know you left him and this is all your fault.”
The weeks to follow were pure hell. I received such disgusting correspondence from him, it would make you sick. Emails titled, “you’re an a$$hole”, texts threatening how he would ruin my life, bankrupt me, and the like. I have never been called more horrible names. He went as far as to threaten me that he would record me in my own home if he ‘caught me slipping up’ and “use his child’s testimony against me with CPS and the authorities”, though by this time I had myself and my safety protected imperviously. He had been doing this for years whenever he didn’t get his way.
I gathered myself and every ounce of strength I had, I gathered my support system, I spoke with numerous counselors and I spoke with my attorney. While shaking, pouring over Scripture and having never been more terrified (or ironically sure of anything) in my life, I walked into the courthouse and I filed for divorce. There was no stopping this. I knew I had married a monster and I would not endure another moment of this traumatic existence.
I had to live with him while he alienated me openly. He would tell our child that I never loved him. A child. To his face. I raised that child as my own, he called me mom for SIX years. And that man told him I never loved him. He did HORRIBLE things. He would tell the neighbors he needed help because I was leaving him – every single one basically stopped all contact with him, because they knew he was lying. They had watched him force me out of my own home. They heard the threats. They knew I was in an unsafe situation and that his story didn’t match up. So he did what he always does; he blamed someone else. He said it was because they were judging him or didn’t like him. When anyone in his family did try to speak up, he cut them all out too.
As the months progressed, I found out he had been unfaithful. On top of years of abuse, accusing ME of cheating and ruining my relationship with my child, he was also unfaithful. It didn’t take long for him to cut me out my child’s life completely. He couldn’t stand the thought of the truth being anywhere near him, and I reminded him of the truth. One day I found out he had tried to pick up one of my best friends on a dating site. Within months, he was engaged to his next victim. As far as I know, not one person has stood up to tell her the truth of her new mate’s past relationships. How every woman has left him due to the exact same circumstances.
I could write novels upon novels about the things I put up with in that marriage, but today I have decided instead of staying hooked in the past, I will acknowledge that I am a survivor. This is the last time that I will “dwell” upon what happened this past year. I am using this blog to reflect on what I’ve learned. Now, one year later, my parents just celebrated their 43rd anniversary, both are healthy, and sober. I am healing well. My circle has thinned considerably to include only those who fight for the truth, and I’m no longer a slave to fear. What a difference a year makes. By the grace of God, a strength I didn’t know I had, and a LOT of very good friends and family, I survived.
I have learned an INCREDIBLE amount about myself, about healthy relationships, about personality disorders, and about what it takes to TRULY thrive in your life. And today, I want to share it with you.
Here are 10 things I learned after the worst year of my life:
- Time doesn’t heal all wounds – work does. Lean into your pain, gain skills to process your grief. Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. I’ve seen people still trying to process trauma from years earlier because they never did the work, they just hoped enough time would pass to undo the pain. It doesn’t.
- We aren’t meant to do life alone. If you don’t have a solid group around you to lift you up, you are crippled. Accountability partners kept me from slipping into addiction, sexual promiscuity, speeding into another dysfunctional relationship, or otherwise hiding and engaging in other types of darkness. They forced me to keep my integrity when I had no strength to. Now, my integrity is pretty unshakable.
- God is there, things are working together for a purpose, and what goes around comes around. Whatever your belief in “karma” – it’s real. I got to walk out of this with my head held high, my abuser will be forever exposed for what he did here – you cannot outrun the truth. Until he faces it head on, he will never be fully known and fully loved. I don’t have that fear – I don’t have to run from myself every day.
- We are not what we claim to be, we are what we hide. I used this year to take hold of every horrible thing I did. Every unhealthy word or behavior. Every time I was unreasonable or hurtful. I journaled it. I prayed through it. I cried and let myself feel the shame and guilt of my own responsibility – and then I released it. I have that luxury because I was strong enough to own my part, instead of glossing over, or hiding it.
- I learned to forgive someone who will probably never apologize. My resentment and loathing turned to compassion for someone who would remain so little, so hidden, and never know the beauty of living in truth.
- I learned to forgive onlookers who didn’t stick up for justice. The people who said it looked “fine” as far as they could see. The ones who didn’t have the skills or the courage to stand up to such wrong behavior. The ones who just repeated what they had learned instead of breaking the patterns. The ones I felt betrayed me just as much as he did. One day when the truth comes out, every person who sat idly by will have to answer for that, and that is a responsibility placed squarely upon their shoulders. I forgive them, and I don’t envy them. I owned my piece and I will forever fight for justice.
- Not everyone deserves a seat at your table. In forgiving, I learned who was “safe” and who was allowed to be close. Some people just want to ‘watch’ and they don’t really care about you. Those people have no place in your circle.
- I have avoided shortcuts. I am now strong and whole instead of an imitation of “together”. I didn’t run to the next relationship – I sat uncomfortably alone until alone became so very comfortable. I didn’t run from my fears – I faced them head on. I didn’t turn to substances, or sex, or blame – I turned to my faith, my friendships and accountability. Every time I could have slipped into a shortcut, I knew it was chosen weakness. Instead, I took the long, hard way when it was easier not to.
- I have used my pain for good. I now counsel and train others in their relationships. I speak openly with authority on topics of divorce, parental alienation, choosing life partners, keeping marriages healthy and encouraging others to be their strongest version, and not to settle. Today I am SO strong. I have EXCELLENT boundaries. I am confident in my self worth. I would never let anyone treat me like that ever again. And I can speak into very painful places in the hearts of others who need these things too.
- I can survive anything. Everything I knew and loved was taken away from me. Now I take nothing for granted. I keep a tight crew around me who aren’t just a solid “squad” to enjoy laughs with. They make my life worth living. They make me brave. They make me climb. Because of them I will reach incredible heights that I would never have before. Not everyone can claim this, nor do they want to. When you are built upon a foundation of lies, your facade will always crumble. I had to walk through hell, but now, a year later, I see it was worth it. Not only because of my own strength, but because I have people who would never let me fall.
I live boldly and openly and I can see the light of the next year on the horizon, and the next year and so on.
I will NEVER be a cheerleader for divorce, in fact I spend hours of my time volunteering to SAVE marriages and relationships. But I will tell you that the one thing I’d wish to encourage you with is that with anything, taking a shortcut will burn you. Shortcuts are for the weak and you rob yourself of valuable lessons and strength when you shrink back instead of walking through it bravely. As much as we all want to dodge pain, hard work and struggle, avoiding it makes us incomplete. I am proud to say I have survived this year without shortcuts and I promise that if I can, you can too.
One of my very favorite quotes. I live this daily.