You know, I just didn’t expect to still be on this journey of unpacking the chaos that someone provided me with so many years ago. It’s been seven years since I left my son’s father, and it still doesn’t feel like I’ve actually left. And the reality is I’m not out.
I’ve been watching a lot of World War II movies, and something really struck a nerve in “The Gold Woman.” This concept of the Nazi’s stealing more than just people, and murdering them, but also any connection to those people. It wasn’t the murders and genocide that stuck the nerve, but the profound loss of having culture stolen, memories, futures — it struck a nerve that made me sob through most of the movie. Hearing both the main character and her attorney speak about how they loss the opportunity to live in their home country, and live out the lives that they had been destined for prior to occupation — I looked around. My life is drastically different than what would have been.
What would have been would have looked like a small home on the water in Swansea Massachusetts, a job at Fall River Fire, Miriam Hospital, or similar as a paramedic, and likely a small business as a wedding photographer, potentially have my doula certification done. Instead of making coffee every Sunday, I’d drive into Fall River to snag some at Duke’s. I’d be working on my degree, or finishing it really at this point, and would have been on my way towards a Masters in Community Medicine.
And it started this little in depth thought process about what I’ve been robbed of through this experience. There’s the things we typically think of sure: money, time with my son, friends. But there’s so much more that I think I never even considered, and have been weighing me down like an invisible backpack for years as I continue to grieve things I can’t fully put into words still.
When he first got bad, I lost a lot of little things — ultrasound pictures of my son, a book about birthing that I had read and would hope that others in my close circles would read, toys, and gifts I shared with him for our child that he threw out. And at the time they seemed fairly monumental, but in looking back, all of it feels so trivial.
There was so much more that I lost that I couldn’t and still fully don’t understand. Experiences with my son I’ll never get back; his first day of preschool, and kindergarten, loosing his first tooth, his first day of camp, potty training him, family vacations, helping him navigate his first bully, trying new foods, taking him to his first soccer game, and so much more. The list is always growing as I continue to miss out on things with him — my son’s father still limiting our time together, and making our court appearances further and further complex.
I don’t always understand how the grief of these things hit me, and how they weigh on me each day, damaging my sense of self, bringing me this endless sense of sadness that I can’t shake, disconnecting me from my reality to preserve my wellness. I turned on that darn movie on Netflix just to watch for funsies, and unearthed a piece of my life I’ve lived ignorant to.
And so the next day or so, I’ve spent thinking deeply about the things domestic violence has robbed me of. Things like trust and faith in police officers, DCF, courts, and public officials, the joy of parenting, and frankly, just joy. My career, and truly multiple careers, a six-figure job, my current businesses, my confidence, perseverance, and a sureness in myself I wish I still held. So much money, and a desire to live with a partner — the fear of ever going through this creeping in anytime I start to get too connected to someone.
Friendship, and honestly, the desire to even have friends. I never talk about this, the whole thing, it’s just not something the average person comprehends, wants to comprehend, or can relate well to. And my friends that are going through it? Well, of course, I don’t want to burden them. I don’t want them to struggle more by feeling my grief— they’re feeling their grief and damn this is overwhelming. Humility. I am so damn ashamed of how much I struggle to achieve the same as my peers, or just function the same as my peers because of how chaotic everything is. Presence. The lack of presence has allowed me to not feel so much that is so overwhelming so that I can get through what’s expected of me and do basic things that could be so much easier for me.
My body. This one hurts. It hurts a lot to think about. I didn’t have the same IBS issues, I didn’t struggle with POTS, and feeling so deeply out of shape because my body is just so tired all the time. I didn’t have inflammation issues, and adrenal issues. The hair loss, and bloating. And then there’s the looking at my body side of this. Pre-domestic violence, I trained every day, I ran every day. I could. I wanted to. I was capable of it. My appreciation for my body, and the way I see my body. I don’t feel good in my body, and I don’t like the way anything hangs off it but I hate it naked. I don’t take pictures of my body, I don’t look at it in the mirror. It’s a very tangible reminder of how much my life has been changed.
And then there’s my mind. I can’t tell you how many times I say ‘ugh sponge brain, give me a second’ each week. It’s infuriating. CPTSD has ravaged my brain and my mind. I miss being able to finish a sentence without forgetting a word, or being able to remember what I had for breakfast, or just having memories. Often, I find myself saying a random word instead of the word I intended to—why? I don’t know if I’ll ever know, but I miss not doing that. I miss being able to clearly articulate things. I miss who I was 7 years ago right before this all started — wild, and free, clever, thoughtful, full of energy, and spunk, tactful more often than I ever could be now, trusting, and hopeful.
Things have happened, and there’s a lot I’m grateful for through this experience. But I never considered the grief I carry because of this experience—that still, 7 years later, isn’t over. The two can exist together, simultaneously. I can appreciate both, process both, acknowledge both. I can appreciate the positives and heal the negatives simultaneously.
And I guess that’s my next step in this process. Learning to grief, and heal the things that have been robbed of me. Affirmations and gratitudes have helped me come to appreciate the changes that have happened. However, I still need to grief these losses, the tangible and intangible things robbed of me by a man who still doesn’t view me as human.