Wednesday, August 1, 2018

I Won A Contest

 From the writing contest I entered for Mother's Day: 
My name is Suzanne and although I am many things, warrior is certainly at the top of that list. 
I was a fairytale lover --- boy-obsessed from 1st grade until I graduated from high school. Fairytales taught me that I needed a man to take care of me and I believed from a young age that if I was loved by a man, I would have infinite worth.
I was married at the age of 19. And as we all do, I planned to spend the rest of my life building a future with my husband. I didn't expect it to be perfect but I expected it to always be our mess --- not his mess and my mess.
The thing is, my husband truly did love me. That part was not a lie. He was great at loving me when he wanted to. But he loved me conditionally. He loved me for certain parts of who I was and began to tear down the parts of me he didn’t like. I became a pawn in our marriage and learned that I was not the most important thing to him. But why? I couldn’t figure out what was more important.  I just knew things had shifted. He hardly ever wanted to be intimate with me and would stay up all night playing video games, claiming he had insomnia. I got used to marriage feeling mostly one-sided and found myself justifying the way he was treating me --- because at least he wasn’t physically abusing me. But I still wondered if the shift in our marriage was my fault.
I had given this man two beautiful children --- was it my body? Was I not sexy enough anymore?
For a girl who claimed to be strong and independent, I am surprised when I look back and realize how much I lost myself in my marriage. Then again, for a girl who claimed to be strong and independent, I had held the belief that my worth was dependent on a man for as long as I can remember.
Five years into my marriage, I was arguing with my husband one day when he told me he no longer believed in God and would not be attending church with us any longer. This shook me but I held my ground and poured myself into being a better wife and mother. I could fix this. I could mend this part of our world that felt bruised and broken. I felt our marriage falling apart but I wasn’t going to let it. I needed him and I felt he needed me too.
I found myself drowning while trying to save him. Often times, he came home from work angry and unresponsive and he would lock himself in our room or go outside to clean his guns or work on the car he was fixing up. The emotional abuse was weighing me down and I started to have panic attacks about seemingly normal things like what brand of food to buy. My husband would point my anxiety out and remind me how unstable I was and how I needed to continue therapy because I was causing hardships in our marriage. 
I thought it was me. I thought I was the reason things were falling apart. And so I tried to fix myself and allow him space by taking care of the kids with essentially no help. I didn't want to bother him. I didn't want to make things worse. I was sensitive to the fact that I was diagnosed with "mental health issues" and that it was ruining my marriage. 
And in the midst of me trying so hard to fix us, he abandoned our family in August of 2013, after seven years of marriage. Our children were only 5 and 4 years old and did not understand what was happening, so on top of being abandoned by my husband, I was left to tell my kids about the divorce by myself and deal with their heartache. And in turn, they knew I was their safe space and so they directed all of their anger toward me for months while begging me to bring their daddy back home. 
Throughout the 6 month process of separation and divorce, I found out that my husband was not the man he had claimed to be. I started to realize that I was not the only one struggling. He was addicted to pornography, among other things. I tried so hard to stay afloat throughout this time but I began to drown in the form of an eating disorder and severe anxiety. 
I felt so worthless. So used. So unloved. 
The trauma I experienced while learning about that betrayal is something I'm still healing from.
But I don't point that out to tell you how awful he is. Because the thing is, my ex-husband is not a monster. We don’t always get along and he certainly makes some poor choices when it comes to his treatment of myself and our children but he isn’t a monster. He is an addict that struggles with knowing how to treat the people he loves most. He pushes us away in fear of us rejecting him. Does that lessen my pain? No. But it helps me to understand that I was not the problem. I could not have been prettier, smarter, or more subservient. This battle wasn’t mine to win or lose. It was, and is, his battle to fight and he chose to fight it without me by his side.
I’ve endured a lot since my divorce 4 ½ years ago. I figured that the longer we were divorced, the easier things would get. And I guess, in some ways, that is true. But I still find that divorce affects myself and our children on a daily basis. I have endured some pretty awful fights, DCS reports, a difficult court trial, among the daily struggles that come when trying to co-parent with a person who has a hard time with communication. I struggle to help my children as they both deal with the trauma this has caused in their lives, resulting in general anxiety and separation anxiety. 
I was forced to find myself when my husband abandoned me. That event, although extremely traumatic for me, has shaped me into a person that I very much like. I did not curl up in a corner and die --- I fought for myself and my children. I graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree last summer. I am working two jobs to provide for my children. I got certified as a foster parent and was the mother of a sweet and sassy toddler for five months last year and last week, I was asked to take in a two-day-old baby boy and have been killin’ it in the motherhood department. My children are healthy and loved.
I still struggle with loneliness, especially when my kids go to their dad’s house but I know that my worth is not dependent on others. I will still live a beautiful life, even if I never remarry. I will continue to persevere when life slaps me in the face because I know for a fact that I can do hard things.
As the 5th anniversary of that traumatic August day creeps up on me, I wanted to share this letter I wrote a few months ago. I ended up winning that contest and was gifted a beautiful piece of jewelry that I wear often to remind myself how brave I am.

It's amazing to me how telling my story is healing, each and every time. This definitely doesn't contain it all and there are parts that will always be too personal but I am grateful that I can look back and remember the bad parts AND the good parts.

You guys, there was so much good. For years, the bad seemed to negate the good but I'm learning to validate those good times too.

They were real. They are real. 

It is still a rollercoaster. I think it always will be. But this is the hand I was dealt. This is a huge part of my journey. And telling my story is not to relive the past and open old wounds---it is a reminder of where I've been and where I am now.

I am grateful for the pain that has dissipated as the years have passed. 

And I am so incredibly grateful for the life I am currently living.

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