“Birds with broken wings often try to help each other fly” – Matt Baker
I loved and still continue to love the man that is currently my husband but whom I am currently going through a divorce with as well. What I did not realize through the past five years, is that in order to love him– in a healthy way, I first had to learn to love myself. I constantly sought affirmations from my husband, “tell me why you love me”, continuously seeking his validation to my own existence instead of exploring my own truths. Something I have realized I do even with others in my life whether that be family, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. I had to heal that inner child that was still kicking and screaming inside of me.
When my husband and I first met, my belief system was shaped by this idea that I was a broken human being, with a dysfunctional past, with two children, from two different fathers, and two different ethnicities.
“Instead of saying I’m damaged, I’m broken, I have trust issues, say, I’m healing, I’m rediscovering myself, I’m starting over” – Positive Self Talk.
For the first two years of our relationship, life brought us an endless amount of adventures. Little did I know that these adventures would quickly be replaced with turmoil from an inner battle neither he or I had yet won with ourselves. Looking back I think we both offered each other purpose, meaning, and healing. Covering up our unresolved issues with experiences, substances, or material things. The problem with covering up unresolved issues is you never fully deal with them, so they continue to surface until resolved.
We both have been diagnosed with PTSD, his from combat, mine from childhood trauma. I believe our unresolved issues were continuously triggered throughout the course of our relationship until it finally broke us both. In our relationship I was the out-spoken, dominant, aggressor, while he remained passive, retreated, and avoided any conflict as much as possible. Silently being triggered until our triggers could no longer hold back their voice.
I could define my childhood as traumatic, I score 9 out of 11 on the Adverse Childhood Experience Test but where does that get me, either choosing whether to identify as a victim or survivor? How about I am just a warrior. If anything, these diagnosis’ give us both a foundation to do the hard work. What I have learned from my experiences is that life offers lessons throughout the span of our existence, the true test is to determine what we will do, who we will become from these lessons. It is so much easier to blame others or life events, for our misfortunes. what I truly believe is that the art of suffering is to show us it is a choice, a choice of whether or not we want to stay in suffering or to improve upon the quality of our own happiness. The truth of the matter is, life is about choices, and we are all responsible for the choices we make, the way we respond, and the way in which we interact with the world.
PTSD & Vulnerability (excerpts from Brene Browns, book, Daring Greatly).
“Labeling the problem in a way that makes it about WHO people are rather than the CHOICES they’re making lets all of us off the hook. I’m a huge believer in holding people accountable for their behaviors. I’m talking about understanding the root cause so we can address the problems. It’s to often helpful to recognize patterns of behaviors and to understand what those patterns may indicate, but that’s far different from becoming defined by a diagnosis, which is something I believe, and that the reasearch shows, often exacerbates shame and prevents people from seeking help. We need to understand this phenomenon through the lens of VULNERABILITY. Sometimes the simple act of humanizing problems sheds an important light on them, a light that often goes out the minute a stigmatizing label is applied” (p. 22).
I have recently come to realize that I have unhealthy attachments to identities, which have led to countless moments of suffering in my life, however, it isn’t so much the details of the suffering that matter to me anymore but the lessons that I have learned from them.
Looking back at our engagement, I believe I pushed the process due to my unhealthy attachment of an image I thought I needed to uphold for society — you know, the stability being “married” brings. Society could no longer label me as a
“single mother” and place all the judgements upon me that to often come with such a label. I would be married and be able to use phrases such as, “husband” and my children would be able to identify a “father” in conversations with their peers.
My husband and I have been separated since December of 2016 and have been going through a divorce since March. In January he lost his K-9 companion who he rescued from the humane society shortly after being honorably discharged from the military. That pup saved him as much as he saved that pup. Sadly, that pup, and our families pet, was confirmed with cancer in December 2016 and passed away a month later. After the passing of his beloved K-9, he disengaged with the boys and myself, being absent for the past 6 months, missing birthdays, holidays, field trips, concerts, sports games, and more. Researching further into PTSD, I finally could grasp some rationale into this behavior, this recent loss, I believe, was his final breaking point.
During his absence I managed to graduate with my masters degree, work a full-time job in a high trauma school, keep our two boys alive and involved in their sports, and become yoga certified (not to mention the day-to-day tasks of life). Through reflection I have come to the conclusion that achievements have been my way to cope, my way out of having to deal with the unresolved issues of my life. I have learned to be comfortable in the chaos, in the pressure of setting the bar high and reaching the goals I set, no matter what I have to sacrifice: my time, my health, my emotional and physical well-being.
My husband chose to cope in different ways, one of which landed him an OWI this past July. We both chose interpersonal destructive paths but those paths had very different outcomes as well as consequences, both negative and positive.
It has been a roller coaster of emotions during the grieving process of our relationship. For myself, I have ebbed and flowed between anger and sadness. Pushing him away one minute and begging for him back the next. 8 months post our separation, I have found peace and a deepened appreciation of our relationship, of my husband, as a human being. It’s too easy to be angry, a lens I do not want to view our relationships from, so I continue to do the hard work to find understanding, to accept and aknowledge love.
PTSD is not a free pass out of our behaviors or life choices.
I often wonder why is it that I was able to maintain some form of stability while he floundered into a pit of self-destruction? Is it nature, is it nurture, or maybe a combination of both? Maybe he had to hit rock bottom to be able to rebuild his foundation. Maybe it was due to our inability to cope in a healthy way and or the way in which we communicated with ourselves through our own interpersonal dialogue. Maybe this was just all part of the process to learn and grow as human beings. But PTSD is real, and individual, and its effects come in many different ways as do our responses. PTSD literally changes your brain.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better” – Maya Angelou
We both had/have a lot of dark demons to face. One thing I know for sure is I still love the man I get to call my husband for the time being. I love him not because he fills a void, not because he affirms me and makes me feel whole, I love him because of his world view, his outlook on life, his philosophies, his ability to think deeply on subject matters, his ability to retain information and turn it into knowledge, his craftsmanship and artistic skills, his patience, his humor, his playfulness, his ability to design and build something out of nothing, his hobbies: rock climbing, long-boarding, camping, and cooking. There are so many reasons I continue to have a deep appreciation and love for this man and all he has taught me in life. I am a better person because of him.
Beautiful things can grow from dark places.
I hope our journey does not end in divorce. I hope he too is able to find himself again, this time emerging whole and no longer broken, for we have both finally been forced to face the voids in ourselves that we once filled for each other, with substances, images, or material things. If our marriage cannot be repaired I hope then a new friendship is able to emerge. If I could talk to him right now I would tell him how much I love him but to truly understand the love I hold for him I had to first learn to love myself, something I am just beginning to understand.
I would tell him that I forgive him and am equally sorry for the role I played in the events that have unfolded these past few years, as they were merely lessons we had to learn, to make us into better people as we continue on this path of enlightenment. I hope wherever he is on his journey, he is able to find peace and is healing.
“I get the sense that they hurt each other like something fierce in the early years. I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense to those looking in from the outside”.
What I would say to all our family and friends is please don’t impose your own beliefs or truths upon us, hold us accountable, but know this is our unique path not yours. We know what is best for ourselves as we transcend from this experience. Please do not enable our bad choices or blame others for them, they are our choices to own and resolve. Do no harm to us, love us, forgive us, be patient with us. Don’t take sides, don’t be forced to choose between him or I, for at one time we were all family, we were all friends. I know we both have spoken ill words of one another out of hurt, out of anger, let go of the words and open up to the bigger picture of what is, what was.
The most precious gift you can give another human being is to hold space, truly listen, without judgement, without trying to counsel, respond, or fix the problem, just be, with that person, holding space. That is where healing, where real transformation truly takes place.
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path” – Buddha
The light and love in me, sees and honors the light and love in you.
Disclaimer: this post has been edited and will continue to be edited as the days, weeks, months, even years continue to pass and perspective evolves as I edit my life out loud.