One reason it’s taken me so long to write a new post for this blog is that I’ve been busy closing a door that has been opened way too long, the door to my marriage of twenty years. “But,” you might ask, “that door should have closed for good in 1983, the year the divorce was finalized—why are you just now getting around to closing it?” All I can say in reply to that question is that sometimes, especially if a person has C-PTSD, doors might stand open for a long, long time before they are ready to close. When the time is right, the doors can be closed, one by one. But doors cannot be closed until the “closer” is ready to do closing.

Believe me, I have wondered during the past twenty-nine years why I could not close that door. After all, I separated from my husband in 1981 after reporting him for sexually abusing our daughter. Why wasn’t attending his hearing and seeing him convicted for the felony enough to get that door closed? I don’t really know. Logically, one would think that seeing him convicted and then possessing a copy of his conviction papers would be all I needed to get unstuck and get moving forward with my own life without him. But as you may already know, especially if you have C-PTSD, tossing a twenty-year marriage onto the midden heap, especially if child abuse and spousal abuse have been factored into the equation, is not a simple act. Sometimes before that particular door can be closed, a lot of other doors must be closed. That seems to be the way the healing process works, at least for me that’s the way it works.

That day in August when I went to court to finalize my divorce, I was forty-four years old; now I am seventy-three years old and am finally closing that door. What happened to all the years in between? Did I spend those years steeped in bitterness and anger? Did I try to lose myself and stop the pain by seeking out another partner and hoping to “do it right this time”?

First of all, for those of you who have never had to clean up the emotional mess left by an abuser, I had no time to wallow in anger and bitterness, and I had absolutely no desire to risk going through the same experience again in another relationship. I had a badly damaged daughter to finish raising, and I still had the prospect of my own life to deal with. Once my daughter was on her own, then, what kind of a life did I want? There was still time for me to start anew. My daughter was thirteen when I reported her father in 1981, and I figured that she and I would be together for at least five more years. Probably by 1986, I reasoned, she would be on her own, and I could start a new life on my own. In the meantime, I had a lot to do.

At the top of my list was repairing the relationship with my daughter. I wasn’t sure how to do that, but I was determined to try. Since my former husband was required to pay for our daughter’s therapy and also for mine, she and I saw therapists regularly. That helped. Time, patience on my part, a desire to develop a loving and healthy relationship, and a lot of hard work all went into the mix. When my daughter “graduated” from living at home with me, I helped her learn how to pay her bills and how to manage all the other responsibilities of a one-person household. I helped her for a year, and then I knew it was time to tackle the next item on my list, preparing for my own future.

Because I’d had a position as a teacher’s aide in the learning center at the local community college, I knew the direction I wanted my own life to take—I needed to go to graduate school, get a graduate degree, and then find a teaching position in a community college. I loved my part-time work helping adults earn their GEDs and high school certificates, and I knew that only if I had a graduate degree could I get a position with stability and benefits. So that’s exactly what I did! I actually earned two graduate degrees, one in adult education and one in composition and rhetoric—just the right degrees I needed to teach remedial writing in a community college. I loved my work and did it for about thirteen years. Then I retired.

About three years ago, shortly after I had turned seventy, my old PTSD symptoms became especially burdensome. I found a therapist who specialized in trauma work, but our client-therapist relationship did not work well. Then I did some careful research and was referred to my present therapist. Our client-therapist relationship has worked well, and I am healing. I can see daylight, now, and I think that within a year I will be finished with active, intense therapy. I’ll be putting pieces together until I die, but I can do that.

Recently, in the process of closing the door on my marriage, I found myself asking questions such as, “How could he have done that to his own daughter?” “How could he have called his own little boy a ‘stupid sh . .thead?” How could he have cheated on me?” How, How, How?? Well, as a friend pointed out, my former husband saw life through a different lens than the one I use for seeing life. When I was married to him, he saw the glass as “half empty”; I saw–and still see– the glass as “half full.” He regarded people with suspicion, wondered how they were going to “shaft” him, and was prepared when they did; I regarded most people as being well-intended, and when they “shafted” me, I was surprised—but I always recovered my perspective. He was stuck in negativity, and I more often than not was positive about life. My friend is right—my ex and I saw life through vastly different lenses. Somehow, that concept helps me close the door the final few inches. I may even lock the door! Now, there’s a thought. I may just do that, for I have that power.

The last three decades of my life, then, have been good, maybe even GREAT! Once free from the negativity and the abuse of my marriage, I shaped my life into a life that I really wanted. Taking statistics into consideration, I probably don’t have more than ten more years to live—at the most. But those ten years will be good years because I can make them good. I’m free from the painful environment of my childhood, free from the negativity and abuses dished out by my former spouse, free from the burden of working every day to keep a roof over my head, and I am freeing myself from the crippling symptoms of PTSD. I am well on my way to climbing to the highest rung of Abraham Maslov’s ladder, the rung he called “self-actualization.” Sounds good to me! Maybe even fun! Want to come along? Work hard in therapy and heal your Complex PTSD! The reward is worth it! I know. . .

Here, again, is the Scottish fisherman’s prayer to help you on your way–

Big Sea, Little Boat
Dear God, be good to me;
The sea is so wide,
And my boat is so small.
Fisherman’s prayer

Advertisements