I probably won't publish this. Let's see if I even finish writing it. Most of my essays here pour out of me quickly--long held memories and thoughts that are eager to dance in sentence form. But what of the static remembrances? The ones that need to stay put. The ones that need more than coaxing to reveal?
Pregnancy was such a defining experience for me. Most mothers can remember carrying their child and the world feeling like they had a right to touch their bellies - almost a village mentality that the child that is coming forth belonged to them all. At the same time this disregards the woman who is facilitating that very life force at the risk of her own.
It's not a thankless task, we are all groomed to adore our mothers, yet the casing- the actual woman that is that mother remains at risk, for neglect, for abuse, for punishment for just existing.
I was pregnant the first time he told me to "shut the fuck up". I can't remember why he said it, I don't recall the argument. But I do recall the force, the threat, the bellowing decibels that spewed from him. He was driving - I was confined to the car, but my hand went immediately to the door handle.
"Let me out."
An eery calm settled over me as I said it. I would get out and walk, and walk, and walk away from this.
"No, I'm sorry, no don't get out..."
The begging and pleading and rambling apology ensued. I was stoic. Frozen.
My vulnerability provoked his aggression, not his protection, not his love and gentleness.
This was the start of the cycle. He would lash out on occasion, but more often he would brood with mood swings that would last for days with no explanation or seeming cause. He would give me the silent treatment, and when I would push to be let out of that quiet hell, he would swing to the verbal lashing.
On the good days he was highly critical - of any and everything. How I ate, what I ate, what my hair looked liked, how I cleaned, if I cleaned, everything was up to his stern analysis. I constantly felt like his spectacle. I wasn't meek in my rebuttals either. I knew this wasn't ok and I told him I didn't like it. I told him in so many ways that it didn't feel good to me. Over time the mood swings seemed to improve.
And I stayed.
He had a way of undercutting my confidence in things I did and excelled in well before I knew him. He often made remarks to throw doubt into things i enjoyed. "You're not really a writer, you can't direct" were things he felt I should know about myself.
And with my weight gain from pregnancy he also felt I should know how he felt about my body. His face said it already but he followed up with words. "Your cellulite is repulsive." I think that one made me cry. He broke me.
Yet I stayed.
Three years passed.
There was another pregnancy. There would not be another child however. I knew I couldn't do it. He had no objection.
Things settled into chronic neglect. Emotions weren't safe. I was told that my feelings were "dumb" that they in fact "didn't mean shit." I was now used to this.
I was now operating in functional depression. Rarely saw my friends, rarely saw myself.
I learned how to smile through it. I was trained on this from my childhood.
"I practiced detachment. I learned how to look cheerful while, under the table, I stuck a fork into the back of my hand." - dangerous liaisons
The following years were filled with several affairs on my end. They were my escape routes and rooted in my own anger. The exposing of these betrayals only deepened the cycle of what I now know is emotional abuse. The cycle became increasingly combustive, the threats more terrorizing. I feared where the breaking point would take us.
In between we tried to love each other, tried to renew something, tried to forgive, tried to break the viciousness between us, tried to get help, tried to identify what went wrong.
I don't understand it and it's perhaps not to be fully understood. The pieces that make sense to me connect back to my childhood and how I duplicated an environment I had been familiar with.
I believe I will do better next time. I also know that I'm not at fault - it just is what it is. It's not uncommon and now that I can see, I can re set for a different experience going forward.
It's ok to admit that you've been abused. It's ok to admit you were part of that cycle. It's ok to admit you became part of the monster. As Audre says -your silence won't protect you. It's ok to state it. The isolation and secrecy will destroy you. So whatever form it takes- your sharing contributes to the collective healing of us all.