Our demise – Part 2.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realised I had ‘lost’ my husband. From the birth of our daughter he changed from being a supportive caring husband to a distant and depressed human being. We had decided that he would be in charge of putting baby to bed every day. He wanted to do it as he would be at work all day and would not see her but of course with this choice came responsibilities and promises. It came schedules and routines. It came remembering endless things that baby needed. Too many things for him.

Tired from work, he would enter the house. He would greet baby and take her upstairs. No Hello, no kiss, no acknowledgement of his wife. He would come back from one job and enter another. There were no questions about my day. He did not know that baby had been sick twelve times that day. He did not know that she had not kept down a single bit of milk or that I had not brushed my teeth that day. He did not know that I had cried several times that morning and that my ‘lunch’ consisted of two pieces of toast eaten over three hours. He did not know because he did not ask. For six months he did not ask. I was not myself for the first three months of my daughter’s life.

The doctors and health visitors had insisted that I should not take baby outside for at least seven weeks (until her due date). Out of panic and fear I listened to their advice and out of panic and fear, I only left the house five times in the space of three months. I could not leave without having a panic attack.

A few years back I had worked with babies in a day nursery; a job that I enjoyed very much. I gained a lot of ‘insider’ knowledge first hand and felt prepared for the future. However having my daughter seven weeks early threw every preparation I had into chaos. I will be the first to admit it – I struggled. I really battled through the first three months. My BDD (body dysmorphic disorder) seemed to be developing into a problem again. I felt frumpy, disgusting. I was angry I was unable to lose my baby weight. My confidence dropped.

My husband must have seen a change in me although he chose to ignore it. Instead he disappeared into himself, cutting himself off from me and only thinking of his own problems. I was shocked to find my caring husband grow into such a cold and detached human being. Christmas was a very unpleasant time for us. There had been a few incidents leading up to it where my husband had chosen himself over me and his baby. He had put his selfish needs first and begun leading a very separate life to mine. I discovered some real eye openers to the man he had become – a man I could not recognise. He wasn’t ashamed of his actions either although he managed to shed a few crocodile tears. I hate seeing him cry and not because it breaks my heart but because it’s the easy way out. Tears gain sympathy. He didn’t deserve that. His behaviour didn’t justify tears.

He chose to betray me in ways I find very hard to forgive.

He became cruel and nasty. A shadow of the man I once knew. He became defensive and verbally harmful, snapping and hurting. He became angry, aggressive and frightening. There were times I was truly scared. I hadn’t felt that kind of frightened since my Dad. That was the point I knew my marriage was over. The man I had once loved so deeply had reminded me of my Dad. He reminded me of what that abuse felt like. He reminded me what it felt like to feel small, neglected, alone. I vowed never to feel that way again and this man had succeeded in making it happen at a time that should have been the happiest in my life. I will never forgive him for that. NEVER.

The culmination of his abhorrent behaviour happened on my 33rd birthday. We, at this point, had no relationship. We barely talked to each other and if we did, it mostly referred to the baby. I was dreading my birthday. In past years, D had gone out of his way to make me feel special. He didn’t have to shower me with presents or do anything romantic, I was just treated very well that day – lots of cups of tea and putting my feet up kind of thing. He was thoughtful and considerate and I appreciated that.

This birthday was different. I asked him the day before, jokingly, if he had got me a card, fearing that he may have forgotten. I was right as he suddenly began to severely berate himself (something he had been doing often for the past months). He could have lied and said yes and then sneaked out later to get one. He could have made me feel like it was all okay out of kindness, out of thoughtfulness but my husband wasn’t like that any more. He’d rather wallow in his endless mistakes than make me feel better about a situation, than make the moment pass and move on after all, there were many times I brushed over his snide comments about me for an easier life. After the casual comment about the card, my husband was in a foul mood for the rest of the day. I put it behind me not wanting to ruin my actual birthday. I had stated I wanted a simple one.

Life was not easy with the baby and my confidence hadn’t returned but that did not mean I didn’t want my husband to not go to any effort. He had taken the day off work after all. Surely he was going to do something special? How wrong was I. The next morning I went into my baby’s room as she was cooing beautifully by herself. I lifted her out the cot and gave her some mummy kisses. My husband, groggy from his slumber, followed in. He made no eye contact nor spoke. I waited for the obligatory “Happy Birthday!” to fall from his lips. Instead, he yawned and sat on the bed in baby’s room.

“Don’t say happy birthday or anything please,” I remarked disappointed I had to remind him of what day it was.

“I was just going to!” He snapped.

Plenty of time had passed from when I had entered the room, it was clear he wasn’t planning on saying anything. Immediately I felt uncomfortable. He had chosen to snap at me at six in the morning really setting me up for what was about to come. Once downstairs with baby, D barely uttered two words to me. I felt incredibly uncomfortable and when my mum came in with a card I found it hard to show her any happiness. She knew something was wrong but it had got to the point where the son in-law she was once so close to had now become a very intimidating stranger to her. She watched him disrespect her daughter but of a want not to be shouted at or spoken to sarcastically (a trait my husband excels at) she often kept quiet. Their relationship remains on the brink even now.

Due to a hectic schedule with baby, I hadn’t given my husband any idea of the kind of present I had wanted or that I had even wanted one. Really I had hoped he didn’t need telling. I had hoped the man who always used to get it spot on would come through for me again. Instead, with my own money, I ordered a bag from a shopping site I like on-line and my husband ‘refunded’ me the money. It felt like my father all over again. My father never bought me presents for my birthday or Christmas as he never bothered to find out what I liked. He just handed me money (after negotiation) and then berated me when I spent it on something like shoes or bags. At his request and demand, I often ended up having to say a detailed explanation as to why I deserved a gift in the first place. After a while I begged him NOT to give me anything as I just couldn’t hack the events and interrogations that would follow.

I didn’t say anything that day to my husband when I opened the card I had told him to buy for me. I didn’t say anything when I read his meaningless message to me inside. I was too worried that if I said something his reaction would be far worse than his intent. Sadly, the rest of the day continued on that note. My husband decided to feel sorry for himself for most of it. Knowing that nothing was special and sensing how sad I was about it all, he decided to make me feel even worse by ignoring me. He couldn’t even try to make conversation with me. He just avoided me. I was distraught. What the hell was the point in taking the day off?! I could have gone out with my mum and baby for a nice lunch and had a great time. No, my selfish husband instead made the whole day about him.

It all blew up in the afternoon when over a late lunch I voiced my disappointment. To many, I’m probably sounding like a needy drama queen but my husband had made a big deal of my birthday in the weeks leading up to it. He gave me the impression that I would have a nice day organised by him. When in fact I spent the day looking after baby (as normal), depressed because my husband was ignoring me and scared of what explosion was going to happen later. As soon as I uttered the words, D blew up. Shouting, aggressive, storming off all in front of baby. I left her with her grandma and followed him into the living room.

“What’s wrong with you? Why are you doing this?” are the types of questions I could not avoid asking.

He paced the floor furiously and I realised the day would be ruined for good. He could not break from his anger, his rage and disappointment in himself had encased him. Seeing red he tried to push past me in order to leave the house. I wouldn’t let him pass for two reasons; one, I did not want my mother and baby to see him so agitated, it really was very frightening but to me, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before in a man and two, I was angry at this nasty person for wanting to storm out on me on my birthday! He gets to leave but I don’t. I have responsibilities even on my birthday and no amount of rage will make me leave my child. The day dragged on as my husband remained in his solemn, distant state. We did not utter a single word to each other for the rest of the day.

Until the evening, when at dinner, I just couldn’t keep my upset inside any longer. I lost it. I cried and shouted as loud as I could without disturbing our baby. I was distraught. Never had I experienced a day like it. Even the abuser attempted to make my birthdays a little pleasant. My husband however couldn’t even do that. I knew something was wrong in him, something quite serious was happening to him. He had become a monster and I was frightened. That night he made me frightened. I never imagined my timid, sweet husband who once loved me so much would make me frightened.

How do you draw a line under that? How do you accept his promise to change?

You can’t. I live day to day now concious that he might fall back into his destructiveness, fearing that he might become distant. He had a course of CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) as communication was not something he ever did and it seems to have helped. It has taken nearly five months for me to even ‘like’ him again. He is trying, I can see that but every now and again I see glimpses of the cruelness and I begin to panic. I do not want a marriage where I fear my husband. I do not want a marriage where I am always anticipating his bad reactions, his anger, his spite. I cannot say I am hopeful. I can only say that I can see things more clearly now. I will not continue a charade of a marriage to please other people. I will not force a love that does not exist. If we are meant to be, then we’ll get through this. If he values the life we’ve built then he will change. I know I need to change too……if I can.

There’s a lot of ifs………… But no buts.

Dear Brother in-law.

Dear brother in-law,

We met when I was thirteen. It was during a very turbulent time. You came into my sister’s life and became a welcome, permanent fixture. My mother loved you instantly. You were a bit of a charmer weren’t you? They both fell for your innocent demeanour. You were so generous. Flaunting and showering extravagant gifts on my sister. Even chasing her for an entire year to prove your love. It was all very romantic. Almost too good to be true. Your gracious and caring attitude towards our mother did not go unnoticed. You went out of your way to help her (something you often reminded her of later on).

Yet, your care and thoughts did not extend further than my mother and sister.

You made no effort to get to know me. I was not under your priorities. Perhaps my sister made it clear that I was of no importance to her therefore of no importance to you. Unsurprisingly, you made no effort with our father either but perhaps, in his case, I’ll let that slide.

Years went by and your relationship with my sister grew stronger. My mother even held you in the highest regard. In many ways you had surpassed me. She never looked at me the way she looked at the two of you. She had accepted you as her “son” and you were at one point, more a part of her family than I was. This was something you and my sister clearly found enjoyment in.

During the divorce, when you and my sister had been together for a few years, you became my mother’s hero, protecting and supporting them consistently. Did you see it from my side? Never. Did you have any empathy? None. You just wanted to remain on that sweet little pedestal they placed you on. The pressure you put on me, the lectures you gave, where was it your place to tutor me on my decisions? If you had built up a relationship with me or made an effort to treat me like a sister, perhaps I would have been more willing to listen to you. However, it was like I was being reprimanded by a nosy stranger.

After the divorce our relationship did not get any easier. You only listened to her; my sister. All her hate, all her anger was allowed. You never challenged her. That is not love as much as you may think it is. Love is not possessive; it does not own. Love is letting someone express themselves to a point, where no one gets hurt especially not the ones you care so deeply for. Your allowance of my sister’s behaviour was your own demise.

Is it love if someone tells you to choose your family or them? Is it love if someone threatens to cheat on you? Tell me this. Did you respect yourself? The wild rages she flew into were accepted. The violent screams and swears were just a natural expectation of her. If you had just said “Stop”. Perhaps she would have. If someone of authority had just said “stop”. Then maybe she would have realised how staggering and inconceivable her behaviour truly was. Were you frightened of her? There is no shame in it. She scared me.

Do you know what you did?

You turned her into a monster. Another being entirely. Gone was her compassion, her willingness to empathise. You made her a martyr, a queen. She ruled over us. Her and the depression.

I have seen it. I know what it is. I know others who have suffered by the hand of it, some who have taken their lives because of it and without a doubt they would be horrified by the way she uses it as a weapon. The endless threats, the terrifying fury was very hard to deal with. Any time I tried, I was belittled for my lack of understanding. The two of you had no idea of my horror at home. Maybe you did, you just did not want to face it. After all, as she had said before, “it was my choice to live with my father”.  Yet, we all had to be there for her and her problems.

The last ten years have got to be the worst when it comes to you and me. You should be like a brother to me. Instead, we are total strangers. I feel you know nothing about me yet the finest details of your life were flung on me throughout my adolescence. I know everything about you. Isn’t that funny.

You had what you wanted when you got married. You even cast aside my mother. All of her love was worthless now. The two of you deserve each other. Never have I met such ugly people. You especially are something else. What kind of father keeps their children from their grandmother? What the hell did she ever do to you? It’s bad enough that you have kept their Aunt away from her niece and nephew but their grandmother? She did not meet your expectations did she? Your demanding, shallow, ruthless expectations. Who can?! At some point in your history with this family, everybody had faulted you. You of course, have never faulted anyone!

You are protecting your wife aren’t you?

From what? The big bad wolf? Hold on, I thought that was my father? You and my sister once despised him. You could not wait to dance on his grave. Yet in the years before his death, he became a saint to you. It is madness. Pure madness.

This is a man that hurt your mother in-law. He physically hurt her. This “thoughtful” man insulted your wife, he even called her a “bitch”! Did you forgive him for that? For the abuse and pain he caused? It seems like it. Forget me. You do not care for me but what he did to the two of them was unforgivable.

Do you feel proud of yourself?

Don’t.

You have contributed tremendously in the destruction of my family. Of the people that matter and for that I will never forgive you.

Dear Teachers.

Dear Teachers,

In the five years I spent at your school, I can honestly say that I am not entirely sure how I came out of it so sane. I was sent to you after my prodigal sister. I am aware (by my parents) that I did not do exceptionally well in my entrance test and certainly not as well as my sister, who came in on a scholarship. However, my grades (or lack of them) did not matter to you. I was my sister’s sister. I had to be good…………right?

But I wasn’t.

I was me. Not her. Yet that was never celebrated.

The first two years of high school, I slipped under the radar. I did okay, I went by unnoticed as did my grades. I excelled in the subjects I thought I would: Drama, Art, Music and English. The complete opposite to her. I was not an academic to you all. I was never part of any social dramas nor did I take any leadership roles, it was easy to forget about me.

I remember when you did notice.

When my grades slipped too far, I became your target. Suddenly, the girl you’d forgotten became the most memorable of all. Especially when you remember who my sister was – your star student. The morning you took me for a walk around the school and down to the hall where the plaques hung showing your most prized pupils of past. Where my sister’s name shone and burned into me. The place where you pointed out what I should be achieving and that I “had a lot to live up to”.

What you didn’t question was why.

Why was this sweet, lively girl’s grades dropping?

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that my childhood was falling apart. That my home-life was like a war zone. The year was 1996, I was fourteen years old, my mother had just applied for divorce and you decided to put me on report.

You close-minded, arrogant idiots.

The reputation of your school and the notoriety of your name was much more important that a young girl struggling to make sense of her family disintegrating before her eyes. You humiliated me by dragging in my parents to discuss my “future”. Who were you to predict that? While my mother already held me in low regard, you only fuelled her perception of me. I had further disappointed her and as you placed my sister on that righteous pedestal, her place in my mother’s eyes grew stronger. You played a very clear part in the destruction of our relationship and for that I will never forgive you.

There were no positives made. No redeeming features. Humiliation and bullying was your forte. I was lost and no one was reaching out to guide me. No one.

Perhaps, if you had spent more time concerned about the welfare of your students and their emotional well being, I would have better memories of you all.

Sadly, I don’t.

Friday 20th July 2012 – The visit.

My father-in law had kindly offered to drive me, David and my mother down to the hospital to see my Dad. My mother came for several reasons. She predominately came to support me. I was highly emotional and fragile; she knew I needed her. As soon as my Dad told me the severity of his condition, I called my mum. She had to know. Her hate for him ran deeper than any ocean but I knew she would regret it for the rest of her life if she did not go and see him one last time.

Being back in the same hospital that my father was admitted to when he tore the ligament in his thigh, was unbearable. I felt stifled as soon as I entered the doors. I wanted to run back into the blazing sun and let it burn my face. Anything felt better than the way I felt as we walked sombrely to his cubicle. My mother and father-in law waited in a quiet area. My husband held me tightly; he knew my fear. My stomach was in knots as we approached his bed. He was sitting upright; his shallow breathing prompted my own chest to tighten. I knew what I was supposed to do so I did it.

He hugged David too.

It was a shock to see him like that. He was a shadow of the man he was three weeks ago. The powerful, frightening image of him was fading. The sad smell of sickness enveloped me as I sat down in the hospital chair. My father began chatting to us and although I could hear his voice, I was not listening. I looked around at other the other patients The room was bare and lonely, only beds and the odd T.V to keep one company, nurses drifted in and out with medication and comfort for the ill. I knew I could not stay there for very long, I felt suffocated, exposed and vulnerable. The sound of muted coughing and painful wheezing choked me. I wished for the exit and the breeze on my face. I felt hot and nauseous but what could I do, I had to face my fears.

I soon discovered that my sister was on her way. If she arrived before I left, it would be our first meeting in over three years. It only added to my suffocation. I did not want to feel imprisoned.

“Ma’s here,” I whispered.

“Why is she here?” he seemed surprised.

“She wanted to see you, speak to her Daddy”.

“Maybe another time, I’m not ready.”

“There won’t be another time. She won’t shout, she just wants to say goodbye”.

“Fine,”

He agreed.

I thought it would take more convincing.

I left to get her. She too was amazed he allowed it.

They were both mature, incredibly mature. It would be the only time in my whole life that I would see them respect each other. They spoke in English at first and then in their native language Bengali. It was emotional for my mother; I could feel her breaking as I held her close. The conversation was short and as we walked away I could not have been more proud of my parents for that one moment in time.

What are you afraid of?

I fear many things. I wish I was more daring and able to take more risks. I used to be able to especially as a child. Fear was something I lacked. I spoke my mind and challenged bad things, I defended myself and took emotional risks. I let myself fail believing that there was a lesson to learn from it. 

Fear grew quite quickly. By my teenage years I was becoming more afraid. I had been criticized by my mother and sister for being selfish and self-centered as a young child. The world revolved around me apparently. I was a confident child being punished for living life. Soon, the fear came. 

During the divorce and the pressures of choice, I feared everything. Outwardly, my family saw a show. I appeared to be calm and in control but mentally I was failing. I knew I was about to make the wrong decision but in fear of becoming targeted and bullied for even thinking it, I went with my father. It was, in my mind, the easiest thing to do. I had backed myself into a corner that could not be further from my mother and sister; we were practically strangers. I had to go with him and I was scared to do it. I did not know that he would be the man they said he was but I had my doubts. I had the fear. There was the possibility. 

My fears magnified when living with my father. they became embedded in me. Not only was I clearly petrified of him, I became a shadow of the girl I once was. To me, I was no longer myself. I was a nobody. 

Rejection.

I fear this still as an adult. I am married and I don’t feel it with my husband luckily. I do feel it in most walks of life especially with friends. I try to avoid it when I can, rarely asking anything of anyone. I thought I could depend on my father, he always told me I could but each time I confided in him or asked for anything, my request was rejected and berated. I have been rejected recently by some people, people I still see. One in particular I took as being a close friend but she has recently, within the last year, decided I am not worth her time. I do not know what happened as there was no explanation yet she continues to smile and play nice. I allow her to do it. I refuse to “chase” her and mend what was clearly already a broken friendship.

Criticism.

I often wait to be critiqued and devalued by people. I expect criticism. I fear it immensely. It is my biggest insecurity yet something I cannot confront.

Tempers.

I fear fights and aggression, I try to stay out of it but sometimes it cannot be avoided. I cannot stand someone raising their voice at me, it frightens me. I hate it. It only brings back every time my father did it. How he used his volume to belittle and demean me. 

Death.

Unbelievably, not my own. I often think about dying. I don’t think I am going to live very long. David hates it when I talk like that but to me it’s a matter of fact. I fear my mother dying. It is, at the moment, my greatest fear. I think about it a lot. She is 70 now and I have begun predicting how long I will have her for. When I speak to her I worry it’ll be the last time. I cry nearly every time after the phone has been put down. It took us so long to get a normal, loving relationship, I feel as though all those years fighting a pointless battle were wasted. Time has disappeared and I may not have her for long. I am angry at my sister for what she has done to her. My mother is a shell of the woman she once was. I know in many ways she resents her life. I hate that she feels like that. I fear the day when I won’t be able to hug my mother. Her touch immediately soothes me, her voice calms me, her little idiosyncrasies make me laugh. I don’t want them to be memories yet.

Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.
Charles Stanley