Saturday, June 12, 2010

Far too lucid dreaming

Okay, here goes. I've never done a blog before, never even looked at one until last week.
The past two nights, I've dreamed about my ex-husband. Not saccharine sentimental I-want-you-back dreams, but serious mind-trips that have lingered long after I've awakened.
In the first, two nights ago, I dreamed that I broke into his house becuase I needed aluminum foil to wrap a roast. I had my mom and two youngest kids with me. I wandered through the house after I found the foil, taking in all the changes that had been made since it was MY HOUSE. The plain white banisters leading to the loft had been replaced by polished teak, as had most of the woodwork I could see.
While I was there his new wife came home, and she wanted to know who I was. She wasn't angry that I was there, just a bit startled. I told her, and she said he had never told her about me, but that he had referred to a woman named Yvonne who lived with him for years but never married. [My name is not Yvonne, and since he married this woman a year after we got divorced, I can only assume that was me.] I began telling her about our life together, about his various abuses toward me and his first wife. I was in the midst of telling her this when he arrived home, small child in tow. Her child, whom he had picked up on his way home from work. [He had as little interaction with my children as he possibly could, and they lived with us, along with his daughter, while we were married. Admittedly, he had nearly as little interaction with his own child.] Upon seeing me there (my mom and children were gone by then), he became very agitated -- wanted to know what I was doing there and why she was talking with me. I started to leave, but on my way out the door, I heard him say, "You know she's lying; why else would we [the two of them] have gotten back together after an eight-month separation?" This was when I woke up, disturbed that maybe it had been an advisory that I should warn her (in real life) about him, and it's not the first time I've had a dream like that. Several months ago, I dreamed I was in his house -- again, my kids were with me at first, but waiting outside at the end -- and I almost slept with him. I didn't, but I was naked in his bed, covered with a sheet. He had a wall that consisted entirely of mirrored closet doors, and suddenly a woman dressed only in a man's tailored shirt stepped out of the closet. I started warning her, he told me to stop, and I screamed at him several times, "Shut the fuck up! Let me talk." She was sitting on a chaise-type chair in the bedroom, and as I told her about the ways he had been abusive to me, her head dropped into her hands and I could see she was crying. I asked her to stand up and turn around. The backs of her legs were covered with bruises. I knew she already knew what I wanted to tell her.
Domestic violence is one of the only crimes in which the victim is not only complicit, but actually aids the perpetrator. People judge women (and men) who stay in such situations, but unless they have been there, they could never understand. I used to be one of those people: I always said, "If a man ever hits me, it'll be the last time!" But then I was there -- hundreds of miles away from everyone I'd known all my life, with two small kids to support. I've since learned that that's part of an abuser's pathology -- get you away from your support system, and you won't have anywhere to go or anyone to help you. So you will allow it. You don't tell anyone because you have no resources and you're afraid you'll either have your kids taken away, or you'll end up in a shelter with your kids. Don't think you'd react differently. Abusers are masterful maniputlators -- charming and loving as long as they need to be, which only makes it fuck with your head more when suddenly, for no apparent reason, they hit you. Or they scream in your face. Or they tell you they will kill you if you ever leave. Every day your stomach churns as you drive home, wondering what you will come home to. You run through your mind anything that could be turned into a violation of the psychotic code, and believe me, it could be anything. One morning, one of my kids ate the last piece of coffee cake. This turned into a major battle/battering. There is no reasoning with them, and eventually you develop a Stockholm Syndrome-type mentality. I am educated and intelligent, and every day I would go to my prestigious job where I was well-respected, but over time I began to believe that he was right and I was wrong; I honestly thought I was the crazy one.
I tolerated five years of that before I finally got the strength to leave. And it took a lot of strength and subterfuge, something I am not generally capable of. I lied and smiled and pretended everything was fine, although in the months before I left I did start fighting back -- mostly by challenging him. If he raised a hand to me, I'd say,"If you hit me, motherfucker, you better kill me. Otherwise I'll have your ass in jail." And he'd lower his fist. That in itself was empowering. I knew that if I left he might kill me, but I was more and more concerned that if I stayed one of us would die -- either he would kill me or, with my new, emboldened attitude, I would kill him fighting back. It's been five years since I left him, slunk off to Target one night and never went home, and it pisses me off to no end that through my dreams he is still able to infiltrate my life.
Today, I am a different person than the person I gradually turned into while I was with him -- I used to keep my head down because he was so insanely jealous that if anyone even looked at me, he was sure I was flirting or doing something to draw attention. Now I hold my head up and look everyone straight in the eye. I had become meek and quiet, not wanting to do or say anything that might bring on his rage. Now I'm back to my extroverted, life-of-the-party self. I used to feel like a non-woman, a non-person, like I had to hide at home and in public. Now I know I am a strong woman and a good person; I am "open" again. The only problem with this is my sense of responsibility to warn others, including his current wife. I don't feel like I can do this -- she probably wouldn't listen anyway, I didn't -- but I know if something happens to her, I will feel tremendous guilt. Instead, I try to help other women, counsel them and let them know I can empathize without judgment. Someday I will be able to speak publicly about this to groups and maybe help someone get out or prevent someone from getting in.
I have forgiven, but will never forget. I new relationships, I do look for red flags -- which in retrospect, of course, I can see clearly were there with him all along. I didn't want to see them. I wanted to be in love and stay in love, and once it started I thought it was an aberration that wouldn't happen again. Once it happens, it only gets worse.
I honestly don't think about that part of my life very much, which is why the dreams disturb me so much. All my writings won't be this serious -- I just needed to get that out today. On the whole, I make the choice to be happy and I am an upbeat, "sunshiny" person. Most people in my life don't know about my abusive ex-husband, and would have trouble believing I was ever in such a horrid place. It definitely made me a more compassionate person, and it's a part of me that I can't deny. However, none of that means I have to allow it to control me, and I don't. I am me again.