Clarity today

For those of you who may be new to this blog, my husband — who is suffering from depression and is now in treatment — is my second husband, not the man about whom I wrote the book. My current husband is not abusive. He’s kind and caring, and he adopted my daughter when she turned 18.

On my way home from work today, I had a moment of clarity. I realized that the recent conversation with my husband was significant in many ways, but one reason stands above the rest: if my husband is not able to hear me speak honestly and openly about problems we have, then he is not the right man for me. He did well the other day, and I’m hoping that’s a sign of things to come.

Coming through trauma therapy changed me for the better. I’m not the same woman he married almost 16 years ago. I’m a much better version of myself: someone who refuses to subjugate my feelings and needs, period.

He’s not the same man I married 16 years ago, either. He fell into depression, lived there for upwards of a decade, and is now coming out of it.

I don’t know exactly who he is now, or who he’ll be once he finishes treatment.

But I do know this: I know exactly what I need in a husband/partner. Among many things, I need to be with someone who can listen to me speak my mind, who isn’t timid when it comes to hearing the truth — even if it’s ugly. For me, it’s the only way to truly connect with another person.

Today, thanks to a lot of great therapy and hard work on my part, I’m secure in myself and in my needs. For the first time in my life, I really know what I want in a life partner, and I believe I can be an equal participant in a relationship.

I love my husband, and I hope things work out between us and that we can connect in the ways that matter to both of us.

But I have no fear at all, either way this goes.

Speaking up for myself

Yesterday, I had to confront my husband about something very difficult, having to do with the behaviors he exhibited while severely depressed. I was afraid to do this because he hasn’t been in treatment for very long, and I wasn’t sure how he could handle what I needed to tell him.

In the end, I made the decision to go ahead with it because I found myself pulling further and further away from him, which isn’t what I want to be doing. In creating a better life for myself, I strongly desire a good marriage with the man I married.

I love my husband dearly. He’s a good man who has been ill for a long time, and especially in the past couple of years, the illness nearly destroyed him — and “us.” If you’re familiar with the effects of depression, which I wasn’t until reading several books about it this year, you’ll know that depression has a devastating effect not just on the person, but on those around him/her. The depressed person not only withdraws but can also lash out, blame, become angry (especially men), and wound people in devastating ways.

That’s what I needed to talk to my husband about, because another aspect of depression can be a sort of weird amnesia effect: he has no recollection of some of the events of the past few years, and if he does remember them, his perception was so skewed that his version is quite far from reality.

As a result, I have still been in great emotional pain caused by some of these more unfortunate incidents he either doesn’t remember or doesn’t remember accurately. He hasn’t been able to offer any sort of apology for them for that simple reason: he doesn’t remember them.

To move forward in our relationship and to be true to myself, I had to mention several of these incidents to him and ask for his apology. I had really tried to forget them, reminding myself that they happened while he wasn’t himself. But I couldn’t. I needed him to see, hear and feel the pain that I experienced   — not to make him feel badly, but for him to realize just how deeply his illness impacted me. I wanted him to know that his recovery from depression must happen, or I cannot stay in the marriage.

At one point in the conversation yesterday, I was ready to pack my bags. He simply couldn’t reconcile my version of the worst incident (the true version) with his perception of the event (completely twisted around by the depression). He continued to hold onto false beliefs. I continued to push him. I told him that he could make a choice now: he could choose to believe what he wanted to believe, or he could choose to believe the truth that his wife was telling him. In the latter case, it was going to force him to issue me an apology, from the heart. If he couldn’t do that, I wasn’t going to be able to stay with him in our home, at least for awhile.

I can’t go into any more detail here. I will say, though, that the incident was a huge setback for me at the time, because it happened while I was still in the midst of trauma therapy. It triggered every PTSD symptom I have, some of which still persist today as a result — nearly 18 months later. If he wasn’t willing to look at this situation honestly, I knew I had reached my current level of patience.

Everyone has a breaking point, and yesterday was mine. I knew he would never bring it up on his own because of the way he perceived it. So I had to.

The end result is that he finally — finally — was able to acknowledge the pain he caused me because of this incident and others. He has already apologized for not listening to me all the times I begged him to get psychiatric help. So now, the (ugly) picture is coming into focus for him. He’s having to deal with the fact that much of his behavior over the past few years has not been at all what he thought it was. He knows the depression skewed his perception of himself, but not the extent to which it colored his views on his behavior.

Maybe if I just ignore it …

I’ve been struggling since going to jury duty the other day with the idea of labels. Specifically, of labeling myself a “domestic violence survivor” and a “rape survivor.”

Right now, I’m not sure if those labels are helping me or hurting me, and I need to make a decision about this topic pretty quickly.

Why?

Because I’m debating whether to become a public speaker on domestic violence, with the aim of educating women’s groups — and men’s, too, if I can — about what domestic violence really is and the cost to society and to women’s power in society.

I think I can help people. My book is helping people — at least, I think it is. People are finding it and buying it, which feels really good.

But it’s a whole different thing, putting myself out there in person, even if I use a pseudonym or just give my real first name. It means that I’ll have those labels on me, labels I worked for a long time to keep secret from everyone but my family, who knew the truth about my life.

I’m so much more than those labels. I know that now. I’m actually a real human being, with desires and dreams and goals I’m pursuing every day, now that I have accessed them and know what they are. I’m not sure if I want to use my voice any louder than having written the book, when it comes to domestic violence, marital rape and child sexual abuse.

At the same time, I know that I could use my writing and speaking skills in a powerful way.

I can’t ignore this internal dilemma, because it won’t just go away. I will need to make a decision. Soon.

“I’m a domestic violence survivor”

I had to speak those words in a courtroom yesterday.

I was called for jury duty for my county. The last time I was called, I didn’t even go through a voir dire process. This time, I did. And there came a point when the judge asked people being considered for a spot on the jury if any of us had ever been the victim of a crime, or if anyone close to us had been.

He said, “Please raise your hand.”

For a split second, I thought about keeping my hand in my lap. But I couldn’t do it. I’d taken an oath.

So I raised my hand.

The rest of the prospective jurors left the room, and one by one, each of us victims had our turn with the judge, in front of the defendant, his lawyer and the prosecutor.

“So, Ms. Johnson, what is your story?” asked the judge.

Wow, what a loaded question.

“I’m a domestic violence survivor,” I said. “My daughter was also sexually molested by the same man, my ex-husband.”

The judge seemed startled, frankly. He didn’t say anything for a couple of beats. A man in his late 50s, slight, with completely gray hair — I figure he’s probably heard everything. His reaction actually startled me.

“Did these events happen simultaneously?”

Odd question.

“Well, they happened while I was married to him, and the sexual abuse continued after I divorced.”

“So you don’t know if these things happened at the same time.”

“They might have, sure. But I don’t know.”

“And did you contact the police?”

“Yes,” I said. It was true that the police got involved in my daughter’s situation. But not mine. I was always too terrified to call the police for what he was doing to me. Too risky.

“And were any charges filed?”

“No, your honor.”

“Why was that.”

“Insufficient evidence.”

And with that, it was over. I was not chosen to serve on the jury.

But the thing is, it’s not over. I did have to go back to the jury room today, but I was not called; I was released. My jury service is over, but my stress about that experience isn’t. I don’t say those words out loud very often — like, never. I don’t talk about that part of my life with many people. Almost no one except my family and my closest friends know the truth about me. Saying it out loud to people I didn’t know — I don’t care what their societal roles  were yesterday — was anxiety producing and horrible. Not to mention the fact that just stepping into a courtroom makes me want to throw up.

I’m going to bed early tonight to sleep off this stress. Hoping I’ll feel better in the morning …