Looking for or accepting help for myself can be so hard. The first counselor I went to I was actually asking how to communicate with Sam, because, I’d heard it so often from him, the problem with our relationship was that I didn’t try hard enough to talk with him, or be with him or, anticipate what he wanted enough. After the first session with her, the first counselor would gently suggest Al-Anon; we’d talk about addictions for a little bit then she kept changing the subject back to me and how I felt. Honestly, I was a bit PO’d and really confused. I didn’t know how I felt! Why would she even ask that? It wasn’t relevant. I wasn’t relevant. I needed to be taught how to communicate clearly with Sam. She wasn’t helping me learn to do that.
It took quite a while before I realized that learning to communicate with Sam wasn’t really what I needed to do. But I did/do need help re-learning that what I think and and how I feel matter. I actually needed help seeing that I was not in touch with my feelings at all, but with how to deal with Sam and his moods.
For the longest time, my “feelings” were directly dependent on how Sam was that day. Was he drinking? Was he in a mellow mood (i.e. would he leave me and our son alone while he sat on the couch in the dark and drank until he passed out)? Or would he drink just enough to get belligerent and start in on me for some perceived slight?
The most two common ones (but by no means the only ones) were: if I was reading, he would come into the room and growl at me that I was showing off – that I was reading to make him feel stupid. Or he’d yell from the front living room at me in the back bedroom to turn the f-ing vacuum cleaner off so he could hear the f-ing game, and that I was being rude on purpose. On days like that, God forbid I should actually leave the back bedroom to get food because that was me being rude and interrupting his game with my “racket” in the kitchen.
As I tried to speak to my first counselor more about my need to be able to communicate with Sam, I explained to her more and more ways I thought that I had been unclear, or how I had made Sam mad without realizing that what I was saying was wrong. No matter what I said to Sam or how I said it, I was wrong. One day, when I explained yet another way I had failed to clearly communicate with Sam and his reaction, she suggested that I contact the local women’s aid shelter, AWAIC, or rape counselors, STAR. I was stunned. I was SURE that she was giving me those contacts because she wanted me to see just how bad other women had it. I thought that she wanted me to see what ‘real’ abuse or rape was. I thought she was trying to ‘teach me a lesson,’ along the same lines that Sam would, about how normal my relationship with Sam was and prove that I had nothing to complain about.
(Does any one else see how twisted that was for me to think that way? Probably. I’m probably the only one surprised by the realization.)
Now, when I look back at life with Sam, I can’t believe what I lived through and that I thought it was normal. I can’t believe how surprised I was when I went to AWAIC and spoke with a counselor and instead of her telling me that I didn’t need to be there, she told me that what I had lived through was abuse. She asked me to think about contacting STAR.
As I’ve been dealing with my issues around Sam and our relationship, I can see that I’d been dealing with depression for a very large portion of my relationship with Sam. Maybe not BECAUSE of Sam, but definitely connected to that relationship. I went back through an old journal and found entries where I begged to no longer feel anything – no matter how that came about. Looking back, I am astounded that I’m still here.
And still for a while, I refused help on actually dealing with the depression. I refused to acknowledge that the relationship was abusive; that when Sam ignored my telling him “No”, even though I was his wife, it was still rape.
The realization that I did nothing to warrant being treated the way Sam did and that even as a wife, I had every right to expect my “No” to mean no, has been hard to get my head around. There are days when I KNOW that without a doubt, without a whisper of denial. Then there are days, when that whisper shows up “But he was your husband. You have no right to be upset about how your husband used you or treated you.” That whisper can be so hard to ignore.