When I had managed to finally extricate myself from that first “marriage”, I was once again without much of a plan beyond survival. I was in no shape to try and continue my degree at that point, although there probably were campus counseling services available, I didn’t even think of that at the time. I was so wounded that all I wanted to do was escape the source of pain, and try and pull my shredded spirit back together. I couldn’t even contemplate resuming classes and upcoming clinical practice that would mean working on the floor, with real patients.
So, it was back to the previous place of employment for a while, until I found a job as a medical assistant in a doctor’s office which was full-time and had benefits. At that point I was resigned to my status of being divorced, but God and I weren’t much on speaking terms again yet. (Repentance and and understanding would come later).
In equal parts I felt shame that caused me to want to avoid Him, and anger at Him over the direction my life went when my dreams and plans were scuttled. I had huge lessons to learn in regards to my will versus God’s, and a lot to learn about God’s character. None of my self-esteem issues and spiritual questions were resolved, and now I had a whole slew of baggage to go with them.
I still wanted to be married someday. Before long I was involved with someone else. He was also divorced, so the fact that I was divorced was no concern to him. He also had a 5-year old daughter with shared custody. He was friendly, laid back, sort of happy-go-lucky, seemed to have lots of friends, and was working his way up in the company. He asked me out, I went, we dated, lived together for a while, then eventually we, too married. As you might expect, that did not turn out any better than the first time. The marriage itself barely lasted a year. By that time I had enrolled in the local community college to finish getting my nursing degree, and though it wouldn’t be the Bachelors I had originally been shooting for, it would get that R.N. behind my name, and the paychecks that went with it.
He was not manipulative like the first guy, but he did have a bad temper, especially if he was drinking. I was never a drinker, never hung around with people who were drinkers. I always assumed that was a phase in some people’s lives, or at most, an occasional thing. It was a friend who made the observation that he was likely an alcoholic because she recognized the signs from her experience with her own father.
Most times when we got into a heated argument, I just wanted to walk away so both of us could cool down. But he would restrain me, which, to this day I have a visceral reaction to being restrained, and did already when I met him. (Wonder why?) He then would take my “freak-out”reaction as a good reason to escalate things rather than back off. Though I was strong back then I was no match for his size and strength. My nerves were so bad at that point, it didn’t really take much to make me feel sheer panic. There were 2 or 3 occasions that involved police. One time when he came home drunk, I just got in the car to leave, locking the car door as soon as I got in. He pounded on the window until his fist went through the glass, and severed a ligament in is arm. I was in a state amounting to shock, at that point. I managed to get past him while he was busy cradling his arm, and set off in the night in my bare feet, going I knew not where, other than away from him. It was the sound of an unfamiliar voice shouting my name, that snapped me back. I turned to see who it was, and it was a neighbor. He had heard my husband call out my name, and he had gone to check on him, and finding him bleeding profusely, he came after me and talked me into coming back to tend to the wound. (Once a caregiver, always a caregiver). I shouldn’t have, but when you are trained, you respond in emergency situations with emergency measures without a whole lot of extraneous contemplation. The neighbor apparently called the police, but back then the officers were not duty-bound to arrest someone unless the abused spouse agreed to press charges. Now the officer can press charges with enough reasonable suspicion that an infraction has occurred, regardless of what the spouse wants or doesn’t want. My busted car window and his bloody arm should have sufficed, but since it was up to me, I frankly was afraid to press charges and have him carted off to jail.
A few weeks after I finally graduated from nursing school, there was a weekend when he didn’t come home. Now, it wasn’t unusual for him to hang out late with his friends. They played softball, watched NASCAR, football, etc, and he had one friend that lived a couple of hours away whom he sometimes spent a weekends with at his lake house for some fishing. I actually welcomed this “space to do our own thing”after my previous experience. I liked that he had his own friends and activities, I had mine, and we were not so enmeshed. But usually he called to tell me where he was and let me know if he was going to crash at one of the friends houses. This one night when he didn’t come home, though, was different. He seemed to be staying away from home more than usual, and when I called his best friend the next morning thinking that was probably where he was, I could tell the friend was caught off guard and trying to be very careful about what he said. Though this was the kind of friend that would have covered for him, he had already blown it with the long “uhhhh” after I asked if my husband was there.
A few moments later my husband called me,and was livid that I had called his friends house “checking up on him”. That was when I realized that there was someone else and it probably had not been the first time it happened. The friend had obviously given him the “heads up”.
The crazy and sad thing was, one of my nurse friends had invited me to her church during this period and I had started attending regularly. Prior to this incident, he had even been going with me, stopped drinking for a while (at home anyway) and seemed to be trying to be a “better man” over all. I thought maybe things were going to turn out okay. I had even begun entertaining the possibility for the first time in my life, of starting a family. He genuinely seemed to like going to church, but when it came to the point of actually getting saved, he stopped short, saying that he felt a need to “straighten up his act” first. I tried to tell him it didn’t work that way, but he just kept saying he wasn’t ready to make that commitment.
In the coming weeks, after the arm-gash incident (he lied to everyone and told them he had caught it on a branch while cutting back some brush). I simply knew intuitively that he was planning on leaving. He didn’t say anything, but we became like strangers, until finally I just said one night “you’re leaving, aren’t you?” He said “Yeah, I am”. I said “were you even going to tell me?” He said, yeah, I was waiting until payday, and I was going to tell you then”. I rolled over and went to sleep, and in the morning, he brought it up again. He actually had tears in his eyes. He said “you deserve better than me, somebody who believes like you do, and I can’t be what you need me to be. You will thank me one day”. (That part turned out to be true). I realize all of that sounds like a line of bull, but truthfully, I believe that God put it in his heart as a way to free me from yet another bad relationship.
I didn’t have the energy to put up a fight. I accepted it pretty calmly. We didn’t have much anyway and I told him I didn’t want anything except what was mine, and for him to pay off some credit cards he had run up. He did that, and gave me a little cash, he filed for the divorce, and I even thanked his friends who helped him move out. He left the day of my 10 Year High School Reunion. I still went to it.
Though I took his leaving pretty well, I obviously had not made any real progress in getting my head together. I still held myself in low esteem, still dealt with depression and anxiety. I was given the diagnosis of “cyclothymic” back then. It is, I guess you could say, a milder, more benign version of bipolar, in that it entails mood swings, they just don’t get as erratic and arc as widely as in Bipolar. At least at that point I was back on speaking terms with God. It was a beginning. If I had understood God’s heart toward me better, if I had known His character, it could have made a difference. I had knowledge only of those things taught in my particular church, and similar to the Catholic church, the people tended to look to the pastor for expertise on scripture. I wasn’t taught to study it on my own, either at church or in my home. Yeah, it was required work the one year at the Christian school, but I somehow never adopted a perspective that it should carry over as a lifelong habit. It was just a required subject like Math and Science. We did manage to have periods when we had family devotions together in our home growing up, but it never got to be an established habit, (nor was family prayer). But I sure do thank God my Mom and Dad took us to church.
Well, after number 2 left, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, going to my job, taking care of patients, paying my bills, going through the motions.
Until the day came when I couldn’t.