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The Monster in My Basement

I want to tell my story.  I need to tell my story.  To speak it aloud and release the shame and regret I feel.  To absolve myself of the responsibility I have taken for other's actions.  To learn how to live with my past decisions.  To discover how my past is a part of me and shaping me, not ruining me.  Because even though I am moving forward, I feel stuck.

When my kids were growing up, I would read them this book where a boy saw a monster in the basement.  His mother was busy in the garden and didn't believe him, so he tackled the monster himself.  At first the monster was a looming presence, but with each swipe of a broom and words of bravery, the monster shrunk.  And shrunk, until it was just a tiny little guy, no bigger than the size of a mouse.  The monster, realizing he could no longer scare the boy, ran away and the boy had nothing left to fear.  My story is my monster.  And speaking it aloud is how I face it, shrink it, until there is nothing left to fear from it.  Nothing left to feel ashamed about.

So judge, don't judge.  Listen, don't listen.  Agree or disagree with my decision to air my dirty laundry.  This is my story and it is mine to tell.

In 2012 I met someone and got remarried.  Two years into our marriage, I discovered he had been unfaithful, several times.  Infidelity is devastating in and of itself, even more devastating was that it had reopened old wounds from my first marriage.  When we were dating, I had shared those wounds with him and trusted that he would honor and respect those hurts.  But instead, he had taken my vulnerability and exploited it.  The betrayal was so deep and incomprehensible, it broke me.

My world had been turned upside down and I was spinning, trying in vain to get some semblance of control and stop this downward spiral.  But I couldn't.  I was empty and I had nothing left to give.  My bucket had run dry, drained of any reserves.

Still the infidelity continued.  But nonetheless, I stayed.  I persisted in vain.  I don't even think I was fueled by hope that things would change, I just didn't have anything left in me to stand up and fight.   The stress of a new marriage, moving twice, blending families, working extra to try and make ends meet, and raising a new baby had taken its toll and I  couldn't leave, I was literally too weak.

And I hated myself for it.  I hated the fact that I had become a woman that didn't have the strength to say, "I deserve more".  I hated that I had become complicit with the fact that he had broken our vows, our sacred vows.  I hated the example I was setting for my children.  I hated the feelings of disappointment and failure, failure at marriage and failing my children.  I hated that I felt stuck, trapped in a sham of a marriage.  Hated that I felt unloved and undesired.

I blamed myself for my circumstances, for my decision to dedicate my life to this man, for ignoring the countless red flags I had seen along the way.  My self-esteem  was worn down to nothing and I sunk into a deep depression.  Believing that I had ruined everyone's chance at happiness I lost all hope.  I grew more and more desperate and became suicidal.  I obsessively researched suicide and this became my new hope.  Peace, at any cost, peace.  I had convinced myself that my children would be better off without me, that I was ruining their lives with my poor choices.  I was in a dark, dark place.

It all became too much, and one day, I told my husband that I was leaving and that I had every intention of ending my life.  Looking back on it, I think at the time it was a desperate cry for help.  One last attempt to try and elicit a loving response to my suffering.  I left and I went to the store to buy the things I would need.  As I sat in the parking lot, I was paralyzed with fear.  I wasn't ready.  So I went back home only to discover my husband lying in bed watching TV, exactly where I had left him.  I was devastated - and angry.  So angry at his apathy towards my pain.

I snapped.  All six of our children were in the house, and I was oblivious to them all.  I was screaming and crying, trying to force him to hear my pain.  I continued to threaten to end my life, desperately trying to get him to see my reality and he finally decided to call the police.  They came to the house, and I was so humiliated.  I tried to take it all back and convince them to let me stay home, but the cat had been let of the bag and there was no putting it back in.  They escorted me to their police car, hands held firmly behind my back.  And I left, without even saying goodbye to my kids.

They took me to the hospital where I was admitted to the psych ward for what would be the first of three admissions as I continued to struggle with depression and suicidal ideation for the next seven months.  During my stays at the hospital I was diagnosed with type II bipolar disorder brought on by a major depressive event.  Barely able to function and unable to handle any more stress, I quit my job.  My job that I loved and was part of my definition of who I was.  It would be a year before I was able to return to work.

That year passed in a blur.  I was so numb to everything going on around me.  It was painstakingly one day at a time.  Sun up to sun down.  Just trying to keep my head above water and fighting off the lies in my head telling me I couldn't do this, that it would be easier to just disappear.  I was told horrible things like I was too fat to be found sexually attractive, that having to take care of my kids was a burden, that he was angry that I had the audacity to even think about taking my life and leaving him to raise our daughter alone, and that living with someone with mental health issues was too difficult.  But despite it all, about 18 months after I had first broken down, I started to feel like I was getting a grip on life.  It's like I was waking up from a deep sleep and the fog was starting to lift.

One month shy of two years since my world had fallen apart, we got into yet another argument.  This time over taking down the Christmas tree.  Once again our arguing had taken him to the point where he voiced that maybe some space and distance would be best for us.  I had always recoiled at this thought and would try and make amends and peace to try and hold us all together.  But not this time.  For whatever reason, in that one singular moment I knew.  I knew that I was done.  I wasn't trapped, all I had to do was choose to leave this situation that had grown so toxic, and the rest would work itself out and fall into place.  So I calmly agreed, and asked him to leave at the end of the month.  And he did.  It wasn't as sterile of a decision as it sounds.  It was scary and it was hard to stick to my guns.  Because despite all that we had been through, I still loved him.  I still believed in that goodness I had seen in him and had fallen in love with.

Fast forward 8 months and I find myself here, in the present moment.  So where's the proverbial happy ending?  It's found in the realization that came just a month ago.  It was a true "aha moment".  I had been looking at my past asking myself why I stayed so long.  That question was haunting me.  How could I have thought so little of myself that I chose to stay?  And try as I might, I couldn't come up with an acceptable answer.  And then it hit me.  I was looking at it from the wrong side.  It wasn't as important to dwell on why I stayed, instead my focus should be on the fact that I got out.  I released myself from that which had such a strong hold on me.  I got out.  And in that moment, defeat turned into victory.  That's my happy ending.

Except, that it's not really an ending so much as it is a beginning.  The beginning to my new story… stay tuned.

Moving on…

I want to acknowledge the family, friends and mental health professionals that have helped me throughout this journey.  I have experienced kindness and love beyond measure.  I continue to be in therapy and receive treatment for depression and bipolar disorder.  I can honestly say I am in a good place.  


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