These posts are old to me but new to some. Enjoy!
The Reality Check (for Domestic Violence Awareness month)
*Trigger Warning: this post discusses emotional abuse. If this is something you have a hard time processing please feel free to take time to do self care and/or come back to this post when you feel you can.*
I wrote The Reality Check to discuss my own issues with emotional and verbal abuse within my marriage. I didn’t, however, discuss the aftermath. It’s not pretty. I had to work on it in therapy. I had to relearn self-esteem and self-worth. I’d lost both. Jake had helped me regain my self-respect- I learned a lot about what I was willing and not willing to take from someone.
Those two things aren’t easy to learn, much less a second time. The decision to stay wasn’t an easy one. I stayed up many nights wondering if I’d screw myself, and more importantly, the kids, over, by staying. Did I? In a way, yes. Things have happened that I didn’t forsee and changes are ongoing. If I’d known these things would happen, I’d have left in 2015.
I was guarded. I didn’t trust Matthew to not hurt or leave me. I wouldn’t let him in, talk to him about anything major. Bills and kids? Sure. Anything else? Forget it. I ended up walking around with all kinds of thoughts and feelings.
What if he goes back to being who he used to be? This stays with me daily. I think it always will. Matthew has made so much progress, but even my former therapist said this is a legit fear. I believe her.
If we get into an argument, is he going to blow up? Therapy helped me learn tools for this- arguing can be done in a healthy way. Taking breaks is very effective.
It’s okay to talk to him..right? I’ve got to try to trust him. This remains a daily struggle. Even with therapy, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully trust Matthew, much less any man, again. I know it’s okay to trust people, but I don’t want to ever be broken again.
I need to make it all look okay.. I didn’t know it then, but everyone around me knew what was going on. Even his dad knew. I withdrew a lot from everyone. I was severely depressed.
Am I going to mess up again? Is this going to be the day everything goes to hell? This has gotten better, thanks to a lot of self talk, progress and therapy. There are bad days but I am able to get through them a lot easier. This is also known as “walking on eggshells”, when you feel everything you do might upset your partner. This is a terrible frame of mind to live in.
I do not blame Matthew at all for my drinking. That was my own decision. The situation we were in, however, crushed me. I could have stopped drinking. I just liked it too much. It was a fun escape, but it got a lot worse after Jake died. My former therapist almost sent me for an inpatient evaluation. As of this post, I’m almost 20 months sober. Many abuse survivors do turn to some sort of substance abuse and that’s a sad fact. It helps dull the pain for sure, but it’s right there the next day.
My liver took a hit, and I’m forever grateful to my primary care physician because she might have saved my life. I’m pretty sure I would have ended up drinking my way into rehab otherwise. It may take years for my liver to return to normal. I damaged my own body because I let someone else destroy me. Let that sink in.
I drank to forget all kinds of pain- the pain of being what I thought was a horrible mom, definitely not a great wife, and the crumbling of my marriage. I kept drinking to forget the pain of losing the future I’d planned. I’m so glad I stopped.
Abuse, in any shape or form, is wrong. I chose to cover emotional abuse because it’s not discussed nearly enough. What happens after needs to be looked at so much more.
The effects can last for years, even if the survivor is able to move forward and find a loving partner. The scary thoughts remain in the back of their mind. Some, like me, always have a backup plan just in case the nightmare comes true- they end up where they never thought they would be again. Some avoid relationships altogether for a long time out of fear. Some, sadly, end up in a chain of abusive relationships.
No matter how things turn out for you, please remember that the abuse is never your fault.
This series was inspired by a Facebook post I read six weeks ago. A member posted this question “Does having a special needs child affect your marriage?” Post after post, people shared examples of how their marriage was tested. Some made it, others did not. I always wanted to create a platform where people could talk and share their experiences, the good and the bad. I cannot thank my collaborator Wrae Meredith Sanders enough for her open and honest contributions. Whatever your decision is, I hope you know you’re not alone and you will make it.
This is the last part of this series. Please feel free to like, comment, and share.
There are many things that I can look back on now and wish that I could change. I’m unable to change the damage that was done to our marriage- both of us did things that we regret but we have been able to move forward together.
If I’d known that we would disagree so much and loudly, I would have shut the door a little more. I would have stopped and asked for a break–this would have helped more than we realized at the time. I would have asked why we had to be right all the time instead of coming up with a compromise.
If I’d known then that I’d spend many nights crying myself to sleep for so many reasons, I would hit the rewind button. I would figure out each separate reason instead of letting it all become a big ball of depression.
I thought I was doing the right thing–fighting you for Julian’s needs. This turned out to be two evaluations, a diagnosis of ADHD (combined), traits of Asperger’s (later amended to High Functioning Autism) and medications. He also needed group therapy.
Moms are supposed to do what it takes for their kids, right? The only thing is, I did it alone. I didn’t listen to you. You didn’t want any of these things to happen because you were in denial. If I had known what to say and not be confrontational, I would have done it. But I didn’t. That’s where I went wrong.
I tried explaining, even in a way you could understand but that didn’t do it. In your family, disabilities aren’t real unless you see it. Julian has the kind you can’t see. You couldn’t see it, so it didn’t exist. This even applied when Julian almost broke my nose and I had to get X-Rays.
I sought out ways to deal with the loneliness. When your husband is in denial and emotionally bashes you daily, you have to find a way to cope. I drank. That was not productive at all.
I went out a lot with people who turned out to not be good for me, you even tried to tell me, but I didn’t trust you enough to care. I worked out in the gym obsessively and lost 60 lbs. Even my doctor was concerned. I barely ate for days on end. This didn’t help my decision making.
We worked hard to put this family back together. I still have problems opening up to you this day. I finished therapy two months ago. You were there from day one to the last and cheered me on the whole time.
During that time, Julian has grown, and he has done well. He finished group therapy and dealt well with a change in providers. He is going into the seventh grade after a few bumps adjusting to middle school.
You’ve become so supportive of Julian and I. When he has a bad day, I know I can tell you about it. You’re happy when he does well. Raising kids isn’t easy and we have three. Having a kid with special needs makes things a bit more interesting and sometimes difficult. I’m glad that both of us decided to make this work.
Thanks. I know Julian wouldn’t say it but I’m sure he likes his mom and dad being together.
Never at the age of forty did I dream I would marry, then become pregnant a few months later. It took us both by surprise yet we agreed to go on this wild journey called parenting. I had a little more experience with raising a child as my daughter was fourteen when we tied the knot.
I was fat, tired, and cranky–everything a pregnant woman is and probably will be as long as little humans continue to beautifully invade our personal space. There were precautions because of my age and health, but I was sure I would go full term.
But I didn’t. He came nearly three months early. After a long stay at the hospitals, oxygen tanks, and therapy, our baby boy could live a normal life.
We both noticed how energetic he was, how once he started talking he couldn’t stop, and how sleep evaded him. No worries though, I sleep trained him. Plus, kids are naturally talkative and hyper, right?
But he never slowed down. After being kicked out of two daycares, we had him evaluated. I already knew, but I wanted to hear the doctor say it. He had ADHD.
I ran straight towards the ADHD armed with books, natural medicine because our pediatrician refused to help him, and age-appropriate behavioral techniques. You ran in the other direction, straight to the door of denial.
Days grew into weeks, months, and even years. Six years isn’t much time to some, but when a person feels like they’re carrying the load alone, it can seem like a millennium.
The feeling is familiar because I went through the same thing raising my daughter alone. I felt overwhelmed all the time. I feel that way now.
As the primary caregiver, I stay on top of his meds, homeschool him, and take him to the doctor’s appointments.
I know you can argue that since I don’t have a nine to five, I should be doing this anyway. I remember carrying the same load as a full-time working mom too.
Yes, you went to the doctor with us sometimes. You ‘yessed’ your way through the appointments, but the heavy part of the load rests on my shoulders.
When he’s having a bad day, I try to redirect. You punish him by sending him to bed.
If he talks back, I remind him that his behavior is inappropriate, you yell at him and say things he will repeat later when he’s frustrated.
Even when you excuse yourself from spending time with him, he loves you anyway.
If I thought you would really listen to what I have to say, I’d tell you that you are creating an insecure man who will be afraid to share his feelings, think he isn’t good enough and may do inappropriate things to get attention.
But I’m not brave enough. What I am is strong. I’m strong enough to walk away and do it on my own.
I don’t want to, but his well being comes first. The only reason I haven’t walked away now is that much like a little girl, I have hope.
You’re not a bad person. That’s why I haven’t left yet.
Until then, I pray we can fix these broken wings.
Thank you so much for reading this series! We appreciate your support during this month. If you missed any of the previous parts, you can catch up here:
I’m such a 90s kid. I’m not ashamed! Another band I loved from that decade is Matchbox Twenty. Rob Thomas is wildly cute and the band was great.
I believe this song was somewhat about feeling like the end of the world was coming but yet the world had come so far. I loved the fast pace of the song.
When you and your life fall apart, it’s easy to feel like you may never feel whole again. You feel shattered and that is a terrible thing. I’ve been put back together twice- but the second time, I did the work myself. Matthew helped, but the work was all me.
Can we start a petition to bring this group back together?
by Wrae Meredith Sanders and Bonnie Harris Price
We all know the hard truth; divorces affect kids. Even when they say they’re okay, you must know something in them breaks when a couple decides to call it quits. Kids may withdraw, eat or sleep too much.
They may even get fed up and tell you how much they hate you.
However, your special needs children may be unable to put it into words, but they know their lives have changed. Children with special needs feel loss, sadness, and pain just like the rest of us.
Most parents don’t split into friendly terms. Even when you try your best to keep it civil, kids feel the tension between you. Sooner or later, the signs of their stress begin to show.
Kids can become very anxious about not knowing what is coming next, where they will be living, going to school, etc. They may fear to lose the other parent, friends, and the home if they have to move, and more. This may lead to problems sleeping, eating and withdrawing from friends. This can also cause issues with concentrating in school, which may be picked up on by teachers.
Kids can feel as if they are losing their family. This can leave kids very sad, which is normal. They may feel sad at having to move, missing the other parent not being in the home daily, the changes in daily life, seeing their parent sad, etc. If the sadness is not addressed, or if it is under an extreme situation, this can become depression and the child may need to see a professional.
Some kids are angry about their parents splitting up and may become aggressive towards them, siblings or other family members. They may become aggressive towards others. This may be a big change in a usually non-aggressive child or may not be in a child that has had issues with aggression in the past. Some kids have issues with saying what they feel and this is their way of saying that they are angry with their lives. Either way, this should be addressed immediately to prevent further issues.
In non-verbal children, aggressive behavior can become a big issue. They can also regress any recently learned behaviors and need extra help and reinforcements to get back on track with positive behaviors. They may also need help with expressing their feelings in positive ways- art and music therapies can be helpful.
Help your child through this trying time
Just as your divorce wasn’t easy, the road to building emotionally healthy children isn’t either. If all it took was love, you’d already be there. However, to make sure that your children adjust, take a look at some of these suggestions.
This is important for all children. Let them express themselves, and for non-verbal kids, this can be difficult. They can draw, write or try other ways to express their feelings. Some kids cry, yell or scream. Some kids withdraw and become quiet, and that may become a cause for concern. Let them ask questions– it’s normal and they do need to know what will be happening. It’s also okay for them to be angry. It’s a big change, and many children are not happy that their parents are divorcing.
Younger kids need fewer details because they may not be able to grasp as much about the situation, but older kids may want to know more.
Parental conflict can damage kids, so try not to fight in front of the kids if possible. Also, try not to make them feel like they have to choose between their parents or criticize the other parent in front of them.
Provide as much structure as possible throughout the separation and divorce. This gives kids a sense of stability. One day, they may seem to “get it” and one day, be a bit unsure. Remain patient– it’s a big change.
Try your best to work out a way to “co-parent” with your ex. Parenting peacefully is easier for everyone involved.
Take care of yourself. This means physically and emotionally. If you need therapy to deal with the split, see someone. Furthermore, keep yourself physically healthy so that you are able to deal with the strain of a divorce.
Incidentally, allow the kids to give input on visitation, but remind them you and your ex-partner remain responsible for the final decision.
Going through a divorce is like going through the grieving process. After everyone deals with the shock and denial, then here come the emotions. Anger, sadness, and depression will be a part of your special needs child processing.
In an ideal situation, both parents should work together to help kids through the transition. On the contrary, if you find yourself dealing with it on your own, by all means, please seek help. There are free and paid resources to help you make it through.
What about you? Are you or did you go through a tough divorce? How did your child seem during the transition? Please share your stories with us below.
This five-part series will continue for the month of June if you haven’t already we invite you to read parts one and two. Please share with friends or family that may be going through this difficult time. We want them to know they’re not alone.