(Originally posted 11-Oct-2018)
The defining moments in my life are often linked to my ex-husband and my former mother-in-law. I consider everything up to the moment I moved out my “first life” and don’t visit there often. The kids are adults now. My ex has been gone for years. Maybe it is time to write my memoirs of that past life. But where would I start?
It was 2000, and I was a homewrecker. My son says he remembers his dad calling me a homewrecker. He said he didn’t know what it meant at the time, but he does now. I have to be the villain in the story. His dad is gone now, and you’re not to speak ill of the dead. I’m the homewrecker. I fell in love with a man 2,000 miles away because he was nice to me. I never made plans to meet up with him at a hotel a half hour away, like his dad did with “daisy” — the chat logs between my late ex and this married lady would be an interesting read. But I’m the homewrecker, for feeling an emotional connection with someone who made me feel like I had worth. At some point between the divorce and his dad’s death, my son must have gained some information, some juicy details no one should share with a child. I’m a homewrecker. Hated by the child who didn’t know what the word meant. Hated because all it takes to gain the adoration of an abused woman is common human decency.
It was 2000, and the gun was loaded. I couldn’t see a round in the chamber, but I knew the gun was loaded. Why wouldn’t it be? It sat on the table between us, inanimate but radiating violence. “Do it,” he said. “Do it, and get it over with.” Apparently, what I needed to do was use the gun to kill myself, because he was tired of hearing me say, “I can’t live like this anymore.” I didn’t mean that I wanted to die. I meant that something needed to change. But it wasn’t going to be him. It was going to have to be me. The gun was loaded. The gun is always loaded. The thought crossed my mind to reach for it. My mind showed me the gun in my hand. My mind also showed me him reaching for the gun faster than I could, and then the gun was in his hand. Would the gun know what was best? I just stared at the gun. I couldn’t look at the man telling me to do it, to die, to reach for the gun and see who the gun decided to choose first. The gun is always loaded. My mind raced through all of the options, and settled on staring at the gun as if it might move on its own if I looked away.
It was September 2000. Never thought I would actually honestly try to kill myself. I probably knew all along that the random assortment of pills in the medicine cabinet wouldn’t hurt me all that much. Maybe. Why would I believe someone who told me I abused my kids, and just didn’t remember doing it? I later discovered it was called gaslighting, but at the time, I didn’t think I had any reason to doubt this person’s word. If I was capable of abusing my kids and just not remembering doing it, I had to do something to protect them. From me. I was crazy, after all. I was “urged” to visit psychologist after psychologist. When it appeared that they couldn’t find what was “wrong” with me, I was obviously lying to them, and had to go see a new one. At least a half dozen kept finding the same thing… I was depressed. But, aside from that… nothing wrong with my brain. They couldn’t see the crazy, so I was hiding it from them. Clearly it was credible that I could outwit any psychologist but not conceivable that I was not insane. Gaslighting. Strange term. But years later, it makes more sense of a situation that could never really make sense to a sane person.
After I left, I finally received a diagnosis that made most of my life make sense. I’ve often thought of writing memoirs, but the time was never right. I’m still in touch with my divorce attorney, one of my life-saving angels at the time. She is still convinced that my story should be shared. It has been 18 years since the suicide attempt that landed me in the hospital, and opened the door to escape. Maybe it IS time.