My parents were not abusive parents, but they weren't happily married. My father was a kind man, but quite the alcoholic and my mother suffered from extreme depression. At the age of four, my parents divorced. I would try so hard to take care of my dad, hoping that I could, believing that if I could only “fix it” things would be OK. I wound up doing the foster child thing, stuff like that. I just wanted to be loved and wanted. I married, believing that was finally going to give me the happy family I craved.
My mother lived about an hour away in a high-rise apartment. Her depression was deep and she took a lot of prescription pills, so when I went to knock on her door I always feared she would not answer. Sure enough, one day, my husband and I went to see her. She knew I was coming, but she also knew I was an hour away. She arranged it like that. Maybe it was a gamble, I don't know. I used my key and went in. I found her on the floor, ashen gray and nearly dead. At the hospital they told me that had I not arrived when I did, she would have died. I recognized it as a cry for help, so I moved her closer to me and into a nicer place where I could keep a better eye on her.
It's hard, amazingly hard, to see your mother, the woman who raised you, gave birth to you, wanting to die from her own hand. It was decidedly hard for me to be the one to find her and to save her. If I wasn't the “fix-it person” before, I was definitely the “fix-it” person then. She eventually did wind up killing herself; she had developed horrific emphysema and was beyond miserable. She cut off her own oxygen and left me a note, telling me how much she loved me. It was self euthanization, in its way, and I don't blame her for that. That time was way different.
Five years later my husband I separated. He was a very talented and creative man. He had a very successful job in Napa, He came from a very “well-to-do” family; Dad was a doctor, Mom was the perfect socialite, etc, etc. However, his childhood had been horrific. Dark Skeletons. His dad was having an affair for years and his mom was so emotionally locked up she could barely smile. As a child my husband would try to get attention from his father and one day put his fist through a wall. He was only acting out as a teenager, but rather than cope with that, his father opted to put him through electric shock therapy. Over and over again. When he returned home he was sluggish, so they put him on methamphetamines to bring him out of that. Things needed to appear perfect. Then he was diagnosed manic-depressive. (go figure).
He was having money trouble. We had not been getting along, I did not agree with a lot of things and we had been separated only one month when the police showed up at my door. He had put a gun in his mouth. Thank God I didn't find him. I was out in the yard and I just became my own pile of dead leaves. I was just gone. Several couples came to see me that day, to do what they could do, pay their respects. One couple, Cassandra and Kay, saw that I needed more than just a little support. They insisted I come with them to their house. Thank God they did. I woke up in the middle of the night and I was so guilt ridden. I felt as if I had killed him! If only I had done this, if only I would have done that, on and on. That was 35 years ago. It still scares me to think about it. If those women hadn't taken me with them, I know I would have taken my life that night. I know it. I didn't yet have enough of my own self to hold onto. They saved my life.
I was a relationship addict. I, wanted, more than ever wanted to have that perfect, loving, relationship with someone. I just wanted the nice little family. I felt I was all alone.
At that point I became involved with my second husband. I was 39, and we had a child. But before we even got married he did things like tear my bathroom apart with me in it. In the first couple of months, I really should have had the strength to look at that and say, “Uh, no, thank you.” But I didn't. I wanted this relationship because I wanted “any” relationship. The thoughts went like this: I need this person, I neeeeeed to be wanted, I neeeeed to be loved.
We wound up living with my father in Booneville. We couldn't find work where we were and my father could no longer live alone so it seemed like a logical move. My father was a kind man in his life, but the alcohol had taken its toll on him and he was becoming paranoid and senile. It was difficult to deal with him, my small child and my very unsupportive husband. When it would get to be too much, my husband would mockingly laugh in my face until I burst into tears. He was horribly emotionally abusive and eventually it became too much. I looked well, I acted well, but I was destroyed inside at that point; all I had ever wanted was support and it seemed it would never come.
One day I remember simply walking by the kitchen and seeing the kitchen knives. It was surreal. It was like I was watching myself from the outside in. I saw my hand reaching for one of the knives and getting ready to plunge it into my own heart. Something made me pull my hand back away. I thought, “I love that little boy” and I vowed that I would never go there again.
My father passed away and my son and I moved out into the hills with what little money I had. I spent two years alone and then the anxiety crept in – I was hungry for a relationship, some contact. But I managed to stay alone. I needed to be done with it. There were a couple of times where I met a guy and nearly went there, but when I saw their anger and their angst I realized that I didn't have to be the fix-it person to be loved and I did not need to go through that again. Maybe it was me, maybe a guardian angel, maybe both, but somehow I managed to step away.
One day I decided to take my son to an outdoor family-oriented event. I kept thinking to myself, “OH, maybe I will meet some guy today!” When I was getting ready to go, I looked in the mirror and I swear a voice outside my head said to me, “Susan, how about you stop trying to make something happen and just let it happen? How about that?” It was an eye-opener for me.
Two weeks later I met Derald. He was my neighbor; we would talk on the phone a lot about lots of things and slowly got to know each other. It hit me that I was ready to act sane in a relationship - “Wow, this is what a healthy relationship is like and I finally know how to appreciate that!” I had learned to care enough about myself and my child to find someone good enough for us. And I believed, finally, that I deserved it.
We have been together for 20 years. It wasn't Derald that
saved me, it was me. I learned that, although I craved love so much, it
had to come from within first, and I learned to believe that it would
eventually come from without as well. It's not easy, but you have to have
faith that you are worth your own love before you can even begin to truly
be loved by another person.
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