My Shameful Secrets Do Not Define Me
This is difficult to share. It contains shameful secrets and painful realities. I speak from my heart…Please note, that while much of these topics are difficult and shameful and embarrassing…they happen. They happen to everyone. We all make mistakes. We all do things out of fear…when the fear grows greater than the love…you end up with disconnection, loneliness, anger, pain, and regret. I choose to acknowledge the past, accept it, learn and grow deeper in the love and forgiveness. Hugs to all the survivors of divorce, domestic violence and lonely people just wanting to be accepted and loved for who they are…
Surviving divorce is living through your own death. What I mean by that to those who have not walked through and survived divorce, is that is experiencing the death of a marriage, is a heart- wrenching tearing apart of one’s own life. A living death to parts of oneself in order to survive…in other words…if you have a gangrenous leg…in order to live, you must cut it off. No one wants a gangrenous leg. It didn’t become gangrenous overnight, but it happened. You never wanted to be a one-legged human being. You wish that you weren’t in this situation. You fight it. You deny it. You try EVERYTHING to save the leg, but eventually…you have an unavoidable choice…remove the leg or die a slow and painful death. Neither option seems appealing but you don’t choose divorce when you have better options. It comes down to your survival and survival mode isn’t pretty. It is survival. The pain of it is excruciating. It will leave scars. It will change you…for better or worse…
I got married at 18 years old. It seems crazy to me now! My own daughter is already 19 and I can’t imagine her having been married for over a year already! That being said, times are different now than they were in 1991 when I first got married. It really wasn’t that unusual in a small town in Northern British Columbia. Add to that, growing up in a Christian family where sex outside of marriage is considered “very bad” and so you either
A. be a “good girl” and don’t “do IT” until after you are married (leading to many marriages at an early age)…
B. you do “IT” but, you feel guilty and naughty and hide the fact from everyone and end up getting pregnant because you simply aren’t prepared for doing “IT” and then deal with the aftermath of public shame and humiliation or perhaps you have an abortion quietly and privately and hold the secret shame within your heart and never tell anyone, or you have the baby and everyone talks about you behind your back in whispered voices...
C. you leave your family values behind and head wildly into the “WICKED WORLD” abandoning your faith and losing your family sense of belonging in the process. Looking back, those choices seem ridiculous, but at the time they were very very real.
At 18 years old, life is pretty black and white and I thought those were my choices and so while I hesitated inside at the idea of getting married so young…I felt compelled to “make things right” in the eyes of my family, friends and my world, such as I knew it, because of course I was having sex and of course I was hiding it and of course I got pregnant. WOW. Typical small town story of a good Christian girl gone bad. No one knew I had gotten pregnant, I lost the baby early on and that was that. Silent grief. Unshared. Secret. Shameful. Because I had lost the baby long, long before the wedding, I did not get engaged or married because of getting pregnant, I got married because I wanted to be a “good girl” and because I was in love! That being said, I know with certainty I would have preferred to wait to get married, but felt tremendous pressure to be a “good girl” and do the right thing.
Shortly after I got married, my parents moved far away to Central America to start a new adventure. I was in nursing school and newly married and I was pretty happy actually. Then came babies and diapers and the stress of being a young working Mom living my “perfect” life in my “perfect” world where I did whatever I could to “make it work” just the same way I “made things right” by getting married.
I lost connection to who I was because I was afraid. I was afraid to be authentic. I was afraid to stand up for myself in case…in case my husband would react in anger, in case something terrible would happen if I did not “conform” to this image of perfection I had created in my own mind of what I needed to do in order to make others happy and in order to “belong” to my world and my people.
Years went by…I lost myself in others. Eager to please. I wanted to be the best Mom, the best wife, the best person I could be by making everyone around me happy, and I did it “perfectly”.
I hid my feelings because I hated feeling vulnerable. I had no friends that I could confide in. I had no family close by, and we ended up moving a lot. I had always moved a lot, and this somehow perpetuated my sense of independence and not “needing” anyone. This reinforced my need to portray my image rather than be myself. I wasn’t real with my feelings…I was pretty numb to real emotions EXCEPT when it came to my kids. My kids were my responsibility and I loved and protected them with all my passion and fury. My husband loved the kids equally, and everything became “all about the kids”…
My husband and I became very busy in the demands of life. He too had his own issues with authenticity and vulnerability. As with many men…these feelings are rooted in fear and become characterized by anger and the need to control. He had his own issues stemming from his own judgments and neither one of us had any idea that all this was churning beneath the surface of our perfect little façade.
Once the demands of the babies slowed down and life began to settle down somewhat…I entered my 30’s. Suddenly, I started to have a little bit more time to “BE” rather than just “DO”. By this time I had become a master at efficiency and organization and my household ran with perfect synchronicity, and I had time to discover myself.
It turned out that I really liked being outdoors.
I discovered running and the soothing rhythm of my feet pounding the pavement and trails became a wonderful way to cope. Running became incredibly important to me…I did not understand it at the time, but I was running from my life. As I began to discover myself and began to allow myself to “feel”…things at home became very difficult for me. I started to stand up for myself in countless small ways. My husband didn’t understand what was happening to me and in the discomfort of change…fear set in and he became very controlling. At the same time…my need to break free of my own self-limiting beliefs became an unstoppable journey towards becoming real…I could not stop…I had to be ME…I wanted and longed to be REAL. To laugh loudly and “inappropriately” and to say what I was thinking…not what I felt I “should” say. Not what everyone else wanted to hear. I had enough of being “shooshed” and being told what I could and could not do…and what a “good” Christian did or did not do, say or did not say. There was no LIFE for me in that life…
I took more steps toward myself. I was torn apart on the inside. I told my husband I wanted a divorce. What was “WRONG” with me? What kind of woman abandons her husband and children?
A very, very “BAD” one.
I was called a WHORE.
20 years of being a wonderful wife and mom to our 4 kids suddenly meant NOTHING. In one moment…I became a “BAD GIRL” the very image I had tried all my life to avoid…the “bad girl” image was now my reality.
The burning shame…what people thought and said. No one knew the truth…but everyone certainly had an opinion and sides were taken. Someone was to blame.
I took it. I took the blame. I took the shame. I walked…no RAN…from it all. Sealing the “GUILTY” verdict present in everyone’s mind. I left my kids. My husband. My home. My job. It was the most difficult time of my life. I was completely alone. In my physical being, in my heart, in my soul, I was completely bereft…except for myself and my faith in something bigger than myself…not religion…but GOD…a presence whose love and generosity I could feel in those darkest times of my life when no one knew the truth about what was really happening but everyone assumed that they did.
I leaned into who I was and who I wanted to become. It became unimportant that others were judging me so harshly. I only allowed myself to care about myself and what was important to me. This required me to re-evaluate everything. It was absolutely terrifying.
In this process of re-evaluation and grief over my life, I caused waves of misunderstanding by not talking about what was happening and not setting the record straight in my usual way of silence. I let people think what they wanted and did not bother to correct those assumptions. Back then, I did not know how to fight…my wars were always waged outside of conflict and vulnerability, my wars were managed within myself in which I denied myself the rights to pain, denied myself feelings of hurt and refused to become vulnerable out of fear. Back then I had no voice to speak, my voice had been snuffed out and strangled under a lifetime of being “shooshed”. I had to find my voice, but at that time it was had to breathe, let alone speak about what was happening. The intensity of my pain and vulnerability at that time absolutely forbade me utterance.
Despite my silence, I knew who I really was inside and that was what I clung to. I never discussed my reasons for leaving with my kids. I simply did what I needed to do in order to survive.
My kids were confused about what was happening and overheard many conversations about me and what kind of “bad” person I was…It was all spoken with self-righteous indignation. Bottom line…what kind of woman abandons her family? I was told…with the exception of being physically beaten and/or my husband having an affair…there was simply no reason good enough…therefore, I was "BAD". Filled with rebellion. I needed to REPENT.
By this point, I had no ability to defend myself. I was completely outnumbered by the critics and haters…any fighting I did was for myself. At the core of my own internal argument was questioning my decision to leave, discovering who I actually was, what kind of person I actually was and if in fact, I was a bad girl? It was a dark and painful time for me…I missed my family. My relationship with my kids was completely fractured. Trust was destroyed.
I could have fought for my kids, my life, my home, my possessions, and trashed my husbands’ reputation. I wanted to. I wanted to lash out and tell everyone everything about what had led to this decision… Leading up to all this was years of bad behavior that I accepted, Years and years where I did not make my boundaries clear. Where I did not stand up for myself out of fear. I did not realize that silence was acquiescence… permission granted to behave badly. I did not understand that I was an accomplice to my own disappearing self. That being said, my situation at home was not healthy. When fear is greater than love…you have domination, emotional manipulation, and the need to control. I was afraid to rock the boat for a very good reason. At the time I didn’t realize it because it had become so normalized…I was numb to that too. When things eventually got physical, I knew I had to leave.
Back then; in my quest to become my true self, fighting others did not exist within me. I never wanted my kids to think they had a "BAD" Dad, and as much as his shitty behaviors towards me were true at times, they did not make up the entire value of their father. If I engaged in this sort of “eye for an eye culture” wouldn’t I just be perpetuating all that I was trying to escape from? A different sort of fake me…I wasn’t on a quest to become someone different than who I was…I was trying to become MORE of the person I already was but had somehow lost along the way.
It was incredibly hard. It still is. Divorce is a living death. It doesn’t just end once divorce occurs. We are inextricably connected to one another. This connection is ongoing through our children, through our memories, through our pain, and through our shared life experiences. To deny the past is to deny the future. We remain a part of our past because it is part of us. We are molded by our experiences.
For some divorce survivors, living as a “one-legged human” leaves them destroyed in the wake of anger, bitterness, pain, and resentment. Maybe regret and longing for what once was are all that is left and the temptation to succumb to alcohol or drugs in order to numb the pain becomes a daily habit. OR, like me…you find the courage to delve deep into pain and yourself and do whatever is required in order to learn, grow, understand and become healthy and whole. This is an incredibly courageous and difficult decision. Afterwards, you are the person you fought hard to become, and the harder you fight the more "you", you will be. Fight fiercely! You are worth it!
For a long period of time, I ached with despair. I suffered from anguish and pain and questioned my decision over and over again. I experienced depression, anxiety, panic attacks and health problems during those years. I dug in, held on, pushed through and did whatever it was I needed to do to find my way through it. It got worse before it got better. Don't give up.
Today, I am no longer burdened with having to be something I am not…I am left with scars, but I have found relief in my scars…they speak to my humanity. The story of my life is in the beauty of my imperfection. Being REAL is such a source of true joy! Loving and accepting myself in the reality of my imperfection is a challenging journey, but worth every step because I am free to be myself. Knowing that my worth does not come from what I do, what people think or say about me…my worth is in who I am as a person. I have fought very hard to become the person I am today.
These words have been difficult to share.
I share them in hopes that you will feel empowered to take the journey to becoming…
Someone that does not find fault in herself, or have to achieve an impossible perfect reality, or need to be a “good girl” according to what everyone else thinks that is.
I hope that you can find the courage to be clear about your boundaries and communicate them clearly because YOU ARE WORTH IT.
Give yourself permission to be yourself.
Lose the fear of “Rocking the Boat”.
Dare to make others unhappy by standing up for yourself.
Stop being a victim.
You do not need to sacrifice who you are in order to make others happy and comfortable. The girl inside you has the beauty of imperfection because she is REAL…and she is worth discovering, honoring and cherishing.
The judgments you hear in your head do not have to define you…
Have the courage be who you are, share your gifts with the world, and follow your wild heart.
Don’t settle for fake …there is only one YOU. Be YOU!
Find your fierce.
Take the journey.