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The end of an era

I'm coming to the end of my time in Mental Health Couseling. I have my last appointment set. I've been here before. Last time, I was still married, and not yet separated. I had no idea of the storm that lied ahead of me. Now, I feel that even if that storm were to hit again, I could handle it. Yeah, it would suck. Like, real bad. I'm not saying it would be pain free, or absent of scarring. But I have the resources and tools and support, and I know how to use them. I understand the processes that need to happen to properly grieve a situation. To validate my own experience, to come to an acceptance and understanding, to feel the full brunt of it, and pick myself back up and carry on.

I've had to make some tough choices for myself lately. You see, throughout the whole divorce process, I was always open to a reconciliation. Hopeful, even. I am, in many ways, a fundamentalist, and the way I saw it, she hadn't wronged me in any real way until the papers were signed. So, when that happened, the anger stage of grief that I hadn't allowed myself to experience yet started to rear its ugly head. For about two weeks, the majority of what I talked to anybody about was just venting frustrations and seeing the marriage for what it really was. My blinders and filters had been removed.

My boss was supportive of me through the whole situation. A couple weeks ago I stayed about a half hour after work, and we just had a chat. He was really building me up, telling me that I hadn't done anything wrong, etc. I don't know what happened, but it was like a switch went off in my head. You see, through my childhood/upbringing, and then into my marriage, I had put a lot of things on my own shoulders that went wrong, even when it was in no way my fault. The military kind of exacerbated that, too, because taking on responsibility was a sign of maturity, and that you're willing to take heat for your subordinates, and therefore be a leader. It's kind of a messed-up way of thinking. I won't expand on that though.

This switch that went off, if I were to describe it, was a shift in perspective. That I was a good person trying to do good things. That I wasn't the bad guy other people, and I, had made me out to be. That a lot of the situations that went south were not my fault. I read through some of the conversations. I relived a lot of the memories. And the issues at hand, the concerns that I felt, were completely valid, and that I had been invalidated, manipulated, gaslit. I was being held to an unrealistic standard that she wasn't holding for herself or any of her friends.

I realized that I wasn't allowed to feel. I realized that I wasn't allowed to have a panic or anxiety attack. I realized that I wasn't allowed to try to be financially responsible and secure. And so, I withdrew into myself. She got bored, and ultimately, she ended up dumping me, repeating a cycle that she was so used to, saying "this happened with all of my boyfriends" (yes, being compared to her boyfriends took me aback). I realized I was the collateral damage of someone in need of healing (which, needing healing is nothing to be ashamed of, and I don't fault her for it.)

Many of these same insecurities that caused this downward spiral continued into our post-separation, co-parenting relationship. Once again, I do not fault the person, just the actions. We are all human, and in need of love, and we all have wounds and triggers, and figuring out our way around those is tricky. It takes work. It was clear to me that this work wasn't being pursued. Some conversations that happened within the last few months made me realize that what happened in the marriage wasn't exclusive to the marriage, that this problem wasn't temporary. That my efforts to pursue a quality marriage, and when that failed, a quality co-parenting relationship, were futile, and I was overextending myself for a hopeless cause.

So, I had to make the difficult decision of setting a boundary. I decided that parallel parenting was going to be the way we would continue forward. Completely separate. That I do not desire to commune with someone who does not treat me like a human being with feelings, emotions, issues, problems, concerns. Who not only invalidates me but treats me like the wrongdoer. This is how it was in the marriage, this is how it's been since separation, and I do not see any change or improvements, so I could not assume that it was ever going to happen. So I had to protect myself and my mental and emotional health. I could not attempt to live out her dreams when she herself was not willing to put forth any effort to live out her own dreams. Also, I had to unfollow her and some of her friends because I saw that they were triggers for me. That they would talk shit about me that I didn't do and didn't deserve. But there's no way I could possibly change their minds, and so they can believe what they want to believe, and I will continue to be the good person I know myself to be.

Flipping the script made a lot more sense to me. I do not desire to be seen as a victim, but at the very least I am not an aggressor. But for the things I used to get defensive about, I put myself in the shoes of the hurt person, and it makes a lot more sense and instead feels validating. I was conditioned to believe that I should accept responsibility for things I didn't do, and that it was a good thing, and that I also deserved any punishment or consequences that came along with it. I'm no longer willing to do that. It doesn't solve the problem at its roots, and it certainly doesn't make me feel good. And I know my value and my intentions, and if anybody else wants to assume otherwise, then that is on them and not on me, and I don't need to suffer consequences of them not giving me the chance to be heard.

So here I am, at the end of my therapy journey (but not my Mental Health Journey; that is ongoing). I'm making decisions for myself that validate how I feel, and what I know to be true. I don't second guess myself based on how someone else talks to me. I'm able to pass along good qualities and traits to my son. I'm able to open up my experience to him, and validate his experience. I am able to lead in a loving way, and not try to control who he becomes, but allow him to open up and flourish and become the most pure version of himself. This has been, at its most basic level, my drive for my whole Mental Health Journey. So Kudos to me. Reaching these goals is a dream come true for me. I've been working so hard for so long, and I'm ready to start walking on my own two feet, leaning on my resources and support when needed, of course.

The positive that has come out of this has really been the knowledge and validation. That I'm a good person, I can see that my intentions are pure, and that I can ignore the haters. That I can spot symptoms of struggle, and realize that their actions and reactions are a reflection of what is going on inside of them, and not truly anything I've done to deserve such treatment. It frees me from bonds of shame and regret from things I wasn't ever guilty of. While I wish I could have learned this all the easy way, I will take the lesson how it comes, show up for myself, and move forward. Here's to a free, confident, and authentic future.

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