Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Unseen Bruises

Marrying young and being unworldly, inexperienced and unsuspecting had consequences.

At 19, 20, 25, etc, although I was intelligent, athletic and vivacious, I'd been sheltered. From alot of the ugliness of the world, which is fortunate and not so.  A very young woman then, I didn't know that life doesn't insulate good people, life doesn't protect Christians (or other 'good' religious people) from bad experiences. 

I certainly didn't know then what mental illness was. Mr. Christian Man's behavior was erratic, confusing and terrifying. Mr. Christian Man believed strongly, but wrongly, that I was unfaithful and a liar. Consequently, his daily actions against me, were based on me being an adulterer, whore, slut, lesbian, etc. 

Of course, I'm postulating all these years later. Even in the worst, last days of our marriage, I never one time believed Mr. Christian Man was waking up and intentionally deciding to make our lives living hell.

I'll leave the analysis of a probable mental disorder to the professionals. To me, I believe he was ill of mind or ill of behavior somehow and acting out, similar to a person who is experiencing schizophrenia. The voices in his head were very, very real, to him. He wasn't being purposefully abusive. I'll swear on the Bible or on my Mother's life. Never intentionally abusive.

Mental illness isn't a choice. It is an organic brain disorder. We as a society are more cognizant of the enormity of the problem and in many circumstances, we have drugs these days that can help the sufferers live normal lives.

But way, way back then, I didn't know about mental illness. Add to that mix a controlling man with his youthful, zealous religious beliefs and it can make for some baffling days and nights. He pounded Christianity into my head, I always came up short. He pounded my head and my body that I was not faithful. 

I thought I needed to try harder. I was trying to be a good Christian, a wife and the mother of a very small child.

I'm shocked now as I reflect, but even despite all this I was still trying to accomplish, I was making attempts to attend college, at night.

I had to finagle and beg to go to school, and consequently I was living in parallel worlds. Day to day was consumed in placating in various ways Mr. Christian Man's current abhorrent belief/rage about me. Naively, I just thought I'd missed the mark somewhere, like I needed to do better. If he didn't believe me, I needed to fix that.

While I no longer dreamed of being an attorney, I still craved knowledge. That was exciting to me. Learning, being humbled and stimulated by what others have achieved. Understanding concepts, development, theory. And history. And so much more. This was visceral, innate. 

This I remember as if it was yesterday. In the drizzling rain, I'm walking across innumerable parking areas, passing hundreds of cars towards lit buildings that represent education to me. There are niches where young co-eds easily sip coffee or hot cocoa from styrofoam cups and talk of life. It seemed quaint and lovely.

Contrary though, I'm walking steadfastly but holding my textbooks tight to me, knowing everyone else around me in this seemingly nonchalant environment did not know that I'd gone to battle to be here, walking bruised and beaten. I recall feeling there was an invisible parameter around me; I knew I looked normal, but I wasn't.

That vivid memory is smeared with the quiet terror that surrounded my life, making even these definite memories grey, obscured and impenetrable. Despite my efforts, there was to be no protection from a life of terror. 

Participating in class activities was a form of trying to achieve, trying to touch normal. Almost like being as worthy of the rest of the class. Almost like being safe. 

But I wasn't. 

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