Thursday, January 6, 2011

Practical Jude's Story

“I learned love was not lost; it was simply in a holding pattern and I am the beholder.” 

Porch Dreams
by Practical Jude

In May of 2004, I left his house and looked back at the porch where I once sat and watched for him to come home. There’s no way to “pretty up” the part of the story that describes the devastation I felt as I finally accepted everything I believed was a mirage. I lived in constant pain and I thought about suicide; if I was so wrong about him it was possible I was wrong about everything I believed in and loved.  As I walked away I ended the five- year tumultuous love affair I thought may lead to marriage, but instead, it ended in an awakening that may have gone unlived if it weren’t for experiencing his lies, deception, and betrayal. I walked away, stared at the porch that had become a symbol of all my hopes and dreams, carrying a broken spirit and an empty checkbook. I prayed this was the end - I prayed I’d never go back to him as I had done so many times before.

Three months prior, I had a nightmare so terrifying it prompted me to spring out of bed and search for a support group. I woke in a daze and realized I was still alive – but was I?  He hadn’t killed me in the dream but he was, slowly and insidiously, killing my soul. In that foggy, awakening moment I felt spiritually dead and prayed for one more day - that’s all...just make it through one more day. Then I remembered a conversation I had at work when I told a friend about his behavior and she said, “Sounds like NPD to me – I should know, I was married to one.”  Feeling panicky, I rushed to the computer and typed “NPD support” in the search box and found a NPD support group, once hosted by MSN. 

The relief I felt after finding a group of strangers who knew exactly what I was about to tell them is hard for me to describe. I wasn’t all that familiar with the computer but had a crash course while tracking him on dating sites discovering he was an internet predator to unknowing women.  I didn’t know who I was talking to but it didn’t matter since we all spoke the same language.  I was embarrassed to tell members I was a psychiatric nurse because I had “book knowledge” of NPD, worked with patients with Axis II – NPD and thought I’d be told, “You should know better.”  I also falsely assumed that my knowledge and experience could shield me from his abuse and I’d experienced too much in the workplace to “taken in” by a liar and manipulator. When I first accepted he was sick, I assumed I’d be able to nurse him back to reality but instead, it was this group of enlightened members that nursed me to back to health. Day after day, for three months straight, women helped me learn how narcissists capitalize on our emotions and assured me that loving the narcissist wasn’t something to be ashamed of. 

Support from the members was all I needed to plan my departure, knowing it wasn’t going to be easy. It was only a year ago I had moved my entire house into his house, and I sunk my money into fixing up his house to sell; we’d planned to sell both of our houses and buy a condominium together. Emotionally, I was accepting the dream of spending our lives together was over, but can I just pick up and leave the kids?  His children had spent the majority of the past five years with us, both at my house and his.  I stayed quiet about my plans and began mourning, seeing how his illness impacted his marriage, his kids and all he came in contact with.  With intense sadness and no energy, I’d sign on to the forum, and members helped me motivate and write “The Escape Plan.” 

I was scared but I wanted out.  I needed to continue to make dinner, help the kids with their homework, come up with some money and buy a dependable car, put my house on the market, secretly arrange for movers to get me out of there, find an apartment and continue to go to work each night as if nothing changed.  It was a good plan until he noticed something had changed – I changed.  I no longer cried and screamed about finding out he had women in my bed while I was at work and I stopped giving him money for bills and groceries.  He sensed I was leaving and went totally berserk. 

Being an unusually cold Wisconsin winter, and waiting for the nights he knew I’d be home alone, he disconnected the power to the house, turned off the furnace, and disconnected the phone lines (which were also the internet connection). I didn’t have a cell phone at the time, so I sat in the cold, dark house until I realized once he came home from work in the morning he’d go into the basement and undo his evil deeds. When he discovered I learned how to relight the pilot light, he upped the ante becoming physically abusive at times.

The escape plan was altered as the drama continued.  The seemingly quiet, loving man I almost married was a raging monster. I called the police on several occasions, informed my sister and friends of what was happening, poured out my heart and shared my fears with my forum sisters.  He finally was taken to jail, only to be let out the same evening when I was told he wasn’t allowed to return to the house.  When he came home I ran upstairs to the tenant to call the police and he locked me out of the house.  I greeted the police, outside in my robe, and explained what had happened and he they weren’t able tell me much except it appeared he was let out of jail on some “paperwork technicality.” They made him open the door and he went to work as if nothing happened.  I explained to the police the movers were scheduled for Friday (it was early in the week) and they said, “If I were you, I’d leave now.”  Matter of fact, they told me straight out it was his house and insinuated I wasn’t really planning on leaving. 

Bless my sister, Linda, and my friends.  I called my sister and we packed all night.  I called a friend and she arranged for her cousins to be at the house in the morning with a truck. My friend, Lena, called more friends and the packing continued and I rented a u-Haul for the following day.  Two days later, I was moved into an apartment and believe it or not, before the last load was put onto the truck, I took the time to tell him how sorry I was things didn’t work out between us.  For months I had walked the walk and now everything was out of the house.  My heart, however, remained somewhere in-between my apartment and the familiar white porch with the rocking chair. 

In my apartment I felt safe – safe and lonely.  In retrospect, it’s plain to see I still wanted closure.  Soon after I left we talked via email about “my mail” but it’s clear to me now how I continued contact because I wasn’t reading mail – I was mourning.  He mentioned I had some of his movies and I told him I’d drop them in his mailbox the following week.  This healing phase, I’ll call it detached…yet not detached, was a period when I finally got back to ME. I read inspiring books, lit candles and took bubble baths.  I talked with my forum sisters daily and loved the quiet, lack of drama.  It was also a time of questioning myself – was there any truth to some of the things he told me?  Not experiencing the daily abuse, was it as bad as I remembered it to be?  He sounds remorseful – Has he changed back into that wonderful man I met five years ago?  My questions were soon answered when Mr. Control freak showed up at my apartment to collect the movies I hadn’t dropped off at his house. His side of the story depicts me as the controlling one, when in all honesty I felt too vulnerable to go back to the house – even if it was to drop something in the mailbox.

I was yakking away early one morning in the MSN chat room when I heard the door buzzer.  I peeked outside and saw his car and my anxiety level shot through the roof, so I talked about him being inside my building and how I’d just ignore him.  The buzzing continued.  Then, my phone rang.  I kept talking about how persistent he was and laughed it off at first, but after one hour of continuous buzzing and phone ringing my forum sisters said to me, “Isn’t it about time you called the police? – He’s not leaving.”  The old panic feelings rose as I dialed the phone.  How dare he come into my space again…and, will the police scare him off?  The police never scared him in the past.  He fled moments before the police arrived. The officer believed me when I showed him the call history on my phone.  His number appeared approximately 40 times, and he told me he’d drop by his house for a visit.  He also told me to get a restraining order and the process of writing my statement to the judge that followed was the best closure a woman could ask for.

I got out the folder; my letters to him - his emails to OW.  The birthday card he gave me – his penis pictures sent via email to OW. The poetry I wrote for him – his profiles from multiple dating sites.  My letter (never sent) to OW – his written promise to make her happy.  My log of police calls – his log of secret rendezvous. In chronological order, I mapped out five years of abuse for the judge, knowing he’d only be interested in the physical abuse scenarios’, which were few.  I wrote the dates in a column and the specific abuse next to them and after I finished, I got the idea to write what I felt about our relationship, and how things were going in general, at the time before and after each abuse episode.  Everything I had talked about on the forum, everything I learned from my sisters, everything I had ever read about narcissism, and everything I ever read or questioned about the abuse cycle was right there before my very eyes.

My friend, Lena, had seen the marks he left on my back and agreed to be my witness in court.  The judge turned out to be a she and I’ll admit it, as prepared as I was, I was most relieved I didn’t have to attempt to convince another man of the realities of what harassment and a fear of safety can do to a girl. N put on his best victim performance and I knew It was a done deal when he began stuttering. The real epiphany? It took this long, painful process of documentation and standing up to him; talking about him in public and listening to him lie once again, to know it wasn’t my fault. 

But then, it was my fault to meet him about a year later for dinner.  When he opened his mouth I knew he had one goal and one goal only -for me to tell him he wasn’t abusive. When I changed the subject, he changed the subject.  He asked me if we could get back together and I choked and literally spit my food onto the table. Getting back together would mean he didn’t do anything wrong and he still held the power to control me.  I replied, “after all we’ve been though – you must be kidding.”  And then, he decided to share the stories of how he was still preying upon women via the Internet.  When he spoke about his new “friends” he was critical, cold and unforgiving. What I’d learned about NPD on the forum I saw clearly now…from an emotional distance. And from a distance, I was still invisible. He was the same person I met and fell in love with and I began to think, once upon a time, he sat with some woman over dinner and told her stories about me.  How did I miss the cues?  Why didn’t I listen to my gut?”  “Why did I stay with this man so long?”

By now, I had learned quite a bit about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and it was time for me to do more soul-searching and learn more about me.  It was around this time CZBZ asked me to help with WoN.  It was easy to talk with members about N, but when it came to me, there were still a lot of things I didn’t understand. Understanding my history of  chemical depression, and accepting I was depressed much of the time with N, the psychiatric nurse finally grabbed a hold of her own realities and off to the psychiatrist she went.  Yes, it took me this long to seek professional help knowing the depression wasn’t going away all by itself and Prozac became my drug of choice.  I was referred to a wise and wonderful therapist who helped me find the old Jude, helped me to see how I fit into the N equation, helped me gain confidence to once again connect and share. I learned love was not lost; it was simply in a holding pattern and I am the beholder.

During the phase of early healing (and I say early healing because I believe we heal until we die and then, who knows?) there’s been something else that seemed to be in a healing pattern – my spiritual awareness.  I’ve always believed in a higher power – some days I refer to my higher power as “God”, some days it’s “my soul connection” and some days it’s my “Fairy God Mother.”  Years ago I worked with teenagers and they’d find things on the ground and name rocks and tree branches their higher power.  What they taught me is some days “nature” is my higher power.  Somewhere along the line, sometime during the N days of soul killing, I lost my connection. This is where all of you, and the writings of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, enter into my story of spiritual awakening.

I’ve had quite a few spiritual awakenings once I found a healing forum on the internet, of all places, but the most pronounced experience happened when I sat down one night to reply to a post.  I felt your energy and the energy of all the women who have healed before us, pass through me in a warming, filling, loving way and just as fast as it passed through me, the energy rose into space – out into infinity. It’s my belief the energy is finding other healers, and our children, and our children’s children.  I wrote a story about fairies hovering around our keyboards that protect and guide us.  I believe the energy is released from our fingers because it takes our love, courage and trust to strike that first key and share our journey.  It’s because you share your grace, I’ve been blessed with a knowledge and feeling of connection and with that I hope to share an overwhelming feeling of peace.

I have written and I have read, “WoN saved my life.”  Now at 60 years old and seven years post N, I thank all of you for the power of WoN; the collection of all of your personal power. It’s because you’re valuable that I hold WoN in such high esteem and appreciate the meaning WoN has in my life. I wasn’t so sure of any of this in May of 2004 as I glanced back at the porch where I waited for him to come home.  But, now I know it’s our ability to heal together and our ability to hold each other’s hand that have made many of my dreams come true.  It’s your spirit, your trust, your love and soulful sharing that reminds me that our porch dreams are ours for the making. 


© 2011