I don’t think I stopped holding my breath until I saw their beautiful welcoming house reminding me I was still myself. That yes this was a nightmare but it was one I could wake up from. One I could escape from.
I remember the day I told Ian I was leaving him. He begged and pleaded with me not to go. He said he’d buy me house. Was it a house I wanted? I almost laughed. “A house? Are you serious? You had eight years to get us out of this bug infested trailer that is crawling with mice and smelling of shit! Eight years to treat me like a human being you loved as opposed to an inconvenience. Eight fucking years to give a shit about my dreams, my sacrifices. What have you ever done but act like the world’s biggest child? What kind of a man makes his wife chip ice at nine months pregnant so she doesn’t go sliding down the steps in a painful, dangerous heap? What kind of man leaves cords and wires snaking through the hallway and living room and instruments all over the floor for his pregnant wife to trip over? For his toddler son to chew on? What kind of stupid selfish man builds a wall out of manure in the kitchen so he can record HIS music. Not a man at all. A child. A selfish, immature, spoiled child who was indulged, spoiled and catered to by his mother!”
“I can change, things can change!” He was desperate.
“Ian it’s too late. I’m done. I’m done with this whole ridiculous farce. How dare you tell me you’re only married to me for the children! How dare you leave me night after night in this shithole to go play pretend with your brothers like the world’s greatest older brother as though you never left and had kids! I’m sick of your childish bullshit and I can’t take it anymore!”
“I heard what you told Rita. I heard everything! It’s HER fault all of this is happening!”
“No Ian, it’s your own damn fault. You have no one to blame but yourself. You cannot treat your wife like a piece of garbage and expect her to stick around and start to smell. I’m better than this, I’ve been better than this for a long time. I gave you eight years to grow up and you refuse to. So I’m leaving you and there isn’t anything you can do about it.”
“I refuse to be the first one in family to get divorced!” He had stood up by then and crossed his arms.
“Oh really? I didn’t know it was up to you.” I said this and walked out the door.
Of course what I didn’t realize then was that I was escaping. I hadn’t found new love, on the contrary. I found what I thought was a way out. A way out of the cult, a way out of Ian’s crazy family, a way out of feeling like a piece a garbage left out in the street to rot. But it wasn’t love. It wasn’t even lust. It was a haven for at least a little while. I thought I’d found a friend. And I had. For at least a little while.
I remember the first time I met Janine. There were no fireworks. No indications of what was to come. It was simply a hangout with my friend Rita as was the second time we met. The third time however we decided it would be fun to drink whiskey. After that all bets were off. One drunken kiss and I knew I could never go back to my old life. First of all I’m not any good at clandestine behavior. Secondly It would have felt seriously wrong to have continued in my marriage without telling Ian bluntly what had happened and that it was a catalyst but only a catalyst. The change was already on the horizon. I needed my own life. I needed to make my own mistakes even if they were big ones. I needed my freedom. The fact that Janine was a girl seemed unimportant to me, she was much more of a man than Ian in both looks and attitude. At that time she was what I needed. I told her it might be an entire year before we could become a couple. She said she was willing to wait. I found that charming in an old world kind of way. In the early days she was the easy part. Leaving Ian proved to be a complete and utter nightmare. He had stored up inside of himself all of the petty vicious rage of his entire life and directed it at me. It was like a gust of hatred set to blow me across the globe. Just before the hate-wind he had a few last ditch efforts to try and “win me back.” As if you could win someone back who treated you like a hated sibling instead of a wife. He would literally take the bed sheets and blankets and wrap them around himself and then hold his arms down so I would be forced to hunt for another blanket rather than fight with him. It was that kind of immature behavior I could no longer stomach. That and his relentless teasing. He teased me until I cried on so many occasions. Unforgivable.
Anyways one of his bright ideas to get closer to me and understand me was to watch the movie Brokeback Mountain and hold hands. I found the movie depressing and nothing I could at all relate to. He just cried and sweated into my hand. I felt like throwing up. Another attempt was to take me before his uncle and his cousin who used to be one of my best friends and have them try to convince me I was making a mistake by quoting the writings at me. Yes I sat in their kitchen while the man I’d known my entire life told me I was mentally handicapped for being bisexual and that homosexuality is like alcoholism but can be overcome with prayer. Gee thanks uncle Gary for calling me retarded. Gee thanks Lindsay for agreeing with him. Ian I hate your guts even more get me the fuck out of here.
I ended up moving out to my parents’ house in the valley which coincidentally is where I live now. My sons love this house, it was their haven in the turmoil. Ian would call me on the phone, cursing and spitting like a lunatic screaming at me that I was a home wrecker. “Do you know where your soul is?!!” I would just hang up the phone. He would call when the kids were with him, when he knew I would be with Janine. Sometimes I’d just give her the phone and let her deal with him. I don’t like conflict, never have.
I wanted to keep things easy, to work things out without lawyers or fighting or a ton of money spent but Ian made that impossible. He locked all my things up and refused to give them to me. Some things I still haven’t gotten back which I attribute to his less than sane and endlessly competitive second wife. He never wanted me to have the kids as if somehow I had suddenly turned into a bumbling idiot unable to care for my children any longer. He was constantly harassing me, every time there was a transition he had more terrible things to say. Jaden who was four at the time would tell me “Daddy says you’re a home wrecker. What’s a home wrecker?” I would just scoop him up and tell him it’s a grown up word and best left to the grown-ups. The hardest part of that time was not lashing out at Ian in front of the kids. But I knew it would come back to haunt me. Their teenage years proved to be MUCH harder in that respect. Teenagers are in your business and they rarely let you off the hook for anything and will drive you to the end of your willpower. Sometimes the truth just falls out and not necessarily in the best way. But when those boys were little my stock answer when they came to me with their father’s obvious hatred of me was I’m sorry he said that sometimes people feel upset and they say things out of anger. I’m sure when he’s not so upset he feels differently and that type of thing.
After the divorce was long past and we had established week on week off custody Ian remarried. Unfortunately for all of us she was a sick and manipulative woman. I of course had no idea how sick and manipulative she was until they separated and it all came out. I’ll give you one example. The Monday box. The boys transitioned to my house on Mondays. Apparently she had them put all their too small clothes and clothes with holes in them into this box. And then sent them to school in them, knowing I would throw them away and replace them. Who uses a child like that?!! That was just one of her many tricks.
I of course was going through my own hell by this time. What I didn’t know at the beginning but soon found out was Janine wasn’t entirely sane herself. She confided to me she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. This is no small thing and I lived it. There is book written about living with someone who has this disorder called Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Paul T. Mason MS & Randi Kreger. That book became my bible. According to the Mayo Clinic symptoms include “emotional-instability, feelings of worthlessness, insecurity, impulsivity and impaired social relationships.” The behaviors may include “antisocial behavior, compulsive behavior, hostility, impulsivity, irritability, risk-taking behaviors, self-destructive behavior, self-harm, social isolation, or lack of restraint.” The mood of someone with this disorder swings from “anger, anxiety, discontent, guilt, sadness, loneliness and general massive mood swings.” The individual may also experience “depression, distorted self image, grandiosity, and/or narcissism. Thoughts of suicide are common.”
I can say that is an avid and accurate depiction of someone with borderline personality disorder. What they do is entice you with seemingly loving and healthy behavior. To them you can do no wrong, they put you on a pedestal and will do almost anything to make you believe you are safe with them, that you can be happy with them. Then slowly they indoctrinate you into a system of fear and control until you no longer trust your own instincts and rarely does someone extricate themselves because the borderline excels at manipulation. Janine was crafty. She could absolutely control her behavior, she never let the kids see it until the end, when she realized she was losing her hold on me. Some of the things she would do to me: isolating me from my friends. Cutting up my clothes with scissors. Punching holes in the wall. Punching the wall next to my head. Peeing in bottles and leaving them in my car. Cutting herself with knives and razors. Raging through the apartment destroying things while I hid in the locked bathroom with a shaking dog. Throwing a bicycle at me while I sat on the couch. Throwing cans of soup so hard at the front door they stuck in the door and the dog ran away. Throwing herself on the ground kicking and screaming while we were walking the dog so I walked away and when she finally realized I wasn’t falling for that toddler-like behavior coming home and accusing me of being heartless. Scratching her face up with her own fingernails. Throwing fits at my work, lurking around scaring my coworkers. Etc, etc, etc…the list goes on and on and on.
I tried to leave her once and poor Jaden who knew nothing of what was going on and only wanted stability begged me not to so I stayed hoping things would things get better and instead they got worse. She started to rage while the boys were there. I took to sleeping on the floor of my sons room when she attacked me. She was quite simply a terrifying person. By the time I knew I had to leave I was so broken down I needed help. She had erected a tent in the middle of the living room with a padlock on it and I had no idea what was inside. I thought about the stories she told me about how she was part of the black block and snuck illegally into Canada as part of a protest movement. I remembered how she lived in a tent in the woods alone for over a year. I remembered her obsession with serial killers, how as a teenager she painted her walls black and plastered their pictures all over her black walls. I remember her telling me she would walk the city streets with a german shepherd and a baseball bat. Shortly after she set up the tent she took bright blue duct tape and wrote the words BE HAPPY in crooked letters. I knew it was now or never. She’d never let me go. I rented a U-Haul, and two friends helped me throw my stuff in it overnight as fast as we could while she was working a double and we drove it out to my parents’ house in the valley. It was the most terrifying thing I ever had to do in my life. I don’t think I stopped holding my breath until I saw their beautiful welcoming house reminding me I was still myself. That yes this was a nightmare but it was one I could wake up from. One I could escape from.
I don’t like to think about what could have happened to me, to my children had I not literally run for my life. There is so much more to tell, about dealing with Ian’s second wife, about learning to truly be a single mother and navigate the horrors of public assistance. About finding myself amongst the rubble of my ruined relationships. About learning how to relish in my sons, my independence and my own inner strength I never even knew I had until it was put to the test. I have a long and adventurous tale to tell but for now I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom.
You never know how strong you are, until you overcome your greatest failure. Which really is just a stepping stone to success.