Chapter 11: The Devil’s Storm
“So there is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living. We look for brightness but only find darkness. We look for bright skies but walk in gloom. We grope like the bling along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark. Among the living, we are like the dead.”
I found this verse as I was looking for something else and it wouldn’t not stop pounding in my head until I wrote it down. I mentioned in my previous blog that abused people do not know how to tell the difference between something being good or bad for them. Everything looks the same, but your pain attracts other pain. I didn’t realize how true that was because it is impossible to process trauma when you are still experiencing trauma. I said I thought that once I turned 18 I could escape the demons from my childhood, my teenage years, and I had hope that once out I could escape my anger as well. Hindsight being 20/20, my escape would never come because I was unable to escape myself. One of my favorite quotes is “The relationship you have with yourself is the most complicated because you can’t walk away from you. You have to forgive every mistake. You have to deal with every flaw. You have to find a way to love you even when you are disgusted with yourself.” My disgust with myself grew the more I engaged in the same patterns with different people. The bigger my disgust got, the more blind I became to what was going on inside of me.
Ed and I got married twenty-one days after I turned eighteen, because of course, that is a choice that any person who has suffered years of abuse and inner turmoil finds acceptable to do. Most people ask me if I got married so young because I was pregnant. I was not. I was just lost and broken and hurt and looking for escape from demons that I would come to find out had not only followed me but brought along a horde of friends to join in my despair and destruction. It is in looking back on these times that I most see how scared the devil must be of who I would become. He threw everything at me in this season of my life to convince me that I was less than nothing.
I remember my wedding day, not with joy, only with sorrow that I didn’t listen to my inner voice screaming at me to turn and run. I knew that my choice to marry had nothing to do with any of the reasons that people should get married, and everything to do with trying to find something that would ease just a fraction of my pain. I held my Stepdad’s arm and walked down the aisle. I remember hitting about the three-quarter mark and all of the sudden I felt like ice and my feet slowed. My Stepdad sensed this change in my movement and looked at my with a questioning glance. I barely looked at his face. I couldn’t. I knew if I saw anything there that even resembled love I would have turned around and run out the church doors.
Married life started off uneventful enough. I was lonely, going from my mom’s house that was filled with people and no privacy to silence echoing off the bare, boring walls of our first apartment. I hated that place. Ed and I started house shopping before our lease was up and soon found a small cape cod that would become home to us and eventually our growing family. The weekend we moved, I was excited and wanted his son to be there with us so that he felt like we were all moving in as a family. Ed had other plans. His friends were coming in from out of town and he wanted to have a party and get drunk. His parents took his son for the night against everything I had set out to build for him. We ended up fighting and Ed punched a hole in the ceiling of the bedroom in our not even unpacked house. For years I stared at that hole. It represented something so much deeper than just a fight. It represented the loss of my voice, the loss of my sense of self, and my ability to see anything good in any progressions we made as a couple.
I stated in an earlier post that this is not a tell-all. In the most transparent way possible, I want to say that there are some things that God just hasn’t shown me the answers to yet. I’m okay with that. But I think it is important to note that just because I don’t divulge all the details of my story that the feelings I experienced are still worth noting. Within the first six months of our marriage an event took place that would make it impossible for me not only to trust or love my new husband, to look at him as any sort of support, or to begin to examine the ruins that my life would become. It was almost like being stuck in a time warp…I relived the same thing over and over for most of our marriage. I couldn’t trust him and I grew to develop a giant ball of resentment that sat between us like an uninvited guest at the dinner table. It was a shadow over everything I did, even though he seemed to be able to move past it like a boat on a river with a strong current. I closed myself off from him and would never again allow him access to any part of the broken part of my heart.
In the first few years of our marriage, his son’s mother’s parents took custody of his son. I had argued this idea when Ed decided to sign the papers before we got married, but we were only newly engaged so my opinion wasn’t considered. I thought it was ridiculous to let his son stay with his grandparents when he could have just as easily stayed with his father and his parents until we got married. After we were married, Ed finally decided that it was time to get his son living with us, but the grandparents were not all that excited about the prospect of losing their oldest grandson, especially since his son now had a half-brother that also stayed with them. We began the lengthy, expensive custody battle that would take 5 years to complete.
After I graduated high school in January of my senior year, a few months after our wedding I had planned on attending college. Ed was worried that we wouldn’t have enough money for the custody costs and for my college tuition, so we agreed that his son’s future was more important than mine and I would hold off on enrolling. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be yet, since my dreams of going to the doctor had dissipated in the trauma I experienced from watching my Grandma scratch holes in herself at the hospital. I would come to fear hospitals even more in the coming years until it would become almost impossible for anyone to talk me into going until I absolutely had no choice or was too weak to fight off anyone carrying me through the doors.
I worked for a research company with my sister in law and we hung out with her and her husband when Ed was home. There was always drinking. However, right after my 19th birthday and right before our first anniversary I learned I was pregnant. I hadn’t wanted kids until I met Ed’s son, but now the prospect of having a new baby both excited and terrified me. Excitement soon won out and I began preparing for my new baby to arrive. Mom was the first person I told after Ed and both of their reactions did nothing to abate my excitement about the baby, but they crushed me in another way. Ed was on the road all the time as a conductor for the railroad, so we didn’t see each other that much. It didn’t help anything that for years he would drink so much that the train rides back home during his work week were overshadowed with the remnants of his 8 hours with his friends in the state he traveled to and the times he spent at home with me and his son were spent either sleeping off his binge or arguing with me about his being “too tired” to be more involved with his boy. Again, I was verbal in the fact that I hated the railroad because I didn’t know what to do with half of the legal stuff that presented itself during the custody battle. And battle it was. The grandparents used my pregnancy to try and say that we weren’t fit parents. We were “untested” and they didn’t think that his son could handle being separated from his brother.
It was the hottest summer in decades and as a pregnant woman with edema I was miserable. I beat myself up constantly for not being better at staying away from smoking any cigarettes and would sneak them whenever I wasn’t out in public. I was ashamed because I couldn’t seem to quit and then my doctor told me that my stress about quitting was causing more harm to my baby than my actual smoking. I cut down to 1 a day and then beat myself up for that as well. Ed and his dad both smoked and neither thought it was important to keep it away from me. I developed kidney problems and at 6 months I was hospitalized right before one of our major court dates where the judge was supposed to decide if we would be granted custody of Ed’s son. I stressed and stressed even though I was too sick to move. My doctor was scared that I would go into preterm labor due to a severe kidney infection. I was terrified that I had caused this and my baby would die because I already knew God hated me.
When my son was born, they laid him on my chest and I knew without a doubt what love was. I had never in my life been so in love with anything and I knew that this child was a second chance for me. I resolved to never let what happened to me happen to him and I was even more fiercely protective of my son than I had been of Ed’s other boy. I would spend hours watching him sleep and I didn’t leave the room without taking him with me. I went back to smoking my regular amount and that was the only time I left my son alone in any room. He was always sleeping and I would stand facing any window I could to see him and make sure nothing happened to him inside our house without my noticing. My labor had been so quick, the doctor’s were not that prepared for his arrival and I was not prepared for the toll that having a baby and having a super-fast delivery would take on my small frame. I was in a tremendous amount of pain for the next 8 months and I cried every time it was necessary for me to fulfill any sort of “wifely” duties or go to the bathroom. For weeks it hurt so bad to sit that I learned to sit sideways while nursing my son and we slept like that often. I got little to no sleep during this time. One of my favorite jokes to tell people when they say “Oh my gosh you have five kids?! You got your hands full! Do you sleep?” I’d say, “I had a nap in 1998 but haven’t slept since. It was a good nap, so I’m doing okay.” It was funny, but it was a lie. I was not okay. I was tired! This baby of mine ate every hour! I felt like one of the machines I had seen cows hooked up to. It didn’t take me long to lose my baby weight and to keep weight on myself became a struggle.
My son, Corbin, was 6 months old and just starting to sleep through most nights when Ed was suspended from the railroad for getting off of a train car backwards. He received 45 days off. When Corbin was 8 months old and Ed had just gone back to work I learned I was pregnant again. I was already tired but loved Corbin so much that I figured this would be like adding more love.
Zebediah didn’t exactly do anything the way Corbin did. I was in labor with him for a whole 45 minutes when he made his appearance. I don’t know if it was the lack of nutrients from having babies so close together, or my still recovering body but I passed out several times from pain during his arrival. Much like the way he was born, Zeb’s demeanor was nothing like Corbin’s either. Ed was gone on the road so it was just me, his son, Corbin and my screaming ball of fury. Zeb was colic and screamed his whole entire face off every day for 7 hours until I thought I was going to go insane from listening to him. I loved him but this baby could not be consoled at all. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and while he was screaming Corbin would climb up in my lap and try to comfort his baby brother. I loved Corbin so much more for trying to understand at such a young age (he wasn’t even three yet) and he was proud of his new little friend. Finally, when Zeb was 8 months old, he slept through the night for the first time when Corbin crawled into the crib with him. I was in awe of how gentle Corbin was with him and how he didn’t seem to notice or be bothered by the endless racket coming from out of his brother’s face.
Ed’s son began to feel left out and having moved in with us only a few months before due to the incredibly long court ordeal he began to have regressions in his developmental stages that both confused and scared me. Ed didn’t seem all that bothered by it, but my quickly developing Momma heart kept telling me this boy was hurting. He would make himself throw up any time one of the other kids would need attention and especially at bedtime. He started having issues with going to the bathroom when he’d already been potty trained for a few years. This was something I had experience in, so I knew that kids just didn’t all the sudden go back to needing diapers at 6 or 7 years old. I started taking him to counseling, but I didn’t know any of the answers to the questions the therapists would ask because it wasn’t my story so it was a very frustrating time.
We attended the church with the pastor that had shown so much care and concern for his daughters when I was young. I didn’t call the church anything during this time, but it has come to be the Heart Hospital. As much as I wish that I could have let my heart be fixed by this church at this point, I didn’t because I was too afraid of what they would do if they found out how ugly I was on the inside. I couldn’t let go of my shame or my terror at letting anyone in to see just how beaten and broken I was. I was terrified of being kicked out again and in light of my inability to trust or love my husband at all, but still trying to do what was right I walked around among the living, but just like the dead.