Most of the time, I've forgotten how miserable it used to be. I've effectively forgotten what life was like on a day to day basis, which is either a defense mechanism or a stroke of luck. And then something happens which brings me right back there.
I used to get left places. I learned to take my own car because it was typical that the ex would want to leave before me. If there was a family event, like a wedding or something, he would come but would make it plain that he didn't want to be there, and would behave in such a way that he embarrassed me. My family felt bad; not only for me, but for themselves because they couldn't figure out what they had done to piss him off. I remember a Christmas that was particularly bad and we ended up leaving my mom's immediately after opening up our presents. My mom told me later that ExH and I were the topic of discussion that afternoon. They couldn't figure out what prompted his behavior or what they had to done to deserve such treatment. Then they couldn't figure out how I put up with it. But being the enabler I am, I made excuses for him.
Then there was the wedding of my nephew. The one in which he and I were Master & Mistress of Ceremonies. He made it clear that he didn't really want to do this, and kept asking what his duties included. Again, being that enabler, I told him that he wouldn't have to do anything, that I would take care of everything. So we (and by we, I mean me) helped get the ceremony underway. Then we headed for the reception where again we (yes, me) made sure that guests knew where they were to be seated, and that things were running on schedule. Towards the end of the evening, my kids came to me and asked if I could bring them home as they were tired. I instructed them to go find their dad and ask him to bring them home. "Oh, he left a while ago," was their response. Imagine my surprise and disgust. He couldn't even come to me and mention that he was leaving.
A few years after that, I was left in a similar way at my class reunion. I didn't see him leave but I saw him driving away. Which led me to believe that I wasn't even worth the effort of saying goodbye to. My self esteem, which wasn't great to begin with, suffered a great deal throughout this marriage. Clearly, there was something wrong with me. I thought I was a good person, and I tried really hard to be a good mom and a good friend.
After the wedding incident, I spent hours on the computer trying to figure out why life was so miserable which ultimately led me to a website about Narcissism. The descriptions of narcissistic people were really familiar. However, I believed that they couldn't really be describing someone I knew. I couldn't reconcile this information in my head. Certainly it couldn't be true that I had married someone like this. And in his defense, he wasn't like that when we got married. So I let this simmer in my mind for a few years, until it became clear that I could not stay married to this man. Years later, one of our marriage counselors would confirm to me that he believed he was was indeed, Narcissistic. Many people are, really. But people like this rarely succeed with therapy because they ultimately don't believe they have a problem.
The reason I bring all of this up, is because something happened the other day which just threw this all in my face and brought back some bad memories. A friend of mine, recently divorced, had posted to a page on Facebook about surviving Narcissistic abuse. This then led me to check out their page, and to read post after post after post from other people in situations very similar to mine. It kind of threw me for a loop, and I found myself almost entranced by the page. I read everything I could find; all the links, all the comments, all the personal narratives. I felt like I was sinking into a dark, but familiar hole.
Turns out, this wasn't such a good idea. Or maybe it was? I've come so far in the past year, and I've learned what I will and will not accept in terms of behavior from people. My self esteem is much better and I wake up in the morning, not stressed out but genuinely happy. I don't dread hearing the garage door open anymore which signalled the end of the workday and the subsequent arrival of the ExH. And most importantly, I know that I am worthy of love and worthy of being treated with respect. I have a lot to offer.
So while the reminder of the past might have derailed me for a minute, it really just served to reinforce how far I've come. And like someone said, "You can't go on to the next chapter if you keep re-reading the last one." To heck with chapters. I'm moving on to the next book.