Helpless: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that–and what did you do about it?
I’ve written about this before so please excise me if I’m repeating myself but this incident is the most helpless I’ve ever felt and still makes my knees feel weak when I think about it and I’m still getting over it 10 years later. That’s how bad it was.
My bad marriage had been getting worse. My depression and anxiety had been getting so bad that I had to take time off from work to deal with them. I was up to my eyeballs in credit card debt. Life was not treating me well. I was recuperating from my increased depression at my home in Pipe Creek, TX, having taken time off from my job in Austin, TX 120 miles away. I had been living during the week in a small apartment in Austin and returning home to Pipe Creek on the weekends. The commute was grueling. My husband barely spoke to me when I was home. He spent his time flying his model airplanes or watching German language television or going to the Sons of Civil War Veterans meetings or going to the gun range. He was not the person I thought I knew for 20 years. The only time he spoke to was to get me to sign a paper to put my name on a refinance of the mortgage of the house while I was being treated for my acute depression. I had not been on the mortgage before that. My psychiatrist was outraged; she said I was not capable of making an informed decision.
My husband learned about my credit card debt because I told him. I’d hoped he’d understand. His name was not on any of the cards. The debt was mine and I intended to take care of it somehow. His reaction was extreme. He blew up. He was extremely angry, He yelled. He screamed. He shouted. He called me named. And then he gave me the silent treatment. I called an attorney to see what steps I could take about the debt. He did come with me to the appointment, but said little. I offered to liquidate my 401K to pay off the debt immediately. No response. I offered to file personal bankruptcy. No response. My husband pressure me to return to work as soon as I possibly could. It would be good for me, he said. That was all he said. That and I should work out on a treadmill. My psychiatrist thought that it was too soon for me to return to work, but reluctantly allowed me to return a bit sooner than she would have liked just to let me get away from my husband.
On November 5, I returned to Austin to go back to my apartment and go back to work. Sometime during that week, my husband brought my treadmill to my apartment while I was at work and dumped it in my dining room. With great difficultly I moved it into my bedroom where it belonged. I didn’t see him when he came to Austin. I had a migraine my first day back at work but i managed to get through the day (it was a meeting day with the State Board of Education). On Friday, I left work early to go back to San Antonio to get to an appointment with my therapist and then to go home. My therapist appointment went well. I was apprehensive about going home and John, my therapist, suggested I call and diffuse the anxiety and the situation by offering to pick up a pizza and a movie. I called but got the answering machine, which was odd. I knew my husband was home and just not taking my call, so I went straight home.
On arriving home, I saw a strange car in the driveway and a strange man waiting at the car. My husband’s car and truck were both there so I knew he was home, and I wondered why he had not come out to see what this man wanted. I pulled in and the man came over to me. He asked if my name, and I answered yes. He handed me a subpoena and said my husband was filing divorce proceedings against me and I had 2 weeks to respond to the subpoena. Did I understand? I looked over to the porch. There stood my husband, watching this all play out. I have never felt so completely helpless, not knowing what to do, wondering how he could do this to me when he had explicitly told me he was not going to divorce me (obviously he lied to me). I told the man I understood but in reality I did not understand anything. I didn’t know what I should do next, what I should do. I do remember saying to my husband, “How could you do this?” He replied that he had no choice (a lie, he DID have a choice), everyone he talked to had told him that I was dangerous and that he had better divorce me. He told me I could stay there that weekend and that he would pack my things and have them shipped to Austin. I went inside and called my therapist to tell him what had happened and I called my daughter to tell her. She offered to let me stay there but I said I would stay at the house and pack my clothes to take back to Austin with me as I didn’t have much with me. I looked up divorce lawyers who might practice in the county where my husband had filed the divorce (it was a rural county, not the city). I don’t know how I was able to do the few things I did. I was distraught about having to leave my animals but knew I couldn’t take any but my cat. It wouldn’t be fair to them. I spent the weekend feeling totally helpless and betrayed.
But looking back, maybe it was all for the best. I would have never left him on my own. I am much healthier and better off without him. I still live in fear of ever seeing him again. For a long time, I wouldn’t drive on the road that led to his housing development 17 miles away. I did see him twice after the day I left to go back to Austin. I went back twice to get more clothes and a few things. He did pack my belongings (most of them) and I hired a truck to bring my belongings to Austin. It made my apartment more of my own. He did have one box of mine from my previous job that he picked up and never sent to me. My therapist intervened and asked him to bring it to the office, which he did and I finally got it back.
So even when I felt the most helpless, I was able to get important things done even though my heart was breaking. I think it was because I was so numb and in such shock over the whole thing, that someone could be so cruel. It’s taken me a long time to trust again. I’ve had other incidents where trust has been broken and it brings back how hard it is to trust. But what is life if not to be able to trust others? To trust the people we love? But to be wary, too. Life is a balancing act.
I only hope I never feel that helpless ever again.