The Discard: Act III
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You may assume that my name is ‘Norman’ because I’m legally divorced. That’s not the case. And that saga will come at a later entry.
I was forced to change my name, mid-trauma back in June, shortly after realizing the math wasn’t mathing. When things don’t add up, you check your work. And if it’s still off, it likely means you aren’t accounting for missing variables.
The end of June and all of July were spent doing a few things:
1. Securing basic human survival
After shoving his clothes in trash bags, I didn’t hear from him again for 3 weeks. Those 3 weeks were spent in the realization that regardless of what was going on with him, my life wasn’t ever going to look the same as it had. Auditing my emotional health became priority.
This meant contacting my Dean of Psychology to request an academic leave of absence. It meant realizing that marketing and selling my services inside of a business, needed to halt. It meant communicating what I could, in ways I could, to clients who contacted me. And it meant stability. I needed stability and autopilot.
I could not muster the bandwidth to grow a business, be an authentic person online, or emotionally develop new relationships with people, but I could dissociate long enough to be a damn good physical therapist again. So, that is the decision I made. I can’t stress how exhaustive this was:
I needed to transfer my PT license from Indiana to Florida, which was legally under my maiden name. To expedite this, I needed to restore my name to Norman.
This meant researching legal name correction laws. It meant arguing with people at the social security office about statutes that allow a person to restore their maiden name at any time, regardless of relationship status (something that domestic violence victims are apparently not often aware of).
It meant creating a new resume.
Getting a FL drivers license.
Studying for and passing a jurisprudence exam to qualify for licensure.
Getting a screening physical (that I barely passed).
Getting CPR renewed.
…and my personal favorite, throwing on a blazer, de-puffing my face with makeup, and pretending to not be a traumatized train wreck while I interviewed with about 12 companies from my couch.
It then meant negotiating and knowing my worth as a clinician. Something that was once very second nature, felt hard. My self-esteem could be found somewhere within the core of molten rock inside of the Earth. It was gone. I felt invisible. Less than vapor.
This also meant deciding on a place to live, as I would no longer be living with the person I thought I’d spend my life with. It meant touring apartment buildings. It was the most bizarre feeling to build life from scratch. And it was heartbreaking. I wore sunglasses on my tours so that managers couldn’t see my tears and swollen eyes.
Because, yes. spoiler alert: he wasn’t concerned with our life and belongings to have been accumulated over 6 years. And though he promised to help, he didn’t. I sorted and sold our things in preparation for a major downsize, alone. It wouldn’t be until September that he casually shows up, assuming I had failed to be the adult I needed to be in that regard, long before the lease ended, in September.
Tasking was really challenging. I had to prepare in advance. A box here. A garage sales post there. It was micro-tasking that had to be done. And if you’ve ever been through an ongoing traumatic event, you know that using your brain and accomplishing anything is pretty difficult. I took it one day and one task at a time, and often broke down immediately afterwards.
This was also happening as my best friends baby shower I was co-hosting was unfolding. Zoom calls with vendors were switched to emails. And that task list was yet again taken day to day. There was no way in hell I would drop the ball on a party for humans who truly became life rafts during this time. It also meant not looking like someone who had just been ran over by a parade of dump trucks in front of her lovely guests. Dissociation became necessarily masterful.
Literally one hour before the baby shower, I heard from him. This sent me into a panic attack. Communication became unsettling as it newly felt uncertain and scary.
After returning from the shower, I cautiously replied. He invited me to lunch. This time, however, the Chanelle he had previously saw twice before, wasn’t quite as desperate. She had a few boundaries, making it crystal clear that lunch with her was going to look like some honest conversations. After all, she had also developed some valuable cyber prowess she didn’t know she had. She had never needed it, or so she thought.
This is where things get interesting, and when lies began to pile up. You see, unbeknownst to him, she also knew he had just returned from a secret road trip to Ohio, among a plethora of other lovely details to be divulged in the next entry. That text exchange eventually progressed with him saying, “I’m not going to live in the past and I’m not going to think about my emotions. They are negative, and I’m not going back there. I’m moving forward.”
I said, “okay, so what is it you’d like to talk about over lunch then?”
His reply: “Just see what you’re doing, where you’re going, what your plans are for the future. Catch up.”
I found this to be many things, most of which: insulting, offensive, and disgusting, seeing as how it all had literally just happened 5 weeks ago. As if I should be over it. As if this wasn’t all absolutely unhinged. As if he wasn’t holding back major lies behind my back.
He went on to say, “I’m not feeling so well. I may not be able to have lunch, just a heads up.”
The next day, he cancelled lunch.
He was sick. The real kicker? He used our debit card to eat lunch in a public place, 3.6 miles from our home that same day.
I realized then that I was being evaluated, manipulated, and tormented. Control was the goal. Our shared checking was consistently used when and where he wanted me to know what he was doing.
It was a subtle but remarkable strategy to hurt me.
The other days? He went off radar. Or so he thought.
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