Broken Woman Radar

I got my hair cut the other day by a woman about my age. She has two little girls. The youngest is 4 months old.

This wasn’t the first time I’d experienced broken woman radar-ing. We can read something in one another’s eyes, in our half-smiles and cynical humor. So she felt comfortable enough to open up about some serious stuff. She said that for her to do it was rare, and I believe it because someone close to me is also a client of hers and has heard nothing of her story.

She had postpartum depression. Her story was both gut wrenching and uplifting. I won’t tell it because it’s not my story to tell.

Opening up about something like that takes monumental bravery. Mothers, say this aloud: ‘I don’t know if I love my child.’ Impossible, right? It’s not any more possible for those suffering from postpartum depression. Yet some feel it, and it eats away their insides like acid.

Saying these words is the first step in a real process that can lead to real recovery. I can’t imagine having to take that step, and it’s an earth-shattering scale-tipper. Because some children get hurt.

I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I have a point. I blurted out to this woman, my hair in a rat-halo of self inflicted ‘layers’, ‘You must tell other people about this. You have to blog, or Facebook, or fucking call people on the phone. Tell women everywhere that you got over this. That it’s possible to get over this.’

She agreed. She said she’d considered facebooking her story, or leaving virtual breadcrumbs for potential sufferers. She said that more women are affected by this than I could imagine.

It got me to thinking. Should I start talking? I’ve opened up to some of you about my past. I’ve written cryptic status updates, left hints of it in my blog and joke around it in public.

When I do, my broken woman radar goes blip crazy. So many women have gone through some form of abuse, alcoholism, infidelity. So many, many, many women need help. They don’t have a family net at the ready, another house to run to, a mother’s shoulder, a father’s understanding. They remain in violent relationships and create irrevocable, destructive eddies that outlive their own and their children’s despair. The sort of pain that two people in dangerous love can inflict on one another has a shelf life of forever. Getting away from it doesn’t kill it, but it does help you learn to live without it.

This picture is of me losing faith in myself. I can’t tell the part of the story that isn’t mine. Here’s what I’m going to say:

My child saw me hit back.

My child saw me scream.

My child saw me beg.

My child saw me hate.

My child saw me desperate.

My child saw me forget who I was.

I am not proud of those years. I should have been a better mother. I should have shielded her from terrible words and actions. I have never hit my child, or punished her with any sort of physical pain, but allowing her to witness that level of hate is unforgivable.

I spent a lot of time cursing names and playing the victim, and it did me not a bit of good. Here’s what I said to myself that got my feet moving:

OWN IT

The anguish that accompanies situations like mine is steeped in victimhood. How could he, why did he, why doesn’t he, etc. I was able to break away when I finally said to myself, ‘Fuck you, Rachel. Nobody’s keeping you here but yourself.’

For every moment after the moment my partner crossed my line, I was a willing participant. Accepting that, accepting the responsibility for fucking up my kid’s world is what got me going.

My soul to every woman who is scared to say something. I didn’t say a word for years out of hope and intense embarrassment.

My soul to every woman who doesn’t have an escape route. I’m not stupid enough to think that it’s always that easy. Sometimes people stay because there’s nowhere else to go.

So this is an apology post. I’m sorry that I haven’t told my entire story to help others and I’m sorry that I hurt my children by waiting too long to fix myself. But I love them so much that it hurts, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that they can stand up to themselves when they need to.

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