We left off seeing me at my worst. I was broken and beaten. I was ashamed of what I had done and how that hurt my children. I felt like a coward and that everyone in my small town could see the horrible person I was. I became frantic to leave the small town I was in to escape from their judging eyes and get away from Stacy. Tyler was still living in Edmonton and I wanted to move me and Kate there to be closer to him and have him gradually return back to my care. My sole focus became my children and with the help of my parents, I was able to sell our marital home quickly and have enough money to do this.
All of this happened very fast. I made my attempt in May of 2006 and I was living in Edmonton by July. I had a family support worker that was going to help bring Tyler home, I had my disability income to live on and I was ready. To move on and make myself a better mother.
In the midst of all this, I also was doing all of my own legal work with regards to Filing for custody and child support. I couldn’t afford a lawyer but I was able to do all the paperwork and serving of documents by just winging it. Stacy had a lawyer and I think I stunned her with my work. The day of the trial, she approached me and agreed to all my terms. I won!! Full custody of both children, conditions around Stacy’s visitations, a fair amount for child support and best of all it was in the agreement that Stacy leave me alone. No phone calls unless it was specific to the children. No following me or stalking. I couldn’t believe that I had done this on my own! No support from anyone except my family support worker.
Shortly after moving to the city, I became involved with a man who was recently divorced. I was lonely and craved the attention he gave me and I enjoyed the feeling that a new romance brings to life. I was feeling confident and capable and things were going to turn around. I made the decision that I wanted to return back to work full time as it was expensive to maintain a three bedroom apartment in the city. I was fortunate enough to land a job with Children’s Services and life was starting anew. Little did I know at the time that everything was going to fall apart.
During visitations when Tyler would come home, I couldn’t handle his behaviours. I know he was reeling from his own demons and trying to cope with not being with his family, but I couldn’t find the skills to handle things. There was always yelling and screaming and verbal abuse and I would be drained emotionally after a visit. During this time I wasn’t paying enough attention to my daughter and I deluded myself into believing she was doing ok. She was going to school and I thought she had made some good friends. But she was being bullied every single day and felt enormous peer pressure from a group of girls who were nothing but troubled themselves. They became involved in drinking and risky Behaviour and there were various meetings about my daughter being threatened tHat she was going to get knifed. She was only 10 years old!! I wasn’t in the greatest neighborhood, I was away working and she had to come home to an empty apartment, she had her family ripped apart, she was living somewhere strange and scary and neither one of us had any supports. It didn’t help that my relationship was turning out to be very unhealthy.
My first exposure to being around someone with a mental illness was this guy. He had depression and antisocial personality – he would sleep all hours of the day and be up gaming all night. He blamed all his marriage and custody issues on his ex and he was a mess. But the caretaker in me felt sorry for him and I cared about him. Until one day when he was alone at my apartment, my daughter came home from school to find him naked and slumped over the toilet in the bathroom, pills scattered everywhere. She had the knowledge to call an ambulance and I arrived home within five minutes….I will never forget the look of seeing my terrified little baby standing on the balcony while the medics were inside.
Even after he did that, I stuck by his side while he was in the hospital. I started to hear the terminology of the psych ward and was educating myself about mental illness. I believed that this guy was ill and needed compassion and care. I didn’t realize that I was falling apart myself….and so were my kids.
Somehow time passed and suddenly it was a new year. I couldn’t afford the apartment I was in any longer so I moved to a basement suite a few blocks away. The guy came with us ….but we were no longer a couple. I had ended that part of our relationship but he didn’t have anywhere else to go and he agreed to be a roommate and pay half the bills. It was still a three bedroom and he had a room of his own.
Despite continued efforts to have Tyler live with me and Kate, it was not working. Children’s services had decided to let Tyler go and live with his dad in the small town we had lived in despite my objections. I didn’t feel Stacy would give Tyler the structure and discipline he needed to keep him out of trouble.
Soon, Tyler was living with his dad and the calls began. Tyler wasn’t going to school and I had to go and meet with the attendance board. Tyler was involved with some vandalism and I had to go deal with the police. Stacy took Tyler to the legion with him and ended up getting arrested himself for drunk and disorderly and I had to drive out in a snowstorm to be there for Tyler. It was constant and what I knew was going to happen if he left the group home. Tyler’s drug use was escalating along with his penchant for violence. I spent most of my time driving back and forth from home in the city and trying to do damage control.
I was still working full time and parenting Kaitlyn. I finally drew a line in the sand with Stacy and Tyler and started to refuse to get involved with their chaos. I was a bitch, a whore and a cunt when I did that and Stacy was constantly trying to get to me using the kids. Kaitlyn felt sorry for her dad and she began to resent me. Life was not working out the way I was hoping for.
But I was still carrying on and pretending that life was good. What did I know any better? I thought this was what life was….dead and empty and always a struggle. I didn’t know any different and I kept working my job, looking after my kids and trying to figure out who and what I was. I was a zombie and a robot and to be honest there are a lot of parts I don’t even remember. And here’s the thing – at work, everyone was so amazed at how put together I was, how hard working and smart and creative and wonderful ….I didn’t believe it inside but I did feel a spark of something. A passion to do my job well because I could make a difference in people’s lives and through all the pain and chaos that was my personal life, I found purpose. And I wanted to live life again…..despite all the obstacles I had faced I still had my strength. I had been weakened but not defeated.
Through my connections in the social work community, and the benefit of my union, I was able to start seeing a therapist again. I was ready to work through on changing what needed changing in me so I could be a good mom and someone I could love.
During this time, I enrolled in a couple of online dating sites, once again feeling lonely and wanting companionship. There were a few dates and a lot of creeps, and one guy in particular, who despite my being flaky and unavailable half the time, he persisted. But he was always just super nice, interested in having a real conversation and when we finally had the opportunity to have a long chat, it soon lead to telephone calls that lasted well past my bedtime. But oh how charming and funny and kind he sounded and he was interested in me! Me and all my baggage? I was pretty upfront about the chaos that was my life and I explained a bit about the things happening with my ex, my kids, the weird guy living in my spare room…..but this guy still wanted to meet me! And he sounded normal – had a job, his own place, no kids, divorced and when he talked he talked like he had his shit together. I was reluctant to meet – I just knew that when he saw me in person, he wouldn’t be attracted to me and then there would be that awkward period when he’d try to leave gracefully. And I wanted this guy to like me! We clicked so well on the phone that I really would feel let down if we didn’t click in person.
We finally agreed to a coffee date at the smittys restaurant in my neighborhood. It was early – around seven and I had Kaitlyn playing with her friends while I was having coffee. I remember the excitement I was feeling about meeting him and the fear mixed in there with it. I got there first and I anxiously watched to see if I could see him coming. Suddenly I saw a car that looked like he had described and out stepped this gorgeous tall blonde man!! He walked with his head high and had a confidence about him that I was drawn to immediately. I couldn’t wait for him to get to me…..
Few minutes later we are seated with our drinks and after a little bit of silence, the conversation began. I don’t even remember what we talked about – all I could feel was this electric energy when I was looking in his eyes and I had never felt this way before. His smile made me feel warm and safe and I was going mad with wanting to touch him….but holding myself back from appearing too needy.
I thought he liked me too but I wasn’t sure. Maybe he was just a nice guy and I was eating for the speech at the end of the date. The hour flew by and suddenly it was time to say goodbye. I had to get Kate home and work the next day. And then, suddenly before it could be over, he started to play footsie with me! I died. I knew that meant he was attracted and as we said goodbye he gave me a huge bear hug and in that moment I felt at home. I was drunk in the smell of him and couldn’t believe my good fortune.
I was in control and life was turning around. I had a therapist, boundaries with Stacy and Tyler, I had the roommate moving out so Kaitlyn and I could have a healthy home. Life was good. I was feeling like I was on the path to awareness.