Back to Life... Back to Reality

Spring is trying so hard to happen in Atlanta.

Spring is trying so hard to happen in Atlanta.

Hey there, happy Monday! Hope everyone had a lovely weekend. Mine was calm and uneventful, which is good considering how last week went from just wanting to spend a week in my newfound peaceful place, and line up the next six months of my life where important things need to happen...

Well, we know how that turned out. Chaos ensued Wednesday afternoon that made things a little tricky in the 'peaceful' regard, but it finally had to happen. Orbit Medical still sucks, by the way. They are content to publicly pretend I have the wrong company. That's fine. I'll just leave them to their 1-star reviewed business, and crush their SEO should I ever be harassed with company assets or on company time again if they chose to keep employing my ex. At least the harassment totally stopped and it's been quiet. Objective achieved. Obviously, I'm being punished for going public by my ex, so I've been completely cut off from my children for now. Again, that's fine. It's not going to shut me up. If anything, they've reignited my desire to blog again. Let's send them a fruit basket. 

However, those events have lit the fire of panic inside of me again, and that means I have some tough decisions to make, and some things to figure out. 

I don't even know where to begin... I guess we will start with the panic. 

By going public, I feel like I signed my death warrant. When you take the level of harassment I've endured for things such as dating, and having success my ex-husband is jealous of because he doesn't feel I deserve it, feels entitled to, and wants to punish me for having without him, going back to Chicago puts the fear of God in me. He has a history of stalking me, such as following me to Wal-Mart and blocking my car in a parking space, if I live within 10 miles of him.

Which seems simple enough to solve... just don't live less than 10 miles from him. 

But it's not that easy... we have to exchange the children for visitations. He has attempted to assault me in a public place before. I have now crossed a line I have never crossed in going after his job publicly. He has easy access to firearms even though it is illegal for him to own them with his previous domestic violence convictions. Victims die in these scenarios doing everything right by the law. He has made me so afraid to be in my home when I've obtained restraining orders in the past, I spent weeks in a women's shelter with my two toddlers, and he burned everything I owned. 

So your simple answer would be, 'don't go back to Illinois.' 

Yeah... it is a simple answer. However, staying where I am doesn't solve the problem, either. My own lawyer has said I am screwed if I continue to live out of state. Illinois is a father's rights state. Murderers get visitation with their children. He will still get ample visitation. Bringing the kids back here would only rip them from the only real stability they've known, which is their schools and community, and put them back to living in a strange city and traveling to Chicago twice a month. He will play games with the visitation as he did before that rides the line enough to emotionally and financially exhaust all of us without getting into trouble legally. So now you have to think of the quality of life that gives me and my children. Is it worth it? When your children are crying and living out of suitcases? No. It isn't. That's why I sent them back. 

I have also promised them I'm coming back. They need me. I have always said in my own history if ONE person had a backbone in my life, stood up, said, "This is not okay!" instead of retreating in defeat, my life would be extraordinarily different. My children are isolated where they are. No adults are really looking in on the situation. My ex has few friends and no family in the area. I know how it is to be terrified of speaking out about what life at home is really like, I know what it's like to miss the 'good' parent, I know what it's like to be punished severely for loving and missing my other parent, I know what it's like to have that good parent torn down, demonized, financially exhausted, and dancing like a puppet on a string. It's a trapped feeling you learn to cope with and make as normal as you can. Two of my children have already had discipline issues at school that have almost gotten them expelled, and they weren't 'kids will be kids' type things.

In my own history, my father tried, my grandparents tried, but they were worn down and had to put faith in the fact we'd find them when we were 18. We did, and ended up making up for a lot of lost time, but the damage was already done. Living 4 hours away kept enough distance between us to give them peace, but also make the bad situation into an island. No adults were engaged and looking in on what was going on behind closed doors. The situations are too similar for me to ignore. 

I will not do that to them. I have justified this arrangement as, "A distant mother is better than a dead one, they're very aware of what's going on and will run to me as soon as they can," and that's true, but enough is enough. I'm not going to be chased away and eliminated because their father suffers from a chronic case of "I hate you, but you're not allowed to leave me." 

It's going to take work. Hard work. I am never going to be able to make the mistake of, "oh he's been decent for 30 days, I think we've turned a corner," again. I am never going to behave in a way that can ever be construed as providing false hope of a reconciliation again whether its in the spirit of giving my children a joint birthday party, or using it to my advantage to get more time and access to them. I have to put up strict boundaries and follow them. 

I will have to live in the boonies, and use the benefit of his laziness to my advantage. I will have to take self-defense classes, carry pepper spray and a legal weapon at all times. I am going to have to have cameras and an alarm system. I am going to have to have an easy to access panic button on my phone. I am going to have to continue to remain secretive about most parts of my life such as my significant other, friends, where I'm at, and the like. I will also have to understand that my circle of people will continue to be very small because he has always invaded their lives and privacy. 

There will never be another minute of my life once I return I will be able to be off my guard for as long as he lives. That's not being dramatic, that's a fact. The most dangerous time in a victim's life is when they gain independence and think it's safe. I can never, ever think its safe. 

I made a choice and married him. I made a choice and had three children with him. It took leaving what, EIGHT times? to stay gone. I have a responsibility in this. I have a responsibility to harden myself to optimism that this relationship will ever be good. I have to accept that he is obsessed with me, to the point of not going on a single date in years waiting to break me enough to come back to him forever, and my guard can NEVER be down. I have to hold hard and fast to the rules of accountability. There can be no trust. No false sense of security. It is legitimately the only way. 

I also have to keep being vocal and talking about it, and thicken my skin to weirdos who come after me with their expert opinions and judgment of the situation. It keeps eyeballs on it. The last time he assaulted me, I was active on Facebook enough for people to know my online voice as opposed to someone impersonating me, and it sent up enough red flags to cause concern. Not every post here is going to be like my last few (at least I hope not) but at this point, blogging and social media will keep me visible and safe. 

This is what it takes to accept responsibility for my early choices, and be present for three innocents. At least some of the laws have changed since I was a kid. They have a say in where they live once they turn 12. In Illinois, I can have an enforceable paper trail. 

Staying in Georgia or out of state is the easy way out, and limits my future. My career is at the point where I need to be in a major market or it will stagnate and die. I have worked too hard rebuilding something I had to leave behind when I came down here three years ago. I don't regret it, I see why it had to be done, and I am thankful for my support down here, but I've outgrown it professionally. I have to be the breadwinner. My ex-husband is 15 years older than me, smokes like a chimney, and drinks like a fish. The health odds aren't that great for longevity. In a handful of years, I will have three children to put through higher education, and they will get the opportunities they deserve. They will also need a lot of counseling, and that ain't cheap even with insurance. I have to pay $325 for 90 minutes a week, insurance included. So while it may come off as selfish, that's my responsibility for bringing them into this world, so my career has to be a top priority. I am not young anymore. I have to think long-term. There are no tangible 'services'. It infuriates me when people judge people in my situation with that vague chant of, "services!" LIKE WHO. WHERE. HOW. I was out of work and broke as shit without any child support when we relocated to Georgia. We ate out of friends' freezers and the dollar store because I made too much money the quarter before to qualify for food stamps. So, please shut up about services. They are few and very far between. I have to have a solid, well paying career, and in my field, Atlanta has an expiration date. 

And being away from my children, jerked around by a nut, will eventually drive me insane. It killed my father because he had to drink to cope. I have my own cycles to break. I'm done with loser narcissists who think the world owes them dictating how I'm going to live my life. 

So for the next part of the year, all of this is going to get put into place. It's going to take planning, laser focus, nerves of steel, and choking down a lot of fear and panic. This time is different because I go into this prepared, independent, and with resources I've never had before. I don't have to rely on a rescuer, and being in the throes of an acute incident. This can be planned, it can be methodical, and it will be successful. Obviously, I can't share details, but I can talk about my feelings and circumstances along the way. 

My feelings are usually all over the place. I have moments of strength and empowerment, moments I can hardly breathe from the panic of, "How will I do all of this myself," I have moments of debilitating sadness, sleepless nights filled with anxiety, moments of rage and helplessness. I run the gamut. No day is like the last. 

Here's where I can describe my circumstances and be honest with you... because I'm not in a crisis situation and I have resources I've never had before, I can see that I am going to need outside help to get through this, and I'm not just talking about friends and family, because although they are wonderful to have and I am #blessed, they get battle weary and desensitized, too. So I'm doubling down on the self-care. I know I'm prone to certain things, and they can't be a factor if this is going to work. I can be my own worse enemy sometimes, and I can admit it. I am a woman of few good coping mechanisms. Writing is one of the three. Hi. 

So anticipating this being a hard six months or so ahead, I have upped my counseling sessions to 1.5 a week, and just this morning I called and made an appointment with a psychiatrist to see if there are some appropriate medical interventions we can use to help the panic, anxiety, and insomnia which tend to snowball and that's when I reach for those BAD coping mechanisms. 

Bad coping mechanisms let my guard down. Can't happen. 

I've been doing all of the natural things you can do for panic and anxiety: increase omega 3s, probiotics, limiting caffeine, exercise, sleep, meditation, yoga, limiting alcohol, CBD oil... but they aren't providing me enough consistency right now. I also don't think 'white knuckling' through it is worth it anymore. I don't get a gold medal at the end of the day for keeping my jaw clenched for eleven hours. I've done the best I can on my own, and I need someone who knows more than I do to look at the big picture and see what they can do. I have something I didn't have before...

Health Insurance. 

So I called and made an appointment to see a doctor who specializes in what I'm experiencing. The bad thing is, getting a new patient appointment is always a bitch, but I got the earliest one available at the end of March. That's the bad thing about our American system, if you're not in crisis you have to wait an eternity to see a specialist. But you know what? Just knowing I have that appointment took some weight off my shoulders. It's one thing checked off the list. I can do what I've been doing for the next month, and then someone else is going to take that burden from me and help. 

Ain't no shame in asking for help when you need it. I'm going to be very open about this whole process every step of the way. You're going to be like, "Remember when she would only blog like once a month?" I really do think it's important for me to talk about it and type the words, "I made an appointment with a psychiatrist because I foresee a tough six months ahead, know how I typically react to these things, and it is officially beyond me." I need to type, "My friends are awesome, but they're sick to death of hearing about it and it stresses them out, too. I'm going to order less stupid crap online a week, and put that extra $150 towards a second half hour session a week to talk about this stuff with objective feedback." Because let's face it, friends can't be objective. They get mad, fed-up, and the feedback tends to incorporate pinky swears on what happens if we go to prison enacting the fantasy plan. THAT IS A JOKE, obviously, but you know what I mean. Sometimes you need a coach, not someone with justified homicide on their mind. 

So today it's back to life, and back to reality. Making moves, taking steps, and refusing to back down even though the fetal position is rather appealing right now. Thank you all so much for the outpouring of support over the last few days. I truly do appreciate you, even if we really don't know one another. I actually have a lot of happy things to share, I hope to get to start on here tomorrow. And if there is any way I can lend support to you, please shoot me a message on social media or through the contact form on this site (it's at the bottom of the homepage). 

May we all pick up and soldier on in whatever battle we may be fighting. 

Jennifer Gulbrandsen