When I first got my life back after the Psychopath was arrested, I didn’t know who I was, where I was or even how I’d got to that place in which I was living with such deep, dank desperation and sadness. During that 4 year 9 month relationship I had done things and behaved in ways I did not think were possible for me.
But, there I was after his arrest, standing amidst the devastation of my life, forced to acknowledge the truth; I had become that crazed woman who had accepted his lies as her truth. I was that woman who, locked in his unholy arms, lost her moral compass and fell into the abyss of his web of deceit.
Freed from his embrace, I looked around me and realized, I was lost. I had seventy-two cents in my pocket, a few clothes and my trustworthy Golden Retriever who had walked beside me every step of that torturous journey. I had to find my way back to living without fear, to living with joy in my heart, and it had to begin with me.
I remember the morning after his arrest when I began writing in my journal for the first time in years. Since I was a child, I have always kept a journal. On the pages of my journal I could write without censorship. I could face myself and find where I stood in my life, regardless of the weather blowing outside.
While with him, I did not write. Writing is about truth for me and I couldn’t write while I was enmeshed in his lies. I knew, deep beneath my fear and terror, deep beneath the horror and revulsion of what had become of me, that he was the lie and I was no longer true to myself. On paper I would have had to face the truth and I didn’t know what to do with it, so, I did nothing. And, I did not write.
Writing it out to face the truth
That first breathless morning of freedom, I wrote and wrote. The words poured out as I tried to exorcise the ghost of his existence and my revulsion of who I had become. I wrote of my horror at what I’d done. My disbelief that I could have believed him, have been so gullible, so stupid, so naïve. And I wrote about ‘never’. “I’ll never forgive myself.” “I’ll never forget what he did.” “I’ll never be able to get over this.” The nevers went on and on to the point I thought they’d never end.
But they had to. If I held myself to ‘never’ I would never be able to heal. And I wanted to heal. I wanted to reclaim myself. To rebuild my life and to reconnect with my daughters so that we could live together once again.
In facing never on the page, I asked myself, “Is this true? Will I never be able to forgive myself for what I did to my daughters’ lives? Will I never forget what happened?”
“Do I really believe this?” I asked. “Is this what I want in my life?”
My answer was an emphatic “No.”
Getting more of what I want
What I wanted was to live without fear. I wanted to live with love in my heart, and joy and gladness and gratitude that I was alive. And most of all, I wanted to reconnect with my daughters and help them heal. During the final three months of that journey with the psychopath they had waited for a call from the police telling them that I had been found – dead or alive they did not know. The psychopath had fled the province and taken me with him and promised to let me go once he was out of the country. I was too scared, too inured to my pain to call to let anyone know I was alive, and he told me I couldn’t. So I didn’t.
When he was arrested, my daughters were thankful that I was alive, and justifiably angry. At 15 and 17, they did not deserve that terror. Their anger was real, but I was not strong enough nor well enough to help them move through it. All I could do was ask for their forgiveness.
I cannot give what I do not have
Forgiveness is a powerful tool for healing. To receive forgiveness, I had to be able to give it, without qualification or reservation. That meant, I had to be able to forgive the psychopath. And, more importantly, I had to forgive myself.
When I forgave the psychopath, I didn’t say, you are not accountable, (he was and is accountable for his actions). I didn’t forgive him to make him feel better (though in the past I would have done and did do many things to try to make him feel better). I forgave him so that I would not have to hold onto anger, blame, shame or guilt. I forgave him so that I would not have to think about him.
Forgiving him was relatively easy. He was in jail and we have not had contact since his arrest May 21, 2003. To forgive him I simply said the words and accepted them as truth. “I forgive you.” When the little voice inside me rose up and said, “But…” I reminded it that I had forgiven him and could not harbour resentments, questions or doubts if I was truly forgiving.
Forgiving myself was more difficult. I wanted to hold myself pinioned to the sword of self-blame. I wanted to chastise myself. Berate myself. Condemn myself for having been a fool, for having hurt my daughters so much. But, to do so would have invalidated the miracle of getting my life back. And, to not forgive myself would have meant I did not believe myself worthy of my daughters’ forgiveness. By telling myself I would never forgive myself, yet asking them to forgive me, I was withholding from myself the very thing I wanted to receive.
I forgive myself so that I can be free
And so, I forgave myself, without resentment, questions or doubts. I didn’t qualify my forgiveness. I didn’t define it or limit it to specific events. I simply forgave myself.
In that act of forgiveness I was given the most awesome gift of all. The opportunity to start anew. To begin fresh with building my life with more of what I want in it and less of what I don’t.
I cannot give what I do not have. I cannot receive what I am not willing to give.
It has been over three and a half years since I was set free. They have been tumultuous, exciting and adventure filled years. Every day I have grown stronger and every moment has been a journey away from the darkness of the past into the light of living my life without fear. I embraced a forgiving heart so that I could be free of the past, and in my forgiveness, I received the greatest gift of all, love.