Burned Bridges and the Bitch

My mind is the clearest is been in over 3 years. I still deal with the daily stress about finances. I still have to fight with my anxiety over the next catastrophe. I still have to baby my heart when I have a fit of sadness. The difference is that the depression and despair is no longer constant. I have longer moments of sunshine.

A new semester started a few days ago and my plate is already full with lab assignments, 25+ pages of dense reading material and projects. I’m in my zone however, my goal is to dominate this semester. My objective is to become more efficient and become more organized so that I don’t fall too far behind on my household errands and responsibilities.

I’ve finally grown accustomed to being a single woman. I’ve grown to become attached to my apartment. My bedroom is my favorite place, because it’s the warmest place for me. My divorce was finalized December 5th and that bridge I burned is lighting my path. It was a necessary destruction. I’ve found my peace of mind. I got my damn backbone out of the gutter. The fact that he thinks I’m rude and demanding only proves that bitch is back and I’m ecstatic.

This is my time to invest in myself and subsequently my children. I don’t have to devote all of my emotional bandwidth towards a human who needs the services of a psychiatrist and a therapist. I no longer have a duty to destroy myself to water a decayed tree. I can invest that time, that love and that energy to becoming a better human. I can water my own tree. I can devote more time to watering my children. Mama is happier and they notice it.

Now, I will admit that I do struggle to forgive myself. I did nothing grievous by falling in love with an enigma. I did nothing wrong with holding on for as long as I did. I am not a defective product by joining the legions of single mothers. I will not allow the stigma to define who I am, because I fucking know who I am. I do not need a man to define my worth as being married means absolutely nothing if they aren’t worth a candy shop ring.

Nevertheless, I’m curious to see how this semester unfolds. I’m curious as to see how I write the following chapters of my life. How will I overcome hurdles, personal or not.


Speed bumps

Naturally, my semester didn’t end quietly, but rather is kind of sputtered. The morning of my final exam, I’m rushing to drop my children off to school and daycare as usual, but my routine was thrown for a loop. “DING” My check engine lights lights up and my anxiety soars through the roof. I’m already frantically texting my mother, because a check engine light can either be catastrophic or fairly harmless (it turned out to be rather harmless, I simply needed more coolant).

But, I had no time to have it checked until the end of my exam – which I bombed by the way. However, I did pass the class. On one hand, I was tremendously proud of myself for not failing and dropping out, but I was also disappointed that I didn’t get the grade that I wanted. I hit my first speed bump and the wave of inadequacy hit me and soon followed all the negative thoughts. I have to make it point to shut them down before it gets out of control.

I reminded myself of how alive I felt walking through the clinics and the determination in my steps while briskly jogging down the hospital hallways. I reminded myself of the glow I had when my internship finished. I reminded myself of the concepts that clicked after rotations. It’s incredibly easy for me to lose sight of everything and that continuing with school is a risk, but a risk that has ample rewards.

The Feelings Don’t Last

Well, the semester is drawing to a close and I can tell you that I’m actually quacking in my shoes. A&P was far more intense than I realized, but I’m shuddering to know that Gross Anatomy in medical school is even more intense. I just hope to get out of this class alive, so that I can breathe for a little while.

The last few weeks have been tough. I’ve dealt with my fair share of flashbacks and reliving of traumatic moments. I’ve had grief, sadness and rage bubble to the surface. The guilt eats away at me, because despite all that’s happened I somehow blame my self for the death of my marriage and subsequently my children’s home. I feel more remorse than he does. I feel more shame than he does. I feel guilt and shame for things I didn’t commit.

These emotions tend to resurface during particularly trying days. And you know what, these feelings do not last. They ebb and flow until they eventually fade away and the lapse of time grows each time. I just hope that my ray of sunshine finds me. The day when no longer harbor negative feelings about him. When I can walk into our favorite date spot and not want to run to my car and sob. When I can see her name and not feel my heart splinter.

I’m hoping that day comes, but until then I have to take my life day by day. I have to live my life to the best of my ability and ride through those negative periods.

Fleeting Confidence

Confidence rooted in the praise of those that surround you is fleeting. It’s flimsy and can be easily stolen. You’ll spend your life lavishing and lapping up redundant compliments and for some, it’s quite obvious, but for others it’s subconscious. I would say that for myself, it was subtle. It didn’t take much for a man to make me blush, well anyone for that matter.

I’m no longer hiding behind it. I wholly admit that I’ve spent much of my young adulthood chasing the approval, the “love” and worthiness of others and sometimes, their intentions were not of importance. See, self-esteem wasn’t something necessarily instilled when I was young. I clearly recall the first time I felt absolutely worthless and that death was a better option – I was fuckin’ eleven.  Ever since, I struggled with seasons of intense self-doubt, depression and anxiety.

The perk of being a millennial is that the stigma isn’t nearly as prominent and no one blinks twice if you mention a medication you’re taking or if you’re actively seeking psychiatric help and counseling. Sometimes, it’s lauded as a responsible choice. But, how did I wind up where I am? How did a measly thing such as lacking self-esteem be a marker for making such poor choices?

Growing up, I was not the pretty child. I was not the sociable child. I was not the smartest child or other coveted traits we seek and desire. I do recall resentment and frustration from some adults in my life. I do recall rude remarks being passed off as a joke. I do recall the sting of not being the favorite. It’s petty, but it plays a part as cliche as it sounds.

I was awkward. I had and still have niche interests. I’m not really all that extroverted and I was born with a lazy eye and despite having had surgery, I avoided and still avoid looking others in the eye for long periods of time, because people enjoy stating the obvious.

So, as the cliche I can be; once puberty was in full force I almost became a damned demon, you can ask my mother. Boys like certain bits of my anatomy and I almost threw myself at them. I flirted. I teased. It wasn’t the best attention, but it was enough for me. I reveled in it, until I was tossed aside. I took break-ups harder than I should have done. It was rejection. I wasn’t good enough. It sometimes triggered the spiral into depression.

It’s exactly how I ended up in my husband’s lap, after much reflection myself and many of the women he cheated on me with had one thing in common – piss poor self-esteem. A yearning to be loved, cherished and made into a man’s world. Even if he made the devil blush. He promised me all the thing I had been longing to have. It didn’t take much to lure me in.

Now, I have to find my confidence and my merit. My therapist asked me, “What is it that you like about yourself?” The room was silent. I had no answer.

I have to find the beauty in myself, despite having had two children. I have to find my own desirability, sensuality and sexuality that isn’t rooted in a man’s eagerness to fuck me. I have to find the beauty in who I am as a person, that isn’t tied to people’s approval. Whether they be friends or family. I have to stand on my own two feet.

Because true confidence cannot be stolen.

Broken Cookie Cutters

I’ve spent the majority of this semester debating on my career path. I’ve gone back and forth more times than I can count. Do I remain a pre-med student or do I jump ship and go for a post-graduate career that takes less time and certainly less money? One of the greatest fears I have is providing for my children, it’s a driving point in all of this.

Something I learned quickly in this journey to become a physician is that the road is even more arduous when you don’t fit the traditional mold. If you don’t come from an affluent background, you have a disadvantage. If you belong to an underrepresented group, you will be overlooked or doubted. If the car you drive can go to the voter polls with you, people may scoff at you. The number of resources become limited.

While Mississippi has a severe shortage of physicians, if you don’t fall into the extremely small mold, you can quickly find yourself on your own. However, that’s the nature of this game. It’s the reality of someone like me regardless of what field I choose. I have to take a long and hard moment of reflection. “Is this something I truly want and will I be happy if I walked away?”

The problem is, I’ve walked away from this before and two weeks before I was due to graduate I had realized I made a mistake. Do I want to be in that predicament again? Would sticking to becoming a physician be selfish? Would I be putting my happiness over the well-being of my children?

Also, given that I expect to receive little to no support from their father as he will either live the rest of his life with a conviction as his shadow or he will go to his home state and pursue a medical career. So, is this something I can truly pursue given my circumstances?

The lake is murky and I have no choice but the dive in head first.

Weaponized Faith

Tables turn quickly. Judgement is lazy and easy. One year, you pity the sister who was once in niqab, but has seemingly abandoned Islam. The next, you’re huddled in a corner, absolutely shattered and broken and nothing makes sense. I liken leaving a dysfunctional marriage to having blurry vision and ringing ears. You’re disoriented.

It isn’t terribly uncommon to see women (and some men) in my community basically abandon Islam after a troubled marriage or family life. Abuse is hardly addressed head on and the few times that it can be, you will be met with a fierce push back. Remember, uncomfortable truths? From my own experience, many of the women who eventually abandon Islam faced one form of abuse that people swear is not a thing – spiritual abuse.

I left my marriage questioning everything I knew. How could I reconcile that I was in essence, inferior to another human simply because Allah had given them a penis and had given me a vagina. How could I reconcile that somehow I was good enough to birth children and raise them, but not good enough to be treated as an adult and not as a liability. How many times did I have to hear that I was intellectually deficient simply because I disagreed with a ludicrous idea?

How many times did I have to be told that validity as a Muslim was null because I was a Black American woman? How many times did my own humanity come at an inhumane price. What people fail to realize is that some of these ideas aren’t pulled from culture or thin air, but an overly strict interpretation of religious text. At some point, I began to question was I exactly worth. I remember calling my husband out on his disdain for the female gender, noting that he almost never had anything positive to say.

Thing is, he isn’t isolated. There is an entire community of men and women who use Islam to bolster misogyny and abuse. This is the uncomfortable, unbridled truth. So, when you leave such a situation, the rug has been yanked from beneath you. You struggle to understand the faith you once held dear. So, I’ve gone from not understanding why some people jump ship to understanding precisely why they do.

You cannot hold onto an iman that was snatched away from you. You cannot hold onto something that was used to hurt you repeatedly, not until some level of healing occurs. Some kind of reflection and until the right support comes. It does not happen in the span of months, but maybe years.

When Healing Hurts

Sometimes, I leave therapy feeling far more exposed and raw than I did when I walked in. This is always the result of unearthing an uncomfortable truth such as my codependent tendencies and subconscious fears and insecurities. I know first hand that healing hurts. I’ve had not one, but two c-sections. The time my body spent trying to rebuild tissue and shrink my watermelon sized uterus to that of a pear was absolutely grueling, but there was a light at the end the tunnel – the ability to laugh without feeling as if the contents of your abdominal and pelvic cavities were going to spill all over the floor.

About two weeks ago, I was in near tears when I left my therapy session. I’m just now beginning to understand how my codependent traits contributed to the struggles in my marriage. My inability to set boundaries from fear of upsetting some loved ones. My tendency to set aside my own emotional needs and happiness in pursuit of being a foundation for my home – with little return.

In some ways, I already knew this about myself. It wasn’t a surprise when we discussed this in group therapy, however; the reason I felt raw was when my therapist bluntly pointed out that I was subconsciously seeking a partner with paternal traits. I recoiled in horror when she said this – it sounded incestuous. She quickly told me that it wasn’t, but that given my childhood it was something I was subconsciously seeking.

I wanted a partner who would dote on me, protect me and take good care of me, this was also coupled with the fear of being an independent adult. See, I married my soon to be ex-husband shortly after I graduated from college and while my mother did a bangin’ job preparing me for adult duties and responsibilities, I was far from emotionally mature to handle the stress that come with adulthood.

See, growing up; I can’t really give you examples of healthy relationships or marriages. Almost everyone’s relationship was riddles with infidelity, some form of abuse or just two emotionally and intellectually stunted people playing house. I also did not have a solid male mentor who could really look out for me. I am not slighting my mother, if anything I hold a great admiration because she stepped up when others ran  – when she didn’t have to do so.

Essentially, my insecurities and flaws made me ripe for a dysfunctional and abusive relationship. My soon to be ex-husband is a man who does not take no for an answer and I’m a person who can’t seem to say no. That’s a recipe for disaster. So, now I have to learn how to set boundaries, learn how to be emotionally self-sufficient and how to place my happiness as something valuable and important.