My children were traveling to see their father the other day, and I made them text me or call me with updates, periodically. Thankfully, he lives four states away in Florida. They would be there a week and I was happy that they were going to be able to take a bit of a vacay, even though I couldn’t. Everyone of my friends and family are posting beach pictures from their vacation to social media, and I’m over here, like, “Hey, I went to work!”
It takes about 10 hours to get there, by car. However, I added about an hour before I texted my adult daughter, the driver of my teenage son, to see if they got there. I gave her a good thirty-minutes for a response, but didn’t receive any back. If she was busy or distracted, she’d generally have her little brother text me back. So I texted her and him both. Nothing. *Sigh* I was going to have to call her…
I called and she picked up on the third ring. “Oh, hi, Mom!”
“Are you all okay? Did you get there safely?”
“Yes, we just got here actually and are stretching our legs and seeing Dad.”
It was then, that I heard it. My ex-abuser’s voice. I froze. The anxiety welled up in my chest and made it tight. The bile rose in my throat with bitter burning. I felt the fluttering panicky feeling that my heart and pulse do, as though I was in danger again.
“Uh, I’m glad you made it. sweetie. You guys have a great time! Send pictures. I HAVE to go now. Love you!” I didn’t wait for a response, as I disconnected the call.
Why? Why? Why did I react that way? Their Dad and I haven’t been together in nearly four years. His voice wasn’t raised in anger, as I used to so frequently hear. He was laughing and talking with our 15-year-old son, as I could hear both voices in the background. I was almost embarrassed that I panicked so, but I did what I knew to do: remove myself from the situation. I realize I was only on the phone, but still.
He still is a fear trigger for me and it’s exceedingly difficult to let my children go see him. However, I also do not want to be THAT parent that keeps their children from their father. They’re older, two are adults and one is a man-sized teenager, so I don’t feel like he could kidnap them. They have to draw on their own conclusions of their Dad. I want them to have a relationship with him, as long as he doesn’t start mentally, verbally, and physically abusing and manipulating them. Keeping them from him and poisoning their minds against him would only be stooping to his level. I will NOT do that and be that person! I’ve merely advised them that if he starts behaving badly, to get into my daughter’s vehicle and drive and go shopping for a bit, giving him some time to calm down, then re-assess. It’s all I can do, really.
After the embarrassment wore off, I got a bit angry with myself. Why was I so frozen with fear? That was just ridiculous! I eventually had to acknowledge that it was protection mechanism and I would always be wired this way. I reminded myself I was safe and that no harm would happen to me. More positive, kind self-talk has been my saving grace. First, identify what the issue or trigger is, then kindly and soothingly commence with the self pep-talks. I’ve been ignoring my negative, self-doubting voice a lot more, I am very proud to say.
Many therapists and DV advocates say that you should name your inner negative voice, so you can kindly, but firmly, tell them to F*CK off. I honestly haven’t gotten THAT far in my recovery. I thought about “Karen” as all of the current, popular memes state, indicative of a negative force, but I have an aunt that I dearly love and couldn’t in good conscience use her name. I’m trying to pick a name that I absolutely detest. No luck yet, but I’ll post when I come up with one…
I like to think that I’m moving past the Fight/Flight/Freeze reaction, but I am still a work in progress. I’m traveling to the “Let it go!” phase…well, still trying…it’s DEFINITELY a journey!