"I don't want to be married like this," I told my counselor, "I can't be married like this. I am so alone, especially when he's here."
Admitting it out loud is always painful and real. Hearing words I've only thought is harsh. Why? Because I've never been honest like this. I've never THOUGHT harsh and hard things and then SAID them.
My counselor listened to me and suggested as I work on my own healing, I channel Stephanie Nielson's journey through her change and shift in perspective.
And since I was on an honesty kick, I told him I really, really, really didn't want to read Nie anything.
It isn't that I hate HER. My reasons really have nothing to do with her and everything to do with me.
Stephanie's plane crash happened on my birthday, less than 2 hours away from where I live. St. Johns, Arizona is about 90 minutes from Joseph City, Arizona.
I read about her story the next morning in the news. I opened her blog and binge-read with the rest of the world.
I cried a lot. 100% for Stephanie and her pain.
Days went by and I read more.
As a stay-at-home Mormon mother -7 months pregnant with a boy and chasing a 20 month old girl around -her words touched me deeply, and I found myself looking at the world wildly different.
I found myself questioning my priorities and wondering how Stephanie would handle my life. I tried to be like her, see my life as she saw her own.
But there was one difference between her life and my life.
And it wasn't the plane crash.
My husband is a sex addict.
While I was about to give birth to our second child, I was also enduring daily porn usage by my husband. My son was born and I found myself reading less and less Nie.
My tears became 70% for Stephanie and 30% for me because her blog had glossy descriptions of her husband's unfailing ability to SEE her.
The ratios gradually flipped, and I quit reading Nie because I didn't want to hurt so much anymore.
When my counselor suggested I turn to her and study her story and life, I felt an old twinge of sadness and I told him I couldn't. I wouldn't.
But his suggestion never left my mind. I put my toes in the Nie water by asking a few friends if they'd read her book. They had. They liked it. They weren't a puddle of tears.
I sat on the idea for a few days, and then when I fell sick over the weekend, I jumped into the Nie water.
One-click buy and 60 seconds later, I was curled up with my iPad reading, "Heaven is Here."
I cried a lot, and I cried hard. I read the book in two days, and it took me over a week to recover.
I hated my counselor for suggesting it. I hated that my pain wasn't visible. I hated that Stephanie's husband was patient. I hated that Stephanie had overwhelming passion for her husband.
I found myself jealously craving her hospital bed and the opportunity to just REST while my family took my kids because I CAN'T MOTHER LIKE MY CHILDREN NEED ME TO.
In the 6 years since my son was born and I'd quit reading Nie, I'd gone from a woman who devoted herself to marriage and home to a mother who worked part-time to save money up in case she had to support herself.
I'm separated from my husband.
He lives in the camp trailer I've affectionately named Dog House and I live in the manufactured home next to him. Our kids have cried hard tears of fear, and my house isn't clean.
You can't see my scars, but they are there. I see them everyday, even if no one else does.
In the week following the reading of Nie, I cried a lot and couldn't WAIT to get my words on my counselor.
WHY had he asked me to read about Stephanie?!
What could the wife of a SEX ADDICT possibly gain from reading about a woman with a devoted husband? Do I have the safety of knowing my husband would stay by my side if I were burned? I don't. I really don't. What I DO have is years upon years of struggling with image to keep up with what kept my husband's interest... a losing battle, and devastating losses have been sustained there.
Christian calls her darling.
He loves her for HER, not what she has to offer.
I cried so hard for myself when I read that book, and the trauma felt was harrowing.
Six days later, I watched a movie about a man and a woman that belonged together but could never QUITE make the connection. There was always a boyfriend in the way or a pregnant girlfriend or an alcohol problem. When they finally come together 15 years after they SHOULD have, she is hit by a bus and dies.
The movie ended with thoughts about how things could have gone differently if the man had simply made different choices early on, and as the credits rolled at midnight, I found myself just fuming.
I was shaking and angry.
Fifteen years is too long.
So much is being missed.
Stephanie and Christian.
Building lives and homes together...
Memories we never made and can't get back.
The FUTURE felt in those first kisses.
Pissed away, pissed away, pissed away.
Before I knew it, I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, pulling my hair back with shaking hands. I pulled a sweater on and marched myself out to The Dog House.
I woke my husband up and for the first time EVER, I took the honesty I'd tapped into with my counselor and I let it shake all over my husband.
Did I yell?
No, but I didn't feel like I needed to.
Did I cry?
Did I swear?
Did I shame?
I told him how mad I was... how OF ALL HE HAD MISSED IN OUR MARRIAGE,
was his biggest loss.
I could see my own worth in Stephanie and the fictional woman who'd been hit by a bus.
AS I AM, I HAVE SO MUCH TO OFFER. Just by being, I brought a WORLD of AWESOME to my marriage and relationship.
I deserved better.
I unleashed my own self-hate for not standing up for myself sooner, for coddling what I thought was just a little (and natural) porn habit.
I might not have passion for my husband right now, but I have stumbled upon something more important: passion for myself.
Stephanie's painful story taught me how a woman healing from wounds should be treated. She taught me that it's okay to be irrational and say things you wouldn't normally say.
It became clear to me that my husband could and should be patient with me as I heal, and if he isn't... he needs to go away.
I can't clean my house and teach my toddler Chinese while the homemade gluten free noodles boil on low.
I can make sure we pray. I can make sure we're honest with each other about how we're doing and what we're feeling. I can hold my daughter while she tells me about her fears of Daddy not coming back home.
I can listen to my son tell me about the latest Power Rangers episode he watched while I sat through my weekly s-anon meeting online.
In short, I can give myself permission to see the hospital bed I'm in, even if others can't or don't or won't.
What's more: I can begin to see past hurtful words said by others to their own invisible hospital beds.
And like Christian was patient with his healing wife, so to can I work to be patient with those healing around me.
I can stand up for myself as I heal, and love will begin to seep through the cracks made by fear.