I just finished reading The Yellow Wallpaper for a discussion in a feminist book club I just joined. I thought it would be so easy; there was a link for a free, downloadable PDF available through the Gutenberg Project, so I wouldn’t even have to shell out a few bucks, or worse, have to special order it after waiting until the last minute. The next day, I walked into my local free book exchange, and found a copy. The pages were still crisp and everything. I thought, “Score!” Since it was very short, only thirty-six pages, (not counting the afterward) I was able to off reading it in favor of another book I was excited to start. Less than an hour after I optimistically turned the first pages, I had reached the end.
I HATED that book.
I wanted to throw it across the room. I might still do it. Every time the husband, John, dismissed the wife (did she even HAVE a name? I’m assuming her personal worth does not necessitate an identifying factor, like a NAME) I had to use my utmost self-control and not rip the damn thing in half. My self-control was ADMIRABLE, above all things. NOBODY. GOT. HURT.
I became SO ENRAGED.
I tried to speak for myself and my children and set boundaries, but, in the same way the narrator describes being dismissed, my husband would entirely disregard the validity of my feelings and my needs by reminding me of my delicate state. He'd pour me wine, and put me to bed. Later, when I'd drank my feelings away, he would use my body.
That horrible cycle the wife in The Yellow Wallpaper couldn't escape (attempting to discuss her needs/ being pat on the head and diagnose her as being "prone to fancy," the historical context of F'ed up in the head/ the wife assuming her feelings are wrong, and only her husband truly understands her) was all too familiar... Like the wife, I began doubting myself; editing my self-perception to line up with my abuser. Eventually, he didn't need to impart his "wisdom," as I was able to hear his voice in my head along with my own, correcting me, pruning me, shaping me into the perfect invalid.
It got to the point where my sanity was not the question; the question was more to the point of my family avoiding contact with me because no one knew what would set me off. My husband’s new refrain was no longer convincing me I was too delicate too be taxed with unnecessary contact with others, but that I was irrational; abusive.
Like the wife in The Yellow Wallpaper, I was ushered off to bed as soon as I dared make eye contact. And I WAS tired. So, blessed tired. Sooooooooo tired. The more these fruitless interactions I had with my husband, the more weary I became.
So I slept. My body became weaker, and I wasn’t as able to be physical in the way I had been before marrying my husband. When I first noticed my body’s betrayal, I was stupefied. My husband came rushing in, digging the point home that I was to delicate and weak to accomplish my normal tasks. My mind reeled; everything that I knew to be true about myself was no longer true; my confidence became a slippery thing, and I began to look to my husband for answers about myself.
It was through those same channels that I was able to find forgiveness. The forgiveness I found for my husband looked like shoving a round peg through a square hole; it more accurately resembled compassion. To be honest, I choose not to give him any more mental space than what he already took from me.
The true forgiveness I found was in forgiving myself… Forgiveness for allowing someone like him into my life. Forgiveness for what marrying him did to my children, as they watched me unravel. Forgiveness for choosing a relationship with such an unhealthy and unloving man instead of waiting for a husband who honored God in his relationship with me, rather than defiling me. Forgiveness for believing that I was all that he said I was. Forgiveness for believing that I was unlovable, and no one else would want me.
Now, every night, before I go to bed, I swallow my Zoloft. I consciously make the choice not to swallow the words that inevitably fill my head as I down the bitter pill, saying, “See? If you weren't such a mental case, you wouldn't have to take anti-psychotics!” Every night, I remind myself that I haven’t been prescribed anti-psychotic medication, because I’m not psychotic, I have post-traumatic stress, thank you very much. I take Zoloft because it helps me cope with my PTSD symptoms; a result of living for three short years with a man who could probably use a head change, himself.
Now, every day, I wake up and fill my head with the remembrance of how Jesus saved me, AGAIN. The first time was two thousand plus years ago when He took my sins as His own, and bore them, suffering, on the cross at Calvary. The latter was when He held me in His arms and said, “I created you. I love you. I see you as whole and perfect, just as My love for you is whole and perfect. I sent My Son to die for you, because I love you, and through His Blood, you are made clean.”
I love Him for that.