Today I am so excited to bring Shannon, who is the lovely and hardworking founder of Shattering Stigmas. I am so happy she let me have a chance to continue this amazing event and even more thrilled to give her a space to still contribute to her baby this year. When she’s not doing Shattering Stigmas-related shenanigans, you can find Shannon on Twitter and on her blog, It Starts at Midnight.
So, it’s a little weird to be writing a guest post instead of actually hosting Shattering Stigmas, but here we are. First, I want to give a huge thanks to Taylor and the other hosts. Handing over your baby to someone else is hard, but I have complete faith that it’s in the best hands possible.
You might be wondering why I have stepped back this year, and that’s fair. I’ll give you guys a little synopsis: I was dragging my feet because as much as I wanted to get the event organized, I had no energy to do so and it was daunting. When Taylor reached out, Holly @ The Fox’s Hideaway (who’s been a co-host in past years too!) gently reminded me that I could let Taylor take over this year. And after a little soul searching, I did. For two reasons: one, I knew it was the right thing to do for the event. It’s important, and I wanted it to go on with or without me; and two, I knew it was the right thing to do for myself, too.
Which brings me to the meat of this post: the reasons why. The short answer, of course, is that life is messy at the moment. And in order to take care of myself, I need to not be in charge of a huge blog event. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a story I have been embarrassed to tell. A story that only a very, very small handful of people know. I think, though, part of healing and moving forward is acceptance. And self-kindness. My therapist says (frequently) that she wants me to frame my views of my situation differently: instead of beating myself up, worrying about what I could have done differently, I should look at it as though a friend were telling me the story. What would I say to them? What advice would I give? Would I be judgmental and harsh, as I am with myself? Or rather, would I be kind, loving, and accepting? Obviously, it’s the latter. So in the spirit of moving forward, here we go.
A little over a year ago, I reached a huge turning point in my personal journey. Though I’d known in my mind that my marriage had been over for many years, I was finally able to admit it out loud to friends and family, and eventually to my ex-husband. It was such a huge breakthrough for me, and while it was hard, I felt an enormous weight lifted. Because my daughter had just started school, we agreed to wait for a few months to go through the formal divorce proceedings, sell the house, etc. She has a hard time with change and we didn’t want to overwhelm her. (Like mother, like daughter, I suppose.) I had hoped we could do mediation, come to a nice, healthy, civil agreement that would benefit everyone as much as possible.
All that changed in December. My ex-husband showed up early at home, saying that he’d been put on leave from his job as a counselor. And that was the beginning of a nightmare that I don’t even have words for, but I am going to try. He was subsequently terminated, though at the time I had no idea why. He refused to tell me, and it wasn’t exactly like we were on good terms, so. As a stay-at-home mom for almost the past decade, we now had no income mere weeks before Christmas. But that was just the tip of the iceberg, for several months into 2018, he was arrested. And I finally found out what he was terminated for: An inappropriate relationship with a fifteen year old transgender client. Basically, the most vulnerable of victims.
It’s the kind of moment where everything you think you know drops out from under you. For while I knew I didn’t want to be in a relationship with him, I had never thought of him as a bad person, never knew he could be a predator. He, of course, denied this. Of course, my “proof” was circumstantial. For awhile. He’d been out on bail, under a strict no-contact order in regards to the victim, of course. And I really never thought he would break that, especially because I really thought he cared about his kids. Then the bottom really fell out. My kids told me (and this is the very short version) that my ex had brought this person into my home while I was in New York with my parents. That they were “boyfriends” and had “tickle fights.” And, that they were never supposed to tell me. I don’t know how I made it through the night until I could go, with my parents’ support, to the police station to file a report and then to get an order of protection for myself and the children.
I still doubted myself. What if I had made a mistake? My actual rocks, Val, Rashika, and Holly gently but firmly pointed out all the recent shady behavior, and I knew deep down that he wasn’t innocent. I found out later that he was caught with the victim in a hotel (that incidentally, he paid for by wiping out my bank account after I’d taken the order of protection out). Bail revoked, he was taken into custody. And I found myself a 100% single parent, no source of income, closest source of support an hour away.
In the aftermath, my feelings have been all over. I feel angry at myself for even worrying about my problems when there is a victim out there. I feel selfish for even thinking about me when I know my kids’ worlds were turned upside down. I feel at fault for not somehow noticing this sooner, for not being able to stop it somehow. And I feel mad, frankly, that this is what my life has evolved into. And sure, there are days that I feel grateful that I have my lovely kids, my friends, my parents, that there was an end put to this, and that my divorce should be final any day now.
Now, I must move forward, blindly. I am terrified of what comes next. My daughter is in counseling, but she isn’t doing well. I am taking a crappy job that I had over a decade ago and hated, just because I can’t find anything else. I have to move, and soon. I may end up having to declare bankruptcy, since I have gotten so far behind in trying to deal with the financial strain. I am trying hard to not die of embarrassment as I write this, because I know I didn’t cause it. But like all stigmas, this is one society has ingrained in me.
At the end of the day, I need to be kinder to myself. I am going to do so right now: No one could have predicted ten years ago that I’d be here now. Even the red flags I did see amounted to cheating at best, and since we were divorcing, it wasn’t like I cared. Never in my wildest nightmares would I have imagined this. And that’s okay! Hell, that’s normal, because I am not a monster. It’s okay to fall apart a little, too.
So, my message to you all is this: you can, you will beat whatever monster you’re dealing with. It won’t be easy. Treat yourselves like you would a friend. Because we all love you, and we’re here for you. And we know you deserve it. You deserve the world. We won’t let the stigma beat us down.
Next year, I hope to be back on the #ShatteringStigmas team. And I hope to be moving forward with life, too. How, you ask?
(And you know, therapy and support and such. But mostly being awesome. You’re welcome for The 100 reference, it would not be a Shannon Post™ without it, let’s be real.)
Interested in more Shattering Stigmas posts? Check out this post that Ben, another of our amazing co-hosts, put together listing every single Shattering Stigmas guest post and giveaway so you don’t miss a thing!