New me

I remember the switch from damaged self to the new me. I didn’t realize that I was doing what my mind psychologically had to do in order to survive.

It has been said ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone. – Rose Kennedy

According to Dr. Prakash Masand, a victim that has suffered a terrible trauma will sometimes create a new persona and disengage from anything associated with the old self.

It’s not surprising that some individuals will deal with it by literally trying to create a new identity so that this new identity is not associated with the trauma. That new person didn’t experience this trauma. – Dr. Prakash Masand

When I read that statement, I was really impacted because I tell victims all the time, “decide who you are going to be and be that person, leave all the other crap behind”. I tell them that because that is how I survived.

I didn’t realize that I was doing what my mind psychologically had to do in order to survive. If I get honest, this new persona emerged following my divorce proceedings and after I found out my then-husband was a registered sex offender.

I remember the switch. I remember coming out of the breakdown with a resolve of not being broken again. I had drove out to the desert to commit suicide and realized Tim would get custody of the kids. I couldn’t be so selfish to leave the kids in a situation of sexual, emotional, and mental abuse. I had no choice but to stay alive and “do something”. And then I found out Jeremy failed to register as a sex offender and was arrested.

I knew there had to be some reason he was charged…surely his ex-wife was just out to get him and made up a terrible lie and accusation…or he was dating someone that was just a year or so younger and was ‘technically’ a minor.

It was on the drive home from the jail the next day, after I had put my car up for his bond, that he informed me that he had tried to have sex with his then 15-year old step-daughter when he was 22.

I remember contemplating reaching across him and opening the passenger door next to him and shoving him out as we drove on the freeway. It was a calm and calculating thought, one that gave me comfort and peace. Resolve. And then I remember realizing that would be considered murder and I would go to prison which meant Tim would get the kids.

The switch.

I did not have the ability to deal with one more thing, so I didn’t. I asked for a divorce, had already quit communicating with extended family, had a job, paid my bills and had secured a no contact order for Tim.

I woke very morning with my new persona of conquering the world without a painful past, being a great mom and providing for my children, being by myself. Being with who I could trust: me…with no outside influences.

Then I met Shawn and sometime in the next 6 weeks, I realized  he was my escape plan. We started to date in late March (my divorce was final March 10th, almost 3 years to the day of marriage). In June we moved in together in a 3+ bedroom home with a pool, in November we married and December brought us moving to post. Two years later, we were in Germany.

We disappeared.

I don’t think I even realized that this was an escape plan, I just knew I had to stay on the path of the new me. The new me loved Shawn and wanted to be “good enough” to have a man like him. Gorgeous, hard-working, self-less. And I knew I needed to escape with my kids.

I had the contact info for an underground group that helped women escape in the event they had to save themselves or their children. In my mind, this was going to be used if the court proceedings ever reached a point where Tim had visitation again.

This constant anxiety and fear when it came to where we were was always present. We were too close to Tim and his family. I felt that at any moment, I would find out the kids were gone or that Tim would come and kill us. Or he would show up at the front door and I would be unable to protect the kids because I would stand there in paralyzed fear, like I always had. ‘The Disappearance’ alleviated a lot of that anxiety.

For the first time in 3 years the kids could run and play outside and stay at friend’s houses without my crazy thoughts running constantly. I actually enjoyed having some time to myself. We made friends. Our life was somewhat normal in a sense that Tim wasn’t likely to be in Germany. The chance meeting of him in a store or parking lot was almost guaranteed not to happen. I relaxed – a little.

In 2005, we were told by the kids’ paternal grandfather, that he had searched for us for years. In 2013, we were told by many family members that they had lost track of us completely and had Facebook stalked us to gather information to fill-in the gaps of time, getting to know us again. They told stories that I have either no recollection of or that I immediately associated with “oh yah, not a great time in my life”. The truth was there was no “good” time in my life. There were 4 things I had in my timeline of my life which I considered “good” before The Disappearance, they were the birth of my children and having my sister.

Even my marriage to Shawn was a necessity to our survival even though I did love him. I love him more now than any other except for my children. Our marriage was hard for the first ten years and yet I refused to give up. I wonder now if it was because it would have destroyed the new me. The new life.

Joselyn has had an opportunity to meet and start to get to know our extended family who she hasn’t seen in 15 years or so. She keeps commenting on how she had forgotten that our family was bigger than just our core family. That the extended family has all of these missing pieces to our life. And they do but not for me.

I fight change that reminds me of my past like planning trips to go see the extended family – although I do love almost every minute of visiting with them. I fight against going to my mother’s house, or her coming here. I fight against flights to NY, one of the places with a bad memory after ‘The Disappearance’ – even though Thomas lives there. I fight against moving to the west coast. I fight against having a relationship with my sister, and I miss her terribly but I can’t take the crisis’ in her life because they remind me of my old self.

‘The Disappearance’ was what saved my life. I remember the switch coming from death and despair to finding some positive way to live. I started over and the only people I took with me were my kids.

I like who I am today, as I am sure Michelle Knight likes this new person over the one that what kidnapped, beaten and raped. There are days that the old life spills over into the new one and those are beyond hard. We did survive the atrocities though. We did survive.