**TRIGGER WARNING** This story contains content related to domestic violence.

The Story of Mariposa is an honest story of survival written by author Christine Hassing. Our most heartful of thanks belongs to J for her bravery in sharing her story. 

Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you. – Paul Coelho

When we are twenty years of age, invincibility is center stage. We have a certainty that cannot be swayed. We have conquered childhood, after all, making us mightier than any hurdle life throws our way.

At least that is what our innocence would have us to believe. At twenty, we don’t necessarily know naivety is sitting in a front row seat.
She sometimes finds herself catching her breath that the three best parts of her heart might not know what it is to uncover innocence when they are twenty. She celebrates, though, that they know a certainty in who they are becoming. They have an invincibility in their authenticity that is inspiring. They are teaching her every day how to unfold her own truth contained in her beautiful wings.

Her children may have grown up quicker than her dreams she had for them to do. She wishes they hadn’t had to witness, and experience, the traumatizing abuse. Yet, their genuine comfort in their own skins is something she is in awe of and so grateful for in the choices they have made. Each of them has chosen to make their family story matter in the perspectives they’ve embraced.

She thought she was bringing children into this life to teach three amazing souls how to become amazing human beings who could aid in making the world a better place. She would be able to teach them such things as kindness, compassion, curiosity, strive to live a life that keeps a continual smile on one’s face. She anticipated she would also teach them determination, faith, and never give up on a dream. What she didn’t know is that how they might learn her wishes for them would come less than easily. She didn’t plan that for them to learn determination would come through them living fearfully. She didn’t plan that never giving up on a dream would be taught through resiliency. She didn’t plan that her children’s wishes on a star would be keep the four of us safe, please. She didn’t plan that each morning when her children saw her safe, they were building their faith to believe in unlimited possibilities.
If she believed in irony, she would say something like it’s funny about a twenty-year chapter of her life. One, in good conscience she can’t use the word “funny” for said sarcastically, ironically, or humorously, there was nothing funny about this time. And two, she is coming to understand that to fully honor a key purpose of her life, she had to experience walking in shoes similar to those worn by who she serves so passionately. If she is going to advocate with all her heart for those who are marginalized in their rights and equality, she had to first learn to advocate for her own wellbeing.

See, the thing is while she was focused on helping many find the strength and self-belief to leave relationships that were victimizing, she was falling deeper and deeper into her own compromised safety. Her, a director of victim advocacy voicing more times than she can count my dear Jane Doe, I think it is time for you to leave. Here, let me help you outline next key steps so that you can get to safety immediately.

It’s easier to stand on the sidelines communicating the next moves to make. Afterall, when one is coach, one’s role is to look at the total field or court, seeing how the offense and the defense are both lined up to play. When one is captain of a team one is in the trenches with the team, assisting in the blocking and defending as need be. Sometimes, when someone is the captain, it is about taking one for the team. She had a team of three who she needed to take one for every hour, daily and nightly, very often at the sacrifice of her own sleep.
Her three children needed her as coach and as referee, referee so that her children could be sheltered from their second parent, her wife’s shadow side of mental instability. She is wondering if there will be a time in her life when she will no longer shudder when she thinks of the number eight? There was an eight-tile square parameter in their kitchen in which her wife would command she stand in place. For hours, and hours, and hours through the night she would stand while her wife drank and sang and tried to come down from an incredible prescription medication mixed with alcohol high. She would stand there with one mission on her mind.

Keep me awake and alert so that I can prevent her from climbing the stairs to where our children sleep. May I have enough strength to wake up earlier than the kids with a smiling face that hides any worry. It is critical that the children feel loved and happy.

As she shares her story, she is thinking about what you as the reader are saying to yourself right now. It’s okay, you can go ahead and ask her what she knows you want to say out loud. You are wanting to ask where Hindsight leads her mind to frequently. Especially when Hindsight can see she’s wearing her Self-Judge black gown quite regally.
Sometimes her answer to why I didn’t leave sooner she attributes to exhaustion, for sleep was a rare commodity. Sometimes her answer is mental abuse has a way of teaching one not to believe in one’s own capabilities. Other times her answer is marriage has its road bumps, and perhaps this is a phase couples go through. Love and one’s values when vowing I do have a way of teaching one to keep going through the “for worse” in the hopes “for better” is coming soon.

And then there are the moments when she feels like the convicted individual standing before the judge with a bowed head in shame. She can barely voice I don’t know why it seemed so impossible to leave sooner, her voice choked out by self-blame. When she is in those moments, then the inner young women in her comes to the rescue gently whispering you fell in love, and you innocently believed. You were certain she was the one that loved you unconditionally when your family was initially skeptical and questioning.

Initially her family struggled to understand that she was choosing her same sex as her wife. With that twenty-year-old impressionableness, she believed her wife when told she didn’t need those who disagreed with how she was choosing to live her life. We come to crossroads in our lives in which we don’t always recognize that we are standing at a juncture in which we decide. Those decisions can be made at an unconscious level, a feeling that we may not even fully be aware of, yet we deeply internalize.

She believes that one of those crossroads for her was believing she shouldn’t fully show the outside world who she is authentically. Maybe more than she realized she didn’t want to be rejected by others such as her colleagues. And when her wife started to have mental health problems, she didn’t want her family to know she was struggling. After all, they had already been disapproving when her wife and her relationship was initially “perfect”. And now her family was becoming accepting of her wife and their relationship and that they had three children, too. That unconscious voice was beckoning stay safe from rejection if no one knows what you are going through.

Ah, dear Hindsight, she wishes the wisdom she now has could have been better seen during the hardest time of her marriage. Her family had an intuition that things were bad, but they respected her privacy.

There is another internal voice that was talking to her continually. More than she acknowledged, truthfully. It is easier for her to reflect on the past if she thinks of it in terms of “hard” or “bad” or extremely exhausting. It is hard for her to revisit how fear was a part of every day. In the midst of it, she couldn’t let herself think in fearful ways. When that unconscious voice was whispering don’t speak, put up a front so others don’t see another voice was also trying to lead. Isolation is safer, and besides you don’t know what your wife will do. If she knows you have told others, she may take her own life, or take yours, too.

Her children and her love exploring their artistic abilities. Why does she share that here in her story? Because it is at this point that she would like to use a metaphor of the caterpillar and the butterfly when she shares how her mind, and her soul began communicating. Her mind was focused on keeping her kids safe during her wife’s manic unstoppable in a terminator kind of way behaviors every night. Her soul was starting to push at the cocoon that was trying to keep her held extremely close and tight.

She began keeping a journal for documentation as her soul nudged you’ve got to get yourself and the children out. You need to develop a plan to leave this house.

Then there was the night her wife got extremely intoxicated and as much as she tried to secretly water down her wife’s drinks, she couldn’t offset the prescription pills her wife had eaten like candy. This became the night that fighting for her life took on an entire new meaning. This time she was being physically strangled until she nearly stopped breathing.

Fortunately, her wife’s hands released their hold, and she was able to call the police. As to the police response, she will simply say, battle scars sure can overshadow compassion during someone’s most vulnerable time of need. Knowing the advocacy work that she does, she is certain police get as exhausted as she felt many a night when her wife was manic high. No different than non-first responders, it is easy to formulate stereotypes.

Some domestic abuse situations can involve two adults in extreme co-dependency. They bring out the worst in each other leaving the children in extreme vulnerability. In these situations, tough love can be appropriate to try to get at least one adult to recognize the children’s wellbeing is at stake. Sometimes that tough love is a threat that the children will be taken away.
She became a stereotype that evening the police responded to this S.O.S. If she didn’t leave her children could be taken away was the threat. The thought of it knocking the wind out of her, what wind she had managed to gain back, that is, from the traumatic moments at the hands of her wife. Yet, that set into motion the steps she needed to begin a new life. Like the butterfly that emerges from the cocoon with wings ready to take flight.

She got a personal protection order and then her soul nudged her again push aside how nervous you are and tell your co-worker for they need to be part of ensuring your security.
Now she was the one receiving the words she had been communicating easily for twenty years to others who sat across from her routinely. Her dear co-worker compassionately said to her, you can leave. I can help you leave.

Turns out, it wasn’t so hard to leave. It was very financially and emotionally depleting, but then again freedom doesn’t always come free. Her children – for her now ex-wife demonstrated that the ex-wife held no care about the children in any parental way to make them “our” – were victims during the divorce proceedings and she wishes they had not had to endure any more pain. Her ex-wife tried to portray the children as liars in the truth they would communicate. Her ex-wife was queen of denial, and her children were so incredible strong and brave. She is so proud of the amazing human beings each of them is, despite or perhaps maybe especially because they know what it is to feel unwanted and unsafe.

She rode the roller coaster of emotions that included shock at her wife’s medical records she had to collect for the divorce proceedings. It’s one thing to feel someone’s complete disdain for you and it is another to read it in on paper as cold hard truth. Sometimes she wonders why medical personnel didn’t take different or more action to some of the threatening words her wife spoke when admitted into a mental hospital for a week? She knows there is always more to a story than one can see, so it isn’t for her to judge why more people didn’t do anything. And yet, sometimes, when she’s walking with Hindsight on her healing journey, she can’t help feeling she wishes there had been more than just herself that took the first steps to bring a horrible situation to an ending.

She pushed out of the cocoon, and she thanks her three beautiful, interesting, joyful, happy, kind, determined, trusting, full of dreams children for showing her how to push her wings through. The four of them marvel at the instant tidal wave of relief they felt when her ex-wife – their parent – left the home they once knew. For that is one of the changes the four of them have made. They relocated to a new home, new memories to make. New schools, additional siblings in the forms of a cat and a dog, new schools, new beginnings in every way. Each of them is healing their anger, their confusion, their panic attacks that still make it hard for them to peacefully sleep.

Um, that would be her most of all who still has a mindset stay awake. Thank goodness for her cat, and her new partner, who keep watch over her as she tries to rest assured everyone is accounted for and safe. It took her close to nine months to stop sleeping only during the day. It is still a challenge to find sweet dreams at night. It does get easier with the passage of time. She supposes like that say, one’s invisible wounds start to fade as the calendar moves one quickly through the days.

Her children and her have started a New Year’s tradition that taps into their artistic side, their heart side, and most importantly their joy, their laughter, and their authenticity. They each create a presentation that they play on the TV. Their presentations include their review of the year they’ve just ended and their hopes and goals for the year ringing in. They include such things as what it means to be kind, to have fun, to be a good friend. They celebrate each other, they encourage each other, they love each other, and they laugh. Oh my gosh, do they laugh!

She was always empathetic in her victim advocacy work, but she also knows she isolated a part of herself from being fully beside someone on their journey. Her colleagues will tell her how much they like this “butterfly” version of her more than the “cocoon” version because she is so real and authentic in how she shows up in life every day. She supposes it’s true in the words some wise sages say. When one begins to love oneself, others gravitate with much love. She couldn’t show up authentically until she started to break the spell of believing she wasn’t enough.

She thinks the person her colleagues are liking better was always there for them to see. She just hadn’t turned on her own light bright enough to be eye catching.

The hardest journey in her past twenty years is also her greatest blessing. Make that greatest blessing of three. Her oldest son, her twin daughter and son – if she hadn’t experienced these past twenty years, she wouldn’t have the most amazing human beings to share in the journey of becoming. If she hadn’t experienced these past twenty years, she would only be fulfilling her purpose partially. Now, watch out world, if you thought she advocated before, you are about to see what advocacy really means!

The healing of their wounds will continue, and she is not naïve to think it may be a lifetime journey. But she made it to here – the four of them made it to here – which means they can do anything! Joyfully, kindly, bravely, with determination, with faith, with unlimited dreams, and most of all their beautiful, worthy, authenticity.

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