Memories have power. They can slide in from left field with no warning, evoking intense emotions and leave you in a completely different space, whether uplifted or flat on the floor in a puddle of tears.
I saw a photo this morning of one of my children as a baby. It triggered a chain reaction of thoughts, which prodded a recall of when my daughter was hospitalised as a toddler. Whilst her being in hospital provoked anxiety and worry at the time, that was not what brought me to tears today. The pain I felt with this recollection was the abandonment and lack of care by my ex.
My child was admitted through the emergency room into hospital over night, pending a procedure in the morning. I was staying with her as she was only about 18 months old at the time. We were settled into a ward and she was put on a drip. The ex never once phoned or messaged to see how she was. I had to phone him and let him know; I had to ask him to come to the hospital and bring the things that we needed for the night – nappies, clothing, soap, toothbrushes and so on. He had not intended coming to see how his daughter was doing.
After a sleepless night, I called him and asked him to please come and relieve me for half an hour so that I could shower and eat, bearing in mind that the hospital was roughly a 5 minute drive from where we were living at the time. I didn’t want to leave my child on her own in the ward.
When he arrived at the hospital, I got a full narcissistic onslaught about how I was wasting his time, as he would now be late for work. Further, if I was any good as a wife, I would have made a plan to do what I needed without causing distress to my child and without disrupting his plans for the day. (I had kept in mind that he was going into work and had called him early so that it could all be fitted in, but he hadn’t wanted to get out of bed earlier to come to the hospital.)
After the procedure, I messaged him to say it was done. He didn’t message back nor call to see how everything went. I eventually phoned him.
This morning it brought to mind the stark reality of living with a narcissist. The public persona is that he is such an amazing dad – so hands on and incredibly caring of his children’s well-being. Behind closed doors is a completely different story. There was no emotional support; the decency of being concerned about a child, a fellow human being, was not present, never mind the fact that she is his own flesh and blood. He left me to deal with all of it on my own, only showing up when he was left with little choice and lambasting me in the process. I felt so alone and unloved back then. Today I felt the pain of that, as well as the heartbreak that, even when my daughter was small, he was already abandoning her.
His lack of care and concern for her continues unabated. I often wish that she had a different journey with a different father, because I see how much confusion and pain his behaviour brings to her world. I try to mitigate that as much as I can, explaining to her that it is his personality and how he did the same things to me. I try to bring clarity to her thinking so that she understands that he is sometimes gas-lighting her or inducing guilt in her to manipulate her; how he downright lies at times to “prove” his version of the truth.
I thought that I had processed and put to bed this memory of the hospital stay, so was unprepared for the emotion attached to it. It hurts and brings sadness, even after 13 years. There are so many spirals and turns in the mind, with unknowns hanging around so many of the bends. I am reminded that trauma healing is not an overnight process.