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So it starts

We called you last night and no one answered…

I told you good-bye today. I don’t know how long that last hug will have to last us. I am leaving at the end of the week. I have my reasons and I hope someday you will understand. I love you little boy. I love you with all my heart. Your smile holds my soul. I vow to put an end to the pulling at you and the bickering to coerce you over to my side of the custody battle. It is not your fight to be had and you do not deserve to be in the middle. So I choose to excuse myself from the table as I feel I am doing you more harm than good.

You cried when the car pulled away. You asked me to get inside and come along too. Not to leave you. But I have to go my precious child. My time with you expired. I am allotted a few meager hours a week. Although those days with your laughter filling my house replenish my soul, the silence in your absence is far worse and is eats away at the threads of my very being.  To be your mother yet not have maternal rights unravels me to the core. To have no say in your life and watch as it passes before my very eyes causes the all too fresh wounds to bleed.

I will always be your mother and Amber will always be your sister no matter where our homestead is located. We keep you in our hearts and that is where Amber and I call home. Mommy is just a phone call or short plan ride away. I will always be there when you need me  my little lost boy. When you are able speak out and come stay with me. Let me give you the happy life that you deserve.

Finding out that I am being denied a custody day tomorrow because of the “holiday” Thursday when I have 17 days left in Florida because of false interpretation of custody arrangement. A day when neither my son nor I have school. A day I could spend all day with the kids together as brother and sister; family. No compromise will be entertained. I am thankful for my struggle. I wish it to be no other way. This battle molded me into something great and now nothing can harm me. I am an invincible fortress. I am an unshakeable cliff…I summon good fortune to me.

MASK

“We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.”

Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

I gave you the choice this year son. Whose house will it be for trickortreating? You chose to stay with your father and I conceded without a fight. I allowed you to make your own choice and you did. I am proud of you for telling me truth so that you could have the holiday that you wanted.

I received no thank you or response at all from you father for relinquishing my precious time nor did I receive a picture of you in your ninja costume. When you become a man of your own will I will have my picture little boy. I dont care if I have to hand sew a costume big enough to fit you!

Dylan Letters

A note to my boy

I have been letting myself feel pride. All too often I am a very harsh a critic of myself and don’t give myself enough praise for my accomplishments. So I take this time to boast. Before I turn 27 I will have my BSN in nursing. I have amassed nearly 4 years of bedside nursing experience in a variety of departments in the ER making me knowledgeable and extremely versatile.  I have been on the unit based councils, infection control team, and nursing governance to advocate a better environment while helping to improve the practices of my facility. I am one of the core members in the testing, development, and training for the conversion to an electronic medical record. I continue to get positive performance reviews at work. I am a certified preceptor and have guided many students through their transition into nursing. As a nurse, I am beginning to feel competent in my role. I am able to effectively explain processes to the patients and answer questions comfortably without having to look information up or ask for help. My IV skills have increased tremendously. I am able to trouble shoot adversity and take creative approaches to combat unexpected ER situations that I previously had no idea what to do for. When I go to work I feel confident that I will be able to handle what is asked of me with grace and expertise.

I maintained at least half time enrollment in school during my divorce debacle achieving adequate grades. I have learned how to live alone and enjoy the company of myself. I do not depend on outside sources as a measure of self-satisfaction. I was able to evaluate the things in my life that did not serve me, and plan changes in such a way that I no longer have obligations that stressed me out and weighed me down. I can reflect on the past and be okay with the choices that I have made. I am able to adequately support myself and my daughter. I have effectively maintained a house hold and have never had to move back in with my parents. Only during the time of my divorce when my legal bills were outrageous and impending have I ever asked for help monetarily from my family.

I am a single parent to a beautiful, respectful, intelligent, and all around fantastic little girl. When I think of my daughter I beam with pride. She is the most awesome child I have ever met. She is thoughtful and thinks logically to solve problems. She is respectful and mature. She excels in school really enjoys going. She is my little companion and I could never have asked for a better tempered child.

Looking back at my life, there is really only one aspect that haunts me with that being the loss of majority custody over my son. I take comfort in knowing that I fought for him nobly with that being the loss of majority custody over my son. I take comfort in knowing that I fought for him nobly and with honor. I did not lie, cheat, or act in a way that conflicted with my values. I was truthful and avoided as much petty name calling behavior as I was able. I truly tried to act in the best interest of my son and daughter at all times.

I take full responsibility of my actions and own my flaws. I like the person that I am, even the dark parts. I truly feel that I have done well for myself and I am proud of the person that I have become.

In the film Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorsese, there is an underlying struggle to rehabilitate the criminally insane. They are isolated on a wild island in the middle of the ocean with little hope of physical escape. Most of the patients are not living in the present reality and have imprisoned themselves in their own minds. Through the use of dramatic imagery, the director of Shutter Island creates a thrilling film in which the central theme of illusion vs. reality plagues a mentally ill patient trapped inside his own delusions.

Teddy Daniels, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is the protagonist in this film. He believes that he is a US Marshal sent to Ashecliffe with a new partner to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Solondo while concurrently searching for Andrew Laeddis, the man that killed his wife. At the beginning of the film, the “seasick Daniels (DiCaprio) tells himself, ‘Pull yourself together Teddy,’ we can easily miss this clue to the film’s true subject. Daniels is at once trying to pull himself together to repair his fractured mind – and pulling together (and simultaneously unraveling) the film’s web of delusion” (Romney 74). Daniels demonstrates a strong moral code that radiates off his presence. He is nauseated by the gruesome crimes that were committed by these patients and ironically makes references that death would be a better than to live with the guilt of such offenses. He is skeptical of the innovative, non-pharmaceutical, treatments that are being carried out on the island and is suspicious that there are government funded lobotomies taking place in the lighthouse. Nothing is as it should be in this film. For example, “[n]either of

the two Rachels in the film – Mortimer as the missing murderess, who shows up as a mysteriously as she disappeared, and Patricia Clarkson as a renegade doctor hiding out in a fire lit cave from Cawley and the hospital wardens – are who they say they are; nor is Chuck, the laidback sidekick marshal from Seattle. (An early clue is that he fumbles his gun when taking it from its holster to give to the wardens on arriving at Shutter Island, which makes Teddy wonder why he isn’t doing it with professional ease)” (Fuller 11).

 

In reality, Daniels is Andrew Laeddis, and “it is not until the last minutes that it becomes clear what are the psychotic delusions, hallucinations, disorganization and cognitive impairment (as a subjective experience of the patient) and what is reality (shared by all of us)” (Beckmann 1). He is the most violent and unruly patient at Ashecliffe.  Dr. Cawley, played by Ben Kingsly, has devised a “novel treatment for a man who has defensively split himself into two different people and can find no way of integrating these separate personae” (Clarke 203). This treatment involves letting Laeddis act out his delusions then suddenly confronting him with reality. This is Cawley’s last chance at making a lasting impact on Laeddis because the sponsors of this facility want a permanent, surgical solution to Laeddis’s violent behavior. They feel that he is too deep inside his own scripted reality to be calmed by unconventional means.

Laeddis was a World War II veteran and an alcoholic US Marshall that failed to recognize that his wife, Dolores, was mentally ill and needed treatment. Laeddis comes home from work one day to find Dolores wet and his children floating face down in the lake. Crying, Dolores tells Laeddis, “set me free,” and he shoots her. Throughout the film, Dolores is shown wet, whether in the current timeframe or in flash-back which alludes to the rift in the protagonist’s sanity. Haunting imagery is used during flashbacks to war times as in one particular scene where “the swirling ash and the spectre of Emily Mortimer (who plays one incarnation of Rachel as well as Dolores’ doppelgndger) and a little girl walking in the Dashau ice are part of a phantasmagorical procession of images in a diseased mind”(Fuller 9).

 

The setting of this film is dark and grim. The treatment facilities are set high on jagged cliffs and they are dark and leaky inside. Building C is made of stone and the patients are behind wrought iron bars with some patients manacled to the floor. The staff and patients all seem to know Daniels even though he has just arrived. While he interviews the prisoners in an attempt to find out additional information of the disappearance of Rachel Solondo, they seem to scoff at him. This creates an eerie tone. All of the people on the island, including the patients, are aware of the treatment plan currently being held for Laeddis and those who are able, play along. In this film,“Daniels is both the star and (unknowingly) the director of the movie in which he’s trapped, while the Ashecliffe psychiatrists are its producers and its writers, devoting extraordinary resources to what finally proves a massive mise en scene (“radical cutting edge role play”, Ben Kingsley’s Dr Cawley says anachronistically) designed to a-maze (sic) a single viewer, Daniels – and by extension us too” (Romney 74).

Laeddis eventually makes his way to the lighthouse at the climax of the film soaked from the rain. Dr. Crawley asks him upon entering, “Why are you all wet, Baby?” a phrase spoken by Laeddis to his wife right before he finds that she has drowned his children in the lake behind their house. This statement sets off the psychological purging when Laeddis begins to accept reality and reject his delusion. According to Romney, “[t]he final revelation takes place in the most glaringly symbolic lighthouse since Jane Campion’s In the Cut (2003): while sometimes a lighthouse is just a lighthouse, it is also, remember, a device for projecting” (74).

In the final scene, Laeddis is being assessed by his psychiatrist to make sure that he did not slip away from reality again. He calls the psychiatrist, Chuck, as he did when in a delusional state which signals the guards to make their way across the field to take him away. Laeddis turns to his doctor and states “which is best, to live as a monster or die as a good man?’’ indicating that he made the active choice to abandon his reality permanently rather than to suffer through life realizing now his wife and children are dead. This statement alludes to previous imagery of his “traumatic experiences during the liberation of Dachau in World War II and has flashbacks of the piles of corpses in the death camp and of the death of a German commandant whom he deliberately allowed to die in a long and lingering death when he could have put him out of his misery” (Clarke 205).

Through the use of dramatic imagery, Scorsese demonstrates a mentally ill man’s struggle with the central theme of illusion versus reality. Flashbacks and symbolism bring this picture to life. In this movie, things aren’t always what they seem. Laeddis ultimately chooses to accept the illusion as reality rather than learn to cope and grieve over his traumatic life.

I am still aching, and no one I know even remotely begins to relate to me. I was married to a very emotionally and psychologically abusive man that was occasionally physically violent as well. Aside from the fact that he was unemployed and contributed nothing more than a warm body in the house to our marriage. We had a son, Dylan 5yo, in common. My daughter was practically raised by this man and knew him to be dad. When I graduated nursing school and felt I was in a position that I could escape the abuse and visualized a 50/50 split custody arrangement, or even better me having 70% custody. I had a stable job and proved I could effectively live on my own-both of which he failed miserably at. Ultimately that idea was shattered when the judge ruled in my unemployed husbands favor and gave my son to him and his parents. I assume this was primarily because I was seen as an unstable single parent which is faaaar from fact. I feel I do quite well for myself in supporting my family.

I now get my son 8 days a month, every Wednesday and every other weekend (and I work night shift on weekends)…If my ex could strip me of my maternal rights he would do it without forethought. He continues to use Dylan as a weapon to harm me and I feel my relationship with my Dylan slowly fading away despite the effort I make to keep it alive.

Going back to school was especially painful because I had no say in anything related to my son. Here he is starting kindergarten at a different school than where my daughter goes and I have to ask the teacher to notify me of important events and dates because my ex conveniently forgets to include me. I feel like a bystander or a babysitter rather than a mother. It seems every time I think I have left the cloud of grief and pain caused by this tremendous loss a wave of sadness washes over me and I am lost back inside again.

To make it worse I am ordered to pay $500 a month in child support on top of being a single parent who works full time and is in school full time. (and I don’t get child support for my daughter). In December my student loans will be due. I feel like at any moment I will be served to go to child support court and potentially face jail time for nonpayment of support. If they garnish my wages I will not be able to live by myself and will have to move in with a friend or parent. Currently without paying child support I am flourishing. My daughter and I can live comfortably within reason. But there is no surplus left over after bills that would cover the enormous mountain of financial burden that is child support.

So on top of grieving my lost parental control I am now faced with terrible decisions. If I move out of state it will be harder to enforce child support, but I also ultimately relinquish all influence in my son’s life. I would be choosing to leave one child so that I can effectively care for the other one. I am no good to my daughter in jail or so broke I can’t afford to take her to the dentist to fix her cavities and other such necessities that come with responsibly raising a child.

My ex has been using propaganda to manipulate Dylan into thinking I am evil and that I don’t love him. Telling him he will have nightmares if he spends the night at my house for example. Dylan is embarrassed when I have lunch with him at school almost as if he is afraid that he will be in trouble at enjoying my company. He doesn’t run up to hug me or even look excited to see me, rather shy’s away. He is no longer really my son. All the manners and discipline I taught him have gone out the window. At times I am embarrassed by how he acts in public and how he treats others. My daughter is polite and respectful, courteous and thoughtful. Dylan used to have these qualities but they are slowly fading away. He is being conditioned to be afraid of me and my daughter and would rather not come to my house for visitation per his own statements.

And so I make plans to move out of state. I will mitigate my losses so that I may be the parent my daughter deserves. I know that this means leaving my son behind. I am not entirely pleased with this option but currently I see no better choice. If I do not flee my lively hood and well-being of my daughter is in grave danger. I dealt with the guilt that I feel of abandoning my son and leaving him with my abuser during a personal ritual on the blue moon, it was the one of the gifts that I gave to myself. During this I also forgave myself. It is easy to justify this action rationally because of the situational facts. It is a harder pill to stifle the emotional pain of its reality. My ex-husband has harmed me more deeply than I ever thought possible but I am working on regaining my control.

So if you have never been abused, if you have never lost custody of your child, if you have never had to make a sacrifice for the “greater good” of your family, you have no right to judge or condemn my actions. You may not be able to change other people but you certainly can make the most of a situation and control how you react to adversity and therein lies your power. I have acted as gracefully during this situation as I was able, which in retrospect has not been very gracefully at all.

The writing of my story is another gift I give myself to promote inner healing. For so long I wanted to put down on paper my experience but could not bring myself to write through the tears. This is just the beginning, an abbreviated version. When I am ready and able I will write the whole story and I will publish it. My final tale will including the 7months I was denied custody simply because my husband personally declared me unworthy of my child and postponed the initial hearings that would establish timesharing; the part where I spent a night in jail for domestic violence after I demanded that I be allowed to spend time with my son, was beaten, then hauled off to jail because I was the aggressor on his property, the property where my son had been kept locked away from me for half a year; going to divorce court unrepresented because my attorney quit two months before the final hearing after demanding $2,500 in a months period of time because the $4000 I had already paid him was not enough and I was not able to raise enough money to hire a new attorney in time for the final court date; How after my ex-husband’s testimony, the judge found me to be less self-sacrificing and more selfish in my pursuits of a stable career to support and sustain my family than my ex who has had longer periods of unemployment then employment and not for lack of available jobs.

Maybe someone can learn from my experience and this will benefit them and their children. While pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree I have had the opportunity to choose the topics for class projects and almost always I choose to research women’s rights and domestic violence as it relates to the nursing profession. When I am not so enthralled in school I plan to volunteer my time at a domestic violence shelter. I hope to turn my terribly painful experience into something productive and positive. I will use my experience and knowledge to serve my community.

I hope when my son is older that he will have the understanding to see what really happened during this period of his life rather than the ideas that are being spoon fed to him. I hope that he harbors no resentment and that one day he can forgive my absence in his life as I have already forgiven myself.

Angie