This week marks my one-month anniversary of my husband leaving me. I have worked very hard to stabilize my living situation and provide consistency for my beautiful child. My dear husband, however, has continued to push us both down into the thick sludge of his emotional violence and narcissistic world, even from afar.

Last night I decided to get on the treadmill for the first time in years. My toddler was asleep, the dogs were happily slumbering with full bellies, and my house was quiet. The silence and calm invited me to make a choice for myself… do something that fulfilled me a little. I left the laundry, left the dishes, left the toys on the floor and grabbed the closet clean spill-proof cup for water (one of those fancy toddler cups). It was hard for me, to force myself to exercise for the first time in at least 3 years. I had to coerce myself to put on tennis shoes and a real bra (ugh!) and step up on the treadmill.

It wasn’t until I was about 5 minutes in that I looked over at the toddler cup I had brought with me. It had a monster on the side of it. A big blue hairy monster with big green arms and a comical scowl with sharp teeth. An innocent, cute cartoon for a toddler, but a monster nonetheless.

It made me start thinking about monsters. What are your monsters? The big ones. Not the mean little squeaky voices in your head. Not the many tiny negative thoughts that come in and out throughout the day. Not the pity parties we have with friends over a bottle (or two) of wine. I mean the big, gigantic monsters. The ones that almost keep us from living. Keep us from feeling. Keep us from moving in any direction sometimes. Keep us bitter and bent down against the storm.

Obviously the first monster I thought of was my husband. And I started to get that whole angry thing going again (see previous posts). But then I started questioning whether he was actually my monster.

What are my monsters?

A friend from college used a term that I’ve never forgotten – victim-blamers. People that project every problem onto someone else. Their misfortunes are always someone else’s fault. I think it is fair to say everyone feels some of their misfortunes are caused by other people. And oftentimes by default those people become the monster. It’s so easy that way.

But we are all responsible for how we move forward.

My husband is a truly bad person. In the last 6 months I have discovered things about him that make me disgusted with him, make me fear him and make me despise him. He is living a risky life that revolves around his immediate wants, needs and intimate desires. He has made it easy for me to label him a monster.

But is he my monster?

My monster is the obsessive beast that keeps me awake at night, makes me wonder what he is doing with her and what he will do tomorrow with her. My monster devours my sense of normalcy with those thoughts, and I spend hours thinking about it, brooding about it. Instead of counting sheep, I count the lies I think he has told me that day, that week, that month. When I am done counting them, I start over. My monster is the wallowing beast that makes me cry on command just because I’m feeling sorry for myself and that same monster calls me a loser over and over again until I believe it. I’m closer to being financially broke than I’ve ever been. I have no assurance of my future and no one to share that self-doubt with. My self-pity monster muddles my strong independence with worry and self-doubt. Those monsters are more destructive than any person could ever be.

I refuse to blame myself for allowing my monsters to grow so unwieldy. My husband played a key role in creating those monsters, feeding them and nurturing them with manipulation, blame and psychological violence. I let him own my monsters. He kept them chained and he completely controlled me.

But today is a new day and I am responsible and in control of how I move forward. Those monsters… they are not chained anymore by a manipulative ringmaster. I am not chained anymore, either. And without his constant berating, emotional outbursts and aggression, those monsters might just get a little smaller. I can feel them starting to shrink from starvation. Maybe one day they will be nothing but a cartoon drawing that I can laugh at.

I ran on the treadmill again tonight and felt it very important that I use the monster cup again. I sit it there in front of me to remind myself that sometimes our monsters aren’t monsters at all. Sometimes they are parts of ourselves standing in our own way. Tonight I made the resolution to try my best to not let my husband kill me from a distance, to not let him feed any of those monsters that keep me from moving on or from healing. Tonight I tried to quit counting the lies and start counting sheep. Of course it is going to take some practice and positive reinforcement. 26. 26 lies today.

If there is anything my lying and cheating husband has inadvertently taught me, it is that sometimes significant people in our lives will be major shit bags. We must hold our heads high and try to continue as best we can in spite of their ill-will, their selfish motivations, and their emotional and physical assaults. We must not let them destroy the good parts.