Part 2 – Jed Diamond’s Journey
This is the second part of the series on how to be happy without denying reality. You can read Part 1 here. I’d like to tell you the truth about my own challenges, the reality most therapists never share publicly. I hope my journey will enlighten your own. It began a long time ago.
I was five years old when my uncle drove me to the mental hospital.
“Why do I have to go,” I asked.
“Because your father needs you,” Uncle Harry told me.
“What’s the matter with him?” Silence. In our family we didn’t talk about such things.
“Why isn’t my mom coming with us?” I wanted to know.
“She’s afraid,” he told me, and had an uncomfortable and confused look on his face.
It has taken me many years to sort out my questions and to find my own answers. I grew up wondering what happened to my father, why my mother was afraid to see him, and how I could keep from ending up like my father and mother. I share my father’s journey and some of the answers I had figured out in my book, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound.
I imagined that going to school and learning everything I could about mental health and how to have a good marriage, would save me. It didn’t. Over the years I became increasingly irritable, angry, and depressed. I also got married and my wife and I had a son and adopted a daughter. We were pretty happy for the first seven years, but our fears began to increase, we became more distant and my anger and depression made things worse.
Seeing a therapist only solidified our belief that the other person was to blame and we’d each be better off without them and our children would be better off not growing up with parents who were in conflict. We got a divorce two weeks before our tenth anniversary.
After years of fights about child custody, visitation, and money issues, we finally were able to move past our hurt and anger, stopped blaming ourselves and each other. We found other love interests. The fights didn’t end, but they became fewer and farther between. My ex-wife made a better choice in partners than I did. She’s still with the man she married after me.
I, on the other hand, fell madly (unfortunately, the madly was literal) in love with a woman who slept with a gun under her pillow. I discovered it sometime after we were married when I was making up the bed. As a confirmed pacifist, the sight of a gun in my bed freaked me out.
“What the hell is this,” I demanded to know.
“What the hell does it look like,” she answered back with her eyes ablaze.
“I know what it is,” I screamed back. “Why is it in our bed?
She calmed down a bit and explained that her ex-husband had given it to her some years ago to protect her from men. I was not reassured. But I was not sane enough to leave the marriage before disaster struck. Our marriage had become a powder keg, just waiting for a spark to blow us up.
It nearly ended when one of our many fights escalated when she started hitting me and in a rage I lost control and was going to hit her back. I knew if I hit her, I would probably keep hitting until I killed her. Instead I punched the wall, imagining my fist going all the way through and coming out the other side. Instead I hit a stud and shattered the bones in my right hand.
You might imagine that following my surgery it would have occurred to me that I was living in a toxic, destructive, relationship that was about to end with someone dying. By this time of life I was a well-trained psychotherapist who counseled men and women to deal with a variety of marriage problems. Like many professional therapists, I was able to see other people’s problems, but I was in denial about my own.
I had treated many women who were in relationships with dangerous men who threatened their lives. I had no trouble seeing the danger they were in and counseling them about the necessity of getting out while they still had a chance. I know a lot about battered women’s syndrome. Yet, I was still blind to the fact that men could be physically and emotionally abused by women or that it was happening to me.
Things nearly ended on a mountain road in the Colorado Rockies. Instead of separating after our last fight, we decided to buy a small camper and take a cross-country trip; I did say that I had done slightly mad. We fought constantly, but had great make-up sex, and continued our travels. Going through the Rockies she was driving and I was in the back of the camper.
I had done or said something that enraged her and she was demanding that I apologize. Over the years I had learned that I could never win an argument. She could always brow beat me into giving in. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. I only hoped to hold out a little longer before I gave in.
“Apologize,” she yelled back at me over her shoulder as she swerved around a corner.
“No,” I told her. “I didn’t do anything wrong and I’m tired of apologizing to you for things I didn’t do.”
“God damn it,” apologize she screamed and the car got closer to the edge. We were high up on a mountain road with a long way down. At that moment I knew she was planning to drive over the edge and kill us if I didn’t back down and give in.
At that moment, a great calmness washed over me. It felt like a moment of truth and time slowed to a standstill. I was confronted with two conflicting realities. I knew if I didn’t give in to her, she was going to kill us both. But if I did give in to her I would lose my life as human being. I knew that this was the moment I had to face the reality of life and death, sanity and insanity, self-worth or the death of myself. All my fear left me at that moment.
“I won’t apologize,” I told her in a calm and caring voice. “I think you should pull over and calm down.”
I knew whatever happened next would be a new beginning or the end of the road.
She swerved towards the edge. The tires screeched as the camper leaned. Then she suddenly pulled back and began to slow down. She drove to a place where she could stop. Then she did something I never had seen her do. She broke down in tears. She didn’t say anything more. We both knew we had crossed a line and I knew I had reclaimed my freedom and my manhood. We eventually drove home. We had an amicable divorce and went our separate ways.
I continued my own healing work and finally figuring out how to have a happy marriage. I have a new partner now. Her name is Carlin and we’ve been together for forty-one years. As is true of all marriages, we have had to face conflicting realities. It hasn’t always been easy. We continue to learn each day how to be grateful for the lessons we are learning and for the ability to find peace, joy, and serenity within the ups and downs of life.
We share our journey in my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come. I’ve also developed two on-line courses that you might find helpful:
My commitment to my own healing has moved me to write articles each week. When people leave comments, it lets me know that what I say has been helpful. So, thank you if you feel moved to respond. If you’d like to join our community and read other articles, you can do so here. I look forward to connecting with you.
I’ll close with these four “Diamond Points”:
- Our life journeys often begin with wounding from our family.
- Accepting the truth of the family wound is the first step toward healing.
- Within the wound is the key to our freedom.
- Facing our greatest fear is the key to real, lasting, love.
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