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My STORY- More Falling PART 6

Overcome by guilt, I felt obligated to try and "make it work." We started counseling and went to a marital retreat, where other marriages in distress met in an attempt at healing. However, we were by far the youngest couple there, by both age and experience. I was chastised and told that "God hates divorce," but I also learned that divorce is only acceptable in times of 'marital unfaithfulness." I knew then I would be taking that door out. Craig, as big as he is, was willing to 'forgive me'. He was suddenly the 'good Christian' that he never had been, cooing Bible verses that suddenly aided his desperate attempts to keep me. He stopped chewing tobacco and wanted to 'pray.' The inauthenticity began to reveal itself to me as the form of manipulation that it was.

Still, we began counseling together through a local church. However, individual counseling began when it was decided that she could not help "two lost sheep." Counseling was finally the first step of real healing that came into my misunderstood life. Significantly, it wasn't pastoral counseling, but a Christian based counseling center, with bonafide Marriage/Family Counselors . This proved vital for me as I began to sort out my false perceptions from reality. As I told my story, I began to feel significant. She let me know that 'If you feel it, it's important.' She suggested at one point that I ask my parents to come in. They refused. Regardless, I began to uncover patterns of acting solely out of guilt. When I let her know that "Craig wanted to take the boy, and leave me with my daughter." She asked why I considered this. Up until that point, I had become extremely distrustful of my own decision-making abilities. My life had come to utter shambles. When she asked whether I thought this was what was best for my son, or if I was only feeling guilty for what I had done." I had an OPRAH 'AH-HA' MOMENT! My instinctual Mother Bear emerged, nixing my guilty feelings and left me with some big decisions that only I could answer. At this point, my mom, seeing the inevitable, also pleaded with me to keep my children together. She shared her own pain of her parents' divorce at a young age, and how she sought solace in the presence of her brother.

The day before my son's 3rd birthday, my mother and mother-in-law showed up. Determined to get their grand babies out of the growing stressful situation, and without warning, they whisked my babies 3 hours away, back to Hometown. Craig stood in the parking lot looking at me, as I cried, watching the car pull away. He glared at me with an angry, hurt look. "Well? Are we going to try to work this out??" I said nothing. Finally impatient with my lack of enthusiasm for him, for our so-called marriage, and me, he left. I was relieved, but frightened.

I knew then and there my life had taken yet another dramatic turn. Still feeling the weight of the world on my young shoulders, I would continue to carry the the shame and guilt that still plagued me for years. Nearly paralyzed with grief, and fear of the unknown, I enrolled in welfare and food stamps, swallowing an enormous amount of pride in order to do so. Once again, I had no one. No where to go. My parents, having been exonerated of their responsibility of me long ago, distanced themselves even further. My studies continued, both as an escape mechanism, and as a lifeline to a future that seemed completely out of reach. "Instead of drugs," I often say, "I turned to studying." In complete poverty, and a strong fear of failure, I begged, bartered and convinced neighbors to watch my children, asking them to fill between the limited child care I got through school. I attended classes, then rushed home, do dinner, baths and beg my babies to sleep so i could study. Craig disappeared and re-appeared inconsistently and without a court order, refused to help financially. Knowing I was dependent on him to study, he would often give me only a pager number that he would respond to at his convenience, if at all.

Although my affection for Mohammad continued, I felt like Romeo and Juliet, torn by religion and circumstances. My heart saddened as my overwhelmed existence took over, and my responsibilities, as well as my desire to please God won over, replacing the budding forbidden love. I found myself over the next year absorbing the weight of responsibility for two children, classes in the hard sciences, and living significantly below the poverty level. It was at this point that I slipped into a deep, dark depression.

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