The history of my ring finger, part 2

Detail of a Vera Wang wedding dress.

Um ya, no Vera Wang for me. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We often went antiquing in our big college city, loving to search the shops for rare treasure and unusual items. One day I spotted a collection of antique engagement rings, and said that was the kind I would want one day. I was never a fan of the plain and typical. These rings were Edwardian and Victorian, hand engraved, covered in diamond chips and sapphires, but were delicate, not gaudy.

Second semester of college, my depression deepened, and I was afraid to lose my scholarship. I was just unable to do the school work. It used to be so easy, and now made no sense. I was in danger of failing, and I had never even gotten a ‘B’ before. The failure was too much for me. I spoke to a school advisor, and they told me to withdraw before failing, that the time off would be easier to explain than permanent bad grades. A withdrawal meant giving up my scholarship. I would have to switch majors, and also schools, as I could not afford that one anymore. But they said take my time, get better, and figure it out later. So I went to the registrars office, and withdrew, holding back tears while I signed the forms. That also meant I was homeless anduenemployed.  I lost my dorm room. I lost my work-study job. There was no way in hell I was returning to my mom’s care after a few months of blissful freedom. So I moved in to my my now-husband, then-boyfriend’s apartment feeling afraid and unsure of my future, feeling I had just ruined my life, feeling so depressed I could not eat or sleep, feeling so completely lost.

And now I felt guilty. I was raised Catholic, and even through all the abuse, I still had a strong notion that I would go to hell for living with my boyfriend. So we took my refund from withdrawing from college, and used it to buy that lovely antique engagement ring. We just went and bought it. There was no proposal, no magical memories, it just happened. There, I bought my own ring, now we’re engaged – problem solved. I didn’t even tell anyone, I had no one to tell. I was so alone, my boyfriend had become the only person I ever saw or talked to. I spent my days sleeping, painting, or playing computer games while he went to classes and work. I spent my evenings walking along the river and using all my strength not to jump into it. I hated myself and my life.

Somehow months passed this way, and I slowly got a bit better. A visit home, I saw my family doc, and he switched me from Prozac to Zoloft, and slowly it helped. I was no longer a sleepy zombie, but started to want to do things again. I signed up with a temp agency. I got calls most every day to stuff envelopes, answer phones, and do various office tasks. I got some confidence back, felt good getting some money, and started planning my new future.

I transferred to a new school, back in my home state, stupidly close to my dad’s house, and stupidly got an apartment with fiance instead of a dorm room. I got focused on my schoolwork, got a few jobs, and generally overachieved to fill the ache in my heart. Then I decided we needed to get married before graduation, because again, the guilt was bothering me, how could I get a teaching job if I was living with a man and not married? Plus, I didn’t want to change my name once I had students and a teaching license. What a stupid reason to get married, but husband agreed – he would have married me a year ago I think. His mom basically took over and planned the wedding, anything I had planned was changed by her. But I never spoke up. It didn’t matter.

Now my engagement ring did not have a matching band with it. The internet was too new to help us with that search, and husband was an aspiring artist and wanted to make me one. We didn’t like any of his clunky attempts, not to wear with my perfect ring. He kept trying, right up until the wedding week, causing me great anxiety. And then he took a simple silver wire and melted it into a loop. It was terrible. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but at the same time, I could not believe this was what he offered me as a symbol of his love.  No time to dwell though, the wedding train was speeding ahead.

The week before the wedding, fiance picked up his (dad’s) ring at the jeweler from getting it sized, and set it on the coffee table where I was making my veil. When everyone came over for rehearsal dinner, I quickly swept all my scraps – and his ring –  into the trash can. It took hours, but we finally found it. I was mortified, but everyone just laughed. That night we had a big fight, and I don’t know now what it was about. All I remember is how his temper escalated, and I was so confused why he was yelling, and then it was over so fast as he yelled “Whatever” and whispered “bitch” as he ran up the stairs away from me. This was not the first time I had seen his temper. But somehow I saw it clearly that time. I collapsed in tears right there on the floor, asking myself to stop the wedding. But I had my plans, my pride, and my guilt, and so I calmed down and resolved to go forward with the wedding, and by the time he came back downstairs, I was fine and he never knew my tears, fears or doubts.

So at 21, I got married, allowed my dad to walk me down the aisle just so I would not have to explain why he wasn’t allowed, and got a wire on my finger no nicer than that plastic one I used to play pretend with. Part of me looked for my fist love to come charging in on horseback to rescue me, part of me was seething that none of the decorations I had wanted were there, part of me was happy to see how many people showed up to support me, part of me was upset by how many hadn’t.  The biggest part of me was just relieved to no longer be living in sin. That weighed on me every day over the past few years, and was finally lifted. How stupid, I never went to church or even prayed, but this idea of guilt and sin was very powerful nonetheless. So was the image that I was perfect, everything I did back then was to maintain an outward image of perfection, to hide the deep dark mess I was inside.


8 thoughts on “The history of my ring finger, part 2

  1. Holy parallel universe, Batman!

    I can’t tell you how many of those things are part of my story. Married a narcissist at 21 partly because I didn’t know how to tell my guests that I’d been crying every night up to the wedding and unconsciously I knew marrying him was the only way my parents would accept me moving out of their house at that time.

    Got separated 8 months later. My ex was nowhere near the severity of my mom’s narcissism, but I was merely a reflection of his greatness, not a real person with my own dreams. I felt smothered by him as I tried to stretch my wing away from living with my parents, so I tossed him out.

    Went to grad school and halfway through the second semester couldn’t concentrate on my studies at all. I’d read the same paragraph over and over, seeing the words but they might as well been in Sanskrit. Started failing classes and bawling about my lack of willpower. Dropped out rather than get Fs on my transcript.

    Just before dropping out, now husband said to me “want to go look at rings?” as we walked past Tiffany’s. Bought one then and there. I find this proposal kind of humorous and a nice contrast to the first one in front of the White House by a guy with presidential ambitions with a poem he wrote about how I make him feel good but nothing about me as a special person in my own right.

    I did go back to grad school year later. Was miserable but hot through with the help of therapy and anti-depressants. Was really drinking too much by then, but not in trouble yet.

    I feel like I told you this stuff already, but this post is newly published and I don’t see my yammering in the comments. I apologize if I’m being repetitive.

    I’m just astounded that two strangers can make the same decisions, get stuck in the same mire, lose ourselves in the same way yet not be raised by the same parents.

    But in a way, we are raised by the same parents. And so it must be normal (but horrible for us) to react as we did to their bad parenting. They systematically broke us and left us to pick up the pieces without any instruction map or any understanding of what healthy mental health looks like.

    But what a relief to read my story in someone else’s words! Not only am I not alone, but I easily feel compassion and caring towards you, and you are like me in many ways. Maybe I can see my worth by recognizing yours.

    Hugs to you! And thank you for putting your story out there.

    • I think your comment that we made the same mistakes because we were raised (or not raised in my case) by the same parents is so true. I was so alone and scared and immature, and that is no way to live a life and make decisions. But now I know I was not alone, and that the world is full of children from abusive homes that are totally unprepared and unguided in adulthood. I seriously feel now like I am finally ready to make good choices for myself, and for my own family. And your last line choked me up, about “I can see my worth by recognizing yours”. I totally get that. Thank you for sharing your story with me as well.

  2. Pingback: The history of my ring finger, part 3 | Roots to Blossom

  3. I like what “vicariousrising” said at the end of her reply and I completely agree. “Not only am I not alone, but I easily feel compassion and caring towards you, and you are like me in many ways. Maybe I can see my worth by recognizing yours.” This is what makes blogging so great. It’s better than a mere diary entry because we all relate to and understand each other. The world is not such a lonely place. Hugs.

  4. Pingback: The history of my ring finger, part 4 | Roots to Blossom

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