While the stories are still unfolding here, so you can understand why my life is the way it is, there are things happening every day that impact my relationship with my kids. Today was another setback. In moments like this I find myself numb and distant, only able to think the same one thought over and over: "Isn't there any one, any where, who can fix this?"
Essentially, more than a year ago now, my husband told the court I was mentally unstable and he feared for our childrens safety. No evidence of harm or innappropriate behavior committed by me: to them or near them or indirectly toward them, just that one verbal statement that he had "serious concerns" and I have been viewed as a threat ever since.
At first, in September and October of last year, I had supervised visits with my kids. They were supervised at my husbands request, by a couple we jointly knew. This couple? I had cared for their children while that mom was in a mental health facility. I had listened to her, pre and post her hospital stay, tell me about screaming at her children, cursing at them, telling them to leave the room before she beat them. She told me how scared her kids were when she told them she felt like hurting herself and that she had to call a friend to help her. This was the woman who my husband asked the courts to assign as a guardian during my visits with my kids.
Initially she was willing, compassionate, and available. Then she wasn't. She had issues of her own, her husband was sick, her kids were struggling, etc. I was able to arrange, legally, for a friend of mine to be listed as an alternate so I could still see my kids. And then the restrictions were lifted, sort of.
In October I had moved into a house in our town with the parents of a girl who used to babysit our kids a very long time ago. We had stayed in touch (the mom and I) and she invited me to stay in the room her daughter, now all grown up and moved out, used to be in. The newest legal changes allowed for me to have my kids overnight and unsupervised, so long as the overnights were at that house, and that address, at my husbands request.
Everything happened relatively quickly and what came to light as I moved in and then the kids came to stay a weekend was that the house was filthy - real actual filth, mold, dust, animal hair, rodent excrement, etc. as well as very poor plumbing resulting in not much hot water available and only one usable bathroom. Additionally both the missus and the mister were entrenched in depression so thick that it hung in the air, a helpless hopeless despair of health issues, insomnia, financial ruin, unemployement: which is the reason I guess for all the filth. And then there was the drinking. Mister was a drinker of the sort that starts in the late afternoon and continues until he passed out in the late late evening but he would always rouse himself to drink more, sit in a bathtub of cold filmy water for hours sipping more alcohol, and then finally go to bed somewhere around 5am. After a couple of boozy inappropriate nighttime run-ins, I knew this would NOT work.
Nice people? yes. Generous to allow me to move in? yes. But it was not a place where I OR my kids would be safe, have a healthy environment, and the ability to settle in or experience some stability.
I moved - in late November of last year... and where I moved was where I could have a sound stable safe clean environment that welcomed my children and provided a foundation for me. Where I moved was where I could find employment, and a future. And where I moved was both where my husband subsequently refused to allow the kids to stay overnight, and was over an hour away. But with no other options I didn't know what else to do.
I felt like I was NEVER going to be able to get my kids on a regular basis and since ending my own existence wasn't a viable option (yeh, been there, tried that!) my next choice was to persevere with gaining a future that held something resembling hope and peace. So in spite of his refusal to let the kids stay with me, I stayed there... or rather here, where I am now.
I gritted my teeth and pushed my grief at bay through minimal visits with my kids in December, January, and February hoping he'd see that I was in a stable secure place, employed in the same job, and that the kids were enjoying our visits and not suffering any harm. I made it to soccer games, school meetings, and provided appropriate holiday treats. And then I petitioned the court to extend my visits at my new residence. March 2010. A year after I'd originally filed for divorce, 9 months since I'd lived with my children, and 4 months since I'd had them overnight with me.
My husband said that thing again, the "serious concerns about mental health" and the judge believed him. No matter my job, my stable housing, my compliance with every other restriction, my childrens health and well being - no evidence to support HIM or his statement, and with no credit for anything I'd done, I was refused.
I was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation at a court clinic. Our next court date was scheduled for July 2010. A few weeks later I was told that the judge would be out on a county exchange in July so we wouldn't be heard until September. It took until July to get an appointment at the clinic anyway.
What I got was more time lost with my kids: no spring vacation, no summer vacation, no sleepovers or extended vacations. Just alternate Saturdays from 8am to 10pm. No assistance with transportation for the 70 mile drive.
And finally my mental health evaluation and a court date of September 7th, 2010.
My evaluation was initiated and then, of course, that doctor went on vacation and didn't return until this week. That result is that the report on the evaluation, which the judge needs time to review, is not completed yet and so the court clerk was told to postpone and reschedule the Sept. 7 date for a couple weeks out. More time lost with my kids.
I still don't know when the date will be, only that it will be that much longer before I can see my children for any extended time. I don't even know for sure that this "evaluation" and this doctors assessment will be favorable and that I will even be granted the time I want with my kids. But in my heart I was counting on September 7, 2010 as the day I'd be exonerated and finally freed from the burden of this "mentally unstable" label my husband is using.
I try not to dwell in how unfair it's been from the start, on how much injustice has been forced down my throat, and on how much fear drives so many of my choices on a daily basis - anger? maybe anger looks unfounded and irrational so I better not be angry! grief? maybe crying looks over sensitive and irrational and unstable so I better not cry!
I try not to dwell on how, if experience were to be my guide, I maybe should plan on losing custody entirely, on being placed back on supervised visits, on being told I can't be with my children at all, or that we will have to postpone until November, or some other ridiculous date.
But it's hard. It's so hard not to dwell in those places. I keep moving forward one day at a time trying to adjust my expectations. But it's hard.
However hard it is for me? Think how hard it is for my son who started high school the other day, or for my daughter who is right in the middle of really needing a mom for 'girl stuff' right now.