family court, mental health

Living Out Loud

The truth will set you free.

I want to live my life out loud. I miss living my life out loud. For the year that I was blogging on a weekly basis about my journey to lead a wholehearted life after trauma, I felt incredible, as if I had been set free from the burden of keeping myself a secret. I set aside the idea of perfection for the first time and tried to let people see the real Elle. Elle without her armor. To my surprise, people didn’t run away or tell me I’m no longer wanted. Instead, people loved me more. This idea blew my mind. I can be less than? Being me, flaws and struggles and all is enough?

Then last May we got news. We got news that changed everything. Everything in me, and all the people around me told me “now is not the time to live out loud.” My friends and family warned that maybe now is not the time to broadcast my struggles and imperfection. Maybe now is the time to go back to playing the part of the mom and survivor who had completely pulled herself together and hadn’t missed a beat the whole time. I was even told that I should maybe unpublish My Voice.

I had worked so hard to be honest and vulnerable and I was being told “that was a bad idea. If people (AKA the Court) know the real you, they won’t believe you are a good enough mom for Liam.” This pissed me off. I continued to write. I started to write about different things. I linked back to my dating blog so my readers and new friends could see the full circle of events that led to the news, but those posts remain in the drafts folder. Without my voice, then what is my vision?

It was our belief that “the news” was going to change everything. And fast. We rejoiced at the possibility that Liam would start his school career with our name, not XN’s. We rejoiced at the idea of taking a family vacation and being gone for as long as we pleased. We rejoiced at the idea of putting our little boy to bed every night, knowing he is safe and protected. I rejoiced at the idea of being just Liam’s mom and Oliver’s wife and not having to defend who I am to anyone anymore. Fifteen months later, very little has changed. We have been in court three times. We endured another custody evaluation. We argued in the Appellate Division. But nothing has changed.

It was my belief, and that of the attorney we borrowed money to hire for two months, that with Liam starting school full-time, the Court was sure to change his exhausting custody schedule. How was this schedule even a possibility for a five-year-old in kindergarten? Multiple experts had told us that it wasn’t feasible for him and that it wasn’t fair to us or Liam to not have the opportunity to spend a weekend at home. As a reminder, his current schedule is:

  • Every other weekend from 4:00 p.m. Friday until 9:00 a.m. Monday,
  • On alternate weekends from 10:00 a.m. Sunday until 12:00 p.m. Monday,
  • Every week from 4:00 p.m. Wednesday to 8:00 a.m. Thursday

Yet in December, our new family court judge decided that the trial court didn’t have jurisdiction over ANY of our case because of the appeal they filed of XN’s child support obligation. Nothing changed.

Something has recently changed in me, though. I am not willing to just sit by and not live my life fully because someone will try to tell the Court I am not good enough for my son. They have been trying to tell me that for the last five years, and here we are. I still have him. I’m tired of feeling ashamed of who I am and the choices I’ve made. I’m tired of living in fear that someone will object to the truth. I recently heard that the truth will set you free, but it will piss you off first. I think the truth will set you free but first, it will kick your ass.

I’ve shared the worst of my history with our custody evaluator. “The worst” of my history has been shared in Court and is part of the record. So, what exactly am I afraid of? Maybe it is less that I am afraid of the court and more afraid of those closest to me losing hope and patience. Maybe I am more afraid that if we do end up losing Liam, it will be because the truth is that I am not good enough to be his mother. In my email signature is a Brene Brown quote, “When we own our stories we get to write the ending.” Maybe this is all still going on without change because I haven’t owned enough my story to write that ending yet. Starting today I own it all.

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