How To Forgive Yourself And Stop Self-Sabotage
It’s been just about an entire decade since I exacted the single biggest error of my entire life. I attempted to get the father of my children deported back to his native Denmark. I got him arrested, held in an INS holding camp for three months, then proceeded to lie about it for two weeks under oath in court.
It is important to note the following. First, I did this out of fear, not revenge or hatred. I truly believed at the time that he was planning on abducting our young sons and that he would succeed, resulting in me never seeing them again. I was also in extremely poor condition, both physically and mentally, during this time. My weight had dropped to a dangerous 105 pounds because I had stopped eating. I had just flipped my BMW 3 1/2 times on a mountain road and somehow survived. I was regularly on the psych hotline, sobbing in my office. My ex had launched a daily campaign of destruction on me and I awoke every morning afraid to get out of bed for fear of what the day would bring. I was a mess.
Still, I knew in my heart of hearts that what I was doing, even as I was doing it, was dead wrong. The moment I put the plan into action, every cell in my body rebelled and I carried around a constant nausea and nervousness that was enough in itself to drive a person off a cliff. The one thought that kept haunting me was; how am I ever going to explain to my sons when they are older what happened to their father? How would they ever possibly be able to understand and forgive me? Especially when it was clear I couldn’t ever even begin to forgive myself?
My biggest “fail” turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. I failed at getting him deported, and for that I will always be truly, deeply grateful. For if I had succeeded, I don’t think I could ever face the heartbreak of my sons or the guilt of knowing I took their father from them their entire childhoods. And I doubted that they could ever find a way to forgive me.
It became my biggest curse as well because it set into motion a daily nightmare of such grand proportions that it would plummet me into a deep, life-threatening depression for almost a decade. When it was discovered in court what I had done, and that I had sat there under oath and lied about it for days on end, every last drop of my credibility within that courthouse was annihilated and lost forever.
From that point forward, I became the Spawn of Satan and my ex became the poor, suffering love child of Gandhi and Mother Teresa. From that point forward, my ex’s attorneys used this incredible, unyielding bias to defame my character as a person and a mother at every turn, regardless of the fact that it was almost entirely untrue.
As a result, they were able to quite effectively chip away at my custody and visitation until I was left with nothing. I lost all access to my sons and they essentially spent from ages 5 and 6 until now, (they are 11 and 12) without having me in their lives, save occasional, sporadic phone contact when my ex was willing. And even then, he made sure that they were distracted in front of their favorite TV shows while he additionally engaged them in silliness in the background to distract them from our conversations. It was nothing short of devastating. I fell into a black abyss I truly believed I’d never climb out of.
It took me years to face what I had done, to quit playing the victim and to own my part in all of it. For the first four or so years, I would paint a picture of an evil ex hell bent on enacting parental alienation on my sons and me. I can’t say exactly what changed in me, but I finally got the courage and truth to be able to admit that I had metaphorically bought him the gun, loaded it, placed it in his hand, cocked it and aimed it directly at me, enabling him to blow my life to smithereens.
Recently, I even acknowledged this directly to the court in a written document. I did it, and no matter how out of character this one black mark on my soul and my reputation as a human being actually was, the fact remains that I did do it. It is solely my fault that my credibility was completely destroyed indefinitely in that courtroom.
I have systematically punished myself for this for the last decade. My therapist recently asked me what I thought was holding me back in reaching the professional and personal success I know, and everybody else seems to as well, that I’m capable of.
I told her, “I’m not scared to fail. I’m scared to succeed.”
“Why?” She asked. “Why would you be denying yourself the success you know you’re capable of?”
“Because I don’t deserve it. I’m still punishing myself.” I revealed.
“For what?” She inquired.
“For causing my sons and me to be separated over the last decade and for the damage I know its done to them, and continues to do.”
“You feel like that this has been all your fault?” She continued.
“Yes. Because if I had never fabricated that lie, none of this would have ever happened. We never would have suffered through this nightmare.”
She then asked me a very poignant question.
“Elisa, if a close, dear friend of yours was still punishing themselves ten years later for one horrific incident they did that was totally out of character for them and the way they had chosen to live their entire life aside from that one incident, which they enacted out of deep fear and anguish, what would you say to them?”
“I would tell them that they had been punished enough. I would tell them that they were continuing to hurt not only themselves but also their children by continuing to sabotage their own life and not permit themselves to fully live up to and enjoy their true potential.”
“Then, please, tell yourself that. Because you are not doing anyone any good by perpetuating a long-term, self-sabotage campaign within your life. If you could forgive your dear friend for what she did, why can’t you also forgive yourself?”
It’s true. We all make some truly horrific errors along the way. It’s part of being human. I’m so capable of forgiving others, why couldn’t I extend that forgiveness to myself?
One thing I realize now: I really am doing a disservice to my sons by not forgiving myself because it’s such a huge, debilitating persistence in my life. I have an obligation to live my life to the fullest, utilize my talents and ambition to its highest level and to extend my ability to forgive to even myself.
As I left that session last Tuesday night, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. Could it be that simple? Could all of the bad choices I had made over the last decade, every person or thing I brought into my life that derailed me from working toward my highest state of grace, all be tied to my inability to forgive myself?
Isn’t it finally time? The Universe knows we’ve all suffered enough. My children. Me. And the various people that have come into my life and tried to love me along the way. I’ve worn my guilt and pain like a badge of dishonor for years. It has debilitated me in ways I could never have imagined. And worse, it has debilitated my sons from getting to see what their mother is truly made of, not to mention seeing her truly happy.
Enough is enough. Therefore I forgive myself for what I did. It’s time to love myself again and believe I deserve all of the wonders of success the Universe has been patiently waiting to distill upon me. It’s time to turn my forgiving nature on the one person I find hardest to forgive: me.
© 2018 Elisa Fortise Christensen