Most important to me in this world are my girls. They were my biggest reason for staying. I just wanted them to have a two-parent, stable (laugh out loud) environment until they graduated high school. I never ever wanted them to be affected by their father’s behaviors and mental illness.I thought until those last few months with him when they were eighteen and twenty-two that I had done a good job protecting and insulating them from the hurt and damage throughout their lives. I was wrong. Completely horribly wrong. My girls were hurt and affected as much as I was. The realization that you hurt your own children irreparably for life just crushes you like a gigantic boulder breaking loose and careening down from a mountain top to find you. It just flattens you. The guilt isn’t in the trying to protect them, it’s in the failing.I failed to protect them. I can never undo the damage to any of us. One of the effects I will carry for life is I forgive to a fault. Yes, you can actually be too forgiving. No matter what he did, I forgave him. Forgiveness is a curse in my case. Holly, my twenty-two year old, is quiet, cold, and emotionless to a fault. She bottles everything up. She has a hard time expressing her feelings and just shuts down. Her nineteen year old sister Allison is too nice to a fault. She constantly apologizes to everyone for everything. The result is everyone walks all over her. Yes, you can be too forgiving, too quiet, and too nice. The damage is immeasureable and lifelong. The three of us will carry it with us forever as part of who we are..It’s sort of like we three girls are walking out of a bomb shelter and blinking in the bright light. We are seeing everything in a post apocalyptic view now. We are just taking in a different world. Our bodies and souls forever a tightly coiled spring of tenseness, yet a vision of calm on the outside. It will take time to relearn how to feel and experience happiness without being on guard, lest it be yanked away. Joy was a weakness. We always kept it an arm’s length away because if we allowed ourselves that luxury, that’s when we were most vulnerable and attacked. He would kill our happiness with a spear. No more though. We laugh so much. Sort of like a Charles Dickens novel.. Now is our “best of times” and “worst of times”. We have never been more poor , yet so rich. We have never had so little, yet so much. Best of all, us three girls have each other and that deep level of understanding. We went through something together that no one can empathize with or understand. It doesn’t matter if anyone believes it. We lived it. Together. Wherever my girls go, they will carry my love with them, and I will carry theirs.