My first words to my divorce lawyer were “Help Me…” I had become so skinny, that my pants slipped down as I stood up, and I failed to recognize the person in the mirror.
Motivated by absolute fear and adrenaline, I packed the few items that I kept with me at all times, to prevent him from coming home and stealing them in anger. My house has a lot of doors, and to upset me, he would go in one door then slam it, and go out the other door… At times, I felt that there was no safe direction to face. I carried a tote with me like a bag lady. It contained $3,000 in cash that I had saved for many years, my computer, a few pieces of jewelry, and my list of wrongs performed by my husband, that I had neatly drafted into my own divorce agreement that represented almost 20 years of cruel treatment.
I was terrified of what was about to happen when he found out that I had filed for divorce. I left my 3 children, one of whom was less than 6 months old at home with my mother, and I poured my heart out to the lawyer, who told me that she could only help me if I was willing to help myself…. my next step was the bank, where, on her advice, I withdrew approximately 50% of the contents of the account, and opened a new account at a different bank, and of course, drafted a check for her fee.
I went home, fed the kids, sent mom home, and retreated up to my room, with the kids, and we hid in bed, until it was realized that the money was gone. My husband obsessively checked the bank account daily to make sure that I had not spent any money, other than on basic home care.
To this day, almost 12 years later, I remember the feeling of my heart beating through my chest, and the complete fear in my oldest son’s face as he heard his father storming up the stairs to confront me for what I had done.
As the other two kids lay sleeping, he crashed the door so hard into the wall, that he created a hole, that exists still today, as both reminder of that day, as as a tattoo of the mess that he left me with… 3 children to raise alone, and a house that I cannot sell.
I am a different person today because of that fear. I am a person who has experienced terror at the feet of their spouse. Over the years, I have been able to divest myself of the images in my head, but to this day, I am trapped and paralyzed by the idea that he still controls me in some way, or that there is something in me that will allow someone else to treat me the same way.
Because the terror that I experienced was not physical, it is pervasive in such a way that made me doubt my own sanity. The experience of having someone, with whom I share three children, twist words into so many hateful sentences was demoralizing and painful. I sought both therapy and anti-depressants. One brings the tears, the other blocks the inability for them to come out, creating a sort of cognitive dissonance.
I do not trust easily, and I have come to realize that as the years go by, I will never again share my mind with anyone. It is far easier to have a sexual relationship, than it is to share an emotional one. Experience has molded me. I am not the person that I once was. In times of stress, my mind forces me to revisit the years with him, and in the end, makes me challenge my own abilities to move forward.
Even all these years later, it still feels as though he has some control over me. I both seek his approval for decisions, and praise for the job I do with the kids. I don’t ASK for approval, but sadly, I looks for signs that he approves. Twenty some odd years, that validation still does not come.
Words matter… this is the only lesson I can take from this for my children. Marry carefully and trust your instincts. If someone is unkind to you in any way, that sort of behavior is unlikely to change. I could never be unkind to someone that I love, yet I have been a willing participant in my own abuse. If nothing else, I hope that my honesty about my experiences will help those I love from making similar mistakes.