Monday, November 26, 2007

feeling disconnected

I received an e-mail from my sister this morning and after reading it,I just feel disconnected somehow.
Here is the e-mail which describes my brother's condition at present.

HI Marge,
Just got time for a quick note, I’m already late leaving for work.
Walt is about as critical as you imagined. There are at least 9 IV medications going, all on monitors, He has a continuous EEG checking his brain waves, they are sedating him and want to make sure he doesn’t get too sedated. He has chest tubes draining his chest. ,there is a tube down his throat draining his stomach. He is on a ventilator. There is a bandage covering his chest, but you can see the heart moving under it. It’s weird cause it is really loud, usually you can’t hear a heart beating.
He has a nurse sitting at the foot of his bed watching him constantly. I asked the nurse about the bleeding, she said it wasn’t unusual after they have been on the artificial heart, they have to administer blood thinners and it takes the body a while to recover it’s clotting ability. He had 22 units in surgery and 10 post op.

Yesterday before we left we visited for a couple of minutes. He was a little less sedated, and he was moving his hands and feet a little bit, but never opened his eyes. He is having trouble maintaining his blood pressure, it was 84/42 while we were there, and that was with medicine to keep it up. They are trying to wean the medicine because it is limiting his circulation to his feet, so his feet are mottled purple.

Julie and Ken are real troopers, Julie has been home only about 10 days in the last 3 months. She challenges the doctors when she doesn’t agree with something. Ken said one time they were wheeling him to surgery and she said, I think he has a fever, and the nurse said No he was fine. Julie said Humor me, check his temperature again, and it was 102.8. So they cancelled the surgery that day.

The heart they gave him was a 30 year old, but that is all they would say. The doctor that is overseeing his care, told Ken, “we were really particular that it be a young and fit heart, b/c we knew it was going to really have to work hard to keep your Dad alive”. His heart rate has been in the 120’s for days.

We had a nice visit on Saturday nite, went out to dinner and they back to the hotel lobby where Ken set up a Wii game and we played for 3 hours. It was really nice to reconnect with both of them.

Well , got to go, Keep praying. Walt goes to surgery today to close his chest.

In years past when someone in the family was critically ill, mainly my Mom and Dad we siblings would rally around the one who was ill and support each other.
Situations are such most of us can't do this for Walt.
Some days I wonder if it would make a difference in his recovery if we could do that. Maybe not,buy you wonder.
If he could hear our voices, feel our touch, listen to our memories would it help make him well?

I feel so bad for my neice and nephew to shoulder the burden alone,although they would never see it or call it a burden.I guess what I mean by burden is the extreme weight of carrying the load just between the two of them;the decisions that have to be made,the time spent away from home.

I feel so helpless on the other side of the country and can do nothing physically to help.

I am feeling disconnected from my siblings.There is one I haven't been able to find and another that I leave messages with who doesn't answer calls.

My oldest sister relays the messages to our youngest brother who relays them to the oldest brother.

I e-mail all those I can. I guess I'm missing the physical connection we all had spending time with each other at the hospital in times of crisis.

No one had to explain a history;we all knew the history.These people were the witness of my life spent up to that point and I was to theirs.

This is the first sibling we've had to deal with such a serious illness and the possibility of losing.I don't think any of us are ready to lose our brother.I know I'm not.

I am optimistic of Walt's recovery.I have to be.However, what a process this for all of us to learn patience and faith in the waiting.It is surely a lesson in learning that all things happen in God's time and His isn't Eastern,Central,Mountain or Pacific.

I feel like I am in a fog today. Like I'm going through the motions but not really involved,therefore disconnected.

It's as if I am anticipating something but don't know what the something is yet.

All I can really do is pray and pray I have, earnestly.And almost everyone who knows me is praying with us.

Jesus said, "wherever two or more are gathered in my name there I shall be".I picture all of us praying for Walt crowded in his room and we feel the power of the Holy Spirit working and filling us with his love and promise.

I guess these are my thoughts today as we await another report later today.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thoughts of my brother

Some may know my brother Walt has been very sick and fighting a battle with heart disease.
He was diagnosed many years ago, maybe 20, with cardiomyopathy. This is the same thing my Mother contracted and died from, my oldest brother has it and Walt's son has been diagnosed with it.

Walt became very ill last December and was admitted to Christ Hospital in Cincinnati several times. Eventually the doctors there could do no more for him and arrangements were made for him to go to the Cleveland Clinic to await a heart transplant. This was last July.

Walt has had a rough row to hoe since he's been there.
Early on he was to be transplanted but as it turned out the donor heart was a good match but an unhealthy heart.
He was having lots of ups and downs, sometimes more downs than ups.
Eventually, his heart was sick enough and no donor heart available so they removed all but a small section of his diseased heart to hook him up to a mechanical heart, which we call his artificial heart.
One of the side effects of the mechanical heart is serious infection which he developed.

After the mechanical heart, which by the way is a huge machine almost 5 ft tall that would sit at the foot of his bed and wires and tubes connected inside his chest, he lost over 100 lbs of fluid that had built up inside his body from the heart not functioning.

Soon after that he was able to get on a treadmill and begin a limited exercise program to rebuild his strength. I would call him and it was astounding the change in his voice.
At first he was so weak he sounded like a 90 yr old man barely able to talk.
By late last week he was just about his old self again.

Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, he was transplanted with a donor heart. We assume the donor was a male between the ages of 30-35 because that's what we were told would be what the surgeons and transplant team felt would be best for him.

Almost immediately after transplantation he developed serious complications. He was bleeding profusely and required 20 litres of blood that day. When they opened him up they discovered the infection was much worse than they expected to find. He developed a high fever and his white blood count was very high.

Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, he became more ill. He became extremely septic and they put him on dialysis, risking his kidneys to save his life.They were giving him megadoses of every antibiotic they could which could blow out his kidneys.
We were told to prepare for the worst.

It was a somber Thanksgiving for all the Mitchell's. His son and daughter were at the hospital alone waiting for news of their Dad instead of home having a happy celebration with their families.
I tried to focus on what there was to be thankful for and there were many things I thought of.

I live a good life;I live in a free country and because of that enjoy freedoms others don't have;I have healthy children and grandchildren; although I may not be as healthy as I could be my ailments are not life threatening;I have access to good medical care and medicine;I have a really great guy in my life who treats me like a queen;I have a beautiful home in a great neighborhood,with many terrific neighbors who have become friends;I get to volunteer at a place that is spectacularly beautiful and have great people that I volunteer with;I get to go back in time to history of the 1850's and recreate events for the folks who visit and especially the children. I have been able to travel;I have had some utterly sad things happen to me however I've learned great lessons so I value these as well. I have an internet community of friends that couldn't be closer even though most of us have never met and never will.They even included my brother and our family in their Thanksgiving blessings.
These are the things I focused on during my Thanksgiving day.

I've thought about my brother a lot of course in the recent months.I guess when you are threatened with losing someone from your life you tend to do that.otherwise,we tend to just take people for granted and think they'll always be there and we'll get to them tomorrow. It's when we get close too running out of tomorrows that realize how precious someone else's life is to our own.

My earliest memories of my brother are of sharing time with our dog,Lady who was an apricot colored cocker spaniel.
She was such a good dog, my best friend at that time.
There used to be a picture of Pat(my oldest sister), Walt, myself and Lady on the front porch of our childhood home.I'm guessing I was not quite 2, so Walt would have been maybe 7. It must have been in the fall because we were bundled up in heavy jackets and had headscarves and hats on. There was no snow on the ground and I don't recall we were wearing mittens or gloves.

Other memories of Walt that aren't so good was when he was drowning turtles my sisters and I had found downstairs in the stationary tub in the basement. He would kill snails with salt or a magnifying glass in the summer,he would fight with me every chance he had.Physically fight.
One time, I guess I must have been maybe 13,on a Saturday morning I changed the TV channel to something we younger kids were used to watching.Walt was usually working on Saturday mornings and I don't remember why he was home that day.Maybe he was sick.
He became so angry with me for changing the channel he got up and started choking me. Honest to God, bona fide strangling me.
My Mom came in the room and was yelling at him to stop, hitting his arms and he kept up. I was turning blue and losing consciousness and finally he quit.

He would skip school at the Polumbo Apartments where his girlfriend Janet (who later became his wife) lived at the time. He would make fun of me for going to school.
Later when I was skipping and got caught and my Dad was ashamed of me "because no one in our family EVER skipped school" I kept my mouth shut about Walt.To my Dad's dying day I don't think he ever knew.

Walt did some other unkind things to me that were abusive but I don't want to discuss them.
As teens we didn't have a very nice or happy existence.
I recall as if it was yesterday the morning he was leaving for Ft. Benning,GA when he was drafted.
This was during the Vietnam era and I realized my brother could be killed at war.
Real life came into clear focus that morning. I didn't hate my brother,I hated the things he did.
We sat at the bottom of the steps in the hallway and talked for awhile.
We both forgave each other perceived wrongs and made a truce that has lasted to this day.
That was in August,1968.

He came home on leave in December,1968 to get married to Janet and I was in the wedding. he left January 2nd for Germany. Janet joined him in February and they lived there when Ken was born the next February and she came home when Ken was few months old and Walt came home shortly after.
I was married the following October, Halloween night to be exact and my then husband and myself and Walt and Janet became best friends.
We lived within a few blocks of each other and within a few blocks of our parents,and my oldest sister.
Being around family was an everyday occurrence.
Actually, Janet and I were friends since I was 13 yrs old until she passed away a few years ago.

I admit I wasn't in contact as much with my brother those next years as I should have been. I did call a few times but few and far between.
I lived far away and like other things in life,one day turns into the next,one week turns into the next and then it's months and years. You always think there is going to be tomorrows.

My brother is the type that everyone considers friendly. Once you've met him you don't forget him.
I can't tell you the times we'd be out together and he would run into someone he knew in the service, someone he knew in school, someone he knew through a job.

For a few years he had a beer route out in the suburbs where we all eventually moved when we bought homes.
He was much loved and well thought of on his beer route. he serviced his customers as he would have wanted to be serviced had the shoe been on the other foot.
He was more than conscience. I wish I knew how many Sundays I saw him in stores on his route checking his displays, going to the back room to add to the displays when the product was dwindling.
I don't think I've ever heard someone talk trash about him his whole adult life.

I've been told by Ken even his coworkers from Kroger's warehouse and bottling plant where he eventually worked after the beer route have sent him cards and good wishes. They call and check up on him and he hasn't worked there in more than a year.

I would know anywhere my brother's voice;he has always as long as I can remember had this tic of clearing his throat while he talks.
Another memory I have of him when we were real little,I guess maybe he was 6-7 yrs old so I would have been 2-3. For some reason he needed to spell the word Carlotta.There was a family across with that name.
For whatever reason he got on the phone and called the operator. I can still hear it.
"I am just a little boy and I don't know how to spell Carlotta". That became a family joke for years and years and years. He hated it but we loved it.

In high school somehow someone gave him the nickname "Moose". I don't recall how it got started but he hated that too. Of course, knowing he hated it I called him that every chance I could. Sisters are like that.

One of the most special memories I have of my brother and my sister-in-law was when I was going through the first divorce. My soon to be ex had kidnapped my kids from me and was suing for custody. To say I was despondent would be an understatement.
At this point Janet concocted this idea for me.Walt and her to go kidnap my kids back.
We thought out the plan. Walt was off because it had snowed and iced that morning. they had an old station wagon.
So off we went to the exes house and I knew he had the lady next door watching my kids. She was supposed to be a friend of mine but I guess she liked being his mistress more.
I knew we had no more than 10 minutes to get the kids and any stuff out of the exes house before he would have been called at work and gotten home.
While I was inside Diane's house grabbing my kids, threatening to kill her if she tried to stop me, Walt and Janet were scurrying through my old house gathering items I had written down for the kids and placing them in the back of their car.
At just the right moment we jumped back into the car and headed to my apartment and got inside and locked the door.
Sure enough, pound,pound, pound on the door. The soon to be ex was fuming. I had outsmarted him and he didn't think I had it in me.
Possession was 9/10ths of the law for the custody case. I had possession.
I will be forever grateful to my brother and sister-in-law for helping me that day.
After Big Dan left we hurried out to the car and got all the stuff inside and then they went home. Me and my kids were safe.

So many memories of being together. They'd come to my house,we go to theirs.
We watched the kids grow up. We joined forces to help my Dad when he was sick.
So many memories.

I pray today that Walt is allowed to get better and go home and reunite with his family and friends and we are able to make new memories.
He and I have already talked about him visiting me here in California. he and his Yorkie, Mitch.
Maybe other family members will visit with him too.
We still have lots of living to do.I'm not ready for my brother to be gone from my life but will accept it if the Good Lord decides to take him Home.
He will be missed. he will be mourned.
And he would be embarrassed that he was.
He wouldn't want to believe he had that effect on so many people.

If anyone reading this believes in miracles and the power of prayer,please believe in a miracle and pray for my brother and his family.
We want him home for Christmas and we believe with god, all things ARE possible.

For four months now my brother hasn't eaten at a table, showered or gone to the bathroom by himself in private, smelled fresh air, felt the sunshine, heard raindrops,pet his dog, worn street clothes. His view has been of a new building being contrustected next to the building he's in.

I believe he should be healthy and go home and poop scoop drop droppings, shovel snow,rake leaves, clean his refrigerator and toilet, pay the sky high prices for gas. he should be able to complain about the high cost of food, the high price of heating his home.
He should be able to cheer on his grandson at a football game, be made to have tea parties with his granddaughter.
He should have to endure long phone conversations with me.
He should have to mow his lawn next spring and water his flowers.
In other words he should have a normal life like everyone else.

I pray our heavenly Father sees it this way too. If not, I know Janet and my Mom and Dad will be waiting for him as he crosses over and that is the way it will have to be. I will have to be thankful for no more suffering and that he has peace.

I love you Walt and am selfish that I want you around for another 20 years.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Skidmark Cards

A lady on one of my message boards has a brother-in-law who makes these cards.
It's in tribute to her daughter,who committed suicide last year and 100% of the proceeds go to fund domestic violence women's shelters.

These cards are a smart a$$ and tongue in cheek way of breaking up. They are not nasty, hurtful,(well,I guess you received one you'd be hurt), or profane.In fact,they lend to the humorous side,although again,if you received one you may not find the humor.

I can see teenagers or college aged kids using these a lot.And some adults if they have a real sense of humor.

It's ironic I was given this link today because I had wanted to comment on domestic violence in teens.
It is so prevalent yet swept under the carpet.

A young gal wants to fit in and be part of a relationship,if possible,part of the "in" crowd.
She will allow herself to be mistreated verbally,physically,spiritually just to be part of something.
Teens want to blend in and fit's the time in their life they rebel against parents,rules,the system and anything else they can think up.
The one time a teen gal needs to listen to her parents she is most likely not to.

She will even try to hide the symptoms of abuse from her parents and family.If confronted,she will be angry they would even think such a thing.
If she is blessed she will have a friend who looks out for her,that is willing to risk the friendship and speak to an adult.
Most of her friends are too self-absorbed to care or don't want to create waves.They feel their own relationships are in jeopardy if they speak out.
Often,the boyfriend of the victim is the friend of her friend.
If the friend speaks out,she risks losing her own relationship because of it.

This same scenario can play out in gay relationships as well as heterosexual relationships.
In a gay relationship the teen is isolated already because they don't want to come out of the closet and then further isolated because of the abuse.
In both the abuser will try to isolate his victim from family and friends convincing the victim they are are no good for her.
He will manipulate situations to make her think his thinking is correct.

There is the issue of date rape in teen situations.
It isn't always just "dating" but in established relationships too.
He will control her and if she says no will be abused in some way and forced to comply.
Anytime sex is not consensual without force it is rape.If any young women see this,please hear my words.
Your body is your body.It's not his.He doesn't own you therefore he doesn't have the right to "take" what is his.
It isn't love,it's lust.
Love does not harm. Sometimes your feelings hurt or your heart breaks but love does not harm.
Regardless what he says,listen to me,it's a bunch of bullmalarkey.

This same young man who willingly abuses you is likely to walk away and abandon you if you become pregnant. Practice safe sex.Practice it for your future.Practice it for your health.Practice it because you are important enough.
I won't preach about premarital sex although I prefer you'd wait.
If you are choosing to play like an adult then be prepared to pay the consequences-alone.He will not stand by you,regardless what he says to you now.

Do not take on his guilt or his consequences.When he says he is sorry because.... or he wishes he hadn't but.... or if you had only..... or if you had.... or if your would.....
he is full of it.
It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him.
He has a personality disorder and you'd be best to recognize it now and get away.
Get some counseling to look within yourself and figure out why you were attracted to this personality.
If you don't you are doomed to repeat the same thing over again and again until you do.
Be smarter than some of us adult women who didn't figure it out until we were much older.

And if he says he will kill himself or others if you don't stay with him,it's a load of crap.
If he is going to kill himself he would find another victim or excuse.He is drawing attention and wants you to be victimized further.
Please,please,please tell a person in authority if he would make that threat.It's your responsibility and obligation to do so.
It isn't your responsibility if he takes his own life on his terms. It would be sad and a shock but it isn't your fault.

You don't have to be in a relationship to feel good about yourself. I know you think you do.
You can be half of a whole and have holes in your life.Trust me,I know this well.
Be your own best friend.What would you advise your best friend if she were in the same situation and then take your own advice.
Don't stay in isolation.There is no reason to hold onto the shame. That's the abuser further tormenting you.Bring it out into the light and lie no longer has life.

If even one teen sees this and it makes a difference it will be worth it to me.If I can help one teen stop the cycle of violence in her life then it was worth it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I am a victor,not a victim

The last few posts concerned how I ended up in a domestic violence situation,what some of the signs are and what it's like to live through it.

This time I want to give the end of the story or as it is today.

Upon leaving the shelter I still had challenges. My abuser was told by someone who meant well and didn't understand the situation where I was and my new phone number.

To say it struck fear in my heart would be an understatement. Everytime there was a knock at the door I froze.Everytime I heard a strange noise in the middle of the night I panicked.

Everytime I left the apartment I felt I had to watch everywhere afraid he's be lurking somewhere.

I had no car and depended on the kindness of a couple gals I met while in shelter and my daughter Mandy.She would give up one of her off days to ride me around to go to doctor appointments,shop and generally just hang out.

I can't even explain how good that was for my soul.

After being estranged from her for that long while it was really special.

It came about that I knew Bob,my present partner.It's a long story that I don't want to get into in this space but I implemented all I had learned in this new relationship.

I wasn't any easy mark this time.

I was skeptical,untrusting,suspicious, looked for red flags.They had told me in shelter during therapy that there were good men out there and when I changed how I was I'd attract them to me.I hardly believed it.

I knew there were good men,don't get me wrong, but that "I" would find one I was less than hopeful and to tell you the truth,I wasn't looking either.

I had made up my mind that I could live happily relationship free the rest of my life.

I had been married twice,had other relationships,been around the block a couple times,had children and grandchildren so what did I need to get tangled up in another relationship?

So, God in His infinite wisdom and with a bountiful sense of humor had other plans.

Just as life was progressing Bob pops into my life.

At first,we were just phone buddies, just developing a friendship and that was more than fine with me.

He was in California and I was in TX so it was safe.

Truthfully,I had suspicions he could be making up most of what he said about himself knowing we'd never meet in person,so I played along.

In time I figured out he was for real and he found out I was for real.

We talked endlessly on the phone,I had unlimited long distance and we both had cell phones that had unlimited night minutes.The time change between us worked in out favor.

We exchanged mail too.

After a few months he felt it was time for us to meet.He could fly to Houston or I could go to CA. I just instinctively knew I'd be OK if I went out there.Of course,everyone who knew me thought I was making foolish judgements again and hadn't learned a thing.I could empathise with them and would have felt the same way if I was them.

My theory was this,if he even got close to hurting me I would be so angry with him and myself I wouldn't have wanted to be him. I wasn't going to just be a victim anymore.

And,I had never been to CA before and the likelihood of me ever making it were slim to none.

I wanted to see San Fransisco. It was an all expenses paid trip so what the heck.

Everyone back in TX had my itinerary and I checked in daily.

From the moment we met after me coming off the plane it was as if we were old friends who had been separated a few weeks.

We spent 10 days together and they went fast.Too fast. I didn't want to leave which surprised me. And he didn't want me to leave which surprised him.

He said he needed me to go back home to see if he would really miss me. I thought that was refreshing and healthy.

So home I went and resumed my life. And we continued to talk daily as we had.

We covered every possible subject that could be covered.

I logged over 27000 minutes on my landline alone in all the talking we did.

We figured that's more than some married couples talk in 20 years.

After a month he confronted me with the possibility of me moving to CA;he was still working so it wasn't even a possibility that he would move to TX.

He was a native Californian so he wasn't going to leave the state.Besides that,I'm the risk taker and adventurer between us and I really had nothing holding me to TX anymore. He had a job,home and a life here. I had no real estate,a no where part time job and kids who were grown leading their own lives as they should.

I thought about it for another month to make sure I wasn't making a rash decision.

We honestly loved each other in a mature way.We respected,admired,trusted each other.

As complicated as it should have been, it wasn't.

I wanted to share my life with him more than I wanted to remain in TX for the status quo.

I received counseling during the time to make sure this was a healthy decision. I prayed long and hard about it. I did a lot of soul searching during that time.

And mid-December I was living in CA.

I've not regretted it.It has been a terrific life for me here.
A year after arriving here Bob retired and we moved to Oroville.
I love this little town and all it's rich history.
I've made a few very good friends and a best friend,besides Bob, in the process. She and I are like sisters. Not taking anything away from my birth sisters;Sandi is my Oroville sister.
We have almost everything in common,it's kind of spooky in a way.

Bob and I together couldn't be happier. I can't even remember the last disagreement we've had.We never argue.
We are tuned into each other so well that we really don't get on each other's nerves. he does his thing,I do mine and we do a lot together. It's a good balance.

He treats me like a queen.He is generous to a fault sometimes.He spoils me rotten to the point I tell my friends to check my expiration date!
And, I'm equally as good to him. We both have quirks and idiosyncrasies but we make them work between us.
Neither of us are perfect and the important thing is we know it and accept it about each other.

And, we laugh everyday,many times a day.I mean belly laughs and almost wet your pants laughs.
We appreciate each other and the life we've created together.

My hope to anyone who sees themselves as a victim of domestic violence and abuse to consider all your options.
Maybe you were like me at one point and trying desperately to hang onto a dream of the kind of relationship you wanted and were attempting to have.
You struggled, tolerated and finally settled for less than thinking it was your lot in live.

You don't have to. Jesus said,"I came to give you life and give it more abundantly".
He doesn't lie.
Had it not been for my tremendous faith and belief system I can't imagine surviving those years.
Somehow,I knew I was never alone.Somehow,I knew "I could do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me".
Like the saying says," Jesus doesn't bring you to it without leading you through it".

The best example of the difference in my life is twice in the past few months it was pointed out to me "that I seemed to be really happy now".Once by my ex in TX at the birth of my second grandson and once by brother needing the heart transplant.

I have no bitterness,resentment,hatred or animosity to those who hurt and harmed me.That's not for me to judge.
It happened,it's over, I've moved on and I love myself so much now it would not happen to me again.
I do not allow toxic people in my space or my life.I don't have to. I set boundaries now.

It's in some ways a lifetime ago that life I used to have.In fact,I refer to it now as "my other life".
I am optimistic, hopeful and full of true joy everyday.
I wake up praising God I got to live to see another day,to see another sunrise and hope to see the sunset that day.I give thanks for my abundance of blessings.
I pray to God to send the angels to surround myself and those I love each and every day.

You may think it's odd, unusual or that I'm deceiving myself that I don't hate those who harmed me.
Were I to hang onto that it closes space in my heart for the true blessings to bestowed on me.If I hold onto hatred there is no room for love.
Frankly, none of them are worth that price to me to pay.
I paid my dues already.
I am the winner,the victor.

I have about as perfect a life one could hope for now.
If I can do it you can too. Your story will be different from my story.Your outcome can be the same.

Reach into yourself and find that shred of something that still lives in you and hang onto it.
All of us have that shred because we are nurturers.That's part of why we end up in the situations we do.
We try our best to take care of everyone else thinking and believing we aren't as important.
It's lie. Just as the abuser lies to us, we lie to ourselves.
The reality is we can't really take care of others well unless we are taking care of ourselves first.
It isn't selfish; it's self-preservation.

What are we teaching our children about love if we can't even love ourselves?
Somewhere inside us is that injured soul that belongs to the little girl we once were.She is still there waiting for us to come love her enough.

I want you to have what I have and that is what is in the Scripture: to have the peace that surpasses all understanding.
It's possible.It's always possible.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thoughts from a survivor

The last two posts were very graphic about what abuse can be like,more specifically,mine.

For each victim there will be a different story however threads of similarity run through each one.

It starts out benign. A comment made here and there;almost could be taken one way or another and if you were to call the person out they would make you believe you were wrong.

Later,a slap or some other physical manifestation of abuse.

Money is controlled because money is power.

Time is controlled;the abuser wants to account for your every minute even during times that should be private like in the bathroom.Knocks on the door,"what are you doing in there" or "how long does it take"?

Your way of dress or even buying clothing is questioned.Your makeup,hair, jewelry and nails are brought into question.

Your friendships are questioned. Slowly, you let each one fall by the wayside because you are convinced there really are ulterior motives behind each one.Or,it just isn't worth it to argue over anymore.

Sometimes,even family relationships fall by the wayside because the abuser finds fault or you are hiding the awful truth of how you REALLY live.

You are suspect at your workplace.You must be having an affair.

You are timed to go shopping and the mileage checked.You must be having an affair.

If you talk to neighbors without the abuser present you must be telling them "our" business.

You start hearing nothing you do is right.The way you cook,the way you keep house,the way you talk, the way you care for your children and the way you are a lover.

No one could be as incompetent as you.

You are called names.The mouth of the one who professes to love you can spew such hatred and venom you don't even recognize this person.

You are humiliated,embarrassed, and invalidated.

Meanwhile your self- worth is diminishing.

Your self-esteem is almost nonexistant.

You are so tired.Extremely exhausted and fatigued.

The daily barrage of hatred and abuse is taking it's toll.You muster up whatever you can to get through each day,wondering how you will find what you need for tomorrow.

The physical abuse starts. You are shocked that the hands of one who once treated you as a treasure now can hurt you so bad. It's actually a surprise at first.

He promises it will never happen again and you believe it.But,it does happen again.And again.And again.......

It never relents.

In some cases the abuse can take years to escalate and others months.

The only fact is it DOES escalate-always.

We stay because after the abuse there is the honeymoon phase or cooling off period.

There can be absolute bliss. It's as if the abuse never happened.And,we easily want to forget it.

We desperately want to believe it will never happen again.But,it does.We think we want to stay together "for the kids sake".

What we don't realize is the kids are severely impacted by our choice.

They are witnessing violence on a daily basis.

We would give our life to protect them from an outsider harming or hurting them but we subject them to violence daily.

We protect them from violence on TV but they see it played out in their home.

All in the name of love.

We want to hang on because we remember the good times.And,maybe everyday isn't a bad day so we fool ourselves.

What we aren't realizing is it isn't the relationship we now have we want to hang onto but the dream of what we wanted it to be.

We lose respect for ourselves.Our children lose respect for us. Our extended families,friends and coworkers lose respect for us.

They love us and are fearful for us but respect is nonexistent because no one understands what is really happening.

We live in fear. Fear of when the next incident will happen.Fear of letting down our guard. Fear of what those close to us will think if they knew. Fear of the family disintegrating.

Fear of the unknown if we changed our circumstances.

We make excuses. We make pacts with the devil. If this happens again I'll do...

Next time.... If he ever hurts my kids.... I'll never.... If ever... and so on.

And we always break our pact and then our self-esteem lowers and lowers.

We say will make some calls to find out our options and then don't.That would be admitting it was out of hand and we had to do something about it.

We see PSA's on TV and secretly we listen carefully,making a mental note but still do nothing.

We go to our doctor's appointments and see pamphlets about the subject.We quickly throw one into our purse intending to read it later but we don't.

We hear news reports where someone is murdered during an act of domestic violence and say how sorry we are for the victim, maybe even offering a prayer.We speak out about what a sorry S.O.B. the abuser is not wanting to admit the one we live with has the same potential.We may even be arrogant enough to think it will never happen to us,or, it only happens to poor people or uneducated people or drug users.

The fact is it can happen to anyone of any race,economic or educational background.Domestic violence is an equal opportunity scourge.

Who is an abuser?

He can be your clergy,your doctor,your attorney,your letter carrier,your mechanic. He can be your next door neighbor,your cousin, your brother,your son. He can be your father and yes,he can be your husband,your lover,your confidante,your so called soulmate.

And there can be instances it can be your mother,your sister,your teacher,your nurse,your secretary.Men are abused too and are victims of domestic violence.

In some ways,it's worse for them because society expects them to be macho,strong,head of the house.

What do you mean "your old lady beats you up.I'd kick her ass if it was me". That's even if he has enough guts to admit it 's happening to anyone.

It happens in gay relationships.

It can be sibling against sibling.It can be roommates.

Domestic violence has no boundaries. Only you can make your own boundaries.

If you see yourself in any of the situations I've described I can only encourage you to call a crisis hotline for help.Tell someone.Your clergy.Your doctor,Your nurse. Just tell someone who will help you.

It will be frightening when you hear yourself say the words to another person.It will almost be foreign to hear the words spoken you have only thought about inside your own head.

It will seem incredible to have a voice in the matter.

It's almost gut wrenching to know once you speak it out you can never go back to keeping the secret,to pretending.

If I accomplish nothing more,I want you to know once you go through hell you can come out on the other side intact.

Easy, no. Worth it, yes.

If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Break the silence; make the call.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Why doesn't she leave-Part 2

Yesterday,I discussed my story and how it was I ended up in a domestic violence situation.

I apologize it 's long but felt I had to do it that way to give the background how someone gets into that situation.

I feel once folks know how it can happen they can be compassionate and proactive when it happens.

I left you with my total despair at the loss of my marriage and how used I was by my then husband.

He had not one compassionate bone in his body at that moment. I didn't even recognize this person I had known almost a quarter of a century.

I waited for the end to come without saying a word.I didn't want to live and I wanted to never feel the hurt I had felt all my life again.

I was silent,mute.

I guess I drifted into unconsciousness. I, of course, don't remember.

I am told it was longer than an hour before he called 911.He didn't want to be embarrassed because we both belonged to the local fire department and the paramedics would know us.

I am also told he left me alone and went to the local Walgreens to purchase syrup of Ipecac to make me vomit the contents of my stomach.

I know you should never induce vomiting in an unconscious person and he knew it too.He was a certified EMT.

To this day I have a few friends who think he should be guilty of attempted murder.

Apparently,I was taken to the hospital and my stomach pumped and was given some kind of charcoal stuff to absorb what might be left in my system.As a side note, let me tell you that is bad stuff and would keep me from ever attempting it again.

I came to in the afternoon with my family and a couple friends in the room.

I was so disgusted with myself that I had failed and would live to be hurt over and over again.I knew I could never have whatever it took to do this again.

Paul tried to apologize for his words pushing me over the edge but I just couldn't believe he was truly remorseful.I somehow knew his hurting me would go and on if I allowed him back into my life.I remember vaguely screaming at him to leave.

I was transferred to a psychiatric hospital on the other side of Houston.I was told by Paul when he and the kids came to visit me 2 days later that it was 58 miles one way and didn't intend to make a second trip.

I was hospitalized for a week.

In that time I met another patient.He was intriguing to me. He wasn't really like so many of the other patients.His illness wasn't outward.Neither was mine. To just observe us we didn't manifest mental illness symptoms.

I was diagnosed with acute clinical depression and bipolar disorder.

I really had no idea what bipolar was or what it meant even though I had a brother who was schizophrenic and bipolar. I knew most of the symptoms I had witnessed with him were from the schizophrenia;I really didn't know the bipolar symptoms and I was grateful I had only inherited the bipolar disorder. I learned that bipolar is/can be hereditary.

The staff after hearing my life history said they were not surprised I was there but surprised it had taken so long for me to to get there.

During my stay I became friendly with this man,Oscar. I could have an intelligent conversation.He wasn't hitting on me. He seemed quiet and in control. He liked to play rummy as I did so we played game after game.

At that time,in my insane state I felt he was a good friend.

It came time for us to be released.I called Paul because I didn't know anyone else to call to come pick me up and take me to my condo.

My car was parked there and I had no cash on me.

He refused.

My only other option I knew was to take a taxi and stop and get the money from the ATM and it would take just about all I had in my account.It was my only alternative.

Oscar had been working with the powers that be at the institution to provide him transportation but he really had no place to go home to.

So between us we cooked up this hare-brained idea that made perfect sense at the time for him to get the transportation and he could come home with me.

It was coming up on 4th of July weekend, a few days before it was Mandy's birthday and I knew she wouldn't speak to me.None of the family would.

I was virtually alone and lonely.

I was afraid to be alone with myself.Not just afraid,terrified.I couldn't promise I wouldn't harm myself again.

I was so grateful to have someone with me,to be accountable to;someone who understood what I was going through,to watch me.To get me help if I needed it.

To this day I believe I owe him my life for if it hadn't been for him I doubt I'd be alive.

I couldn't have cared any less about myself at that time.

We began a deep friendship. I was out of work due to the mental state for a few weeks receiving outpatient care.

We spent hours upon hours sharing our life histories and how we got to where we were at that time.

He was Christian as was I.We shared a faith that was a bond between us.

He had financial resources I didn't have.

For his living there he got cable turned on,helped me with bills since I was out of work. My savings was depleted from the wedding and I wouldn't get my short term disability check until after I returned to work. I knew it took forever to get it.

I was between a rock and hard place and so was Oscar. I could scratch his back and he could scratch mine.

Eventually, I returned to work and he stayed home and took care of cleaning, laundry and cooking and seemed to enjoy it.

After a few months I came home to him gone and no word where he was.

That was the beginning of a long,hard process of learning what it was to live with a drug addict.

That was his demon, drugs-crack cocaine to be specific.

He would disappear for a couple days and return and be remorseful and not use again for months.

After each time when he'd return it would be bliss, happiness, contentment. I wanted to believe each time was the last time.

After awhile it was feeling we were falling in love as strange as it may be.

We wanted to believe it was a "God thing" that we had found each other.

We went to church, did our Bible study every day, watched Christian TV, listened to Christian music.

No one else I had been involved with professed his love for Jesus the way this man did.

We were an interracial couple and had abuse from the outside world but it didn't bother us.

I never thought about the color of his skin. He was just like me in my eyes.

He seemed in tune with me. He knew when I was down or tired or frazzled.

He offered comfort where the others abandoned me at those times and sought out the comfort of others.

He was letting me see into himself in a very personal way.

I was building a relationship with his family whereas mine had left me in the dust because "I was crazy".

It might be contagious and it sure as hell was uncomfortable and a stigma attached.

As much as I invited them into my world as it was then no one obliged.

The kids didn't check on me to see if I needed anything.

I was extremely hurt but just stuffed it down and went on with life as it was.

More and more I became dependant on Oscar.

He was the only family I had at that time.

I was accepted,warts and all.

He treated me as an equal.

We would laugh and joke around.

We took long car rides and discovered new places neither of us knew before.

We took walks in the park near the house every day.We had picnics and fed the ducks.

We developed friendships unrelated to our past lives before we knew each other.

He bought my clothes and had excellent taste. He would laugh at my goof ups and we developed our own private jokes.

We said grace before meals and knelt at the bed and prayed together before bedtime.Our faith grew stronger and much of our lives was centered around church.

I was living the life I thought I always wanted.

We grew closer and closer.

Eventually, we were engaged. Our church was helping plan a wedding when we were ready. We received counseling from our pastor to prepare for the marriage.

Meanwhile the only of my four children who had contact with me was Dan.

He never gave up on me, unconditional love for his Mom.

Then he would go out and use again and the cycle would start all over.He was sorry.We'd pray harder. We became more involved in church.

I became sicker with my fibromyalgia and its symptoms which were many.

He encouraged me to leave my job.I eventually did and began working back at a convenience store around the corner from the house.I had worked there before and it seemed suited to me.

He's take me to work,even though I could walk, it was so close. He'd cook breakfast for me before work if I worked in the morning.He'd cook lunch or dinner if I worked a later shift.

He's pick me up after work.

He's run all the errands. He took care of the bills so I didn't have to worry about it.

I became even sicker.

He eventually talked me into quitting work and he would support me.After all, we were going to be married.

He helped me file for SSD so I could have my own income and get medical benefits.

What I didn't know and understand at the time he was grooming me for domestic violence.

It was classic.

He began to be verbally abusive at times.He would convince me it was my fault in one way or another.

He controlled the finances since I didn't work.

He bought the groceries and took over the responsibilities of the bills.

He became possessive.At first it was kind of cute because no one had ever "cared" about me like that.It quickly became a nuisance.

He began to accuse me of things that weren't happening.He gained further control over my everyday life. When we would take walks he constanly accused me of looking at other men.I learned to walk with my head down.From his insane perspective he believed it was real no matter how hard I convinced him it wasn't.He would punch me in the head for looking at other people.I dreaded running into someone I knew because I knew they'd want to stop and have a friendly conversation but I would have hell to pay later.

Now,instead of walking for fun it became a chore,I had to because he insisted.The picnics and feeding the ducks stopped.

The long drives ceased. Any shopping on my part stopped because he couldn't afford it or decided it wasn't worthwhile.Also.I would be accused of flirting while I was away from him.
There were times he'd want me to walk to the convenience store to get cigarettes but I was timed.If I wasn't back in 7 minutes I knew it wasn't going to be pleasant when I got home. You might wonder why I didn't use those opportunities to get away.I was terrified if it didn't work he's find me and kill me and harm whomever helped me.
I did call my ex once;he lived less than 5 minutes away.He refused me any help.All I wanted was trasportation to get far enough away he couldn't find me.

My friendships were stopping because he'd point out how this one and that one were trying to cause trouble.

The verbal abuse started included name calling and vile cursing,worse than ever.The venom that came from his mouth was unbelievable, demeaning and humiliating.

The church attendance was forced;it was controlled.I could only belong to whatever group he decided was worthwhile.

He came to every doctors appointment I had and came into the rooms with me.He determined if this doctor or that doctor was treating me satisfactorily.At first it seemed he did have my best interest at heart because a couple of them were negligible.After awhile it was a control issue.

In the early years he was very sympathetic and understanding of my health issues.

As time wore on he said I was using it for attention.

He became frustrated and angry that my SSD wasn't forthcoming and I had to appeal and reappeal.

I drew out my 401 K to help with the finances.I cashed in stock I had while working.

He began to throw up to me I wasn't helping but repaying him for what he'd spent already so I still owed him.

I became severely depressed and despondent.Trying to anticipate his moods and outbursts taxed whatever physical energy I had. His outbursts were more frequent,then daily,then almost hourly.
Always, he proclained love for me.

He eventually said he wanted me to leave.I had gone back to work very part time,15 hours a week at a little restaurant in the neighborhood.

Dan and Jennie were gracious enough to allow me to come live with them in Ohio.I took what little money I had and what little he so "generously" gave to me complete with a tirade and left TX for Ohio.

I was rid of him I thought.

He called every day,more than once a day.If we weren't home or asleep he left messages.The messages became more belligerent.

On one hand he wanted me out of his life and the other he still wanted the control.

Dan And Jennie were in a financial crisis themselves the whole time I was there.I was ill and couldn't work and knew I was a drain on them although they never would have thought of me as that way.

It came time they had to move into an apartment and I couldn't have them incur more expense because I was with them.I would pray and pray my SSD would get settled so I could help them out.It didn't come through for a couple more years.

While I was in OH Oscar suffered a couple heart attacks and had reconstructive knee surgery.

At the time Dan and Jennie were making plans to move he presented me with an offer.

He had moved to a bigger place and he needed in home care.

Why didn't I come back and we would live as roommates and I could help with his physical care for a place to stay.

At that point it seemed like the most feasible plan I could come up with.

The very day I returned as he picked me up from the bus station (I had left my car with Dan and Jennie) instead of going straight home,Oscar made a run into Houston for drugs.Never had he done them at home before when I was with him nor had he ever done them around me.I was now a captive audience in the truest sense of the word.

I was drawn into the life of a crack addict in full blown using.It was frightening to me.The paranoia he had was enough to keep me in a constant state of alert.

I couldn't believe how rundown and shoddy the furniture we had purchased together had become while I was away.

No real food in the house. The place was shabby and unkempt.

The extra bedroom that was supposed to be ready for me when I arrived was bare;I was to sleep on the couch.

I couldn't have the TV on due to his paranoia.He checked the windows and doors every 5 minutes literally.Blankets were up anywhere he thought someone could see in even places that made no sense but I learned quickly not to question.

I couldn't get a drink of water or use the bathroom without him becoming increasingly angry claiming I made too much noise.

I fell asleep on the couch only to wake up to him rummaging through my purse to see if I had money he could get at to go get more drugs.

The next day he was somewhat more stable and went to a church to collect a couple bags of food for us to eat.Never had he stooped so low when I had been with him before.

Each day became increasingly worse.He made contacts for his drug dealer in order to get drugs.His health was affected.He basically never groomed.

He was terribly verbally abusive in ways I never knew he could be before.

He became cruel,downright cruel. He withheld anything he thought I would want and most of what I needed. Nothing I could do was correct.No matter what I thought it was wrong.
He would wait til I was asleep and take my blanket saying I didn't deserve one.I hadn't earned it.

The verbal abuse turned into financial and psychological abuse.

It was affecting my health in a very negative way and that didn't matter to him.I was again seeking attention.

I was shaking all the time and becoming more impaired in my thought process having to constantly second guess him never knowing what would set him off. I was scared for myself because my thinking was so impaired.I literally had to think second by second afraid I'd do something else to irrate him and set him off again.

Then it turned physical.I don't even remember the first time he hit me what it was for because once he did it the first time it's like it opened the floodgates.

I became the scapegoat for every wrong that had ever happened to him in his entire life.

The physical abuse was unrelenting.

I knew I had to get away;I just had to figure out how.

At first it was just a seed I had planted in my head.

He controlled every minute of my days.

He decided what medicine I could take and how it was dispensed.At times he tried to overdose me and I would bar my mouth and he would squeeze my face until he could get it into my mouth.

I would hold it under my tongue and wait til I could get to the bathroom and spit it out.Sometimes I ended up having it dissolve in my mouth because he would even follow me into the bathroom.It was his paranoia.

He determined if I could bathe and groom myself.

He removed the shower curtain of the bathroom I used and would watch me take a bath and make sure I "wasn't taking too long".

My IBS symptoms were at an all time high.He accused me of faking that too.

He accused me of faking the effects of my medicine.

He determined when and if I could eat.He barred me from the kitchen.It was "his" food,"his" kitchen.He was paying for it.

All the while he continued to use the drugs and often forcing me to go with him when he went on his runs. I saw the worse of the worst of downtown Houston and all the filth and seediness that accompanies those who frequent that behavior.

He would make his score and then put them into my purse so if he was caught or stopped I would take the fall instead of him.

I can't tell you how many prayers I prayed during those times.

Finally,one Friday afternoon after a drug run he was being chased down by someone involved with the drugs,I guess it was a drug dealer.He was speeding through this seedy area of Houston,taking chances,car on two wheels,going the wrong way on one way streets trying to lose this character.This seemed to last forever but I guess in reality it was 20-30 minutes.

I just couldn't believe somehow I had allowed myself to get into this mess.

As luck or as I prefer to believe Divine Providence set in.

His car overheated and he still continued to use the car until the engine blew on I-45 in downtown Houston in rush hour traffic.

I had decided even if I was caught with the drugs being in jail was better than living with him.

He got the car to the side of the road and eventually a wrecker came by and he negotiated a deal to get us and the car home.

He used worse than ever that night.Then he was in a rage when it was gone.

Somehow,that was all my fault and he began to beat on me as if his life depended on it.

I didn't think it was going to stop. He choked me and as I would find out later that would happen with more and more frequency.My glasses became mangled.

He determined if I could have a cup of coffee in the mornings.He knew that was one of the things I enjoyed so he used it against me.After a couple weeks I got smart and acted like I didn't want it anymore.Then he forced me to drink cup after cup.

I had no appetite because my stomach was torn into knots.He would force me to eat by holding my mouth open.

I constantly shook from nerves.Of course,I was doing that to annoy him.He didn't like the way I breathed. I had to force myself to take shallow breaths as quietly as I could.Sometimes it didn't work and I'd get smacked in the head.

If I spoke without his permission I was punched across the mouth.I was cowering and withdrawing more and more into myself.

He didn't like the way I did laundry or cleaned the house even though before he would praise me and brag to others how well I did.

Eventually,I wasn't allowed to attend church anymore because I was too much a sinner and God didn't even want to see me in His house.I wasn't worthy.

He'd come home from church and check star 69 to see if I had called anyone.

Trust me I thought about calling for help when he was gone but knew if help didn't come before he returned my life was in jeopardy.

One Sunday he did have me attend church with him again. He had fallen asleep during the sermon.When we were walking home he berated me for not waking him up.I had tried a couple times and decided to just let him sleep as long as he wasn't snoring.I knew while he was sleeping he wouldn't hurt me.

On the way home he became extremely agitated at me and started hitting me and yanking my hair pulling on me behind him.

As we were cutting through the park he raised his cane at me and I could see in his eyes he could have killed me.I started running until I could find a place to hide.

I stayed there for I don't know how long trying to think of what I should do.

I knew it would be a perfect time to escape but all my things were at the house.I didn't even have my purse.

I finally got up the nerve to return.It was getting cold and I didn't have a sweater with me.

Of course, needless to say I took a behomoth of a beating that evening.

I need to interject in the early stages of the physical abuse he was always sorry and promised it would never happen again and I wanted to believe him.

Towards the end he was never sorry and was sorrier he hadn't hit me harder.

Shortly after that Sunday it became even worse.

He began to knock me into furniture and my legs and arms would have cuts and scrapes.He'd knock me to the floor and kick me. He's pick me up and sling me into the wall.He pick me up again and drag me by my hair.He'd spit on me. He'd find things to abuse me with.He'd pour hot water on me or freezing cold water on me and then shove me outside on the balcony.I would be shivering.

He would shove my head into the toilet and flush it and I'd think I was going to drown.

He would heat up the burners on the stove and put my hand on the hot burner.He'd burn me with cigarettes or the lighter.

He would put hot sauce in my mouth and not let me have water.

He would put pillows over my face trying to smother me.

He would stomp on my fingers and toes.He'd pull on my breasts so hard I wanted to scream but didn't.

Too many times I had so many bruises and cuts that he had to keep me isolated.If someone came over he made me hide in a closet. It was nothing for me to have black eyes, puffed up lips and bloodied nose.

He would wake me up out of a deep sleep and pull me by my clothes and drag me across the floor or throw me into the wall repeatedly and punch and kick me all the time berating me,cursing me, my family,my friends and tell me how useless I was.

After time I was so beaten up and beaten down mentally I didn't care if I lived or died anymore.

He bought the movie "Seven" and forced me to watch it no less than three times a day so I could "see" myself as the seven sins.

He would make me repeat the dialogue over and over.

To this day it's hard for me to watch the actors in that movie in something else and not see them as those characters.

He threatened my family who still lived in TX. He would tell me how he would find them and what he would do when he did.I believed he would.I knew he could.

Just when I would think it couldn't get worse it would.

He started accusing me of poisoning his food.How,I don't know.With what he never told me.

He became even more violent if that was possible.

He began cutting me.He would stab me with a fork when I was caught off guard.

He would repeatedly rape me. He would hold my head down and force me to perform oral sex.

It was almost impossible for me to physically fight back although there were times I tried.

I am 5 ft tall and at that time I guess I was about 150 lbs. he was 6 ft 2 in tall and weighed 325.

It wasn't hard for him to overpower me.

I continued to try to formulate a plan in my head with whatever senses I still had, to escape.I guess my planning was a 2 month process.

It was after Halloween, through Thanksgiving (which by the way was chicken and a can of green beans),and finally my day came December 23rd.

I had a doctors appointment and the landlady was taking me and dropping me off and going to pick me up later.I was to call when I was ready.

I went into my closet and told my possesions good-bye.The few things I had that had survived the flood and I was able to accumulate again.My children's few pictures,a couple rings I intended to pass onto my daughters.

I had the clothes on my back and a jean jacket and my Bible.I didn't need a heavy coat if I was going to be in Maddie's car going to and from the doctor and I knew he would be suspicious.

When I got to the doctors I told them I was a victim of domestic violence and they checked me out.They called the shelter and I was interviewed to make sure this was what I wanted to do.

One of the nurses put me in her car and drove me to the meeting up place for me to be picked up.

The true location of the shelter is never disclosed and to this day I wouldn't divulge its exact location.

I was mentally so beaten down when I entered the shelter they kept me on a sucide watch for 45 days.It wasn't so much that I would harm myself again but that I wouldn't prevent harm if it came to me.As an example,if I were crossing the street and a car was coming at me I wouldn't have jumped out of the way.If I had been diagnosed with cancer I wouldn't have chosen treatment.

Through much therapy and counseling and hard work on my part I got my head straight.I learned why I had made the choices I did based on what I had learned throughout my childhood.

I learned that even though I was an educated person and well read it didn't mean I was able to see the abuse for what it was until it was too late.

Abuse is insiedeous. it starts begnign and escalates.

To me, most abuse looked normal because it was what I had grown up with and as a matter of fact, most of my neighborhood lived under similar circumstances.

I wanted to be loved and accepted for who I was and not just for what I did so bad I'd subject myself to any good story that came down the pike.

I regret that my children were subjected to all this while growing up.I can never go back and change it.

I can only hope my example can show them it's never too late to get help if you need it.I also hope we have broken the silence within the family and we adhere to no more secrets and that I have broken the cycle of violence they have been exposed to.

So why doesn't she leave? She has been beaten down,controlled,manipulated and been threatened.Only until the survival instinct takes over will she likely be able to leave and not go back.

Statistics show that a woman may leave 7-10 times before she can stay away for good.

She feels she has no alternative.

She feels she is worthless and no one would care.

She likely has few resources left available to her.

Her emotional state is fragile and her thinking is askew.

There are many reasons why she won't leave.

And the saddest statistic is that a woman is most unsafe when she has made the decison to leave and does.

We only have to look at Cheryl Dawson to find that statistic is true.

My life is totally different today. I make good choices now.

The relationship I am in today is healthy.

It's hard for me to go back and remember those days just a few years ago.It's painful and I get sick thinking of them.

It was painful to relive them in my writing this.

If even one woman can see herself in my situation and make the choice to get help then it was worth it.

It can stop with you. It doesn't have to continue a lifetime.I was 51 years old the day I entered shelter.It's never too late.

Update: If you or someone you know is in a Domestic Violence situation, please have them call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

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Why doesn't she just leave?

I am listening to my son Dan's podcast he taped at the One voice Walk in memory of Cheryl Dawson and other victims of domestic violence.

One victim gives her account of her life living with her abuser.
Her story could be many victims accounts.
Pieces of it could be mine.

I have hesitated to write details of my abuse because I've wanted to shield my children from hearing what their Mother was living.
I wanted to spare them the hurt,pain and embarrassment I perceive they would feel.

I guess I need to start at the beginning. It didn't start in the months preceding my entering a domestic violence women's center or shelter as it is known.

It started in my childhood,I guess it would be fair to say actually at my birth.
I was not planned,my Mother's fifth living child.Her first was stillborn and I truly believe his death shaped the family dynamics forever.

I was premature and cost the family in fiances they were hard pressed to afford.The other kids could be treated by a general physician,I required a pediatrician.
I was always reminded of the circumstances at my birth and early months every birthday and any other occasion my Dad deemed necessary.

I grew up feeling by my mere existence I owed a great debt to my family.I felt ashamed to have caused so much trouble.
Some of my earliest memories are ways I tried to compensate however inept I was at that age.

I never asked for a need to be met.I of course would never expect a want to be taken care.
I tried to eat as little as I could so there would be more for the rest of the siblings.
I took on the responsibility of the 4 younger siblings who followed me at preschool age.
I tried my best to be intuitive of the needs of my family and met them the best I could sometimes before they even knew they needed them.
I grew up a scapegoat and people pleaser.

I was verbally abused almost on a daily basis by my father and even my older brothers.I was reminded that I was an inconvenience.
I will never forget the words of one brother who said to me "when we were told of your impending birth I thought great; it meant we'd have more of nothing".

My father became physically abusive to the point of cruelty as I got older.
I suffered sexual abuse at an early age,my first memories are of age 4 until I was almost married at age 17.
My father was not my sexual abuser but other male members of my immediate family.
I was told once that by using me it kept his girlfriend from becoming pregnant.
I was told I owed it to him by another.
I was told it was happening to protect the little ones.And,even if I told, no one would believe me which turned out to be true at the age of 44 when I finally told my Dad.

One evening the physical abuse by my Dad was so severe he threw me from room to room and my Mom stood by and watched.As a Mother myself,I can't imagine choosing to let someone harm one of my children right before my eyes and not stepping in to stop it.
I don't know if she felt I deserved it,felt too afraid herself to step in but I will never forget her just standing in the doorway and my eyes pleading with her to do something.
I was truly afraid in his rage he would kill me.
I had cuts on my face from hitting the objects I was thrown against and my jaw was badly bruised.I was 15 years old.
He threw me out of the house and even though others interceded on my behalf he had me thrown into the juvenile hall that night.
I slept on a cold floor with a thin blanket and mat and fought off two lesbians.That was my first encounter with that type of sexuality.Until then I hadn't even known it existed.
I loved my Dad but hated him at the same time.

Because of the molestation I suffered from depression and had bouts of rage.My Dad constantly was punishing me for my "temper".
Of course, I know now the relevance of the acting out but back then had no idea why I was the way I was.
The behavior only reinforced how much of a drain I was on my family.
In those days male children had much more importance than female children had anyway and a difficult female child had even less worth.
I attempted suicide more times than I can count.
I became street smart and dared anyone to confront me.
My Mother would say I'd go where angels dared to tread.
I became notorious for my aggressive behavior as if it was a badge of honor.
Finally,I had found a voice.I had become somebody;I wasn't invisible.
I hated it but relished in it at the same time.
I also was what we now know as anorexic.It didn't have the name back then.

Fast forward to first marriage.It also was abusive.As I've learned, no wonder I made that choice.
I learned in therapy we make some of the choices we do in order to psychologically work out unfinished business with someone else such as a parent.You've heard the saying,"she married her father".True.
I was married at 17.I was pregnant.Not by accident but by choice.
I confronted my Mother that summer we wanted to be married because we knew things were progressing to a physical state of no return.
I was told "there would be only one way I'd be married before I finished high school".
So I took that avenue.
In my immature way I saw it as an out of the family home.
After all, he loved me and I'd live happily ever after.

Only days into the marriage I saw a side of this person I had known 2 years already that I didn't see before.
A few months into the marriage I found evidence of adultery.
A year into the marriage I learned it was the start of physical abuse,financial abuse,emotional abuse and spiritual abuse.
In some ways this was even more devastating than living with my family because I chose this life.In my birth family I had no choice.

The children came along,Dan and his sister.In my mind he was a good Dad because he didn't hurt his children.What else did I have to compare to?
He was a lousy husband but we were Catholic and divorce was not heard of.You made your bed so you had to lay in it.

The abuse became more harsh and frequent.I was thrown down the steps.I was punched repeatedly.My jaw was broken once.
Bruises,black eyes,dislocation of joints were frequent.of course,I made excuses and hid what I could.
He was always sorry afterwards.That somehow made it tolerable.
I later learned that's the honeymoon phase of the cycle of violence.
At least he was admitting he was sorry which was something my Dad never did.
So that had to mean he genuinely loved me,I thought.
I never understood how vital the "but" that followed the "I'm sorry's" was.
Anytime an apology is followed by a "but" it negates the statement preceding it.
But,if I hadn't,but if I had,Bit if I would or wouldn't.....

Eventually the marriage fell apart and he filed for divorce.I counter filed and a custody battle ensued.It took months for it to end and was harrowing at times.
The thought of losing my kids was unthinkable and sent me into nervous episodes I could hardly function.He did kidnap the kids once right from my arms while their little fingers were gouged into my skin.I was physically unable to stop him.
He found where I was because I was talked into believing a cop I could trust him.To this day I remember his face and his name.And,I've had somewhat a distrust of law enforcement ever since.
Eventually I prevailed.
The financial abuse continued through irregular support payments.He stole my car away from the parking lot of my apartment complex the night before our divorce hearing.

He made promises never kept that he would help with this or that for the kids.
I learned to be self-sufficient and not depend on him or any man for that matter.

Meanwhile, one of our firemen buddies became a close family friend and we began a romantic liaison after my divorce.
He was a kind and gentle man,very compassionate,very patient, very interested in me and my children and helpful sometimes at a moments notice.He was dependable and I believed I began to love him and he proclaimed to be in love with me.He was the total opposite of what I knew and I found him refreshing.
He begged me to marry him just about on a weekly basis.

During that time I was advised by the child support division to confront my ex about delinquent payments of child support.
How insane that advice was but believing in authority I bought the lie hook,line and sinker.After all,you should be able to trust authority that they know what they are doing.

Long story short,he threw me over the steps and I could see the hatred and anger and rage in his eyes as he did it.I knew if I landed on the basement steps I would die and I had to get Dan and Steph out of there.I twisted my body hard as I could to go into the opposite direction and landed on the landing by the door.I was paralyzed on my whole left side.
He was screaming and cursing me to get up and get out.I told him I couldn't,that I was paralyzed.He ran down the steps,opened the screen door,picked me up by the back of my shirt and shorts and tossed me onto the driveway.
The kids were crying,Stephanie was hysterical.
I couldn't move except for scooting on my good side across the driveway towards the car.
The neighbors across the street came running over to assist me.
I had them get me in the car and start it up.
I was able to steer the car with my good hand and brake with my good foot.
I got us home and sent the kids in to get Paul.

He had me admitted to the hospital under his insurance and said we had just been married and he hadn't had a chance to put me on his insurance.
I was admitted under an assumed name for my safety.Paul watched the kids for me and I had an in home day care and he took off work to take care of the kids I was in charge of as well as a couple parents who took personal days.
I was in his debt and grateful.

He continued to hound me until I finally married him.I was encouraged by family and friends I would never find someone who would love my kids as he did and someone who adored me as he did.I didn't trust my own judgement that I wasn't ready for another commitment at that time so 7 months to the day of my divorce I was remarried.

He changed on me literally on our wedding night and never was the man I had known all along.
He wasn't physically abusive but emotionally detached from me.I didn't understand it then but it was the quest of "winning " me that was the challenge.Once I was his so to speak it was over.
We remained legally married for 22 long years.
It wasn't always bad but it sure was hardly ever good.
Two more children came along to mix in with my previous 2 and his previous 4.
Everything about our lives together became a challenge.
Not wanting to have another failed marriage, broken family.I stayed. I didn't put the pieces together that it was failed staying together.

The pressures of the failed marriages were great.I was silent about so much that was going on being embarrassed that once again I couldn't keep my life together.
I felt I was financially dependant.
I had been available for him to continue his education as I had in my former marriage because that was what wives did for the betterment of the family.
Even though at times I worked three jobs,I didn't see myself as self-sufficient.
We went through a few family crisis',a flood which devastated us emotionally,financially and materially.
I did all I knew to do to put us whole again.
We went through a more than two year legal battle in a class action lawsuit following the flood.
My emotional state was becoming more fragile although I didn't recognize it.

I was working long hours,physically depleted and getting no support at home.In fact,he was more distant than ever and I was sure he was having affairs and if not physical they were for sure emotional.He was flaunting it in my face.
All our friends knew.I shouldered the embarrassment and humiliation alone.
I began involving myself in my own risky behavior to compensate. I was acting out in desperation hoping he'd notice and I'd be important enough for him to discontinue his escapades.
I became isolated among crowds of people.They say no man is an island;I beg to differ.
I was alone in every way.
I wasn't necessarily lonely because of the people in my life but I was alone.
I was grieving for the marriage I had hoped we would have and wasn't going to happen.

We had separated a couple times and then reconciled.
My daughter was getting married and as the Mother of the bride I immersed myself in wedding plans while working full time and a couple part time jobs because I was now living alone.
At one point I fractured several ribs in an accident and couldn't work for almost 2 months.I was financially depleted before I could go back to work.
About 4 months before the wedding he asked for another reconciliation.
I wanted more than anything for an intact family so I agreed.

The strain of shouldering the wedding plans almost by myself were taking a toll unbeknown to me at that time.
The wedding week was upon us.
Out of town guests,showers,rehearsal dinner which I took over because the grooms family wouldn't and then the wedding preparations themselves.
Virtually no help. People had said they would help and didn't show.
The Mother of the bride was racing down the street at 10:10 to get dressed for a 10:30 wedding.
The food distrobution was up to me.The picture taking fell to me to oraganize that day.
The cleanup was falling on my shoulders.
My apartment was a wreck from the week and food preparations for the wedding.
I was to return to work the day after the wedding.
I had about a total of 12 hours sleep for the week. I was beyond exhausted.I was physically numb and my emotional state was frayed.
I was saying goodbye to family members I hadn't seen in years and hadn't been able to spend the time with I would have liked because of undependable so called friends.

The evening of my first day back to work Paul informed he still wanted a divorce.He told me had used me the last 4 months making me think we were reconciling because he didn't want me to have a scene with his mistress at the time. She was one of the ones who had promised to help with the wedding day.She was a so called family friend and former neighbor.
Someone I considered a friend.

I was devastated.Previous to us reconciling I became involved with someone who treated me different than anyone had and it was going somewhere.I told him it had to end when Paul and I decided to reconcile and he moved away.
All I could see in my head when he delivered that devasting statement that he had used me was what I had given up and would never have.
I can't even describe the hurt I felt and didn't want to ever feel again in my life.The betrayal was enormous.
I had nothing left to fight with.I was depleted.

I went into the bathroom and deliberately and methodically took every pill that had been prescribed to me and went out and sat down waiting for whatever was going to happen,happen.
I was quiet,unemotional,distant.I felt I was in a black hole and could never climb my way out of it.I felt I was falling deeper and deeper.
I felt total hopelessness and helplessness.
I just didn't want to hurt anymore.

This will be part 1 of the story.I will finish it in the next post.

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