One of the biggest catalyst for leaving my marriage was what staying was teaching my daughter. Staying in an abusive marriage was teaching her to accept the scraps of love that someone offers and to not question if there is more.The patterns in her relationships were beginning to mirror mine and I couldn’t allow her to strive for love from men that she wasn’t giving herself. I was her role model and if I stayed then I was showing her that I didn’t respect myself and in turn teaching her not to respect herself. Yes, I left for myself, but what I was modeling to my little girl was a huge component. I didn’t want her to think marriage was the only option. It was important that she understand that as a woman she has choices. She could be a wife or live her life as a single woman, but never that marriage was the only option. If she was going to be brave with her choices then I would first need to be brave with my own. My hope was that one day she would look back and think that her mother learned to stand up for herself at 39 and that my daughter would use that to invoke her own courage concerning life choices. Yes, I was fighting for myself, but in the deepest parts of myself it was my desire to not have this cycle of abuse passed on to my daughter.
After twenty years of abuse and a catastrophic break down that impaired my cognitive functioning, it became necessary to leave my husband. I had been in treatment for PTSD since August of 2013. I left Rob in April. During a meeting with the head of my trauma team, he was educated on treatment, recovery and that living with him was unhealthy for me. Days after I left he told my daughter that I had abandoned them. Many months he lied and twisted the details of our separation. In June my estranged husband sat my daughter and I down and admitted to these actions. We had peace for a short period and then the bottom fell out. Out of the clear blue he demanded an earlier divorce after we decided that would not be an option due to my need for medical insurance to continue my treatment. He had begun dating and solicited Angela a medical provider to violate my medical privacy. In the whirlwind of all of this was our seventeen-year-old daughter.
My daughter and I were always close. Against my wishes, she had decided to live with her father. He had finally started paying her attention for the first time in her life. I have since learned that this is a tactic by abusers to begin parental alienation.
We went from visitation to his claims that she no longer wished to see me to Angela’s texts with outrageous claims of “emotional damage’. An abuser will always solicit outside parties to take up their cause. These outside parties often have little background of a situation and are one sided in their support despite claims of looking out for the child’s best interest. My daughter turned eighteen in the midst of this and the court could do very little to intervene. My daughter has been discouraged from a relationship with my family, her older brother and myself whom she was very close to. A support group has helped me identify this as parental alienation. Parental alienation is a tactic used when the abuser has lost all control of their former partner. Rob has continued to assert control that he does not have by putting in an unauthorized change of address, unauthorized pick up of a class C control substance in my name, emptied joint accounts and the list continues.
The funny part is that I laugh at his arrogance and stupidity these days. Who commits felonies and leaves a paper trail? Each action reminds me of the importance of leaving and I will always fight for myself at this point. I do not need to hide behind an outside party that has no regard for their actions or those of their partner. He is now under investigation for mail theft and she is under investigation for violation of my medical privacy. If she is found guilty, she could lose her medical credentials and he could loose his freedom. Each time that I share this story, I go back to the beginning of this journey. Leaving was the scariest thing that I did and the most profound. If you are considering leaving an abuser then prepare yourself because it can get nasty, but know that you have the strength to survive anything that is thrown your way. This is coming from a woman that s been there and thrives each day.
There was a pivotal point that I knew leaving my marriage was imperative. It had always been abusive just as my other relationships. The decision to take a journey of healing would change so much. It would require changing me more than anything else would. Through many painful days and nights, I reclaimed my bruised inner child. I learned healthy boundaries and to love myself enough to never settle. It was my time to shine.
I had helped him build everything that he had and raised his children while he stayed locked in a room playing video games their entire childhood. We met when I was around fifteen. He hit me with in six months of our marriage when I was twenty. He would eventually require therapy for porn addiction and domestic abuse. It was too late. Sixteen years had been spent waiting for him to become emotionally available. My children and I had carried the weight of his manipulation, lies and depravity long enough. A day came when we separated our bedrooms and started to live as a separated couple in the same house. My health had been too rough for us to support two households. When I look back at my fabulous self, I know that I will never settle for convenient again. The soul pays the price. Each day of those twenty years felt like doing hard time. My spirit felt as if died a little each day. After two years of living separate lives, the day came to cut all ties. I left with four changes of clothes. I left my Mercedes and designer wardrobe behind. He used my personal possessions to gain leverage. He did not rely on me being so desperate to have his negativity and abuse out of my life that he could keep those things. He eventually surrendered my stuff and I let him keep that car. He needed it to define him, but I never did. The divorce is entering the last months and I laugh each time he uses something else to manipulate.
I know my worth and it was always more than a dirt bag like this man. He still debates his abuse and claims he was “pushed” to that point. Abuse is never the survivors fault. Abusers need you broken and will do it at any costs. His current girlfriend sent text after text defending him. The only thing that I can do is laugh. My ex-husband’s abuse to my son and I was documented through years of counseling records. I know that I was not ready to see his passive aggressive nature and abuse until I was ready. The only thing that I truly left with was myself and that was all I had come for in the first place. My son and continue to thrive and grow. We are patient with ourselves and know that we will forgive him when we are ready. We do not dwell in the anger but do allow ourselves to feel it. After, a hiatus from dating, I began to date a friend. It is so different to be with a well-adjusted and secure man. We work to keep ourselves from being enmeshed in co-dependency. I lived that life for a long time and my healthy boundaries are very new so they are not second nature. It will take time and I am proud of the progress. After a lifetime of abusive men, it will not happen again.
“With time those very qualities that gave the child its aliveness-curiousity, spontaneity, ability to feel – are forced into hiding. In the process of raising, disciplining, and educating children, adults often turn the children into a predictable adult. By eradicating the child’s vulnerability (along with its lack of control), they severely damage the essential self to the child. The baby is thrown out with the bathwater. The adult world is not a safe place for children. For survival ‘ s sake, the growing youngster sends its delightful child spirit underground and locks it away. But the Inner Child never grows up and never goes away. It remains buried alive, waiting to be set free.”- Recovery of Your Inner Child by Lucia Capacchione
Depression can be debilitating. I refer to it as the abyss. My depressive episodes can last for months. Depression impacts memory and creates a fog. Through intense therapy and medication it happens less frequently. Our society is open to illnesses that are physical, but can be very cruel about mental health issues. The stigma needs to change. It hurts to be afraid to ask for help, because a person doesn’t want to be labeled.
During the roughest days of my depression I spent weeks and months in bed. I had multiple suicide attempts. My family and husband at the time didn’t understand. They treated me like a burden. It was apparent that I would need to pull myself out of the abyss. I made an appointment and two days later a trauma team was assembled. I’ve learned to function beyond my depression and cognitive behavior therapy helped a great deal. There are still occasions that I struggle and I practice self-care on those days. It is important to not view yourself as broken. Be gentle with yourself.