Sometimes we are on the verge of learning a new lesson or changing something big in life and all we need is a gentle nudge in the right direction. This is a huge reason that I write so passionately and honestly. I write in hopes that if I bare my soul, my heart, and even my faults and mistakes, I can maybe have an impact on others. So in that style, here goes…
Many people know, but in case you are not aware, October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. I have my own personal story of domestic violence and feel blessed to not be in that situation anymore. I would rather be single than to ever have to endure abuse again.
When I was 16, my mother did not like not being able to control what I did with my newborn. When we butted heads when my son was 3 weeks old, my mom kicked me out. Shortly after, I got a call one day saying she wanted to talk to my son’s father and I. When we arrived, she told me that she didn’t want to be legally responsible for me anymore and so she was going to sign for me to get married when I turned 17, “If you want to,” she said. There was never a real choice though, and so wedding planning started.
I was young, I was stupid, and I knew getting married wasn’t the right thing to do, but one week after turning 17, I did it anyway. I got pregnant again right away, when my oldest was just 4 months old. I was terrified but so badly wanted to just live adult life already. We were poor and we struggled in many ways, but it wasn’t so bad at first. My oldest was the easiest, most happy baby in the world. Being his mom meant everything to me, but I had no idea though that life was about to seriously go downhill.
My next child was a difficult baby and I felt like a failure of a mom. I was only 17 and married with a toddler and an inconsolable infant. Life was hard and my husband was not helpful. We were just kids trying to be like grownups and we didn’t have the life tools yet to be successful. Add a few more years, a few more kids, an opiate addiction and alcohol abuse on his part, and then the death of our youngest… this was the perfect recipe for things to take a turn for the worse.
The abuse started out as mental and emotional. Calling me names, making me scared, telling my kids awful things about me (as they were just toddlers and preschool age). Then I endured horrible, ongoing sexual abuse that I won’t lay out the details of. Then he began trapping me in rooms, holding me down, shoving me. I had a few scary moments where I thought he was going to kill me. I’ll never forget scrambling across the rough concrete of my driveway on my hands and knees while drunk as he was turning his truck around in the yard to come after me. It was very rare for me to drink at all in those days, and to be inebriated and suddenly terrified of him was more fear than I would ever wish for anyone to feel.
I was isolated, I had no friends, and no close relationship with my mother. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. To make matters worse, my now ex-husband lost his job and lost his CDL. We had no way to pay bills, and we were going to lose our house. We were going to have to move an hour away to move in with his family. I didn’t want to. My only option was to ask my mother for help. I was scared because she’d told me when I moved out at 16 that I would never be allowed to move back in. I asked anyway. I told her that he was abusive and that I wanted to get away. I asked if my children and I could move in until I got on my feet. Now, I don’t remember clearly if it was in this moment or another that she said it, but in my memory, my mother told me, “You’ve made your bed and now you have to lie in it.” Either way, this was her line of thinking and I was told no.
We moved and life went further downhill. The abuse got worse, the drug use was worse, and I was miserable. I was able to attend community college though and made a friend. I quickly came to trust her and opened up to her. I knew my life was bad and that I was on the verge of disaster. One day, I was sitting on my balcony telling my friend about whatever recent abuse was going on and she said something that would forever have an impact on my life. She said, “If in 20 years, your boys treated their wives like your husband treats you, how would you feel about that? Or what if in 20 years, your daughter’s husband treats her like your husband treats you?” I felt horrified even picturing it. She went on to say, “This is the example of what marriage is to your children. You are teaching them that this is okay.” I knew I had to change it.
This conversation was the beginning of the end. Shortly after, there was another fight. My husband was throwing furniture across the room. I was scared and my kids were scared. I tried to get them into the car to leave, but my husband disabled something in my car so that I couldn’t start it. For the first time, I had the courage to grab the phone. This time, a report was made. Not only was a report made, but the courts put a no contact order into place. I truly believe this saved my life. No matter how much my feelings softened over time apart and I began to miss the old good stuff, I was not able to have that order dropped. It gave me time to think and realize that this was my chance, it was time to get away from him.
While there is so much more to this story, the important part is where my friend had the courage to gently nudge me in the right direction. I didn’t suddenly change everything that day, but it made an impact on my life and forever changed our lives. If you are enduring abuse, this is me nudging you with my story. It doesn’t get better, abuse only gets worse. Please, seek help. These days, we have Google and there are infinite resources available at your fingertips. Reach out. It gets better when you get away.