Five years free!

Soon it will be five years since I ended my abusive marriage.  I wanted to take a moment to reflect on where I was and where I am now.  It is always good to look back when such a milestone are reached, not to stay there, but to see how far one has come.

Five years ago I was living with daily abuse.  My ex screaming at me was a daily event, name calling and telling me how worthless I was, mixed in with a push or slam into a wall were his daily pleasure. If he was wasn’t hurting me then I was watching him hit and shake my toddler son. He was in the all powerful role of being in charge. Achieved by instilling fear and tons of intimidation.  The kids and I walked on eggshells wondering when would “dad” snap next and we did our best not rock the boat.

I knew we needed out, but how? How could I escape with three kids? I weighed a mere 108lbs (at 5’10’), my hair was falling out in clumps, a stress rash had taken over my body, I struggled to eat and sleep was barely ever granted to me.  With nights of forced sex and worrying  it was amazing that I got any sleep at all.  How could I afford to be a single mom, pay a mortgage, daycare and groceries ? Could I do it safely? I knew that the most dangerous time for a woman in a domestic abuse relationship is when they are planning to leave or have just left. If it was bad now, what would it be when I left?

When I finally did end my marriage I really didn’t have all the answers to my questions. I just knew I could not carry on one more day in the hell my ex had created. I took a giant leap forward, praying that God would get me through this, and sent my ex a text telling him it was over.  For safety I did not dare tell him this in person. I told him to be gone by 8:00pm or I would report him to the RCMP.  The text was followed by me breaking down simply out of relief.   I went home that night and he was gone. It was over.

 Many Survivors of Domestic Violence, and those who work to support them, will tell you that the journey is not over when you leave. It just changes.   I had to deal with stalking’s, harassment, and my kids were further abused on visits with him. Nightmares set in for all of us (often I had all three of my kids in bed with me), bedwetting from my younger two and my youngest daughter was diagnosed with PTSD, followed by my same diagnosis five months later. Despite all of these hurdles we learned to laugh again, we started to reconnect with my family and friends (that had long been shut out by my ex). I also began to eat and that stress rash disappeared within weeks. My kids relaxed and started to just be kids. We were free.386844_2170052251634_514982225_n

  I did face many financial difficulties, I lost my house, was put on permanent disability for PTSD and had to move. I moved  to be far away from his family.  Family that were yelling at me in public, about how it was all my fault. It was something my kids and I did not deserve. We looked for a fresh start.

A fresh start is what we found. My kids found their interests and I encouraged them to reach for the stars.  I also reconnected with my own interests. For so many years everything had revolved around my ex, his likes and his dislikes. I lost myself in the process.  It has been fun finding me again. I also started a new relationship, one built on trust and mutual respect.

  It hasn’t been the easiest five years.  We’ve faced many challenges and will continue to do so. Recovery from abuse is a life long journey, but  now at least we are safe. I thank God everyday for that. Every step forward takes us away from a very dark time and brings us to days filled with light and love.

Alright, I think it is time to celebrate! 🙂

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Stepping off the Power and Control Wheel in an abusive relationship

A few months ago I saw my ex in Court.  We were at a pretrial conference for our divorce. My ex, myself, my Lawyer and a Judge all crammed into a small room trying to hash out the details of our divorce. When my Lawyer asked my ex why he had not signed off on the divorce given, we had been separated for five years, he ended up looking at me with a cold glare saying, “You will get your divorce once I get to see my kids” (due to other Court Orders he does not have access to our kids at this time). That look, those eyes, hit my soul and with a pounding heart I immediately looked down to my feet. Was I avoiding confrontation? Yes, but to be honest I did it because he still scares me, he still,  it seems, has power over me.

  I was really angry, after that meeting, that I had looked to the floor.  I have gained such strength since we have separated so why could I still not look him in the eye? Why did I have to cower? Am I weak? If my fiancé pulled that same stunt I would have looked him in the eye and told him how it was so why was it different with my ex? These questions, and the act of beating myself up over the whole thing,  carried on for a few weeks, ok months.  It needed to stop.

  Every abusive relationship is built around one person wanting power and control over another person.  This is achieved through fear and intimidation. In 1982  the Domestic Abuse Program in Minneapolis created the Power and Control Wheel to explain the nature of abuse, to delineate the forms of abuse used to control another person, and to educate people with the goal of stopping  the violence. Power_and_control_wheel Many tactics are used by your abuser to achieve power and control; coercion (threatening suicide, threatening to report you to welfare, threatening to hurt you), intimidation (threatened with a weapon, brainwashed to fear looks & gestures), economic abuse (controlling of funds or creating debts in your name), emotional abuse (name calling, insults, humiliation), isolation (controlling your social activity, who you talk to and see), minimizing, denying and blame (blaming the victim for the abuse, denying that it is happening or minimizing the severity of the abuse), using children and pets (threatening to hurt or take away your children, threatening to hurt or kill your pets) and using privilege (treats the victim like she is a servant and he is the king of the castle).  All are used to make you quiet, to silence your voice.

   Silencing my voice.  That is what my ex was trying to do in that meeting room and throughout our whole marriage.  If he kept me silent in our marriage he could continue to abuse me and have power over me.  He could continue to feel like the King of the Castle and do as he pleased with me. He could feel all powerful. In the meeting room if he could trigger that old fear with just a look he could possibly silence me again and I would not continue telling the Judge why my children cannot have access to him for their own health and safety.  Suddenly it all made sense.

  If you have someone continuing to exert power and control over you know that it is not healthy.  You are your own beautiful person who can chose your own clothes, talk to your friends and express your own thoughts and feelings. No person has the rite to take that away from you. Stand firm in the fact that you are not going to be controlled. Tell them to STOP!! Seek individual counselling (joint counselling is not recommended with an abusive person as you risk being re victimized) and gain strength. You can be free.

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The Queen of Denial

Denial. I think on some level we all live with some denial in our lives.  “The leaves aren’t turning colours yet, it is still summer” or “I will just have ONE donut”, all things to be in denial about that really don’t hurt anyone.  What about the big things though? “That mole isn’t really bothering me” or “he’s just having a bad day, he didn’t mean to hit me.” These are types of denial  can be life threatening.

Why do we do it?

We don’t want our reality to change.  As a Survivor of abuse I can say I lived in a world of denial, with my ex,  simply to survive. It was too painful to see the truth.  Like anyone I wanted my marriage to work. I wanted to be like my friends and have a solid marriage, not be a new divorcee. I wanted my kids to live in a home with both parents. Ultimately I didn’t want to feel the pain of having to leave the man I loved.  I didn’t want my heart to break. I didn’t think I would survive it. So instead I took on a different pain.  I denied to myself, and eventually the outside world, that my ex was abusing me and my children. I lived in a pretend world where everything was ok.

How did I deny the abuse?

I denied the abuse by making excuse upon excuse; “he’s  having a day”, “he didn’t get enough sleep last night”, “work is stressful, he needs to unload it somewhere” and on and on.  I became so good at denying what was happening at home that most of my family had no idea I was being abused and only found out after 15 years of it. I buried it deep inside me. It simply was NOT happening.

What did this do to me?

Denying the abuse, well let’s just say it completely messed me up.  When he was nice to me I would think that I was right, he had just been having a bad day. When he played the doting husband in front of family I didn’t see that he was just acting to make himself look good, I truly believed he loved me and I was so glad I hung on during the rough days. This thinking made me hold on just a little bit longer. The denial deepened and unfortunately the abuse got worse.  My ex saw that he could get away with the abuse, I never called him on it, I  pretended it wasn’t happening, we both pretended it wasn’t happening. If he acknowledged it he would have to take responsibility for what he was doing. He was not about to do that.

The denial became so bad for me that I started to deny he was raping me. At the end of my marriage the abuse escalated ten fold and my ex would rape me at least once a week. To survive I found a part of my brain where I could pretend it was not happening. I told myself over and over that he did not know what he was doing. To admit that he was forcing me to have sex when I had said no and turned away would have caused my world to crash in on itself.  I couldn’t let that happen. I had to hold everything together; kids in school, daycare paid for, groceries bought, mortgage paid and work attended too. If I stopped for a moment and admitted that my husband was raping me, that I was terrified, all the balls I was juggling would certainly fall. I couldn’t let that happen.  I denied it mentally but my body could not deny what was happening. My hair fell out, my weight dropped drastically, a stress rash took over my body and I struggled to sleep. My body was screaming at me to face what was happening, but I still denied the rapes and all of the abuse.

Moments of clarity

I should say that I did have some moments of clarity. I did have moments where I bawled in the shower cause everything hurt so bad. I did have times where I comforted my scared children. On some level I knew that everything was going terribly wrong. It was in those moments that I started to hear a voice, a small voice, saying, “He IS hurting you. He won’t stop. Save yourself and your kids.” Over time that voice got a little  louder and one night it was screaming at me so I confronted him.  I went up to him and point blank asked him why he was forcing me to have sex. I remember the moment clearly. It was as if time stopped. He was doing the dishes and he calmly brought his head up, looked straight ahead with no expression on his face and said, “I know. I know I was hurting you.”

My world crashes in….or does it?

When I heard those words, “I know. I know I was hurting you”, every layer of denial was stripped away. I could no longer say that the abuse was not happening. I could no longer say that he did not know what he was doing.  I could no longer say, “Oh he was just having a bad day.” I couldn’t pretend.  I  let out a blood curdling scream and yelled “it’s over! It’s over!” while talking down every wedding photo in my house. He did try to push me back into the world of denial. He followed me around the house saying, “No, no it’s not over!” I looked at him realizing how sick he was, how sick we were. The denial had to stop. The next day I ended my marriage.

In the end does denial help?

In some ways being in denial helped. It protected my mind during some terribly traumatic events. It is a coping mechanism when something is too powerful to process emotionally or mentally.  For some denial can run so deep that they block memories out. That level of denial protects your whole being until you are strong enough to deal with the painful event. In that aspect I am glad I lived in a world of denial. It helped me survive and get strong enough to deal with what was happening.  Short term this can be ok. Long term, not so much.  Like my own story if you ignore the issue long enough your body will start screaming at you physically to wake up. You may develop an ulcer, have unknown headaches, difficulty sleeping, or poor concentration. Eventually the issue needs to be faced. Once I separated from my ex my rash went away, I could eat again, my life started to rebalance itself. I survived. So will you, if you have something you are denying.

Peace