October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This fifth post is about my awakening to being a victim of spousal abuse and violence. My purpose is to hopefully help and encourage someone else. You can see the links to the first four posts for the background on how our marriage began and how it disintegrated at the bottom of this page. There are triggers in this post that might upset some.
I am sharing some difficult situations here. I am not trying to make him look bad or take revenge on him. I am trying to show that my life was at times very difficult but I came through it.
An Interlude of Joy
After his graduation we moved to the back room of his parent’s house while waiting for him to be hired as a professor. All of our belongings were stored downstairs. I was hired easily because there are always openings for a nurse.
We had wanted to have a baby after my husband graduated with his doctorate. Soon I was pregnant with our long awaited baby. We had fewer arguments for a while as we became a team trying to maintain our privacy. After a year of his sending out applications and resumes, he was hired as a pastor in a small church. I continued to work until our son was born and afterwards. Soon the old behaviors set in again.
When I realized things were not as they should be, I didn’t know what to do. Taking our young son away from his father didn’t seem fair to them since I knew they loved each other. As our son grew into a teen tensions built between them.
Later one day he and I were arguing fiercely over something. I was sitting sideways at the counter. He walked up to me and put his hands around my neck. Somehow I bit his arm in defense; he was shocked!
I stood up and screamed at him that if he ever did that again I would leave him! He reminded me that he had found a confused friend in hiding, without a cellphone, in New Orleans once and reminded me he could find me too. ( I knew this story was true.)
I knew him well enough to not read any threats of danger into his words. But he was letting me know that escaping would be futile. After all in my mind he was so much “smarter” than I was.
A beacon in the darkness
A few years later a friend of ours suggested that I read, “Women Who Run With Wolves” by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. As I read the book I felt empowered and realized how I had given away my self and everything that made me strong, independent and “me.” I began to see that I was not stupid; that I have abilities and gifts that helped me deal with my life’s challenges. Finally I realized that I was stronger and smarter than I ever knew.
A bit of clarification
By this time I had been a nurse for 13 years. Probably the last 8 years of that part of my career I worked as a Critical Care nurse. I handled all kinds of stressful situations and cared for very sick, dying, or injured people with monitors and intravenous medicines that could kill them if I made a mistake. I worked with many doctors and got along with them. I was also one of only three in my unit who passed the Critical Care Registered Nurse certification! I was and am intelligent!!
My metamorphosis began
At work a doctor with a long history of rudeness and impatience incorrectly accused me in front of our patient of doing something potentially dangerous when I was protecting a dressing. I did not respond until we got back to the desk and I informed him he was misjudging the situation and should not have made a scene in front of my patient!
Wow! Then I asked myself, “If I could stand up for myself to this doctor, hold a Critical Care Unit position for many years, why couldn’t I stand up to my husband! Why did I think I was stupid!!??”
I chose my battles
Finally I began to “draw the line in the sand.” I chose my responses to my husband’s accusation of not doing things his way more times and chose to “duck” on minor things. But as my confidence and self assurance began to grow, I ducked less and less. I was giving my self esteem room to grow!!
My husband’s physical problems
For years I tried to excuse his behavior because of some illnesses he was dealing with. He had undiagnosed diabetes for about ten years and poorly controlled diabetes after being diagnosed. The high blood sugars, high blood pressures, and anger episodes did untold damage to his body and brain. No matter how sick he was, I DID NOT DESERVE TO BE ABUSED!!
In 2003 he had a major stroke that affected his ability to stand and talk at first. He regained his ability to speak but it took 4-6 months of grueling physical therapy before he could walk with a cane for any real distance.
His vision had been affected by the elevated blood sugars and even after laser surgery, he had trouble seeing the tiny lines on the insulin syringes. So I drew up his doses for him. He thanked me many times for my help in his care, his medicines, and encouraging him to heal.
Now I felt it was definitely not the time to leave him. I did defend myself verbally or when possible didn’t respond to his temper flares. On one occasion I physically defended myself after the stroke. I knew that my thinking abilities were a little clearer than his, my ability to move was faster than his, and my strength was at least as good as his. This gave me more confidence but I could not leave him while he was sick.
I felt sad for him. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what he had gone through in the past to make him so easily upset and obsessive compulsive. I should have been trying to see what his behavior was doing to me. It was so weird how he could be pleasant to be with and share memories or how his day went. But something could set him off so quickly.