October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. This is the third in a series of articles of my experiences as a victim of spousal abuse. I am writing these posts in the hopes that it will help others be more aware of their relationship and behavior patterns; also to help someone possibly catch problems before they lose themselves or their lives. The following are the first two posts on this topic.
My Early Years
My childhood was in a loving home with happily married parents. My family life was filled with love, learning and sharing. I was a happy, positive kid.
In high school I was intelligent, confident but sometimes struggled with feeling geeky and chubby. As I got older I had dreams of having a marriage and family like that of my parents. Church was a big part of our family life. With it came many teachings about how a wife should be submissive and obedient to her husband.
Seven years of dating
My first day of ninth grade I saw a tall, red-haired guy walking toward me. Soon we became friends in a small group and several months later he asked me out on my and his first date: a church Valentine’s Day banquet.
I noticed that he was kind, protective, extremely intelligent, loved to explain things to me, and he really thought I was wonderful. He was also active in his church as well and later decided to be a teacher of theology or a minister.
He was my first date, only sweetheart and later my husband. I dated him for seven years from 9th grade through high school and four years while he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Raleigh, NC and I earned my nursing diploma in Greenville, SC.
We dated during holidays and his summers off from college while he worked. He was the first and only man I dated more than once, before I married him. I know he loved me. He wrote poetry to me; bought me little gifts; even drew a sketch of my senior picture. He gave his time and affection to me in so many ways. I couldn’t help but fall in love with him.
I earned my three year RN diploma in 1972. We decided to wait to marry until after he had graduated with his Bachelor of Arts the following year. That year I worked at the hospital where I trained; I lived in a rented duplex; payed my bills; and enjoyed my independence.
Our marriage began
We married the July after his May graduation and moved to New Orleans where he wanted to earn his Master’s of Divinity. I remember being excited about our future and anxious because I didn’t know anyone except him there and I was leaving my family so far behind and starting a new life.
As a student his time was full of classes, studying, research and writing as he progressed from the master’s degree studies to the doctoral program with the challenges of writing a dissertation.
I was our main source of income. But he worked part time jobs while he studied. We agreed at the beginning that he would pay the bills in order to take some of the strain off of me, since I was working so much. I felt this was a kind of a balance of power that equalized our loads of financial responsibilities.
His classes were during the mornings and afternoons. We had a circle of friends we enjoyed eating out with and sharing activities with (after all we did live in New Orleans). We had a lot of fun in spite of our busy schedules. We were also active in two different churches at different times. He gave me emotional support when I came home upset about a patient or a situation. He always seemed to know what was bothering me.
But as his drive increased to make good grades to earn the Masters and then the Doctorate degrees his energy levels decreased and he became irritable. With the stressors of classes, study, research, and writing, stress began to mount. My work schedule changed to day/evening and later 8 hour night shifts and then 12 hour night shifts.
We Both Began to Change
Over the years he became more irritable and critical of me. As the criticisms increased my self confidence decreased. I became more clingy and insecure. Even at work my hesitancy, lack of focus, and confidence showed and was not unnoticed.
After a poor evaluation at work I was diagnosed with reactive and fasting hypoglycemia (my insulin levels exceeded the necessary levels when too many simple carbohydrates were eaten or when my blood sugar rose from Adrenalin from major stress. The overload of insulin made the blood sugar drop over time to levels that affected me like a diabetic with hypoglycemia. I figured this was my problem with forgetfulness and anxiety. (But there was more to my problems than low blood sugar.)
We only had one car so sometimes he had to drop me off before a shift and pick me up from the hospital after one. Since cell phones were not as available in the early 1970’s communication was a problem.
When I worked day shift several times in CCU (Coronary Care Unit) there would be an emergency with a patient, or charting to finish or something else that prevented me from leaving to go tell him I would be late! He sometimes waited 30 minutes in the heat in the car. I remember him getting very angry about this, which was beyond my control and with no way to reach him.
The first real explosion of anger
While preparing for one of the moves to another apartment the first major sign of changes came. There was a misunderstanding with no chance of clarification without cell phones as to where we were going to meet one day after we had two cars.
Of course I went to the wrong place according to him. Somehow we connected after an hour of waiting. He was furious! What could I do? I still remember as we drove back to our first apartment, he screamed at me, “BITCH!” I sobbed hysterically! He had never called me a name like that! (In the 1970’s Bitch was an insult and I believe still is!) Of course he said he was upset because he was worried that something had happened to me. (Funny way of showing it!)
When something went wrong or was confused it was my fault. (Not sure how much was truly my fault, but I bore the brunt of these times because I was the one who took the blame.)
Next part soon