October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This second part of the 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. At the bottom of this page you can see the links to the first five posts for the background about how our marriage began and disintegrated. There are triggers in this post that might upset some.
My metamorphosis began
At the hospital ICU/CCU where I worked there was a doctor with a long history of rudeness and impatience. Once while helping him sit a patient up so he could listen to her lungs I put my hand over the dressing that protected a central line to prevent its being accidentally pulled out. The doctor snapped at me, “Don’t pull that out!”
I maintained my cool and did not respond until we got back to the desk. I looked at him and informed him that 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?”
My First Marital Stand
About 14 years after the birth of our son, my husband had a teaching position. One day my husband and I were arguing fiercely over something. While 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! This was the third time he had done this and I had been gaining more awareness and inner strength.
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 still much “smarter” than I was.
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 “correctly” more times and chose to “duck” on minor things.
I also learned not to let him stir up the simmering anger inside me! When I get furious I didn’t think before I responded and that would be right where he wanted me. 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, the doctor estimated, 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!!
His vision had been affected by diabetic retinopathy from 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.
In 2003 he had a major stroke that affected his ability to stand and talk at first. The MRI showed something else: white patches on his cerebrum, which indicated small strokes! How long had they been happening? When did they begin?
He regained his ability to speak but it took 4-6 months of grueling physical therapy before he could regain his balance and walk with a cane for any distance. He thanked me many times for caring for his needs, fixing his medicines, and encouraging him to heal.
Now I knew I could not 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. For years I tried to figure out what had caused his personality changes 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 about how his day went. But something could set him off and the happy times were gone!
We had both changed so much since our seven years of dating. He changed from the affectionate, loving, kind person he used to be. I missed that husband. I held hope that he would be like he had been someday. But that never happened.