Not My Proudest Moment

I like to believe that I’m an incredibly tolerant individual, especially when I’m dealing with a person that don’t know me or my story … the past few days completely destroyed my belief in myself!

On Friday, July 13, my daughter and I officially became homeless. We went to a shelter to buy us some time for our potential home to be completed and us time to get some money toward our security deposit and first months rent.

Years ago, I suffered with PTSD, and recently the stress of everything has caused a relapse. I am aware of the physical deterioration of my health, the psychological stuff, I have learned to cope … or so I thought.

The shelter where we stayed required that we attend their nightly chapel sessions, which I was okay with as I was emotionally and spiritually bankrupt and this would fill one void. However, our entire stay there was full of chaos and conflict, even during church services. My daughter and I did a great job coping with the constant stress, but last night I began to feel myself losing sight of my coping skills.

I asked a staff member if I could get Caitlin to someone that I could trust so that first thing in the morning I could see my doctor. I was told that leaving would not be tolerated and I must stay until after Monday morning classes.

During my Monday morning I was handed a list of churches that I should probably considering attending. I explained that I have a church family that I trust and love and I would not be interested in changing churches. Staff asked for the name of the church and wrote it down, then informed me that I should still consider their list of churches as they are the ones that donate to the shelter’s cause.

Although their services are Christian based I did not feel that it was appropriate for them to dictate where I worship.

Then, my daughter and I missed dinner because we weren’t back at 5PM, and we missed our 6PM curfew because my daughter had a doctor’s appointment. I had explained this at the classes and was told that I need to schedule all future appointments around the shelters schedule. In a week I will be returning to work, but they prefer that I miss work to get my daughter to the doctor so that it doesn’t interfere with their schedule.

When we returned at 6:30 tonight I gave staff a note showing what time we got to the doctor’s office, what time we left and we were allowed 30 minutes to return! As we were being patted down, scanned with a metal detector and our belongings searched the staff member asked what book my daughter had. It happened to be Harry Potter.

She was told she could not have that book while at the shelter. She immediately defended the fact that she has been reading that since we arrived. It didn’t matter, it would have to be locked up with all of the cellphones, medicines, cigarettes and lighters.

My daughter and I have always coped with stress by reading fictional books. This is our mini mental vacation. I wasn’t surprised when my daughter tossed the book on the desk and ran from the room, but my response did surprise me.

“This agency needs to have some empathy for those in this situation! She is 15, she is going through the worst time in her life. She copes by reading FICTION, she knows that it is FICTION, she is taking a mental vacation and watching a boy coming from nothing and turning his FICTIONAL world on its ear, making that boy a success! If you can’t respect a person’s prized coping skill then you have no business working in this field!”

It may seem stupid, my daughter and I left the shelter over a freaking book! That is not why we left, it was because that was just another symbol of our dignity stripped from us because I’m too poor to pay rent in a community that was clearly too rich for my blood.

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He Didn’t Mean to Kill Me

The words that follow are results of some deep soul searching after some seemingly unrelated events triggered an enormous revelation: No matter how much I have “healed” from my experience of surviving domestic violence … I will always carry that trauma with me.

I happen to be a female, my perpetrator happened to be male, we happened to be a blended family that could easily be referred to as “trailer park trash” if the statement was based on our gross income. We happened to live together prior to marriage, and yes, I did marry him because I thought our commitment would prove my love to him and stop the beatings.

We fit just about every myth there is about the make up of domestic violence relationships. THE TRUTH? Domestic violence does not discriminate. These violent actions happen to males and females (either can be the perpetrator), heterosexual or homosexual relationships, your race, age, weight, socioeconomic status … domestic violence doesn’t care! (I’ve even heard it told that professionals that help survivors through the turmoil can sometimes fall victim to the slow lead into manipulated oppression by a significant other!)

The most difficult part of discussing domestic violence is convincing every person in the world that they too could fall victim to the manipulation without even realizing it. Once someone is able to see themselves as vulnerable to a situation they are far more willing to open their mind to hear what is being said.

Time after time I have written in depth accounts of one beating in particular, the one that led me to have the most amazing spiritual experience … but, I had to die to have that. This post isn’t about the specific graphic, blow by blow details of that night, it’s about the long term effects of surviving the chaos of loving a man that was willing to kill me.

Over time and many years of research I have learned that perpetrators of domestic violence tend to strangle their victims to show their significant other that they don’t WANT to kill them, but that they COULD kill them if the other person doesn’t do as expected. It is the ultimate real life game of Russian Roulette, the perpetrator is the gun and the significant other never knows if the gun is even loaded. We never know, until the trigger is pulled!

Approximately ten years ago, which was eight years after my near death experience and leaving my perpetrator for good, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. For the past ten years I have slept with a CPAP machine, without it I will wake up with a massive headache and often coughing and choking. If I sleep without it I am typically taking a short afternoon nap and am fully aware of my surroundings when I wake up fighting for air.

Recently I was in a situation where I had to sleep for several nights without my CPAP. I woke up many times each night, gasping for air, fighting for my life and for about 10 seconds I was sure that my ex-husband was standing over my trying to strangle me to death. Those ten seconds seemed to last forever and even once I was aware of my surroundings my mind and body had been shifted into fight or flight mode … try coming off an adrenaline rush several times a night, by the time I was settled down and able to sleep I had an hour or two to sleep and it began again.

This entire situation was exacerbated when I went to my chiropractor to see some recent x-rays that he had ordered. His first words as he lit up the x-ray lamp? “What kind of neck trauma did you have? The damage appears in a strange place!”

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A normal neck x-ray on the left shows no damage to the neck. My x-ray, on the right, shows damage to the bones from years of  my failure to seek medical attention after being strangled. Note: a normal neck curves slightly to align the head over the rest of the body; my neck curves in the opposite direction.

His question was nothing more than innocent curiosity. Yet, I could not deny that I had only ever had ONE injury to my neck and it was the death of me. Even though the bruises have disappeared the damage is deeper than my heart, the damage is in my bones!

 

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In a close up of my x-ray you can see where years of inappropriate alignment have caused severe deformities in my bones.

I have no way of being 100% certain that domestic violence was the cause of my traumatic bone injuries; however, I can say some things that were distinctly different immediately after that midnight beating:

  • My voice took on a raspy tone, which is worse when I’m tired.
  • If I am not well hydrated I will cough and choke, even on my own saliva.
  • A gland at the top of my neck and base of my jaw protrudes even when I’m healthy.
  • I will become easily winded, as if my throat is closing, if I am dehydrated during exercise.
  • A CT scan of my brain has shown a history of mini strokes and/or severe migraines.
  • My short term memory sometimes seems like it is compromised of swiss cheese.

Even when a man or woman survives a beating there is physical damage done and it can last a lifetime. It is deeper than emotional trauma, it is where … in a million years some poor unsuspecting archaeological student will exhume my body and write his dissertation on the evolution of the human neck because society no longer {insert some odd behavior here}.

My chiropractor has been very honest with me, “It’s too late to undo any damage, but I hope to give you better range of motion through treatment.”

I should also note that in 1991 I was in a car accident and suffered some lower back injuries. Those injuries are not evident on any of the x-rays that were done. Yes, two hands of the man that said he loved me did more damage that being rear-ended by a Jeep Wrangler that was traveling at 50 MPH and never touched his brakes.

Clearly, my ex-husband could have left me for dead. I truly believe that he chose to help me for selfish reasons, a man like that can’t control men by angry manipulations, he knew prison wasn’t the place for him.

Whatever his reasons were for allowing me to live … they aren’t important to me. The spiritual interaction that I had as he stood over my lifeless body … that interaction keeps me going, I know that He wants me to “fight back” for others that have been wronged. I will do that until He decides it’s time for me to join him at the pearly gates.