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.

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Unblaming My Parents

October 16, 1965, a day that forever altered the progression and growth of my life.

How can that be when I wasn’t born until December 8, 1973?

I always thought that I was spared the pain of my brother’s passing, by being born many years after his death in infancy, but was I!?

Trauma has followed me through out my life, and when I told my parents in a desperate attempt to get help I was told things like, “Well, if you wouldn’t dress like that …” “Don’t tell anyone.” Or even just the silent treatment. One thing was clear, police and investigators had no place in our lives.

I learned to sit down, shut up, and take the blame. For a short time I was very angry that my parents were unable to be more supportive and less blaming in these matters, but today I had an epiphany.

When my infant brother passed away the media found them guilty almost before they were even questioned, and the inquest must have been horrific to endure. Everyone was pointing fingers, all but one detective that took the time to not only hear my parents, but to fight for them. One person out of all of those that were involved in the case, the odds were clearly stacked against my parents. God willing, they survived the tension of that chaos and moved forward to not only raise three older children, but to have two more.

Now there’s me … repeatedly raped … but the odds are stacked against my family, so I go to no one, it’s a risk too great to endure.

I acted out in ways that made me pure hell to raise, when life got to be too much I even tried overdosing … having your stomach pumped is not for the weak. I ran from my problems, leaping from a cliff with no parachute into a valley of lava.

I tried everything I could to be the better person, to be stronger and more resilient than I was raised to be. With each passing trauma I realized a tiny bit more that my reaction is my choice, not that of my parents.

My parents must have been really scared during the loss and investigation into their son’s death … sort of like me … deep in the brush of the old race track during the state fair. No one to turn to, no one to help, no one to guide me … No one, but God, and I missed it. I was so busy blaming my parents that I forgot about the faith I’d been raised in, besides, God didn’t want a dirty hoe like me in His house!

Today was different though, today I was driving past a location where I had once been severely beaten by an ex-husband, and I experienced a flash back. I had one of my children in the car with me … and I realized I had to keep myself together, or risk freaking her out. I can’t blame my parents anymore, they are both deceased and can’t fight back, I can’t blame my ex, because if I got that close I can’t be responsible for my reaction. The only person to blame for how I handle this situation is me, and this time I turned to the faith I’d been raised in and somehow I just knew, it’s not what happens to me, but how I react … I own that, so I am unblaming my parents for lifes traumas.

Applying God’s Word to Abuse

When I decided to move from Pennsylvania to Michigan, a single mother with three small children, I remember my mom’s tearful, parting words, “You are breaking up the family that you created. God doesn’t look kindly on that.”

In that very moment I not only questioned God’s love for me, I also accepted that any and all bad things that were about to happen were God’s punishment for my sins. I had felt this way for a very long time, to be honest, I had been attoning for my sins since I was about eight years old. I never knew what the sins were, just that the world was about me and all bad was caused by my failure to follow God.

The idea that an eight year old has so many sins to atone for may seem unjust to you, but at that developmental stage a child is unable to see the world beyond themselves, thereby accepting all grief and pain as their fault.

Many years prior to my move to Michigan I had pulled away from church, I was ignoring everything that God put before me. I only saw the bad, because I was looking for it, and when you look for something, not only are you bound to find it, chances are that you will find it in the last place that you look. So, here I am; almost eighteen years later, trying once again to figure out what I did wrong in life to deserve all of this.

Recently my daughter has been attending church, and placing loving pressure on me to attend as well. I can think of a million excuses not to go, but I have one reason to go; God really does have my back, He always has, and He always will.

My biggest reason for turning my back on my faith and religion is that much of scripture is twisted by individuals to meet their own needs.

You have heard it said, “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” Matthew 5:38

This passage is used many times through out the Bible, but I choose Matthew 5:38 to demonstrate what often happens …

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. Matthew 5:39

Matthew 5:38-42 discusses the topic of biblical contraversy elegantly. Often times, an abuser will stop reading at verse 38, because they have met their own needs, but continuing on we can see that it is not man’s job to bring us to repent for our own sins.

I am definitely not a theologian, but maybe that’s something I should study, because one of the reasons that I have made the decision to turn my back on religion is the mass confusion concerning this. Every swing that has ever connected with my body has touched my soul and allowed me to turn it into this is my repentence for past transgressions. My assailants have grasped onto my thought and torn me apart with words from the Bible about how women are less than man, how we are meant to be a man’s slave, how divorce is against Christianity.

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Colossians 3:18-19

Now, it’s time to face the cold, hard truth; I’m watching some of my children suffer from control and abuse of others. Their take is that it is their penance for past transgressions, one of the “gifts” that I have given them, which I must now take back. We are not placed on this earth to repent for our sins at the hands of evil, for we are here for a greater purpose, and our sins will be judged by God, on the day of His choosing, when we are brought before Him, our shell encapsulated in a grave, and our soul standing before Him.

 

To Bipolar or Not to Bipolar

Has anyone every tried to suffocate you with a pillow? What about dangling at the ends of another’s hands by your neck, your feet just inches from the floor, and no air getting in, nothing left but the telltale signs of his fingerprints etched in bruises upon your neck? Or, has anyone ever struck you as you held your infant child in your arms, with five other young children looking on?

My answers to these questions are yes, yes, and yes. These are just a few of the instances of abuse that I endured during my second marriage, and they left me spent, fearful, dare I say paranoid!?

In order to survive in a home like this everything has to be perfect … children shall be seen and not heard, the wife is in control of everything … or at least everything that causes his anger to be triggered.

The night that this beast was arrested he called me over a dozen times, from the county jail, to try to persuade me to drop the charges (the calls were collect of course). Finally, I had to call 911 to contact the jail and make him stop calling.

Within two years of this horrendous relationship I was preparing for another marriage. The stress was high, though a good stress, it triggered negative memories and behaviors within me. I became fearful of “being owned by a man.” Scared that the old one would hunt me down to be sure I never had happiness. Most of all, I was pissed off, yes, I was angry that my past could taint my future, and every little thing that I viewed as out of place was cause for screaming, and in some cases even throwing things.

My fiance sat me down, “Laura,” he said, “this isn’t normal, you need help.” He ran me to the doctor who said that I had bipolar and started me on medication.

That was in 2002, and for the past 14 years I have had endless amounts of counseling and when things weren’t perfect my husband would report it and doctors would throw more medication at me. We never decreased or altered, we only added more medication.

When I was raising five children, working full-time and attending college part-time I slept about two or three hours every night, but when college break was on, this mama bear was curled up in bed trying to catch up on lost sleep. No one said a word about my illness when I was setting the world on its ear, but when I slept for more than five hours, suddenly I was considered depressed and whoop, look out, more medication down the throat!

Through all of this I have tried to tell others that I am in control of this, that it was an enviromental reaction, not a chemical imbalance, but no one listened.

NOW, finally, after 14 years of medication I have someone that is listening to me and is considering the fact that I might have been misdiagnosed and over medicated. Now, think this through, I can’t just stop taking my meds, the withdrawals would be pure hell … bad things could happen. So, first I am weaning off the medication that causes: weight gain, high cholesterol, and diabetes … my three biggest concerns since starting this medication path so long ago.

We don’t know for sure if I’ve been misdiagnosed, the only way to know for certain is for me to be off medication, and I have a lot of weaning to get there. I can tell you, that I believe my earlier bouts of anger and throwing things was pure fear of anything less than perfection. Now I know, I’m not perfect, my children aren’t perfect, and neither is my home, but the world won’t end because of that … no one is going to kill me … because those that I surround myself with know that each of us is in charge of our own happiness.

Finally, I have found a doctor that listens and is in this field to help me rather than possible kickbacks. Woohoo!

Emotions Make YOU Weak

Yesterday morning I woke up with an amazing feeling of worthlessness. I held myself in check as long as I could, but the minute I ran out of things to keep my mind busy I got drop kicked by memories of marriages past.

Husband #1 wanted to fix me, to mold me into a better person. Husband #2, well, I was never good enough, no matter what I did. Husband #3 was once asked what did he think would be worth his efforts in raising children that ended up being a worthless waste of time. His answer: “Their mother.”

These thoughts, scrambling through my mind, seemed to kick the hamster that powers my brain off the wheel. I found me, the strong one, folded into the fetal position on the couch, sobs wretching from my deepest core.

Family and real friends will ask, “Why?” They will make you think, make you accept what you are feeling and give a couple of words to help you feel and move on. That’s all I really needed, I had a million things to do, I didn’t have time for this emotional crap. I certainly couldn’t venture out into society like this, that would show I’m not only weak, but vulnerable as well.

A niece asked me to send her a private message on Facebook, and we talked, she almost got me through it, but I was feeling in need of more. Dear friends posted that I’m not worthless, and though it helped, still I needed more. Then, I got a text asking “Why?” I explained the feelings, and the response was, “Oh well, you’re not worthless. Don’t let them best you again.”

“Don’t let them best you again!” that’s it, the fire that I needed. I felt like it’s okay to feel like crap every so often, but I can’t let them continue to win, by doing so I’m giving my power up. This … this is what good friends are made of, they make you think, they challenge you to become a better version of yourself.

I was still feeling pretty low, but I no longer felt weak, I just felt like I had to feel this, acknowledge it and move on. I now had the energy and power to start my day.

As I went through the day my negative emotions were still there, still dragging me down, but God has a way of putting things where we need them to be. As my daughter and I sat in front of a desk I happened to look at a dry erase board and I saw a quote by Mandy Hale:

The only keeper of your happiness is you. Stop giving people power to control your smile, your worth and your attitude. ~Mandy Hale

And the only thought on my mind was, God’s got my back.

Though I had spent a good bit of the morning in utter emotional chaos, I was able to pull through thanks to God, family and friends. This helped to prepare me for the emotional sucker punch I was about to be given in the late afternoon.

Just as things were coming together there was a knock on my door, allowing entry to the visitor I was handed a document detailing law enforcement interviews of the criminal investigation that tore my marriage and family to shreds. Taking the papers I didn’t know if I was holding fire or ice, but I could feel a burning sensation in my soul.

Since I had already felt so low in the morning and was able to stand up to it I was curious if I would have the energy it would take to read through snippets and quotes from the forensic interviews. Once the visitor left I took a folded arm across my chest in a way trying to protect my heart from what I was certain would be nothing but devastation. With my spare hand I held the pages close enough for me to read, but not for the children to see … and I cried again. The shame, guilt and pain that were entwined in those papers showed a lack of compassion on the part of some, maybe even a bit of psychosis. Yet, my earlier experiences had shown me that God had my back, and good always prevails. The aches that I felt no longer seemed insurmountable, instead, I knew who I could talk to about this, and I knew that He would protect me from further devastation as I explored the negative emotions that must occur so that we can know what true euphoria really is.

Friends, family, and above all God, are here, traveling this crazy path with me and I couldn’t be more grateful for those still in my life.

Old Patterns are UGLY!

I’m probably going to get a lot of heat over this post, so here’s my disclaimer: I am human, I make mistakes, in no part is any one in my life, past or present, solely to blame for what is now or what has been.

If you take the time to look at my marital relationships you will note that all three have ended in some sort of domestic violence. Many will say that I have done nothing wrong, but the truth is much tougher than that.

For instance, let’s look at my first marriage … yes, my ex will probably read this and deny any or all of it, but that’s his story and this is mine. We were mutally combative. I didn’t take crap from anyone, if I felt threatened I took a swing. The real damage, the chaos came from his “jokes” that were offensive and detrimental to my psychological health.

The second marriage was me attempting to be the perfect wife and failing miserably. I tried, really, I did, but the more I tried the more violent the relationship became until finally it was do or die trying to leave.

Now, the final chapter, where all seems perfect, my current failure, I mean marriage. This marriage went horrible wrong in such a passive/aggressive manner that I didn’t even see it happening, despite my past experiences and newly acquired human services degree!

Where did it all go wrong? The answer is as easy as it is complex. Black and white, all or none, do it or do nothing. Perfect life, perfect wife. Me trying to fit someone else’s mold. A failure to maintain healthy boundaries. After all, if you truly love someone there should be no boundaries … right!?

Wrong, wrong, wrong!!! I don’t understand this, because I have failed to love me for who I am, for who God created me to be. Past experiences have taught me that true love knows no boundaries … but in this definition I believe that true SELF love should know no boundaries.

There is a certain amount of respect that should be in any relationship, spouse, children, family, extended family, friends, partners, it doesn’t really matter … there should still be respect of personal space. This is something I have never known, and I find that to be heart breaking.

I was raised to do as your told … I don’t recall being hit very often (just that one time I called my mom the b word), but there was a certain amount of intimidation. It was never said, but I knew that I didn’t want to find out what would happen after raised voices or the ranting in the empty laundry room were complete.

Since I didn’t know what might happen if I screwed up, I did my best to be perfect and when that wasn’t good enough, well, I did what humans do best, I rebelled. I rebelled into the arms of a man and tried to fit his casting of a perfect wife and mother.

Again, I failed, so I moved, leaping into the arms of the first jackass that I met. “Honey, I’m home,” happened way too fast! Again, I wasn’t his perfect trophy wife, so I ran for the hills.

You guessed it, I couldn’t meet the needs of my third husband either! So, now what!?!?

Now I’m at a point that I don’t care what others want, or expect from me. I am going to take care of me first. My needs come first (well, right after my children’s needs are met). I am going to love me, I am still open for suggestions, but I’m going to tell everyone right now … don’t get your panties in a bunch if I don’t take your advice on who I should be or how I should live my life, because you aren’t me, and you don’t love me near as much as I need to love myself.

So when I say no more men, no more romantic relationships, I mean … Loving me has got to come first so that I can teach my children how to set appropriate boundaries and together we can end this cycle of domestic violence … We’re getting off this crazy train now!

When Prayers Work

Life has been dealing us one curveball about every 1.2 seconds lately and I’m kind of tired of dodging things, but prayers seem to be working and here’s how:

Yesterday I received a phone call that my family is at the top of the “Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher.” This means, upon approval of the apartments we have been praying for, we will only be there for a month or two before moving to permanent housing.

Due to our circumstances we have been approved for a different grant that will help us with a deposit and up to 18 months of rental assistance. During this time we will still be considered homeless, because 100% of our rent will be paid by a grant. All we need is an approval from the apartment complex that we applied for, which we should know one way or the other on Monday. If we are approved, we should be able to be moved in by the end of the week. (Yes, prayers for this are much appreciated.) This would get us out of the shelter and closer to the community that my children call home; about 50 miles closer!

If the above happens it will cut out about two to four hours of my daily running, and greatly reduce our stress levels. My children will have time to focus on homework in a home, rather than trying to do it as I drive from school to the shelter. I will be able to assist them with their assignments rather than focusing on safe driving. Plus, we will have a place to call home.

However, our main goal is stability, a home that will be ours forever if we so choose. The Section 8 voucher will help with that considerably. This would allow us to not only focus on school work, but also on my daughter’s health and recovery from severe depression. Her healing means less doctors appointments, and even less running. This would afford us the opportunity for me to get a job and become self-sufficient.

I am fully aware that many people have preconceived notions about individuals on Section 8. Drug users/abusers, skanky people that just don’t care, criminals, and many other stereotypes. Please, don’t confuse our circumstances with these sorts of generalizations. My children and I are still us, we still have hearts and souls that will do what is necessary to get completely on our own to afford others in our situation the opportunity to get their own vouchers.

Although the potential for life long housing assistance seems like a dream, in reality it is just a temporary stop in this crazy thing called life. As we transcend from the abused to the survivors we bring with us the wisdom to complete things in our own time, including the healing portion of all of this; housing assistance will afford us time to heal medically and physically.