October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. In honor of that, I’m sharing my story. I will have resources at the end of this post for anyone who needs them.
This post discusses emotional abuse.
The Unforseen Changes
I always thought that domestic violence meant that someone was getting beaten and getting out to save their lives. I had no idea I would end up in an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage. It was a huge reality check.
I can’t pinpoint on a calendar when things went downhill but I do know that once it did, there was no stopping it. At the time, Lily was in her therapies for developmental delays and Julian was starting to show signs of what would be diagnosed as ADHD and autism.
No parent wants to hear that their child isn’t “normal”. Some parents go straight into denial. That is where Matthew went. I went into “mama bear” mode and will never leave it. Obviously, this causes clashes. We began arguing over what should be done for Julian. He clearly needed help. He was aggressive, destructive and not doing well in preschool.
I gained weight. I stopped sleeping and eating well. All I could do was worry about my children. Matthew began yelling more and understanding less. He even asked once why I couldn’t admit that I couldn’t handle two kids with special needs.
I broke at that moment. I knew then I was in my own. He continued fighting with me the whole way through two evaluations. Julian was finally diagnosed in November 2011, and he still refused to understand. We fought over putting Julian on medication, which I did. Matthew just couldn’t understand what was going on, even when I explained it to him many times.
He continued to put me down, wouldn’t listen to my fears and worries. I learned to hold everything in and watch what I said. I began to shrink inside myself. I was losing weight because I was so anxious. I made the kids clean the house daily and made sure things were perfect before he came home from work. Most of the time, it didn’t work and we still argued. The tiniest things could set him off. I lost everywhere I turned.
A Way Out of the Pain
I became so depressed that the only things that got me out of bed were my kids and my job. I loved my job as a mental health associate at a mental health facility. They were the two things I couldn’t mess up.
This is where Jake came in. I don’t recommend cheating at all. I never planned to meet someone else while I was married, especially when I was completely broken. I do regret hurting Mathew and damaging my marriage, but I do not regret meeting Jake at all. He changed me forever.
We met while working together. He had seen posts on my Facebook (low-key stalking me) about Julian and…bam. For two years, until the day he died, Jake taught me so much about myself. More than that, he helped me heal from Matthew’s words. As Matthew has said “he fixed what I broke”.
I learned that I am worth anything I could ever want. I learned what I can and cannot take. I learned that I am worth so much with or without my clothes on, which I had struggled with. I deserved so much more than what I was living in.
I began looking for apartments and running numbers to live on my own with three kids. I even got a lawyer and was eight days from officially filing for divorce when Jake died. A person can only take so much and I was at my limit.
Matthew had never laid a hand on me but sometimes I wish he had so he could just get that over with. The words he said were almost as painful as being hit. The bruises just aren’t visible when someone continuously hurts your soul by telling you that you’re not a good mom, that you wouldn’t have anything if it wasn’t for him and a lot of other things.
Jake helped me be myself, something I just couldn’t do with Matthew. I became me again. I was happy, strong, and ready to start over. Jake died on September 1,2015. It shattered my soul to attend his funeral. I felt like I had to restart my life, but all alone.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this, Matthew began to realize how much I meant to him. He had finally accepted Julian’s diagnosis but not me being happier and ready to leave him. I had informed him to be ready to be served. One of my first goals in therapy was to decide whether or not to stay with Matthew.
It took three months, but I decided to stay. I wanted to give him a chance to see the new me.
He walked me through losing Jake. He knew how much he had meant to me and the pain was something I can’t describe. In the early days I cried myself to sleep and he let me be.
He also became nicer. I didn’t trust it at first. I had so many negative thoughts about this. I questioned his motives frequently and didn’t know what to do. We are still working on our marriage. It’s working and we’re happy, with a few bumps in the process.
People can change. Sadly, many don’t. That’s why domestic violence month is important. Know the signs. Emotional abuse is real. It takes a long time to heal from. I still struggle with a lot of things. It’s not just a few mean comments.
This topic is not talked about nearly enough, which is why I chose to tell my story. It’s not meant to make Matthew look like the bad guy, because he’s a great dad and husband. He changed a lot. We still argue, I still get scared. I have times in which I close up- but I have gotten a lot better.
I’m a survivor. I’m not alone. This is partially what led to my drinking, and I am now sober.
For more information on marriage counseling, please see Better Help