How I finally came out of the fog of domestic abuse
I was married for exactly 19 years, 4 months and 10 days before that relationship ended with the strike of a judge's gavel. I didn't go to court for the final hearing because, as a paralegal, I had submitted my own settlement terms and just had no interest in driving to McKinney that day.
We had already agreed on the amounts of child support and alimony, as well as the length of time each would be paid. We had already agreed on who would get what. There was nothing to discuss.
The formal dissolution took approximately 30 minutes, and when it was over, the man I had spent nearly two decades with called me and simply said, "Well, it's over." My response: "OK. Would you go to Braum's and get me a biscuit and gravy?" I was hungry.
No more tears
Don't misunderstand and think that I was unbothered by the fact that my marriage was over. I was, I really was. It's just that by the time March 5, 2013 rolled around, there was not one tear in reserve for that broken marriage. I had already cried, screamed, jumped up and down, threw punches at the air, stared into the mirror, assumed the fetal position and done every other thing.
There was nothing left to do except forge ahead with my plans for the aftermath. The problem was, I didn't have any set plans. I had been too numb to make any rational decisions. The only thing I knew for certain was that my son Will would be headed off to college that June.
Not only was I newly divorced, I would also have an empty nest soon. The months following the divorce would prove the theory that you never know how strong you are until being strong is all you have. I've always been a bootstrapper, but I turned into a warrior.
I didn't want to leave Dallas. My intent was to stay in my house until the lease was up in July of that year, and then I would find a smaller place. As a single lady, I had no need for a 3,500-square-foot home.
The truth is, numbness had settled in, and I was in a haze. Days melted into one another. Before I knew it, we were headed to Louisiana for what we thought would be the start of Will's college football career. I was going to get him to school, then head to my mom's for a little while. That was the day the chaos set in.
We took off in my beat-up SUV and his 15-year-old car. We had not made it halfway when I noticed that he was slowing down in front of me. He called me from his car and said that something was going wrong with his car. We were pressed for time, so I told him to take my truck and go ahead. He zoomed off and I puttered behind him, hoping I would make it.
Once we got there, we found out that he wasn't eligible for football camp. It was then that I realized I had been neglecting him. I hadn't taken care of his car, his life. I didn't know what was going on. Anyone who knows me knows that my child is the very air I breathe. The guilt that I feel for not paying more attention to him then is still overwhelming.
I realized that needed to go home, back to Louisiana, to regroup and recuperate. We made it back to Mama's together, but his car would end up sitting in her yard for almost a year before it was drivable again. My truck would break down shortly after we made our way back to Dallas. I ended up towing it back to Louisiana behind the U-Haul.
My brother and a close family friend came to help me move, and I will forever be grateful. Had it not been for the two of them, I can say with certainty that I wouldn't have made it back.
The last trip of the move is when the tears found me again. That trip takes exactly four hours. I cried for the first two. Not a tear here and there, but full-out crying. The last 20 years of my life had been boxed up and stuffed into a rental truck.
Speaking out against abuse
For the longest time, I hid the fact that I was a victim of some of the most horrific mental and emotional abuse imaginable.
On July 21, 2009, I suffered a brain hemorrhage that should have killed me. During my time in ICU, the doctors kept asking me if I had been under any stress. I repeatedly told them no — in fact, I was getting a little miffed that they kept asking me that.
Being super stressed was the norm for me, so I didn't make the connection. The constant belittling, the not so subtle put-downs, being told I was worthless and a burden had become my daily routine. What's worse is that, at some point, I took all that as truth. I believed him. It took some time, but I began the climb out of that darkness.
I've always been able to take care of myself. I've always been aware of my strengths. What happened was that my ex-husband took whatever he saw as a weakness, whatever he felt was a failure or shortcoming, and highlighted it with the brightest marker he could find. That's how abusers work. Don't get it twisted: Any of us can fall victim to abuse.
By the time I made it to counseling, I was a mess. The counselor quickly noted that nearly every sentence I started began with "He did..." or "He said..." Those counseling sessions were the beginning of my healing.
Since I've moved back to Louisiana, I've worked on improving the areas of my life that I'm not satisfied with. Most important, I've regained a self-confidence that allows me the strength to tell my story, in detail. Some of it is just as embarrassing for me as it for him, but how can I help another woman if I'm not willing to speak out loud what she might afraid to say?
I continue to heal, and I know that process involves a willingness to take the bandage off so that the wound can breathe. I know what my purpose is, and would be remiss not to walk in. Stay tuned.