Domestic Violence



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Sunday, 1 November 2020

When I made the decision to get Sober, I also made the decision to delete Tinder. Before I deleted it, I went back for one more man. I just couldn’t leave him behind. I’m going to call him Anonymous. He’s Anonymous because his anonymity needs to be protected. I swiped right on Anonymous because his bio said he’s working on himself and looking for friends. I thought to myself, “I’m also working on myself and need some friends. He can be my friend.” Swiping right, and then going back to give him my phone number were good decisions.

When I first started talking to Anonymous, he was 60 days sober. I was not. I was super drunk and going through what would be my last episode of undiagnosed and untreated premenstrual dysphoric disorder. I wasn’t in a good place. He told me the things he does to work on himself. I’m at a place in my life where I’m super attracted to people who are working on themselves. I’m learning that working on oneself looks different for everyone. He and I seem to do basically the same things; lots of physical activity, work, and just being a good human and being the best version of ourselves we can be. Being sober is a huge part of being the best version of ourselves.

Since getting sober, I’ve been talking to Anonymous a lot. I feel safe when I talk to him. I feel valued and unjudged. He is a busy man, but makes time to talk to me and make sure I’m ok and staying sober. I text him more than anyone else in my life.

Currently, my freedom quest has me in a place where I’m rebuilding my village. Since becoming free, I’ve watched as my village has become dismantled, one villager at a time. I’m not complaining about it. I’m thankful for it. I have been praying and have given God control of my life. I didn’t do such a great job with it, so it’s His turn now. He’s shown me that I did not have a village of reliable people. These village people certainly are not healthy enough to maintain the type of positive friendships I need in my life right now.

I met Anonymous last week. We made plans to go kayaking together. Even before kayaking happened, things started going wrong. He almost couldn’t make it, but did. Then, more things started going wrong. As each thing went wrong, he just rolled with it. I kept waiting for him to become angry, but he didn’t. He just fixed each thing as it went wrong, and then we went kayaking. We had such a great time. I flipped my kayak over and injured myself, but he did not poke fun at me. He was genuinely concerned. He laughed of course, but not until I was laughing about it. It was pretty hilarious. I laugh every time I tell the story, and I hope he does too.

After our very adventurous kayaking trip, we went about our day and resumed our normal texting routine. Anonymous is the first friend that I’ve made since leaving my abuser and dismantling my village. Letting him know me has been scary and exciting all at the same time. It’s exciting because I made a friend who appreciates me. It’s scary because I am still completely broken from my marriage. The whole time I’m texting him, I’m wondering: if I’m sharing too much; what he’s thinking about what I’m telling him; if he will use it against me later; when he will discard me.

This week, all of my insecurities escaped my brain and were released into text messages to Anonymous. My words were mean and not nice at all. I accused him of judging me, which made him angry. Of course, he wasn’t judging me about my financial problems; why would he? I’ve told him much worse things than my bank account balance, and he didn’t judge that. He saw my house a mess and didn’t judge that. He’s only shown me that he can be trusted and he is a judgment-free zone. My brokenness got in the way and hurt my friend.

The next day, Anonymous was supposed to come over to help me fix an electrical problem and a hole in the wall that my dog made. When I was reaching out to people to help me with my wall, Anonymous is the only person who was willing to make time in his busy life to ensure the girls and I have a safe home to live in, that won’t catch on fire. Something came up the first time he was supposed to come, but we rescheduled pretty effortlessly. Instead of patiently waiting for him to process his anger and deal with things happening in his own life, I sent another mean and insensitive text message to him.

His response was almost immediate, and it sliced through me like a super sharp knife. He wasn’t mean in his response but pointed out my own selfishness and self-centeredness. If you’ve ever had that experience before, then you understand the brokenness I felt as I read his words and realized that I am a terrible friend. I didn’t know before that moment just how much I have been hurting those around me with my insecurities and selfishness. I allowed myself to be overwhelmed with insecurity and pushed away my only friend.

I had not been to an AA meeting in a few days, so that night I went to a Zoom meeting. Anonymous had been telling me for weeks that I need to get to in-person meetings, and I need to get myself a sponsor. He told me it’s important to have my chips. I haven’t been to an in-person meeting yet, but I did find a regular Zoom meeting that meets every night. They even send out chips. My white chip is in the mail. I asked for a list of women so I can find a sponsor. Using that list, I found a sponsor. I will meet with her for the first time tomorrow. Next week, on my days off, while the kids are in school, I’ll attend my first in-person meeting. I’ll make sure to go every day I’m off work while the girls are in school. It’s going to be scary, but I’m going to do it. Like the gym, my anxiety-reducing supplements, and talk therapy, in-person AA meetings, and meetings with my sponsor will become part of my routine. I am willing to do whatever it takes to heal and be a better human being.

Maybe if I had listened and taken his advice sooner, I would have discovered my selfishness while talking to my sponsor instead of hurting my friend. I don’t know if he will ever speak to me again. I have to find a way to be ok with that. It’s up to him, and the ball is in his court now. There isn’t anything I can do to change what I did. I can’t go back in time and not send those text messages, though I wish I could. I can’t go back and consider what my words may trigger inside my friend. We are addicts, so our past lives are full of trauma and hurt that we are healing from. If he does decide to speak to me again, I can't promise to not make future mistakes, but I can promise to learn and grow from them to prevent making the same mistakes again. Like Anonymous, I am serious and dedicated to my recovery and becoming a better human being.

I have apologized more than once, and that’s all I can do. I know it isn’t enough, and an apology won’t fix the hurt I’ve caused. I keep comparing myself and this situation to the behaviors of my abuser. I did not accept his apologies because I knew they were meaningless, and he would do it again. The difference between him and me is that when I said I’m sorry, I really meant it. Now that I know I have some pretty huge character defects, I’m working on it. I never want to be in this place again. I do not enjoy hurting those I care about.

American Ninja Warrior

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

For the first time in my life, I have this amazing opportunity to learn who I am and what makes me happy. For the first time in my life, I’m free. I’m free to explore all the world has to offer. Oh my goodness, I’ve been doing just that. This pursuit of freedom I’ve been on has been so amazing. I’ve discovered so many wonderful things about myself and the world around me.

As I was swiping around Tinder, I was looking for men who spark some sort of inspiration. I swiped right on a man I’m going to call American Ninja Warrior. During one of our first conversations, he said he wants to be on American Ninja Warrior and wants a partner who will do it with him. I laughed and told him I will never be her. I don’t run. I have a weak ankle, and the last time I ran, I sprained it pretty horribly half a mile into the woods. It was not a fun hobble to get back to the parking lot.

Then he said he could let that go. I’ve thought about that for some time now. We all do it. We all willingly give up pieces of who we are so we aren’t alone. We aren’t creatures meant to be alone. I decided that I wouldn’t be giving up any pieces of myself for anyone. I also would not allow anyone else to give up pieces of who they are for me either. After all, I have tried that and failed miserably.

American Ninja Warrior asked me if I go to the gym. I told him I do not. He said he could trade running for the gym. I really didn’t have an excuse not to go to the gym. I’m free to do what I want. I told him I would join the gym the following week, and I did. To date, I’ve been every day except Sundays because the gym doesn’t have childcare on Sundays.

I asked myself if I was doing it for this man I had never met and only exchanged a few text messages with or for myself. Going to the gym and changing myself because a man wants me to isn’t something I’m interested in doing. The answer was no. I weighed the pros and cons and there were not any cons. I mean, the gym has childcare, which would give me a much-needed break from the kids! So I went to the gym.

Once I got to the gym, I started thinking about goals. I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I ever thought I was. American Ninja Warrior and I don’t text much. I do text him almost every day and tell him that I did it; I made it through another workout. He cheers me on. Somedays he’s the only cheerleader I have. It helps me to focus on my goals.

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into goals. I go to the gym 6 days a week for serotonin. The serotonin keeps the depression and anxiety at bay. It helps me to be a better mother and to keep the chaos inside my head from manifesting itself on the outside as dirty kids and a messy house. I also want, no I need, to be strong enough to defend myself from my abuser when the restraining order expires in March 2021. I’m well on my way.

After a week of walking on the treadmill, I decided that I needed to really get my body moving, so I started to run. I use the word “run” loosely because I’m pretty slow. But after a week of running, I noticed that my body feels even better. The first day I made it a whole mile, I excitedly texted American Ninja Warrior before I was even off the treadmill to let him know I made it a whole mile, and how long it took. I’ve since been texting him every time I take time off of that mile. I’m glad he showed up in my life, even if he only cheers me on from across town.

We met last week after weeks of texting. He came over one night. We sat on the porch and talked for a while. Then we went inside and sat on the couch. When I sat down on the couch, he sat at the opposite end of it. I remember thinking, “This is nice, I feel respected right now.” We talked for a while about our terrible marriages. We had already talked about how we were healing from those marriages, so the conversation was comfortable. I shared with him that when I woke up that morning, I came to the realization that I’m an alcoholic and started AA. He didn’t judge me and was just as supportive as I expected him to be.

After talking on the couch, we went back to the porch for a sandwich and more chatting. The conversation flowed pretty smoothly. Before we knew it, it was getting late. It wasn’t super late, but late enough for responsible adults to need to get ready for sleeping. When he left, I couldn’t help but think how nice it was to have a man respect me enough to give me space, choose his words wisely, and leave at a respectable hour. That isn’t something I’ve experienced in past relationships.

We had some plans to hang out again a few days later, but parenting happened. He asked me not to hate him. I understand that our kids come first. How could I be upset with another single parent for having to parent? There will be a time when I also have to cancel plans for parenting. He told me that he’s nervous about saying or doing the wrong things and screwing things up. I thought that was really cute and also brave of him to share those feelings. I shared with him some advice that I gleaned from TikTok; don’t worry about if they like you, but instead, worry about if you like them.

I’ll forever be so grateful for the inspiration I gained from American Ninja Warrior. When I went to the gym, I found a happy place; a healthy place. I found confidence in myself. The most important thing I’ve learned is how to motivate myself and push myself to do things I didn’t think were possible. Somehow, I’ve injured my bad ankle, but I keep going to the gym anyway. I keep pushing myself just because I can. It feels good.

Another, second most important thing I’ve learned from American Ninja Warrior is that men are not typically going around hurting and disrespecting women. There are good men out there. They are doing what I’m doing right now. I am working on myself, and they are also working on themselves. I’ve learned that before being capable of loving and caring for another person in a way that is healthy, we each have to love and care for ourselves first. And that is on self-love and self-care.

Every Mom

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

I found Every Mom at the gym. As I was ushering my kids into the gym, Every Mom was doing the same. This was not her first day. I could tell because she didn't have to stop by the front desk for a tour. She dropped off her sweet kids in the kid's room and disappeared.

On my tour, the gym manager and I walked past Every Mom while she was getting it on the stair master. The gym manager said that we have a love/hate relationship with the stair master. I told him I could tell. With every step we took around the gym, I became more and more intimidated and unsure of myself.

I looked over at Every Mom. She was really working hard. I could see all of the anger and mom anxiety radiating from her as it left her body. At the moment I was going to back out, I was inspired by Every Mom.

After my tour, the gym manager told me what to do, so I set out to do it. I found a treadmill without a neighbor and got on it. I stared at it for a minute, unsure how to turn it on. I said to myself, "What are you doing Jessica? You are going to look like an idiot. You haven't been to a gym in more than 7 years, and can't even remember how to turn on the treadmill." I glanced at the guy next to me, and then my eyes found Every Mom at the end of the row still grinding on that stair master. She was red and sweaty and the anger and anxiety were still being released like thick clouds of smoke surrounding her body. I pushed the start button.

I walked a mile on the treadmill, used some machines, and then walked another mile on the treadmill. Every Mom was climbing those stairs the entire time. She got off while I was on the treadmill the second time. Every Mom disappeared. I finished my mile and went to the kid's room to pick up my children. I was inspired by Every Mom to get through my first day back at the gym in more than 7 years.

When I walked into the kid's room, I found my kids and asked them to clean up so we could go. While waiting, I saw the person watching the kids was preoccupied with a little girl with a nose bleed. I recognized the little girl. Her mom is Every Mom. The person watching the kids left to go find Every Mom.

As my kids were putting on their shoes, Every Mom arrived. She was red and sweaty and annoyed. She was annoyed because her daughter has nose bleeds all the time but was extra dramatic since she wasn't at home. She was annoyed because once again, her kids have interrupted her time to herself. She was annoyed because now she has to either go home or try to get motivated to get back to her workout.

I can relate to Every Mom. I too get annoyed when my kids are extra. I too get annoyed when my time is interrupted. I too need to release my anger and frustration and anxiety. I too am Every Mom.

Because I Can

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Yesterday morning after finishing the final letter to my husband, I took a shower. I got dressed in something that I love and feel pretty in. I put on some makeup, and then happily straightened my hair. I prepared myself to make a TikTok about my latest masterpiece. Often, I find myself marveling at my newfound freedom. It's amazing. I am absolutely fascinated that I can do things just because I can.

I've been dipping my toes in the freedom and dabbling with it here and there. The first thing I did when we first separated was to stop eating pork. Now, I don't really have anything against pork. I stopped eating pork just because I can. It's so great to be able to cook and eat what I want. I know pork is a silly stand to take. I needed something I could take control of quickly. There were pork chops in the freezer, so pork got the ax. I stopped eating pork because I can.

I've also started doing things that I enjoy. I really like writing. Writing allows me a safe space to work through my feelings. What I love most about writing is sharing what I've written with others. I love knowing that I can give people hope while they are living in their darkest time. I write so others know
that they too can get out. I always keep my phone with me so I'm available to respond to the messages I get from men and women who are not yet safe. I reply as quickly as I can. I do it so that the trauma I endured was not for nothing.
I do it because I can.

For 7 years, I was not allowed to get dressed or put on makeup or straighten my hair. Putting on something other than pjs, sweats, or leggings 95% of the time resulted in a fight and absurd accusations. Add some makeup and hair styling to the mix, and suddenly I’ve done something terribly wrong. I put on a pair of shorts to go to the store that were a little short, and was told to change. I now put on the shorts because I can.

Yesterday I put on these short, cute shorts and had a photo session on my bed. It’s a strange place, but it was so freeing! Now I’m sharing them with the world. I did it because it felt good and I wanted to do it. I am free to photograph myself how I want to. I photograph myself often. I do it because it makes me feel good. I do it because I can.

As I'm embracing this new free, single life, I'm learning what "normal" people do. I've learned so far that people go to the gym. Today will be my first time in a gym since before my abuser came into my life. I was not allowed to go to the gym before. He never said, "You can't go to the gym," but I knew better than to go. Self-care just wasn't worth fighting about. Today, I'm going to the gym. And I'm going to go tomorrow too. It's going to hurt, but I'm going to do it because I can.

I’m excited to continue this journey. I’m excited to look back at my progression of photos in a few weeks, months, and years. I’m excited to be learning who I am and what makes me happy. I’m excited to have the freedom and capacity to love myself for the first time in my 35 years of existence. I’m excited because I can be; just because I can.