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.

Dear Husband - The Final Letter

Monday, 21 September 2020

 Dear Husband,

I forgive you. I forgive you for all of the awful things you’ve done. I forgive you for all the awful things you’ve said. I forgive you because God forgives me for accepting your invitation to hang out at a bonfire 7 years ago.

I wasn’t expecting to write this final letter right now. I thought I would write this letter after the divorce is final. I thought that forgiving you would diminish the nightmare I lived with you. I was wrong.

I found my anger last week. I didn’t like it. I found it to be quite terrifying actually. I can’t help but think you must feel like that all the time. I can’t imagine being filled with that much anger all the time. I can’t imagine not being capable of expressing that anger in a healthy way. I wrote you that angry letter, I recreated photos of what your abuse looked like, and I made a video about it. I got it out. I chose to stop being angry, took the girls to church, and found forgiveness.

Forgiving you allows me to be truly free. I’m not held back by anger, bitterness, or fear. Forgiving you allows me to make an impact and help other abuse victims get out and get safe. Forgiving you frees me up to focus on taking care of these kids and this house by myself. Forgiving you allows me to heal. Forgiving you allows me to be a better parent to our children.

I’ve always made decisions for our family with everyone’s best interests in mind; including yours. I’m going to keep doing this. I’m going to continue the prayers I began during my Homblette life. I pray for you to be sober and healthy. I pray you can be the father your daughters need. I pray that we can co-parent together in a constructive and positive way. My God is still in the miracle business.

Our children ask me all the time if I still love you. I tell them that I will always have a love for you because you gave me them. I don’t have any regrets. We have these beautiful girls. While married to you, I learned how to love people. I learned how to love a person who is hideous. I learned how to love from afar. How can I regret those things? I am a kinder, more compassionate person for having endured life with you.

I know that somewhere deep down inside, you can acknowledge what you did. I want you to know that I am healing. The girls are healing. We are healing. I want you to know that I am breaking this cycle of abuse. I want you to go to sleep every night knowing that your girls are safe and protected. I think every parent deserves to know their children are safe. I want you to know that I will never again allow anyone into our lives who would cause us any harm. No one will ever abuse me again. The nightmare is over.

Survivor Anxiety

Sunday, 20 September 2020

This morning I woke up like most mornings. I woke up with a heavy heart, overwhelmed by all of the tasks I have been putting off for days, maybe even weeks. They keep piling up. It’s a never-ending cycle. When I look around at the toys, shoes, and blankets strewn across the floor, I feel like being swallowed up by a black hole. I become paralyzed as the anxiety washes over me like an angry ocean wave. It’s suffocating. Before I know it, 4 hours have gone by, but I haven’t moved. The mess gets bigger. The anxiety increases. I think to myself, “I’m so glad no one can see this.” Surely if someone saw how the chaos inside my brain has manifested itself as food stuck to the dining room table or the smelly laundry that has piled up, that person would think I’m a terrible mother.

While I finished my coffee, I decided that today would be the day I would cut the grass. So I made a video to encourage others to get off the couch as well. Then I put on some shoes and walked outside. I walked out the door, and the yard was flooded. The pipes for the pool pump came apart and dumped hundreds of gallons of water everywhere. I began to panic. The seemingly endless list of things that need to be fixed began to race through my mind. I turned around to go back to the couch. I didn’t take a step toward the door. I turned back around and began filling the pool back up with water, making sure to reclose the fence behind me. I decided to focus on the task I set out to do. I mowed the backyard.

I know people probably think, “This chick has a lot of broken things.” My husband did not fix things as they broke. He just left it. He kicked in the front door once. He did a crap job of repairing the frame. He kicked in the bedroom door but never bothered with fixing it. Every time I see the broken wood, I relive the night he kicked it in. The kitchen cabinet doors are falling off. When he left, he left not only a heartbroken, traumatized family but also a long “honey-do” list that he refused to fulfill. He would not even pay anyone else to fix the things that needed to be fixed. I’ve been doing my best to fix the things that were left undone. I’ve been doing my best to fix all of the things that keep continuing to break.

While I was mowing, I just kept thinking about the people in my life who love me. I thought of the loved ones of other domestic violence survivors. I thought about how helpless they must feel. I kept thinking about how they always say they are here for me. They are here to support me. They tell me that I’m strong and that I’ll make it through this. I appreciate their love and support and encouragement so much. I know that they really want to help in a way that will be impactful, but don’t know how to do so.

People say, “If I had the money, I would be able to help.” Sure, money is helpful. Money would help pay the bills that my job doesn’t cover. Money will not solve my problems. Money is not the life preserver that I need when I’m drowning in my life. I need your time. I need you to take my kids and dog for a walk so I can have a moment to breathe. Come fold my towels or sweep my floors. Help me fix things. Keep my kids entertained while I try to fix things and fold my own towels. You can come to my house with wine or coffee, or even have a video chat. Sometimes, I really need someone to just let me cry it out.

Often, I find that what I need most is a safe place to share my feelings. I need those who love me and care for me to allow me to unload my anxious feelings. I need to be listened to. I need my loved ones to call me on the phone anytime between 5 and 7 to check on my sanity. From 5-7 pm is our witching “hour.” This is the most difficult time of the day. The kids are hungry. I’m hungry. We are all exhausted and cranky. From 5-7 pm every single night, I am overwhelmed with crying kids, the occasional barking dog, and dinner that has to be finished.

Letters To My Husband - Number 4

Friday, 18 September 2020

Dear Husband,

I’m so angry with you! I’m angry about all the terrible things you’ve done. I’m angry about every holiday and birthday you ruined. I’m angry about every time our oldest daughter cried herself to sleep after you discarded us a day after day. I’m angry about every night our daughters fell asleep listening to the sounds of you abusing their mother. I’m angry for all the times you slapped food off our kids’ plates. I’m angry for the time you threw a shoe at me and hit our oldest daughter. I’m just so damn angry!

I’m angry that you were never who I needed you to be. I’m angry that you spent every day of our life together breaking me. I’m angry that I allowed you to tear me apart. I’m angry that you never filled my need to be loved and accepted. I’m angry that I could never do anything well enough to please you. I’m angry that I kept spinning on that hamster wheel. I’m angry. I’m so damn angry!

I’m angry because I was never enough for you. I’m angry because I kept trying even though you never once deserved my efforts. I’m angry because you never loved me. I’m angry because I loved you for way too long. I’m angry because you stole my soul; you sucked the life right out of me. I’m angry that you stripped away the very essence of who I am. I’m angry that I let you do it. I have so much anger for you!

I’m angry about every time you lied to me. I’m angry about every time you gaslighted me. I’m angry about every time you discarded your family for drugs. I’m angry about every time you accused me of having an affair. I’m angry about every time you didn’t support me. I’m angry about every time you told me I’m a piece of poop. I’m angry about every time you complained about my cooking. I’m angry about every time I spent hours in the kitchen, but you never showed up to eat with us. I’m angry!

I’m angry for every time you hit me or shoved me or threw things at me. I’m angry for every time you told me that you were not abusing me. I’m angry for every time you said I was abusing you when I dared to stand up to you. I’m angry for every time you endangered my life, as well as the lives of our unborn children by using me as a punching bag while pregnant. I’m angry for every time you used hugs to choke me or smoosh my glasses into my face. I’m angry for every time you hit me in the face with the couch pillows as hard as you could. I’m angry!

I’m angry for all the times you shamed me for staying home with the kids. I’m angry for all the times you called me a mooch. I’m angry for all the times you said I didn’t do anything for our family. I’m angry for all the times you shamed me for working. I’m angry for all the times you accused me of having sex with my boss when I got a promotion that I worked really hard for. I’m angry about all the times you accused me of having sex with my coworkers. I’m angry for all the times you told me to choose between my job and our marriage. I’m so damned angry!

I’m angry because of the countless times you touched me inappropriately in front of people. I’m angry because of the countless times you touched me inappropriately in front of our daughters. I’m angry because of the countless times I asked you to stop, but you did not. I’m angry because of the countless times you coerced me into giving you oral sex. I’m angry because of the countless times you pressured me into having sex with you when I did not want to. I’m just angry with you!

I’m angry that I have to start my life over again. I’m angry that I have PTSD from the past 7 years of abuse that I endured at your hands. I’m angry that one of our daughters has to go to therapy. I’m angry that our daughters are angry. I’m angry that when someone unexpectedly knocks on the door or I hear a man yelling, I have a panic attack. I’m angry that some days I’m am paralyzed by fear, convinced that you are coming for me. I’m so angry with you!

I’m angry about the restraining order I had to get to protect myself from you. I’m angry about needing to be protected from my husband.  I’m angry about all the times you have violated the restraining order. I’m angry about you not being held accountable for terrorizing, harassing, and stalking me. I’m angry about all the times you solicited my neighbors to spy on me. I’m angry about seeing you drive by while I was walking the girls down our street. I’m angry about the day you were sitting at the end of my street. I’m angry about the day your phone connected to my car’s Bluetooth. I’m angry about you getting away with it. So much anger is inside me!

I’m angry about all the times you have promised to be a changed man. I’m angry about all the times you said you will get help. I’m angry for all the times you have begged for me to let you come home. I’m angry that I am doing the one thing I said I would never do; divorce. I’m angry that after I filed for divorce, you made it difficult to be served. I’m angry that you have used our attornies to harass me. I’m angry that you spent the last 6 months standing up our daughters for your weekly virtual visits. I’m angry that they are happy with you and think you are a great daddy. I’m so damn angry!

I’m angry with you for not helping me out with these kids. I’m angry with you for all the times I have to ask my friends and family to send me some money. I’m angry with you for thinking that the girls are not your responsibility anymore. I’m angry with you for trying to take a home away from your children. I’m angry with you for intentionally withholding money to punish me for leaving you. I’m angry with you for asserting your control over my life however you can. I’m so angry!

Letters To My Husband - Number 3

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Dear Husband,

I found this today. I wrote this paragraph on March 17, 2017. This paragraph was a draft of my first ever blog post. Remember my blog about loving you through your addiction?

“Yesterday was the anniversary of our first "date."  I've spent a lot of time reflecting over the past 4 years since that wonderful night when I accepted his invitation to drink beer at a bonfire.  I really haven't come up with anything sappy or warm and fuzzy.  

This morning I woke up still a little hurt and angry about the hurt from last night caused by his addiction.  The baby stirred at 5:51 am, but stayed asleep after I put the pacifier back in her mouth.  As usual, I decided to stay awake to clean up from last night before the husband and toddler crawled out of bed.  I pumped milk for the baby, put some laundry in the washer, and started a pot of coffee.  After all that, I looked at the dirty dishes all over the counter and grease-covered stove. Trying not to fall on the grease-covered floor, I began the daunting task of cleaning the mess made when my husband made dinner last night.”

Coronavirus murders': Media narrative about domestic abuse during lockdown  misses the point

Fast forward to September 10, 2020. In 2020, I don’t remember what happened on the night of the anniversary of our first date. Since I can’t remember, I did what every logical millennial would do. I went to my Facebook Timeline, where I found this gem.

I know, this post seems innocent enough. Of all the posts I shared surrounding the time I wrote the above passage, this is the one that I choose to shed some light on. I no longer wonder why you didn’t get sick with the rest of our family. The answer is so simple and obvious. It’s so simple that I must have known back then but chose to ignore it. Or maybe you gaslighted me into a distorted version of reality. You were really good at that.

You didn’t catch our illnesses because you were rarely home. You came home long enough to change your clothes sometimes. Sometimes, you would eat dinner with us before leaving. Those were the days when it hurt the most. You know, the days you didn’t return from a 6:30 pm “post-dinner-before-putting-the-kids-to-bed” trip to the store that kept you until 11 pm, 12 am, and sometimes 6 am the following day. Do you remember those days? In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a photo of the March 2017 calendar.

All of those red boxes were the nights you ditched us and discarded us like old shoes. Some of those nights, you didn’t even bother to come home until it was time to get ready for work the next day. Since coming across this photo, I’ve decided that the red block has something to do with why I woke up hurt by you the day after the anniversary of our first date. I don’t think you’ll ever understand the hurt caused by your abandonment and abuse. I started a blog that day. I made my first post. I was so dedicated to hiding your abuse that I didn’t share what I WANTED to write on 3/17/17. If I’m completely honest, I was also afraid of your reaction if you ever read it. You were really good at intimidating me. So I left it in my Google Docs and forgot about it until 2020.

Every red box on that calendar represents a night I had to tell our then 3-year-old, that I didn’t know where her daddy was. Every red box is a night our daughter and I prayed together that daddy would make it home safely. Every red box is a night our daughter cried herself to sleep. Every red box represents a night your devoted wife cried and prayed and pleaded with God to take away your addiction.

Every night you abandoned us, I would replay the events and conversations (if there were any) of the day, and try to determine what I could have said or done differently so you would just come home after work. I didn’t know at the time but I was never going to be “good enough” to keep you home. There was nothing I could do to change YOUR behavior.

I often scoured Pinterest for ideas to get you interested in me; in our family. I even made sexy board games and invited you to a naked movie night once. Do you remember that? You discarded the invitation and then didn’t show up. Mind you, it was taking place at home, in our bedroom. My feelings were so hurt. I’ll never forget how I felt waiting for you to walk through the door that night. Even though I was crushed and hurt, I still didn’t give up. I kept searching for ways to please you and make you happy. I just wanted you to love me.

I’ve always wondered how you could treat me so horribly. I mean, you said you loved me. I never really felt loved though. I remember our 3rd wedding anniversary. You left early in the morning to go to the store but didn’t make it home until right before going to dinner. What I remember most from that day is the feeling of abandonment and not being important. I still don’t know what you were doing. I assume drugs and drinking with your brother as usual. When you got home, you gave me a gold wedding band with tiny diamonds in it. You gaslighted me and somehow made me feel like I had done something wrong. I should have been grateful because you were out buying me that ring.

I should have left then because it was blatantly obvious that you did not care about me, my likes, or my desires. I was 4 weeks away from delivering our second child. I don’t like gold jewelry, or gold anything actually. I detest diamonds. Every time I look at a diamond, I picture a woman being raped and children being murdered. We have had many conversations throughout the years about diamonds. You know how I feel about them and why.

I now know that what’s wrong with you is so much deeper than alcohol and drug addiction. I don’t think drugs and alcohol are the issues. I think your addiction is a symptom of your actual disease. I wish with every fiber of my being that I had left you on March 17, 2017, instead of starting a blog about loving you and praying for you through your addiction. I didn’t know then that my efforts were futile, and your behavior and treatment of me would only get worse.

Trusting Him

Monday, 6 July 2020

When I first left my husband and began this journey of freedom and healing, God told me this is the season to trust in Him. He will meet all my needs. Let me tell you, that God is so faithful that He has met all my needs! This journey has not been at all easy like I thought it would be. I was so excited when God said to trust Him, and everything would be ok. For some reason, I thought His promise meant I would just skip off into the sunset without a care in the world. Boy, was I SO wrong!

I often get overwhelmed with panic and anxiety about my husband. He's so unpredictable. He's done some things that really have me just fearing for my safety. Currently, his visits are virtual because of the coronavirus. Every visit with him virtually in my dining room leaves me afraid. The sound of his voice brings back so many traumatic memories. I hear my kids telling him details of my life, of their life. It gets overwhelming. I often get depressed for the rest of the day. 

For the entirety of their lives, I've had a rule about secrets. We don't keep secrets in our family. I implemented this rule because my husband always had sketchy characters around, and I worried they would do something they shouldn’t and ask my children to keep it a secret. I worried their dad would take them somewhere he shouldn’t and ask them to keep it a secret from mommy. Now that our family has lost a member, and is different, I find myself wanting to keep secrets. I try to explain to the girls that I don't want them telling Daddy everything I do and say. I recognize this is a slippery slope, so I have requested that the kids don’t talk about me with their dad. He doesn't need to know who I talk to. He doesn't need to know anything more than he can find on my blog. Quite frankly, I don't feel safe with him knowing anything more.

Yesterday was a visit with their dad. They began to tell their dad about a friend I have. This friend is a man. Through this friend, I'm learning how healthy, whole men interact with women. I'm learning that the problem wasn't me, it was my husband. I mean, I knew that the abuse wasn't my fault, but confirmation that I am a good mom, friend, and human being is really nice. He's the broken one. After the girls told their dad about my friend, I called this friend to tell him I don't feel safe being friends with a man. I'm afraid my husband will retaliate and come after me. He told me I’ve done nothing wrong. He told me to do whatever I need to do to feel safe. The safety of myself and my kids are what is most important.

After he suggested I figure out a way to stop allowing my husband to control my life, I asked if we could read Psalm 91 together. Of course, we did. I read Psalm 91 and got pretty choked up as I was reading. When I was finished, my friend asked me if I believe what I had just read. Well, of course, I believe it. I go to this passage of scripture often. I have it written on my bedroom mirror so I can’t forget it. Next, he asked me if I trust what I had just read. He asked if I trust in Him.

I almost cried as I said that I did. The truth is though, that I did not trust what I was reading. If I did, I would not have been a mess in my bed, hiding under the covers. The realization shook me. Since that conversation, I have really been thinking and praying about trusting Him. The truth is that if I did trust God to fulfill the promises in Psalm 91, I would not be afraid of my husband coming to get me because my children tell him I have a male friend. I would not think that having a friend of the opposite sex is something I am doing wrong and need to hide from anyone. Those thoughts are a product of the years of narcissistic abuse and irrational jealousy. 

I was never allowed to have male friends. A few years ago, I was at my parents’ house for a visit. My husband had stayed home for whatever reason. My big brother, who I had not seen in YEARS was there! I snapped a selfie of course and excitedly sent it to my husband. His response was not exciting or happy. His response was jealous and terrible. My husband was jealous of my brother. He actually thought I would meet up with another man and then send him a photo of it. I don’t even know that he believed the man in the photo was really my brother until they met at a later time. When I saw my other big brother for the first time in years, the selfie I sent my husband with a disclaimer that the man in the photo was my brother. 

I’ve learned that trusting God means I am free, like, really free! I am free to live my life as I see fit. I will not choose my friends based on how my soon-to-be-ex-husband will react to those friendships. His reactions and inability to see the reality that is the end of our marriage are his problem, and his problem alone. I no longer have to choose how I live my life based on how he will feel about my choices. It means that I will be safe no matter what part of my life my children share with their dad. God has promised to keep me safe, and He is faithful to keep his promises.

This morning, I was lead to another Psalm of protection to pray over my life. It’s Psalm 37. Over and over again, God says to trust Him, and everything will be ok. Trust Him, and my enemies will be destroyed. Trust Him, and I will be safe. Trust Him, and I will have the desires of my heart.

Letters To My Husband - Number 2

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Dear Husband,

If you’ve read my last letter to you already, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing these things about you. I’m writing so I can heal. I’m writing so other women and men can know they don’t have to suffer in silence and hide the shame of their abusers. You see, the shame carried around by the abused isn’t our shame to carry; it’s YOUR shame. We are so kind that we hide it for you. I’m not hiding it anymore. I kept your abuse hidden from the world for far too long.

I know that you read all of my blogs and probably read every Facebook post and watch every video that I make. I know you’re following me on social media because the same mutual “friend” who gave you the ammunition to stalk and harass my neighbors, friends, and family told me so. She said that you now know what you did wrong. You told her that I love Jesus, and can’t live with alcoholism. While those things are true, not loving Jesus and being an addict isn’t necessarily what you did “wrong.” 

The wrong that you did is so much deeper than that. During a recent therapy session, I sent my therapist the most recent video I made describing only a few violent episodes. I provided little detail of the beatings. I watched him cry and wipe the tears from his face. My therapist is a grown man who I think has great strength. Just learning of a tiny bit of your abuse brought him to tears. After my therapy session ended, I called up a friend to ask him if he also cried after watching that video. He did. It was in that moment that I began to realize how terrible your actions were. Your abuse makes grown men cry; real men cry when they learn the ways you tortured me.

All those years you blamed me for the abuse that you, and you alone dished out. You told me you yelled at me and called me names because I made you angry. You had me believing for years that I controlled your emotions and behaviors. If only I could figure out how to keep you from being angry, you would be nice to me. If I could somehow make you happy, maybe you would stop calling me names and putting me down in front of our beautiful daughters. Every time you insulted me in front of them, I loved you a little less. I remember thinking that I never want a man to treat them the way you treat me, and I had to fix it. Do you remember when I asked you how you think you will feel when your daughters come to you broken, telling you their husbands or boyfriends have been abusing them? To this day, I’m still awaiting a response to this question.

I remember the turning point for me. I remember the day I started to realize you don’t actually love your family. Sierra was an infant; she was still nursing. I kept the breast pump supplies and bottles in some plastic drawers in the kitchen. You had been out all night the night before drinking and doing drugs like you did most nights back then. I got up in the morning to feed our baby and pump milk for her. What I discovered when I opened up the drawers to get my pumping supplies horrified me. You had urinated in the drawers.

I felt humiliated. I was heartbroken. I was disgusted. I felt angry. I felt as though you did not love our new baby. If you loved her, why would you urinate in her feeding supplies? I couldn’t understand why you disliked her so much. This wasn’t the first time something like that had happened. There was another night a few weeks after she was born that you urinated in the laundry basket that housed all of her clean, folded clothes. To make it even worse, when I confronted you about it, you yelled at me. How dare I accuse you of such a thing. You lied and said you didn’t do it. You were so convincing, but there wasn’t another option. This was the first time I began to recognize your gaslighting, though I didn’t know it was called gaslighting at the time.

You are a master gaslighter. You have mastered manipulation, and it’s so scary. You always told me you weren’t abusing me. You would even have me believing that I was the abuser, and you were the victim. I know now that was just part of the abuse. You needed to make me feel like I was the crazy one. You needed me to keep your abuse a secret, so you ensured that I would feel as though I would be the one in trouble if I ever told anyone. On the occasions that I did find the courage to speak out, you would turn it all around and convince the person I had told that I was the one abusing you. I eventually stopped trying to tell anyone and resigned to suffering in silence.

I’ve heard that you’re sober. I’m so glad to know that you’re sober now. I’m glad because I now know for certain that your issues are much deeper than your addiction. There is something deep inside you that is broken. I don’t know if you can ever be fixed. I am certainly not going to stick around to find out. I no longer hold onto the hope that you will be sober and we will have a happy, healthy life together. I know that isn’t possible with you. I also know that saying this puts me in danger of retaliation. It must be said. 

God has promised to keep me safe from you, and I stand firm on that promise. He took me out of the danger that was our marriage. He kept me alive during our marriage, and He will continue to keep me safe and to provide all my needs. My life verse, Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a hope and a future.”

Letters To My Husband

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Dear husband,

There are some things I would like to say to you. It’s taken me years to find the courage, strength, and the words to say the things I'm about to say. Honestly, your absence from my life is how I’ve been able to heal enough to write you this letter and the letters to follow. Our life together has been filled with heartache and pain. The rest of the world knows our life to be full of happiness and love. I, however, know the truth of what our life actually was.

I've never felt safe enough to share with you my feelings about the way you've treated me since the beginning. Even if I did, you would not have recognized my feelings as valid anyway. You still may not. The first time you hurt me was only a month after we met. Do you remember that night? It started out so magical and fun. We went to One Spark. I was so happy and proud to have you by my side. We had so much fun together. We had the cool makeup in the basement of that bar. Remember that? In case you forgot, here's a photo.

When we had the makeup put on, I had no idea it was foreshadowing what would happen later that night. We were pretty drunk, so most of the night is a blur. One minute we were passionate and having the time of our lives. Then all of a sudden, you became a monster. You choked me and hit me. You threw your own tv off of the desk, breaking it. You ripped my clothes and bra off. Ripping them off of my body was not done in the heat of an intimate moment, but more like a rabid dog eating a rotting carcass. The makeup that was applied to your face somehow got entangled into my hair. 

When we woke up the next morning, we walked into the house, and Dawna asked what happened. I looked in the mirror, and I looked like I had been hit by a Mack truck. I had your handprints around my neck. My arms, face, breasts, and torso were all bruised up. My favorite shirt and bra were ripped to shreds. I WAS IN PAIN. You had defensive wounds and scratches from me trying to fight you off of me. I still don't know why you were so angry to behave so savagely.

We decided that morning to never speak of the night before again. After all, we were both drunk and neither of us could accurately remember what happened. Since we couldn't remember all the horrific details, we would just forget it ever happened. We never did speak of it again. I, however, never did forget. I will never forget the terror I felt or the pain of my wounds. I'll never forget applying layers of makeup to cover up the bruises for the job interview I had a few days later. I'll never forget the shame I felt.

You see, after someone savagely beats you like an animal, you think everyone you encounter can see how broken and damaged you are. No matter how much makeup you put on, no matter how long your sleeves are, you feel as though people are staring right into the face of your shame. You can hear them asking what you did to deserve such a beating. The reality is that they couldn’t see and they were not judging me. I did a great job covering up your bruises. I wanted to keep my shame a secret. 

When I posted the above photo on Facebook, people were concerned because the makeup artist did such a great job. It looks so real! It is insane that he captured almost what I really looked like the next morning after the makeup was washed away. Do you remember what you commented on that photo? Let’s take a look at some of the comments that were left on that photo.

Do you see what you did there? You had fun that night. While I can admit that most of the night was fun, the monstrous hell that came at the end ruined all the fun. I was left with shame and regret. You didn’t even recognize what you had done to me. You had no idea you had stripped away a gigantic chunk of my soul. You just forgot it ever happened and expected me to do the same. Because I would have otherwise been homeless, I did what you asked. 

If I’m completely honest with myself, and I think I am, I can admit that part of the shame is knowing that all the signs were there before that first night of physical abuse. The warning signs of the monster that you are were evident from the very beginning. Remember, just a couple weeks after we started dating when my landlord broke into my apartment with a group of people and threatened to beat me up? You may not remember it. I'll never forget. I called you scared. I asked you to come to help me. I didn't know what that help would look like, but I thought for sure this man who claims to like me so much would come to my rescue. Boy was I wrong. You yelled at me to call the police and figure it out on my own. That should have been the last conversation you and I ever had. 

The day after I had barricaded myself inside my busted up apartment, I made this post:

I didn't recognize it as the red flag that it was. It's clear to me now that my friend Christa recognized the red flags I could not. That must be why she was the first friend you needed to be out of my life.

I was already so damaged and broken over other tragic things that were happening in my life that I couldn't recognize the red flags. I was so conditioned to be abused by my own parents that I thought the way you treated me was normal and loving. After all, you told me you loved me right? You see, I had been abused by my parents and other men, lost a child, and had been abandoned by my family and friends. I was hurt and alone and very vulnerable. I was trying to figure out life after losing most of what I had ever known. I was easy prey for a monster such as yourself. Furthermore, I had no idea what the red flags of abuse were.

At the time, I didn’t know that love is not jealous and mean. Love does not intimidate or insult. Love does not cause scars. Love does not hurt. I know these things now. I now stand firm on 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. God says, "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged."