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.