BETHESDA, Maryland, October 2, 2014 — Amber* is a scientist and beekeeper who lives, works and raises her family in the United States.
Before the relationship, I was an independent thinker with strong opinions that I didn’t necessarily share. Everyone has an opinion, and they are entitled to it. I don’t need to argue my point to sway opinions. I had a diverse set of friends with differing opinions from mine as well.
During the relationship, my beliefs were challenged. My political and religious beliefs were thrown at me to shame me. I was told certain people were not my “real” friends, his family didn’t like me, I was a bitch, a cunt and a whore. I gave a lot of leeway to him, because his father left him. I felt he was damaged and felt unloved and lashed out because of it.
Eventually, I was frightened of him.
We had an incident early in our relationship where he choked me to the point of unconsciousness. I wrote it off as him drinking. He quit, so I let him back in.
After a particularly nasty fight, I started having heart palpitations and dizziness. This went on for months, so I went to a cardiologist who found nothing wrong with me. I self-diagnosed a PTSD type of reaction, and realized I was terrified of my husband.
I left after a threat of violence. I was depressed and felt alone. No one understood why I felt the way I did considering all I said he did. Overall, I knew who I was before him. I always kept my anger in check knowing he would use any little thing against me. He did it with minor comments, so why not with a sudden burst of anger? I was also too afraid to fight back. I hid the knives during fights.
We had similar father experiences with alcoholic dads. We sat down and talked about our likes and dislikes. Everything matched perfectly. We enjoyed the same hobbies and interests. He said he saw me at a store once and wanted to talk to me since we knew each other from a prior job and said he always thought about me. He brought up different stories that made me believe he admired me from afar. He said he wanted to talk to me when he saw me crying at that old job (due to my then husband and our arguments).
Our mothers had the same profession. My prior profession was his sister’s current. We made a wishlist of what we wanted in a home, and low and behold, it was exactly the same. We had so much in common, we had to be soul mates.
I received constant texts from him declaring love and missing me and wanting me. He sent me a zodiac reading of our compatibility. He called my home and made rude comments to my then husband, which I strangely found complimentary.
Flowers from him were delivered at work constantly. If I complained about my then husband he said, “I would never do that!”
I married him because he wouldn’t believe I really loved him unless I did. I gave in to his demands, I started agreeing with him on things that had little importance to me. I avoided arguments at all costs by patronizing him. I begged for counseling, and he wouldn’t go. I went alone since he believed I was the one with the problems and immediately I was worse because of the counseling. Nothing helped the relationship. As mentioned earlier, I was a cunt, a liar, a whore, a cheater, a bad mother, naive, a democrat (God forbid!), a New Yorker, cheap and not as smart as him.
He tried to convince me not to have lunch with prior colleagues, because according to him, they were not my friends. He would not travel out of state with me to see my family. In my mind, he was trying to get me to stay home. He tried to bust up my 30-year friendship by telling me my friend “wanted” him. He said I couldn’t trust her. He also accused me of being attracted to her husband. Luckily, I was strong enough to fight his efforts. However, no one really wanted to hang out with us as a couple, so visits were severely diminished.
I wouldn’t say I contemplated killing him, but I did envision bashing his head in to a bloody pulp with a baseball bat. I am not a violent person, so this is a pretty disturbing vision to me, especially since I felt quite a bit of gratification. I often wished he would die.
I did take to running more, and I would definitely have a drink or two in the evening to fuzz out his moods. His moods changed the air in the house.
My biggest challenge in the end was getting over him. I really did love him and was not planning on leaving when I did. I felt I was in danger and needed to protect myself and my children.
The next biggest challenge was going no contact. I was so used to the drama, I expected it and looked for it. Once it ended and I got passed the feeling of needing it, things got much easier.
Finally, finances have been a challenge due to the state of our divorce. This too shall pass.
To help myself, I sought a lot of information online. A turning point was Christy Brinkley’s interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show. I hooked up with a blogger, became an admin on her abuse page, met a lot of women going through the same thing and felt less alone.
Simultaneously, I went to individual counseling which was a tremendous help in validating my feelings and thoughts. I have made some great friends who understand and have gone through similar situations, and I have discovered great strength and loyalty within my own family. This alone helped me realize my family is not toxic, but there are many out there that are. I thank my lucky stars daily for all I have gained through this experience.
My best advice to others going through this is don’t doubt yourself. If it feels wrong, it is wrong. Have confidence in yourself and stop making excuses. I swore I had to save money for a year in order to leave. Once threatened with violence, I had no choice. Guess what? I had enough money to make it work. Make a plan, gather your important papers, file an order of protection if you need to and never go back.
A healthy support system is essential to getting out and staying out. All you need is one person who will stand beside you. I am really grateful for all the women I have met, and I am eternally grateful to my mother for instilling in me that I can do whatever I need to do. I think we need to be mindful of the way we raise our children, impress the importance of community and stop being so secluded in our lives. Society seems to not care about the community; we all want to be stuck in our own little worlds. I think this breeds narcissism. Community is key. I highly doubt there was much narcissism in tribal communities that depended on one another to function.
I am a beekeeper, and I think this experience is why I respect bees and any herd type of animal (elephants, whales). They survive as a group, because each member is important; and while there is a matriarch (yep, I said it!) all members are essential to the group’s success.
Each day during the month of October, column author Paula Carrasquillo will feature a story written by a survivor of domestic violence. At the end of October, a compilation of all stories will be available for free as an e-book.
*All names have been changed to protect the survivor and the survivor’s family and friends.