A Behind the Scenes Glimpse of How I Lost Faith in Everything that Day.
My world was unraveling. I had no idea at the time that I was involved in a destructive relationship that would change my life forever.
Domestic abuse is everywhere these days, and still we don't talk about it.
Unfortunately a very complicated mix of shame, fear and embarrassment keep most of us imprisoned in silence.
My journey through those unhappy years took the form of a memoir and has been published, but my initial intent was a healing journal, and for my eyes only.
My original plan was to burn the pages I wrote; to dispose of the memories from my heart and soul ~ ashes to ashes.
What I found however, as I recovered and worked diligently towards strengthening my self esteem, was that the main reason I fell prey to my abuser and remained there, was my silence.
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Yes, I was young and naive, but even after I found my way to safety I kept mostly silent about my unfortunate 10 years of abuse.
In fact 30+ years later I'm still reluctant to have a conversation about the things I endured. I also know that I'm not alone in this. I can count 7 people in my personal circle that have suffered worse things, and still won't talk about it.
It is for this reason alone that I decided to put my story on paper and make it available to the public.
Not to harm anyone in my story, but to end my silence.
My hope is that others will follow suit...and end theirs as well.
I've included a partial, unedited version of a chapter in my memoir that depicts a time when I internalized my deep hurt, forged forward and spoke to no one about my misfortune.
Unknowingly, I was also struggling with my fight or flight response...
It was a bad time in my life, but I was afraid to make any changes. I felt hollow inside, alone and extremely unhappy.
Somehow, I had learned that I was unworthy of more...
I was nothing more than an empty shell who stayed busy, worked hard, and refused to allow anyone to get too close.
My facade was perfected, you would never know that the happy go lucky girl I presented to the world, was as fake as the smile on her face.
At the time I blasted the song "Chrome Plated Heart" by Melissa Etheridge on my car radio every chance I got and I knew all the lyrics - because I could totally relate to them.
Maybe you can relate to all this as well, or maybe there is someone in your life that needs to read this...either way, here it is;
Chad was enjoying the proximity to all the sports fields in the new subdivision. He was leaving early for his games to catch up with his buddies quite often. I found myself watching him play more times than I wanted to, but it kept the peace... so I went.
On one of the rare occasions that I didn't go with him, I decided to go for a bike ride to get some exercise myself. It was a beautiful evening in late August. The sky was incredibly blue, not a cloud to be found, and the air was fresh and fragrant.
Pedaling around aimlessly for a while, deep in thought, I was aware of how precious these moments were. Being able to drink in the peacefulness of my surroundings, was rare and far between.
Enjoying them, more than I cared to admit, realization crept in again about how few things I did for myself, just because they brought me joy.
More thoughts crept in about becoming a professional athlete and pursuing the Olympics, even joining the military, or maybe one day managing the company I worked for.
And then of course the big one, always wondering if I would ever decide to have kids. I certainly knew that unless things changed radically for me one day, there was no way I could, in good conscious.
It wasn't long before I heard a loud sound in my head...
Like a DJ scratching the needle on a turntable across a vinyl record.
Stop the music...
Well, stop the day dreaming anyway, it was too painful, back to reality girl. As I rode around the neighborhood for a while longer, guilt continued to seep in about taking time for myself, so I decided to stop by the ball field and see what inning they were playing.
The introvert in me hated to be around at the end of the game, when the tailgate party started, so I wouldn't stay long. It would please him however, and perhaps make for a better evening, if I stopped by to watch, even if it was just half an hour.
With the weather being so exquisite lately I guess everyone else had the same idea. The bleachers were filled with noisy, excited fans.
Locking up my bike up, I found a spot in the bleachers and sat down quickly so as not to get in the way of a play.
It wasn't an ideal seat for watching the game, but it would ensure that he would see me there - not that he would acknowledge me.
The game was close because the two best teams were playing each other, and the park was definitely chaotic - supercharged with excitement.
Luckily I wasn't there long when a big group of kids sitting behind me got up and left together, so I was able to move up and get a better view.
Unfortunately, it wasn't a better seat at all. What it did, was put me within hearing range of a conversation I still wish I'd never heard.
There were four guys, obviously close friends (judging by the way they were kidding around), talking loudly and laughing amongst each other. A couple of them looked familiar, but I didn't know them.
What caught my attention, other than how rowdy they were, was their graphic discussion between plays about a bachelor party they had recently attended.
Some of the names I heard were familiar...and it made me wonder if it could be the same party Chad had been to? The one for his buddy he went to college with.
No...too much of a coincidence, I thought. Trying not to listen, I couldn't help notice the details were falling into place as they compared one strip joint to the next.
Laughing about one crazy guy who had nearly been kicked out because he tried to grab one of the dancers.
I'd heard many sorted stories about the strip clubs Chad frequented, but all of the similar details, that they so eloquently described, convinced me it was the same party.
The next few comments came like crushing blows that would play havoc with the tiny bit of self esteem that I still clung to.
Holding my hands up to my chest feeling dizzy, I willed myself to breathe, trying to absorb their words.
They were discussing the highlight of the night...when they all went back to the grooms place because they had a special treat for him.
Hiring a prostitute to give him a private dance, and as a result of the heavy drinking that night, they also suggested one last fling before he got married.
After all, they'd chipped in and paid for the girl. When the groom refused to have sex with her some of them decided they'd get their money's worth anyway...
And guess who was first in line?
Now I was completely tuned in to their graphic descriptions. Apparently he hadn't even bothered to take her to another room.
Chad screwed her right there for all to see, across a dining room table! Pulling off the few bits of clothing she still had on and tossing them to the other guys.
Obviously, they were in awe of him, and apparently a few of them had even joined in on the fun.
There was more noble conversation about the 'guy code' of silence, and how it kept their existing relationships safe.
It's one thing to find out about a cheating spouse, quite another to get all the precise, unaltered details of how it went down, especially filtered through laughter and heroism.
Dazed and overwhelmed from all that I'd heard, I unconsciously turned my head to look at them...not realizing that hot tears were streaming down my pathetic face.
One of the 'familiar looking ones' caught my stare. He hit the guy doing most of the talking on the shoulder with the back of his hand.
Then he nodded towards me. I spun around quickly, hoping I'd misunderstood his gestures, but I could hear them talking in hushed tones now....
"Who's that?"....."not sure, but she looks familiar."
"Oh crap, I think that's Chad's wife!"
Before I knew what was happening, I was tripping my way out of the bleachers.
Blinded by tears, my foot caught the edge of the railing, taking a nose dive in the gravel. It landed me on my hands and knees in front of the whole crowd.
I vaguely remember people jumping down around me, reaching out to help, and asking if I was ok.
Ignoring it all, I pushed them aside angrily as I scrambled back to my feet. Feeling blood trickling down one shin, I chose to ignore that too, and continued the race across the parking lot to my bike.
Crying hard now....my chest felt like it had been crushed by a truck, and humiliation burned bright on my cheeks, as I fumbled with the lock.
Panic and bile rose in my throat, as I choked the words out loud...
"Come on...please... I need to get out of here!"
Finally throwing my leg over the seat, I scrambled to find the pedals. Not spending a second looking back or looking down at my leg.
I just took off for home. The warm breeze wasn't comforting anymore, but my tears eventually subsided and dried making my cheeks feel cool and tight.
Thankful for the burning sensation in my legs, I pedaled as fast as I could. It was a tremendous distraction from my frantic thoughts.
By the time I reached home I was drenched in sweat and furious like I'd never been before. Slamming my bike hastily on the driveway, I muttered under my breath about how much hatred I felt for my husband, and how I planned to kill him in his sleep.
Racing in the house, face flushed red with outrage and disbelief, I threw myself on the couch, the tears starting up again. Half expecting Chad to come rushing in after me; to be sure I was ok...
But that never happened. What I could always count on, however, was my adoring pup Sam. He came bouncing out from the back room to shower me with affection, with absolutely no clue how much I needed his unconditional love in that moment.
My husband was like a total stranger to me now.
He could be mean and hateful sometimes, even to Sam, but that day my trust for him was forever shattered, it was the proverbial nail in the coffin; in fact it dug a deep hole in me at a very young age.
One I didn't realize would haunt me for a very long time. This new information left me feeling like a fool, disrespected and very alone....abandoned even.
It shocked me to realize, that someone who loves you and should always have your back, could be that cruel and disrespectful. But mostly I didn't know what to do about it.
Ashamed and embarrassed, I learned that I was unworthy of more.
Crying jags left me gasping for air and gagging. I ran to the bathroom moments later and vomited, but it didn't settle my stomach. Sitting on the floor near the toilet hunched over my knees, with my head it my hands, I rocked back and forth like a child.
My thoughts tumbled over one another in slow motion. What was I going to do now?
I had to leave him, but I was certain he'd find me wherever I went, making my life more miserable. It was always what he threatened to do, and obviously I didn't really know him, or what he was capable of.
Surely I had to stop assuming his threats were idle.
There wasn't another way out, I had to kill him, it was the only way I'd ever be free.
My faithful Sam lay at my feet in the bathroom whimpering. Willing me to find my strength with his brown eyes boring into mine.
I'd reach out and rub his head and neck from time to time through my tears, trying to comfort him. "I'm ok Sam," I told him, "don't worry about me". He licked my hands and scooted closer on his belly in response.
Eventually, I pulled myself up off the floor. Sam followed, always my protector.
Time continued to stand still as I stared in the mirror. Wiping my swollen red eyes with a cool face cloth, leaning against the counter, I tried to steady my breathing.
Finally I took a glance at my leg, cleaned it up carefully, and placed a band aid across the worst of it.
No big deal - couldn't even feel it.
Stumbling down the hall, I had to catch the railing to the basement steps. Steadying myself again as I made my way back to the living room. My stomach still queasy, I dropped down heavily on the couch again.
I felt like I should be doing something, but couldn't figure out what it was.
Laying there, filled with emotions I didn't understand, I wondered if I should call someone?
What would I say?.... should I tell someone that my husband screwed a prostitute, or that I was having morbid thoughts about murdering him?
Should I describe the great detail I had already explored in my mind regarding his untimely death? Probably not, but it felt like I was unraveling, as horrible thoughts continued to swirl for what seemed like hours.
Knowing in my gut I could never do it anyway, I wondered if that made me strong, or stupid?
By the time I got off the couch and decided to go to bed it was after midnight. The tears had dried up and I was completely, and comfortably numb again.
Chad had left the house at 11am that day. Not a word from him, and he still wasn't home. I wondered if the guys in the stands would tell Chad or pretend it didn't happen...couldn't guess....didn't really care.
But if he did know, and hadn't even bothered to come home and check on me; what else did that say about our relationship?
My head was spinning, I wanted desperately to roll back time, and keep riding my bike... feeling the sunshine on my face.
Why did I stop by the park ?
Stupid ...stupid me, I'd rather not know all that horrible stuff.
Little did I know that the decisions I'd make from that low place, would alter my life's path forever.
It was a Thursday night, and I had to get up for work the next morning.That's what I decided to focus on instead.
Undressing slowly, folding my clothes meticulously, I lay them neatly in a pile. Again I considered packing a suitcase and leaving.
But when I thought about what would come next, about his recent promises of what would happen when he found me, I was instantly paralyzed. Fear gripped my gut and I changed my mind...again.
If I was going to do this I would have to plan it out very carefully, and in a much better state of mind.
I just needed to get some sleep.
By now Chad was surely drunk and would want to have sex when he did finally come home. Forcing himself on me tonight would surely end badly. Not that I ever looked forward to sex with him anymore anyway; if I was really being honest with myself.
It was always about him, being satisfied orally was all he ever really wanted. The rest of it was an afterthought, and pleasing me never entered his mind.
Regardless, I couldn't allow that to happen, not tonight...maybe never again. Then another terrible thought, something I hadn't yet considered.
Had he used a condom when he was with that girl? Who could even guess how many partners she'd pleasured? If he hadn't, what did that mean for me?
Blatant disregard for my health as well as his, but probably not in his thoughts, considering he was drunk and showing off. I made myself a mental note to go to the doctor and get checked out right away.
Then a final wish as I drifted off into a troubled sleep....maybe he'll crash his car on the way home and my nightmare can end.
Waking to the sound of heavy snoring, Chad was next to me on the bed. He was flat on his back, on top of the covers. Light was slipping through the curtains, and the scent of stale beer permeated the room.
He disgusts me, I thought, grimacing, feeling the hate rush up into my chest again.
Sliding off the bed slowly so as not to wake him, contradicted the great hurry I was in to put distance between us. Listening carefully as I did for any interruptions in his heavy breathing. There were none, obviously he'd passed out.
My shower was too long, but I couldn't seem to get the water hot enough to feel clean. I had to concentrate on staying calm, not to do anything rash.
'Stay focused and in control' - I chanted those words to myself, over and over under my breath as I bathed.
A quick glance in the mirror and it wasn't hard to see that I'd had a rough night. In that moment I realized there was no way I was facing him with all the news I'd heard in the bleachers. It would get denied and turned around to somehow be my fault anyway.
He was a master at doing that, and I was certainly no match for him.
I needed to get to work before he woke up ...that's all I had the strength to do.
If I was going to leave I needed to do it quietly, with lots of advanced planning. That just seemed like good common sense.
Just hurling all this new information at him, and telling him I was done, was only going to get me hurt.
I had tunnel vision, and I knew it.
Needing time to sort through this mess in my head, and to carefully consider all the consequences before making a move.
So off to work I went, looking forward to a busy day and not having time to think about my Dismal Life...
I didn't leave that day or for a long time afterwards...because on a subconscious level I had learned I was unworthy of more...
The intent for my book, is to educate and shed light on the dark, dismal and long lasting effects of abuse from someone who claims to love you.
It's published now and it's titled Silent Fright.
My ultimate hope for my readers is to give you hope, if you've ever felt shamed into silence for any reason.
To help you realize that speaking up and sharing your journey is the absolute best way to let the light back in, to heal and to move forward in your life.
To Offer Hope.
My goal in sharing all this, is to help others who have endured the same, but even more so to save one girl from being mistreated or abused at the hand of another.
You can see above that the fight or flight response is a normal physiological reaction, and I've learned that Extreme Anxiety triggers something called the “fight-flight-freeze” response.
As a young girl I didn't understand anything about having a natural survival instinct. Looking back, I certainly experienced it all that day, and I would remain 'frozen' for many years to come.
At that point in my life, unworthiness had become a core belief.
Fear, shame and embarrassment kept me quiet, and many life decisions from that very low place, would shape my future.
There is a lot more to this story, about how I got to that place, and what came after.
This is just a little snippet, a sneak peek into my book about my previous life. Those toxic years most certainly has had a profound effect on my mental health.
The whole story took many years to write, and didn't happen until some 25 years after the fact. But what happened was cathartic. The process healed me; I don't even recognize the girl on those pages anymore.
When I read them now, I no longer feel the grip of fear or shame.
I've realized how strong and resilient I am; even proud of who I've become... despite it all.
I continue to devour self help books, and through much prayer, I've accepted the fact that our stories are actually meant to be shared, and that forgiving yourself is the key.
That young girl in my book needed to know she wasn't alone, that she was in an unhealthy, destructive relationship, and it was a book she read many years ago that helped her realize all of that.
Our stories help others grasp the fact that they're not alone, that their struggles are real, and that help is out there if they seek it.
I learned that keeping quiet wasn't the answer...
Speaking up was.
We may never understand why bad things happen to us, but we do have the choice to make something good come from it all.
Over the years I have received many signs that the time has come to do my part.
To help even one person escape from their prison of silence, would be the good from my bad.
What's your story? Is it time to share?
Cheers to the Best Version of You - Liz
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