Four difficult and exhausting years later (and two more babies), I allowed my son to go live with his father. The main reason was that my heart could no longer bear seeing his little spirit diminish by belittling, degrading words and destructive arguments. I had long conversations with my mother because I did not want to live each day without my son, but the grueling and harrowing heartbreak I could no longer handle. As I tried to make it a positive transition, it was the single hardest, most painful thing I have ever had to do. I knew he would be safe and thrive and I would visit him as much as I could, but it was something I never dreamed I would have to give up.
After a few more years, I began experiencing depression and immense pain. With my son gone, the scornful criticism turned to my other children and they too began feeling the effects of the violate environment. It was extremely exhausting trying to be the sole provider with a full time job while also taking part time jobs at night, going to school part time, and hiding both the abuse and my emotions. As I look back, I was in a sort of survival mindset. My faith in God’s help remained my constant. I just kept praying that God could somehow use me although I doubted that He would consider this prayer since I couldn’t really even help myself. Nonetheless, I clung to His hope.
One day I had taken all that I could and wanted a better life, I chose to make the abuser leave the house while the kids and I stayed. It was a long struggle because he had barricaded himself within the house. Neighbors didn’t even know I was married. It was at the point he would not even allow his own family to come to the house. After a huge, dramatic event, he took my son and left. My son was later returned by my wonderful mother. The kids and I danced around the house as that was something forbidden before. We celebrated! Later that night, I was speaking with my sister-in-law who informed me that we had been abused for years. I never thought of it as abuse. I thought of it as just a hard life but I never thought I had been abused. That would mean I was a victim and I didn’t want to be that!
Now after 6+ years of counseling for the abuse (for me and my kids) and reading numerous books on recognizing and overcoming abuse, narcissism, seeing manipulation for what it is, gaslighting, healing from the past, etc I can view all the abuse and name it- in hindsight. But, when I was living it, I was in survival mode and only thinking about get through that day.
Some of the things I experienced were extreme controlled environment, belittlement, gaslighting, sexual violations & harassment, silent treatment, humiliation, extreme domination & criticizing, emotional distancing, isolation, lots of subtle threats of abandonment, withholding attention, constant turmoil, accusations of affairs, made fun of in front of others, malevolent abuse, etc.
This journey has continued on a beautiful path of Life. I can see now how God has been there for me- especially in the rough, hard times. Through the emotional insecurities of becoming a single mother with a full time career, completing an adoption two sweet kids from Africa, and grieving for the life I had just lost, I was a wreck. Further I was extremely hurt by the ex-husband’s family disowning me when I had been so close to them and the confusion that it gave both to me and my children, making us feel that somehow we were thrown away was laying heavy on my heart. God provided neighbors, friends, churches in our path to love, care, and support us on this path
When I was 19 years old, I was a single mother to an adorable little one year old boy. He was my life and joy. Working full time and caring for him was a lot of work but well worth the effort. I met a man who said all the right things to me and had a decent job. I envisioned a good life. Less than 6 months after I married him, things began changing. I felt unsure of the future after being informed that he quit his job in pursuit of his dream job as a cartoon artist. The man I married was rapidly developing in a negative way. The personality quickly changed to a “Jekyll and Hyde”. The quiet authority that was thought to be humility was a cover for the unpredictable aggression, anger, and rage because of the smallest mistake. Control was bestowed, outbursts of rage were abounding, and everything was my fault all at once. Instability was promised and unstableness became the norm as did helplessly hiding in a corner. It was confusing and heartbreaking. The most heartbreaking was watching my son endure harsh belittling and scorned in a derogatory manner. When I would stand up against the actions, things would be thrown at me or walls punched quite close to my face. Anger never looked so scary before.
“The Healing Path”
As I sit here writing this, I am looking out at my beautiful park-like yard, covered with a gleaming white snow. I have never until now, known such a peaceful heart. It has taken a decade of heartache and pain, and many years after of hard work and reliving the trauma to get to this peaceful place. Healing is a very vulnerable, complicated, emotional path. Nevertheless, it is well worth the work in order to heal.
After the divorce, I remember telling my counselor that I would never get married again because I never wanted another man. (I also told this to my now-husband before we ever went on a date!) After attending counseling sessions twice a week for a long time, God began healing me. He put a Godly man in my life- one that I met while getting a tattoo from him. He was my spiritual counselor and would have Bible studies with me to keep me on the right path. He became a safe man and one that God clearly used to heal my heart towards men. God also sent me another Godly man who was my physical/massage therapist. This man not only showed me a safe touch but would talk so highly of his wife. God was opening up the idea that not all men were what I experienced. With lots of counseling and many supporting people, I began working through the trauma.
After a move to Virginia, I came into contact with an amazing counselor who began EMRD (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). I was astounded at the progress my counselor and I made with the therapy. The counselor was also able to introduce many practical tools to equip me for road ahead. My children were also able to benefit from counseling therapy and have healed and thrived with the tools they have learned. This makes me a firm believer in counseling and therapy (for everyone!).
Some of the wonderful books that assisted me in my journey are (in no certain order):
A Woman’s Path to Emotional Freedom by Julie Clinton
The Wizard of Oz & other Narcissists by Eleanor Payson, M.S.W.
The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing by Beverly Engel, M.F.C.C.
Leaving Yesterday Behind: A Victim No More by William Hines
The Emotionally Abused Woman: Overcoming Destructive Patters and Reclaiming Yourself by Beverly Engel, M.F.C.C.
Get on the Peace Train: A Journey from Anger to Harmony by Lynn D. Johnson, PH.D.
It’s My Life Now: Starting Over After an Abusive Relationship or Domestic Violence by Meg Kennedy Dugan & Roger R. Hock
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
The Myth of Self-Esteem: 50 ways to stop sabotaging yourself by Terry Diebold, M.A., M.Div.
Breaking Free by Beth Moore
Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst
Just Give Me Jesus by Anne Graham Lots
Abuse thrives only in silence. We victims need you to understand the secrets of this abuse and recognize it, talk about it, and empower us. You have the power to help simply by shining the spotlight on it.
Leslie Morgan-Steiner, TED talk
“How ‘A Stepping Stone’ Came to be”
As I healed from the traumas of my prior life experience, I had rejected my now-husband many times over. He was my neighbor, stopping by to “fix” anything he could find broken in my house. He asked me to go with him to his company’s party. I said we could as friends. After that, he went to counseling with me many times. I was starting to like him but didn’t want to make a mistake again. We moved to Virginia for my job promotion, and proceeded to get married. The kids loved him.
We went back home to visit a friend. She was not in good shape as her domestic abuse turned into a broken door frame, broken locks, doors ripped off hinges, and a trip to the emergency room. Unaware, we pulled up and found out what happened. My husband said he was running to the hardware store to repair the physical damage done to the house. I sat with my friend, empathizing what she was going through. We talked about her fears, her pain, and what she wanted moving forward. As my husband and I left her home, I made the statement “Wouldn’t this be a great and much needed ministry!! You can fix the homes while I sit with the woman.” We prayed.
I continued to feel God leading me down this ministry but I pleaded with God that there was absolutely no way I could do this and work my (more than full time) job. But, my desire was the same as always—“Here I am Lord, Send Me!”.
One day in April, I sincerely told God that I felt His leading but I could not just quit my job for so many reasons (I was independent and quitting would mean I would have to rely on my husband which scared the heck out of me; I worked hard to be a woman in that management position, I liked my job and my salary, etc). I couldn’t “jump off that cliff” but…. If God pushed me, I would do it! 2 WEEKS later, I was told in a corporate meeting that my program was being sold!
After much prayer and support from my husband, kids, and family, I rejected a wonderful job offer with the new company and started researching non-profits. Being a businesswoman, I love the administrative side of business but corporate work and healthcare was different that nonprofits.
After months of research, I began feeling overwhelmed. I asked God to really give me a sign that I was on the right path. The NEXT DAY, my wonderful Pastor’s sermon was about what the church could do to help others and anyone with a new ministry idea was to come talk to him. It was as if he was talking directly to me! I met with him that week and here we are!
I don’t have all the answers and don’t always feel equipped but I know God can do amazing things. I have been through so much and God has led me each place. I feel like Moses after he saw God part the Red Sea- I have a small idea of how BIG my God really is.