When I was 17 years old I moved for the second time back to Tallahassee Florida to live with friends and be near my father. I loved that city and the people in it. I wrote poems and songs about it and missed it while I had been away. Finally I had returned.
But, as with many things in life, going back isn't always the same. Things had changed as had people, and I had changed. My experiences of the summer before had left me different in some significant ways. It didn't matter if I went back to anywhere specific because life would never quite be the same.
The differences in people and myself began to cause rifts in relationships I thought were solid. I learned things about relationships that took me to new levels of grief and loss. I began to seek out something new.
In January of 1989 my next 'new' arrived. I became a room-mate to two guys who I thought were pretty decent people. We agreed on no relationships and nothing sexual between any of us, in order to keep the peace and safety of our home.
That didn't last long. One of the guys slowly worked his way into my heart and my bed and from there things got strange. He became more and more possessive of me and grew angry or depressed if I wasn't constantly with him. One night it got so bad that he threatened to kill me and then himself. He ran out of the apartment with a knife. Naive girl that I was, I was afraid for him and called the police to try to save his life. They caught him and put him in the psychiatric ward on watch.
Our other room-mate and I were relieved. The cloud and stress that had grown thick within our home lifted. We thought maybe life could normalize somehow. But it didn't last long. This man had a rich daddy who got him out and sent him back to us. Apologies were given, forgivenesses granted and new plans created. A plan for a cross country trip.
By February we were living in Maine in our new apartment. I was engaged to the previously suicidal room-mate and our other friend, Tommy, was planning on heading back to Florida. Tommy stayed a few weeks and then left.
In March I turned 18 and by April I was married to a man I barely knew. I had second thoughts before the wedding but I had always believed that a promise was a promise. I thought maybe it was just cold feet or nerves or fear that I had lived with so long I couldn't trust. I wish I'd listened to my instincts.
It didn't take long before this man had driven away my friends and given me 'rules' to live by. He didn't want people around. He didn't want me having anyone at the house or going out when he was at work. Eventually I felt all alone, which of course was what he wanted. The one time he found out someone had been over to visit while he was out he flipped over the bed with me sleeping on it.
Our relationship seemed like the longest in history but it even surprises me to realize it only lasted a few short months. In the summer of 1989 I became so afraid and so hopeless that I thought my only way out was death and I tried to take my own life. He came home too soon and I was in an ambulance in short order begging them not to take me home as I knew he would kill me.
After that incident he apologized as always and promised to change and of course as always for a few days he did and then it got worse. Every time it got worse there was a period of remorse, apologies, and promises. There was a period of peace and normality but it always reverted and usually just got worse. I knew in my heart that someday he would kill me.
I had one friend, who he didn't know about, who knew everything. She could hear us because she lived next door. She worried terribly for me. She begged me to leave and helped me believe it might be possible.
Finally one late night before bed he decided he wanted to have sex. I didn't. That didn't matter. He held me down, called me names, and took what he wanted while I kicked, scratched, squirmed, and cried. Afterwards he told me that I was his wife and I couldn't tell him no. That was it. I made a decision right then.
The next day he left for work and I called my mother. It was early fall 1989. Our marraige had not been very long but I knew I wouldn't live through it if I stayed. I saw clearly after that rape what my life would be if I didn't run. My friend and mother helped me pack quickly and before lunch I was gone.
I spent a week as my sister's to try to hide from him and it was good but I needed to go home. Back at my mother's house he had been calling and finally one day I answered the phone. He begged and pleaded. He apologized and did all those things he always did. I stood my ground somehow and said no. For a while the apologies continued daily until he realized I wasn't giving in and then the "I'm sorries" turned into threats.
I was terrified. We involved the police and he was ordered to stay away from my mother and I. She was holding strong but I know now she was more afraid than I was.
About a month after I left him, my step-father died. Due to the threats that my soon to be ex had been hurling at us we had to ask 3 of my step-dad's friends to remain at the house with guns. They missed their friend's funeral to protect our home from a very disturbed human being.
Months went by of me not leaving the house. I was terrified to even think of it. Once a friend did come by and make me go out with them but sure enough my ex turned up. He followed us until my friend lost him on a back road. Life was still a frightening place to be.
Then one day, months later, I ran across an old boyfriend. This was a man I had been friends with for a very long time. This was a person who, at one time, I believed was the love of my life. I trusted him. And right at this point in my life I think I needed him. We immediately reconnected. I was immersed in love and protection. I was engulfed in a new feeling of the possibility of living again. While dating him I finalized my divorce from the man who I still feared and even hated. This new boyfriend gave me the strength I needed to end a very bad situation.
He and I dated for a while until I found out he was cheating. I went to confront him with it and he doubled up his fist, he didn't hit me but the thought was there. I could see it. When you've lived with that kind of man you recognize the signs much earlier. So I left and never returned.
I went through the pregancy alone. I had a few good friends who often spent time with me and my mother of course but no husband or boyfriend beside me. For me that was heart wrenching. But I made it through.
On December 25, 1990 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. My pride and joy. My heart. My life.
Four months later the love of my life entered the picture. This was a man whom I'd known my whole life. We had dated on and off in school. We had been best friends over all those years. I had always kept his picture near me and he gave me comfort in times of lonliness. Somehow we had managed to find our way back to each other.
He became a part of our family and has been my husband now for 21 years. He raised my son and even adopted him when his biological father signed away all his rights. In total we had three amazing children together and a lifetime of love. We've had our good times and bad but I could never ask for a better partner through the insanity that has been my world over these years.
He helped me to stop being afraid, to see my own self value, to find my own inner strength. Neither of us is perfect but we are perfect for each other and in this lifetime that's really all that you can hope for.
To this day, more than 20 years later, my ex-husband still stalks me. He has over the years made threats or sent unwanted messages. He has raised a child of his own from a second wife who he sent into a psychiatric ward. And he must think I am an elephant because he still swears that my oldest son is his child even though that would mean I'd have been pregnant for over 13 months.
But none of it matters because I know who I am now and our family knows the truth.
Usually I share articles with lessons at the end so I'm going to try to wrap this one up by saying this. Nobody deserves to be made to feel like a servant, slave, or even less by a person who is supposed to love and support them. Abuse is a tricky subject because sometimes it's very obvious and other times it can be very discreet but even more damaging. If you are in a situation where you are living in fear and/or you do not see a safe way out talk to a friend or a family member. If that option is unavailable to you call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). Don't live your life in fear and don't let someone take that life from you.