Preface: This is the hardest and longest blog post I’ve written to date. It’s hard to admit to being abused, especially when I allowed to go on for so long. When we think of abuse, most of us think of physical or verbal abuse. I’m sharing my story in hopes that it will bring awareness to emotional abuse, which has started receiving recognition in recent years. For too long, I was not only emotionally abused, I was also passive-aggressively bullied into not seeking therapy. No one has the right to actively or passively keep another person from receiving health care of ANY kind.
I’m in the middle of a Bible study with some of my girlfriends who have also been through the horrors of infidelity and divorce. The Bible study, It’s Not Supposed to be This Way, has been very helpful to me thus far. In reading the book this weekend, I read a section where the author writes about her lonely nights and missing some of the sweet things her husband did for her. I thought, “I’ve never missed it because I never had anything like that!”
1998: I was in the second trimester when I lost Thomas. I will spare you all the details. Short version: Thomas died in utero, I was at risk of hemorrhaging and the doctor induced labor. Because Thomas was my 4th pregnancy and I had nursed my 3 previous children, I began lactating a few days after labor was induced. The incident I am about to describe to you is literally the first time I truly realized that I had married a monster who lacked empathy. To the outside world, he was an accomplished and competent pilot. To his wife, he was a passive-aggressive narcissistic bully.
It was the Sunday after Thomas died. I went to the back to change for Mass when suddenly, my outfit was covered in milk. It just happened. My breasts had been throbbing for days and I tried my best to ignore the pain and the inevitability of what was coming. I fell to the floor of the closet sobbing. I was a complete wreck. My husband walked in, saw me on the floor and snapped, “What’s wrong with you!?” as if having just lost my fourth child wasn’t reason enough to find me sobbing on the closet floor. I couldn’t speak. I pointed to my chest and to my wet clothes and tried to eek out, “My milk…” and just broke down sobbing again. My husband didn’t try to console me. He grabbed my arm, yanked me up and said, “Change your clothes, we are going to be late for church!” THIS IS ABUSE.
We buried Thomas the next day and my husband went to work the following day. My milk eventually dried up, but I was still very depressed. My three children were well cared for, but I was struggling nonetheless. Caring for 3 boys took all of my energy. He would return home from work and become angry that I had not yet “snapped out of it”. He would tell me, “You control how YOU feel. Do you want to be this unhappy?” He would belittle me for being sad over the loss of our child. “If you would just listen to me and do what I tell you, you would get better,” he said over and over. I slowly recovered, as much as any woman can after such a loss.
Again for brevity’s sake, I will spare you all the details of every loss. During our 24 years of marriage, I suffered 19 pregnancy losses. I have twins buried here in my current hometown, John is buried at a church about an hour away from here and Thomas is buried in San Antonio. The other losses were early enough that I did not have bodies to bury.
I tried to go to counseling many, many times to deal with my anxiety and grief. Every single time I went to therapy, I would arrive home to hear, “You are selfish. We don’t have the money for you to go to therapy. You don’t care how much it costs or if we go into debt!” “You only care about yourself.” “You don’t care if we don’t have money, as long as you get your own, that’s all that matters.” Therapy, y’all. I don’t wear make-up, didn’t buy jewelry, shoes or clothes, I was paying for therapy to help with the depression and anxiety my husband so urgently wanted me to get over. That’s why he told me I was selfish. THIS IS ABUSE.
After I lost the twins, it was made even clearer to me that I had married a monster who lacked any and all empathy. I was so depressed that I tried counseling again, only to hear the same venom spewed. I was so distraught that my doctor prescribed medication this time. When he found the medication, my husband took it from me and flushed the pills down the toilet while telling me, “You do NOT need medication!” THIS IS ABUSE. After all these years, I am finally able to say: “My husband was emotionally abusive to me during our marriage.”
In late 1999, we got a new van. I was pregnant and driving with a friend home from the grocery store one day. We stopped at a stop light and I felt an excruciating pain in my abdomen. I flinched and my foot came off of the brake pedal. The van lurched forward into the car in front of us. The damage was minimal. When I arrived home, my husband did not ask me how I was doing, rather he said, “Look what you have done! You have damaged our only asset!” I was devastated. He quite literally did not care about me nor did he ask how the baby might be doing. The next day, I began miscarrying.
My final and most horrific miscarriage was something I endured largely by myself. We had gone to New Orleans to see the boys’ mito doctor. Since my husband’s family lived nearby, he almost always managed to make the trip down to New Orleans, though he didn’t always make it to the hospital. I was pregnant. Again.
During the trip, I began to miscarry. We left New Orleans and drove home in what I have termed the “Death March to North Carolina”. The pain was unbearable. By the time we got to Atlanta, I was begging my husband to get a hotel so that I could soak in a hot tub, rest and try to get some relief from the pain. He refused. Along the way, he did stop so that I could throw up, change my clothes, etc. He refused to get a hotel because it cost too much money. Look y’all, I get that hotels cost money, but sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. I cried in pain and was told to shut up because the boys were in the car with us and should not be subjected to my crying out. It took over 14 hours to trek from New Orleans back to North Carolina and the worst was yet to come. THIS IS ABUSE.
The following day, my husband went to work and I drove myself to the doctor. I assumed that I had completely miscarried by this point since the bleeding had been so heavy previously. The ultrasound showed the baby was still in utero, without a heartbeat. The doctor felt it would be best to give me several doses of Misoprostol to induce contractions/miscarriage. I returned in one week all by myself absolutely sure that the miscarriage was complete. It was not. The doctor prescribed Misoprostol again. This happened 4 times. Each of the four times, I returned to the doctor alone to find that the baby was still in utero, though by the fourth time, the baby was mostly reabsorbed. My husband REFUSED to take off work to attend any of the appointments with me.
After a month of almost continuous bleeding, contractions and Misoprostol, I was done. I sobbed. I pleaded. The doctor told me to go home and wait it out, that eventually the miscarriage would be complete. A MONTH OF THIS is brutal for ANY WOMAN. After 18 previous pregnancy losses, I was about to lose my mind! My neighbor encouraged me to call the doctor to tell them I wanted a D&C. Enough was enough. My neighbor drove me to the hospital and my husband made it there at the last minute. I was thankful for his arrival, even if there wasn’t much compassion. At least I wasn’t alone.
This is where I explain that we are practicing Catholics and my youngest son, who almost went to transplant, doesn’t have a donor match in the registry when run against 6.1 million volunteer donors. While we were not trying to get pregnant, we were not using any form of birth control and did not practice NFP (with the exception of the twins where we sought medical intervention in line with Church teaching in hopes to have a successful pregnancy). We were open to life. I believed that God could perform a miracle and give my youngest son a sibling match–even after 18 pregnancy losses! I have 20 souls in heaven -19 pregnancies, one being set of twins.
The Bible study left me stinging a little because it accentuated the fact that I was never loved or cherished by my husband. My relationship with him after divorce isn’t all that different. He still treats me with indifference and has been emotionally abusive. I just don’t live with him, don’t have to listen to him and am able to to freely go to therapy! Life really is good for me now.
Therapy has helped me heal and become a whole person again. About one year before he left, I started counseling despite his objections and nasty comments. I continue to be in counseling today. If you are suffering from emotional abuse, please go to counseling. Don’t allow anyone to keep you from getting help!
This blog entry will be continued tomorrow.