“You Can’t Change What You Refuse to Confront”

I can’t believe we have made it to the end of May! A few weeks ago, I proudly watched my oldest son, Tony graduate Kindergarten. I didn’t expect the intense emotions that came with it, but these boys have been through so much, probably more than your average adult in their lifetimes!

I sat with Jake during the ceremony and noticed Tony searching the audience. When he saw Jake and I, he waved, smiling big- ear to ear.

I gave him a thumbs up (it’s a thing between us that we do). He gave me two thumbs up! I tried to stop the tears running down my cheek, but it was too late. I thought about how far both boys had come within a year. Not only are they exceeding academically, but they both have life in them again.

The foster family is currently out of the state attending a family members wedding, so I drove them to respite care, where they will temporarily stay for about a week. I was able to walk the boys up to their room and help them get ready for bed.

I could tell that they had a lot of anxiety, like me, about going to a strangers home.

During our car ride, Tony asked, “Can you pick us up for a visit while we are there? Can we see you?” I observed Jake holding his puppy, Jadoe, with a tight grip. I did my best to reassure them, and told them that I would be back to pick them up for our visit on Sunday.

You just never know. I’ve heard horror stories, and while I try my best to put them out of my mind, I think as a mother, that’s just impossible.

Instantly, I felt they were going to be okay. My intuition, my gut.  They were excited, laughing, and checking out the playroom when I left.

It has taken a lot of time to build back their trust. The last thing that I ever wanted is for them to feel abandoned. I know that feeling all to well.

I did what I had to, in order to keep them safe. I kept my promise- I have been by their side through the entirety of our journey.

I remember when I saw Tony and Jake for the first time after being released from the hospital last summer. Of course, they were both excited to see me, but I noticed Tony had emotionally shut-down. He was almost robotic. He didn’t cry and barely showed any emotion.

As a defense mechanism, he numbed his emotions.

This would go on for some time, and then, it wouldn’t be long before he would wrap his little arms tightly around my neck.

Mama, he would say, I missed you. I prayed for you every night before bed.”

I hugged him close and made him look me in the eyes. Through tears, I said, “Tony, I prayed for you and Jake every day, every night. I love you both with all of my heart. This was by far the hardest decision I had to make, but I did it to keep you guys safe. I never left you. I’m not leaving you now, or ever. We will get through everything together, like we always have. We are going to be okay. We are safe now.” 

I didn’t know what the outcome of my decision would be. I didn’t know what to expect. I never imagined the impact this would have on my relationship with the boys. Our bond has strengthened and this has been a major year of growth for all of us.

I didn’t realize just how life-changing my choice would end up being.

Almost a year ago to the day, my abuser was reaching out to me from the Athens-Clarke County Jail. He had several people follow, intimidate, and threaten my children and I. I was on my own for the first time, placed in an apartment by Project Safe.

We were on our feet, and I was doing the best that I could. I tried to make it work, I really, really tried. I didn’t feel safe anywhere. I was exhausted, I needed help.

Over the course of several days, and after many prayers, God told me what I had to do, in order to survive. It took an enormous amount of courage to walk my two boys, ages 4 and 5 at the time, to the police station. I was all they had.

I couldn’t take care of myself, much less them at the time. I was boiling water to give them warm baths. I walked for miles to job interviews, both boys in tow. I felt as though I had done everything I could. We walked miles to church in the blazing heat of summer. I remember one Sunday practically collapsing in the front yard. There was a big pasture out front. I was sweaty and hadn’t had a shower in weeks.

I literally fell to the ground, and started praying aloud, with Tony and Jake. With tears streaming down my face, I walked to the front doors. A lady grabbed my arm and started praying, immediately. She knew just by looking at me, that something was terribly wrong. She offered us a ride and gave me her phone number in case I needed anything.

Recently, the boys brought up a memory to me from last summer. “Mama, I’m glad you have a car now to get groceries. We don’t have to walk so far in the rain anymore.” Tony was referring to our trip to Kroger in the middle of the night. Jake on my shoulders, I trudged along the sidewalks. Carrying several bags, one busted open and food went everywhere.

Thunder, lightening, and so much rain, all at once. The bottom just fell out of the sky. There wasn’t a dry spot on any of us. We did what we could to preserve what food we had just purchased.

I recall finding a church. The boys were exhausted. We all had sores on our feet. We were soaking wet. They were scared and with each BOOM, they would hold me tighter and tighter.

We ran through the church yard and found a bench. During the thunderstorm, we huddled closely together under an awning.

Eventually, the boys fell asleep on the bench in my arms.

Somehow that night, we made it home in one piece. I’m not sure how, but we did.

Father’s Day of 2017, I let go and let God. All I had left at this point was my faith. I was knocked down to my knees, and made the ultimate sacrifice to give my children a better life, to make sure they would be safe.

I had to let them go, the very thing I was afraid of doing, was the only thing that could save us.

Nearly a year later, I am preparing for the boys return home. We will begin to extend our Sunday visits to 8 hours, and within the next week or so, we will hopefully begin overnight visits.

At the conclusion of my DFCS case, I can begin divorce proceedings against my abuser that was initiated back in July 2017.

I have learned a lot about myself within the past year. I am applying what I have learned in all aspects of my life. I realize now, that regardless of how much it hurts, it was and still is, necessary to face my past in order to move on to my future.

Through therapy and group sessions, I have accepted where I have been.

It’s going to take time to rebuild the relationships that suffered over the course of the seven-years in mental and at times, physical captivity.

The biggest of all, my relationship with my daughters.

A quote I ran across earlier this morning, “You can’t change what you refuse to confront“,  hit hard.

I am slowly rummaging through the debris left by the devastating effects of domestic violence.

I broke the cycle, but it cost me greatly. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

I have faith that in time, we will be a family again.

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Taking a Stand Against Abuse

Happy Friday! I fell asleep in the boys bed last night. Spring is hard for me, it is a traumatic season that I have to be mindful of. I felt restless, so I snuggled with their over sized teddy bear. I slept in the bottom bunk bed. The room is darker in there, so I was able to get more rest than normal, because the sun didn’t shine through as bright as it does elsewhere in my apartment.

It took me a minute to remember where I was- was I back at the Safe House in Athens? You know, the four occasions that the boys and I did reside there, all three of us slept on a single twin bed- (the bottom) of bunk beds. Kinda like old times, you know?

I am becoming complacent in my life and through my journey of finding freedom. I feel stronger in all areas of my life. I can honestly say, that for the first time in my life, I can be “me”. I am happy with myself and while I’m still a work in progress, I’m joyful.

I know what I like, I know what I don’t like. I have boundaries. I won’t settle, not anymore- not like I once did.

I’m not interested in being used, lied to, cheated, and/or manipulated.  I love my coffee- just not the really hot kind that gets you second degree burns. I love taking long walks. I love swimming. I like to read, listen to music, write, and play ball! The parks are my favorite.

I love thunderstorms, camping, and singing at the top of my lungs, in my car, with the windows down.

And yes, I sing in my apartment, to worship music, and dance around like a little girl in a pasture filled with flowers. Flowers, I love flowers. I love the smell of honeysuckle.

I’m a good girl. I adore the country and hope to one day settle on property owned by me.

My favorite outfit that I own, is my one-of-a-kind sundress and boots. I also love wearing sandals.

I’m at a point in my life, where I have no room for negativity. If it exists, I discard it. I love to laugh. This is one of the many things that has helped me along my way.

I seek a deeper meaningful relationship with Christ. I seek to rekindle the lost relationships that I have with my daughters. I’m working on completely forgiving myself, from the time lost.

The boys are set to be home by summer time. I am SO excited. I have worked so hard, and have gone above and beyond to do everything that I could possibly do, to stay an active part in their lives.

I’m blessed with resilient children. I’m blessed with a resilient “ME”.

I’m beginning to discover ways I can help others, and that makes me happy. I can venture out and find the beautiful things in life, come home to my place of comfort, contentment, peace, and serenity.

Some days I have toy lizards hanging from my ceilings and walls. Other days, I find precious “I love you” notes written from the boys that I proudly hang on the walls.

The past year has been one of true growth. I’m finally “finding myself”.

There are times when, especially triggered, I think back on my old life. I remember the constant chaos and abuse. It baffles me how little I thought of myself to be so accepting of that treatment. At the same time, I was not aware of my own patterns of self-destruction.

I wouldn’t necessarily say I was “accepting”, rather- it was the only thing I knew, to me, it was normal.

Being married, I felt more alone than I ever was living the single life.

I feel like I am in a whole new world. Sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air, in worship, thanking Christ for my new life.

All the odds were against me. I was SO CLOSE to just being another STATISTIC. But that’s just it. I didn’t want to just be another statistic. I didn’t want to be on the front page of the paper, I didn’t want to leave my children behind to continue cycling through the devastating cycle of abuse.

I wanted a change.

And the only way I could possibly make that change, was by changing my thoughts and behavior, first.

From there, I could manage lifestyle changes that would alter the way that I viewed my new world.

I am in a world free of violence. I make my own decisions.

I have all of these new exciting aspirations, and dreams. I think it’s so easy to become comfortable and just muddle through life. But actually getting up, each day with a new mindset- that YES, today is THE DAY.

I’m finally on the other side of things. I’m doing “me”. I walk with the Lord daily, which has impacted my new vision.

I do my very best, and that’s all I can do.

I can see change in the boys, and for once, I am genuinely happy.

I’m no where NEAR a perfect mother. In fact, I’m perfectly flawed. I have made more mistakes than I can count.

I can’t go back in time, I can only do what I can to make things right now.

Tomorrow, I will face my abuser’s brother (my twin sister and nephews abuser) in court for the first time in six years. He is charged with ten felony counts of child cruelty stemming from a heinous act committed against my nephew, who was only five-weeks old at the time.

This would in turn, change the lives of my nephew, my twin sister, and the brothers forever.

I feel responsible, for being the one to have introduced the two of them back in 2011. Furthermore, it was MY house that the abuse occurred in. While my nephew has become resilient, bouncing back into a bright, sweet in nature, lovable 6-year old boy, I can’t help to think of the “what-if’s”.

I witnessed him beat my sister black and blue. But during that time, before her pregnancy, I was too scared to do anything. So, like we were conditioned to do, we said nothing. As time went on, we had both invested everything into our relationships; and- for both of us, those choices would give lasting, devastating consequences.

When I tell my story, I don’t want sympathy. I tell my story because I want to help others. Had it not been for my experiences, I would not be as strong as I am today. Domestic violence would be just another continuous cycle. I wouldn’t have come to my self-realization “ah-ha” moments. I wouldn’t have it in me, I would still be ignorant.

As hard as it was, I had to forgive my abuser. In doing so, I was able to let him go. He will never be sorry, and will never take responsibility for his actions. In the meantime, I am able to move on.

God has given me the strength to face head-on whatever lies before me. The family who brought so much pain and suffering to us, they have a God to answer to. He has guided me along this far, I know that he won’t abandon me now.

But they should know- they didn’t win.

I want them to know that their life-long abuse has come to an end, right here, right now. What has happened, happened. But I’ll be damned, if I ever let what broke me, break me again.

My nephew suffered, at 5-weeks old. Unable to do anything to defend himself. It’s time to take a stand.

I know that everything happens for a reason. I know that God allows things to happen for a purpose. And I know he has called on me to be a leader.

Abuse is not okay. It never was, it never will be.

As far as I’m concerned, they chose the wrong one.

In time, they’ll see.

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Finding Solitude in the Spring

From the outside looking in, we were a normal blended family. We shared two sons together, and we had my youngest daughter full-time while my oldest two daughters and his daughter and son would visit on occasion.
I was a Pre-Kindergarten teacher, he was a car salesman. Over the years we lived in various houses, for many reasons. Most of all, because- the one thing that I longed for, could never be given to me: stability. No matter how hard I worked for providing a stable household, some catastrophic event would occur causing another move. It was one trauma after another, and this would go on for nearly seven years.
For the most part, I did an excellent job at projecting my life as near perfect. We (at times) lived in nice houses, drove decent cars, and had the means to take small mountain and/or beach vacations. Our children were well kept, and I did my best to keep our house orderly.
What it looked like, was far from what it was. Although my childhood was based upon secrets, so- this to me, was just another secret that had to be kept. Not only for the sake of my career, but my kids, and to hold onto the one person that I cared for the most.
I loved him unconditionally. I looked over his prior arrests and lengthy criminal history. I dismissed the red flags. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. To me, he was handsome, protecting, and very intelligent. Sure, he had made mistakes, but haven’t we all? And well, yeah- maybe his mistakes were a bit more severe than the rest of us, but you know… he had a poor upbringing. I mean, that needed to be taken into consideration, right?
I found every excuse I could to stay with him. I was in denial. We were opposites, and opposites attract, right? Well, not always.
As I go into my first solid year away from my abuser, many emotions begin to arise. Especially now. I’m trying to find solitude this spring. This is an exceptionally hard season for me, especially because of the extensive and reoccurring abuse that I had to endure during this time.
As I climb into the shower located next to my bedroom, I breathe a sigh of relief. For the first time in months, I take a warm shower in my own place. With it just being me there, I’ve been able to get by. It’s just something I’m used to. I’m used to being selfless and self-sacrificing.
The warm water splashes against my soft skin and I close my eyes for a minute. To the average person, this is nothing special. But for me, it unexpectedly triggers that evening in Athens. It was April of 2016.
I had been released from Peachford Behavioral Health hospital in Dunwoody, Georgia, the first time.
I came home thinking that things would change. I recall my abuser being so charming, as if we had just met. He was gentle with his words, and said, he had “my best interest at heart”. I was repeatedly told that I was sick, and for a while, I believed it. I was not sick in the way that he portrayed. However, if you stay in a toxic relationship or marriage long enough, especially with a narcissistic sociopath, your physical and mental health could deteriorate quickly, as mine had, causing sickness.
The first thing I wanted to do was see my children. I hugged and loved on them for as long as I could. It had been a week, and I had been overwhelmingly worried for their well-being and safety. Perhaps, this was the reason I came home and pretended as if nothing was wrong? I sat in the hospital countless days wondering, what is she doing to them? My boys were already terrified of her as it was, as she was prone to screaming, cursing them- and hitting them with objects such as hair brushes, and belts. They were only two and three-years old and could not fend for themselves.
How did I let my guard down, how did I end up here- and my children with them? I was so disappointed in myself because I had put my own children in danger. I had not thoroughly thought through my decision and plan of escape.
Next time, however, would be different, and as most know- my escape would be successful with safety in mind.
Was this a plot of theirs all along? Well, they did come and see me every second they got. My abuser even used a fake Pastoral badge to get in visits with me that other patients there could not have. They would travel from Athens, Georgia to Atlanta, Georgia several times to ensure that I was still under their control.
A part of me wanted to believe in him. I wanted to believe that things would change at home. I wanted his girlfriend to be gone, and I wanted a normal life. Not that we ever had one to begin with, but with my abuser, the kids and I, it was less violent when she wasn’t around.
I don’t know what it was that sparked the internal rage that would cause him to explode. I had not seen this before. Several of his old friends and family members would also testify that they had never seen him become aggressive in nature either. I believed them. It was something “she” did, or “they” did that brought out the worst in my abuser.
I’m not saying my abuser would not have eventually become violent if it weren’t for his live-in girlfriend, but what I will say, is that instead of dealing with one abuser, I was dealing with two. And with that said, I barely survived it.
It amazes me at all the simple things that trigger flashbacks. The shower, for example. I remember after coming home, that’s all I wanted. I recall asking permission from my abuser and his girlfriend for a shower. To most, this sounds absurd. And to me now, it sounds absurd. But you would really have to understand the dynamics of our household to be able to comprehend the “why’s”. My abuser and his girlfriend had made sure that the house was tidy. I was impressed. Candles were lit all throughout the house, laundry done, and the smell of spaghetti cooking in the kitchen. I was, in a way, relieved to be at home. It was the first time that I recall feeling any type of comfort and peace.
He did a wonderful job at performing the role of a loving husband and father, but unfortunately, that’s exactly what it was- just a role.
At least I could be with my children, and for the most part- it appeared my abuser was trying.
This, however, was short lived.
It wouldn’t take long before my abuser would use my latest hospitalization to control me further. “I’ll send you back there, and you will never see the boys again”, he would threaten.

He often used scare tactics and severe punishments to encourage my compliant behavior.
At this point, I was viewed and treated as a child. Many people who have heard my story cannot understand how I ‘allowed’ my abuser to treat me in such a way. “How could you allow the dysfunction of another woman living in your house, sleeping in your bed, driving your car, while you slept in the children’s room, and took the backseat?
Still to this day, I feel immense guilt and shame for things that happened to my family. However, I have learned to forgive myself. When dealing with an abuser, it’s not as easy to take a stand, as most would think. I had no say-so in anything. I was expected to earn the money to pay bills, care for our children, all the while taking care of my abuser’s physical, emotional, mental, and sexual needs.
For anyone, this would become tiring.
The more of a fight I would put up, the more violent my abuser would get. He never hit me before, I mean- he did this one time, you know- early on. But I hadn’t come up with the means to pay a bill, and well- you know… it was my fault.
That was my mentality. That was the person I used to be. I had no respect for myself, so why would anyone have any respect for me?
All my life, I have been the “fixer”, the “pleaser”, the “caretaker”. I’ve been the “doormat”, the “pushover”.
I know my abuser didn’t see my fall coming, I don’t think anyone did. I surely could have never predicted what would come of less than a year into our marriage. I was always the strong one, you know?
Forgive me if I seem a bit redundant, but- welcome to my life- life after abuse. This is how my mind works. I replay the traumas over and over. Any little thing can trigger them. They are unwanted but will not stop. I have had to learn to deal with them and use coping mechanisms to overcome them. These are flashbacks that occur as a side affect of what I would later be diagnosed with, C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), among other mental illnesses, such as MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) and GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). All in which would stem from childhood traumas that turned into another generation of severe domestic abuse, later in my adulthood.
As I scrub my skin with soap, I feel clean and refreshed. It feels good to be home. I wash my hair with real shampoo and conditioner. I get out of the shower, afraid to take too long. Once I’m out, the boys and my daughter just want to love on me even more.
I welcome as much love as I can, it’s good to be home with them again. Soon after, we have dinner, and my husband tells me that he will put the children to bed. He wants me to go to the bedroom, our bedroom and get some rest.
It was surreal. Not only was I getting help with household chores, but also with the children, and wait- what? I can sleep in my own bed again?
I climbed into my bed and looked around the room. My anxiety was still at an all time high, because I didn’t quite know what to expect.
I pulled out my crossword puzzle workbook and other therapy related papers. I sat on my bed wondering, now what? I was in a state of confliction and contradiction. I had spent many days writing in a journal during my stay at the hospital, but I could never bring it home, for risk of them finding it. I needed an outlet, and all I wanted, was to write. But I couldn’t, not now.
For a few days, things seemed normalized. Eventually, my abuser seemed increasingly stressed out because of our finances. I had walked off my well-paying teaching job that virtually paid for everything. He convinced his girlfriend to go back to stripping at the local night club.
I could tell that she was not liking this. Tension grew, between us. I could sense that I was becoming a threat to her. My abuser was “falling in love with me” all over again- and I don’t think she could handle that. He told me that he did not have any sexual encounters with her while I was in the hospital. I believed him. I was naïve. We were husband and wife, but for some reason, he had to “sneak around” to make passionate love with me. I didn’t understand this. “I’m your wife”, I would say. “Who cares what she wants- or how she feels, she shouldn’t be here in the first place!”, I would cry.
I tried to use the tools that I found helpful in the hospital at home, but because I was back in the same situation as before, nothing changed- everything only got worse.
I remember often wondering how she had all this energy to work all hours of the night. I remember thinking how “off” they both seemed.
As our finances grew desperate, my abuser reminded me more and more of a pimp. He would dress up- take her to work, and eventually encouraged me to dance as well.
Of course, I did not accept that invitation for several obvious reasons. Later, he would confess that it was not his “love” and “excitement” in an effort to rekindle our marriage that was energizing him, it was methamphetamine, which they both used together.
I remember how uncomfortable I felt when he left me alone with her. She was cold and almost, hateful. Just from sitting in the same room with her, the air was suffocating. It would be so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.
Just from the way she would stare at me. The way she talked, walked, and moved around. I knew all along in my gut that nothing would work so long as I stayed in that house.
I knew in my gut that the only resolution would be to leave, but I just didn’t have it in me, not yet at least.
I was trying to buy time. I was researching, day and night. One afternoon, while left alone at the house, I decided to go through her things. I discovered that she had been inpatient several times at a mental facility. She was prescribed medications, and there it was written in black ink, included a diagnosis “with violent tendencies”.
I went back and forth in my mind about telling my abuser. At this point, I think I just really wanted to believe that she was solely responsible for our families’ crisis. I didn’t want to accept that my husband had a part in it as well. I wanted to believe that she was just that good at manipulation, that she manipulated him into acting differently. Don’t get me wrong, he never treated me the way he should have, but he also never had abused me as intensely as he had with her in our home.
About a week from being home, he would ask me, “Can’t you just go back to work?”. I responded with, “No”. I couldn’t face my co-workers, especially since I had come right back into what I was trying to leave! I felt so alone, so isolated. I eventually confessed to his girlfriend that my school knew of his abuse. I had confided into my co-workers, and I thought I was confiding in her, but of course she would tell him causing more beatings.

And by that, I don’t just mean physically, but psychologically as well.
She was the only one around to talk to. And while my suspicions of her grew, I was conflicted. She made it so easy to trust her. There was something about her. Maybe it wasn’t her at all, maybe it was my husband? I was confused. Was it both? My abuser had such control over my life, in every way, that even if I was by myself without their presence- I would not dare tell any secrets that went on at that house.

What I did tell my co-workers was nothing compared to the extent of abuse. Just by what they knew, of course, they begged me to leave. They would say, “this is not normal, and definitely not healthy for you or your children.”
Now, not only am I without a job, but I am in my prison all day, every day. There is no one to notice the bruises and marks on me. There is no one I can run to for help. I had no one.
The first week home was followed by one of the most devastating weeks of my life. April of 2016, was a turning point for me that would end up costing me everything, short of my life. It also ended up being what would save my life, literally.
With our lives back in shambles, my abuser and his girlfriend became increasingly violent. I had never been more scared in my life. I didn’t know who to turn to, who to trust. I thought I could just come home and “fix” everything, but I was wrong. This was something that I was unable to fix like all the other times.
I would overhear conversations of murder, and the more desperate our situation became, the more sinister my abuser and his girlfriend would be.
This time, it would take enormous strength with the hands of God to help me out of the horror that I was facing.
I went from being a school teacher, to unknowingly being filmed in my own home. Performing sexual acts that would carry out my abuser’s fantasy, while producing income in our household from viewers online. I remember making my body feel numb and numbing my emotions and feelings at one point. I was trying to protect myself and that’s the only way I knew how.
I think I learned this trick back in childhood, and I’ve unfortunately had to use this method as an adult on numerous occasions. I remember feeling angry, hurt, and used. All of those lies he told me at the hospital. They were all lies.
He wasn’t interested in helping me in anyway. At this point, I don’t think I had fully come to grips with reality. The reality was that they were making me sick. They were bringing out my mental illness. I thought it was me, I thought I had a deficit. I was told it was all the other caretakers in my life as a child, or lack thereof.
I was angry at the wrong people. I was told what to feel, how to feel, and with whom.
People still look at me stunned when I reflect on my first trip to the grocery store after I fled my abuser. I had to relearn everything. Everything, right down to going to a grocery store to buy groceries.
Nothing was the same anymore. Nothing was like it used to be. Eventually, my youngest daughter would go to stay with her dad and step-mom so that I could recover. I had support with my girls, but no one for my boys. I was all they had, and they desperately needed me, as I needed them.
I remember begging God sometimes, just take me to my mother. My mom was deceased, I had lost her when I was 18-years-old. I felt I was headed that way as it was, and I just felt drained. “Just get this over with”, I would think to myself.
Imagine waking up in this new world, where nothing is the same as it used to be. Everything that you thought was true, was nothing but a figment of your imagination. You aren’t loved and cared for, like you once thought, by the one person you invested nearly seven-years into. You have no loyal friends, and your just stuck.

Reality starts to sink in, and you realize, that for the past twenty-nine years, you have been living a lie.
Well, that’s how it was for me, coming home from the hospital that April. The sun was bright, and the wind blew. My abuser would give me just enough of a dose of kindness to keep me reeled in. Then, he would snap the cord right back, controlling and abusing me even more viciously.
Because, at this time, he knew what he was losing. He knew he faced the possibility of me discovering what he never wanted me to discover, myself. He kept me in a state of fear for so long, that I didn’t know how to function in the real world when I finally did escape.

Everything that I had learned up to the age of twenty-nine years old, all a lie.
I recall begging and pleading for him to stop and give me peace. But the more I begged, the more he abused.
While this was a major turning point in my life, I would be caught in more storms later, before ever finding my freedom. That saying, “It gets worse before it ever gets better”, I agree with this statement, at least- this was my experience.
I would fight back, though, and when I did, I would shock not only myself, but those around me.
I would come to learn that not only was my abuser and his girlfriend cruel, life itself could be cruel. The world to me was such a dangerous place. I would go back and forth, from one extreme to another, spinning everyone’s heads, even my own.
I feel like my emotional growth as a child was stunted. I’m learning things now, that I should have known twenty-so years ago. Better now than never, right?
Along my journey, I have felt every emotion that exists. The residue still lingers and will, for awhile- if not forever. The difference between a year, is that I now have the tools I need to cope, in a healthy way.
The spring of 2016 set the stage for my great escape from abuse. I would be the first survivor of domestic violence in my family, known, that would break the cycle.
It’s nearly impossible for me to go one day without thinking about my abuser and the impact he has had on my life. It’s times like this, when the occurrences of abuse show up while I’m in the shower, driving down the road, or even in my dreams when I’m asleep.
But again, I can cope differently now, then I was able to before. I think naturally as humans, we want to understand or justify our experiences in life.

We want to answer those tough questions, not only for ourselves, but for society. We want to make meaningful connections and be able to say, “this is what happened to me, and here is why.”

I’m still on my journey of self-discovery. I do have enough self-awareness to know the times that I need to be more forgiving of myself. Those times, like now, where I’m trying to find solitude in the spring.

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Moving Past Desperation

I think for so long, I was desperate. I was desperate to fill that void- I longed to feel loved, needed. More than anything, I just wanted a family. I wanted validation. My relationships were based primarily on what I grew to know, what I had deemed as normal.

The whole concept of teaching others how to treat you; I’m 31-years-old, just now learning this. I’m selective of my friends and acquaintances- and even still, it is hard for me to trust.

I am doing well with finding balance in my life- even a little bit of socialization. Is this uncomfortable? Very much so! But, per my therapist- a major step in my recovery.

So, my life after abuse and what it looks like- I live in my own little peaceful apartment. I visit with my children every week. I attend DBT Therapy Sessions on Monday nights from 6-7 p.m. and my therapist does a home visit once a week, usually on Fridays. Every Sunday, I attend church with my boys, and within the next two weeks or so, I will officially become a member of the church.

I work as a Pre-K teacher, Monday-Friday. I typically work till about 4:00 p.m., although sometimes I stay late. On my free time, you can find me walking trails- getting lost… or sitting at my local IHOP- by myself- enjoying a meal and feeling 100% okay with that!

A far cry from 6-months ago. Although, I am still not 100% just yet, I am well on my way.

I’m told all of the time, keep writing. Keep telling your story. But whatever you do- don’t let your guard down.

Recently, I have slept better than I have- however, I still suffer from night terrors and panic attacks. This is one of the biggest reasons I love to get out and get on the trails- so I can wear myself out and sleep at night. I’m pretty much doing all of the things my abuser said I wasn’t capable of.

I’m self-sufficient, and I support myself. I love having the ability to do what I want, without consequence.

And when I say that- I mean simple rights that I should have had all along.

It feels good to have choices and make decisions- and though sometimes, I still struggle- I’m at least trying.

I can’t believe that it’s been two-years since my hell began. The most extensive part, that is.  It’s a triggering time period for me.

I remember my 29th birthday, as though it was yesterday. It was my last year in my twenties. I’m not big into celebrating or anything, but surely- I knew that we would do something, I mean- I had spent all the cash I had on his birthday that year- to show that I cared.

I decorated our house and bought balloons along with a card and gift. I even had the kids make birthday cards for him.

On my day, though- I sat in the dark inside the Athens house, alone. My children were asleep in their beds. My abuser spent his time either at the car lot with his new receptionist, or outside with his bestfriend who briefly lived with us, building a greenhouse. He mentioned going to Home Depot, and to myself, I thought- he must be going to get flowers. I know he hasn’t forgot about me. Maybe we can have a picnic at the park- get out, do something.

I went to bed that night with nothing as simple as a “Happy Birthday”. I went to bed that night, as he stayed up- partying with his drug dealer friend, using cocaine and marijuana.

They talked in code when they were around me. They thought I was too stupid to realize what they were really doing. My abuser invested all of his money- and mine- into this greenhouse. He was too busy to give baths. He was too busy for a bedtime story. As I begged for alone time- just me and him- I would get shut down. I was told I was “lazy” and “undeserving”.

I worked myself literally- to death. I was skin and bones. I barely ate and I definitely did not sleep. The abusive treatment I received from my abuser triggered traumas from my childhood. It was a double whammy. It was overwhelming. I remember one night, calling each one of my family members. I finally confessed to them- what I had been trying to desperately hide for so long. I felt embarrassed, ashamed.

People from the outside looking in thought that I had it all together. Perhaps I was good at making it seem that way.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I called them to tell them that I loved them. I was desperate for help- by this point, it was life or death.

After coming home from school, I worked double hard to ensure the house was perfect. The kids were quiet. It was exhausting- as I was ultimately responsible for everything.

The unknown of what was to come became increasingly unsettling. I had no idea what I was in for.

It would take nearly two years before I would gain the courage to find myself, forgive myself free myself, and move past desperation.

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Serving My Purpose in the New Year

Happy New Year! I welcomed 2018 with open arms and a full heart! It’s been awhile since I last blogged, so I figured it was about time to give an update!
Sometimes, I just need to live in the moment, and I tend not to dissect or reflect upon the present. Sometimes, I find that if I’m doing well, why go back to the things that bring the intense, excruciating pain?
At some point, therapists will say that this is necessary to accept our past, and the traumas that still haunt us day to day.
Last night was the first night in quite some time that I encountered nightmares. Overtime, I’ve been able to recognize ways to manage my life the best that I can, having been diagnosed with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) and C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Will it be lifelong? Yes, more than likely. But I’m finding ways that help me live a normal life, one that does not constantly hurt.
Back in late September of 2017 I officially signed a lease to my new apartment. I desperately wanted someone to guide me, tell me, if you will- what choice to make, where to go, etc.
Ultimately, only I could do that. I had been traveling quite some distance for months to visit my boys. It was financially hard, and draining. I decided to set out to a new place, a new town- one that would give me the opportunity to start over. I am about ten minutes from the boys. For awhile I traveled back and forth from work, and eventually transferred my Pre-K teaching job during the middle of October of 2017.
It takes me less than fifteen minutes to commute from my apartment to work now. Everything seemed to happen so fast. Like, in a blink of an eye- just like that.
My case is in the process of being transferred for a second time. I’ve been told that because of all the transfers, my case is dragging out. The good news is, I have and am successfully completing my case plan!
I am back in therapy, and have sessions once a week. I think I took a 4-hour long nap after my first session because it was emotionally exhausting. I really enjoy my new therapist! She is very down to earth, and reminds me a lot of the Victim Advocate from the Athens-Clarke County District Attorney’s Office.
I am consistently visiting with my youngest daughter, Hannah. She can enjoy visits with me to see her brothers!
In middle to late December, we drove near Macon, Georgia to see my oldest daughter, Aubrey’s, musical- “Annie”. She was amazing! I am blessed to have children that are so very talented! It had been over a year since I had seen my two girls. We cried, we hugged, and we did not want to let go. The last memory of them I had was when my abuser and his girlfriend sabotaged our weekend visitation by leaving us at a gas station in the North Georgia mountains. I knew it would be awhile before I saw them again- and it was. But all of the hardships that I’ve had to face, was well worth it.
I am beginning to rekindle broken relationships with my kids, and although it takes time, I know that we have a wonderful future to look forward to.

Given my circumstances and what I have, I think I’m doing a pretty good damn job.
We send pictures back and forth, text, and call regularly.
I’m doing my best to find balance. It can be difficult with everyone displaced, but one thing is for sure, I don’t give up!
After my last hospitalization in June of 2017, I donated all my furniture to “Project Safe”, the domestic violence agency from Athens, Georgia who helped me so much throughout the past two years.
Moving into my new apartment, I had a handful of things from storage- but all the furniture and appliances, gone.
Then, a friend from church reached out to a pastor’s wife who was helping her parents move. They were offering beds, dressers, tables, home décor, appliances, among other things for free! With the help of that and two other good friends of mine, I ended up furnishing my entire apartment with only the cost of a U-Haul!
I had a home visit, and my caseworker was very pleased! The only thing left that I will need to get is separate beds for the boys (either bunk beds or two twin sized beds) and chairs for my kitchen table.
It feels great to have my own space. The energy is positive, I have self-affirmations placed all throughout my apartment.
The boys have a place to visit, and shortly we should be able to begin overnight visits.
I found that cooking and baking is a therapy within its own. I’ve tried different recipes, and for the most part- not too bad!
While my visits are currently still supervised, a Judge from Gwinnett County Juvenile Court signed off saying that once all parties agreed, my visits would no longer be supervised. After a few sessions with a Parent Aide, I will be good to go!
My relationship with the foster parents has blossomed since moving closer. I attend church with the boys outside of our visitations every Sunday. While the boys are in Sunday School, I attend service with them. Sometimes, we have lunch afterwards. Times when visits are cancelled, we still meet up- whether its for dinner or fun at the park!
During Thanksgiving, the foster family invited me to their grandmas’ house for dinner. It took everything in me not to cry, because I was able to eat Thanksgiving dinner with my boys. I played family games afterwards and it was a blast!
Christmas Eve we went to service together and the boys opened their gifts, which they loved!
The foster parents gave me a gift of a sled with the professional Christmas pictures taken of the boys. It sits in my living room near my curio cabinet. It goes nice with the poinsettias that were bought Black Friday at Home Depot for .99 cents each.
I’m back to work after about a week and a half off from Christmas break. Hannah came to work with me today, and will go with me tomorrow since she is out of school until Monday. She loves it!
As many know, I don’t tend to idle very well, so I am stoked to be back!
At my last therapy session, we labeled the cognitive distortions that I am dealing with. For people who suffer from depression it is common to have these. Cognitive distortions are inaccurate thoughts that are used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions.
I think for me, gaining self-awareness was what helped lead to me making the appropriate changes needed.
It took some realizations to discover that although I officially had let go of that one toxic marriage- that nothing in my life would ever begin to change until I changed my way of thinking. I would always go back through the same cycles- over, and over.
It wouldn’t take me seven years this time to figure out- but I’ve had my fair share of lessons learned the hard way.
I think when we go through life changes we need to be careful of opportunists. I used to be vulnerable, and at times- maybe I still am. But through my experiences I have learned how to better defend myself and make choices that will lead me down the righteous path.
My love for God has grown stronger over the course of my journey. I love attending church with the boys, and have scheduled an afternoon appointment with one of the Pastors to discuss potential membership.
There is something for everyone, and I love that. My goal for this year is to strengthen my personal relationship with God. I don’t want to just “go to church”. I want to study, learn, and KNOW the word.
It wasn’t that long ago, I recall constantly feeling in fear. I blogged about it often. Not to say that there aren’t times I’m still uneasy, but overall, I no longer live in fear. I have accepted who I am, what I’ve been through, and where I need to go.
I’ve accepted it.
I have faith that no matter what, things will all work out as they are meant to be.
The move has not only allowed me more time with my children, but time with myself, with no distractions.
For the longest time, I lived in the fog. The fog came with confusion, uncertainty, and memory loss. It was exhausting.
I have started to receive feedback and responses from local agencies that will support me throughout the process. I feel compelled to help others, and have decided to work specifically with my local domestic violence resource center.
The celebrate recovery groups that I attend regularly are great- but it amazes me how uneducated people are about domestic violence survivors. I want to use my testimony to help others, and increase awareness. There IS life after abuse.
I’ve always just “settled”. I was so determined and desperate for “love”, I was emotionally starved in a way. I would do almost anything to be accepted. I never realized how unhealthy my life was- in more way than one.
There are so many people who are amazed at my progress, and for whatever reason, I am unable to see what they see. I am humble. I know I’ve come far, but I still have so much work left to do.
I’m a work in progress, aren’t we all?
As for updates on the legal side of things- there is a scheduled court date for Gwinnett County Juvenile Court at the end of February (if my case has not been transferred by then).
My abuser recently plead “not guilty” to the aggravated stalking charges, a felony offense, out of Madison County, Georgia.
We are still pending divorce in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia. This was filed back in July of 2017.
The boys had dentist appointments recently, and we will consult with the pediatrician regarding Jake’s significant tongue tie. It causes a speech impediment, so we will take the necessary steps forward to ensure that we can take care of this!
No cavities for Jake; Tony had a small cavity that is touching his capped tooth, but the dentist says it will be an easy fix!
I was able to visit Tony’s school back in November 2017 for his Thanksgiving play. When he looked up to see the foster parents and I, his face beamed! He was a Native American. Proud moment!
This morning, I took Hannah to church with me and we enjoyed service! Here in a little bit, I will be off to my visit with the boys. I can’t wait to see my superheroes!

– “Blessed is she who believes He will fulfill His promises to her.”

And I do, whole heartedly. This scripture was read in service, and I felt the Holy Spirit.
As I continue to blog throughout the year on my experiences, and what my life looks like before, during, and after domestic violence- I pray that my testimony will be nothing less than glory to God. He gave me a second chance, and for that- I will forever be thankful.
Here’s to a new year, searching and serving my purpose.

 

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Restoring Faith

Today was rough, but nothing a good cry and nap couldn’t solve! It’s Friday. I had a good day at work- as I always do. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just feeling down! Really, really down. It could have been triggers. It could have been my realization that I was doing too much, and had to let some things go… That sense of not living up to my own high standards and expectations. But you know what? It’s going to be okay.

My visit for Sunday was cancelled because of my case moving from Clarke County, Georgia to Gwinnett County, Georgia. This was a hard blow, and very devastating. As I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again- these visits are so crucial for the boys and I right now. My understanding, is that there will be a recommendation for no supervision which will mean that the foster parents and I can work out my visits without a third party. This will be so much easier for us!

I drove home from work today, bawling my eyes out. I had the widows rolled down and my music turned up. My hair blew every direction, but I didn’t have a care in the world. I’m sure the banker thought I was some sort of character, rolling through to deposit my check- eyeliner streaming down my face.

I wiped my tears and put the best smile I could find. I went back and forth in my head on what to do. I decided just to go home. Upon receiving the message from my supervisor that my visit had been cancelled, I wrote an entry to vent on one of my domestic violence blogs. I messaged a few friends, and collapsed in my bed. I fell asleep, lights on and everything.

I woke up to a phone call from my two superheroes! Tony was out of school today because he has strep throat and croup. He tried to talk to me, but his voice was so hoarse he sounded robotic. Jake was able to chat, and we had a nice conversation. He told me that he wanted to make “sad decisions like daddy did”. I told him that I needed him to be better than that. “Make good choices, because sad choices result in consequences.” I told him I know he can be a “good guy”. By the end of our conversation he said that he changed his mind, that he wants to “make good decisions”.

I was so happy to hear this.

It makes me angry and sick to my stomach sometimes when I see how much of an impact my abuser had on our two boys, their emotional well being. On us. How could I have fallen for the lies- over and over and over again. Why did I think he would change? Why did I think I was even capable of making him be a good human being? All the signs were there. The entire time. But I turned a blind eye to all of them.

Secluding me from all of the family and friends I knew and had ever known. Taking my personal property and rights away. Stripping me of my own freedom. Who does that?

I remember in the Athens house, the night leading up to my hospitalization in April of 2016. My abuser had a group of his friends (who didn’t know me), come to our house. My abuser and his girlfriend and these “friends”, (drug acquaintances) came to what they called a “Prayer Circle”. Now, I’m not exactly sure how to put this, and I’m not trying to offend anyone.

But- I know that my abuser had no spirituality. And if he did, it was dark. He said he believed in good things, but his deeds would prove otherwise. Nonetheless, he has identified himself in the past as “Wiccan”.

I am a Christian, whole-heartedly. That never changed, although I lost my own sense of spirituality within those seven years tangled up in my violent relationship. It was my God, who helped me survive. He never left me. He was always there- waiting for me to accept his help. That night, I laid in my bed. My abuser came in first, and then the girlfriend. They told me just to stay in the bedroom. I can’t even tell you what was going through my mind, because all I know is I felt like I was dying.

I was skin and bones. I was constantly afraid. I looked in the mirror, and did not recognize myself. This was during the time period when I would get in my car to drive, not remembering where I was going or what I was doing.

I spent more of my time in a trance- dissociating from anyone and everyone around me. I remember feeling enraged. I pushed my bookshelf in front of the bedroom door, hoping to keep my abuser and his girlfriend out. They were setting me up to make me look like I was crazy. My abuser had called his friends- stating to several of them to not be surprised if I ended up dead from a suicide. He spoke of my death to them, and I never believed that until I actually heard it for myself. I went back and forth to him because I felt like I needed answers. One way or another- no matter how dangerous, I was going to get the answers so that I could find peace. I could move on.

I realized, that with a sociopath, you will never get those answers. And all it really took for me, was time. Time would tell everything. Time would tell exactly what was more important to my abuser. It wasn’t his wife, it wasn’t his kids. It was his reputation. It was his control.

His need to control was contingent upon his own survival. With that being taken away- he grew crazy. He talked about wandering the streets. He said he was heading to a hospital, when in reality… he was not. Cool, calm and collected. That’s what he was on the occasions that police would arrive for a “well-check”.  Nothing as described in the frantic messages that were always- “911 emergencies”.

Lies, lies, AND more lies. Manipulation. I told him- I told him the day that he slapped me as hard as he could across my face and called me every curse name he could think of- I told him that one day I would see to it that he would be exposed for who he really was. It was that day, his mask slipped. His intense build-up of rage filled as he stared me in the eyes. There was always something about his stare. His eyes looked black, and his gaze would pierce straight through me. You know that saying, “If looks could kill?” Yeah. Kind of like that.

The night of the “Prayer Circle”, I laid in bed, alone. I felt like I was up against an army. I saw no way out. I got down on my knees and crawled to the window that was sealed shut. I lifted the very bottom blind just enough so that I could peer outside. The last thing I needed, was for one of them to know that I was still up. I remember feeling so drained. It was almost like, what’s the worst that could happen? I asked that several times around that time period.

I watched my abuser hug, kiss, and be intimate towards his “girlfriend”. I watched as they, along with other friends stood at a campfire. Not that I wanted to be apart of this evil ritual, but this was definitely something I was not invited to. One of his friends, wrote me a letter. He left it for me to read but my abuser found it, and threw it in the fire.

I still wonder what that letter said.

My abuser would come in, banging on the door. It didn’t take much to bust through the door. That’s why I moved the dresser in front of it. But, I knew that would only last for so long. I remember him spitting in my face. Grabbing my arms and knocking me down to the floor. I was gasping for air. Out of shock and panic, I used every bit of my energy to take the dresser and knock it down right in front of him, as to make it harder for him to get to me. He stopped and stared at me.

He left the room.

That was the last thing I expected. I ran to my children’s bed and climbed in under the blankets with them. I overheard him talking to his half brother about my “mental illness” and how crazy I really was.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

As I laid in bed, they talked by the fire. I felt this heavy pressure, almost like even if I wanted to get up, I couldn’t.

I was in shock.

There were times when I was in so much pain, I prayed to God just to let me die.

Looking back, I don’t see how I could have ever wanted that. Maybe I was just desperate for help.

Rewind about a year earlier. We were living in a house in Barrow County, Georgia. This was the same home that would be searched by members of law enforcement. My abuser, a convicted felon, kept several guns in the house. I recall him owning a shot gun, and a handgun, although I can’t remember what it was called. He would use these weapons at times to intimidate. I remember shaking as he held one to my head before. “Pop”, he’d say. He would smile. How was I supposed to know the gun wasn’t loaded? And what if by chance it had been? He was reckless, and careless.

My abuser would use the gun as a way to control me even more than he already did. He took “mind control” to a whole new level.

He would gently drag the gun to my chest, slowly down to my private areas, caressing each leg.

Grabbing my head and pulling my hair, he would force me to perform oral sex on him. I felt as though I had no choice. And I didn’t.

I did things that I am not proud of. I said things, to my abuser- to survive. My life for seven years was spent in a state of survival.

Honestly, I have no idea what my future holds for my children and I. I know it will be successful. I know it will be bright.

Despite everything, I am humble. I am more appreciative of my life than ever before. I don’t take things for granted like I used to. I still struggle to understand, why?

Although I know that question is irrelevant, and I know it will never be answered.

God has bigger plans for my life, more than I could have ever imagined. I have always felt connected to a higher power. Even as a child. To this day, I know that there is a purpose for everything that has happened.

While I may not see it right now, as the next couple of months continue to unfold- I will understand.

My faith is restored.

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“Mothers Be Good to Your Daughters, Daughters Will Love Like You Do”

9/11/01. The day that America will always remember and hold close to our hearts. I remember exactly where I was that day. My mom picked me up from Dacula High School for a counseling session. As the buildings were hit by the planes, I was in the counseling office watching the TV. It was hard for me to grasp what happened that day, back then.

Our school was on lockdown.

I was living at my father’s house at the time. My mom picked me up early to go to a therapy appointment for sexual abuse that happened to me as a pre-teen at the hands of my step-father. I only attended one or two sessions, they were extremely inconsistent.

My mom worried about me a lot. At that time, she had divorced my step-father and had none of her kids living with her. My sister and I did not reside with her, and it wouldn’t be long before my brother would end up living with my step-father, his biological dad.

I remember riding on the long car rides to pick up my brother for visits sometimes. I remember how she would barely talk to me. She would cry, tears rolling down her face, but she never said a word. Still, as I drive a good distance to visit with my own two young sons, this is a constant reminder for me. This was her life, just different circumstances.

I felt so much guilt. I felt I was to blame for her divorce, losing her house because she could not afford the payments on her own. I felt like if it weren’t for me, she would have her kids. My mom wasn’t a bad mom, she just didn’t know how to be a mom, really. Just like me, it’s a learning process.

Not only that, but she did not have a concrete support system. She was a home-body and did not like crowds. She had a few good friends that she worked with, and ones that she could call on the telephone and talk to. Other than that, I never remember her having strong ties outside of our home.

My step-father was abusive to her. I recall watching him choke her one time. I was awoken out of my bed from sounds of my mother crying.

I witnessed his hands grasped around her throat, holding her up against the wall. Screaming, yelling. I felt frozen. I was in fear. For her, for us. As my younger siblings slept soundly in their beds, I watched, holding my hands to my mouth, trying not to breathe too loud.

I wanted to run and fight him off her. I wanted to help my mom. But I couldn’t move. I don’t even know how old I was at the time.

They didn’t seem like they were in love. In fact, I only recall constant turmoil. My step-father was, an alcoholic.

I was too young to remember when they were married, but from the photos, I looked very sad.

He drank- a lot. He would get loud and listen to music to where the house would shake. I remember their parties. I remember asking my mom if I could go to bed. I was so tired.
I wanted that mom who would hug me. I wanted that mom who would tell me she loved me. I needed that and I never had it in me to tell her that. I felt betrayed in a way. I felt like drugs were more of a priority than we were. And don’t get me wrong, I love my mother- but it’s just how I felt.

I believe that my grandmother was the same way to my mom. I’m going to assume that my mom learned from how she was raised. She had no idea how to talk to us. Oftentimes, I felt ignored. I caught myself exhibiting the same behavior early on.

Avoidance.

At the counseling session that my mom took me to, I felt uncomfortable to talk in front of her. It was almost like I didn’t know her.

It would take me several years to even start trying to bond with her. It wasn’t until I became pregnant, age 16, that we began a relationship. I longed for her acceptance to the extreme of paying my own child support, unknown to others- so that not only would she stay out of jail, but so that she could see me. While pregnant and attending high school, I would pay her out of my minimum wage income to bring me to her house for the weekend so that she could be active in my life.

As a child, I would see all the other kids and their families. How happy they seemed. Each morning this one mom would stand outside as her daughter left for school. I would watch out the window as she would hold her hands up forming the “I love you” sign.

Secretly, deep down; I always wished that could have been me.

I felt misunderstood.

I felt like love and affection had to be earned. And this may explain why I ended up in some of the situations that I did as a teenager and young adult. Even now, I still struggle with this.

Taking this into consideration, I am lucky. I never realized my potential, my self-worth until fleeing my own violent relationships. I did everything I could to fit somewhere. I tried to belong- at any cost.

And now I know the devastating consequences and effects of this. My mom left her abuser, but it was too late. She was not strong enough to rebuild. She did not have it in her anymore. I was there, with her when she died. I remember telling her, “Mama, your going to be okay.” Once those words came out of my mouth, I felt a knot in my stomach. I looked at her as she laid in the hospital bed and watched her shake her head “No, not this time.” She knew she was dying. And I tried to tell her differently, but my heart knew- that strong intuition within me knew- that she was not going to survive this time.

All those years of resentment I felt towards her. It’s the same that I will one day face with my own children, especially my daughters. It doesn’t matter how I got here, how long it took, or what it took- the bottom line is that I did #breakthecycleofabuse.

And I never gave up.

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Facing Evil

Today was a wonderful day! I was super tired and it was kind of hard to get going this morning because I felt anxious and took my medication to sleep last night. I try not to, because it makes me feel so groggy the next day. I worked through the day at school and had so much fun. The best part of my day was receiving hugs from my pre-k kiddos! I love them so much!

Work doesn’t feel like work, and that’s how I know I’m doing what I’m meant to do. After work, I left for Athens, Georgia to go to the Family Protection Center to complete my LAST Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) assessment. I arrived about 30 minutes early, but was taken back almost immediately. This session lasted a little bit over 2 hours. It was very lengthy, and unlike the last two assessments, this one was ALL about my abuser. From the time we met when I was 14-15 years-old, to the present.

The first assessment was more or less about the bigger picture (my childhood). The second assessment covered all of my intimate relationships. The last one, was probably the most difficult for me. There were so many traumas involved that I had to tell about, re-live.

I will say, that I am happy that it’s over. I celebrated with my friend and ate dinner out at Chic-fil-a!

Today is “Friday Eve”, so I’m excited that the weekend is near! I will be getting a call from the counselor who has worked with me this past month as she ties everything together, and writes my IPV report which will then become property of DFCS. As before, I did not hold back, so there is a lot of information.

I didn’t realize it until tonight, but the counselor was the same one who I met for the first time over a year ago when I initially left my abuser. She mentioned the possibility of me coming to their domestic violence support groups, and having me be a speaker, sharing my story with others. I always thought that after I received my teaching degree, my life would be good. But through everything, my passion has become stronger. I want to help domestic violence survivors, too.

This is an exciting opportunity for me!

On my way home, I reminisced about the constant chaos I lived in. My abuser tried to show the courts that he was in fact, stable and kept us up in nice houses. Well, that is a half truth. For the most part, we survived because of loans. We survived because of frivolous lawsuits he would initiate to get “free money”. My abuser was paid nearly 2,000 for falling through a seat at a movie theatre one time.

After that, he was involved in a minor car accident and received 20,000. I mean, I guess there’s just people out there like that. I remember how he would call restaurants, making complaints just to receive free food. He learned that from his mother.

I spoke a little bit to the counselor about his mother. She’s something else. She would not let me name my own child. She was in the delivery room, and I still have messages where she talked about how “gross” I was and all the hateful and mean things she wrote. In the beginning of our relationship, I think his family was one of the biggest perks. Coming from an unstable one, I thought finally- a big family. And his mom acted at first like she loved me.

I did her homework for her when she went to college. She took my money, although I didn’t have much.

She instigated and created chaos in her home, extending out to us. She was my “monster-in-law”. Adopted by a pastor and his wife at the tender age of 1 (I believe); her mother had abandoned her and her sister who was 3 (not sure if the ages are correct) at the time. They were abandoned in a house with soaked diapers, and the only reason she even survived was because her older sister got a chair to retrieve frozen fish sticks out of the freezer for them to eat.

Her adopted father, my abuser’s grandfather, was a wonderful man. I always loved him and still do. He passed away this year.

He raised my abuser until he was about 9-years-old, off and on. But after my abuser went to live with his mother, things took a turn for the worse. I never understood her. I don’t think I want to. It’s just the ugly cycle. The cycle that I’m breaking free of.

My abuser’s mother looked younger, she was pretty, but she acted younger than she was too. When she went out in public, there were times when she would pretend like her oldest son, my abuser, was her boyfriend. They did drugs together, and partied together.

I honestly believe, there was something more sinister going on too. I can’t say for a fact, but I’m about 99.9% sure that there was a sexual intimacy shared by the two of them, and possibly her other son as well.

How a mother could… I mean, I don’t know. I’m just going to leave it at that. I just don’t understand how people can be so cruel. I don’t understand how people can hurt other people. This is a common theme within my abusers family. I didn’t come from any better. But I was given CHOICES in life. And I decided to be different. And for that, I am changing lives.

The assessments (and therapy) have helped me discover the unhealthy patterns of behavior that I would engage in, when choosing my partners. Specifically, as many times as I went back and forth to my abuser.

I have talked in great lengths about the peace and comfort I found. My abuser would not allow me or my children to attend church. He declared himself a “Wiccan”. I have always believed in God, and yes, I am a Christian.

Since letting him go, my intuition speaks louder. It’s stronger.

I can make decisions again. I can go out on a school night. If I feel like a situation is dangerous, I can trust myself to know that it is dangerous.

I’m in the beginning phase I guess, of my journey, and well- I’d like to think I’m a little further than the beginning. But I just KNOW that I am here to serve a big purpose.  It’s going to take a lot of healing. So far, so good.

I think it’s going to be difficult, with the holidays coming up. I won’t have my babies with me. I won’t have that “family unit” that I worked SO desperately hard for- for so many years. But looking back, I never really had that. It was what I wanted to BELIEVE I had, but I didn’t.

I was drove to near insanity. And I acted it too, I kept doing what was comfortable for me, not what was right. I kept going back, expecting different results. But that never happened. It just got worse.

I guess I’ll never be able to understand why people hurt people. I always try and see the good in others. Trust is something that will take me a long time to repair. First and foremost, I’m learning to trust myself.

This week, I messaged my DFCS caseworker and asked for them to begin to consider unsupervised visitations. I would like to ask for extra prayers on this!

I will never be the same. I will be so, so much better. I am not defined by my past. For everything that I have went through has taught me important lessons.

I don’t have to ask permission anymore, to be myself. I don’t have to walk on eggshells. I don’t have to settle. I don’t have to beg and plead to “just let me sleep”.

I can be, Jennifer. I can be, myself. I can be, what God intended for me to be, which is something incredible.

It was tough, going back through the past seven years. It was hard, because there were good times too. Those good times are what I held onto each time I went back. But the bad times outweighed the good times.

The girlfriend, the basement, the bondage. The chaos. The screaming and shouting. Getting kicked, slapped, beaten with belts and whatever else was convenient at the time. The choking, put-downs, being spit in the face. My hair pulled, my things destroyed. I was his property. I was his slave. I never thought I would get out. I didn’t see a way. I guess for awhile, I didn’t want to see a way. I was SO beat down and hard on myself, I believed his lies. I believed that I wasn’t good enough. Maybe he’s right, maybe I’m sick. Maybe it’s just my “mental illness”. Excuse after excuse. I was in so much denial.

I was told that “no one understands you the way that I do”. I was told that “you can’t do this on your own”. He would say, “you need me” and “I can’t live without you”. him- And the last night I laid in the bed with him before I officially made up my mind to leave for once and for all. As he rubbed my forehead and stroked my hair, I was told, “I love you, and I’m sorry. But you will NEVER take my boys from me. I will kill you, before ever letting that happen.”

I believed him. And I told everyone. My friends, my co-workers, the police, the advocates- anyone and everyone who would listen to me. They all knew- that if anything ever happened to me, who was to be held responsible.

At the same time, and as fate would have it, I also BELIEVED that I was capable of MORE. My children and I deserved more. I just wanted to be safe. I wanted to be free.

I believed I could, and so I did.

I escaped domestic violence. I broke the cycle of abuse, the chains that bounded me for so many years.

I faced evil. I believed I could, and so I did.

 

 

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Acceptance

Happy Solar Eclipse Day! I spent the day at our “Black Out Party” at work with my Pre-K babies! The hallways were decorated with planets (The Solar System) hanging from the ceilings. We used black lights to replace the bulbs that are outside each classroom. This looked really neat! Teachers and students dressed in all black. Our day was extended by an hour. We streamed the Eclipse live for our students to watch on TV, and teachers took turns using the protective glasses to go outside and view the Eclipse in person.

We had tons of fun! We ate the notorious “Krispy Kreme Eclipse Doughnuts” and had a potluck that everyone contributed to.

After work, my therapist came to check on me. She wants me to work on my self-esteem. I noticed that I have this bad habit of trying to seek out reassurance about EVERYTHING. I am doing much better with this, but if I don’t hear something positive from someone, I start second guessing myself. Just a little something for me to work on.

I told her about my encounter with my dad, and she was very proud of me for standing my ground and removing toxicity from my life.

Every now and then I enjoy walking home from work. Not only is it great exercise, but its calming for me. Today, my walk seemed so much quicker than normal. I’m looking forward to the weather cooling off some this fall so that I can do more of that.

For a Monday, today was productive! I think when you go into work and it doesn’t feel like “work”, that’s when you kind of know it’s where your supposed to be. That’s how it is for me.

As far as court dates go, things seem to be quiet. The last court date that I was told of isn’t until October 5th, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. This will be for Juvenile Court, which I believe they are actually trying to get transferred from Athens, Georgia to my county.

Acceptance. I think I struggle with this. I want people to “accept” me. I want to be accepted with no strings attached. Do you know what I mean? This has always been such a struggle of mine.

I think growing up with a twin sister, I really didn’t begin to form my own identity until later in life. Heck, I’m still trying to figure myself out. But that’s okay! What I know about my heart, specifically, I love. I know I have a caring heart. I will never let any circumstance or situation ruin that for me.

My experiences through my journey are incredible. It’s very humbling. I thought I had lost everything. But in reality, I gained so much more.

We all have decisions to make. From the time we get up in the morning, until the time we go to bed at night.

Our decisions play a significant role in what our life is or will look like. I wish I knew what I know now- several years ago. But I can’t go back in time. I can only learn.

I’ve learned so much. About myself, being a mother, relationships. My faith is restored and my relationship with God is so much stronger. I would like to find a bible study group to start going to. I wish I could give out all the peace I feel inside of me to others.

Another thing. Attitude and mindset. It will break you, or it will make you.

If you don’t like how your life is going, the only way out of your situation is to CHANGE it.

It took me so long to accept this. I’m not perfect, I’ve never claimed to be. I’ve said that before. I’m far from it.

But I work hard. I’m committed, dedicated, and I never stay down for long.

Tonight, I must say… I am proud of myself. I am proud of my choices that I have made to lead me to where I’m at, and look forward to where I’m going in life.

I’ve never been excited to wake up in the mornings like I am now. When your personal freedoms, rights and everything have been taken from you, it’s hard not to live through a different lens.

I appreciate and value my life. I really do.

I can’t believe it’s almost the end of August. By next month, I plan to have a vehicle. After that, I will start saving for a new place for the boys and I to live. A new home. A fresh start. Everything, done right.

Within the past couple of days, I felt God lay something heavy down on my heart, that I can’t stop thinking about.

I’ve been told that I’m a good writer. I love to write, but for the most part I love to help others. I know there are people like me out there in the world, and I know the hurt they have gone through. I’ve also taken the road less traveled, made different choices, been given a new opportunity, a new chance- new attitude and mindset. 

The inner peace I feel is powerful. I enjoy writing because it helps me to transition and reflect upon my traumas.

I used to be that person that would just about agree with you on everything you said, whether I did or not. I just wanted to maintain peace, and be loved. That was all.

But things are different now. I’m learning to stand up for myself. To people I never IMAGINED would be possible.

Words are powerful. I believe with all of my heart that I have survived my struggles because I was MEANT to survive. And by that, I mean God has laid it on my heart to let my voice be heard. But in a way that GLORIFIES him. He is what got me through each day. Without Him, I wouldn’t be here right now.

I remember on that mountain, praying- “God, please- just this one last time. I need help.” I asked, He heard me, and answered.

I feel like I’ve been praying the same thing ALL of my life. There are so many factors to consider when looking at the bigger picture of how I became bounded in chains of abuse, after abuse. Learned helplessness. I didn’t want to, and felt like I couldn’t do anything on my own.

Co-dependency. That’s another topic for a different day. But I’ll just say- it’s real.

I’m 30-years-old now. I feel like I’ve lost a lot of time. In a way, I guess I have. At the same time, I am reborn again.

I am going to keep moving forward and never look back.

I’m letting my “broken heart beat again”. This is a new season, my new beginning.

As Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a wood; and I- I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Giving up is lazy. Life was never guaranteed to be easy- cause it’s not. It’s not easy. But it’s WORTH every second. I am after all, a lifelong learner. I will accept that I was abused, I will eventually learn to forgive it. But I will never- ever, forget it. I will never forget it because through this process, I have learned WHO I AM.

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Isolated

My first week in Pre-K is going wonderful. I love the school that I’m teaching at, my co-workers, and of course my students. I am keeping busy with ongoing court hearings, therapy appointments, and am in the beginning phase of completing required evaluations. I will also continue my Monday evening group meetings for “Celebrate Recovery”, at my church. I am now able to visit with my boys twice a week for four hours each day. They are both happy and healthy, and doing wonderful in their new schools.

According to my case plan, my goal is to have successfully moved into my own, safe and stable home by January 2018. I’m ecstatic and can’t wait!

I never thought I could live on my own, or would ever really want to. But I feel ready now. I think being around my solid support team is key. I have so much to look forward to.

I know that I can do this, and I will.

As most know, I received news a few days ago that my motion for a “Permanent Protective Order” for me AND my CHILDREN was GRANTED. Before hearing this, I just knew it. I knew that the judge would grant this.

This is the first experience I’ve actually had where I’m involved in the most uncomfortable of situations- without fear or anxiety. I just KNOW that everything is going to work out. Whether its the courts, DFCS, whoever- I have faith.

Today, I began the “Intake” process for the Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) evaluation. These sessions last approximately 90 minutes each, and more than likely I will have 2-3 appointments.

I didn’t really know exactly what an IPV assessment was, but basically it is an in-depth look from the very beginning (childhood) to now. As expected, it was uncomfortable to travel back in time. It’s almost like being in therapy, but the goal is more or less to get the bigger picture.

I’ve been able to reflect and research- gaining more knowledge of past toxic relationships and patterns that have brought me to where I’m at today. Doing this allows me to go forward, and changing things so that I can be safe and not fall into the trap of violence again.

I notice myself trying to dissociate every time I have to talk about my past. I have to force myself (like when I was on the stand, being cross-examined by my abuser) to stay in the MOMENT.

It’s very difficult.

I received an e-mail from my attorney saying that my next court hearing for Juvenile Court in Athens would be October 5th, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.

As I rode home today, I stared out the car window. I began to have flashbacks on events that occurred last summer. (Probably because I had just had my first IPV assessment).

We were living in Almond, North Carolina. My abuser had gotten a job working on a farm. He would leave me and the boys at our campsite where we lived while he went to work. We had a big van with a bed in it. It was packed full of stuff- essentially 7-years worth of our “stuff”. We had a tent and were near a river. I would wake up early in the morning. I would try and gather food to feed the boys, but it was scarce.

I would have to wait until the middle of the afternoon, or the hottest part of the day to walk the boys down the hill to bathe them in the river. The water was ice-cold, but you got used to it after awhile. I would drag my red backpack down with me and set our soap, washcloths, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste (hygiene) down on the large rocks. Living in the wilderness, I had to learn to be creative.

It would take me a REALLY long time to “bathe”. But I do have to admit, I felt cleaner doing that than in any regular shower any day!

I had to stay constantly alert at all times.

I would boil water by gathering leaves and sticks- starting a fire. We lived there for approximately two months.

This was our way of living. I remember as the boys napped, I would read my book, “Escape” by Carolyn Jessup. She had escaped a polygamist marriage through the FLDS. It’s weird, but I could relate a lot to her in that book. It could have been that I understood her feelings. Because I felt “trapped” in a dysfunctional way of living, where I was expected, if not DEMANDED to be okay with another woman living in my home.

There was also similarities in the abuse that took place.

I would sit and stare. I would lay down and think to myself, “What am I doing? How did I end up like this?”

I did choose to try and make my marriage work. I drove myself and my children up to North Carolina during that time on my own free will. I was not kidnapped or coerced. I did it because I loved my abuser. I loved him and I wanted more than anything to salvage what I could of our marriage.

We were married up there. I love the mountains. It will always hold a special place in my heart, but I will never return to “those mountains”.

I remember laying on the bed, starving.

The only way I knew my abuser was probably close to being back at the campsite was when the sun had almost gone down. That’s how we kept up with the time.

Sometimes, it would be pitch black outside before I would eventually see the headlights to my car, pull up.

I would open the small windows to let fresh air in. I could hear wild animals all around us.

When I arrived up there, I found out I had once again, been lied to. I was met with my abuser and his girlfriend. The same girlfriend that drove me to being hospitalized.

She was upset that I came up.

She barely spoke to me. My abuser was charming- no less. He treated her bad. I think he really wanted to rekindle our relationship. It was almost like the tables had turned. Once there, he ordered me to hand over my car keys. They were both supposed to appear in the Superior Court for Temporary Protective Order hearings in Athens. By not showing, the hearing would be dismissed, and it was.

The girlfriend didn’t last long. She told me she understood how I had felt. She tried to get me to leave before that though. My abuser waited until the 11-year anniversary of my mother’s death to tell me that his girlfriend was pregnant with his baby.

I cried.

I felt like I was being tortured. Emotionally, I was. I was lied to. She wasn’t even supposed to be up there, you know? He told me he was through with her, that part of his life was over…

During the night, I had to use the bathroom really bad. I got up with my flashlight and stood in the bushes. She jumped out and sat by the campfire next to me. She rubbed her stomach. She talked about how she was definitely having this baby, and how excited she was. She was trying to drive me to the point of no return. But it didn’t work. I didn’t let this bother me. I took everything in, but said nothing.

I questioned if she was being honest about this. I thought it was too much of a coincidence. And last I heard, her baby “did not survive”, so I still to this day do not know if that was a made up story or the truth. No tests or appointments were given or shown.

A few days later, my abuser was at work and I was there with her. She was starting to get antsy, wanting to go back home to Georgia.

I tried to avoid her the best that I could, I still feared her.

I’ll never forget when she was using a military knife to open up a can of vegetables, and she sliced her hand wide open. Her hand wouldn’t stop bleeding. The most disturbing part, was right after it happened, she looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “I missed”, just as calm as could be.

I said, “you missed?” And she said, “YES. I missed”, showing me her injury. Naturally, I freaked out. I offered to take her to the hospital. She dismissed that, and said she would be fine. I said, “well I hope you don’t loose your hand- like I hope it won’t get infected”. She waited until my abuser returned and tried to get him to take her to the hospital.

I knew then, that she was playing games.

He flipped the switch, and was hateful. She insisted that the boys and I stay at the campsite. My abuser refused. He said he was not about to leave us in the dark alone. (Although he had, several times).

He wouldn’t even walk her in the hospital. She ended up getting stiches. Pretty much that night sealed the deal, and by the next day, we were all on our way back to Georgia to drop her off with her brother. She texted me the entire ride, telling me how sorry she was.

She hoped that I would be okay.

My gut told me that after she was gone, I would once again be the scapegoat again. Everything would be my fault. I prayed that I was wrong. I hoped that things would be different this time. And the time after that, and the time after the last time.

But as history will show, that wasn’t the case. And this time, I was miles away from home. I was literally cut off of every single support I had. It actually crossed my mind: Will I ever see my daughters again? My family and friends?

I was at the mercy, of my abuser.

Isolated.

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