It’s hard to explain why we go back to our abusers over and over again. For me, not only was it all I knew, but it was a constant. At least I knew what to expect in a way. Over the course of seven abusive years, you learn to gage when things are safe or not. Imagine constantly walking on eggshells. I remember thinking to myself so many times, “If all I had to do was take care of my own responsibilities, I wouldn’t be near as stressed as I am now.”
That was so true.
I’m safe now. Still though, I have trouble sleeping at night. I have to constantly remind myself, “your safe“. My stomach used to stay in knots. And I mean- 24/7.
I find myself replaying scenes in my head over and over again. The screaming, shouting, name-calling, getting spit in the face, slapped across the face, choked with his bare hands, hair pulled, punched in the face so hard one time I literally saw lights flashing.
I ran from him, I hid. Eventually, he always found me. I still have a scar on my left elbow from being thrown and dragged on my carpet.
I felt invisible. I was brought down to a child-like status. I became conditioned over the years. It was a shock when I received such an overwhelming response from old friends, peers, professors- everyone in my community, even those I didn’t know. Because quite frankly, I’ve always felt “invisible“.
I was conditioned to the point of where at one point in time, I was unable to make decisions or choices on my own. I remember my abuser saying, “No one understands you like I do. No one is capable of taking care of you the way that I am.” He made me feel virtually helpless.
I’m now having to re-learn everything that should have been concrete to me by now, all over.
Self affirmations. I am enough. I am beautiful. It helps, it really does help. My self-worth, self-esteem- shattered because for years I was told the opposite.
I know in my heart that God will use me as a vessel to serve him in a big way, and I’m not sure how yet, but I just know that I must continue moving forward.
In the very beginning, around May or June of 2016, I would look for excuses to go back to my abuser. Constantly questioning myself, I would look for one person to validate reasons why I should give it another shot.
And I went back, several times.
Prior to moving to North Carolina, I recall going back to the Athens house, where everything had occurred. Not everything, but the most severe things.
I remember the intense guilt that I felt. It was overwhelming. My feelings would be so conflicted that I couldn’t understand my own self. Therefore, I figured, I was the problem.
We would sit down and talk, and he was so calm. He knew exactly how to counteract all of my concerns. He knew what to say, when to say, right down to how to say it. And it all made sense.
You see, it wasn’t his fault; my issues at the core were actually caused by all of the adults in my life from childhood. That’s why I react the way I do. That’s got to be it, right? It’s because you know, I had “daddy issues”. I was raised by my aunt. My relationship with my mother was turbulent up until the months prior to her passing away. That was to blame- not him.
Never him, it was always somebody else’s fault.
Well, that’s what he convinced me of. Truth be told, I didn’t realize it until a year later, but he sensed my vulnerability from a mile away. He got to know me so well, that he played on every emotion, reaction, everything. He used everything he knew about me to my disadvantage. He used it to gain the ultimate.
Complete power and control over EVERY aspect of my life. He succeeded to, for awhile anyway.
Because I left- because I notified police, all of this was my fault. He wasn’t trying to hurt me, you know. It was just miscommunication. I was the one who was out of control. He was trying to help me, that’s all. He was trying to be a loving husband. He had no bad intentions of hurting me. I was being paranoid. He thought he could “save me from myself“.
Then, snowball effect.
I tried to explain this to the authorities, but they wouldn’t budge. Still, that nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t shake it.
Something about that house.
My mother, no joke- has been deceased since 2005. I thought of her everyday. I still do. But not one time has she came to me in the ways that she has warning me of danger.
I was living in Morgan County, Georgia at one point last fall, just me and the boys- and in the sidewalk was carved, “Jana”. I don’t know many “Jana’s” out there. I know they exist, but the only one I’ve ever really known, is my mother.
Night terrors. They are always intense. Especially last year, in that house. I was laying in bed. We had a Temporary Protective Order at that time, so legally we were not supposed to be together. It was one of the first times that I actually came back.
He told me verbatim how to get the TPO dismissed.
In fact, he even wrote down directions on what I needed to do in order to get his charges dismissed in court.
(He would not be charged with any crime relating to this matter until August of 2016, when the detective on my case finally took out a felony false imprisonment warrant out on him).
With a grin on his face, he said, “You know, people are most vulnerable when they are sleeping.”
Chills went down my spine. I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I could barely breathe.
“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry for everything”, I would say. He knew I was scared. He enjoyed every bit of it.
During that time, my abuser was constantly trying to get rid of our children. He wanted someone- friends, anyone to take the children so that we could “get established in the mountains, which was our home.” This sent red flags to friends. I’ve been told that some felt like “that last hug would be the last they would get from me.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love the mountains. I still do, after everything. But it was just the way he said it.
He had this way of making me feel like the children and I were a burden to him. But when I left, he “couldn’t live without me“. He would tell his friends that I was “crazy“. He suggested that I was a paranoid schizophrenic at one point.
Hands down, domestic violence will cause mental health issues. I am diagnosed with C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Disorder), meaning that I have been exposed to PROLONGED, re-occurring traumatic events over a period of time. I also have Major Depressive Disorder.
I’m not crazy, though. What happened to me, happened to me.
He would talk about my childhood; we would have deep conversations for hours. He learned me from the inside, out. He kept me in a constant state of chaos.
The last thing that my abuser saw coming, was the day I left.
I was teaching Pre-K. I would look in the mirror in the morning, and I didn’t recognize who I was. It was like an out-of-body experience.
I just wanted help. I would drive long distances, and not remember how I got there. It’s like I would completely disengage from life. I had a parent come to me once, I didn’t know her outside of school. I had missed several days of work, and had physical injuries that I would try and “explain away“.
She had tears in her eyes, she said, “I just want you to know… I… I’m praying for you. I dreamed about you a few nights ago, and I just really felt like I needed to say that to you.” She knew nothing of my personal life, of course, but something powerful compelled her to pray over me.
Even the lady that worked at the credit union where my abuser had originally taken out a loan on our car… She even told me, “We knew something was not right. We knew you were being abused.” I didn’t understand. Why? If everyone knew this, why did no one try and stop it? Why?
My anxiety hit the hardest when school was over. When it was time to go back home. I knew I would be entering a war zone, a battlefield if you will.
My abuser would threatened to “knock all of my teeth out of my mouth“. My sons would mimic the abuse and had no respect for me at all when I first left him.
Just as I was re-learning, I had to teach them too. The dynamics of our household were more than dysfunctional.
Riddle me this: Why do abusive parents either show absolutely no interest in their children, being authoritarian when they do; but let a separation happen…
Then it’s like, they are magically the best parent ever existed. That baffles me.
I wish my life was the fairy-tale I tried to make it out to be. I was in complete denial about my life. My dreams were shattered, and here I was, still trying to pick up the broken pieces and stick them back together, getting cut in the process.
I was in complete denial.
When my oldest son, Anthony, was a baby- he slept in a crib in my room. One time, he was crying and I was so exhausted that I woke up to my abuser in my face threatening me with his belt, screaming at me.
I really don’t know how I pulled myself through college. He tried everything he could to get me to drop out.
That was about the only thing I didn’t let him take from me.
He was cruel, and I thought I deserved it.
I was looking for love in all the wrong places, my entire life.
It would be a lot easier on me, if things could of worked out, of course. But the right thing, is not always the easiest thing.
Morals. I have morals, values… I know right from wrong. I used to get made fun of, because I have always been the “rule follower”, very “obedient”.
My abuser would make remarks to his friends that, “she does as she’s told”.
He would say he was joking, but I knew he wasn’t.
He would get us out of anything, underhandedly. I had a conscious, though. And boy, did it wear on me all of those years.
I knew if I didn’t end up dead, I’d be caught up in something devastating resulting from his criminal behavior.
It hurt me, to hurt him. Still, I feel this deep loss. I have to remind myself that what I thought was real, wasn’t. It was all a figment of my imagination. He was so good at mind controlling me, that he made me question what I perceived as “reality”.
It’s amazing what just a few months away from that can do to you. I’m no where near “healed”, but I have an understanding. I’ll never get the answers that I wanted. I never know “why”, and I don’t need to.
I will always have my tough days, those won’t go away.
All I can do, is continue to advocate for my children and myself.
To fight for us.
That’s why I named my blog, “Escaping Domestic Violence: The Road Less Traveled“. It’s “less traveled“, because it’s hard to do.
It’s just not that simple.
To make a conscious choice and effort to go down the “road less traveled“, means that I am committed to doing what is right, not easy.