A Debbie Downer Update and an Apology to Julia

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*Note: I found this written and discarded on my computer. It’s not a stellar bit of writing which may explain things, however, I owe someone who commented here an apology. She wrote in good faith, I said I would reply, then turned into a tiny lump of denial.

Candy Crush marathons—

Pinterest until way past bedtime—

Avoiding email, text and voice mail. Since November.

 I hate, hate, hate to post this. Much rather wait until there’s something upbeat and lovely but then again, I don’t usually pull a nutty of this magnitude, so here you go.

Don’t know if you noticed but I haven’t posted much. Couldn’t quite figure out the reason. I’ve wanted to post. I’ve tried to post.

This is hard to write and harder to post for a bunch of reasons. Like most survivors, I do not like sympathy. Sympathy brings on feelings and I’m not so good with those. This is probably a bit nutz but there you have it.

Unfortunately, I promised honesty.

After leaving three years ago, I was so happy to get away from the beast, so relieved to have the constant barrage of crazy-making, the roller coaster of verbal/emotional and spiritual abuse finally end, that I had no idea whatsoever that I was still having a difficult time. Fact is, in some ways, the last three years have been *more* difficult, something I did not suspect.

Not to say it’s not worth every single drop of blood I’ve spilled over this (metaphorically speaking), it dadgum is. But–

  • Leaving after thirty years was hard.
  • Finding a job after 30 years off the job market was hard and, in fact, took most of three years of constant attention.
  • Finding housing we can afford is hard. Finding a way to help a teen launch from high school to Real World is expensive. And hard.
  • Watching my son decompress mentally, emotionally and every other way imaginable, cycling through emotions he never had the freedom to express before, day after day after day after day is more than hard. It’s heartbreaking.
  • Talking to a counselor who insisted on telling me the truth was hard.
  • Supporting the kids when all I want to do is sit on the floor and lick my wounds is hard. Repenting to my children for my part in the pain they received as children is hard.
  • Fighting depression is hard.
  • Reclaiming my identity is near to impossible. I just do not know who I am anymore.
  • Losing my place, my position, my home is hard.
  • Learning to live as a single, divorced, unclaimed and unloved woman is so very hard.
  • Learning to replace that identity with the one my Savior freely gives is essential, but so not easy. Just learning what that might be takes incredible effort. Seeing myself as a courageous woman, as a survivor, as brave, as loved and valued and cherished is a task I’ll be working through for however many decades I’ve got left.
  • Finding out that the man you loved is an enemy and—God forbid—always was an enemy is devastating. Living through that realization day by day just sucks. Remembering all the crap you discounted, ignored and explained away because ‘he couldn’t possibly mean that!’ is nauseating.
  • Having the estranged call our friends, weeping and crying, asking for prayer and watching him manipulate their emotions in exactly the same way he manipulated mine for decades is hard.
  • Admitting that you ever loved the bastard is way harder than it sounds.
  • Watching the man you prayed for, nurtured, supported and upheld while he lived like the devil lie and buy his way into a position of church leadership only three months after we left was hard. Finding out he’s now the associate pastor when he has never shown even one sign of genuine repentance is laughable. Hearing that he and his church now consider him a modern day Job— righteous man, without sin, afflicted for no reason whatsoever—is way hard.

Right up until one year before leaving I was emotionally numb. Now, I’m awake and aware. Things hurt, I feel them. I’m getting bucketloads of memories, boatloads of deferred pain and way too much drama—memories, regrets, and brand new hurts now that the walls have dropped and the kids are telling their stories.

Was it worth leaving?

Oh, honey! Let me tell you. . . every second, of every minute of every day, I thank the Almighty who delivered us from evil. This job of getting well may be hard but the alternative is unthinkable.

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36 responses »

  1. Ida Mae, I wish you had just spoken these words from a platform so we could all stand up, clap, and cheer!

    Good for you! …in so so many ways…

    Wise honest words spoken by one who earned the right to speak through much pain and sorrow!

    Thank you!

      • I’m not sure it ever completely ends this side of Glory. However, it does, definitely, get better with time, healing and soaking in God’s truth.

        I put a link to this post on my FaceBook page, and have already received comments saying what an encouragement your words are.

        You are such a blessing! 🙂

      • Hi there, don’t even know where to put a reply at this point, please pardon me, but I’m very upset. I wish for once I could just tell which one of us is out of touch with reality, me or him! I have gone to numerous counselors/mental health experts/volunteers at the women’s shelter, you name it, and have yet to find anyone who thinks I’m crazy and delusional, but I can’t be sure anymore. He’s always refused to go with me, so they don’t get “his side.” I must pass a physical every 2 years for my job, and have my hearing checked, so I know there’s nothing wrong with my ears. Why do I always feel like someone ripped the floor out from under my feet?

        I’ve been “married” to him for 31 years. He’s always claimed to be a Christian. We have 3 grown sons, and a wonderful sweet 9-year-old born late in life. We got into another massive fight tonight. I came home from work and he promptly went up to his room, as usual. I made the mistake (again) of (civilly) asking why he couldn’t please spend more time with his son.(He sits up in his bedroom nearly all his waking hours, alone). I told him, “N” needs his father.

        He responded with the usual “I’m sick of your (expletive), you f-ing b-, retard, nutjob,” you name it. I’m a “nag.” I’m “pecking” at him. I sighed and told him he’s been calling me nasty names since I was 19…he said because it’s all true.

        He said he’s wanted to leave me for a long time, but I won’t “let” him…I never said any such thing! I honestly wish he would meet someone new and get out of my life. In fact, it was me who’s told him we should split up so many, many times over the years, but his response has always been a volley of threats. First he threatened suicide, then that he would quit his job and go back on drugs. Later on, it was, “I’ll tell the judge you’re crazy, and you’ll never get the kids!” Then after they grew up, it was, “If we’re divorced, you won’t have health insurance anymore!” “I’ll get custody of N!” This, from a man who prefers plopping in front of the tv and computer, than being with his child. ??

        He’s told me he doesn’t think it’s fair that I get half our assets if we split, so that’s why he stays with me (we both work, and he’s stashed away nearly $200,000 in silver in a safe that I can’t touch, along with an assault rifle and other weapons). Why would anyone want to stay with someone they clearly hate, just for the money? He makes way more than I do, and could support himself quite nicely. But, he’s always had a serious greed problem…he doesn’t want anyone touching a cent of “his” hoard. It’s pathetic. Whenever I’ve mentioned verses about the love of money, or pointed out that Christians in third world countries often have little or nothing material-wise, but they have God’s peace, he mocks anything I say.

        I’m constantly told I have a delusional mind, that he never said some of the things he said. That’s his favorite MO. Yet, HE makes up things all the time and attributes evil to nearly every word that comes out of my mouth. My past sins, things I’ve repented of and asked God’s forgiveness for, and brought up on nearly a daily basis. Sometimes I think he’s possessed, because that’s so demonic.

        I wish I could know that all the horrible things he says to me, aren’t true. I know I’m far from perfect, but I don’t think I’m unreasonable, either. Thank you, Ida Mae, for your blog…I read it when I feel like I’m losing my sanity. Sorry for the rant…

      • Good to see you here, PB.

        Way back in some post early on, I wrote that the only way I got out was by clamping my hands over my ears and running, repeating over and over, “I know the truth, I know the truth.” The minute the beast started talking, I got confused again. He was an absolute master at manipulating my emotions and working the crazy.

        I use to ask friends, am I a difficult person? Do you think I’m mean? No, really– honest to goodness, do I come across as ________________? (Insert whatever I’d been accused of that week here.) Every single thing I tried to talk to him about, he turned around and accused me of. The whole family is walking on eggshells? Mention it and the next day, *he* has to walk on eggshells. Mean to the kids? He’d use my exact wording and phrasing to accuse me and swear I’d never mentioned it.

        I can promise you that he is not out of touch with reality– he knows exactly what he’s doing and he’s doing this on purpose to make you doubt your own reality. But you are a strong woman. After all, you’ve lived with him for thirty-one years! You know what you hear. You know who you are. You know what he’s doing. And you will not take the word of a self-centered, selfish imitation of a man who’s trying to define your reality much longer. One day, you are going to vomit this up and be done.

        Bless you, honey! I hear you–

      • Thank you so much, Ida Mae! You are truly insightful!

        His favorite thing to call me is a liar (and a sneak). You see, I hate being screamed at. Sometimes when I feel like I’m going crazy and need to visit a friend just to keep my sanity, I don’t always tell him where I’m going, though I try hard not to outright lie. I do delete text messages to or from my friends when I share things. I don’t ask his permission for every single purchase I make, if I think life will be more peaceful if I don’t. I even had the audacity to open a small bank account in my name only, depositing less than 5% of my weekly income into it, so I could have a little fund to do things I didn’t want to be bawled out for…I bought our son a trampoline on sale for his 9th birthday, a season pass to a little theme park/beach he loves, “bad” things like that. (If I’d bought things with the credit card, he would have made me take them back). Otherwise, I know lying is a sin and I try to be an honest person inasmuch as I can.

        I work as a school bus driver, and last week my schedule was different due to parent/teacher conferences. I gave him the heads up, knowing he’s always suspicious if I’m not working when I should be. I even sent him a text from our son’s school, informing him that I was there, that our son was at the playground with his friends, and what time I would be home.

        I came home to find him seething: “What can I expect now!” over and over. He demanded to know why I’d called the hospital. I was clueless at first. Then I realized he must have gone on his computer and accessed my cell phone records. I’d made a call to a hospital-affiliated children’s counseling service that afternoon, at the recommendation of a Christian friend of mine. He accused me of possibly trying to get a psychiatric evaluation for myself, in order to try to have him removed as the beneficiary of my life insurance policy. ???

        When I told him the real reason why that phone call was made, he again started with the “liar-sneak” accusations. Why hadn’t I discussed this with him first! It could be that my friend had just recommended it the night before, after he’d called me a “bleeping retard, nutjob,” and the usual names, after which he’d ordered me to leave him alone and go away. The call was made in the afternoon, while he was asleep (he works 3rd shift). Had he expected me to call him and wake him up, to ask his permission?

        Is it truly lying, when you know coming right out and telling the abuser that you’ve got your name on a waiting list for affordable housing, that you’ve consulted a lawyer, that you’ve bought your child something he thinks you shouldn’t have, will result in more abuse and worse yet, your child having to witness this? He actually asked me the other day, who has the worse sin, me for my alleged sneaking/ lying, or him, for getting furious with things I do. He said I need to come right out and “be honest,” and then if he reacts in a negative manner, then the sin will be on him. I can’t win…

        Thank you for letting me vent again…

      • It’s called “keeping your own counsel” and in these situations, I came to believe it was very similar to those who protected the Jews during the Holocaust. Would you tell the truth if it meant someone would go to a concentration camp or worse? Some religious people called this lying and would allow people to be trotted off to the gas chamber to keep a clear conscious. Well, I say that is cowardice and completely violates the heart of the law to love your neighbor.

        And besides, these were *my* children the beast was abusing. How much more will a mother do to protect her littles?

        Guess you can tell, this is a common theme with abused wives and one I struggled with myself. My husband *constantly* said that my sin of lying/dodging/or omission to protect myself or the kids was equivalent to his verbal/emotional abuse and bullying. My kids have told me the same thing– they are having to learn to be careful to tell the truth now that the danger has passed.

  2. Ida Mae, you expressed so many of my feelings. I also left 3 years ago. Thanks for this honest and real post that is helping me not feel crazy and alone. ❤

    • Crazy and alone– that is an excellent way to put it. Reaching out to others here and on other blogs has helped so much. Something about seeing that our troubles are shared makes things better.

  3. Speaking as one that has gone through a similar experience & has had a very similar out come . It will and it does Get better. And one day the smile on your face & and in side you will be so great you can’t hold it in. God is not deceived and that is your strength.

  4. Wow! Ida Mae. I have found someone who has lived a parallel life– I could have written every.single.word, right up to leaving three years ago after thirty years. The only differences for me are that I have three teens, and my ex didn’t become an associate pastor although has been in one of those church-based “recovery” groups and is now in leadership and mentors others (!)

    Reading your blog is like finding a sister in the mirror, one who is very articulate and insightful. I have read most of it though this is my first comment, and let me tell you, you have been missed!!

    Reading your saga and your reflections on it have inspired me to be more introspective (a luxury only afforded after one escapes Survival mode), and who knows….maybe I’ll write some of it down too. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

    • When you feel strong enough, please write! We need the collective outcry to make change and, speaking from experience, sometimes the only way to get free is to speak the truth and keep right on speaking.

      Thank you for your kind words, Victoria~

  5. Hello, Ida Mae.

    It’s so good to read your work again – I wondered where you had gone. You were missed, dear woman.

    Everything you wrote is so relate-able. I know that’s not a word, but it’s what I want to say.
    You shared beautifully the painful reality that comes with working through the stinking mess our abusers leave. But, I’m sure you also know that life does get better. Even working through the pain with your kids – as much as it hurts – it is freeing. You have given them permission to feel and hurt and heal, and God does the same for you.

    Thank you for sharing. The words you offered here are real and very powerful.

    All the best always,

    Cindy

    • Yes, I’m find that feelings aren’t reality and they aren’t terminal.

      Once I allow myself to feel them, no matter how naughty, they lose power and then the truth comes back in and fills the spot. Not the best analogy, but its all I’ve got this morning on one cup of coffee.

  6. I’ve been six years alone now and STILL go into hiding when it gets hard. My family and a few friends have finally understood what it means when they don’t hear from me.
    They may have written it down on their calenders: “Feb 2–March 3. Julia is out of commission”.
    Hey…if my car gets to go to the shop for repairs…so do I. 🙂

    You do what you have to, sweetheart. You can follow your instincts now. They’ve been shut down long enough.
    I am praying for you. Hang in there.
    Julia

    (email following soon)

  7. Love you so much, Ida Mae! Your writing is exquisite, and uniquely you. So much wisdom and honesty, and enough well placed dadgummits to lighten up a painful topic now and then. You have always been one of smartest smart people I have ever known. I am so sorry I did not see the blaring red flags before you left the anti-husband, but I have been cheering for you 100 percent since then.. I sat here for hours on this site, and just finished reading all your posts, what a powerful, thoughtful, insightful and most of all, helpful blog this is, and heart that you share! Yours is a voice that needs to be heard in the wasteland of misguided Christian marriage advice ‘helps’ out there. I agree with the earlier comment by Joe, I am standing up, clapping and cheering..(er..um…figuratively that is, in reality I am smiling at the computer, lounging on the couch in schlumphy pajamas, but cheering on the inside 😉

    • Hi Laurie– didn’t expect to see you here. So glad to have you join us!

      Thank you, dear friend, for all your support over the years. You are a treasure 🙂

  8. Loved it, loved it loved it!

    Did you also find one more thing very hard – finding a church that cares about domestic violence, one that does not view single, divorced women as needy women who need pity and are somewhat a blight on the Christian faith, one that preaches the genuine Gospel and not a version that enabled the violence that brought havoc to your home and capsized the lives of you and your children?

    “This job of getting well may be hard but the alternative is unthinkable.” You know what I love the most? Smiling. I smile whenever I walk into a supermarket, knowing that I am free to spend money in any way I choose to. I smile as I drive, knowing that I don’t have to rush home to be interrogated as to where I have been. I smile as I chat and play with the kids, without worrying about him getting jealous of my time with them. I didn’t expect to smile as much. Someone should have told me that in addition to the tears and pain, I would also experience unexpected waves of relief and joy.

    • Jan,
      I love your comments! And totally agree with both of them. I hope and pray the Church will wake up, and soon!
      And I love to smile 🙂 Even that first day, 4.5 years ago, after separating from my abuser, the freedom to breathe and smile and enjoy my kids without fear of retaliation was amazing!

    • Yes, Jan. I found that to be just about impossible. I haven’t been a part of an organized church for years. Can’t take the spiritual abuse on top of everything else.

      My grandmother, Ida, led the way on that one long ago. She had her network of dear friends, visited churches whenever she visited family and had her radio church. That’s pretty much what I do. Jeff Crippen over at A Cry for Justice sends out his sermons and words of encouragement by email every week and I stay in touch with supportive believers who understand.

      I do love smiling but I had to learn how which is actually a funny story. My kids would say, “smile mom” and I’d say, “I AM smiling”. The truth was, I’d learned to hide my emotions because the ex used them for ammunition. I had to stand in front of a bathroom mirror and practice, lol.

  9. I love your last few sentences, “Was it worth leaving?

    Oh, honey! Let me tell you. . . every second, of every minute of every day, I thank the Almighty who delivered us from evil. This job of getting well may be hard but the alternative is unthinkable.”

    I have been through something similar. Yes, it was VERY hard to leave, and very hard to go through the divorce, and very hard to heal. But, as you say, the alternative is unthinkable. I cannot even imagine what my life today might be like if I were still married to my abuser. It doesn’t even bear thinking about. I might be physically dead. If not, I would probably be spiritually and emotionally dead. Nine years ago, I finally determined God did not want this for me, nor did He want this example of a “Christian” marriage for my children. I praise Him that he walked alongside me, giving me the strength and courage to take the necessary painful steps to leave.

  10. I can relate to every word here except that I’m only 6 months into the leaving part. Thank you for expressing your experience so beautifully.

    The point about sympathy arousing uncomfortable emotions is really striking a chord in me..and is explaining the deep grieve and loss I feel after a compassionate person expresses shock or sympathy for what I’ve been living in.

    The kids processing pain…dealing with their reactions to time with dad…christians who are giving advice that ignores or enables more abuse…it does hurt…But I’m honored to know that others have walked this lonely road before me, including Jesus, and that HE is walking with me.

    • Welcome, April!

      I remember six months– at that point I was still going through all those anniversaries for the first time. “One year ago today, this happened.” “One year ago today, I knew it was over.” “One year ago today, he said ______ and nothing was ever the same.”

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. It helps to hear from others 🙂

  11. Wonderful post! I remember stumbling upon your blog last year, then seeing no new posts…I wondered what had happened to you. Thank you for being so honest about the very real difficulties getting out.

    It’s also comforting (in a sad sort of way, if that makes sense?) to see how other abusive men can be looked upon as SO good and righteous by church people who just don’t understand. My “husband” says he doesn’t love me and only wants me around because he doesn’t think it’s fair that I wind up with half our mutual assets, if we split up. No one who knows us would ever believe he said such a thing. During arguments he’s given me several names of Christian people who allegedly told him to divorce me at one time or another, of course, because I’m a nutjob, etc…sigh…sorry for rambling. Knowing that other abusive men are so capable of fooling people outside their own household, is somehow helpful to me. Your ex got away with it, despite your being totally believable…that sort of validates my own situation.

    You deserve a standing ovation for this one! Thank you for being such a blessing to the rest of us.

    • Thank you–

      It’s been one of the hardest things to process, especially when people I loved and spent time with turned away. How could anyone overlook what was clearly in plain sight? Well. . . I sure did and I slept with the man for thirty years. These guys are very good at what they do– deception is their specialty.

      • So true Ida Mae! Even though I had gone to my church twice for help, and they KNEW I was being abused, when I finally got a restraining order, my husband called our pastor and acted like the injured party! And they sided with him! Called me and told me I had no biblical right to divorce. Yikes!

  12. It has been six years since the divorce was final. I agree it has been hard. I still don’t know who I am and am trying to allow God to show me. I have to choose to take comfort in knowing that at some point my ex will be held accountable for what he has done. God knows the truth and He will hold the man accountable.

  13. Agggh, yes if you made a list of all the things you’ve lost through divorce with an abusive spouse it would cover many pages. I actually started a list like this and on the other side of what I’ve gained I put “freedom” and “sanity”. No way would I ever trade those two words for the notebook that fills the other side.

    It is isolating when you come to the cold truth that your spouse who took a covenant with you to love and protect you had his fingers crossed during the whole ceremony. At times I have felt like a fool when I consider how much he must have relished seeing me squirm as my identity was making its way out of me violently. It’s isolating when this is your truth but if you say much more than “its been difficult” to others they immediately rebuke you or accuse you.

    I have often said that if you experience the pain of losing your house, your job or even a family member people will rally round you and offer support. You can “out” your story and don’t have to hide it. This loss is not shameful, yet when you have been abused you are expected to keep your mouth shut. There are very few I have found willing to support beyond those who have not been there themselves. THis is true ESP in the bible owning community. We must love what God loves and hate what He hates. Very few are willing to be bold enough and controversial enough to ever consider hating. Its a naughty word not said by good Christian church goers.

    I wish that I, too, had the luxury of the heads-turned, nose-upright church goers to not have had to experience that hate actually exists.

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