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The seven-year time period of my life that started when I filed for my first divorce and ended when my second divorce became final is now known to me as my “trainwreck of emotional trauma”. The time in my life that began with one of my most outrageous mistakes and continued through a series of bad choices until I finally found myself, built up enough courage to fight back, divorced my emotional abuser and started reclaiming my life.
For you first to understand what kicked off this seven-year stretch, I need to explain, to the best of my ability, why I call it such an outrageous mistake.
In the mid-1980’s I met, fell in love (at first sight) and married the one man that I later realized would be my one true love in life. I had a four-year-old daughter at the time, he instantly accepted her and loved her as his own, just as she loved him. She still refers to him as daddy most of the time. We married within a month of first meeting each other. Little over a year after getting married, we welcomed a set of twins, a boy, and a girl. We remained married, happily married, for another 6 years. That’s when I began making bad choices. I’m not sure if I can fully explain it, not even positive what exactly happened, we were happy, still passionately in love, but he was working away from home and my parents interfered a lot. I will not blame them, because I was an adult and fully capable of making my own decisions. But mom kept reminding me that my husband was gone all the time. Saying things like “how do you know he’s working all the time?” “Aren’t you tired of being alone so much?” So I started thinking about all she said, feeling like why be married just to live alone with three small children?
Then during 1992, I was happily married to the love of my life, the Daddy to my children and a stay-at-home mom. During 1991, I had gone back to college to get my nursing degree. By May of 1992, I was finishing nursing school and divorced. Thus began my trainwreck screeching downhill, although I didn’t realize it at the time.
So I had started feeling lonely before I filed for divorce, just because my husband was never home. I resumed going out dancing, drinking, and dating. It wasn’t long until I met a guy. He was younger than me, so of course, I was very flattered. We dated for a couple of years before we married in 1994. I knew that he drank (alcohol), but while we were dating and going dancing, I was drinking too, so I didn’t realize how much he actually drank. Not until we were married and actually living together did I realize just what a true problem he had with alcohol.
When the verbal and emotional abuse began
The same year that I married my second husband was the same year my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer. We married at the beginning of July, and I cannot remember the month Mom was diagnosed, but it was very close to the same time. The cancer was already in the late stages when she was diagnosed, it moved rapidly and spread to the bone, and then the brain. She passed away in February of 1995. My kids and I were all very close with my mom, and my daddy too, but my mom had always been a second mother to my kids. Most grandmothers are I think. My oldest daughter was 13 and my twins were 8 at this time. If not for my kids, and me needing to function as their mother, I honestly think I may have endured a nervous break-down during this time. Thankfully my mother’s instinct kicked in, and only through the grace of God, did I hold it together for my children. However, only two weeks to the day after my mother’s funeral, I had just hung up the phone from talking to my daddy. My husband came through the back door from being outside, and he was drunk. He found me crying from my conversation with Daddy and for whatever reason, this infuriated him. He went into a rage and yelled at me for crying. Still, to this day, I can hear his harsh words ringing through my mind as he screamed, “Oh for F*&$@s Sake! Stop your D#$% crying! Your mother is dead! D_E_A_D! Do you hear me? So stop crying about it already!”
Not even married a whole year yet, and at that moment, drunk or not, I knew I could not possibly love this man. I could not live with this man. I cried even harder wondering what had I gotten myself AND my kids into?
When is it verbal and emotional abuse?
Believe it or not, yelling and screaming at another person is a form of verbal and emotional abuse. Especially when it’s done repeatedly. Blaming their actions on others is another form of abuse, as well as preventing you from seeing your friends and family. This last one is tricky, you won’t even realize that is what the person is doing to you.
Every time my second husband was drinking, well might as well say drunk, because he never stopped until he was completely drunk, he would start yelling at me. About anything and everything. He would at times, keep me awake all night yelling at me about things that happened to him as a kid and what a crappy childhood he lived through because of his dad’s drinking problem. He also had started blaming me and my children for his drinking. Saying we made him want to drink all the time.
Here again, I feel the need to give you a short background on me. Before this seven-year period, I’m talking about, I had always, even as a kid, been a very out-going, strong-willed, confident, take-no-crap kind of girl. The day he first started yelling and screaming I started changing little by little.
The more he drank, the more he yelled and the more I sank back into myself. The more the cycle continued, the more I became a little more insecure with my situation and more frightened of just how far would he go when he was drunk. I began to worry about the effect it was having on my kids, and even concerned for their safety. He was starting to isolate me from my friends and even some of my family. I didn’t want my niece to be around him, and I didn’t want my brother or friends to notice how I was changing, so I started staying away from them. His mom lived next door in the beginning, so I didn’t invite friends to our house. He always wanted us, as a family to go spend time on the weekends with his grandparents, or his brother and family. He was making it so that we spent more time with his family and less time with my family and friends. The typical way an abuser isolates their victim without the victim really noticing it at first.
When I noticed my children suffering too
Before we were married he seemed to enjoy my kids, playing games with them, being silly, entertaining them and watching movies with us as a family. Most of that changed not long after we married, and if we still did play games or watch movies together, he was drinking or already drunk, which lead to him fussing or yelling at the kids during family time. Two of the main things that all three of my children repeatedly tell me they remember were, 1. he would get drunk, then make the kids march in a circle while repeating the names of the Books in the Bible and 2. while at the table eating meals, if one of them happened to not use their table manners, he used his fork to tap them on the knuckles or forehead. He normally never actually made contact, he would make the motion as if he was about to tap them with the fork and they would correct whatever they were doing wrong. He also in very subtle ways basically “body-shamed” my youngest daughter by constantly urging her to eat healthily and exercise more, because she was overweight. Although in her defense, she was not as overweight as he made her seem or feel about herself. She was muscular and more of an athletic build. She was constantly outside playing, running and trying to keep up with her brother and boy cousins from next door. She was later diagnosed with Metabolic X syndrome and diabetes by age 13. She actually ate healthier than the other two kids and was very active.
For these reasons, I began “running interference” between him and my kids, hoping he wouldn’t notice what I was doing. He had guns in the house, he would wave them around at me when drunk, he had on a few occasions told me I couldn’t leave him, so I wasn’t sure how or when I was going to leave, but it was always on my mind. From the moment he first yelled at me right after losing my mom, I was constantly trying to plan on how to get out of the mess I had created for my children and myself. So I told the kids to stay out of his way and out of his sight as much as possible, especially when he was drinking. But this was no way for children to live, never wanting friends to come over, always afraid of how he would act at their ball games or school functions. Stress, anxiety and emotional abuse were taking a toll on us all.
When emotional abuse turns physical
I want to explain one thing because I had always been very independent, the type of woman that could and would always stand up for myself and anyone else that needed someone to stand up for them. I was outspoken and I just did not allow anyone to push me around. I was the first person to say loud and clear that I would NEVER let any man abuse ME. So it’s very difficult, even for me to understand HOW I let this happen, how did I date this man for almost 2 years, then end up living with him for 5 years. In defense of myself, and all the other victims of abuse, I will tell you, it starts out subtly, yes for me when he first yelled at me about crying over my mom’s death, I knew I couldn’t really love that man, but I didn’t recognize it as emotional abuse right away. Mental and emotional abuse can be in many forms, the abuser can even say things in a loving way but yet it’s manipulative or coercive. The things they repeatedly say to you start to change your own way of thinking, you start to doubt yourself and you lose confidence. Sometimes they even repeatedly say and do things that cause you to become confused about how you remember things that happened, especially if it was concerning how he had treated you.
With that said, our marriage continued as the emotional abuse continued to grow more often and stronger. There were several occasions that the police were involved, once he even met the cops at the door, so drunk he could barely stand up and waving a gun at them. The cops split us up, took him outside with two of them, while one cop came inside with me and the kids. The one with us asked if we feared for our safety, I said as long as he had that gun that yes I did. He explained to me that a man has the right to bear arms in his own home and that he also has the right to drink alcohol in his own home. He was not breaking the law because he had not physically hurt anyone. The only option I had was for the policeman to take my children and me somewhere safe. This may sound logical to some of you, I should take my kids and get out. But, here is where my mind became illogical. I could only think of three safe places to go to. 1. My daddy’s but my husband would just come there and act crazy, upsetting my elderly father who had a bad heart. 2. My life-long best friend, but she lived directly across the driveway at this point, and he would definitely just come next door and cause too much trouble. 3. My brother’s house, again he’d follow me there and I did not want my brother fighting with my drunk husband in the middle of the night, and sure did not want my niece seeing that. So, I refused to let the cops take me anywhere, and I stayed. I told the kids to go to their rooms and stay there. The cops outside talked to him, calmed him down, they did convince him to let me take the gun and go put it away, and told him that he should just go to bed and sleep it off. Then they left. He was calm, and I thought he was going to bed. I was mistaken.
This is when he headed toward the children’s bedrooms, yelling like a crazy man, I cannot even tell you now what all he was saying, but it flipped my inner mother’s instinct switch. All the years of emotional abuse, all the intimidation, control, and confusion he had held over me vanished in mere seconds. I was no longer afraid, no, Momma Bear was in full action as he stormed through my daughter’s bedroom door and reached to grab her. I have no idea what his intentions were when he reached to grab her, but I don’t remember thinking anything except he was not going to touch my baby. He reached for her, just as I grabbed his other arm, he swung around, pushed me back, then grabbed me, hit me, ripped my clothes and the fight was ON. He threw me into a wall hard enough to leave a hole in the wall, but I still came back up swinging. My oldest daughter had gathered the twins as I yelled for them to go get in the truck. My husband was drunk enough, I knew I could get him down long enough for me to get out of there if I knew the kids were already out of the house. He was blind in one eye from birth, and I made solid contact with the other eye. The good eye began swelling shut immediately. He was down and couldn’t see, that was our chance. I turned to leave and there stood my son with his baseball bat ready to swing. I asked him what he was doing, those big blue eyes looked up at me with so much confidence as he said: Just in case he got ya down momma, I had your back”. I smiled, ruffled his blonde hair and we all ran to the truck and left that night. My clothes were torn, none of us had shoes on, but luckily I thought to grab my purse on the way out, and we just left. I had no idea where I was going, but I knew we had to leave.
Every decision parents make effects their kids
As a parent do not ever fool yourself into thinking that any decision you make in life, no matter how small it may be, will not affect your children’s lives. Do not try to convince yourself that if what you are about to do will somehow make you happier, therefore it will make a better and happier life for your children too. Of course, I obviously could not see into the future and know that the man I dated for two years prior to marrying him would turn out to be an abusive alcoholic. Yet, in hindsight I can see there were a lot of red flags, there were many times I ignored gut feelings and instincts that were telling me not to divorce my first husband, do not break up my family, and even later there were things deep inside warning me not to marry my second husband. Still, I thought it would make us happy at the time, so went ahead and did it. For these reasons, this is why I say that MY decisions alone, caused my seven-year trainwreck of emotional abuse not only for myself but mostly for my children.
I won’t bore you with any more specific details of the entire seven years of events. I will give you a few more highlights of things that caused so much emotional trauma on my children. Trauma that caused lasting effects that they continue to deal with today.
For starters when I remarried in 1994, my first husband stopped coming around to even see the children. He would call and talk to them. I continued to stay in very close contact with his parents, his mom was truly a second mother to me, and we remained just that close even after the divorce. She always told me that I divorced her son, not her and she meant every word of it. So the children stayed very close to their Nanny and spent holidays with her, but rarely saw their daddy. Nanny told me that their daddy was still hurting emotionally and could not tolerate seeing me or his kids with another man. Ok, a sad excuse not to see his kids, but I take the blame for my bad choices and hurting him. I never criticized or said one bad word about him to the kids. I accepted the blame even when talking to them. I suppose even then I was attempting to assuage some of my guilt that I was feeling for ripping apart our family and putting my kids through such heartache. The kids adored their Daddy, as he did them, especially our youngest daughter. She would never go to sleep, even as an infant until her Daddy came home from work to put her to bed, she was his Punkin’.
I already mentioned that I had a daughter that was four years old when I met and married my first husband. She had not known her biological father and instantly fell in love with this new Daddy-figure in our lives. He always jokingly told her that he was only marrying her momma so he could be her Daddy. She would grin ear to ear! She loved their little private joke. Here again, you have to think about how everything you say and do as a parent is going to affect your children. Yes, at that point, neither one of us ever thought we would end up divorced. But now think about how she felt when we did. At age 4 she falls in love with a Daddy that tells her he only marries her momma because he wants to be her daddy, then when we divorce he stops coming to see the kids. What do you imagine she thought or felt? She felt like we divorced because he no longer wanted to be her Daddy, no matter how much I told her differently.
My son just always seemed to roll with the punches, yes he missed his Daddy but at really early ages he clung more to me. Then once I’d remarried and my best friend was living next door who had a son the same age, our two boys became inseparable. My friend’s husband also became like a father figure to my son. My youngest daughter though, I believe was affected the most. Remember I said she would not go to sleep even as an infant until her Daddy came home. Then everything was compounded by the emotional abuse and bullying she was getting from my second husband all during the time that her Daddy stopped coming to see her. I cannot completely explain the emotional trauma this caused to my daughter. That would be her story to tell in-depth, I can only tell what I observed, and most of it sadly is because of the effects it continues to have on her now.
Learning to live with my bad choices
From the time I remarried in 1994 until my last divorce in 1999, my children rarely saw their Daddy. He called and talked to them on the phone at times, and when they did happen to see them it would be by chance only when I would take them to visit their Nanny. He was a long haul truck driver at the time and was away from home mostly. However he called me a lot, would even have me meet him when he was coming through close by so he could give me things for the kids, but he always did it when the kids were in school. This was odd to me, but he always said he had to stay on schedule with his loads and couldn’t wait around until they were out of school. Again maybe this too was a wrong choice on my part for me to continue meeting him even when he could not see the kids. I know now that was hurtful to the kids to know I had seen him but he couldn’t make time to see them too. In my mind, any time I could see him and talk to him was another chance to explain what I had gotten us all into, a chance and hope that just maybe he could somehow rescue the kids, and possibly even me from the mess I had created. But the rescue never came. He continually told me how much he missed us and loved us. Yes, us, all of us, the kids and me too.
Then in 1999 when the abuse had become physical and we finally left, I waited until he (the second husband) went to work. The children and I went back to the house, packed up his personal belongings, drove to his work and put them all in the bed of his truck. I drove away, then called him at work, told him where his stuff was and warned him not to come home. Luckily he didn’t try to come home and I filed for divorce. Later when the kids’ Nanny told their Daddy of my divorce, their Daddy came to see the kids. But to our surprise, he brought his wife and then two-year-old daughter who he now called his punkin’ the name he’d always called my youngest daughter. The hurt and emotional damage just kept piling on deeper for my children and now their Daddy didn’t even understand why. He was back, they should be happy! At least that was his thinking. My youngest daughter was stunned and heartbroken that Daddy had a new “Punkin” and my oldest daughter now felt she no longer had a daddy cause if Daddy had a new wife, then he couldn’t marry her momma to be her Daddy again. What a huge mess. And yet Daddy expected the kids to just welcome him back with open arms and undying love like the past five years never happened.
We have come a very long way in the past twenty years. The kids have all tried to forge somewhat of relationships with their Dad. But my “trainwreck” happened to all of us, because of my choices. We do have some regrets, but we all agree that some things do happen for reasons because my kids have an amazing little sister now that they would not have if I hadn’t divorced their Dad. We are all still learning to cope with old wounds from time to time, but mostly we just move forward with lots of love and forgiveness without dwelling too much on the past.
I still suffer from a lot of guilt, anxiety, and depression basically from all the things I put my children through. In some ways I think my oldest daughter and my son came out as stronger adults through most of it, they even tell me they feel that way. But I do notice little things that I think stem from all we went through. My youngest daughter took the hardest hit from it all, I can never change it, nor make it up to her, I can just keep loving her through it. And I do love her more than anything in this world. She will always be MY Punkin’.
However, if anything in this post sounds familiar, if you find yourself in an emotional, verbal or in any kind of abusive relationship, please seek help. Email me, I will not judge, but I will talk with you and help you seek appropriate help. You can also use the links below for more information and help.
until next time,