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Brave. Strong. Insightful. Courageous. Tenacious.
Those are just a few of the words invoked by what was meant to be a (published) rambling of thoughts. I had no idea any of this would strike such a chord. It is crazy that a “throw away” kid with traumatic childhood would find an audience with victims of domestic violence. This isn’t the way I planned it. I have spent my whole life telling God He could use the orphan story. That story doesn’t hurt as much and I can tell it to you with great humor; and you, well you have to obey all the Bible verses that tell you to be nice to orphans. This, well this was not on the list of things God could use. It just hurts too much.
Afraid. Petrified. Exhausted. Anxious. Overwhelmed. Grateful.
That is what I really feel. Those are the words that really describe me. I am honored (and just a tiny bit overwhelmed) by the response of the two domestic violence blogs. To date, those blogs have received traffic from all around the world. So now, well now, I have to attempt to continue to tell you the story. You see, I don’t want anybody to think that this story is over. I don’t want anybody to think any of it was easy. I don’t want anybody to think that these years didn’t leave life-long scars. But, I want all of you to know that this is a story of hope- straight up unadulterated hope. This is a story about hope and love and all of its cousins. This is a story about friends. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a friend. I have more friends than one person should ever have and they all have a part in this story. So, for those of you who sent me messages calling me all those nice words, thank you; but I am nothing absolutely nothing without God and the friends He called to play a key role in saving my life.
So, for those of you who sent me messages asking very specific questions about how I got out, this is for you. It all started with the power of friendship and people who really are all those nice words, brave, strong and all it’s cousins.
My very first and very best friend was my sister Lisa. I vividly remember her going to school-I was devastated. Who would play outside with me? Who would help me forget the horror that was our lives? Lisa is 3 years older than me so it is a vivid memory to have at just over 2 years old.
My exit from my domestic violence nightmare started because I told her. I still to this day call it “drug-induced” courage. She & my friend Mitzi were in a hospital room with me after 2 major surgeries in five days. It just came out of my mouth. She and Mitzi were there with me because he wasn’t, and really refused to be there. Something about hospitals making him panicky. Somehow everything was about him.
I knew as soon as it came out of my mouth that this story would never be the same. I am told that Lisa confronted him in the elevator the next day, and for some reason he never wanted me to be around my sister after that. She and Mitzi, no doubt, had no idea what to do, and I am only now realizing the weight of this kind of information. But the cat was out of the bag and there was never any undoing and of that. So, that is how all of this started. I told my oldest friend and one of my dearest friends that my husband was hurting me.
That was in 2004 and I didn’t leave until 2007. Neither of them really knew what to do with this information. But, what they didn’t know was that I was one by one telling all of my friends, old and new; Christian and non-Christian. And, what I didn’t know is that all of them were making plans for me. They were rebuilding value in me; they believed in me; and not once, not even once were any of them pushy or judging. Looking back on it now, not one day went by when somebody wasn’t checking in on me. It was a super secret plan to get me out and most of them didn’t even know each other.
It was easier to tell specifics of the abuse to new friends. It seemed safer to me. Looking back on it now, I wanted to protect my oldest and dearest friends from the pain. But, when it came time to leave, I made just a few phone calls. But not before Mitzi changed the entire game, it was the single request I was determined to honor no matter what happened. The pursuit of fulfilling this promise kept me alive. I am not sure anybody knew or understood how close I came to finding a permanent way out of this horror.
When it all got to be too much, I would make excuses to go to the closest big city and stay at a hotel. We lived in a small beach town outside my hometown so it was a safe distance. I oftentimes would go to a hotel, turn off my cell phone and sleep for days. I still do that sometimes. But this time Mitzi came over to the hotel to see me. By this time I had lost and continued to lose a copious amount of weight and I was sick all the time. I would find out later that was connected to 4 autoimmune diseases-no doubt brought on by stress. But Mitzi was concerned, and she confronted me with it.
Her timing was perfect. Somewhere deep inside I wanted somebody to notice that I was NOT ok. Mitzi knew I was not ok. She had one request of me. It was not that I go to the doctor. It was not that I stop taking handfuls of medication to make it through the day. It was not even that I eat. She had one simple request for me, and she was willing to do whatever she had to do to make that happen. She walked out of that hotel room with a promise from me–she asked me for a new address.
I woke up the next morning a little sick to my stomach. Mitzi is not the kind of friend to not hold a person accountable. Let me stop right here. Get tons of these kinds of friends. They can incite anger in you but only because you know they are right. And they don’t care if they make you mad, they are willing to pay that price. Don’t let him take that kind of friend from you. She will be a key piece in your story.
It was going to take an army of these friends to pull this off. You have no idea the award-winning schemes we pulled off. It was imperative to get out—alive.