Chapter 34: I Can’t Hear You

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Dear October,

We need to stop having these months.  You are often so harsh as somebody (not a very smart somebody I might add) makes this month the month to focus on breast cancer AND domestic violence.  Therefore, two of the most horrific times of my life I get to revisit for 31 days.  When I was a kid I thought you came before December, always confused as to why my birthday wasn’t the day after halloween.  We have spent 3 dates in October with judges and lawyers.  One in 2008, another in 2013 and then there was today.  If I could skip a month it would be YOU.

Given your track record, October,  I was checking the county clerks website to see if he petitioned the court to reopen the case.  I knew it was going to happen; but my blood temperature dropped to what must have been ice cold, as I felt a rush from my head to my feet.  There it was, in black and white; we were going back to court.  Thanks October.

My first reaction, and that is what it was, a reaction–was to write a letter to the judge and ask him to make it go away, essentially asking the judge to lift the order and not make me go to court.  The responses of my friends and family were respectful, but as I go back and read the texts now like “did you already send this?” or “at some point I want you to tell my your thought process on this” or “did you run this by anybody else?”.  I am sales person, I spun it, but at the end of the day I knew that my response was one of fear and not wanting to unearth all of that pain, again.

I had just returned from a trip to see some friends that I have known for a long time.  I was in Amy & Chuck’s wedding; and I laugh all the time when I am with their family.  They are the kind of friends that will tell you to get your own food, and be offended if you don’t.  They are precious to me and Amy & I grew close fast over 20 years ago.  I was a little sad when the wheels of the plane hit the ground in Tampa.  But my buddy Crissy picked me up and I had plans.  October, you had behaved yourself so far, but I knew it would not last.

I had (have) plans to finish this blog and get it published as a book and then do what the Lord led me to do; but secretly I was (am) okay if I never hear or write the words “domestic violence” again.  It is not who I am; it is what happened to me.  It has been 8 years and my life is full of love and life and opportunity…and yet, I knew before I walked into my counselor’s office on Monday what he was going to tell me.

We had a set back; a typical PTSD set back complete with flashbacks.  And we spent 2 hours getting me to 2014 and even after my appointment my flashbacks were back.  But, I walked out of his office with a mission–to stand up not only for me, but for the hundreds, if not thousands of victims of domestic violence that read this blog.

October, even you could not squelch, my understanding of the beautiful compliments of the last year–words like Brave & Courageous.  And so, on Monday, when I walked out of Dr. Petit’s office, with just 72 hours to go before court; I decided to fight. But, they were a hard 72 hours, with little sleep and lots of flashbacks.

But, when I woke up to today with 25 text messages and at least double that on Facebook, I had a strange peace.  I slept well, and was nervous, but okay.  My main concern was that if it didn’t go my way that all of those that prayed would be discouraged or disappointed.  In truth, I would have been too–but you don’t live a life like mine without realizing His Ways are Higher, Better and often defy human logic.

I got up, got dressed, I was 20 minutes early–and then I spent the next 22 minutes looking for my keys.

I have no sense of direction and so even though I live in this tiny town, I still get lost.  I was not at my house because I was afraid, and so I was at the River with Mama and Papa Loughridge.  OnStar was so nice to give me directions.  As I got closer, I got more nervous.  I found a parking spot and walked to the court house, and my heart was beating about 120 beats per minute.  Something about being in a house full of cops and criminals will do that to a person.  I found courtroom C, and waited for my attorney.  I was fielding so many text messages I could not keep up; and suddenly I got peace back again–it was perfect peace.  I had never felt the prayers of so many people before.

“Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place, I can fell His mighty power and His grace, I can feel the touch of angel wings, I see glory on each face, surely, the presence of the Lord is in the place”

My attorney got there and took me in the same room where we had discussed strategy just a year before.  For reasons that I can not understand, I got the idea to ask Dr. Petit (my counselor) to write a letter.  And write a letter he did.  He spent hours on it, and Ruthie (his wife) spent more time and then Crissy put the finishing touches on it.  Bruce walked in that room and these were his words to me.  “I am going to hand him this letter and not say another word”.  He wanted to see the judge before I did and then he came and got me.  I was IN the court room and I heard the bailiff SCREAMING “parties for Watson, all parties for Watson”.  Um, I am in here dude, do you just like to yell?

“With your back against the wall you would be amazed at the amount of things that can run through your mind, all at once.  That is where I found myself the very first time I got hit.  And my life would never be the same.  That moment—the one where everything changes- can ‘t be explained.  I don’t know how it is for other victims of domestic abuse, but for me I was absolutely stunned.  He was saying a bunch of words and as soon as he hit me I heard a pop and felt warm blood trickle down my face.  That eardrum-to this day-has never been the same.” from a previous blog written.

The judge had granted him a telephonic hearing.  I am always confused about whether I am supposed to sit or stand, and my heart was pounding.  I saw the clerk pick up the phone to call him, and I heard the judge, saying things, but I could not hear him.

The irony of that is beautiful and God given.  Just one day before this one I was at the ENT’s office who told me my ear was in bad shape.  I failed the hearing test for that ear.  So, not hearing what he said was just fine with me.

However, the judge realized I couldn’t hear and asked me to come closer to the phone so I could hear.  And he sounded pathetic.  He sounded like the man described in Romans 1–a depraved mind.  And for the first time ever, I found some resolution in that, at least I know there was nothing I could have done in those 12 years to lead him to the Lord; and I felt a release at that moment.  This was no longer about what I did wrong over 12 years; this was about standing up, raising my right arm and swearing to tell the truth.  This was about setting the record straight.  This was for every victim of domestic violence who did not have 50 text messages and a 100 FB posts–and it was important to me to stand up–it was important for me to stand up and use my voice.  It was time to accept that, perhaps, I was born for this.

“There’s a time to hold your tongue
Time to keep your head down
There’s a time but it’s not now
Sometimes you gotta go uninvited
Sometimes you gotta speak
When you don’t have the floor
Sometimes you gotta move
When everybody else says you should stay
No way, no, not today”  “Born For This” Mandisa

I could not hear him because of that first slap; but I heard loud and clear that this is a mission that I must fulfill whether it happens after this blog, or if I champion this cause for the rest of my life.

What I did hear was “I am denying your request Mr. Watson”.  And with those words came air in my lungs, tears in my eyes and text messages and Facebook messages that I will, no doubt, keep around for encouragement.  Because one thing is certain.

I heard you.  And I am so grateful.

And I am not not talking to you October.

Chapter 33: Letting Go

capricious-yogi-letting-go We are created to yearn;  to belong—whether that be to a family, a job, or something as simple as our hometowns.  No matter where you end up, that place—even with lots of bad memories—will always hold a place in your heart—at least mine does.

It is a city with 7 bridges, known to natives by their colors, not their names.  It is a city with a river that runs in the wrong direction.  It is the “First Coast” of Florida.  It is the largest city in the country when you factor by square mileage, with 3 interstates, 2 of which for a long time, had  toll bridges.  The people there are mostly home-grown, family oriented people where children learn to say “ma’am or sir” from the time they learn to speak.  It is a city who loves college football and for a very long time had a huge stadium for a single college football game; but later would become home of an NFL team, my beloved Jacksonville Jaguars.
The necessity for me to get out of a dangerous situation took that from me and I ended up in my “other” hometown—the greater Tampa Bay area—just a little south and on the other side of the state.  But on this day in October of 2010 I found myself in my hometown at one of the country’s most respected medical facilities—everyone knew something was wrong as was evidence by copious amounts of weight loss and the fact that I could not fight off something as simple as the common code.  I was at the Mayo Clinic; and we were hoping they had answers.
The first few days are appointments all day and tests, and more tests. I am not even kidding when I say they took, 25 vials of blood.  Then you wait.  They tell you to stay close by, so we did—at the beach just down the street.  So, when my cell phone rang with that 904 area code my blood, literally, ran cold.  It was almost 5PM and I figured we could enjoy one more day at the beach before we had to worry about whatever was waiting for me in those labs test.  It’s so weird how a computer, and the information housed there can change your life forever.
We drove the familiar drive from the beach to the clinic.  And this is horrible, but I do not remember who all was there; because the rest is a blur.  I may have even been by myself.  The department that called was the GI doctor; and then Endocrinology, and then Infectious Disease.  They were all waiting for me on the 6th floor of the Mayo Clinic over-looking the inter-coastal waterway.  God always hooks me up in situations like these because I find such peace in a body, any body, of water.
Before they took me back,  I felt extremely sick, I was so scared, and so I was in the bathroom before the nurse called me.  I stood at the sink and as I washed my hands I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I did not recognize that person.  It had been a long-standing practice to avoid mirrors at any cost.  I still do sometimes.
My mind began to wander to how I got here; at this place—at such a young age, with 3 world class doctors who would give me information with one click of a mouse.
I could see the other side of the city from the room; and my mind wandered to those days that as a child I was scuffled to and fro—never in any one place for a long time; and almost never with my mom.  Flickers of memories came back as I continued to wait for the doctors, I was terrified.  But just like a slide show, memories were flowing through my head some of which I had not remembered until that day.
Kids who are not connected can’t dream.  At least I didn’t.  I remember being happy to get through the day, and to get through any day without more harm than the day before.  Sometimes that worked out and other days the harm was even worse than any other day.  The thing I had going for me is that I was relatively intelligent (probably should not use past tense there) and did well in school.  I have always been pretty social, so I had friends,  the kind where we took care of each other; we shared the same sense of humor and were fascinated by similar things.  But we were in the ghetto, and there was no time for dreaming; there certainly wasn’t time for girls to dream of weddings and husbands and families.
So, when I started dating the man I would marry it caught me by surprise.  I always thought I would end up never getting married. Because of my low self esteem,  I was of the opinion at the time that no one would want me.  So, yes, getting attention surprised me.  He was my “type” if one has such a thing.  I told him I loved him first.  As things progressed I became that little girl who dreamt of a wedding and how awesome it was to be wanted.  I could’t wait to have family even if it were him and I and sometimes his 11 year old son.  I would day dream of how he would ask me to marry him.  I knew I wanted a small wedding surrounded by close friends and family.
Because we grew up in different denominations, we decided to have the wedding at our house; and had a rent-a-notary.  It was lame really.  But, I was very determined to have 2 things one of them was the reading of I Corinthians 13.
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love does not envy
Love does not boast
Love is not rude
Love is not self-seeking
Love keeps no record of wrong doing
It always protects
It always trusts
It always hopes
It always perseveres
Love never fails
When I realized that he never loved me; not at all; it was devastating.  It also explained why I stayed so long and tried so hard.
My thoughts were interrupted by footsteps outside the rather large examination room, where I sat staring out at the inter-coastal waterway.
Suddenly the door opened and 3 doctors walked in to give me the results of all of the tests.  And as if on cue, I could almost audibly hear the words from one of my favorite songs, my favorite is Jeremy Camp’s version.
“Even though I walk in the valley in the shadow of death, Your perfect Love is casting out fear.  And even when I am faced when the storms of this life, I will not turn back because I know you are near…”  You Never Let Go, Jeremy Camp.
The information I received that day was heavy; and the doctors said most of the illnesses that they identified was probably turned on by stress. The information they gave me was shocking but there was some comfort in finally having answers.
I could not figure out what hurt more, that this man never really loved me
or the fact that my body was at war with itself.  
The information I received that day meant I was entering the most intense battle of my life, not only because of what I learned at Mayo that day but because of all that had happened before that day.  I walked out of the doctor’s office a little stunned.  And again, as if on cue, I heard another part of this song:
“And I will fear no evil, because my God is with me and if my God is with me, whom then shall I fear?  O no You never let go through the calm and through the storm, o no you never let go, you never let go of me.”
 
Ironically, that day began a long road of healing and restoration for me as I learned to let go, because I knew He wouldn’t.
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Chapter 32: Taking Inventory

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This blog will be uncharacteristically short, but it is one of those things I have to get off my head and onto paper.  This blog will not have the signature verbiage that many of you have so kindly described as “excellent writing”.  This blog, well this blog is to my people. You know who you are.  Whether you have walked this road with me for 8 years or 1 year, this is the time I say to you, two simple words.  Thank you.

I am not sure I remember a time where I felt more hope, more love or more purpose.  This time last year I was filling out more paperwork and going to court and a myriad of other issues that I seriously thought was going to be the knock out shot.  But yet, here we are. This post is written to those of you who love me.  Almost all of you have told me at one time or the other that some of the blogs are hard for you to read.  More than one of you has said “I wish I knew”.  This past year, writing through some of this stuff, you have made me feel like a rock star.  The compliments, while not deserved, sometimes have fueled me to keep writing.

It has not been easy.  Last year at this time I would have described myself as a “reluctant voice”–and now I am telling you I am stepping into the place where the Lord wants to use any part of my story–childhood, or adult traumas.  While I began writing as a rant, then it became about journaling then it became about helping people; and suddenly I realize that writing though this last year has been an amazing instrument of healing for me. You can hear it in my voice; you can see it in my eyes; you can see my signature smile, and you hear me laugh until I can’t breathe.  Well, at least that is what you would be observing if you were here with me.

For several months, there has been electricity in my soul, as I know that if I wasn’t chasing purpose; purpose was chasing me.  I am so honored to have been given some speaking opportunities; lots of email communication; lots of FB posts–all giving me the opportunity to stand in some gaps for people and love them as I have been loved so well.  I am absolutely speechless as I think about how loved and protected I am.  God is so, so good.  There really aren’t words for it, actually.

I just got back from a trip to see some long time friends, and it occurred to me on that trip, that I don’t need to wait until heaven to experience a little bit of it on this planet.  I do not know what is in store for me; but I know my life will not be defined by abuse or neglect.  It will be defined by a God Who never fails and a bunch of people He gave me who loved me through healing. So, for those of you who love me, this is my note to you saying I am doing so well.  I will always need to attend to a brain and soul scarred by PTSD, but these days I am having a blast learning new things; helping people; and did I mention being loved so incredibly well? I am stunned.

So, as I take inventory one year later, the healing is beyond my ability to understand.  Since I will continue to tell the story, you will read some other things that make you sad, but when that happens, come back here.  Hear me when I say how amazing I am doing with all of this.  We are at the point where it’s time to get my body to heal as well.  I am doing some pretty cool stuff to make that happen.  But my brain, my heart and my soul, while scarred, is in a continual state of healing; and from that comes restoration.

So, I leave you with this promise, and it is a promise and it is one that is happening even now. “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.” Joel 2:25

Continue with me, those of you who love me, and remember the promise above IS HAPPENING.  He is restoring, and will continue to do so.  You have a front row seat. Look closely, there are no dark circles, no port for heart medications–just straight up happiness.  And for that I am so grateful.

I will need you all over the next few months as I try to complete this portion of my story and get it published.  So, keep the prayers and encouragement coming and when you read the hard stuff, remember the the Lord IS RESTORING what the locust came to destroy. And as for you, “I thank God for every remembrance of you”.

Here is just a small glimpse at my last year, people, places and straight up joy.

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