Thursday, February 14, 2013

Strong and Single

   This is a story that I thought I wouldn't tell on this blog. This is very personal, and somewhat unfair, because there are two sides to every story, and even I do not fully know the other side of this story. Yet this is something that still affects my life to this day, something that I carry with me. A hurt that may never heal, so  I feel that I have the right to express my feelings and my views about the events that have shaped my life and will probably continue to shape my future. But please, as you read this, keep in mind that this is only my side of the story; my views and emotions and understanding of events.
   My daughter's birthday is in 10 days. She will be 11 years old. So of course  I spend a lot of time thinking about when she was born and when I found out I was pregnant and all that's in between that time and now. We have come very far from where we started, and this has not been easy.
  I was nineteen when I found out I was pregnant. I cried for two days straight, and they were not tears of joy. I was never going to have kids, you see. I had been careful and used birth control and protection, but the pregnancy happened anyway. I think, looking back, that I can pinpoint a few careless mistakes, but  I am not entirely sure. I may not have made any. Sometimes God intervenes and there is nothing you can do.
   My daughter's dad suggested abortion, but I couldn't do that. The thing was, however, that I had been considering leaving him, something that I have never told anyone but my sister, mom, and bestie. Now you all know, but I stayed because I didn't think I would be a good mother. I didn't think that I would love my child, as painful as that is to admit. Also, as  I said, I was 19, I was a high school drop-out; I did not have a GED. My job was really crappy, and I had no health insurance. Plus, although I had been starting to have strong doubts about my boyfriend, I was sure he would make a better parent than me. He wanted kids, he was older than me, more stable (I thought) and even had taken a semester of college, which  I thought was something, being that I didn't even have a high school education. He was in a better position to be a parent than I was.
   Then the 9/11 attacks came, while I was pregnant, on my 20th birthday (yup, I have a 9/11 birthday) and that was scary and frightening for us all. My bestie's boyfriend (now her husband) was in the Navy and was immediately shipped to Iraq, and all that fear and uncertainty that we all suffered made me even more unwilling to leave what I hoped would be the formation of a secure family for my daughter. And he used those attacks to convince me to move from Mississippi to Florida, stating his huge family wanted to help us out and would provide additional support and stability, and even lied about having a job lined up there that would bring in more money for our child. I have to admit, he didn't have to try hard to convince me, but what I didn't realize was that this move would effectively cut me off from immediate help from my family and friends. I would be all alone, states away from anyone that  I had ties with.
    Once we were there, I discovered that there was no job lined up. We were living off of his family for over 3 months and because  I had sold my car to help fund the move, I had no means of transportation, and I was not the savvy bus rider and walker that  I am now. Nor did the area  that we moved to have a good bus system, because we lived in the country and I was out of walking distance from everything. I was cut off from the world, and my world shrank to a terribly small size and the only contact with people that  I had was my boyfriend, his family, and my growing fetus.
   Signs that had warned me that leaving him would be a good thing continued to emerge. He never wanted to take me to my prenatal checkups, and I would get cussed-out for scheduling a morning appointment, even though often there wasn't much of a option in times and I took what was available, and I would have to beg his grandmother to take me. His grandmother became my sole support and the one I could rely on. She took me to many of my appointments. I loved her, and  I love her still.
    When the baby was born, her father didn't want to buy diapers, so again, I had to beg his grandma. I also had to ask her for things that I needed, because he wouldn't buy my necessities either. He had also started making cracks about me. He would say things like, "God, you're a fucking dumbass." And, "You're so stupid, but that's ok, because I love you." I didn't realize how invasive these words are, and people who say words don't matter are wrong. Because these words mattered. They touched everything that I did and everything that  I was. And I heard these comments and similar comments so often, that  I began to believe them.
   I finally got a job when my daughter was two. I couldn't stand having to beg people for things that I needed; things I had to have. He wouldn't let me use his car, but his grandmother had been buying these things for me, and she must have known some of what he was doing to me, because we were living with her because his job couldn't support us, and she allowed me to use her car. I got a job at a grocery store, and all I heard was put-downs and snide remarks about how  I didn't pull my own weight and my job wasn't good enough. By this point, I was being called dumbass and whore and bitch and all manner of names so often that these comments didn't really phase me. I could finally buy things that my daughter and I needed without having to beg for them; that was all I cared about.
   Then he was fired. The official reason was gross misconduct, but as I listened to one of his calls from the place that fired him, I heard them mention sexual harassment. He had a mean sense of humor, so I don't know exactly what he did, but  I do know that he never understood why he deserved to be fired. He had hurt me so many times with his words and jokes at my expense, that  I did understand. I feel so sorry for the woman he hurt, and still feel ashamed that someone I was with did this to another person.
   Now I was supporting us all, because he wouldn't take another job. Not couldn't find: he wouldn't take. My job was not good enough, he would not work in a grocery store. He would not work at a fast food joint. He wouldn't take any job that he considered 'beneath' him. What was good enough for me was not good enough for him.
   And through this, I was terrified to leave him. You see, at this time I was about 23, and he was about 30, and he had told me that if  I ever left him, he would take my daughter, and  I would never be allowed to see her again. He told me that if he decided to leave me, I could live with him and whoever his new girlfriend was, but if I left I would lose her. You may be wondering why I believed that, but  I did. I was terrified. Though  I had not believed that I would, I loved my daughter with all of my heart. She was, at that point, the only person keeping me alive. If  I  killed myself, like I had considered, she would be left alone with him. No one would protect her. He didn't use his hands much; in the 5 years that  I was with him, he had probably only hit me 3 or so times. But the things he said to me; those words killed my spirit. I couldn't leave her with alone with that.
   All this time, I had a coworker who suspected something was wrong. She loved me and wanted to help me, so she kept giving me information about women's shelters and abuse hotlines. But I threw all that away, and didn't pay attention until my daughter started to become terrified for me to leave her sight.  I know that there is the whole parent-separation anxiety thing, but we had been through that, and she was now 3 and had been staying with his grandmother while I was away at work. But his grandmother got really sick, and she couldn't take care of my daughter like she used too, and my daughter got scared. And then  I got scared, because  I wanted to die. What if he was hurting her too? What if she began to feel about herself the way  I felt about myself?
   So I called my mom and cried and begged, and he took us to the airport. He thought we were just going up there until he found a better job and could move out of his grandmother's, and that is actually what I thought too. Even at this point, I could not imagine being a single parent. But while  I was in Washington, around people who cared about me again, away from someone who was constantly emotionally abusing me, I started to wake up. And  I realized that I couldn't let him back into our lives. So I left him.
    But the thing that some people don't understand is how hard leaving an abusive relationship is. Emotional abuse was something I didn't even really consider as abuse. When  I thought of abuse, I thought of some person beating the shit out of their partner. I did not realize how much words could affect you. Even years later,  I am affected.
    I also live with the shame that  I allowed this to happen to me. People say that they would never tolerate this, and then  I feel weak and small, because I did. Not only did I tolerate this behavior, but  I tried desperately to change the person that  I was, because  I thought this was something that happened because  I was screwed up. I did not place the blame on him; I placed all blame squarely on myself. I feel ashamed because  I am a strong woman, but I wussified myself and made myself weak, made myself less, just to allow someone who was hurting me to have a sense of empowerment over me. And I still struggle with the sense of inferiority that  I helped to instill in myself.
    When  I went to get my GED,  I dragged my heels, because I was certain that I would fail.  I passed on the first try, having taken no GED classes and with high scores. My GED scores reflected that in reading and science, I ranked in the 99th percentile, and that in writing I ranked in the 95th percentile; math and social studies where lower, but still respectable.  But I was convinced that  I was a dumbass. I am in college now, and have been on the Dean's List every semester but one for the last 2 years, and  I still can't think of myself as a smart person. But if I never do anything else with my education, the money I spent paying for all the classes and books and computer equipment was still well spent, because my education has provided me with irrefutable proof that I do have intelligence and has helped with the rebuilding of my self-esteem and self-worth.
   Another thing that was affected was my love of writing. Those who grew up with me know that  I was always writing stories and poems, but he tore my writing down so badly that  I stopped. I have been away from him since 2005, but this blog is the first writing that  I have seriously tried to do except for school work, even with teachers telling me that  I should pursue writing, and I just started this blog not even 3 months ago. I don't consider myself a good writer, when once writing was the one thing  I was firmly confident of.
   I can't take a complement. I tend to think that the person is lying, or wrong, or just trying to be nice.  I struggle with bouts of depression and have to work on building up my esteem and self-value. These are all the after-effects of living with emotional abuse. No one realizes what words can do to you. We say 'sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.' This is the biggest lie ever told. Words may not break your bones, but they do worse: they break your heart.
   I have been single for almost 8 years now, and  I am really much better, so don't be alarmed for my well-being: I'm good. However, I do not yet trust myself to have another relationship, because I have only had bad ones, and I will not be the only victim. My daughter will be a victim too. Everything  I do affects her, and even at 3, when we moved, she had an idea of what had been going on. I had tried to hide everything from her, but even at that young age she was telling me she was glad we moved because I didn't cry anymore. Children are observant, and they really do learn by example, and  I know how to be strong single.  I would rather have my daughter learn from me the ability to be strong and single than have her learn from me how to be a partner to someone who is abusive and has no regard for the person he is with.

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