How long does it take to move on and how do you do it?
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|Wed, 09-12-2012 - 12:00pm|
I'm 9 1/2 months out of a 7-year relationship with my boyfriend. We met in high school and were just friends. He tried to start a relationship with me when we were 17, but I told him I didn't want anything serious. I had run away from home when I was 16 to escape my stepdad's physical and emotional abuse (which he called "discipline"). My mom met my stepdad when I was 9, and at first he seemed loving and fun and never having known my biological dad, I was thrilled.
But when I was 10, they got married and everything changed. He started by deciding there weren't enough "rules" in the house. He convinced my mom that we (me, my sister and stepbrother) needed more structure, so he made a list and we were expected to follow them to the letter, or there was hell to pay. At first it was just "talking" to (more like berating) us, and if we dared to speak up, he'd slap us in the face. For my little sister, that was as bad as it got because she was more sensitive and would cry, so he'd leave it at that. But I was stubborn and never flinched, even the first time he slapped me. He took my refusal to show fear as defiance (which I guess it was) and one day, just before my 11th birthday, he grabbed my arm, dragged me upstairs and whipped me with his belt. My mom was screaming at him the whole time to stop and that night we left, but we were back 2 days later after he swore he'd never do it again. Of course that didn't last even a month, and she threatened to leave but never did.
After that, he'd started threatening and abusing her as well, and she never tried to leave again. She also gradually withdrew, even when he was abusing us. I had a definite love-hate relationship with my mom. I hated her for being weak (in my eyes) and letting him hurt us, but unlike her, I never just stood there and let him beat her. When I was 13, I got in the middle and got knocked unconscious. When I came to, he was standing over me and he said, "Feel better now?" and I told him to f*ck off. Yep, I was a bad kid. LOL. I thought he was going to knock me out again, but he just walked away. I guess he was used to my attitude, since I never shed a tear even when he was whipping me. I thought of running away so many times but I felt an obligation to my mom.
That ended when I was 16. I still have scars on my back and arms from that last night when he "disciplined" me with the buckle end of his belt so badly that it tore my skin off. Because I had been caught drinking. My mom actually intervened that time but my stepdad swung around an hit her so hard she flew back against the wall. After it was over, I told her we had to get out of here and she said, "No, it was my fault. I shouldn't have gotten involved." I was so angry. I realized for once that my mom was never going to leave him. Once I was able to lift myself off of the floor and shower off the blood, I packed my few belongings and called a friend to come and get me. I didn't report my stepdad because my little sister was still there and I was afraid it would make things worse for her--like I said, the worse she got was a slap in the face, which I know now was abuse as well, but back then it was nothing to me.
I stayed with different friends for about the next year while I finished high school and then I got a job. During the week, life was relatively normal, but on the weekends, I took my fake ID and went out to bars and got wasted. That was how I spent the next 12 years. Maintaining this facade of normalcy Monday through Friday and then drinking myself half to death Friday and Saturday nights, going home with random strangers, sometimes waking up to an empty bed and not even remembering what the guys looked like. At 19 I got pregnant, stopped the drinking, and at 20, gave birth to a baby girl who I gave up for adoption. You would think that would have knocked some sense into me, but a few months after her birth, I was back at it again. I can't even begin to guess how many men I gave myself to. I carry so much shame over that. What kind of a person lives that way? And why?
At 29, my boyfriend, who had moved away a few years earlier, moved back and we finally started a relationship. For two years, everything was wonderful. It was like a fantasy. All those years I had kept my heart locked away and I'd finally let someone in and I thought I'd finally found out what I'd been missing. After a while, he started talking about marriage and kids and I told him I wasn't ready. Yes, I knew at 31 that my clock was ticking but I didn't care. What did I know about raising a kid? I knew I had no business being anyone's mother. I couldn't even deal with my own screwed up childhood. So things started getting tense. We'd argue over the marriage/kids thing, over moving (he wanted to move back near his parents, and I didn't), money and our jobs. He wasn't the blatant control-freak, stereotypical abuser. He wasn't jealous, he didn't try to keep me from my friends or anything like that. But when arguments escalated and I, being so strong-willed, refused to back down, he'd strike out. At first it was a shove and him stomping off, and then him grabbing my arms and pushing me against the wall, and then a slap, and later a backhand. But I always hit him back every time. And then he'd get more violent and I'd fight back as long and as hard as I could, but I am 5'4 and about 110 lbs and he is six feet and almost 200 lbs, so he did more damage and it always got to the point where I was just too tired to keep going. He'd admit he had a temper, but he always pointed out that I hit him too, so I was just as bad. Nevermind that I never hit him first. He hit me and I defended myself. I'm sure if I had not defended myself, I wouldn't have gotten hurt nearly as bad as I did, but after my childhood, I just don't have it in me to just lie down and take it. I left him a half a dozen times, but each time, he'd call or come after me and promise that things would change. He'd enroll in anger management classes and make a point to tell me about each session. And I'd start missing him and our good times--they couldn't have all been bad you know, or we wouldn't have gotten together or pursued the relationship to begin with--and I'd finally agree to give it another try.
The final straw was when he traded in my pickup and brought me home an almost-new full size, which he'd paid for with the money I was saving to visit my grandparents overseas. They were (and are) the only meaningful parental figures I've ever had, and are in their 90's and not in the best of health. I had been saving up the money for a year and finally had enough to go, and he spent it on a truck and acted like he'd done it out of the goodness of his heart. When I wasn't appreciative of his "kind gesture", he told me I was an ungrateful b*tch and that nothing he did was good enough, that I didn't appreciate him, etc. When I told him it was BS, he backhanded me. I punched him back and it escalated from there. At one point he took off his belt and started swinging it at me. It hit me across the back and arms a couple of times before I got away. He'd hit me with his belt once before, saying he was just playing around, but it didn't feel that way to me, and I had told him if he ever did it again, I was gone. He knew about my childhood and that belts scared me, so obviously that was what he was after. So after that last incident I grabbed the few things I could and drove 1600 miles away.
That was in November of last year. I had a couple of encounters with him in the couple of months after I left where he assaulted me and was arrested and later spent some time in jail. I'm back in my hometown now, and he's off 1600 miles away on a year's probation. He's tried to contact me a couple of times, but it seems to be winding down now, thank goodness. Shortly after I left, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. The doctors think I've probably had for at least 15-20 years, but I was so used to putting up with pain and having to remain tough that I just suffered through it and never saw a doctor. In retrospect, I think I'm very lucky that it didn't get to the point of threatening my lfe. I started taking several medications for it, and I had surgery last month. So I'm still recovering and hoping that it will go into remission. I've cut my ties with my mom and stepdad, who have now been in an abusive relationship for 27 years and with no sign of my mom getting it together and leaving. I'm afraid she's been permanently brainwashed unfortunately. I'm working for my stepbrother now, volunteering at a ranch, and attending AA.
I met another man in July---the ranch owner's brother who was visiting from Montana. We spent a lot of time talking at the ranch and went out to lunch a few times. I've told him my whole story and surprisingly, he didn't run away. After he went back home, I wasn't sure I'd hear from him again, but we've continued to talk on the phone. He says he misses me, and to be honest, I miss him too. I've never known a man like him. He's just different. I told him I didn't want anything serious, I wanted to take it slow and he completely understood. So we will see.
People who know my story say I've accomplished so much, but I feel stuck. I still have nightmares (more about my childhood abuse than the DV), still get nervous when I have disagreements with the opposite sex, no matter who they are. A couple of months ago, my stepbrother came out of his bedroom with his folded up belt in his hand and it sent a shiver up my spine. He has a wife and kids and would never lay a finger on them; he was just getting dressed! Why can't I get past it? People tell me it must be wonderful to finally be free, and to be able to have a normal life. What is that, anyway? I'm 37 years old, you would think I'd know, but I still don't. I want to feel like I can do and be anything I want now, but I don't know where to start.