What follows may cause triggers for those who have experienced domestic violence in their life. If you are concerned the descriptions, even mild ones, of my experiences could cause a trigger for you, I would like to encourage you to skip this post.
To give you an idea of the time and place, I can tell you that it was the first January in a post 9/11 world and it dawned with a crisp newness that was washing away the darkness that had followed my heart, including a blanket of freshly fallen snow.
I was back in Potsdam and I was making a lot of decisions even though my head was not exactly clear.
I had been talking to a friend of mine, a marine that at that time who had been stationed in Okinawa for several months. During his post deployment leave he would be coming to New York and it was ‘love’ at first sight for me and obsession at first sight for him.
At this point in my life, with all of my ups and downs and self sabotage, I wanted to simply belong to someone. That’s right, the girl that ran away from two healthy relationships in a handful of up and down craziness just wanted to belong to someone. It sounded like a good idea at the time especially in my irrational state. Belonging to someone meant that I couldn’t run and no matter how I tried to sabotage myself that I would not be able to actually get away.
This time, I wouldn’t be the one doing the sabotaging. This time, I was in way too deep and way too far gone to know what was happening. This match made in dysfunctional heaven nearly cost me my life.
It all came down to her. In the end he married me to get back at her. I would never be good enough for him because I couldn’t be her. My identity in our fledgling marriage was dictated by a girl he was in love with and had left behind before joining the marines, a girl that until that point I had never met.
He had no control over her and how she interacted with him in her life. Instead, he took control of mine.
Still trying to finish the school year, he began to slowly unravel my life from several thousands of miles away.
When I wasn’t in class or working, I was at my computer talking to him or talking to him on the phone. At first it was great because here I was belonging to someone, but I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
If he called early and I was not back to my dorm yet, he would get angry. If I was out of my dorm room doing anything but talking to him, he would get angry.
‘She’ would never miss any of his calls.
‘She’ would never talk back to him.
‘She’ would have left school and came home to him.
So I did.
Originally the trip was just for spring break, but I knew before I got on the plane that I wasn’t coming back.
And I didn’t.
Our housing was available. There was no reason to go back. Even through I wanted to finish school and thanks to my newly married to the Marine Corps status was eligible for grants and subsidized loans with grades higher than I had seen since my first semester in school, I stayed.
‘She’ wouldn’t risk loosing time with him in a post 9/11 world where he was preparing to deploy for the Middle East knowing it was possible that he wouldn’t come home.
I didn’t necessarily have to leave. I could go to school in California once my residency came through and there was no reason to pay higher tuition costs plus campus residential expenses.
So I got a job. I worked hard at my first real outside of school and retail job. Things were okay for a time and I was looking at the world in newly wed rose color glasses.
And then he wanted to spend more time with me and there was less talk about ‘her’. Relieved that he actually wanted time with me without being brought up in conversation was a boon to my confidence. I believed he chose me!
I still didn’t believe I deserved for anyone to pick me and I didn’t see it coming.
At first it was simple. “Hey, can you take me up for call and then drive to work? Because of all the training we haven’t been spending a lot of time together.”
I thought it was sweet.
Then it was, “hey, let’s get groceries together and I can help you cook dinner. No need to waste the extra gas.”
I thought it was nice to have him helping me out around our little apartment. I readily agreed. I thought I was blessed to have a thoughtful husband! Who wouldn’t want a husband that helps with the shopping and cooking? It was thoughtful and things were going great even though the threat of imminent deployment hung over our heads.
It wasn’t long before the phone calls started and the don’t’s began.
Don’t call home and talk to your family.
Don’t talk to your friends back east.
Don’t talk to the neighbors unless I’m there.
Don’t talk to anyone online unless I’m home.
Don’t use the internet when I’m not home.
And then, “I’m talking to her, go to bed.”
It didn’t matter that it was early afternoon on the weekend when said we needed to spend time together.
And then the yelling because I wasn’t five and didn’t need to take naps or go to bed before dinner.
I hated when he yelled.
Soon he began to drink. The first bottle of Vodka he through at my head barely missed. That bottle wasn’t the only thing he threw. His family crest on a shield, the sword he purchased, a folding chair, dishes, a keyboard, the phone.
The first time he hit me, he put a phone in my hand and dared me to call 911 and ruin his career. I grew up with a father who was a Marine. He may not have been a Marine when I was born, but one thing I knew is that you don’t ruin a Marine or tarnish their unit.
His company was the most decorated in the history of the core.
You do not tarnish the most decorated unit in the core.
I didn’t call 911.
I locked myself in the bathroom sobbing as I cleaned up. The next day I called into work reporting that I had an ear infection and that I would be back on Monday which if my memory serves me was five days away.
With him on a hike and unable to keep me home, I sought medical care at the base hospital. I fell. In all honesty I’m as coordinated as a baby giraffe on roller skates so it was believable.
My x-rays were taken at the base hospital. One broken rib, a couple bruised, and the associated rainbow on my chest caused trouble, but no one asked any questions.
I was a writer then, just like I am now. I originally started writing about my tumble down the stairs and in a moment of defiance, I wrote the truth. The next day comments came in from back east.
I was “making it up” and “seeking attention” because I got myself into a mess and married the wrong man. I should “stop with the lies” and just “deal with it”.
In a rage I asked if they wanted to see the x-rays and then not only deleted the post, but my online journal as well.
I never felt so alone in my life. When he came home from the hike, things were better again. He was sorry I made him scare me and it would never happen again. No one else could love me like he did and no one else would.
Wouldn’t you know it, I believed him.
While you can never force someone to get help, you aren’t helpless to watch those you love be hurt over and over again. Intervention can be frightening for you and a loved one you are confronting.
Don’t watch silently. Encourage them to have a voice and reach out instead of hiding.
This series will continue in the next few days. I just can’t dwell on this more today.
Thank you for your support!