The scars of abuse

01 a domestic violence

 

My calendar has a scripture for each month and when I turned to the month of October this verse was waiting for me:

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”

~Isaiah 40:31

This verse saw me through some very dark times during a 20-year abusive marriage and was one I clung to after my then-husband walked out in 2009. The year I turned forty-five, I had this verse along with a picture of Forget-Me-Not flowers winding around a cross tattooed on my shoulder as a reminder of God’s faithfulness — and maybe because I felt free that year to do something a little radical. 😉

Though I hadn’t always done it well, I tried my best through the years to patiently wait upon the Lord — and one day, He set me free. In all those years, twenty to be exact, I never doubted His love for me, but I did struggle with understanding why He had put me in that marriage and brought me together with such a man as my ex-husband.

My journal entries, while scarce and far between, showed a continuing theme of me wanting to please God and be a better wife, and praying my then-husband would change his abusive ways towards me and our two sons.

As I go back and read the words scribbled in times of hurt, anger and desperation, a picture forms of a woman longing for a love-filled marriage and living each day full of hope, no matter how misguided — yet hope all the same — that one day life would get better.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and maybe now is the time to share more of my story. Over the years I’ve had people rudely ask if he hit me as if not having physical marks of any kind meant there were no problems and I just needed to remember — “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Remember that rhyme most of us my age ran around singing in the playground? It took me years later as an adult who had been hurt by words to realize how untrue that is.

“The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

~Proverbs 15:4

Words do hurt. Words spoken in anger and with the intent to hurt another, crush the spirit and destroy the soul. God’s Word tells us this.

I’ve seen words hurt my two sons and over the years have seen what it’s done to their self-worth and to their bodies, manifesting in physical ailments. Trauma through emotional, mental and verbal abuse causes the body to be on constant alert, ready to flee from danger — fight or flight. And when the body is in this high alert state, called the fight or flight response, it creates havoc in the body which can lead to health issues. So please — for those who carelessly want to drill me about whether I’ve ever been hit — just don’t. The lack of outward bruises do not prove there is no abuse — that there is no violence going on in a home. Maybe some of my journal entries from years past can provide a small glimpse into a home where words did hurt and caused the bruising of souls — where domestic violence did occur within walls that should have held love and compassion, but instead contained hate and anger.

Journal entry – 12/26/00:

“Today is the day after Christmas…we all got lots of things as usual, but it wasn’t the most joyous time. Perhaps it was my fault.”

“…[my son] cried himself to sleep because he said that [his dad] had come in his room and gotten mad at him about something.”

“Please Lord, give me the strength to deal with this marriage and give me the wisdom to handle these situations wisely. Please protect my sons from all evil…”

 

Journal entry – 12/29/00:

“…I pray for [my ex] to have a change of heart, a softened heart…it especially hurts when I see him treating the boys in such a [rude] way…I can’t stand to see [my son] cry.”

“I dream of walking out…I think the boys and I would be so much happier, there would be less stress…there would be be more freedom from worrying if we were doing something wrong…I don’t mind being accountable to someone but not because I’m scared of them or their actions.”

“Give me the strength and wisdom Lord to handle this situation.”

 

Journal entry – 1/22/01:

“Sometimes I wonder how I am to just smile and go on about life like nothing happens.”

 

Journal entry — 3/22/01:

“…I really find myself disliking my husband over the years and have a harder time wanting to stay married to him. My boys hear it too…[my son] gets so hurt when [his dad] uses mean words around him.”

“Lord, my prayer would be for [my ex] to have a softened heart and to have his eyes opened to what he says and does.”

“Lord, I pray for your strength to continue in this marriage and to be the wife and mother you would have me be.”

 

Journal entry — 7/4/01:

“Lord, I pray today for a change of heart in [my ex]…and Lord, I pray that you give me peace in my heart when his words hurt.”

 

Journal entry — 7/16/01:

“We went camping this past weekend and ended up coming home early because [my ex] was in a bad mood most of the time…talking rudely to me and the boys as usual. He just isn’t going to change when it comes to that. Of course I ended up in a bad mood, guess I let myself be pulled down by him and then I’m the one that is looked at like the bad guy. My boys will probably look back in years to come and think of their mother as unhappy and angry so often. How sad because I truly see life as wonderful but whenever I’m in a good mood, [my ex] has something to be mad about or seems to be mad at me for seeing the positive. He is always so negative and hardly ever sees the good in anything. It’s hard for me to stay positive while living with that negativeness. Lord, help me to be a better mother and show my children that life is wonderful.” Amen

 

Journal entry — 7/25/01:

“I don’t feel I can ask [my ex] to help because he will always complain…he always has to lay on me how busy he is and how he just doesn’t have the time.”

“Lord, I’m TIRED! I give this to you…I cannot deal with this anymore. Please help me.”

 

Journal entry — 7/26/01:

“Why does he dislike me so?”

“He gets home from work tonight around 11pm and walks in without saying hello, and is mad because of where I parked my car.”

“Everything is always my fault.”

 

Journal entry — 7/28/01:

“…went to a baseball game last night. We had a good time…but even then it could have been so much better if [my ex] weren’t so distance. I tried talking to him and most of the time he just didn’t hear me, he wouldn’t respond at all. He gets so caught up in work that it’s like he isn’t there half the time, and when he is ‘there’, I wish he weren’t a lot of the time.”

“Today started off alright but the next thing I knew [my ex] was yelling at the boys…yelling because they had left things outside. A couple times he spoke abruptly with me too…I was almost in tears and [my son] was so mad and hurt.”

“I’m so very tired. There are so many days where I wish [he] weren’t here. I feel horrible feeling this way, but the heartache gets to hurting so much I just want it to go away.”

“I keep praying that [God] will work in [his] heart…”

“Please oh Lord, Help me to be at peace with my life…”

“Help me to not react to [him] when he says hurtful things and is angry, help me to respond in a positive way. Help me…”

 

Journal entry — 9/2/01:

“[My ex] seems so depressed lately, it’s just getting worse…how I wish for a husband that enjoys life to the fullest instead of seeing the negative in everything.”

“Lord, I pray for the strength to deal with his negativity and I pray that my children will grow up to see the joy in life and not let everyday circumstances bring them down. Help me Lord to be the best mother to my boys…”

 

Journal entry — 9/16/01:

“We went to an amusement park today with a couple we know and their two kids. As we were leaving the park, [my son] started to cry because he had really wanted to go on another ride. [My ex] got really angry at [our son] because he thought he was behaving badly in public and was embarrassing him…so [my ex] wanted to talk to [our son] alone and told me and [our other son] to walk away. I told [him] to calm down and not be mean to [our son] just because he was tired and upset, and [my ex] got mad at me and said that he too was tired but wouldn’t put up with this kind of behavior in public. He doesn’t discipline, he gets abusive with his words…they are said out of hate, out of anger, instead of out of love, used teach and correct.”

 

Journal entry — 9/14/02:

“Tonight there was a glorious red sky. The boys were in awe, but [my ex] was more concerned about their bikes being left in the middle of the driveway as they played…he insisted they move them immediately and when [my son] much preferred to stand in awe of the brilliant sky, [his dad] got mad that he wasn’t moving his bike right then…[my son] said, “just a minute, I want to see the sky”! What a lesson we can all learn…the kids saw what was truly important at that moment…a brilliant sunset, not bikes lying in the driveway. Oh how, I wish my husband could learn that lesson of seeing what is most important in life…how I wish he saw us as most important.”

 

Journal entry – 9/27/02:

“…God, help me understand my husband. He is mad that the neurologist sees him as a stressed person and is in a bad mood now. When will he ever see how great life is? Maybe I’m the one that needs to see my blessings and enjoy life more. I always feel so worried around [him]. My stomach is in a knot from the time he gets home until he goes to work again. I worry that he’ll be in a bad mood and therefore, get mad about something the boys or myself did or maybe didn’t do.”

“Oh God, how I wish for a life free of worry, free of all this anxiety. [He] is always so wrapped up in himself and how stressed he is. Lord, I ask for your forgiveness because some days I wish he would just go away. I do sometimes dream of life with just me and the boys. A life full of happiness. I know that I can make the choice to be happy or not, but living with someone that is always so high strung brings me down…Lord, give me the strength to deal with this.”

 

Journal entry – 9/29/02:

“Why can I not ask my husband something without him getting mad or jusst unreasonable. I asked him if he can pick [our son] up tomorrow night from scouts because it’s my last [childbirth] class. He responded with, “I will try as hard as hell”! Why can’t he simply answer me?”

“I have a very troubled heart today, Lord. Please help me with this.”

 

Journal entry — 12/16/02:

“I pray, Lord, that you will give [him] the wisdom in deciding about the job in Medford. I pray for to have a heart for you. I pray that will continue to work in his life and draw him closer to you. Help soften his heart allowing him to see all the blessings in his life.”

“I also pray for my boys to have a heart so full of love for you.”

“I pray that you continue working in my heart, softening it in my marriage, keeping me from bad thoughts. Please help me be the best wife to my husband and to completely forgive for past mistakes and hurts. Help me oh Lord, to keep looking toward you for guidance and strength in my marriage.”

 

Journal entry — 2/26/09:

“Six years since the last time I wrote in this journal, and amazingly enough, things aren’t much different.”

“[My husband] left on Feb. 13th, 2009. He walked out of the mine and the boy’s lives. He told a friend he didn’t have a choice, he had to go. I told his friend that we all have a choice and [my husband] made a choice.”

“[My ex] told me that day he left that if I could ever forgive him and if I ever wanted him back just to let him know. Why is it always up to me [to fix things]?”

“Lord, keep my eyes open. Don’t let me forget my Egypt that you brought me out from. Help me remember so I don’t make the same mistakes and end up back there.”

 

Journal entry — 3/4/09:

“This Friday will mark 3 weeks since [he] left. He emailed yesterday wanting to know what I was thinking…where I’m at. I honestly don’t know where I’m at. I emailed and told him that I just am not ready to do anything yet and need time to pray and wait on the Lord. He said okay.”

“My girlfriend things that I’m worried that trying to do anything to resolve our problems maybe feels like a step back for me instead of continuing forward.”

“I CANNOT AND WILL NOT go back to what was!”

“I will ONLY go forward to a life of healing and happiness. If that includes [him] only the Lord knows. I’m done and have been for years. So, Lord, show me the way.”

 

Journal entry — 3/15/09:

“Tomorrow I pray that the Lord leads my steps. Tomorrow I make a hard decision, but perhaps a necessary one. Tomorrow God, help me.”

 

Journal entry — 5/12/09:

“I’m not very consistent in my writing, but it really amazes me how all the entries are similar.”

“[He] hasn’t been here for 3 months now.”

“He was down a week ago and seeing him made me feel confused, angry and sad.” (My ex had moved in with his sister after he left)

“I cannot go back to how things were, I just can’t go back, period.”

“Even if [he] is changing, I don’t trust. I honestly don’t care anymore, but I feel guilty that I’m not giving him a chance. I’ve had friends say to me, how I’ve given him 20 years of chances, how many should he get?”

“Life is so hard right now.”

“My emotions are going crazy, I can’t get a job and I’m not sure which direction I should be going. Lord, lead me, make my direction very clear.”

 

These journal entries are just a few from those times in my life, and there are more which continued after my ex walked out. I married my ex in 1989, but did not start journaling until after I had become a Christian 10 years into that marriage. I found writing to be therapeutic, helping to release those emotions and prayers which I found difficult to share with others. I also had a blog before this one which I started in 2009 after he walked out, and it chronicled in more detail my daily struggles.

One of my biggest regrets is not leaving sooner. I truly wrestled with wanting to do the right thing and was often told that being in that marriage was my lot in life, where God put me and where I needed to stay and suffer. And it didn’t help that my ex would whisper in my ear while I sat on the floor playing with our sons, that if I ever tried to leave him he would take those boys from me. But perhaps the most damaging lies said to me were about my boys being better off in a two-parent home, no matter what was happening behind closed doors, than living with a single mother — boys need their father I was told. If only I could sit for just five minutes with those who convinced me my sons were better off with an abusive father who criticized their every move and raised them with hate and anger — just give me five minutes, and I will explain, perhaps with very strong language, just how damaging such idiotic advice was.

My ex moved out of the country — yep, true story — a year ago, moving far away from his two sons. If that doesn’t tell you what kind of man he is, than nothing else will. My oldest son has just recently let the wall come down he built between us and he now openly acknowledges what his father did to our family. For nine years, since his father left, I’ve had my son criticize me, judge me and hurl hateful words at me because somehow he just couldn’t allow himself to believe his father could really be an abusive man. All these years, I’ve been the fall guy, I’ve allowed my son to perhaps abuse me with his anger and words at times — and through it all, I’ve waited not-real-patiently for him to find his way back to me — to come home. And he has.

But you see, my staying in an abusive marriage for all those years, keeping my two sons hostage to that abuse, did not serve them well. I was wrong for staying and thinking they’d be so resilient and somehow it wouldn’t hurt them, they’d bounce back and never have any issues. I was wrong. The abuse did affect them, it left them scarred. So please, do not ask if we were ever hit — we will all carry the scars from invisible, yet damaging wounds from something called abuse, for the rest of our lives.

If you are in an abusive marriage, and especially if you have children, please don’t fall for the lie that it will not affect them. Abuse destroys, it hurts — it wounds it’s victims. Please seek help and pray for the Lord to lead you into freedom from abuse.

Blessings,

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