Life After Leaving, Part 2: Not quite the End

Leaving wasn’t the end…

…it simply moved my new end-goal to finalizing my divorce. However, it still was a new beginning and an opportunity to learn who I could be on my own. Although our relationship was far past the point of reconciliation, my ex changed his tune immediately to try and get me back. If your ex didn’t respect your voice before, once they find out you mean what you say it will just be a lot of pointless wheel-spinning, manipulation, etc.. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we know when this applies to our relationship. The trick is if we can admit it.

I wrote my ex a letter of explanation detailing everything, after the protection order was finalized. We exchanged a few e-mails on an approved e-mail that was an exception to the Protection Order. Although things had fallen apart terribly, I didn’t want any ill for my ex. I just wanted to get away from him. So I worked very hard to write my letter in a factual, kind and steadfast manner. If any of you have seen the graphic on the ‘Cycle of Abuse’, you will understand what I mean when I say his response followed the quintessential honeymoon mentality. He was so sorry. He was getting help. He was willing to do counseling. Apart. Together. A separation instead of a divorce.

These arguments may have swayed me before, but, while he admitted everything I wrote in that letter was true, he never agreed that his actions and choices constituted abuse. That made it easier to stick to my guns… as did the fact that he point blank refused any of these options in the months leading up to my departure.

Repercussions

The ‘honeymoon’ period of his rationality lasted only so long as it took my ex to realize that I was absolutely serious.

My ex was angrier about the protection order than he was about the divorce, and ultimately I had to share the response to my e-mail of him agreeing to doing all the things I had put in my protection order with my lawyer and his lawyer. My ex was very retaliatory throughout the entire process.

I stuck to my guns, and in the end, it mattered more to me to be fair and stick to my request of a 50/50 split than to cater to my ex’s threats and demands. Luckily, I was in a position with family support to make that possible. Usually, people start from a place where they will negotiate from. I just stuck unwaveringly to what I wanted and knew to be fair. I didn’t want alimony, and I didn’t want any ties to my ex after the divorce was finalized. It dragged things out longer, but it was important to me to 1) stay classy, 2) hold my ex accountable, and 3) stand up for myself and what was fair.

Two years after leaving, I am still struggling to get out of my financial hole. Recovery has been tough, I still owe thousands of dollars I borrowed for my attorney. I missed a few bills before our divorce that have chased me down, up to and including getting my wages unexpectedly garnished. (Oops.)

My ex is still out there, bearing a grudge, and likely skirting sanity as much as he was when I was with him. So safety is still a factor. I’ve learned a few practical things:

  • If you’re registered to vote, it’s likely your home address is publicly accessible. (Some states have ways around this in Domestic Violence situations – but it’s more footwork.)
  • There are websites with generic information about you, and some websites (if you log in) that have your full address. Mindful of my personal safety, I’ve gone to each one and opted out, some required copies of my license to remove the information (I redacted some info). Note: Google yourself to find out where your name comes up.
  • Lesson learned, when I move again, I am getting a P.O. Box.
  • Make sure to have two copies of a protection order. That way you can give one to the police in case of an encounter, and still have your original.

Even with all of that? It’s worth it. Home is safe again. Home is a peaceful place again.

I’m happy.

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Life after Leaving, Part 1: Retrospective

While I prepare to file a renewal for a protection order (mine is about to expire) there has been a lot to contemplate and ponder. Mostly the soul-searching of, ‘Do I really think he could still come after me?’ (Yes) and ‘Am I overreacting by requesting a renewal?’ (No).

Now that I’ve wrestled with those two questions, I started to reflect on the past two years. No matter how many blogs I read, nothing really prepared me for what life would be like. I know not everyone’s experience is the same, but this is what it was like for me, leaving an abusive relationship of 10+ years. This will be my first ‘series’ of posts – I anticipate, and I hope to get out roughly one a week.

Mine isn’t the only experience – I welcome comments and am happy to share blog posts if folks write (or have written) their own experiences summing up their experiences after leaving an abusive relationship. Questions welcome. Gritty, funny, practical. 🙂

Life after leaving… really started before I left.

I hesitated to speak up for so long, because a part of me knew that once I did, everyone’s feelings about my husband would change.  Even outside of our relationship, he was not the easiest person to get along with, although very few suspected what was really going on. About three years or so before I left, he threatened my life, and I resolved at that time that if things didn’t get better I may have to make a choice I didn’t like.

The last six months of my marriage I struggled with extreme anxiety and depression. I had decided years prior, that I had to be responsible for my own happiness, and I tried for a long time to make that happen within the context of our marriage. So when my health began to go downhill, I began tracking my panic attacks and anxiety, trying to figure out what my triggers were, so I could deal with or remove them, or seek help from a counselor.

All instances led directly to my husband. It took me a few more months, and two or three extreme incidents to finally start reaching out to people I trusted. When my mother asked me, “Honey, do you want to leave?” there was only a moment of silence before I agreed. “Yes.” And broke down. But having made the decision, I felt a temporary lightness and hope. I can be free.

If you haven’t decided to leave your situation yet, my post ‘How Do I Leave?‘ summarizes most of what I felt was helpful, or you can go to the ‘Leaving your Abuser’ tab on my home page and look at the blog posts there.

My original plan was to wait a month, get things together slowly, sneak things out here and there. It was simplified by the fact we had no children. But that night when I first went home, I realized I couldn’t maintain the facade for long. Apparently everyone on my very small team was relieved when I reduced that time frame to a week.

I had help, however. Having allies in this case makes an impossible seeming situation surmountable. 

Life in the Fast Lane

Sometimes everything in my life blurs just beyond my immediate view, like staring out the passenger window during a road trip. Moving so quickly, distinct features fade into hazy generalities. Flash of orange. Rising and falling gray. Fuzzy depths of ambiguous green.

I can guess what those things are… a road sign. A concrete barrier. Trees. But all the details fade with the rush of travelling at 60 mph. Right now my world feels a little like that, emotionally, and I have to consciously ‘pull over’ to stop and examine what is going on.

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5 Ways to Stay Safe

Reblog Tuesdays: This kind of list cannot be emphasized enough. I’ve shared my own story and some advice, but if you’re in a dangerous situation please seek help.

The original author asked what other safety tips someone might have. I actually wrote a brief post on this called “How Do I Leave” a few months after I left an abusive relationship. An Excerpt:

“Whenever possible, have someone else coordinate resources and plans for you, and perhaps be a point of contact. My mother did this for me. I barely had the mental capacity to get up in the morning, let alone function on any rational level due to my level of exhaustion.”

My mother, being my main point of contact, also gave me tasks, one at a time. Sometimes these situations can be overwhelming, and having someone to help manage your exit – if you can find them – will be a huge help and benefit your safety, as others can coordinate with them and you leave less of a ‘trail’ for your abuser to follow.

Got Hope Blog

One of the big questions many women (and men) have regarding their relationship is how safe are they. Safety is always an advocate’s number one priority. Some of the top tips of advice we can suggest include the following 5 ideas.

  1. Always be aware that you can be monitored online and on your phone.
    Due to all the technology advances, it is really easy to install programs on your computer and/or phone to monitor your activity. Sometimes abusers know exactly what is said in every text message, or they can look at your history on the computer. For that reason, a safer option might be to use the computers at the public library to research safe places to go. If you can afford a simple phone for emergencies, keeping a secret phone would be a good idea. Even if you don’t think they would do this, it’s one of the…

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Breaking Free

Shame involves that pervasive gut-twist of fear. It is the awareness that someone has learned some deeply hidden truth about you and they may think less of you, because you think less of you for it.

When I first left my ex-husband, I felt a lot of shame. That inner voice didn’t just whisper, it battered me with my own judgmental thoughts. It weighed me down physically and emotionally. Thoughts that were harsher than I would offer  any other person in my situation.

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Leaving your abuser: Discretion in a digital world

Having written a post with tips on how to get away from your abuser many months ago, I thought it might be helpful to provide some information on covering your tracks. There is a plethora of information available to us online, but if our significant other has access to our computers, phones, or other media (instant messages, etc.) – and has had a history of abusing these or us – it is important to know how to protect yourself.

I expect this post will get updated from time to time. If you have found a good resource you would like to share, please feel free to link it below.

Computer/Mobile Web Browsing

This link is a great place to start, Cover Your Tracks, for the computer/mobile. A quick summary:

  • Learn how to delete the history on your browser so your abuser cannot tell you have been to our site.
  • Safest way to find information is at local library, friend’s house, or work.
  • Modern browsers and “hidden” modes. (Also you can search Google for how to browse in private.)
  • IMPORTANT: If you’re reading this YOUR ABUSER ALREADY CAN SEE YOU’VE BEEN TO OUR SITE unless you started browsing using a mode listed above.
  • Private browsing on mobile devices.
  • How do I cover my tracks if I haven’t used one of these modes or have already visited this page without one enabled? This website has some good information on how to erase your browsing history.

 

Additionally, hide smart, don’t just eradicate all your online activities. If someone goes looking for your online search history, make sure to leave some innocuous information – like news sites, etc. Essentially, misinformation.

For the tech-savvy abuser, be aware they may have access to spyware or keylogging programs.

Private messaging/mobile phone folders

Strategies

There are a lot of great strategies you can employ to take back control of your life, even if only in small doses. Consider if any of the strategies at this link will be helpful for you (see summary below of topics covered). Technology Safety Planning. This article was written from a Canadian perspective, but shares pretty universally useful tips.

  • Trust your instincts – if an abusive S.O. possesses information they shouldn’t about you, take note of it.
  • Plan for safety – there are resources out there, but you may not have immediate access to them. Finding someone you trust who can help you with research is great. (In an emergency, don’t forget the police. I myself called upon them twice here in the US, and they were both professional and kind to me.)
  • Use the safest computer/technology access you can.
  • Create a new email, Facebook or instant messaging account – be anonymous, and provide no details. Always sign out of your email or social network sites.
  • Check your mobile phone settings
  • Change passwords and pin numbers
  • Also keep anti-virus software up-to-date on your computer and other devices. This may assist you to identify and remove any unknown programs.
  • Minimize use of cordless phones or baby monitors
  • Get your own mobile phone
  • Get a private post box and don’t give out your real address
  • Google yourself
  • Save evidence and consider reporting abuse or stalking

 

Hopefully you don’t have to use these tips, but my “How do I leave?” post has been getting a lot of views lately, and I felt additional, detailed help might be useful.

“I get knocked down, but I get up again…”

I’m all better now.

THUMP. Hard to see the sunny, blue skies when my nose keeps ending up pressed to the pavement.

Ok, made it past that hurdle. Life is great! It’s awesome!

Can I just hide in bed for today?

Found my silver linings, it’ll all work out.

Oops. Hi there floor, haven’t seen you in a few days.

And so on, and so forth. Overall life is doing great. I’m slowly whittling down the piles of bills. Been seeing Guy (after this many months, calling him ‘New Guy’ doesn’t seem quite appropriate). Finalized my readmission for returning to school in April. Have an interview for an awesome job that would be suitable for the next stage of my career – that is next Wednesday (the wheels of bureaucracy have never spun so smoothly).

I can’t decide if my anxiety is cropping up now that I have the mental space to pay more attention to it, or because my PTSD is trying to warn me that THE OTHER SHOE IS GOING TO DROP, GET OUT OF THE WAY STAT, IT’S PAST TIME FOR MORE SCARY SHIT TO HAPPEN ALREADYOr even, perhaps, I just have no idea what to do with all the good things in my life. I feel like I’m missing something, some monster that is stalking so close behind me that I can’t see it no matter how quickly I try to turn and catch a glimpse of it.

Oh, right. That’s essentially what anxiety is, isn’t it? Continue reading

Echoes

He means the words to get to me. Some friends are more forthcoming than others about what is said. A few remain on his friends list just to keep an eye on him. I need to figure out a tactful way to halt this occasional flow.

Perhaps it is, simply, honesty that I need to offer. Continue reading

Fits and Starts

“When was the last time you didn’t have to worry about your ex acting out?”

“Oh, a few years. A while. Probably since the first time I called the cops.”

“How long exactly? When were you last able to be truly easy and relaxed without fearing something could go wrong? When you didn’t try to walk on eggshells, or realize you needed to.”

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Finding reality

While I was chattering along with a friend via the phone, she mentally and verbally began grasping for a word. I fell silent, my own thoughts frozen by a sudden uncertainty over whether or not to supply my idea of the word she’d been about to say.

“You’re not helping!” My friend laughed, teasing. “What was I going to say?” An awkward chuckle was my only reply, and the conversation moved onward.

But awareness of that moment lingered for far longer than that late night conversation. Continue reading

Worthy

“Who am I, that anyone should care what I have to say?”

“What use, or space, or function do I fill that a dozen other people could not fulfill just as easily?”

“Who am I to ask for anything?”

“I’m not worthy of Happiness. It is simply the ideal, but finding contentment in any circumstances is the only realistic goal, true happiness is fleeting.”

I’ve believed these things for so long. And there is a grain of truth, perhaps, to some of them – happiness can sometimes be a choice. My counselor has highlighted several feelings and beliefs central to my worldview, things that have crafted my history to be the foundation for my struggles today. From a very young age, I was aware my parents had given up a lot to become a family. To raise me, to commit to one another. While on one hand I knew they loved me, that understanding lived alongside the feeling of always being an imposition. Of them always having to sacrifice for me. That I was to blame when they fought and argued. Continue reading

After Trauma can you be who you were before?

If you are recovering from abuse, this is an excellent article to encourage you. At least, it encouraged me.

Freedom Within: My Journey through Domestic Violence & PTSD

woman-wondering-750   Lately I have been pretty hard on myself.  I have been looking back on my journey of healing from my abusive marriage and I have been pretty harsh with myself.  Some of the things I have said to myself are; “Why aren’t you better yet?”, “Why don’t you act like you used too?”, “What is wrong with you?” I have to admit I have not been my own best friend. Nor was I being very fair to myself. After breaking down and shedding many tears it dawned on me, how could I be who I was before I married my ex?  Who I was before had not been abused by her husband for 15 years. Who I was before had not been hit, pushed and endlessly screamed at. All by a man she trusted. A man she had committed her life to in front of God, her friends and family.  I realized how…

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Why didn’t I leave? – Part I

Part 1: Emotional Quandry

Nearly five years ago, my husband glared over the breakfast bar at me, and snarled, “I am going to slit your throat while you sleep.” Standing in the kitchen, body strung taught like a bow about to launch an arrow, he had easy access to half a dozen knives of all shapes and sizes. I don’t remember the moments immediately prior. I don’t remember the moments immediately after. What I do remember is the hard look in his eyes and feeling more terrified than I ever have been in my life.

Although I called 911 – citing fear my husband was suicidal, and stating that I didn’t feel safe – I didn’t breathe a word of what happened to anyone. Not the full words. I did mention to two people, after a struggle, that he had said ‘something really bad’. Continue reading

Did my Abuser Love me in the Beginning?

Thought this was a powerful post, lots to consider in this.

Overcoming Narcissistic Abuse

One of the most difficult things to come to terms with is that your abuser did not love you. There are a couple of reasons why this is so hard to process. 

It is hard for us to believe that they did not love us, because they told us they loved us. Why would someone tell you they loved you, if they didn’t ?  Most people are very careful with the words “I love You.”

We have been brought up in a world that tells us not to say those words until we are sure.

We have been brought up in a world where we know that people will hold those words back, until they are very sure that they feel that way. Not only do people hold onto “I love you,” until they are sure about their feelings, they will also hold out on saying it, until they feel…

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” – Charles Dickens

I’m not sure if it is this way in every abusive marriage, but as I attributed so many of the bad moments to his Bipolar Disorder, it made sense to me (in my attempts at coping) that we would have periods of good times and periods of bad times. Sometimes it was difficult to enjoy the peaks, as a part of me was always wary of the sharp cliff that could drop off into the valleys of anger and depression.

I watched for his triggers. Some weeks, everything seemed to rub him raw:

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