Monday, December 17, 2012

How Sammie got her Sass back...

This will be a long post, but if you stick with it, it will be worth it.

I originally wanted to post this on December 18th, but decided that the Blogger day of silence was a more important so I posted it on Monday, but then I came across the Pour Your Heart Out linkup from Things I can't say, and decided to repost it.  Thanks so much for those who already offered your kind words of support.  Y'all are amazing!!

December 18th would have been my 2nd Anniversary. This is one of the hardest posts I've ever written. I try to keep things light-hearted and happy on the blog because no one wants to read constant blog posts from a sad sack, and because I'm genuinely a happy person. But lately I have felt sort of cloudy, and thanks to the brilliant advice of my friends, I've decided to share my story with y'all, at the very least to get it out there and continue the healing.

I have for most of my 24 years been pretty sassy. Sure! I may have exchanged words with people in the WalMart parking lot a few times in my life (Don't leave your dog in the car in the summer, and don't park in the fire lanes! I will yell at you!). I don't take a lot of stuff off of anyone, and  I'm usually very blunt. I'll tell you how it is, (tactfully, of course). Do not mistake my sass for me being hateful, snobby or a mean person. I'm not. I am generally for the most part quite friendly. I am confident and strong. This is my story.
 
I joined the Navy right out of high school. I was young and away from home for the first time in my life, and having a blast. I was stationed in Mississippi. I was young, happy, and carefree. After I turned 21, I met a guy who would later be my husband, Allen (not his real name). We met at the bar on base, and I was pretty smitten (though very hesitant) from the start. He was handsome, funny, and very charismatic. His first words to me were "So, why don't you come have a drink with one of the few good men?" which is cheesy, but it worked. I was hesitant because I had been involved with a guy who was an amazing person, someone I wanted to end up with, but he was separated from his wife with a kid and it was just not meant to be. It was a really heart wrenching time for me. I was bruised and hurting, and Allen filled the void.

Shortly after we became a couple, I PCS'd (moved, for those unfamiliar with Military lingo) to Washington State (mostly for him). We spent about 6 months together there. Then he got orders to Japan. The distance added more tension to our already tense relationship.  Before the move, he had become quite jealous and controlling. He'd threaten me and give me ultimatums. Numerous times I wanted to call it quits, but he had brainwashed me into thinking that I would never find anyone else, that he was the only person who could ever possibly love me. These were some of the early warning signs that I can clearly see now, but at the time I was completely oblivious. At this point I felt about as big as an ant, and just as insignificant. I was ashamed of myself for letting myself get into this situation, I was scared, and I didn't know how to get out. We dated for a little over a year before he proposed while I was visiting him in Japan. We set a date for December 18th, 2010. Things were never roses and sunshine, but I was naive enough to think that this is what adult relationships are like, little romance, little passion, big blow up fights, "I'm sorry"s and "I still love you"s. Who knows why I thought marriage would fix any of this.
 
Things would be great for a while, and then we would have a huge fight and break up. We always got back together. The fights became more and more frequent and more and more severe. I got to a point where I was living in a constant state of anxiety and worry. I constantly felt sick to my stomach, threw up a lot, stopping eating. I would freak out when I missed his phone calls, but I couldn't call him back. My cell phone bills were outrageous ($500 or more every month) from talking to him on the phone- if I didn't answer, he would call me nasty names and insinuate I was cheating.

Physically, I was getting to a very unhealthy place, and mentally, an even worse place. It's hard for me to talk about it now because I have no idea how or why I let him beat me up emotionally.
One night, Allen called asking about an email I had sent to a male friend. I was really upset that he had a) hacked into my email, b) read my emails, and c) had the nerve to be upset with me about an email I had sent three months before I had even met him. He claimed that I was cheating (I wasn't), and that I was only upset that he'd caught me in a lie. Things went from bad to worse. Allen didn't want me to hang out with my friends because they were "bad influences". On the rare occasion that I did go out with friends (and by out I mean, we went to the galley for dinner, or to a movie off base) I had to keep my phone on me and answer it. If I missed a phone call, all hell would break loose. He had the passwords to my email account, my Facebook, and any other social media I had. He would go through everything, even back to messages from when I was in high school and then start fights over them. Eventually he forced me to delete my facebook account. I thought that would end the problems, but it didn't. It's like he would get bored and try to dig up dirt on me to start fights. He would force me to be on Skype for all hours that I was at home, I had to leave Skype up when I wasn't there so he could hear and see when I came in from work. We would even sleep together on Skype. Once I got so mad at him that I broke my webcam so that I wouldn't have to see him anymore, but he then demanded that I go get a new one so he could "see me when he yelled at me", and I did. Things were spiraling out of my control. I did not have a good relationship with my parents at that time, as they were less than enthusiastic about our engagement. Instead, I reached out to Allen's  parents. I cried and cried on the phone with his mom and dad. I told them how much I loved their son, but why was he so mean to me and how could I make him stop? They laughed it off. They thought it was funny, and nicknamed it "Abuse TV" and "SammieTime" (like Lifetime).

The cycle of abuse continued, and I kept thinking that things would just get better after we were married.  I made myself believe that it was the distance, and once we saw each other again, everything would be okay. That no matter how many times he threatened to physically hurt me, I told myself that he wouldn't ever actually do that. Keep in mind, very few people knew of the personal hell I was living in. As a matter of fact, only two people (my supervisor and my friend from boot camp) knew, as well as his parents, and I downplayed how bad things actually were. I was on the wedding website TheKnot.com and it was on their Military Bride's message board I started to open up. At first I was there for wedding planning advice, but found a group of ladies that I really bonded with (some of them are my very best friends in the world now-  Cate, McKenzie, Whitney, Katelyn). Still even with these new-found virtual friends, I had no one to whom I could really open up. I started chatting on an almost daily basis with these ladies, and continually felt guilty because I knew I wasn't really be honest with them, or myself. I was terrified of seeing Allen again, terrified to actually marry him and what that would mean for me.

Allen came home around the 14th of December, with my parents arriving two days later. We were set to exchange vows two days after that. My parents begged me not to go through with it. My sister (seeing how hatefully he treated me at dinner) asked me continually if I was sure. I wasn't sure at all, but at this point what could I do? I had the dress, my family was there, his family was there, was I really going to be that person? Nope. But I wish I had been strong enough then to leave right then.
Our wedding day came. I looked and felt horrible, my parents and I were fighting, Allen was too busy hanging out with his friends to actually spend any time with me. I got ready, and in the background on TV in our suite was some show about serial killers and abusive spouses (how's that for foreshadowing?). I went down to our venue and prepared to say my "I do's". My almost-husband never said "Wow, you look great!", or "You are so beautiful! I can't wait to marry you!". As I walked down the aisle, I didn't notice the beautiful music that I had picked out. I didn't notice the smiling faces of friends and family. The only thing I could hear in my head was the theme song to "Jaws". All I could see was the sadness in the eyes of my family, knowing I was about to make a huge mistake, but one that I needed to make for myself.

We went to Leavenworth, WA for a week as a honeymoon. We should have been blissfully happy newlyweds but ended up fighting, and spending lots of time apart. I would stay in our hotel room and read, he would go out to bars and drink. We decided to go skiing one day, and I HATED it. I'm sort of a control freak so throwing myself off the side of a mountain was not my idea of a good time, at all. Perhaps if I had a more patient and loving instructor, but it was all just really terrifying to me and I felt sure I would break my neck. I fell down a lot and cried, begging to just go back to the hotel, or even go sit in the lodge. I felt miserable, I felt fat and ugly and out of shape. Worst of all, my new husband was publicly berating me for not being able to ski.

I don't mean to give the impression that every single minute of every single day was miserable, because if it had been, I truly believe I wouldn't have married him. There were some good times. He made me laugh, sometimes he made me feel beautiful. Sometimes he made me feel like I was the only girl in the world. There really were good times, but it got to the point where bad far outweighed the good.

I got out of the Navy in February of 2011 after 4 years of service. The initial plan was for me to live with his parents for about a month, then I would move to Japan to be with my husband. March came, and he had been dragging his feet about extending his contract there. We fought about it all the time. He was unhappy there and didn't want to extend, I had gotten out of the Navy to be with him and now I was living with my in laws. Yes, the same in-laws that found their son's emotional abuse of me hilarious. The Tsunami that affected Japan hit in April of 2011. I was a nervous wreck. I remember waking up and feeling something was wrong, and that was about the same time Japan was being ravaged by this storm. I tried to call him, and I couldn't get through. I tried to email, same thing. His family was freaking out, I was freaking out. He finally contacted us about 18 hours after the storm to let us know that he was okay, and they had lost power for a while.  This tsunami meant that I would no longer be allowed to move overseas to be with him.

In May of 2011, I went to visit my parents back in NC. It was an adjustment at first, but I was happier there than I was in WA. I timidly asked my husband's permission to move back home until he came home the following February. He decided that we'd "make more money" if I were living in NC, so my dad and I drove across the country and I settled into my new/old life back in NC. I got a job almost immediately (as a coach at Curves), and was so much happier. Things were very good between us until about August of that year. In August he went on a detachment to Thailand. I'd been to Thailand on a deployment and I knew of all the trouble he could get himself into, and warned him to keep his nose clean. Allen went crazy. He lost his wedding band almost immediately, spent every night and hundreds of dollars in the strip club, got a huge tattoo that was out of Navy regulations, and (I found out later) started having an affair. He became distant, and even more verbally abusive towards me. He forgot my birthday (literally for more than a month, forgot my birthday), he forgot our anniversary and tried to make it up to me by sending me a gigantic teddy bear. I hate stuffed animals. I'm a grown woman. I sort of forgave forgetting my birthday, but our anniversary was a bit more painful for me. We'd been married for 365 days and spend 355 of them apart.
Throughout all of this, all of this time apart, the fights, the verbal threats, I still believed I wanted to make it work. I loved him, right? He was the one, right?

Throughout our year of being separated, I became quite close with one girl in particular from the military bride's board, Cate. Cate was the first person that I really opened up to about just how bad our relationship was. I still tried to hide things, like the name calling, and the threats to hurt me, but Cate was on to me. Somehow she knew all the things I wasn't telling her. One day in mid January 2012, she had found a memorial website of a girl she had known personally, who was murdered by her boyfriend. Cate and I cried together reading her story and she confessed to me that she was afraid that I would end up just like that girl. At the time I remember thinking, "She's being overly dramatic", but in my heart, I knew. That very possibly could be me. I told her not to worry, that I had to give my marriage a try when we were living in the same state. I admitted that I'd feel like a failure if I quit after only spending 10 days of being married together. She understood, but asked me to prepare an emergency kit in my car with cash & a credit card under the spare tire, and an extra set of car keys in a magnetic box in the wheel well, that way if he ever tried to hit me, I could just walk out of there and never look back. Part of me feared she was being dramatic, part of me knew she wasn't being unrealistic.

I wanted out, but I felt like I needed to stick it out, to try to live together, and not just quit before we ever lived together. I was determined to stick it out. Until February.  I should have been excited to see my husband, but I wasn't.  I was almost paralyzed with fear.  I can remember skipping classes that week because I couldn't think about anything other than the fact that this man that I was married to was coming back stateside and that I was supposed to move in with him.  I was terrified to see him.  Terrified to live with him. He was set to come home in mid February. Near Valentine's Day, which was two years to the day that he had left. We started arguing about him coming home. We had found an apartment, I paid the security deposit, we were looking at furniture. He announced one day that he was buying a puppy - not something we had discussed, and when I suggested we talk about it, it exploded into a huge argument. Around this time, I was struggling to save money as I had paid the security deposit for the apartment. Cate asked me why Allen wasn't paying it with his BAH (housing allowance, in military speak). I explained he was using that for his expenses in Japan. She did some research, and quickly explained that Marines who have wives in other states are considered "Geo-bachelors", that live in barracks but still earn a full BAH. Meaning he was living rent-free and collecting more than $1100 per month that we were married, simply for being married to me. While his parents were taking rent from me, and I was working for minimum wage to just pay the bills, he had an extra $1100 that was explicitly supposed to be for taking care of my living expenses. When I asked Allen about it, he got very defensive and verbally abusive. He told me it was HIS money, and none of my business what he did with it. Cate & Brittany (another Military Bride friend) had a facebook intervention for me. They confronted me with the things I had told them. Things he had said, that didn't make sense. They reminded of the horrible things that he said to me, things that I repeated to them and then tried to deny or make light of. I think that I subconsciously knew that I was in a very precarious position. I knew that, given the chance, he wouldn't think twice about physically harming me. In my heart I wanted to believe that he wouldn't ever do that, but in my head, I knew he would. Cate thinks that at this point I was just so used to people telling me what to do, that I wanted her to tell me to leave him. I just wanted anyone to tell me that I could leave him and that everything would be okay.

Allen decided that he wanted to spend his two weeks of leave with his parents, not his wife that he hadn't seen in over a year. I was in the middle of the semester of school so I couldn't exactly drop everything to be with him. I was pissed, but I was like "Fine. Whatever. He'll spend time with them, and then he'll come to me and we won't have to deal with them for a while". He started working on our taxes right before he came home, and had sent the final copy of them to me right before he got on his flight to come home. I immediately noticed an error and when he landed brought it to his attention. He freaked out, started screaming at me, and told me that it was "none of my f_&@*^% business how much HE made last year", that I was "nothing but a greedy whore". I'm not sure why it happened right then (rather than the hundreds of other times he'd called me names and yelled at me), but this was the moment that I realized he was never going to treat me well. This was the moment that I realized that without the distance separating us, those threats of choking me, or beating the crap out of me would no longer be threats.  It wasn't a matter of "if" he'd physically hurt me, it became a matter of "when". He was never going to love me unconditionally. He was controlling and manipulative, and I had fallen for it hook, line and sinker. He didn't love me at all, he loved that he could control me. He loved that he had so much power over me. He loved that he had broken me down so that I felt like I was nothing. He told me over and over again, that I was fat, and ugly, that no one would ever love me again, that I should just kill myself. These were the things that he told me on a regular basis, that I was too embarrassed and ashamed to tell anyone, even my family. I wasn't allowed to get manicures, or hair cuts, or do anything for myself. I wasn't allowed to wear fitted things that "showed off my body". The worst part, was that he was controlling me from almost 10,000 miles away. I was terrified of him, of his temper, his family. I was a shell, just moving through the motions of my life.

Allen flew home to WA from Japan on February 11th. No sooner did his feet touch US soil, I realized I couldn't see him again so I spoke to a divorce attorney. I filed for divorce on February 13th. I told him on Valentine's Day. I waited all day to see if he would acknowledge the holiday (he didn't) and finally realized that it didn't matter if he did or not. I was done. There was no going back. Emotionally, I was finished.

I think I kept coming up with excuses to stay - every good thing he did was excuse enough to forgive all the bad that had happened. But at the end, I was just a bruised and beaten little shell of the girl I had been. In NC, the divorce process required 1 year of separation. Since we had not been together in a year, it counted. Our divorce was finalized May 8th of 2012.

The drama didn't end with the finality of our divorce.  In August/September of this year, we were audited because of the error on our taxes (I told him to fix it!).  In October I got a phone call that made my blood run cold. My ex had put his girlfriend/mistress in the hospital.  They had a disagreement, and he left her with a ruptured spleen, several broken ribs, and choke marks around her neck. I heard this and I absolutely fell apart.  I was unprepared for all of the emotions I would feel. I was scared, because he knew where I lived (I changed all of my contact information when we got divorced, but I didn't move).  I was horrified because we had only been divorced for 5 months and that very easily could have been me.  I felt guilty, because I knew what he was like, and I did nothing to stop him.  I know that with no physical abuse documented, I could do nothing, but I still felt like I needed to help.  I wanted to send her flowers with a note that said "Get out Now! Press Charges! Oh! and Get Well Soon!".  Hearing all of this really freaked me out for a while.  I cried for this girl that had been in all honesty sleeping with my husband when he was still my husband. I cried for the physical pain he had caused her, and the emotional pain he had caused me. I cried out of relied that I had gotten out.

It's funny to me now, how I could be held under his thumb for so long, and how in an instant I was strong enough to leave. I know that it wasn't really instantaneous though. If I hadn't had the emotional support from my friends I couldn't have done it. It hasn't always been easy, and for awhile I questioned whether it was the right decision. I know now it was 100% the right thing to do. Is it easy being 24 and a "divorcee"? Is it fun to explain all of this to strangers or people from high school? Not at all. But it's part of my life now, and it's part of what makes me who I am today. A friend of mine about my age who had been divorced before from a similarly abusive situation told me: "The worst day without him is better than the best day with him." And that's the honest to God truth.

Even now, I get upset with my friends who warn me against getting my hopes up about a guy.  I get frustrated because I sometimes feel like they baby me, but I know that they just don't want to see me get hurt again.  They love me for me, and they won't let me settle again for someone who doesn't love me in all my imperfect glory. Words can't even express how much I love my friends for caring so much about me.  They tell me often how proud of me they are, and how strong I am, but I know in my heart that I wouldn't be where I am now without their unwavering support. I am grateful everyday for how very blessed I am to have these amazing women in my life.  I love y'all.

If you, or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, talk to them. It might will become frustrating, but no matter what, don't abandon them. Let them know that they aren't alone. Don't get angry with them when they forgive their abuser, or they go back. If my friends had abandoned me, I don't think I would have had the strength to get out of my terrible relationship. On the other side of this terrible road, I have friends for life, I have a chance at real, happy relationships. I'm dating again (hesitantly!), I'm focused and doing well in school.  Physically not much has changed, my hair's a little longer, I've lost some weight, and I stand up a little taller.  Emotionally I'm a completely different person.  I'm much more confident (even if I do text my friends 48,000 pictures of my hair or outfit before I go out on a date.. Thanks Jerrica & Katelyn!).

I'm not 100% happy all the time, but I'm so much happier than I was this time last year. Happier, Healthier and most importantly, I'm free.



Types of Violence

Warning Signs

LoveIsRespect

Safe Horizon


8 comments:

  1. I am so proud of you and your strength. I couldn't imagine what it must've felt like to go through what you went through, but I know you're better today than you were this time last year. You're incredible Samantha Joe and I have always loved and admired you.

    :)

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    1. Thank you Ma'am!! I Love you always!! <3

      xoxo

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  2. What an awesome strength you have lady! I give you kudos all the way to the moon and back. I know we have only met on the blogs recently but from what I've read you have been through quite a lot and are shining because you have overcome it!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words!!

      xoxo

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  3. I am so impressed you got out!!! That's the hardest part!! You're incredibly strong!!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your story... you definitely have learned a lot at a young age. Glad you are willing to tell others of your awful ordeal. You are an impressive woman.

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  5. You are very brave to share your story. I am very thankful that you got out when you did. I volunteered at a DV shelter for women and children when I was in college and now I work with mom's of young children..many who have been in similar situations. Please know that is was nothing you said or did or nothing about you...he is an abuser...and he is sick.

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  6. I'm so glad that you got out!!!

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Thank you so much for taking time to comment!! Comments are like birthday presents to me so keep them coming!!! xoxoxo