This blog is not FDA approved
It is June 16, 2008 – Father’s Day. I am sitting in a driveway surrounded by trash bags, my 8-year-old son, and 5-year-old daughter. I shake, wondering if he will come outside and try to stop me from leaving or try to take the kids from me before my ride gets there. I curse myself. I packed too much. I packed only our clothes and personal documents, but it was still too much for me to carry on my own.
My father and his wife pull up, help me throw the scraps of what was to be my new life into the back of their SUV, and we drive away.
* * * *
I met Rick at 19. I fell in love with the boy who talked about his time in Germany with the Air Force, the boy who pumped my gas and brought me flowers, the boy who called me his girl and wanted to take care of me. When that boy got me pregnant a few months later, I was scared and ready to flee home to Georgia – until he trashed our apartment in a blind rage and left me crying, cleaning up a glass table. Then, ignoring everything inside of me that screamed that I needed to go, I stayed. For 10 years I was afraid to leave. At first I was afraid of what would happen to the boy I loved if I left, but that fear grew as I became afraid of what would happen to me if I tried.
By the time he was officially diagnosed with Bi Polar II Disorder with Schizophrenic tendencies, it was already too late for us. Our children and I had endured more than 7 years of verbal, mental, and physical abuse from a man who refused to believe that anything was wrong with him. By that point, I had watched him get into fights with strangers because of his inability to control his anger, had talked him down from suicide twice, had watched him sleep days away, and walk away from job after job because of something that someone did to piss him off.
When he had an outburst in a police station that led to a 2 week stay in a mental hospital and his therapist called to ask me how long he had been abusing crystal meth, I was flabbergasted. I was aware that he was self-medicating, but I had no knowledge of just how deep into addiction he had fallen. I gave him the benefit of the doubt when he was released. He said that he had a revelation and realized what he was missing out on while he was locked away for two weeks. That it had been the first time he had tried meth and that it would never happen again. After a week, he refused to take his medication that was prescribed and everything went back to the way it was before. That was the moment I believe that I gave up on him completely. I knew that I didn’t have the strength to fight his battles for him and that I couldn’t force him to fight them himself.
Less than a month after his first psychiatric evaluation, he walked into our home after being gone for days, grabbed all the medication that he had been given at the hospital, and dumped them down his throat in front of me. I called the police and the only thing I remember while I waited was the look in his eyes. He was there in the room, screaming and yelling, but his mind was somewhere else. He wasn’t seeing me with those eyes – those glazed, incoherent eyes – and he had no idea what he was doing to himself or to our family.
That was the last time he was put into treatment by the state. He stayed the minimum two weeks, then left. I remember those two weeks without the drama and the constant fear being the first time I could breathe in years. I decided for the safety of my children and myself that I needed to get away, but I didn’t know how. Fate stepped in with a visit from Child Protective Services. I spent the next year battling the courts to regain custody of my children, while they tried to keep our family a “unit”. They ordered him to move out, but never really checked to see that he did. Most visits with our case worker took place with him asleep (either depressed or coming down from his high) in the bedroom. I never told anyone, because he said he would take my children from me and I would never see them again if anyone found out. I was already trained to believe him and obey – and I did – until that Father’s Day when we were living in his mother’s house. I had lost my job, he hadn’t had one in years, and I was done. I told him that I didn’t want to be there anymore and that I didn’t love him. “Then get out”, he said. He didn’t think I would go. He kept the kids right next to him on the couch, knowing that if I had to face him I might change my mind. I held my ground, put my things in the driveway, grabbed my kids, and walked out the door. My heart is racing as I type just thinking about how I felt that day.
I moved in with my dad and his wife. We don’t have much of a relationship now, but I will always be thankful for what they did, because I don’t know what would have happened had they not picked me up. They saved mine and my kids lives that day.
I fought for another year with the court, as they gave our case continuance after continuance. Each time he tested positive for methamphetamine, they gave him another chance to come clean. It took what seemed like forever for them to finally see what I did – that he wasn’t going to stop using. That he was unwilling to go to therapy or try pharmaceutical drugs to help his mental instability. They eventually gave me back custody and we were waved away – as they told me to file the paperwork for sole custody, if I had the wish to do so.
Looking back now, I can see his decent deeper into mental illness and drug addiction. Constantly being in survival mode didn’t allow me to really see what was taking place within him before now. The pain that he was causing us didn’t give me any sympathy for what he was going through. The depressive states where he would sleep for days were just moments of walking on eggshells – keeping the kids quiet so they didn’t wake him and make him angry. Keeping ourselves out of his way while he was awake, because his mood was so volatile, only made him more depressed and angry. As his mind deteriorated, his drug addiction only grew, which deteriorated his mind and body even more. It was a vicious cycle and I abandoned him. His nights and days away only became a solace for us and I was glad that I didn’t have to deal with him anymore. I had to put mine and my children’s happiness above his. I had to give up on him, because if I didn’t, I was giving up on the rest of the family’s future.
* * * *
What would have happened had he somehow been diagnosed before he totally lost control? When I still had hope for him and us? What if he had been willing to go to therapy and find medication to control his mood swings? Who would he have become if his parents had taken an interest in his mental health when he was smaller? Would he have been happier and less abusive? Would we have been able to stay together? What if I had been strong enough to ask for help for him? Did I just not love him enough?
There are so many questions that will never be answered. I know that I was not meant to spend the rest of my life with him. I never saw myself growing old with him and I think the damage that he caused was too much to come back from if he had decided to get help. He instilled a deep fear in the kids and I that will probably never go away. It dissipates the longer we don’t have contact with him, but if he were to walk up my sidewalk tomorrow, I would be afraid to open the door. My relationship with Rick broke me and now my current husband has to deal with the fallout.
I’m learning to trust again. I’ve learned to just let the memories of my two-year-old boy being held against the wall by his throat, the occasional bruises on my little girl’s back when I would give her a bath at night, and the first time he punched me in the face come and go – I breathe through them, then I don’t dwell. I’m not in that place anymore and my kids and I are safe. The memories come less often now and I don’t have nightmares anymore. The kids haven’t seen their dad in person for over two years. The last time he called me was almost a year ago. He didn’t realize that it had been more than 5 months since he called..he thought it had only been a few weeks. He told me that mentally he was getting worse and I believed him. I told him that my husband wanted to adopt the kids and that I would be filing for complete legal custody.
I haven’t heard from him since.
I can’t help but think that conversation was the thing that finally did him in and took him over the edge. That the whole time he was beating it into me to stay, it wasn’t so he could control me. It was because he was afraid, too. Afraid of what was happening to him and afraid the only things that kept him partially sane would go away forever – and we finally did.