We at The Band do understand that a lot of our subject matter can be very dark and dense. This, however, is not a story of sadness, but of rebirth, finding a place in the world, and knowing just how valuable you are.
13 years ago today I left my first, abusive marriage. I didn’t know where I was going, what I was doing, or how I was going to survive or take care of my two boys (and their sister who was due in five months. But I did know this: the best place for all of us was NOT with their father.
Leaving was the first hard decision I’ve made as an adult, the first time I felt like an adult, the first time I ever felt like I had the ABILITY to make a decision for myself or my children.
Life after his abuse was not an easy time. it was easily one of the three hardest times I’ve ever experienced in my life.
I am so thankful that a support system came out of the woodwork when I needed it and helped us get through the transition and helped me feel secure enough in my choice to leave that I didn’t end up going back.
I can’t imagine where my children or I would be today if we hadn’t had that.
Mike and I met shortly after that fateful day, in a chatroom. Two years later on August 20th we found out we were having a baby! Baby Eliza blessed us with her presence on April 21st.
I know that it’s no coincidence that today would also have been my father-in-law’s birthday, may he rest in peace. I wish I’d had the chance to meet him.
Today has so many memories, meanings and significance for all of us. This is truly a day we will all cherish forever.
13 happy years of freedom, 12 years knowing my true love, and so many other memories. Amazing memories.
Before, After, and Between.
Today is a good day every year, and always will be.
How about you? Do YOU have a happy or lucky number or thing?
It’s the type of thing you hope you can forget someday…then spend half your life thinking about it. It’s always in the back of your mind – like a song that stays with you after you turn off the radio; no matter what, the song repeats itself in a loop in the back of your mind.
Recently, I was asked a question, and while thinking about the answer, I was suddenly overtaken by the memory of that day. It came upon me like a hungry tiger tearing me to shreds and leaving me a disemboweled lump of myself where only moments before I was a thinking, feeling, functioning man.
The smell of it floating through the air, sweetening each breath. This, in no small part, is making the day better. What else could I ask for? Not only did I get to ride The Bullet this year (a big kid ride if there ever was one), but I also got to walk in the parade, too!
I am eight years old, and my father and a group of his “friends”(other men who lived their lives in the bottom of a bottle) are members of a Veterans group for people who saw combat in Viet Nam. They have been asked to bring their families to walk in this year’s parade during the regional Franco-American festival.
We have known about this for weeks so I hardly slept last night. We each have on a little t-shirt with the logo of the Veteran’s group on the front. I couldn’t be more proud. Some of us have little flags while others pass out bumper stickers, but we’re are all having fun. There is something about everyone looking at me, waving, and just generally having a good time that puts a smile on my soul.
Next, I’ll run for Senate and become an Astronaut. I am on top of the world.
Now, we are being addressed by the Governor of Maine. He is speaking of things I can’t and have no interest in understanding. I have better things to think about at my age: baseball cards, my next birthday, how to stop that stupid girl at school from pulling my hair everyday. I start to imagine pushing her down the next time she does. My imagination runs wild while the speech continues.
I wish Knight Rider would come out next.
That would make this day complete.
In the middle of my fanciful daydreaming, my father taps me on the shoulder and says, “Let’s go.” I don’t know where we are going and I have little time to ask before he starts walking.
Walking with him is always hard. He walks with fast, long strides that eat up the ground in front of him in big gulps. Today is especially hard because there are people everywhere, milling lazily around looking at the trinkets being sold by the vendors and watching the children on the Merry-Go-Round. I am small and not exactly built to push my way through a crowd.
We walk only a few short blocks when we come to this house. It looks like every other apartment house in Lewiston. Run down and begging for paint; sheets in more of the windows than the shades that are popular now. There are huge chunks of the asbestos siding gone to the years of harsh winters with bitter cold. There is a bicycle chained in front that is missing both tires, and the chain has discolored the concrete of the sidewalk from years of sitting there rusting. The body of the house is yellow with a dark brown on the windows and one door that once had glass in the top third of it. A condemned sign wouldn’t look out of place here.
My father knocks on the first door we come to after entering the building. We enter after a yell from inside. I know already what is in store for the rest of the day. I can smell the distinct odor of old beer that has been sitting in the can and getting hot and stale, a smell I loathe.
I see that the room holds the men from the Veterans’ group, and I can also tell within moments that few, if any, had stayed as long as we did after the parade. The slurring of their words, apparent in their voices, says that they have had a few drinks already. Five, maybe six, men and a woman who must be one of their wives. They are sitting around a glass-topped table with legs made of what looks like bent pipe – four separate pieces, connected, shaped like a large squarish C. The walls are dirty from years of cigarette smoke and not being cleaned, making what should be white look as though it were river mud; yellowish brown with hints of green.
In the adjoining room there are two other kids, so my brother and I know that these are our friends for the day, and we run off to see what games are currently afoot. This room is the same color, but much smaller, containing a couch which I am sure has come from the side of the road. The smell of cigarette smoke and body odor lingers everywhere, and I know it is safest not being seen or heard for the next few hours if we can help it.
The afternoon progresses like most of this nature; there are beer runs and arguments, the voices get louder as the hours pass by, and the thoughts get less coherent. I have been in this situation as often as I have been in a room with a window, so I am playing and not really paying attention when it happens.
Why? To what end? Have I looked too much like I am having fun? Was there an instant where I looked too much like my mother? I do not know. What I do know is there isn’t a warning – no loud crash or even an instant where I can feel the malevolence building. One second, I am playing happily, waiting for word to get ready for the few miles home with my father weaving on the sidewalk, and the next there is a hand on the back of my neck and it is squeezing. Hard.
I instinctively try to duck and run, but it’s too late. I have been caught unawares, and the fear grips me like a blanket wrapped around me in a restless sleep, getting tighter with each attempt at escape.
“Come ‘ere, I wan-na show you summten.”
His breath hits me in the face, and my stomach turns, making the terror that has settled in me even worse. It smells of cheap beer, Marlboro reds, and the not-unfamiliar stench of hate. It’s a seething anger that I know well; he had it rough, and I was ungrateful for all his sacrifices. I am just a spoiled little brat that doesn’t know how to be a good little boy – stupid and too much of a sissy-boy for his tastes, in need of a little mettle in my blood.
As I am being dragged across the floor, trying to wrestle myself from his grip, and getting nowhere, nobody seems to notice. There is no apparent lull in conversation. No people crying out for my father to release me; nothing out of the ordinary going on here at all.
“If you don’t quit squirming you little mother fucker…” the threat left open, allowing me poetic license to finish as I see fit. The things that my brain offer are no less frightening than anything he would have managed.
Where, I don’t know, but from somewhere there appears a set of handcuffs. The metal ones, not exactly police issue, but not the cheap ones with a lever that will unlock them if you can manage to get your finger on it. He reaches down, seizes me by the wrist, and clicks the first bracelet on me before I see what he has. The other people in the room have stopped talking. They have all noticed that something is happening and are transfixed by the spectacle of a man dragging his son across the room. They watch, fascinated as it unfolds; rubber-neckers to the car wreck that is in front of them.
Before he clicks the other bracelet in place, he runs it under the leg of the table so my wrists are together with the three inch chain under a leg of the table. Had he been compassionate and put the other bracelet around the leg, I would have had some movement. He is desperate to blame someone or something for the ruin that is his existence, and it is my turn.
My struggles to free myself prove fruitless very quickly, and I start to cry. Not a whining wail or a screech – just tears, silent and accusing, dripping from my chin, streaming down my face and washing streaks of red into the pale color of my face.
I am too young to tell if this is uncomfortable laughter or if the hate has spread to the others through osmosis.
I get tired fast, and my struggles start to come in spurts. I sit and try to find a comfortable way to position myself in order to rest between attempts to free myself. I try everything. Picking up the table. Pulling helplessly against the pipe. I am just too small and weak to get anything accomplished. My father insults me and pushes me down with his foot while the other men laugh at his words and even a chuckle or two at my tears.
It always makes these type of men feel better to see someone suffer and writhe in pain. It makes them forget that they are miserable human beings, each lost in their own tragedy.
After I have been sufficiently humiliated and defeated, I become boring, and they lose interest. They resume the conversation as though I am not even here. The woman that is here waits until it is obvious that she will suffer no ill will for doing so and gets up to find the keys. I have been under this glass table for almost an hour, and the men are no longer even glancing through the glass to get a look at the kid trapped down there. The woman comes back with a bobby pin, because there are no keys in evidence, and says something about how mean they are. This is greeted with some vulgarity and a warning to mind her business lest she finds herself locked there in my stead.
My wrists are hurting from all the pulling and moving about, red and scraped from the cheap metal of the handcuffs. My shoulders are burning from the struggle with my father as well as the exercise of trying to lift the table.
I run into the living room where I was playing so quietly only an hour before. There will be no more playing for me. Not today. Not for a few days. Once again, I have been reminded of my station in life and the reality of it all.
The woman comes in behind me and eventually does release me from the other bracelet of the cuffs. It takes her a few minutes, and the men start calling to her to forget it, get it later. Eventually, she tires of their remarks and risks their wrath by saying something back. I do not hear it against the thunder in my eardrums that is my heartbeat. I internally beg her to stop. Scared that her mouth will make this day worse for me.
I watch as she walks away after freeing me from the second bracelet. She sets the handcuffs on the table and grabs the beer she left there to help me. She sits down and tries to steer the conversation away from herself by saying something light and funny.
I sit on the couch, scared to move for fear of being noticed again. The tears are slowing, now but a trickle down my face as if they’re not sure I am finished needing them. Each one releases more of the emotions I have paralyzing me where I sit – washing away the pity and the anger that consumes me.
This time when it happens, I hear his chair. It drags across the floor ever so briefly. It sounds like nails on a chalkboard – not fingernails, but nails. I am afraid to hope he is going to the bathroom. Too frightened to turn my whole head and watch him, I try to use my peripherals to see, but the question is answered when I hear the clink of the handcuffs as he picks them up. I try to make myself smaller. Try to climb into the couch as if I were really the cockroach he makes me feel like.
The tears start afresh as his shadow comes near me. This time the sobs over take me. They are so powerful and deep, the world swims around the edges from oxygen deficiency. I do not fight him this time. Years of life with him taught me to know that I am better off not resisting him too often. It doesn’t matter, though; his grip is a vice around my wrist and the nape of my neck.
He is saying something that I can’t hear. The anxiety and fear have deafened me to anything other than my thoughts. I wonder why he hates me; why his love always hurts. What I do hear is the click of those handcuffs as he starts putting them on me again. Snatching me around like a doll to put me under the table once again. This time he puts them on so tight I think they are cutting into me.
I don’t hear the second one click. I hear my innocence being severed from my eight-year old soul. I hear my sanity as it grips the edge of the cliff and struggles not to fall into the darkness that awaits it. I hear the sobs of the little boy that I once was as I enter a maturity I won’t catch up with for almost twenty years. One I still struggle to keep in front of me.
When I think about it now, I can’t remember how long I was locked there the second time or how I got out. I can’t remember going home or if my father tried to be nice to me later. I can’t remember anything after the snap. If you ever ask me what I once wanted to be when I grew up, you will see me think about it, but I won’t remember. I can’t. I don’t remember ever wanting to grow up. I can’t remember anything about that child – who he was or what he dreamed about. He is a far away little boy that couldn’t be invisible.
Couldn’t not look like his mother. Couldn’t find love in a world he never asked for and never wanted.
That little boy is still handcuffed to that table. Still struggles to free himself. Still hasn’t hated himself. Still doesn’t think of death when he wakes up in the morning. He still hasn’t found the release of drugs and alcohol. He will never be mean to someone because he thinks that is how to deal with disappointment. He will never love anyone, ever again. That little boy still sobs in my heart late at night as I try to fall asleep and reminds me that I deserve what I got coming.
That little boy will never hurt anyone because that little boy is trapped in a room somewhere in Lewiston, Maine.
We haven’t been “together” since I was three months pregnant with his daughter. That was when he decided to back me into a corner and scream in my face over something silly. That was after he broke my phone in half. My two older kids were asleep in the other room, and he refused to leave MY house. The next day, I took my kids to my aunt’s house with me. He got pissed and started screaming at me again.
I called my aunt behind his back and he tried to slap me, with my terrified children at my feet. I moved out in three hours, after he went to work one Saturday, with the help of some amazing friends.
I missed grabbing some things in the shuffle and he refused to give them back. After I told the landlord I’d moved, he finally moved out; then he moved in with a mutual friend. The friend called me one day so I could get my things from his room while he was gone.
You should have heard that fight: What right did I have going into his house and taking his things? He never did understand that it was NOT his house, and I was invited by the homeowners AND didn’t touch his stuff. I only took mine.
Shortly after that, he amazingly made up with one of his “mortal enemies” and moved in with them. The best part? The house was three houses away from my grandma’s – where I’d moved with my children. He’d call every time I left the house or returned home – every time there was a car in the driveway. Sometimes, he’d call over 10 times in one minute.
One night, I called the police. The next day I got: “I don’t know which of your boyfriends you had call me, but I know you’re a liar and that was not a cop. A cop wouldn’t have restricted their number.” That is the level of stupid I deal with.
Our daughter – who is now four – was born and things are just as bad. If he even THINKS I am seeing someone he says, “We need to talk.” One time, after he found out I was dating someone, he refused to give my daughter back after a scheduled visitation.
I called the police.
They showed up and he said, “Oh I’m sorry officer. I never told her she couldn’t take the baby. I was just going to get her when she called.”
Mind you, he pushed me out of his way because I was just going to go in the house and take her. My other kids again, right there, saw it all.
If I make plans, he wants to know with whom, where, and when. And if he can watch the kids, which he doesn’t seem to understand will NEVER happen.
This is the ONE thing I said would never happen to my kids, and I just handed it to him. Let the courts handle it instead of letting every single person I know kick his ass. And in the end, I should have just let them. Maybe then he’d understand.
The controlling goes on and on. I’ve told him to leave me alone. He always threatens custody, which, okay, I know I can’t afford that fight. He can because his mom always backs him up. no. matter. what. So, I stay quiet.
He makes sure our daughter has what she needs and I’m grateful for that.
But part of me wonders if it’s another way to control me – every time I refuse to tell him what I’m doing, he asks our daughter about me. Every time. Never fails.
He will buy me underwear or swimsuits, and he won’t take “no” for an answer. When we drop off or pick up our daughter, he backs me into a corner and kisses my neck. He makes inappropriate comments. I absolutely know this tactic. But I’m so tired of fighting – I simply don’t say anything.
Pervert is sometimes easier to deal with than asshole. In doing this, I know I’m letting him win. My depression will never get better with his behavior – I simply don’t know how to stop it.
He’s been blowing up my phone for two days because I didn’t tell him good morning or answer a rhetorical text he sent.
I love my daughter to pieces – don’t get me wrong…but sometimes…nope, can’t even write it. I love her too much.
I just want to take my children and run far, far away.
I don’t know what to do, The Band, and I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this.
I always thought that PTSD was something soldiers developed – I was naïve; had no idea anyone could develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. After my teenage son began to get into trouble, I assumed we’d become another statistic – a family with an out-of-control teen.
After we started family counseling, my therapist suggested that I try private therapy. About a week into it, I was diagnosed with PTSD. The therapist said were several things that led to PTSD.
PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, can occur when something horrible or traumatic has happened in. It causes stress every time you encounter a situation is similar to the previously-experienced traumatic events.
I’ve had a few types of traumatic events. I had a rocky relationship with my father growing up and then his death was both very sudden and very traumatic. An abusive relationship with my ex. I’ve experienced abuse from my son. Lastly, I was bullied by a girl from second grade all the way through high school.
My reactions to everyday situations can be more intense than they need to be – but whenever I am in a stressful or threatening situation, I relive past experiences. It’s hell, reliving the same horrible day over and over.
Once, when I saw my grade school bully in the grocery store, while I was there with my kids and we were checking out. The sound drained out of the store. My heart began to race. Blood pumped in my ears. My face got hot. As soon as I was able, I grabbed my kids and ran for the car. I must’ve driven break-necking speeds home, but I don’t remember getting there.
I had a panic attack after seeing this woman! We live in a small town and the odds of running into her are probably higher than in other areas, but I never see her. When I did, I hit fight or flight mode, and flew! That was six years ago.
Since I began therapy, I’ve seen her again. My daughters were with me, and this time I made sure to make eye contact with her as I turned to my daughters and said, “Girls, let’s go check out. I think we’ve got all we need now!” I turned and went to check out. As we left I felt so proud of myself for facing her, and not fleeing like a chicken facing slaughter!
Thanks to the ways she traumatized me, I always tell my kids, “Don’t take anyone’s crap at school!” Recently my daughter was getting harassed by a staff member at her middle school. I contacted the principal and reported her. This woman has not bothered my daughter since I reported her; threatened to file a sexual harassment suit against the school.
Since starting therapy, I stand up more than I used to. Despite all the reasons my therapist thought that I was traumatized, I think the bully and my father’s sudden death were the two that really affected me.
I was a victim of domestic abuse, but I came to terms with it, and took a stand. I left my then-husband and married the man responsible for making me feel like I was worth more. I call him my White Knight because I was considering suicide when we met – he saved me.
My son and I have resolved many of our issues and are working on our relationship; things are getting better.
See, I was blamed for him dying. He died from cancer 14 years ago and afterward, I was told that being around stressed him out – caused his cancer to return after it had been in remission.
Being blamed for his death is a hard thing to overcome. But this year, I was able to make it past his birthday and the anniversary of his death (exactly a month apart) without being a total mess!
To all those out there who have been bullied, abused, or lost a loved one, don’t assume you are strong enough to deal with it on your own.
PTSD snuck up and took over my life. I’d been miserable for years because I didn’t know what I was trying to cope with on my own. I suffered for years without understanding why, until I didn’t want to live any more.
Now, I cannot imagine having missed one day of my kids lives. Good or bad, I want to be there for it all. When they graduate from high school, when they get married, go off to college, when they start their own families. I want to be there, protect them from the problems I had. To tell them, “You’re better than this!” Or smile for them after they avoid bad situations entirely!
Don’t hesitate to get help for PTSD. It really does make a difference.
I never wanted to go to therapy every week, but I am, and I am doing much better. My therapist told me last week that he thinks I am nearly ready to be done. I think that’s a remarkable thing to hear – I am better, I can do it.
My therapist told me recently that I’m a remarkable person for dealing with what I’ve experienced, and still managing to smile. I told him that despite any issues I’ve had, I have great kids and a loving husband.
After every fight, I apologize first, because I know I’m very opinionated and sometimes I talk over you, which means you feel like I don’t respect your opinion. I’m trying to fix that, prefacing my statements with “in my opinion” or, after you’ve told me your opinion, I’ll say “I see where you’re coming from” to let you know that I do hear and respect your thoughts, even as I keep my own.
Tonight, you hit my cat for scratching you. I warned you that if you started playing with him you’d probably get scratched because he’s still a baby; apparently you ignored me. When he did scratch you, you hit him, and I grabbed him away from you and got onto you. I had warned you about him several times and then you exploded, yelling at me about how the cat should know better. A few moments of silence ensued, we started talking about other things, and as you left, I apologized.
I always apologize.
You. Never. Do.
This is why we’re not married yet: you’ve never learned to swallow your pride and apologize, even when you know you’re wrong.
I hope in the next couple of years you get better at expressing yourself so you don’t get frustrated and yell at me out of nowhere. So you can let me know when you feel slighted before it ends up exploding out. I know you have issues communicating your thoughts and that’s why I still happily wear this ring on my finger. I hope you learn to apologize, not necessarily for your actions, but for what your actions caused.
We’re young; we’ve got some growing up left to do. I know I’m to blame in this, too. But I’m not going to marry you when your temper explodes like that. I lived 19 years with that, and I’m not doing it again. You may think it was just a little hit to teach the cat that was wrong, but you did it in anger; if you hit a cat in anger, who’s to say you won’t hit a child in anger?
This is why we’re not.
I love you.
I can’t wait to walk down the aisle and finally take your name as my own. But I will wait. I can wait as long as it takes for you to realize that this is a problem that we’ve discussed before, and maybe now is the time to figure out some strategies to deal with this.
Because, let me tell you, I will NEVER live in a house where I am afraid of outbursts again. I’ve lived through the bruises from my mother when she exploded in anger. I’ve lived through locking myself in the bathroom as my brother exploded, punching through the wall, and breaking the windows out of his car, and I will NOT do it again.
You’ve never hit me, and you probably never will. But every time your anger explodes out of nowhere like that, I’m taken right back to those days living in fear that the yelling is just the first step. I’m not going back.
I love you. Ninety-nine percent of the time you are the greatest guy I could ever ask for, but this has to stop.