"No one tells you the truth about the regret that settles in the next morning. No one explains how used you feel after you’ve taken the walk of shame. They don’t tell you how you feel dirty and yet again, you are another person’s body count. Just another number to brag about to their friends. " -ANONYMOUS WRITER
Life can interfere with preparing your children for adulthood. It certainly interfered in mine. Domestic abuse, caring for a very sick child, working a full-time job with the added baggage of constant trauma and depression interfered with preparing our children. Yes, they grew up with both parents.
Just when our oldest daughter turned 19 and our oldest son turned 17 things began unraveling in our home. My son was supposed to be enjoying his senior year. Instead of being free to enjoy his senior year, prom, graduation and his parents preparing him for college, our lives were imploding.
Their dad was exhibiting symptoms of psychosis. He was vacillating between uncontrolled anger, mania and audible hallucinations. He drank heavily, which didn’t make things better. Either, I was the involuntary depository for his rage or I purposely diverted his rage towards myself to keep the kids safe. I later found out that did not always work, that is why if you are being abused, create a plan to leave safely with your children and don’t talk about it, just do it!
Well in the midst of this mess, my son was scheduled to go to a Summer program to prepare him for his freshman year of college. He was scheduled to leave days after I had to leave home because my ex-husband became very dangerous, threatening either homicidal or suicidal intention. Every mention of getting help seemed to antagonize him even more. I had to meet my son away from our home to give him money to get the things he needed for school. I looked forward to shopping with him, helping him pick color schemes and linen for his extra-long twin bed because he was so tall. I never felt so helpless, but I talked to him, checked in and instructed him the best I could and sent him off with a long hug and kiss on the cheek.
What a hell of a message! You know what he took from that? I have to do this on my own. My parents and siblings are going through it. The best way to help all of them is to do this on my own. He wasn’t ready. Suffice it to say, he struggled that first year. He never called me and told me he needed anything and I didn’t stay on top of him. I couldn’t stay on top of him. That is my greatest regret. I let life get in the way of supporting my son in his first year of school. Well he did get to school. I found out his dad took him to college in Delaware, but he was so sick he dropped him in the middle of the campus with all of his stuff and left him there. I was busy staying at a shelter trying to figure out what I was going to do with the kids, let alone where I was going to stay. Within days we would discover their father was bipolar, psychotic, schizophrenic, and suffering from an illness that was six months away from killing him. He was hospitalized within a few days of that meeting with my son.
Not A Temporary Interruption I knew this was going to be a drastic change, but no one prepared any of us for the extremity of it all! Our lives would never be the same. When my ex-husband was discharged from being involuntarily committed, he had the cognitive ability of a 5-year-old. He would try to grill in the house or put a lit kerosene heater on a pile of clothes. He was cold all of the time, no matter how many layers of clothes he wore. I was no longer sleeping with him. I slept in the boys’ room. I couldn’t sleep with him in the house. I didn’t trust him and had to stay alert in case he did something to harm me or the kids. That did not last long. I needed someone to care for him while I worked. I sent him to his sister’s house. That was the beginning of the end. I didn’t mention the two other children who were going through this process. I went back home when their dad was admitted to the hospital. Our youngest daughter was in tenth grade and youngest son was in eighth grade. School was out for the summer and I had close friends that enabled me to get the kids temporarily out of the house.
I had to trust God. Trust God to the extent that I needed direction down to almost every breath. I prayed and asked God to be a Spiritual Surgeon. He told me that if I made the wrong decision, someone could die. I even wondered if my own sanity was at risk? I could not believe that we were all going through so much! It seemed as if it was a movie. Yet, we were still so blessed! God positioned angels to care for each and every one of us. My mom, neighbors, friends, and boss were such blessings. My son even had angels in the form of his future wife and her family. They both attended the same school.
I could not tell my family until things settled a bit. I had to figure things out because I wasn’t sure what the future held for us. I had to have answers before I shared the news with my parents. The most important thing was to get the kids out of the house. Then I called my sister asking her to care for the kids if something happened to the both of us. I needed a plan if anything happened. She agreed, and I had some peace of mind.
Fortunately, as my ex-husband was sinking into his illness, he found a new church, Victory Christian Center and it was just what we needed for the time. Bishop Jimmie Ellis was an amazing preacher and teacher of the Word. I felt like I had a fifteen-course meal after every sermon. The crazy thing was my ex and I had a violent argument about leaving my home church and going to a new church. I was a member of my home church for 22 years and wasn’t quite ready for a new one. But God! He knew what we would need. They were perfect for the time. A Deacon provided marriage counseling. I learned that I was not crazy! I also learned I was not alone. I felt so isolated. Like everything we were going through was written on my skin, forehead and in the depth of my eyes. I knew the realities of reaching out to the domestic violence programs, had parents, friends, not one but two churches but still felt extremely lonely.
That did not change until we sat in front of the Deacon and he told my ex that according to the bible, he was not in his rightful place in our home and that I had to do what I needed to do to care for us all. He turned to me and told me to stay in prayer,get individualized counseling and keep doing what I needed to do to care for the family. You see my ex was discharged from the hospital barely a week and non-compliant in taking his medications. He also refused to go to the day program for counseling. I gave my ex a choice, either be compliant in taking his medications and go to counseling to save our marriage or our marriage was over. He said he would not comply and just like that, our marriage was over.
What Did I Learn? I Was Never Alone. God is Master of all! God intervened in my oldest son’s life. He returned to school, got his first degree and while an officer in the military. We are so blessed! Our children survived. I survived. My ex survived, and the majority of his cognitive ability returned. So many stories do not have happy endings. My youngest daughter is finishing med school, my son is a teacher and my children have children of their own.
I should have left sooner. My children did not get proper modeling for healthy relationships or communication. My kids tell me to stop taking responsibility for everything that happens in their lives. I should have left after I had them. I could have prevented some of their suffering. Maybe my ex would have gotten help sooner. Doesn’t mean the outcome for our marriage would be different.
God protected me and the children and their father in spite of not leaving soon enough. I had my mom and friends to support, love and encourage me during those difficult times. I did teach them to go to therapy.
I took them to therapy after all of the crisis. In spite of all of the trauma, God has blessed them to survive and strive to have healthy households.
I should have gotten help sooner. I was always so busy either working, addressing crises, taking care of my sick daughter, or running to schools for positive events or concerns. I spent so much time redirecting my ex or trying to prevent a negative interaction with the kids. I was also exhausted emotionally, mentally and physically. The emotional and physical violence would occur every three months. I could set my watch by it, and the damage would be so devastating. It would take me three months to rebuild my emotional and mental states to become a somewhat functional human being. During that time, I was made to feel like the worst thing walking the planet. Every three months I wasn’t a good mother, woman, wife, lover and couldn’t even keep my gender. In between those times, he was loving, kind, and always apologetic. He was even better when I was pregnant except for the second pregnancy. I lost that baby. I should have gotten financial training and taught my children. Fortunately, my children learned from our mistakes. They are way better than we were financially.
Decision Making Training. My children learned from conversations, observation, trial and error. Mental Health Resources. If you are in need of mental health resources, there are crisis programs in almost every community. Suicide Prevention Hotlines, 1-800-273-8255 or texting programs where if you really can’t talk, you can text, https://www.crisistextline.org/. Tell your primary physician. Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church has hotlines and a domestic violence ministry for men and women. Welfare benefit applications in Pennsylvania ask every applicant about their safety and provides numbers. Some nail salons provide numbers. I thank God for my beloved mother, my dad, who eventually supported me, beautiful friends, neighbors and colleagues who loved on me when I could no longer keep it to myself.
What Now? Do Not Self-Isolate. Tell someone trustworthy. If you don’t know anyone, call a hotline. The hotlines are anonymous. Keep repeating to yourself, I am not alone until you believe it. Tell someone at your doctor’s office, church, somewhere until someone listens. Get out of the house. Get a healthy hobby.
Mental Health. If you don’t take care of your brain it cannot take care of you. Get help. Start with your doctor if you don’t know where to go. Don’t stress about medications. Go talk to someone ASAP! Therapy is amazing when you have a good therapist. I always felt like a building was lifted off of my shoulders after the first session.
Seek and Use Resources. If you are at college, reach out to your advisors. That is their job to help you. Tell your parents. You never have to suffer in silence. If it is something sensitive and you think your family and friends will not react well, there are resources out there for that too. For example, if it is an LGTBQ question or need for support contact https://www.glbthotline.org/.
Apply for Resources. There are supplemental resources available to help with food, utilities, tutoring, mental health, loneliness, confusion, sadness, and trauma. Go to your local government or State’s website to find out how to apply. Don’t suffer in silence and don’t take your life. Please don’t let pride cost you your life.