If you have read any of my other posts, you have a pretty good picture of how long I stayed in an abusive marriage and what drove me to stay in it. Fear is a powerful emotion and directed many of my actions. There was a lot I was afraid of when I was married and that fear wore on my life, my health, everything.
Just before my second child was born, I found out that my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. And within months of his birth, she was scheduled to undergo massive chemotherapy. I wanted to be with my mother during this time, but she lived 1500 miles away. My sister agreed to let me and my kids stay for the summer at her one-bedroom apartment just 30 miles away from my mother’s home so that I could help my mom handle the rigors of her treatment.
My husband agreed that I could spend the summer there with the kids and told everyone who asked that it was the right thing to do. He would stay home and work and the kids and I would be gone for about 3 months. But in truth, he really didn’t care that we would be gone and was happy to have the house and his life to himself.
During the summer, I juggled caring for an infant, my 4-year-old child, my sick mother, living in a one-bedroom, 4th floor walk-up apartment, and plenty of doctor visits. I was glad to do it, but I was also exhausted. My ex-husband spent most of the summer avoiding my phone calls, arguing with me, and basically being detached from what I was going through. I felt completely unloved by him and struggled with my pain that he didn’t seem to understand the weight that I was carrying. Nevertheless, I had much bigger, and daily issues to tackle… my mother was dying and in such pain, my baby was learning to crawl, my 4-year-old was spending his first days in day-care. I would hit the bed at 9 p.m. and not move until 6. I lived the life of a single mother and that turned out to be a blessing.
I learned during that time that I could take care of myself and my kids without my husband. I learned that my husband _ even in the face of incredible pain and suffering _ would not be there when I needed him emotionally. I learned that my kids could survive just fine without their Dad in the same house.
It was an experience that helped me just a few years later.
The next summer, my mother needed me again, so the children and I went back to her home and took care of her again. But sadly, by the end of the year, my mother lost her tiring battle with cancer and our family was crushed. She was a very important and loving part of our family and without her, it changed my life. It was because of her premature death that I decided it was time that I took care of my health so that I would be around to take care of my children.
I sought medical help and got the extra weight off, which was a huge decision and committment. I began to workout as well and trained for a 60-mile breast cancer fundraising walk. I got into therapy again to mourn my mother’s passing and I became even more active in church. I also decided for some reason that I still do not know, to go back to school. I made the decision so quickly and without much thought, that I still can’t believe that I did it.
Within 18 months of my mother’s death, I had changed my weight, my health, my employment and my spirit, all for the better. However, one problem still remained. I was still getting beat.
The first time following my mother’s death that my husband hit me was extraordinarily painful because I realized that my mother, now in heaven, could see what was happening to me and my secret was now out to her. I imagined the look on her face as she watch my husband throw me against the wall. And I realized that she would have said to me, “Honey, you have to take care of yourself and get out.”
I had changed my entire life and finally gotten healthy physically and financially, but what good would it do if I was still living in denial about my marriage. As I talked about this with my therapist, it all started to come together. Life was way too short to wait for an abuser to get better. Life was way to precious to allow myself to live as a victim. Life was a gift from God and I wasn’t treasuring that gift, something that my mother fought so hard to prolong.
I could no longer disappoint her, me or my children. It was time to act and take back my life. I finally had hope. Ironic, that in the middle of imminent divorce, the death of a parent, and the fear of how everyone was going to take my decision, I finally had hope that my life would be alright.