It's amazing how a day that started out so beautifully could end up so bad.

Driving to school this morning, I passed through the Land between the Lakes (a wildlife preserve/recreation area in KY and TN). It was beautiful beyond description, with the fall foliage bursting forth in all its glory, and incandescent maples flaming forth from between the drabber olive-green cedars. All I could think about was how in the world I would be able to communicate its beauty with mere words.

School goes fine, no problems.

After school, my Psych Nursing class had to attend a lecture on battered women for extra credit. We will be covering the topic at the end of the semester, so when Murray State got a guest speaker, my instructor jumped at the chance. This went from 7 pm to 8:30 pm.

I was sitting in the auditorium, reading one of the pamphlets they give out at all these things, and I started getting this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. You see, I describe my husband as being emotionally abusive, but I never really was that serious about it. I mean, yeah, he called me names, threatens to kill himself if I leave him, throws things, destroys property, has punched holes in the wall, has hidden my car keys so I couldn't leave, has threatened to knock my teeth down my throat, but I really didn't look at it that way (he has an anger control problem, he came from a dysfunctional family, he doesn't know how to be a good husband or dad...). Sitting there in that auditorium, it became absolutely clear to me for the first time.. I am one of them.

I always read about abused women and wondered why they didn't just leave - I certainly would, if I was in their situation... well, guess what.. I haven't left. As a matter of fact, several years ago, my Sergeant (We were both in the Army at that time) called me at home and heard Dave in the background, yelling and cursing at me. She confronted me that next morning and told me that she was turning him in for spouse abuse. We were referred to the Psych section at the hospital for counseling, and I staunchly defended him, saying that my Sergeant had misinterpreted what was going on, that yes, we fight once in awhile, but doesn't everybody.. and it kept on and on.

To me, abuse always had the connotation of physical abuse, but sitting in that auditorium, listening to the speaker tell the stories of these women in their own words, it struck me that the worst part of it wasn't the physical pain, horrendous though it was, it was the psychic torture, the fear, the anticipation of each new attack, wondering what will set him off, what will I have done this time, will this be the time he loses control and kills me, what will happen to the kids.. that was the worst part of their experiences. And I realized that what they felt, I felt. I live in fear of his coming home (he has been stationed in Washington for the last 2 years). It was 6 months after he left before I realized that I didn't have to sit there on the phone, crying while he ranted about the latest thing I had done wrong - I could hang up! It was the most liberating experience I had had in a long time. He had that much control over me, that for 6 months it had never occurred to me to just hang up.

I HAVE BEEN ABUSED BY MY HUSBAND. Tonight was the first time I said that to anyone other than 2 friends, and in a daylog here (but it doesn't feel real if I say it here). Tonight, a friend asked why these women don't just leave, she doesn't understand it, and I looked at her and said "Maureen, my husband fits every single criterion for emotional abuse". Several of my fellow students were there, as was my psych instructor. It was amazing what oceans of hurt I didn't even know were there those words released. My eyes flooded with tears (as they are again, writing this..) and I was unable to continue. My instructor was very sweet and honestly concerned. She made sure I was going to be safe, that Dave wasn't around, and she offered me her home as shelter if I ever need it.

I feel like absolute hell tonight, and for the first time in awhile I thought with longing about what an easy out it would be just to make it all stop. But I'll never do it. I can't hurt my mother, my sister, my kids, my honey, all my friends who care about me. I can't relieve my pain at the cost of adding to theirs. The worst part of it is that I know there is worse still to come, when I am finally able to confront him and tell him that it is over (which I won't be able to do til I'm financially stable, after I graduate in May). I know he will put me through hell. He knows all my weak spots - he's stuck knives in them often enough - and he'll enjoy using them against me. No hope for a friendly separation here; he's the type who will swing from love to bitter hatred in a heartbeat if he perceives you as being against him. Oh god, the rest of my life like this...

If you're interested, the guest speaker was Mary Angela Shaughnessy, co-author of Sisters in Pain: Battered Women Fight Back (Univ. Press of KY, ISBN #0-8131-2151-5)

You know what the worst part is? My self-esteem, which had painfully clawed itself back out of the muck, is crushed again (this time in absentia, with no further input from him). I am once again hearing those little voices that side with him, telling me I'm worthless, fat, lazy, stupid... and making me wonder what the hell is wrong with my honey for him to want to be with someone as fucked up as I am...

November 4, 2002