Breaking free(r)

I am the last person who should be writing about breaking free.

I have been separated from my abusive husband for nearly 7 years now, and I am just now taking a huge step to break free(r).

I did kick him out of the house years ago which took a lot of courage. This worked only because I knew he wouldn’t hire a lawyer. I had no legal right to kick him out of his own house, even though he promised he would leave any time I wanted to separate (which was a lie–I asked; he refused).

This weekend I am leaving this house, this town and this state to move near family (and away from snowy winters that isolate me further). I will be near my adult children and three grandchildren.

I will be mere hours away from my very sick mother and wonderful stepdad.

I will be only months away from enrolling in a 4-year college or university so I can finish my bachelor’s degree.

I will have access to unconditional love from my grandchildren (oh, the hugs they can give). My teenager will spend his last two years of high school surrounded by family (he is going to be one popular uncle).

This weekend I load up a truck with those belongings that I consider most precious:

  • kitchen stuff
  • personal library
  • knitting and quilting stuff
  • computer
  • my bed

Strange list, I know.

I have a well-equipped kitchen with old, functional small appliances: bread machine, flour mill, large Villaware toaster oven, 1950s Sunbeam Mixmaster, food processor and my cast iron and stainless cookware. I also have a decent supply of baking pans and dishes. I hope to regain enough strength to bake and cook once again.

Oh, my personal library. We have been separated for years. I packed up my books and put them away years ago because I have been waiting to move for years (and I had difficulty reading anyway — see below). I look forward to the day when all of my books are on shelves (that I picked out) where I can access them whenever I like. The joy!

I knit a LOT! It is something that I can do right now with limited strength and chronic pain. Knitting doesn’t hurt. I am keeping my quilting stuff, again with hopes that I will regain enough strength to make all of my grandchildren quilts.

My computer has been my connection to the outside world. Being isolated for years, the internet kept me sane when I was living in a nightmare world of a marriage to a mean, hateful man. When I got sick in 2006 with Lyme disease and then did not recover, I couldn’t even compose and type an email. I couldn’t write a sentence. I couldn’t read a paragraph.

My computer saved me. I joined an online gaming community. I started to reconnect with other people, nice people. I typed in chat occasionally (and used voice chat a lot).

I started by using my laptop while I lay on the couch (too tired to sit up).

After a few months, I was able to sit at my computer desk. I bought myself an inexpensive desktop computer. I kept hand weights on the desk and gained strength.

Eventually, my doctor ordered physical therapy which got me mobile again. I continued the exercises on my own and regained more strength.

A couple of years later, I found a Lyme-literate doctor who treated my chronic Lyme with antibiotics and supplements. She discovered B-12 and D deficiencies. After a few months on amoxicillin (which keeps my pain at bay but doesn’t seem to help me gain ground), she put me on clarithromycin (Biaxin). After 6 months, I had recovered my hearing, pain was minimal, I could walk without looking drunk, I lost 30 pounds, and I began walking 5-6 days a week. I recovered to about 60% of normal. This was a huge improvement. It was college coursework that helped my brain to heal.

My bed. I know that is a weird thing to put on a list of precious belongings, but there is a reason.

Months before the final separation from my husband, I had moved to the couch to sleep. He moved all night long (restless leg syndrome) and snored so badly that I could not sleep well. I wasn’t missing much. The bed we slept in was a freebie he had gotten from a coworker in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was at least 20 years old. It was bad.

What was really hard was near the end my husband had stopped coming home from work. He said he was going to the church to pray every night, often not getting home until 11 p.m. and even as late as midnight. He would then come home, stomp up the stairs (raised ranch), do his burping thing (he always burped when he came home and walked up the stairs), and wake me up because I was sleeping on the couch. He never offered to give me the bedroom so I could get one good night’s sleep. Not ever.

After my husband was gone, it took me a few months, but I finally made myself clean out our bedroom (with my sons doing the heavy lifting). I got rid of everything that had been ours. I threw away his broken, plastic headboard that he insisted we keep. I threw away that old, disgusting mattress. I got rid of every piece of furniture.

I went to IKEA and bought myself a bed of my choosing. I bought myself a NEW mattress. It was an act of rebellion against the husband-imposed poverty that I had lived in for nearly 20 years.

So, yeah, my bed is precious. It is mine. I picked it out and it is my restful sleeping place. [Amazingly, I began to recover even more of my health when I could get a full night’s sleep without interruption. Go figure.]

Of course, there is room on this truck for my teenager’s computer desk, his books, instruments, computer and clothes. He will get a new bed when we move into our new place.

The only other furniture we are taking is the kitchen table and chairs, the outdoor table and chairs, two IKEA chairs, an ottoman, a Singer parlor cabinet (treadle that I use for all my sewing machine heads – motorized and people-powered), and my coffee table.

Everything else in this house is either cheap, in bad shape or not worth bringing.

This move signals the recovery of a different kind of power: power over my own future.

I am so stressed that I am not sleeping well. I wake up all night long with adrenaline dumps, heart pounding. But I must do this.

I am moving out of a place that has been comfortable in some small part because it is known to a place full of unknowns. Yes, I am scared.

I am moving toward freedom to be myself in my own space.

I am moving.






When will we get there?

We all remember fondly the long road trips we took as children with our parents in the station wagon (for us old folks) and mini-vans (for the younger generations) where we couldn’t wait to get THERE.  You know, the place we were going.  The destination.  The reason we were stuck in this vehicle with our family members with no escape.  We might have gotten to stop and buy a souvenir once or twice, and been allowed the requisite number of bathroom breaks and meals, but back in the car we went to sit and sit, staring out the window, wondering what it would be like when we got THERE.

We weren’t in the driver’s seat.  We weren’t even in the FRONT seat.  We were stuck in the back with a bratty younger sister and possibly slightly mean older brother wishing we would just get THERE!

In 2006 when I became very ill with Lyme disease and bartonella, I just wanted to get well.  I lived every moment of my day being sick and wanting to be well.  I took my pills, swallowed massive amounts of supplements, and even tried alternative treatments at one point.  No matter how long I tried I just could not get THERE.  I could not get well.  I could not get my life back.  I could not be the same person I was before getting sick.  I often refer to my former life, before Lyme disease, before having my body and brain taken captive by a spirochete and its common companion bartonella as a previous life.  There was this ME that is no more.  It is gone.  I am a different person, life turned upside down, destroyed, and not really put back together.

On top of being ill I was in a really, really bad marriage.  Lots of control, emotional abuse, complete neglect even while very ill, and then complete abandonment.  He didn’t leave the house (it was his house and I was his wife and those were his children); he just abandoned me.  So there I was at the worst point in my life personally with every part of my life completely messed up, destroyed, gone, and no light at the end of the tunnel.  I kept waiting to get well so that I could get on with my life.  I had registered to start school in 2007 but had a horrible relapse, probably a reinfection.  I was back on the couch full-time getting up only to see that my kids made it to school, then back on the couch.  Up again to order dinner from a local take-out restaurant, and then back on the couch.  I was never going to get well like that.  I sat in the back seat and waited to get THERE.

I did finally receive long-term antibiotics that brought me a lot of progress: I had physical therapy to get me moving again with less pain, learned to take pain relievers properly, and changed my diet.  I made a lot of progress over a 1.5 year period.  I would say I got back to 65% of my former self at my best.  I figure I am about 50-60% now.

The biggest change occurred when I realized that I was never going to be like I was pre-Lyme disease.  My body had been damaged, my brain had been damaged, and my heart had been broken.  Something was happening that began to open my eyes to a new reality:  I could take one step at a time, one day at a time, and make a little progress just as I was.  I didn’t need to get well to move on with my life.  Eureka!  That was it!!!  I realized that I was never going to get THERE, and in a moment my life had new meaning.

My new motto is that it is all about the journey, not the destination.  My goal is to get an associate’s degree and transfer to a four-year university, earn a bachelor’s then a master’s  and finally a doctorate.  I might be 80 years old when I get that doctorate or I might kick the bucket before I can achieve that goal, but I plan to pursue my education for as long as I can, for as long as my eyes can read, my fingers can type, my brain can comprehend, and my heart is beating.

In dealing with healing from physical or mental abuse, from illness or injury, the one thing that has given me hope is that I do not need to arrive anyplace at any particular time.  I will get there when I get there, and that is okay with me (this applies to grieving, too).  It is not about THERE.  It is about the journey, what is outside my window right now, what is inside my heart, what is given to me in this moment to enjoy.

May your journey be filled with wonder and joy!