Excerpt from Crawling Out

Just So Done

Only a few days after the incident with Tony hitting Nicholas’s head against the dashboard after football practice, I started to cling wholeheartedly to the idea that this new police report to DCF was the link I was waiting for, the piece I needed to back up my case to stop the abuse and stop visitation. I believed it would lead to the end of the hell Nick and I lived. The feeling that “it will all end soon” gave me permission to think about things other than trying to stay safe and, hopefully, to move past dealing with the aftermath of the latest financial disaster.

At the same time, I began to be more aware of how lousy I felt. I was weak, so weak. I ached all over. Every move I made brought more pain. My heart raced, and I was so fatigued I could hardly crawl out of bed to crawl to work to crawl back home again. My doctor had been concerned about my blood pressure, and he wanted to put me on medication for it. My thyroid was unbalanced once again, and my weight was like a yo-yo. I had acquired a habit of clenching my teeth, causing headaches to throb morning, noon, and night. I seemed to be sick to my stomach more often than not, always worrying how much longer I could go on living like this. What would happen to me? What would happen to Nick?

My reality was that I had to push myself to smile, to fake it, to keep going. Truly, what choice did I have? This stress made my fibromyalgia flare up. Bouts of pain would randomly center themselves throughout my body and then feel like they crashed into brick walls. Some days the pain was so intense as I stood behind my styling chair, it took my breath away.

My daily responsibilities of being a mom, a single parent, and a business owner and having to do it all under such stress took their toll on me. I cried more often than not. I hadn’t slept through the night for years. I didn’t remember what it felt like to be rested, energetic, and to face the day with joy.

Besides how exhausted and frightened I was, the shame and embarrassment of what I felt I’d done so wrong all my life had become debilitating. I shook my head in disbelief and continually asked myself, “How did all this happen? How did it get so bad?” I had strived long and hard to have a normal life or, in fact, a normal anything. But to what end?

These thoughts brought me back to when I was 35 years old. Sitting in a committed group therapy session, I first heard the word “dysfunctional.” I made a note to look it up when I got home. How devastating to learn that, sadly, Tony and I both came from dysfunctional families−those whose function was impaired or abnormal.

Wow! As I contemplated this new awareness, another slow-moving anxiety began to creep up, looming larger each day as I realized this was much bigger than I originally thought. A few sessions of therapy wouldn’t move this mountain of confused wrong messages Tony and I had both received as innocent little children.

I was extremely disappointed when Tony looked at me as if I had three heads when I tried to share this new revelation with him. He wanted to hear none of it. He commented, “If you want to go hang out with a bunch of quacks, go right ahead.” He certainly wasn’t interested in going to any meetings or seeing any doctors. He was just fine the way he was. I was the one, he said, with all the problems.

Among all the frustrations, I remembered I read somewhere along the way, perhaps in one of my Al-Anon books, that change begins with self. I know today you can only change yourself. Start there and stay there. Focus continuously on working to change yourself to learn and to grow.

As my discernment grew of how dysfunctional my life and Tony’s had been, so did the reality of how huge a problem it was. As time passed, that realization seemed to get bigger and bigger. I started to see the domino effect that dysfunction had on all family members and how so many people around me were affected by this unspoken hardship and didn’t recognize it. Each week, each month, my elevated awareness seemed to grow, becoming mountainous. And, my shame and embarrassment grew right along with it.

Hiding the full extent of the abuse that I already had suffered and what I came from made my exhaustion worse; it became even harder to pretend that I had it all together. After a while, I worried, “Do I have a sign on my back with big letters: ‘COMES FROM A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY’?”

My days now consisted of smiling and pretending, my nights of crying and praying to exhaustion. It was truly a physical and emotional vicious cycle. All I could think about was that I had to save my little boy from this kind of life. “God, please show me the way.”

Not quite a week had passed since the night Nicholas was so incredibly brave, telling the police officer what he had just experienced with his dad at football practice. We were in the car driving to the store when Nick blurted from the back seat, “Mama, Daddy also yelled, ‘You know you learned those swear words at school. Stop being a stinking liar.’” After a short pause, he continued, “Mama, I didn’t because we would have to go to the principal’s office.” His worrying and innocence popped up often, out of the blue, making it clear to me that even though he seemed calm and fine, he worried subconsciously in his little mind. I did my best to assure him he was safe and please not to worry anymore.

I was clear at this time on one thing: I was done. I was done with being patient, done with being the polite little Christian girl. I was done listening. I was done with talking to and dealing with people who would not help us. I was prepared to plow through the planet to find help to protect my child. It was one thing not to protect me, an adult woman, but not to protect an innocent child was inexcusable.

I was just so done.