Survivors

Sleep Deprivation

While we were married, my husband wanted to live 100% by the rule “don’t let the sun go down on your anger”.  If I begged him for sleep, he would accuse me of loving sleep more than him.  He found it as an attack on him if I asked to stop arguing so I could sleep.

Night time was absolutely the worst time of day.  I was terrified to go to bed.  In the end I would do almost everything I could to avoid entering the bedroom.  It always started with some expectation of sex or some sexual favor.  If he was not “satisfied” and sometimes even if he was, the torment would continue throughout the night.  On average, 2 nights a week he would keep me awake until the wee hours of the morning.

On nights I would fall asleep before him, he would wake me up.  He would slam his hand down on the bed, jarring me awake.  Some times he would accuse me of doing things to myself (think touching myself).  Other times he would accuse me of cheating on him, because he’d just dreamt that I had.  I learned to not move.  I learned to barely breathe.  I could lie like that for hours waiting to be sure he was truly asleep.

 He came home late from hanging out at the bar with his friends and was disgusted that I was reading a book.  He had clearly drunk more than usual and lashed out immediately.  Upon entering the bedroom he blurted out a very profane comment towards me, which in turn set off a whole chain of unpleasant events.  He lay down to go to sleep, but was soon unsatisfied with the situation and got back up.  He picked up the humidifier and threw it across the room, smashing it against the wall.  He then stormed out, slamming the door.  I didn’t move.  I barely even took a breath.  I continued to lie frozen in fear.

A while later he came back into the room and ripped the covers off of me, proceeding to throw them onto the floor to soak up the water from the humidifier he had smashed.  He left again.  Terrified I remained frozen.  Another block of time elapsed before he once again returned.  He laid my wedding rings on the bed next to me.  His special way of letting me know I had forgotten to put them on before bed.  Then he was gone again.

I have no idea how long I remained frozen, afraid to move even a muscle.  Eventually I found my courage and quietly slipped out of bed to make sure he was asleep.  I hung up the drenched duvet, got towels to mop up the rest of the water, found a blanket, and finally settled in to try and get some sleep.

In the morning it was as if nothing had ever happened.

 I was not even aware I was being abused by being kept awake at night.  It took me months of counseling before I ever understood that sleep deprivation was a form of abuse.  An often easily dismissed form of abuse, I now clearly see it as a very effective form of torture.  In fact in most states consider purposeful, repeated, and unnecessary sleep deprivation to be a form of physical abuse.  The United Nations defines sleep deprivation as torture.  “The forced deprivation of someone’s necessary amount of sleep has been used in the interrogation of terrorist suspects to make them more amenable to providing information or confessions.”1

The effects of consistent loss of sleep are severe and can make it harder for someone to free themselves from the cycle of abuse.  WebMD reports that the lack of sleep has 10 surprising effects2:

  1. It causes accidents.
  2. It impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving.
  3. It can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes,
  4. It kills your sex drive.
  5. It can contribute to the symptoms of depression.
  6. It ages your skin.
  7. It makes you forgetful.
  8. It can make you gain weight.
  9. It may increase risk of death.
  10. It impairs judgment.

Yet as a society we find it much easier to protest the use of sleep deprivation as an interrogation tactic by the US military, than to acknowledge the abuse happening in our own neighborhoods.  It’s time we opened our eyes to the reality that the same tactics we so readily abhor, when brought to light by the main stream media, are in fact being carried out in bedrooms across the world.

Sources:

  1. http://terrorism.about.com/od/s/g/SleepDeprive.htm
  2. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/10-surprising-results

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Transforming

The first time he hit me was one month after we were married.  He didn’t hit me again for a year, but he did hit again, and then it got worse.

He was always sorry and would promise to never do it again.  But the apologies always felt insincere and there was an obvious lack of remorse.  In time, the abusive behavior always returned.

I learned to walk on eggshells; a hand slammed on the table, a fist through the wall, the car wheel yanked out of my hands at 70 mph.  Life was unpredictable.  We never made plans.  I grew further and further away from my family and friends.

Imprisoned by all the things I was scared to say and scared to do, I was afforded none of the same respect.  I had no expectation of privacy.  A closed door was unacceptable and a locked door was knocked down.

I made excuses for him.  I felt sorry for myself.  I never left and never even seriously tried to leave.  Where would I go?  I remember the rage.  I would shake with anger and lash out.  I would fantasize of beating him back.  I remember the shame.  How had I let this happen to me?  Who would believe me?  He wasn’t like one of those monsters on TV, so what was I complaining about?

Then came the numbness.  Any love I had once felt for him had disappeared. But I had chosen my lot in life.  Instead I would encourage him to leave me.  I clearly was not the girl for him.  Another girl could obviously make him so much happier.  I daydreamed about life after he died.

In one moment, if someone would have just asked the right question, I would have spilled everything.  In the next, I would flat out lie to my mother that he had never hit me.  I became so beaten down I was diagnosed as severely depressed and put on medication.

I felt like a failure.  I knew there was no life for me aside from him.  I dreaded that I was as bad as he was.  If I could just be what he wanted everything would be ok.  Severely depressed and medicated, living with physical abuse, he convinced me they would take my children away.

But I found an amazing psychologist.  She never told me I was abused.  She never told me to leave.  She gave me articles to read; she suggested books.  She taught me coping skills and helped me create a safety plan.  I discovered he was out of my control.  I could not fix him.  No magic change in me, nothing I could do was ever going to make him stop.  He wasn’t mentally ill; he wasn’t sick.  He honestly believed he was entitled to act the way he did.

A tremendous weight was lifted.  Some semblance of the girl I had once been slowly came back to life.  I left work in the middle of the day, packed mine and the children’s bags, picked them up from school and drove to a women’s shelter.  It was probably the hardest night of my life.  Thinking about it can still bring a tightening in my throat.  But I didn’t turn around.  I kept driving through the rain and the fear and the guilt.

I have never looked back since that night.  The guilt and the feeling of loss lasted a week or two.  But then life became filled with endless possibilities.  I make plans; I lock the bathroom door; and there is dancing and horseback riding and camouflage.  I have an amazing network of friends.  My family is indispensable, and I am once again present.

The wounds are still deep and will take time to heal. But they will heal.  I am starting to open up to the idea of forgiveness.  It will take time, but I will forgive him.  In the meantime, I will continue to share my story.

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Letter to My Mother-in-Law

This is the letter I wrote to my now former mother-in-law, in the days immediately following my escape from my abusive marriage.


Dear <MIL>,

I’ve been slapped, punched, shoved, pushed to the ground, called every name in the book, spit on, restrained from even leaving a room, had things thrown at me and the children, had my children withheld from me and ripped out of my arms, deprived of sleep, and controlled to the point of no longer knowing my own thoughts. Simple things such as spending my time reading a book as opposed to watching TV could set him off.

Of course he is always sorry and promises to change. But with each promise of change the behavior always returns. It could be months or a even a year but the angry and abusive behavior always returned. As time went on I knew where the lines were, where the boundaries were and I stopped crossing over. All the while having no boundaries in my life. I could not even close the door to use the bathroom.

I have held all of this inside for years and I’ve lived in resentment as I watched <him> time and time again turn to his support system while I lived in isolation bottling everything in. Afraid and ashamed to tell anyone and most of all afraid that it would ruin eveyones feelings of <him> if they knew. While no one acknowledged my feelings or the pain I was going through.

After I became strong enough to finally turn to someone for help I was still unable to talk about the abuse. Instead I sought help for the fact that I was so depressed after years of emotional abuse that I couldn’t even walk without physical pain. All the while assuring <him> after each therapy session that it was not about him but was about me, just so he’d let me keep going. Still he ridiculed and tormented me, expecting me to recite word for word everything I talked about in my sessions and threatening me that if I talked they’d take the children away from us. And it worked. I didn’t open up about the abuse for months in therapy.

And even after gaining that support, I could not find the courage to end the abuse. It wasn’t until I watched <him> reduce <my son> to the point of hitting himself, wanting to kill himself and curling up in a fetal position, crying his eyes out, hiding in his classroom. All because <my son> forgot his backpack.

The wounds are deep and will take time to heal. But they will heal, and we are finally in a position to get the care and support we need.

The boys love their dad and need him as a strong presence in their life. But they need a dad who can truly love them unconditionally every minute of every day. And love them in a way that protects them and nurtures them, builds them up and inspires them to be good people who respect others and see those who are different from them as equals not inferiors. A dad that teaches them that you do not have to resort to violence or threats of violence in order to solve problems. <He> can be that dad, but he needs help and the courage to accept true responsibility for his actions. And that also will take time and a williness to change. We all pray that time will come.

I have no intention of hurting anyone. But it’s time I started no longer allowing anyone to hurt me.

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