Intrusive Thoughts & A Story

This morning I can’t get something out of my mind. It just keeps repeating itself like a broken record. It is often referred to as “intrusive thoughts.”

And so I am going to tell you about it. Get some coffee. It is a long story.

Life In Crazy Town:

It was just another day in Crazy town. Labor Day 2006. He was drunk, beyond dealing with, and he was talking about harming himself or someone else.

I recall I was headed to Michael’s with a coupon to buy something. He kept calling me. Why couldn’t I just get away by myself and relax? In our situation, that was probably never going to happen.

My worry was the automatic weapon he owned. I didn’t know where it was.

Once at Michael’s, I decided, after sitting in my car and going over the options, to go to the police and ask them to take his gun. I got to the police station only to find that they were closed for the holiday.

Labor Day Holiday:

What? The holidays are precisely when police tend to be needed most. I was told to go to the sheriff, which I did.

They make you stand way back and treat you like the criminal you likely could be, for they don’t know who you are. When I was allowed to talk to the person at the front, she made a phone call.

Then she told me to go wait outside, that the police were going to meet and talk to me there.

So that’s what I did. I remember standing on the curb and calling my psychiatrist. I just needed someone to tell me that I was doing the right thing.

The Police Arrive:

A police car pulled up. By then I was wishing I could disappear, but it was too late.

I relayed my concern about my husband being quite drunk and the automatic weapon and his drunken threats. He turned away and called someone. Before I knew it there were two more police cars pulling up.

He told me to get in my car and lead them to my home. That was the longest drive. Of course I was being careful not to go over the speed limit. And I was terrified. What had I gotten myself into?

When we reached my suburban home, the policeman told me to use my remote to open the garage door, which I did.

How They Searched For Him:

They searched the garage. Then he told me to slowly open the door that went into the laundry area. Three policemen were behind me as I did what the first one was telling me to do.

When they could see that no one was in that area or the kitchen, he told me to slowly walk into the next room. It was my garden room. Once they saw there was no one there, he told me to slowly and quietly enter the hallway.

It went on this way until we got to the guest room door at the very end. I don’t know why he was in there. The door was locked, so the policeman whose name I never knew told me to step back, which I did.

Wellness Check:

He called to my husband through the door, told him they just wanted to make sure he was okay. He drunkenly spouted out some expletives and told them to go away. The policemen assured him that that wasn’t happening, so he might as well open the door.

Finally he did. He was pretty far gone. They had him walk/stumble into the living room. I stood at the perimeter, wondering what would happen to end this surreal crazy day.

Eventually he told them where the gun was. They told me to get some things and leave for the night, which I did.

My thoughts were flitting around my brain like birds caught up in an attic. I couldn’t think what to take and I didn’t know when I was coming back.

At the time we had two cats. I fed them and figured I would come back the next day.

They Take The Weapon:

They took the automatic weapon, to my relief. And I went to a motel down the street, where I asked for the safest room there. Maybe they’re somewhat accustomed to this request.

I recall driving through Chick Filet across the street that evening and talking to my oldest daughter on the phone. And I remember she started crying.

She said: “Mom, every time the phone rings, I think it’s someone calling to tell me that he’s finally killed you.”

When your child, albeit your adult child, says this to you, you wonder where you went wrong. Guilt, oh my God, the guilt you feel. What I would give to go back and fix it so she’d never have to worry about such a thing.

I told her I was driving to Tulsa in a couple of days. I had some things to take care of.

The next night I stayed at the neighbor’s house across the street. They were so kind to me. He kept knocking on their door for some reason, though my car was safely stashed in their garage.

She kept going to the door and telling him she had no idea where I was. When I had to walk into the kitchen or her living room, I leaned down so no one could see me through her windows.

Heading To Tulsa:

I did go to Tulsa and I took the cats with me. I stayed with my younger daughter. They worked so I had the days to myself, trying to figure out what to do. Calling about jobs. I hadn’t worked in some years. I called about places to rent.

After about a week or so of this, I could feel something within me surrender. I wasn’t going to be able to find a job that would support me. And I wasn’t going to be able to pay the rent for an apartment.

This wasn’t going to work.

While they were at work, I packed my things and left. On the way I called my older daughter. She was very angry with me. Actually I don’t think she’s ever forgiven me, which may have partially led to the fact that we have no relationship now.

I can’t blame her. Because I was a wreck and married to an abusive drunk. She wanted me to be strong and I let her down.

The Dissociative Episode:

As I drove home to Texas, that’s when the dissociative episode occurred, the worst I’ve ever experienced.

I’ve written about this episode before, but not the story that preceded it.

One minute I was driving and told myself I was going to stop somewhere for a quick sandwich at noon. It was then 11:30, I noted on the car’s clock.

Next thing I knew it was like waking up from a dream. I had no idea where I was. Nothing looked remotely familiar. And when I glanced at the clock, it was by then 1:30.

I had no idea such a thing could occur. Where did my mind go for two hours while I drove a car? Could I have hurt someone? I stopped at the nearest store and said I was lost and asked where I was.

The city was called Daingerfield. How ironic, I thought.

I noticed there was a policeman standing off to the side. Should I tell him? No, he might not understand and send for the people who measure you for a straight jacket.

There was a customer who heard me talking to the clerk. He told me he was driving a jeep and was going in the direction I needed to go.

Getting On The Right Highway:

I could follow him, and when it was time to turn right, he would raise his arm through the empty space in the top of his jeep. He told me to turn there and I would end up intersecting with the main road.

I did as he said. I’ve always wondered who that kind man was, and wished I could let him know how he truly saved me that day. That I wasn’t just a woman who’d gotten lost. I had been in a dissociative state for two hours.

How do you explain something like that without sounding completely unhinged?

So I went back, as women often do. I called my doctor over the weekend and she said she had something to tell me. When someone says that, you know it won’t be good news.

She told me that she was moving away. I would have to find another psychiatrist.

My heart sank. I had come to trust her. It was the last time I talked to her.

I saw a female psychiatrist (I refused to see a male) one other time. I needed to know if I was in danger of another dissociative episode while driving. Because it was my fear that I would harm someone with my car.

How The Brain Protects You:

She told me that it was the brain’s way of protecting me. That the brain learns to trip this mechanism of survival when we’re quite young. And, she said, once the brain learns to do something, it can’t unlearn it.

She told me that actually I was probably quite safe, even if it did happen again. Because my brain, unbeknownst to me in the dissociative state, would keep me safe. Her advice was to avoid long drives when alone.

And so life went on.

Things were okay for awhile. He was on his best behavior, as they often are, for a time. I stayed five more years.

Soon after I went home I got Abi and then Charlie a month later. I worked in my garden. Three years later I began this blog. And the rest is, as they often say, history.

Why I’m Telling You This Story Today:

And so why have I chosen today to tell you this? He is dead. But the intrusive thoughts are not. I was still undecided about whether I wanted to write this when I opened my email this morning.

In the past week, this was the second email from a stranger thanking me for helping other women and for putting resources for them on my blog. One of you mentioned that I should do that, and so about a month ago I did.

The person emailing me asked me if I would include their link for women in need. They had information about how women should protect themselves while on the internet. It’s actually great information.

I don’t know how they find you. The internet probably keeps you one step from someone running across you in Google somehow. I guess it doesn’t really matter if the information will help someone.

And so I decided to write this today. I learned yesterday that Liz is safely on her way and there’s no stopping her now. She sounds so much better than she did just weeks ago. Hope shines like a rainbow above her.

You Helped Me Help Liz:

You helped me help Liz. And she so appreciates all of you who had information that helped her get to a better place.

Women need to understand how fast their lives can become Crazy Town. And that after a time, it becomes normalized. That is the life many women our there live, often in secrecy because they are ashamed.

Some will get out. Some will not. And some will die there.

And just so you know, after 1 year they gave his gun back to him. He hid it so well I was never able to find it again.

  • On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.
  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.

Now Home Is A Safe Place:

I no longer live in Crazy Town. As you know I live a quiet, ordinary life here in this one bedroom apartment with Charlie and Ivy. It is peaceful here.

I told myself if I ever found a way out, I wanted to help other women in that situation. So I hope, in some small way, that I am.

If you are in need and want to get out, I am here and I will help you to the best of my ability. And I know you all will help me do that. As we did for Liz.

If you are this woman, or know this woman, let her know that you believe her. Point her to the resources she needs.

Mainly, just be there for her when she needs you and please don’t judge. You have not walked in her shoes.

Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes isn’t as much about the walk or the shoes; it’s to be able to think like they think, feel what they feel, and understand why they are who and where they are. Every step is about empathy.” Toni Sorenson

52 Comments

  1. I had despair and embarrassment for the way my life was behind closed doors. The “front” my husband displayed for others made me the envy of women who had no idea how it really was. I was ashamed of his actions and terrible words. I was alone with two small children. My mother criticized me for staying but offered no support of any type, not with childcare or even emotional support. “When you make your bed hard, you just have to lie in it”. I knew I couldn’t pay rent and childcare. I couldn’t leave my children unsupervised so I stayed until my children were out of school.
    I understand how you felt with your oldest daughters comment. My children also said they had worried about my demise. After I left, I was safe. Now that he is deceased, I am relieved.
    I will never judge another woman for being in a bad relationship. We all can be fooled. I should NEVER have been ashamed of HIS actions. PLEASE seek help. Speak up. Live your life and be valued. You deserve to be appreciated and have peace.

  2. Brenda thank you for sharing this with us. There is a lot to think about here and much we can learn from. It can be so so hard to walk away from the source of the pain. Thank you again!

  3. Sometimes closure does not come quickly enough sweet Brenda. The pain is still with you but today was a giant step. Love you and take care.

    1. The pain is mild really. It’s memories. Something we all have. I “think” I have closure. Maybe I should be more sure. But I’m in a good place.

  4. I remember when you were living with him and things got so bad you moved into a room off the kitchen I believe and it had no windows but you decorated it for yourself. Then your move to Tulsa finally getting far away after your painful divorce. You have given women more strength than you will ever know. I often recant to my daughter things you have written about. She is a huge women’s advocate. I am so happy that now you are at peace with your Charlie and Ivy Lou, not happy that your oldest is out of the picture, but what a loving relationship you have with your youngest and that cute grandson. And now you have created such an amazing forum for women, thank you so much.

  5. How very brave. And generous, to share your story so that it might help others.

    So happy for you, to have this oasis you worked very hard to create for yourself – the calm after the storm.

    1. Sometimes when I write these things I feel shame, guilt, disgust that I didn’t do more or try harder. That I wasn’t as brave as I would hope. That I let others down. Oddly enough, I don’t really think about what I’ve gone through. Just how it’s affected others. Isn’t that strange? We need to take care of ourselves first.

  6. Thank you for writing this post. It helps me with what I deal with too, even if the events are over and done with, and far in the past. Your discussion on intrusive thoughts and dissociative episodes really helps. When I was very young, my father died and I suffered from dissociative episodes in the year following from extreme grief. Thankfully, I’ve not had any more. But more information helps solve the mystery of what pain does to you. The intrusive thoughts come and go about my first husband; I find that if I’m unhappy with something going on in my life, they are more… intrusive. So a certain awareness helps to quiet them. Sometimes those thoughts are like puppies; they just need taken out for a stroll! And, good advice about writing it down. Thanks again.

    1. I like how you said that: Take those thought out for a stroll! Sometimes when they cycle round and round in my head, I just sit down and write them down here. Seems the sequence of events that I record here helps me to focus. And once I have it all written down, it subsides. Maybe it’s just putting a period at the end of the sentence/sentences.

      1. I forgot to mention the dissociative episodes. I find that they are actually peaceful. It’s like floating on a puffy cloud and looking at things from up above or faraway. You can see and hear but are removed from what is around you. Except with the episode in the car. That was really strange. They are brought on by a sound, a smell, a sight. They are the triggers I’ve found that bring it on. I haven’t had one in some years now.

  7. Wow, what a story, Brenda. I know that by telling your stories, you can help other women. I have never been in an abusive relationship, so I can’t relate, but reading about what you’ve gone through sure makes me thankful for my wonderful husband.

    The woman across the street from me is married to a man (“T”) who is an alcoholic and a drug abuser. He has abused her in the past, but I don’t know if he still does. Many years ago when her kids were little (and were friends with my boys) and T was arrested for DUI, she called me crying and saying she didn’t know what to do. I told her she needed to leave him and get her own place. She said she didn’t know how she would make it on her own with two little kids. I told her she already was making it on her own (financially) – SHE was the one who was working FT while he barely worked. As for her kids, I offered to babysit them for FREE in the mornings before school and after school. She thanked me but never did anything. Here we are over 20 years later and she’s still with him. It’s sad.

    1. At least you tried to help her. She needs to be directed to someone that has the resources to point her to. I doubt very seriously that an abuser stops abusing. She’s caught up in a cycle, like a hamster on a wheel.

  8. This is a powerful and beautiful post, Brenda! I don’t know that I have anything to say that hasn’t already been said by the other amazing women who read your blog. All of them are smart, strong, insightful persons and I am aware of how because of who you are all these beautiful people have come together to share their love and support for those who need it. I am not an authority on the content of the many, many blogs that exist, but I think yours has got to be unique in its scope and subject matter.

    I have never experienced the kind of abuse that you and some of your readers have. I cannot even imagine living in the fear and danger you speak about. I have had deep loss and pain in my life but nothing like you and others have been through at the hands of someone who supposedly loved them. But I hear the voices of those of you who have been there and am amazed that you have summoned the strength not only to survive but to thrive. Brenda, I am so happy that you have built a safe, peaceful life for yourself and are finally comfortable just being yourself with no apologies. You are a beautiful person and a generous, caring woman. I wish for your life to be as easy and happy as possible from now on.

    Thank you for your courage in allowing us, your readers, to know you so fully, in offering your help and compassion in the generous way that you do and in sharing your life with us so fully.

  9. You survived and thrived through a tough life lesson…
    Not only do you encourage and empower women but you also help animals,not just your unconditional love for them but your rescue of Ivy and your concern for Charlie’s health and well-being,I really feel they understand and appreciate us?
    God bless you and thankyou for allowing us a glimpse into what brought you to this place and this blog that brings us some house each day.
    Hugs!!!!!

    1. Living through it would possibly have been in vain if I couldn’t share it in the hope of helping another woman or women to get through it too.

  10. Thanks for sharing your story. I know you will help many women with this story. Must have been hard to write this. Best wishes!

    1. Actually it was harder to deal with the intrusive thoughts than it was writing it down. And as often happens, after I wrote it all down, the intrusive thoughts were gone. Writing is good therapy.

  11. I don’t know if the “intrusive” thoughts ever leave. My ex has been dead for almost 15 years, but sometimes, the things I endured in that relationship seem like they happened yesterday! Love and hugs!

  12. Oh my gosh Brenda this is the best post I have read in a long time on a blog.

    First of all you seriously need to be aware of what is happening here in your life. You are being put in these women’s life for a reason. They are guided being guided to you for help. Your writing is so wonderful and you capture such emotion and feelings in how you write your story.

    Just like the “angel,” the man in the store that lead you to the highway. I believe in God and prayer and earth angels to guide and be on our paths when needed. I believe God puts these people in our paths when we need them most.

    The man that day in the store was put there to help you on your safe journey home. You were confused, scared and lost time in your life. This man was there to help you.

    I hope you open your mind like you have your heart and know you have something to share here. You have helped two women already. You can totally understand where they are and where they have to come on their journey.

    You have a big purpose here and I hope you will take it and run with it. I believe this kind of post today was flowing from you because you are in the path of so many that might read this. Even if you help just one or a 100 women today you might have saved another women that is in the awful situation you were in.

    I bet when you were going through your ordeal you wished you had someone you could relate too and that would understand you. Men like your Ex husband are so controlling and manipulate. They can as easily as they breath make you believe you are wrong or the crazy.

    As you know they love to isolate you so no one can help you.

    This was a heart felt and real post Brenda. I am so happy to have opened up your post today.

    I am not in an abusive relationship and have a wonderful partner in life but I was so touched by what is happening here with your blog and you. Praying you will continue on this journey and help others with posts like today.

    Whew thanks for letting me take up the space with my comment.

    1. By telling my story, I do hope to reach other women and possibly help them. I would have given so much to have someone who could truly help me, a woman who knew what I was living through. If I am here for any reason, I am here to be the person another woman in need can call on. I will listen to her story, and then say okay, now let’s figure out what to do.

  13. You are brave to write your words for the world to read. I went through a very similar situation in the early 2000’s. He would play the same game as your ex, with weapons in the house. He, like your ex, then passed away two years after our divorce. I felt guilt for divorcing him and his spending his last two years “unhappy”. I’ve made progress through the years if by nothing else, telling myself that i did the best that i knew how to do at the time. Your words today have given me another nudge towards being guilt-free.

    1. My first mother-in-law, who became a dear friend until she died in 2006, always said to me: “You did the best you could with what you had at the time.” Please don’t continue to live with this guilt. Regret is meaningless. It’s a waste of time. We all feel it. We just have to figure out the best way to let it go. You are alive and need to enjoy that life as best you can.

  14. Thank you for being a forum for women who need someone who understands and will be there to talk with them. God Bless you all and do not give up.

    1. I am strong in part because of all you strong women that lift me up, and have lifted me up through all the hard times. When I deal with women like Liz, there is no judgment or blame. Only the vital steps to get going with the least trauma.

  15. Brenda, I am so sorry that you had to go through your past to get to where you are now. Trauma and stress are not an easy way to live. I hate that you and your daughters relationship suffered because of it. But each day that goes by takes you a day further away from the negativity and insanity. Thank you for being so generous with your time and advice. Those who need it benefit greatly from your empathy and guidance.

    1. And for those who haven’t been there, it’s hard to imagine. Yes, each day is another step forward from Crazy Town. I never want to visit that place again.

  16. I enjoyed reading Brenda’s story and all of your comments . You ladies are very strong women . They say everyone has a story and this is so true . We all need to keep sharing all of our stories , the good and the bad ones . It will make us all better people.

  17. Hi Brenda,
    This is quite powerful and moving. My father was abusive in every way and I grew up feeling sorry for my mom. Finally, when I was 19 he got a job as a security guard which allowed him to carry a gun. I know he threatened my mom one time with it and then there was a big incident between me and him that the police were called. It wasn’t long after that that my mother made him leave. To this day, I cannot tolerate a bully and will be the first one to jump in to help the person that is being bullied. Most people don’t seem to be aware just how prevalent physical, mental and sexual abuse is. I can spot it in a second – just like you can. I am so happy for you and that you have a quiet and peaceful life. That’s the kind I prefer to live as well.

  18. There are hoards of destructive personalities in this world. I think many of us and probably most grow up naive about this. Not even a very hard childhood can make us wise about this and if anything might leave us more vulnerable. The world has its beauty no doubt but not encompassing the reality of this other side of life I think can leave one greatly disadvantaged. All the atrocity’s under the sun here do not happen because the world is full of light. No, they happen because it is also full of dark.

    My ex was not a drinker, a weapon’s owner or even a physical abuser but he was a highly intelligent and manipulative personality that caused plenty of damage too.

    Being resolved to your past is a journey and understanding yourself can also lead you to understanding others. Those fur babies are a part of our journey too and they can be a lovely safe place to be when the world has been too tempestuous and full of angst. I’m sure for some of us it can be just another reason why we grew to love them so much.

    Thank you for your sharing. Nicely done.

    1. He doesn’t have to have been any of the things you listed. But he could have been a narcissist with his manipulation, which they are quite good at. And just as deadly. I think you’re right. We’re closest to our pets because we feel safe with them. They never judge us; just love us.

  19. Thank you for sharing Brenda. For so many years I thought it was ME. Then I started going to a counselor and a support group and I found out that it wasn’t me. Unfortunately, it took me a while to leave because I had three little boys and no way to support myself. He was a brilliant liar and had many people convinced that it was me who was crazy. I am so glad that I was finally able to get out. The worst thing about it was that my boys, now adults, think that it was me who was crazy even though they’ve seen their dad go through another “marriage” and divorce after me. I mourn the loss of my boys, but if I hadn’t gotten out I wouldn’t be here to write this. Thank you for sharing your struggle. Maybe someone else like us will read this and realize that what they are living is a dangerous lie.

    1. I’m sorry about the loss of your boys. He is probably filling them with lots of awful stories and sounding quite believable. I haven’t seen my daughter or talked to her since 2014. I miss her, but respect her decision. What else can you do? I’ve tried to break through, but have had no success.

  20. Brenda, I was worried about you because your blog was late today, and now I understand. You had a story to tell. No, I have never walked in those particular shoes. I am in awe of how you have turned your life around and found peace in the beautiful life which you have built, and what courage it took to do so. Thank you for helping Liz and probably many more whom you may never know. We are all here for a reason and you seem to have found your call. As I mentioned to you once before, I believe “We are all here to walk each other home”

    1. I was trying to get this story written and the time was passing and Charlie kept needing to go out. And I love that: “We are all here to walk each other home.” I think I will put that on this blog somewhere, because the words are quite beautiful.

  21. Brenda, thank you for pouring out your heart to us this morning in great detail. In reading this so many of my own distant memories come flooding back. Memories of unspeakable fear, of isolation, of imposed shame, and a sense of powerlessness that few understand. Self worth became nonexistent. I remember being moved to tears when the male checker at the local grocery spsoke kindly to me. And the ache to just be safe was constant.
    For me I see that even though this was some time ago the effect is still at work in my life. Some progress has been made but in reading your thoughts I have further understanding of how that painful time has challenged my health both physically and emotionally. It still raises up to compromise self worth and hope at times and definitely has had a effect on financial
    stability in these later years.
    Reading your words has made me aware again, that in getting out of the abusive situation is the beginning but, for many of us, the work must continue. The need for loving support continues and many don’t have this. I find that you can be around lovely people but few would even know what to say if asked to help in a situation of this nature.
    While the wounds heal after a time, the scars still must be dealt with for a person to thrive.
    Thank you again for sharing.

    1. The relationship ends, but the memories and scars do not. I feel your pain. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and move forward. All a person can often do.

  22. Brenda, thank you for sharing your stories, they will help someone. I am heartbroken that you no longer speak to your daughter, perhaps someday you will. I pray that she will read your blog and understand that although you wanted to be strong, you couldn’t be at that point.

    I know how your daughter felt, I have a sister that for years dated a man that we thought for sure would do something horrible to her, in the end it was one of his teenage kids that did and they apparently scared her straight out of that relationship. I was convinced he would kill her when he was drinking. Thank God she is out of that relationship and is happy again.

    I hope you have a wonderful day in your cosy little house with your two loving fur kids.

    1. I don’t blame her. I do miss her however. But if it’s too much for her, all the Crazy Town she watched me go through, then I completely understand.

  23. Very, very good. In the early 70’s I too was emotionally (mentally) abused and then again in 2015. You would think I had learned from my first mistake and in a way I did in the fact I got out of the situation in 31 days. The aftermath is still in the back of my brain but fading.

    Your blog is perfect. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I don’t know if there’s a way to “learn” from this type of thing. Every situation is different. We hope for the best. Sometimes we just don’t have the right radar to sense the danger.

  24. Brenda, I’ve not walked in your shoes, but I know this. You are a strong, smart and brave woman.

    I’m so glad to have discovered your blog and enjoy reading your posts every day. Bless you, Charlie Ross and Ivy Lou. Continue to help those you can and I know all of us who read your blog, will support those in need as well, be it spiritually, emotionally or financially.

    We women, as a whole, are a force of nature.

    Carol and Molly
    xoxoxo

  25. Brenda, your story is riveting and unfortunately all too common. Thank you for all that you do to help other women living the nightmare of domesic abuse. You are a true heroine!

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