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.
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.” ―