Dear Doctor Irene:
Last Friday was the one year anniversary of the police's response to a domestic
violence call to my home. Although that's a pretty negative
statement....it also is the anniversary date of my decision to take back
my power. Every negative experience has a positive twist to it.
It's been an incredibly difficult, emotional and exhilarating year.
I've learned so much, grown so much and felt so much......I am not the
same woman who opened the door to the policeman last year.
I knew I was in an abusive relationship, I knew I was a codependent and I
knew I enabled so many of my husband's behaviors. I also knew that I
was dying a slow, torturous death by emotional, psychological, verbal and
sexual abuse. I got counseling for both of us and walked out the
door on December 28, 1999 with the support of my counselors, friends and
family. I spent a few nights in a domestic abuse shelter, lived with
my children at a girlfriend's home for a month waiting for him to get out
of MY house (finally turned off all the utilities and put a "For
Sale" sign up in front of the house to get him out), dealt with him
"stealing" my car (our only joint asset), handled his
controlling and manipulative behaviors regarding the divorce and have kept
custody of my little boy, who is my ex's great nephew. My little boy
was the reason I stayed with him so long - he came into my life when he
was 8 months old and on Tuesday I will silently celebrate the 4th year of
sharing his life. I've proven myself to the authorities and have
been promised that the adoption (the first single parent adoption in this
county in years) will be finalized by the end of the year. :) :) :) !!! We still are connected via my
little boy, but visitation is not court ordered and will not be because it
is a single parent adoption. Although the ex tries to control me
through him, he has no power.....he is just spinning his wheels.
There is a bond between them and at this point it is still in my little
boy's best interests to maintain contact with my ex. Yes.
Visitation weekends are stressful for me - I worry due
to the ex's addictions. But I have a network of people who keep an
eye on them both and my ex lives with another couple so I know my son is
pretty safe. Not completely safe, but it is the best I can do for
Because the state technically has custody of my little boy, I had to
testify in court about our abusive marriage and about my ability to parent
a special needs child. When I was called to the stand to testify, I
THOUGHT I was going to be testifying ONLY about my little boy.
Instead I was asked all types of personal questions in order to prove that
I was a stable person. This was less than sixty days after we had
separated. It was one of the most difficult two hours of my life -
carefully choosing the right words, remembering not to become defensive
and showing that it was in my little boy's best interests to remain with
me as the pre-adoptive placement. All our problems were laid in
front of the court - I had to literally spill my guts. It was the
most vulnerable moment of my life. Four attorneys questioned me
along with the judge. The courtroom was packed with professionals
from the state agencies because everyone wanted to see how the court
handled the change in my little boy's placement...it was a very unique
I succeeded. After the judge handed down his ruling declaring that
my little boy was to remain in my sole custody with the supervision of the
state agency as the pre-adoptive placement, a cheer went up throughout the
courtroom. Of course I cried - thank God for waterproof mascara!!
Although this was the most vulnerable experience of my life, it was
definitely the most empowering experience also. I learned so many
valuable lessons - the most important one being that sometimes you just
have to take a risk. Before this experience, my idea of risk-taking was
going grocery shopping without a list. <grin> :)
I've had setbacks during the past eight months. There's been nights
when I have wrapped myself in blankets and cried on the couch.
There's been nights when I have questioned myself and my choices.
I've had boundary failures. But it's okay....at least I am living....I am
continually growing, learning and flourishing. Thanks
for mentioning that setbacks are a necessary and inevitable part of
I know where I still need work. My journey is far from over. I
don't want it to be over!! :)
This recovery work is not easy, but it is so worthwhile. I will
never put myself back into that plexi-glass box again. It was a safe
place, I didn't hurt there, but I didn't FEEL there either. To not
feel is totally unacceptable to me.
Why am I writing this to you? Because I know that you and the people
who visit your site will understand. Although my friends and family
express empathy...it's not like sharing and celebrating with people who
really KNOW and UNDERSTAND where you have been, what you have experienced
and how far you have journeyed.
I belong to the "I'm Responsible"
list. There's so much knowledge and sharing there....it's been a
major support for me. One of the wise ones there posted a statement
that said that the more you share your story, the less power it has over
you. Yes... No more shame; nothing to fear or have
held over your head. You are strong enough to be OK with all of
I've become my county's "poster woman" for
domestic abuse, speaking at groups. It's helped me so much. I
find comfort that I have helped others too. I've written my story
out and I know it will be published in a major magazine next year.
It's just a matter of time. Yippeee! And, thanks for
I have my power back. Thank you so much for being there for me when
I needed it, Dr. Irene. You've helped me change my life.
You've helped me save my life.
With respect and gratitude, Pamela Dearest
Pamela, Thank YOU. Boy, do I love a person who takes their power and
commands their own respect. You certainly have mine. God bless you and
your son lovely lady, and thank you for taking the time to write this...
My very best,