During the time I was caught right in the midst of being abused, every way I turned I tried to understand why someone who is your spouse, the person who vowed to love you ’til death do us part, would not hesitate to demoralize you, emotionally and verbally abuse you, then eventually turn to physical assault. Maybe that ‘death’ part meant I would die at the hands of domestic violence?
There was occasion that I found myself pretty much in the bottom of the pit of despair. I was on a self-destruction course, and knew if I did not get help, and get it fast, I’d probably not live through the weekend. So, with the kind assistance of my doctor, he was able to put me in contact with a highly regarded psychiatrist in our area, who helped me with a self-admission to the mental health unit of the hospital nearby. I was torn, since being there meant I was not with my babies, but I knew if I did not find support, that absence would become a permanent state – in mind and body. Bottom line: I was suicidal, but quite afraid to die.
The therapy began. He sent me to group twice a day. I got to sit in with patients who were addicted to narcotics, schizophrenic, manic depressive . . . I felt like I was smack dab in the filming of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Part of me wanted to hover in a corner somewhere and become totally withdrawn, yet that perky blonde “me” that had once been alive wanted to be resurrected and speak out.
After the psychiatrist had the opportunity to speak with my husband, he came into my room and we had a “come to Jesus” meeting. His words to me were, “I am treating the wrong person here. You should not be the patient. The man standing in the hall should be.” He then went on to explain that when he posed the question to my husband as to why he chose to abuse me, whether verbal or emotional, he got this response: “I love her more than anything else on earth. So, whenever I see her hurting, that is the worst punishment I can endure. So, when I hurt her, it hurts me more.”
My dear God! How contorted was that? Did that mean if he eventually killed me he’d actually be giving himself the ultimate punishment for his actions? It amazes me how one dysfunctional person can somehow find another with whom to form a totally dysfunctional relationship.
Perhaps there will come a time when attempts toward rehabilitation for the abuser will be mandatory and commonplace. Meanwhile, after these years of moving from victim to survivor to advocate, this much is obvious to me – there is no sense in any part of domestic violence. Rather than trying to make sense of any portion of it, we should focus on keeping victims alive – and safe.