I was always a “good girl” — growing up; I did as my parents said. Then, I did as my husband said. But then, one day, as I was contemplating driving into oncoming traffic, I just snapped. I took my one-year-old son, left my nice house and my not-so-nice husband and went to my local women’s shelter. Once my husband read the note, there were multiple phone calls and then an awkward conversation. I was told to come home — he would change and no one would ever have to know I left. Even 24-hours after leaving, I had already reached a point where I couldn’t go back — I had hope again. Hope that I could be happy, hope that I would find myself and learn to love myself again, and hope that maybe I wouldn’t have to spend the rest of my life married and alone.
When I arrived at the women’s shelter, I didn’t think I could unload a dishwasher properly; I’d look in the mirror after getting dressed and think “this will have to do, because you don’t look good in anything anyway.” I had been in counseling for post-partum depression for months and had made some pretty significant realizations: my depression wasn’t post-partum — it was situational. Through the use of the “power and control wheel,” my therapist helped me to see how unhealthy my marriage was. It was only because of that help that when I was feeling so guilty about upsetting my husband and was considering driving into oncoming traffic that I asked myself “Why are you letting him do this to you?” I left that night.
My family then found out that I was at the women’s shelter from my ex-husband (which is how I had begun to think of him at that point). They called and repeated so many of the beliefs that society pushes about abuse — “He doesn’t hit you, so it’s okay.” “Shelters are for poor women.” I was told over and over that the shelter wasn’t a “good place” for children.
Since then we have established custody arrangements. My son and I have moved into a two-bedroom apartment on the “wrong side of town.” I have filled it with happy colors and thrift store finds and I love it. I am on Ontario Works (welfare) but I finally have the energy and confidence to apply for jobs that I was lacking with my ex-husband. Being a single mother has actually given me more time for myself, as before I struggled to get four hours to myself a week and now I have every weekend off as my ex takes our son.
My family still thinks I am crazy for leaving my financially secure ex-husband, my nice house, and for “giving up on my marriage.” But I haven’t given up on myself. I am making steps to give my son a happy mother, to ensure he knows that it’s not okay to treat your partner the way I was treated, or to let yourself be treated that way. I no longer have a dishwasher to worry about loading “correctly,” and I am starting to look in the mirror and see the beautiful woman who has always been there — stretch marks and all.
It’s okay if my family never believes that I made the right decision. I am building us a new family of people who love and support us and more importantly I am learning to love and support myself.
If you are dealing with domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233