Some Friday in September
It was “some Friday in September 2002”. I’ve never actually gone back to assign a date, as I felt it was too much like attaching a name to a mass murder in the news, thus focusing on the killer vs. the victims. Life also became one big ugly blur after.
Fourteen years later and I’m finally at the point where I can put all the shattered pieces back together. There was a time when my world was so broken I never thought it would be right again. There was also a time when I could never even comprehend something so devastating was even possible.
Life was good growing up in the suburbs of Boston. Green grass, loving family and friends, great education, lots of laughter, sunshine, smiles, Brady Bunch, Disney World, summer camp, puppy dogs and ice cream - how all children should be raised. With my dad at the helm, I always felt very protected and loved.
Fast forward to 2002. I’d been married for twelve years and recently relocated back to the East Coast after 11 years of California dreaming in the Bay Area. With three young happy, healthy sons ages 7, 8 and 10, and a brand new 3,200 square foot colonial home on an acre in a small town, life didn’t suck. Yes, there were some challenges: the marriage was far from blissful, and I was working part-time waitressing to offset my x’s job layoff due to the recession left in the wake of 9/11. With those as my two worse problems in life, I was doing okay … until that Friday in September.
I’m not sure if it was the VO and ginger, and or the undiagnosed narcissistic personality disorder; whatever the reason though it was inexcusable. The night started out as a typical Friday, waiting tables at a high-end wine bistro in Nashua, NH. (I loved it there as it was nostalgic of my California wine tasting days with the best girlfriends ever, and whom I missed a lot!) The usual crowd of locals out for their filet and Far Niente. With cash in my pocket and a complimentary end-of-shift drink in my head, I made it home exhausted and ready for bed, so I could get up for morning soccer games, followed by a long, late and lucrative Saturday night shift.
Deep breath – I know it’s better now as I can recall the scene without tears streaming down my face and without being completely overcome with emotion - so here goes:
Having parked in my usual garage bay sometime around midnight, I remember walking through the kitchen to get to the foyer and up to the master bedroom. Off to my left was the x, sitting on the couch of the step-down family room, television on, drink in hand, bottle on the table, saying something harsh about me being “out,” and I didn’t want to engage. I know he didn’t like my lack of attention to his bellows – of course, he’d done all the hard work babysitting his kids, but I just had nothing left in me to do anything but crash.
Tossing and turning as many moms of young families do, I faded in and out of sleep for a few hours. The double pillow top California King was comfortable and soothing until company arrived. He didn’t crawl under the covers on his side though; instead, he came over to mine where I was far too exhausted for anything but rest. Not something he wanted; and very adamant to get his way. I want to say my hands were pushing him away because next thing I knew they were being gripped like a tie wrap, both hands tightly above my head with his left hand, while the right was wrestling with my clothes.
The sequence of what followed is still a little lost in the fog; the outcome though is clear – one of his hands firmly around my wrists bone to bone and bruising. The other hand cupped over my nose and mouth suctioning all the air, his body thrusting. I don’t know if he even knows I was suffocating because in my ear was a mean, deep, slow, growl, “I’ll take my hand off your mouth if you promise not to scream.” Apparently, he was worried I’d wake the kids.
The assault went on for what I believe to be 20 – 30 minutes as I wrestled as feistily as I could, given the restraints, lack of oxygen and weight of his body. At one point I broke free and ran for the door but was immediately grabbed and thrown back onto the bed where it started all over; my hands bound behind my back and mouth once again asphyxiated. Suddenly it ended when he let his hand off my mouth just long enough to defend myself with a headbutt and blood drawing bite to his cheek. I don’t know if I was more shocked that it stopped, or that I could cause that kind of injury. Whatever it was, the time was enough to run from the room and into the hall at the top of the stairs, screaming loud enough to wake my youngest, who I found out later heard me swearing at the top my lungs and was too afraid to open his door.
The five years that followed I cried every single day. I made it to soccer the next morning in total disbelief and denial that the event had even occurred. My boys needed their mom, and some defense mechanism kicked in. That afternoon I went to work at 3:30 for the start of the long shift. A friendly owner-chef immediately greeted me and said, “Hi Amy, how are you?” I held it together long enough to reply “ok,” and retreated to the bathroom where I sat on the floor and cried with no relief.
The Next Five Years
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out I had catapulted into the world of p.t.s.d.; otherwise known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A mouthful to say; mind-boggling to comprehend; and a beast to overcome!
While I did not immediately run to a therapist for diagnosis, I exhibited all the signs and in retrospect should have sought help far sooner than roughly five years into it. If you’re a wine lover like me, that timeframe may have looked fun from the outside looking in; but not so much vice versa. Inside looking out, I was a mess!
The Phantom of the Opera masked half his face to conceal scars. It’s not that easy when your scars are on the inside; and I was far too embarrassed to tell a single soul about my newly acquired, deep, dark, innermost gash. Instead, I had an insatiable need to numb my pain with alcohol (mainly as it got closer to bedtime); and most likely commencing at that first Saturday night shift as I’m sure the one complimentary drink was completely ineffective, like one teardrop in a waterfall of relentless sobbing.
Whether you go online, read a book, consult the DSM or seek to counsel, the symptoms and stages of recovery are pretty prosaic. Severity and the time it takes to process varies. Also, it is how one internalizes and exhibits them, which becomes their unique perspicacity.
Others use to refer to me as Amiable Amy; being social was second nature. Suddenly, however, I was on a life-changing trajectory with no coping skills to keep me from spiraling out of control. I had an extremely heightened sense of fear; did not feel safe anywhere and withdrew from the world around me. Other foreign feelings completely replaced my core sense of being: numbness, shell-shocked, incapacitation to the point I couldn’t think or even breath, disbelief that a world I was once very comfortable and happy in I could no longer trust. I was a giant ball of hurt and pain that got worse and worse. The pain grew, like a cancer that an ultrasound could never see. Cancer rooted deeply and metastasized. (At one point I wished I had cancer instead of PTSD because 1. I would be able to tell people without feeling ashamed and embarrassed; and 2. I thought chemo, surgery and other courses of recovery potentially had a better avenue to a cure. Maybe my thought process was wrong, but I believed people would’ve been much more supportive of that diagnosis.)
I operated on a remote control and very thankful that my children gave me my only purpose. Without their unconditional love and mother-child bond, I’m not sure I would’ve pulled through, as that much pain is impossible to carry alone! They were my crutch and my savior; but, it was very unfair of me to place that burden on them, even if they were unaware of their new role. They were innocent victims. Clinging to them for hugs; it was my only source of strength.
Somehow I got through the day(s) – one at a time. Hour by hour was a challenge because visions of that night haunted me every second. The robot was the new me – get up (after a sleepless night); wake the boys; make breakfast and lunch, and anything else needed to get them off to school. Once they left though, I was lost. For months I returned to bed. Door locked, I stayed there until they got home.
Trying to be normal was a challenge as I still needed to help with homework, do errands, carpool, etc. I used to look forward to their activities as I got to enjoy some fun time with the other moms. Now it was a chore that I despised, and my kids suffered from, because they didn’t understand the change in my behavior and why they were sometimes late or maybe even missed a practice. The worst was a late evening pickup after sunset, and only compounded the guilt and array of feelings I wasn’t used to or could process. To the few parents and coaches who didn’t leave my kids alone waiting or make me feel like a bad mom – thank you! (As I sadly learned, people like you are the minority vs. majority).
Fragmented thoughts and incoherence clouded my brain. Drowning, shortness of breath, knives in my chest. Tears fell. I stopped going back to bed probably towards spring. At first e point running kicked in. I now use an iPod, but back then only had a cd’s and Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Pill. Misery loves company, and she was my new best friend!
MORE TOPICS TO FOLLOW ON MY LONG ROAD TO SURVIVAL