When I started this series and gathered some women to tell their story of trauma, I didn’t realize the severity of the experiences I would read about. This was one of those stories that shook me to my core.
Sandra has NEVER shared her story to the online world before. I had just happened to post in a Facebook group looking for guest writers for this series, and she saw the post and decided it was time for her to share her experience. Sometimes the stars align in amazing ways that no one really understands, and this was one of those times.
*Disclosure: trigger warning* This story revolves around the subject of domestic violence and abuse. Stop reading now if this subject is too much for you.
Before I begin, I wanted to share some domestic abuse and violence statistics that I discovered. I was SHOCKED by these findings.
1 in 4 women ages 18 and older in the US have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 1 in 3 women have experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner. And most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same partner. (https://www.thehotline.org/resources/statistics)
Now, Sandra’s Story:
I am about to open a door and share with you a secret that nobody knows. I never told anyone, not even my parents. I hid this shameful experience for a very long time. I was set free from my past recently after seeking counseling so I can move on with complete peace and healing. This will be the first time I have told this part of my story. My hope is to help at least one person stay out of this situation or encourage them to walk away.
Rewind about 25 years ago.
I was thirteen years old and I was really trying to find my place in life. I didn’t really have any friends. After my parents divorced when I was ten years old, I was constantly back and forth between Savannah and Atlanta. I wanted them both. I needed them both. I thought if I was with one parent, the other was sad and missed me. I spent so much of my energy worrying about my parent’s happiness that I (and they) forgot about mine.
The honest truth was, they wouldn’t have cared who I was with. I’m not saying that in a neglectful way. They always let my brother and I decide who we wanted to live with. Looking back, I wish one of them would have told me it was okay to be with the other and they were not upset. I wanted one of them to say, I really want you here. You have to understand, as a young girl, a “people-pleaser” and a peacemaker, this is an extremely difficult situation to be in.
This lasted through high school. I was always trying to find my place and figure out who I was. I never stayed anywhere long enough to make friends. I was so desperate to belong and for a guy to notice me that I attached myself to the first one who showed me attention. He was eight years older than me. I met him the summer I graduated from high school. I had to move out of my mom’s house to make room for others.
That is when my life completely fell apart…again.
I rented a room in an apartment complex and met him through mutual friends. I should have run the other direction but I didn’t. I soon found out that he was abusive in all the ways anyone can be. He would get drunk and get so mean. He was the worst type of drunk anyone could be.
Anyone reading this would think, “you allowed this to happen” How stupid could you be” and that’s ok. I would say the same if I wasn’t in that situation. I didn’t feel safe to tell my family. We didn’t have that kind of relationship.
I remember waking up the next day after one of his drunken rages and I was the one who apologized. ME! I did… but for what? After he came home drunk from wherever he had been that night… I APOLOGIZED?? He would beat me until he was tired. I would look in the mirror to see blood dripping down my face and bruises on my body. But, I thought for some reason I needed to apologize and beg him to stay.
I remember feeling sorry for him. I could see sadness in his eyes. He would constantly tell me that no one would ever want me and I was trash. I believed him. He had such a hold on me that I couldn’t let go or walk away.
My parents or family had no idea he even existed. We lived together for 2 years and they never knew. I was ashamed and in too deep. After all, I loved him…
I got pregnant when I was twenty years old. The abuse continued even though I was pregnant. I reminder laying on the floor in a fetal position while he kicked me. As tough as this is to say now, a part of me wanted to just die. I would tell him to kill me because I didn’t want to bring a child into a situation like that and I just couldn’t take it any longer.
I hid my pregnancy for as long as I could. Finally, at six months pregnant, I told my mom. I still hadn’t gone to the doctor and I WAS 6 MONTHS PREGNANT! My mom wasn’t very supportive at first and I understood why. She didn’t even know he existed. It took some time but she came around.
She finally met the dad in the delivery room as I was giving birth. She had no idea what he was doing to me. There was no way I would tell her who he really was. I needed them to like him because I wasn’t leaving. I didn’t think I could leave. I was afraid to leave.
We left the hospital and the reality of bringing a sweet baby into this train wreck of a relationship set in. I found myself alone very often with just my son but I was actually okay with that. It was peaceful when his dad wasn’t there. I thought the abuse would stop after we became a family. But it continued.
I also remember being so confused. There were times when he was so nice and I actually felt loved by him. I wanted to change him and I thought I could because that’s what I did. I saved people. I made people smile. I made people happy even though it meant I was not. That’s why no one ever knew what I was going through. I hid the pain and sadness. I let them see only what I wanted to.
I have a picture that is supposed to be special but it’s not. He took that moment from me. I scheduled pictures for us to take together when my son was 3 months old. It was his first picture and it was going to be our first family Christmas picture. The night before, he came home drunk as always and beat me like he never had before only because I questioned where he had been.
The next day, we woke up and got dressed for our family picture like nothing happened. I covered my bruises with makeup and fixed my hair in a way it would cover any swelling. We both smiled big and never talked about what happened. I still have that picture but I only see the flashback of what happened the night before.
The next two and a half years were a battle between good and evil. I was trying so hard to overcompensate and be a good mom while he was in and out of jail… multiple DUI’s, fighting, cheating… I couldn’t leave. Where would we go?
This story is so “textbook” for abusive relationships and why people stay. I stayed for a few reasons. We didn’t have much money and I didn’t feel I had anywhere else to go. I was ashamed, embarrassed and felt alone. I had low self-esteem. At this point, it felt normal. This is what our life together is and will be. He had power and control over me and he knew it. If I really think back to even when I was a small child, it is all I knew.
We ended up getting married when our son was three years old. Things were okay for a while. He actually held down a job, we were going to church as a family and the physical abuse died off and so did the drinking. It felt like a family for the first time.
We had a second child together. A sweet little girl.
Then, our lives changed again…
Two weeks after our princess was born my husband had a medical emergency. He died in the hospital but the doctors were able to revive him. He had emergency brain surgery and was sent to ICU. He developed what the doctors called Adult Onset Idiopathic Hydrocephalus. Basically what that means his brain all of a sudden filled with fluid and built up pressure in his brain. The doctors didn’t know how or why. They put a shunt in his brain that would constantly drain the fluid to his abdomen.
After that, he was never the same. Constant emergency brain surgeries, health deteriorating, unable to work, depression, trouble walking… I worked full time and had two kids under the age of six.
As I am writing this, I can feel my body temperature rise and I literally have hives on my neck and chest from reliving these moments.
Over the next couple of years, he started reverting back to some of his old ways. During that time, the verbal abuse came back as well as the drinking. He started missing moments with our children to hang out with friends and started coming home late again.
This is a man I watched struggle to walk and function daily and he was making really poor choices. I had a problem with his behavior and I would let him know. He started threatening to leave and said he wanted a separation.
He started getting aggressive with our son. I had to do something. I knew he was struggling and was sick but I couldn’t continue to let our children go through this.
I didn’t want my son to grow up and think this was a normal way to treat his wife or I couldn’t let my princess think this is how her husband should treat her.
I let him go to his mom’s house as he had been threatening to do. It was the hardest decision I had to make. I honestly thought a break would be good for him. I thought he would see how good he had it and want to come back.
Instead, he started doing drugs and drinking more. He would say he wanted to come home but he wouldn’t come see the kids when he said he would.
Time passed and eventually, so did he. It was so painful to watch. He was bedridden in a nursing home for a year and his mom wouldn’t tell us where he was so we could visit him. We went to his funeral and that was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Almost five years have passed now and I have found an amazing man who was truly sent to us by God. I prayed for God to send me someone who would love my kids as his own. I wanted and needed them to feel wanted and loved by someone who would now be their “step-dad”. Little did I know, God sent me someone that did more than that. These are his children. He loves them, protects them and proves daily what a real man does for his family.
God blessed this broken road.
As I look back on what was once my life, I remember it being so surreal and like it was someone else’s life. I wasn’t perfect and I did things I am ashamed of but I always remained “good”. I knew life wasn’t supposed to be that way and I wanted better for myself and for my children.
I want to clarify something, I am not blaming my parents for my poor choices. I take all of the responsibility for not only what I just revealed but also for the things I never will. My parents had a very dysfunctional marriage but they have since remarried and have wonderful marriages. I love them and have a great relationship with them both. I hold no anger or resentment towards them. I forgive them and I have forgiven my children’s father.
If you are a parent and you are reading this, you need to realize something now that will impact your kids. Your kids are listening and watching you. They will be just like you. Take the time to show them in a way that will positively impact their life.
Dads, show your daughter how she should be treated by the way you treat her mother. Teach your son what a good man is. Mothers, act the way you want your daughter to act when she gets older. Treat your husband with respect. Your children are watching!
When my current husband and I were dating, my son said something that gave me such peace. He said, “Mr. Ryan, you love my mom don’t you”. He said “I do. How do you know?” My son said, “I can tell by the way you treat her”. My son was eight years old at the time. He totally got it! He knew because he was always watching. You can say you love someone all day long but if your actions don’t align with your words, your words don’t matter.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I never would have met my ex-husband. I can’t mentally stay there long. I received two amazing children from that marriage and God has blessed what was once a broken road and led me to my wonderful husband.
What I learned
I am no longer that lost and insecure woman anymore. God has given me a new life full of amazing people and opportunities. He was always there with me and he never left me. Even when I thought I was alone. I wish I would have known that all I had to do was reach out and grab HIS HANDS. God had a plan for me and he has a plan for you.
If you are in an abusive relationship, find a way out. I know it is easier said than done but you can’t afford to stay there. You do deserve better. You will find someone who truly loves you and he will show you by the way he treats you. Talk to someone. You can not go through this alone.
I learned a lot about myself back then that changed my life. I learned how to be more intentional in whatever I do. My health suffered during that time period and I gained weight which resulted in a few minor health problems. I knew if I didn’t make a change, It would result in more serious conditions. Our kids need us as healthy as we can be. Our spouse needs us to live a long life alongside them.
Take care of yourself. You can’t take care of others if you are unhealthy mentally, physically or emotionally. That is our mission here at Optimized Life. We give people the tools and resources they need to live their healthiest and best life possible.
My name is Sandra Tanner and I am a full-time blogger, mommy, and wife. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to “open the door” to something I have been keeping a secret for so long. I hope my story helped someone to walk away.
Where you can find Sandra: