Well, enough avoiding the subject. I have hinted at big things going on. I have griped about mysterious difficulties in my life. And, I have let this blog languish in silence as I have barely survived without internet access in my new home. *twitch twitch*
I have just done the hardest thing I have ever done. I have taken the MCAT, twice, once five years after taking organic chemistry, and Step 1 of COMLEX and the USMLE. I survived “hell week” at my midwifery school, which involved attending every delivery and clinic for a week. I was so tired by the end I was sleeping on the clinic floor as people stepped over me. I have made it through the first two years of medical school, during some of which I was also pursuing an MPH. I won one of two research fellowships for a full tuition scholarship for my medical school. I also gave birth to two children without any anesthesia, the first with Pitocin augmentation, strapped to a fetal monitor and flat on my back, with three hours of pushing through an inflamed cervical lip. I have quit smoking cigarettes after a pack a day habit.
None of these were the hardest thing I have ever done.
Last week, I moved out of my house.
I left an abusive relationship.
I stopped blogging about my personal life a long time ago. On the surface, I told myself it was because I wanted to protect the privacy of my family. But really, it was because I didn’t have anything positive to say. My first husband, and the father of my first child, left me for one of my closest friends. That was hard. I started dating the brother of a friend a mere six weeks after my devastating separation. There may have been red flags, but since I had no experience with abuse, I didn’t see them. And, the real abuse didn’t start until we were living together, and I found out I was pregnant.
He never hit me. Other than a “dope slap” and some brief rough handling of my older son early in our relationship that I said I would leave him over if I ever saw it again, he never hit the kids.
But, the emotional and verbal abuse was almost constant. At first, I was completely bewildered and horrified. I still remember the first time it really happened – I had just found out I was pregnant, and I was sitting next to him at the computer. I was talking to him about something really inconsequential: Michael Jackson was under suspicion, again, for molestation, and I was musing how the song “Man in the Mirror” may be about him literally begging himself to stop molesting. My then fiance turned to me, and laid into me. Asked me why I never shut the fuck up, told me how irritating I was, and how sick of my constant babbling he was. I was about 45 seconds into the conversation. Not that it would have been OK if I was half an hour or three hours into the conversation, but I remember how shocked I was because it didn’t even make any sense.
I ran out of the house, jumped on my bike, and rode away, blinded by tears. I called my best friend, who was living in Toronto at the time. “I am marrying a monster,” I said. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know what happened. No one had ever talked to me like that, much less someone I was supposed to marry in a month. She told me to come to Toronto. I was in Miami. It wasn’t really a practical solution.
My fiance found me, apologized, and promised it would never happen again.
When he cursed me out on the steps of the chapel before my father’s funeral, I told him to sit in a separate pew, and that we would be getting a divorce when we got home.
That was five years ago.
We have been through five therapists. He has been on two medications. But, excuse my language, there is no cure for asshole. There is no pill for a bully that has been indoctrinated by generations of abusive bullies.
I have been in the Vagina Monologues for three years. One year I co-produced the performance, and have contributed in raising more than $10,000 for our local domestic violence charity. I blog about feminist issues. At school, I was afraid people would see through me, know I was a fake. They would know that my husband screamed at me about the way I prepared dinner as my five year old hid under the dining room table. They would know that I was staying when I knew I should go. At the same time, people in my life, including my mother, told me that I couldn’t leave him. I had rotations and residency ahead. I already had one divorce and one custody arrangement with one ex-husband. My husband and his family (who also took turns abusing me when we were together) told me that they were normal. My standards were too high. And I better not break his heart. In fact, the chance I might break his heart is why his father supposedly treated me with such naked hostility and hatred. Or, it was because I didn’t clean up enough. Or, because I didn’t have a job on top of going to medical school. Or, I was just too big for my britches.
I told myself if I got the research fellowship, I would use that year to transition into a separation and divorce. He begged me to stay. His new therapist begged me to give him a few more months. The research fellowship ticked away, and his addiction and abuse problems did not improve. I told him it was really over this time, and he asked for one more, one hundredth last chance. I left for the ACOG Annual Clinical Meeting. I came home. He told me he owed $400 to his dealer. I wrote him a check to pay him back, on the condition he didn’t get any more. He got more. He got red in the face and shook visibly with rage the next evening when I asked him to write his medical insurance number on a form his insurance company had been sending once a week for a month.
I told him it was over. He begged me to take him back until one in the morning. I sobbed, my entire insides screaming “Just take him back” with terror. Against every afraid cell in my body, I reached down into the depths of courage I never knew I had. I said no.
I packed the entire house myself, often with him snarling and cursing at me. I had to call my mother to pick the kids up twice because he was screaming at me and manipulating the kids. He and his mother stood in my driveway and yelled together and called me a liar in front of the children.
I have been in my new house since Thursday.
I am facing rotations, residency and a medical career as a single mother of two boys, and it will still not be the hardest thing I have ever done.