I Know I Don't Look Sick
The Domestic Abuse
I know I don't look sick while I sit here on a Tuesday afternoon, in my brand new hot tub, smoking some newly legal cannabis. But there is a lot you don't see.
On October 19th, 2014, I made the brave decision to walk out on my 10-year-long abusive relationship.
- I had been locked in rooms and in the house on numerous occasions by my abuser.
- I had been given a black eye. He says he just "tapped" me.
- I had been constantly lied to and talked about behind my back.
- I had been told what I could and couldn't do.
- I had my keys hidden on me multiple times so that I wouldn't leave the house.
- All of my online activity had been closely monitored.
- I was a child and he was a man.
- I was made to believe that chaos was normal. And the abuse would would stop.
Full of fear of the unknown for my son and me, I finally ended the relationship and made a promise to myself to NEVER go back—to NEVER let anyone treat me that way ever again. No excuses.
At first, I had the usual stresses of starting a new life. I thought I was doing pretty well, actually. But then he stopped begging for me to come back and got angry.
From there, my life literally took a nosedive, and I was surrounded by a fireball of anxiety that I couldn't get away from. I met my lawyer and the legal stuff began.
- He kept the house. What do I get from that?
- My son isn't actually his kid. So where does custody stand?
- Where will my son live and go to school?
- What are his biological dads rights?
- Will he get into any trouble for the years of abuse?
- What do you mean domestic abuse doesn't really matter in a custody case?
- What about my stuff? I literally left the house with a suitcase of belongings.
It Started to Affect My Son
My son began to say and exhibit some really concerning behavior. And my fireball of anxiety grew.
- "Dad says that a train will hit your house because lots of trains crash there."
- Referring to my abusers parents. "I always sleep over at their house. I sleep with papa and grandma sleeps in the spare room". Which I reported asap.
- "I wish I was dead".
- "I am the worst, and no one likes me. I am going to go get hit by a car".
I pushed hard to have him in counselling ASAP, but it took almost a year and another court date before everyone was in agreement that my son could receive counselling. There were lots of times I wanted to just give up because the more I fought, the more my anxiety grew. But my son had told me, "I wish I was dead." My ball of anxiety could have exploded, and I wouldn't have given up fighting to get him the help he needed.
Manitoba has a zero tolerance for domestic abuse—or so I have been told anyway, I personally did NOT experience that. I had made a report at the police department. I told them my story, starting with 16-year-old me and 24-year-old him. I showed them my picture of my black eye. I gave them the numbers of the people who saw us argue in the casino that night followed by my fresh black eye a few hours later; who sat with me after the fact and listened to me cry about how this was the last straw—and that I was done with him.
Maybe I am confused about what zero tolerance is because I now share custody with my abuser and see him on a regular basis. And once again, he has power over me.
My First Diagnosis
I began experiencing some pretty intense anxiety symptoms.
- Panic Attacks
- Chest Pain
- Shortness of Breath
- Not wanting to leave the house
- Nightmares about my ex killing/harming me and/or my son
- Muscle tension
- Heart palpitations
It got to the point where I didn't want to leave my house anymore. And every time my phone rang I'd have a panic attack thinking it was my lawyer with more bad news. I saw my doctor and was diagnosed with anxiety. I was given medication and sent on my way.
I felt that just medication wasn't enough. So I visited a women's resource center and spoke to their counselor. She figured it sounded like I was dealing with PTSD. And that's when I realized I was also having anxiety triggers that were related to my past of being abused. And I was going into a panic attack almost every time I ran into one of those triggers.
My Second Diagnosis
After all of life's earlier chaos and the lawyers appointments and the court dates all died down. I decided I would seek help for some physical symptoms that I had thrown on the back burner while I tackled my severe anxiety.
I was experiencing just about every digestive system symptom there was and it was beginning to take a huge toll on my life. I was missing out on not only work but I was also missing out on so many life experiences because I wasn't able to go too far from a washroom because I never knew when I was going to be sick again.
- I feared car rides. Especially with people I didn't want to tell I was having a bathroom emergency.
- I stopped going for walks.
- I missed out of vacation opportunities.
- I used all of my sick time at work.
- I stopped doing activities that I loved to do like hunting and fishing.
- And so, so much more!
I lived with this for probably a year or so until around November 2017. I was out for the day trying to do some Christmas shopping and was really struggling. Some new symptoms had started up along side the digestive issues. And as I laid in the passenger seat of the car after using the every single washroom in every store we visited. Popping some Tylenol and some gravol. I thought to myself that enough was enough. I need to get help. Heck, I couldn't even make it through a few hours of shopping.
I went to my doctor basically in tears and just wanting to give up on life. From there the tests began. And I am happy to say it's not cancer, but it is IBS. So I am up to two new diagnoses at this point.
Maybe I Am Sicker Than I Thought....
I know I don't look sick while I sit here on a Tuesday afternoon, in my brand new hot tub, smoking some newly legal cannabis. But there is a lot going on with me.
- Uncontrolled IBS and all its "glorious" symptoms.
- Exhaustion/fatigue/not waking up rested.
- Daily small joint and muscle pains all over the body.
- Usually one or two larger joint/muscle injuries and pain. That have a much longer than expected healing time.
- Body stiffness if in the same position for 10 minutes or more (car rides, sleeping, sitting at a desk, ect). That is intensified in the cold.
- Poor Appetite.
So what happens if you combine all of the above symptoms with every day life? Well you can't really, I tried. I was calling in sick, becoming less and less active, sleeping on my breaks at work rather than eating, running to the washroom a way more often than even my water guzzling, pregnant friends and coworkers.
Cue my old friend anxiety.
This is it. This, this moment right here was my breaking point. And I am going to be honest here and let you all in on a little secret. I was struggling enough to get through a work day. That quite often on my drive to work I would go through my pros and cons of having a small accident so that I didn't need to go to work and had a broken leg or something to prove my inability to work.
I AM Sick
I am sick, and I don't need a broken leg or something to prove to anyone that I am. Those around me can judge me all they want but I am going to enjoy my life the best that I can.
So I guess what I have been trying to say here. Is that just because someone doesn't look sick, doesn't mean they aren't sick. Maybe this is their first time out of the house in weeks. And they chose to use that time to go to the local fair with their family. Or maybe that brand new hot tub isn't for partying, but is the only time they are generally body pain free. Don't punish them for it.
Questions & Answers
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