Not every day is full of rainbows and unicorns. That could be said for any of us, but it is especially true of those of us who fight the residual emotional and physical challenges that abuse has left. Like the invisible prisons our captors held us in, it looks from the outside we are free of abuse so we must be free. Meanwhile we continue to maneuver around what ties us. We’ve paid the ransom, but in some cruel bait and switch where the jailor is gone, the impressions made by their shackles remain.
The price of freedom is high. Some pay with their lives, some with the lives of their loved ones. Others pay with profound residual physical challenges… paralyzed, blind, brain and neurological injuries; all share emotional scars that intertwine with the very fiber of who we are, who we’ve become, who our children have become.
Beyond the emotional toll I have written of in the last 5 years, there is another real cost of freedom, the dollar price tag. The realities for any woman leaving an abusive relationship include devastating financial burden. The likelihood of recovering financially and enjoying anything but a basic standard of living for most is minimal. The equation seems to be the longer the emotional investment in the unhealthy relationship, the lower the chances of financial redemption.
Some continue to pay by being dragged in and out of court on custody issues, constantly having to defend their right to parent despite being on the receiving end of horrific emotional and physical abuse. It surprises most outside the dv community the exes who initiate some of these custody and visitation battles have protective orders against them while others are serving time in jail. Valid or not, defending the interests of the children with legal representation is costly.
Some are challenged by falling between the cracks of indigence and just enough income to be disqualified for social programs and assistance. Yet they move through continuing physical and emotional challenges requiring ongoing medical interventions.
While married, even as a business owner, I had little to show for my income. What I brought in went towards ‘my’ portion of the house payment and household expenses. Additionally, I paid for 100% of the children’s needs be they health insurance, clothes, childcare, education expenses, even birthday and Christmas gifts, but for an occasional minimal soccer or scout registration fee here or there.
I was trying to pull together money for the divorce attorney’s retainer when I was shot. In the divorce I knew I’d be providing everything but I had two businesses and was willing to do what was needed and work as hard as required. Nothing could have prepared me for the fallout from the shooting.
Recovering from the physical injuries and my trauma while navigating the solo parenting of two traumatized children proved overwhelming and emotionally impossible when combined with running a business with employees. I sold it within months and tried to continue in the less demanding one.
The cost of freedom continued long past the initial trauma surgery and hospital stay in ICU and recovery. It included two subsequent surgeries, periodic cardiac monitoring, extensive therapy for the kids and me, at one point with five therapists between the three of us, and hospitalizations for a suicidal child. Inching close to $200,000, some of which was covered by insurance, it is minimal as compared to the bills of others I know.
Some days I wonder when I will be done paying for making a bad choice in a life partner. Beyond my marriage, beyond the end, beyond my children’s suffering, beyond my own sometimes difficult days, I failed to take into account my recovery was going to plateau. I expected to bounce back. I had no way of knowing that I would continue to struggle with cognitive functions including focus and memory, and be continually exhausted. I took for granted that I’d be on top of things again, be sharp, have the energy and mental acuity to go out and create a living like I enjoyed before it happened. I could not have imagined how I would struggle with simple things that had been on auto-pilot before. Acknowledging that others have challenges far greater than mine does not negate my own.
Don’t get me wrong. I am eternally grateful for the chance to be here for my kids, to listen to a rain patter quietly on the leaves as I write, to wake up to another sunrise. Even my worst day now is better than my best day then. But there is no denying the collateral damage when I add it all up. And that, some days, calls for the grace of acceptance; a state in which I am obviously not as I regress and futilely fight to reclaim what has become clear is unrecoverable.
Though I know I must, letting go and trusting what’s next is perhaps my greatest challenge currently, much easier in theory then in practice and progress is not consistent. I know I can’t stay here long, but for today I’m paying the price again, mourning the losses again, wondering how to move through this part, again.
I get up. I do the next thing.