I am Meredith, a 48-year-old nurse in Ohio. I just got promoted to a supervising position in a hospital I’ve been working at for almost 15 years now. My two sons, aged 21 and 15, are healthy and already taller than me. My youngest kid is getting ready for senior high now, while my eldest is close to finishing his bachelor’s degree. I can say that my life is far better than ever.
However, things had not always been excellent. In truth, I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I acquired that illness after suffering from domestic abuse, which was inflicted by the father of my children.
According to licensed Professional Counselor, Melanie Skipper-Relyea, MHR, “You may not have full-on flashbacks, but if seemingly unrelated experiences seem to trigger a traumatic memory, it’s worth keeping note of. If having that traumatic memory again colors the rest of your day, it may be PTSD.”
When I met John, he was working as an engineer at a tech company near the clinic where I was doing an internship at the time. He was smart, funny, tall, and gorgeous. After a familiar friend introduced us to each other, we hit it off right away.
Our dating phase-only happened in six months. I was so in love with him; I thought he’s the one. Naturally, I said ‘yes’ when he asked for my hand, even though my family was hesitant about it. I thought, “We had enough savings to buy a small house, John’s earning well, and I won’t need to work another day again.” That was honestly the case while I was still pregnant with my firstborn.
Only, after I gave birth to our second baby, the tech company where my husband was employed filed for bankruptcy. John had a hard time getting another job, but I did not worry much at the time because I had this idealistic notion that our savings would get us through life. But then again, a few months of buying diapers and baby formula and clothes and paying for house bills, we found ourselves with only a hundred bucks to our name.
That was when John became addicted to alcohol. He would drink every time he’d come home from a failed job interview. He would drink whenever I’d tell him that we need to buy something for the house. Once I try to take the bottle of liquor from him, he would yell at me and tell me his life got ruined when he married me. Sometimes, John would shout at our kids as well, and then we’d fight, and he would end up hitting me.
How I Got Out
None of those incidents became known to my family for a while. I didn’t want to tell them because I was hoping the guy I married would come back. I would borrow money from my parents, but I could not say that John stopped trying to get a job a long time ago.
I only reached my breaking point when I came home one day and saw my eldest son underneath his bed, shaking, because his father hit him with a belt. In that instant, I packed as much as I could, went to my family’s house, and never looked back. The pain that my husband brought to me and my kids was beyond too much already. I couldn’t understand the emotions I had deep inside.
“Domestic violence is something that impacts someone’s mental health, but there are all these other pieces to it,” says Cristine Murray, an American Counseling Association member who teaches a class on family violence to her counseling students. “There’s no easy way to say, ‘This type of abuse has this specific answer.’ It’s different with each person.”
After that incident, John somehow never bothered to call or ask us to come back. My sister helped me get a job in a hospital in Ohio, too. It was a bit far from my parents’ place, but I chose to relocate my children there so that they could forget the ordeal we had to go through as well.
I act tough on the outside and say that I have moved on from what happened 15 years ago, but the truth is that I still have nightmares from that day. I regret not leaving John when he hit me the first time. I regret choosing to lie to my family because I didn’t want to have a broken marriage. Most of all, I regret giving him a chance to traumatize my children like that.
Karen Smith, Ph.D., LPC, states, “A child with PTSD feels that they are unable to escape the impact of the trauma. They try to avoid people or situations that remind them of the event. Sometimes they will experience memories or “flashbacks” of the event, or they may have nightmares about it that feel very real. These constant reminders make living day-to-day life a real challenge, especially for young people who might struggle to express what they’re feeling and experiencing.”
It has been 15 years, but time has not healed all my wounds.