I have 30 days to get through the crisis of my life. 30 days to decide what to do from here after a brutal domestic abuse situation. 30 days to find a job, find shelter, live on $400 cash, solve my personal and massive financial issues. 30 days to as my sister likes to say, "own your shit" and "get it together."
It's a long story after the fold.
First, let me say what this is not. This is not a cry for help, or please start a donation fund. I would be absolutely aghast and humiliated if anyone did that shit. I am not a charity case, I am not completely destitute, and for the next 30 days I have a warm bed and roof, and a family member who will let me mooch off her food if I have to. So, please, if you are going to start a fund or anything, do me a favor, I just spent a vast part of my two days talking to the local domestic abuse shelter people and they need stuff, really badly. Blankets, hats, gloves, scarves, jackets. They need soap, shampoo, and other toiletries. They need money to get keep operating. So, because if I can't "own my shit" and get it together, you will be helping me if you make those donations now to that organization instead of to me. Hopefully, I won't need to utilize those hotel shampoos and other women will. So, not that I don't appreciate it, I don't want you all to think this is either a)scam artist posing as a victim b)or that I need or am asking for help. If my story moves you donate to your local shelter or to Pretty Bird Woman House.
Okay, now the background story. Last year, my business was in between clients who had aged out, and I was struggling to keep the roof over my head. I had to call home for a loan, and when I did, my father started to screaming at me to come home. Never mind that I just needed a loan while I went through the employment process to get a survival job while I worked on my other business, or that I would be uprooting myself from Chicago, which I loved, a life I loved, an apartment I liked, and just in general leaving a life I crafted to come home to my small city in Minnesota. My sister called, and took charge, telling me to give all my stuff away, and she was arranging for a moving van to move the big stuff to Salvation Army/Goodwill, and I could put all my important stuff in my little compact and come home "while I got on my feet".
I thought about it, and I was kind of burned out in my job as parent coach/therapy aide to families with autistic children. So, I said okay, but with some dread. There was a reason I stayed away from my childhood home and my family, only seeing them on the obligatory Christmas trips home. I was always the black sheep of the family, the drama queen, the one who used psychological bullshit to cause scenes. Funny how it never occurred to me that it was actually my brothers, sister, and parents who were actually being the drama players, and then twisting it to make me feel bad for standing up for myself, or defending myself or acting all hurt until I talked at length with domestic violence advocates and started reading the book "Why does He do That? by Lundy Bancroft. I thought to myself as I was frantically packing up my stuff, doing it all myself that maybe this time it would be different, I did therapy, I read books, I talked to people, plus my family was helping me out, so the gratitude quotient would give me more patience and keep my emotions in check. My father would have learned to control his temper, and my sister wouldn't be such a controlling person using her sarcasm and belittling demeanor to strip me of my self-esteem.
But, I missed the intuitive warning signs, the fact that my father because I cried easily when I was younger thought I was an easy target or my sister would have her directive for me when I got home, going as far as lining up interviews my 2nd day home.
I drove home, and when I got here a year and a month ago, I found employment impossible to find, except at Duluth's cottage industry, Group homes for Brain Injured People. I also found that my mother was dying of liver failure, needing round the clock care, but my grandmother was also dying at the very local nursing home, and my father spent all his time at the nursing home, leaving my mother with her limited cognitive function, and inability to attend to her toileting needs or basic needs,(cleaning herself, making her meals, giving her insulin shots). So, I started to take care of my mother while looking for that all important job. (Side note, in Duluth if you don't have at least three jobs, you are a complete loser, of course the reason you need 3 jobs is because it is impossible to make ends meet).
I did get an overnight position at a TBI home, of which it was impossible for me to work there after long. I had some problems with the Supervisor, in addition to the job itself, I was expected to be cook, babysitter, psychologist, nurse, and mother all for $9.50 an hour, which to my horror(I was charging $30 an hour for therapy work) was considered 'great money for Duluth."
I ended up quitting my job there at the group home, but things picked up at my parent's house. My father was having mini-meltdowns every day, took off when I showed up and left for hours without telling me when and where he was going. I took over the cleaning, the cooking and looking over my health needs for which my dad paid me. It finally dawned on me that I did have a "job", even though it was private, and not through a corporation. Of course no one in my family could see it that way, instead I was being a "mooch" even though I worked harder than I ever have in my life. Frequently my work was criticized, and my brothers would ask my dad when I was getting a "real job". In fact, my brother Stephen said when he called in to ask for money for his franchise, "you tell Rowan to get off her ass and get a real job", never seeing the irony in his statement.
Working for my dad in a private situation had its benefits. I could come and go, but usually stuck to a 10:00 am t0 8:00 pm schedule. Sometimes I might take some time to go to the library, or work on my medical transcription training and not come until 11:00 am or 12:00 pm, but I always made sure my dad got at least 8 hours of work out of me. The downside, I was pretty much under my father's control. He decided how much I would get paid, if I got paid at all, and every week I held my breath thinking this was the week I wouldn't get paid.
The other thing my father did was that he bought me a new car, something I didn't ask for, and when he said he was going to do that, I begged him not too. Other things he did like pay my hospital bill while I was trying to sort out an insurance issue. Various things. I had to listen to him complain about my other siblings, some of it justified, (my sister trying to control things, my brothers doing despicable things like not sending a plant to my mom when she ended up in the hospital with gout, but sending our family friend a huge flower arrangement while he under went surgery for cancer) some of it not. I kept listening to my father run down my siblings, Rich's an asshole, Steve's a dickhead, Dawn's bitch, thinking god, what does he say about me? What he has been saying is that I am controlling bitch with an attitude problem.
Come September, I am informed that I am moving into my parents' basement. Not asked, told. My sister's convict boyfriend(the jailbird as my father says to me, in a voice filled with contempt, but when my sister is there he is like, "well when Jonathan gets out he can have job here being my handyman) is getting out of federal prison at the end of the month, and I had to leave before then. My dad told me to clean up the basement, and get a bed for myself. I kept dragging my heels on this, thinking to myself, "if moving back to Duluth was the worse decision you ever made in your adult life, this has to be the second worse you could ever make". In the meantime, I witness my father be angry every day, about something, hoping he doesn't turn his anger on me. There were some times that I said something what the "wrong tone" of voice, and my father would tell me that I was the world's biggest ungrateful bitch and I should just go. Not getting a day off except for when he dispensed them, after all it's my mother, and they are letting me mooch off them, so I should be damn grateful I am not living on the street, I would take these breathers when I could. I started just taking them, telling my dad that Sunday was my day off. Oh, and my father got me a cell phone, which if I did not answer it, I was being an ungrateful bitch once again. Of course it was never to see how I was, the cell phone was a place for my dad to get a hold of me so I could come and change sheets that my mother soiled at 10:00 pm, or get things at the grocery store, or come start his generator, or pick up groceries, prescriptions, etc. I was always told not to run up the minutes, or to use minutes because I didn't use enough.
My life the past year has been at my family's beck and call, trying to justify my worth and value by taking the best care I could of mom. She has liver and kidney failure, diabetes and heart issues so me being able to craft a care plan with her low potassium, low sodium, doctor recommended low glycemic index diet, I managed to keep her out of the hospital more times than not. For this, I was rewarded by being told I was a control freak, when my mom is dying and should have anything she wants, including boxes of chocolate for her meals(she only likes sweets these days, and I tried really hard to give her as much sweets without upsetting her blood sugar levels). When I tried to explain that mom didn't want to die, that giving her steak every night followed by chocolate lava cake with ice cream wasn't helping her meet that goal, I was dismissed as a controlling person. The one thing my mom did get hospitalized for this year was gout. Now, I know that in my mom's case a lot of things could have caused her gout, including her morbid obesity, her diet, including a low potassium diet, my mom truly suffered with this gout, I don't think I could do much more than I did, but I tried harder than ever to help mom control her diet and get a little exercise in(again, doctor ordered short walks around the house, 1 4 minute walk a day). Instead, every time we went to the doctor, Dad would say "okay we are going to do what the doctor recommends Joan", and then two days later, it would be "I don't care if she sleeps all day." It was insane producing in me, at first I am responsible for my mom's care and doing the doctor recommended programs, and then I am a control freak who can't see that my mom is dying. it wasn't until I realized that is what abusers do, make their victims feel like they are going insane that I could call this what it was, psychological abuse.
Yesterday, my dad sent me out to go bed shopping. I came back with a flyer in my hand with a bed that I found acceptable. I had saved money for the bed, but Dad insisted he buy it for me. It does no good to not take his money, he will either shove down my shirt, or put it in my pocket or stuff it in purse, and since I don't like my personal space invaded, I just decided around August to say thank you very much to avoid having money stuffed in my bra. In any case, my father asked me if I had found a bed I liked. When I said not really, the defecation hit the rotary oscillator. First it was, "well you have to find a bed, January 12th is in two weeks and Dawn wants you out" When I said, "funny, Dawn never said that to me, don't' you think it should come from her?" My father said, she won't talk to you because you are such a bitch to her, which is another shock to my system, thinking my sister and I are in our forties, and I am not the one who puts her down, doesn't listen, rams solutions down her throat, rolls her eyes, makes snide remarks, throws in psychological terms she learned in 2 hour workshops for her job as a house supervisor at a TBI home, nor do I go to my friends and laugh, backstab and gossip about conversations we might have had. No, she is not the one who needs to be afraid to talk to me. My dad said you need to find a bed, and I said I am working on it. We then moved on to get my mom ready for her doctor's appointment, which involved finding the curling iron on a cluttered drawer that I have offered to straighten and organize, but haven't gotten the green light for. My dad starts yelling at my mom, who with her impaired cognitive functioning can't answer as quickly as he would like. My father yells at her to answer him, and then he says' "I can't find the goddamn curling iron". I go in to my mother's room and say to him, "if you would give me permission I would be happy to organize this for you, and it's just a curling iron your anger and swearing isn't appropriate here, in my most calm voice. My father slams something against the dresser and says, "get out of here with your fucking attitude". I look at him and calmly say, that isn't the answer, something is bothering you about me, something I did or didn't do, you need focus on that and solve the problem, because my attitude will be coming back because you didn't tell me what is bothering you about what I did or didn't do. And that is when it really started. I will spare you all the nittygritty details. But suffice to say if you were listening to my father scream at me about my attitude, and how I need to get out of his fucking house and stay out, and that I ruin everything, and look Joan(my mom) look her face it's all over her fucking face her attitude problem, and you can't tell me you can't find a bed you like in this town, and how I am controlling, and I don't appreciate anything, and how I don't talk to people(I don't because the people in my immediate circle are my sister, and my dad who use any conversation I say as a weapon to be used against me later) and that I was rude to my sister's friend(She asked me how I was, I told her okay and then when the friend said you should have said good, and I said jokingly "well, I figure if people didn't really want to know how I was, they shouldn't ask, fully aware that hi, how are you is greeting and no one really cares, apparently me saying that makes me rude to people) As I listened to my father rant and tell me to change my fucking attitude, and me calmly asking him what he needed me to change, (sarcasm here, oh, it would take 10 psychiatrists to fix your problems), I told him he was being abusive and he needed to stop. He told me that he was changing the will(I apparently get the house the house I don't want and asked him not to make me beneficiary of) taking out $20,000, giving to me and my fucking attitude and I could just leave and never come back since I had such a bad fucking attitude. He just kept saying to me over and over again when I told him he was being abusive, that it was his fucking house and he would do what he wanted in it. When I told him that yes it was his house, but doing what he wants precludes screaming and being verbally abusive, after all we are human beings who deserve respect even in his house, he says, sarcastically, "oh you are human, I have my doubts about you being fucking human." Then he picks up stuff and starts throwing it down and starts getting in my personal space, telling me to leave. I didn't want to leave my mother with his violence(he has been violent to her before) but I didn't want to get hurt so I did leave.
I called my sister thinking she would understand because my dad has done the same things to her over the years, one time when she was 19, I had to call the cops, a sin that both of them hold against me. No, it was my fault, I had an attitude problem and was a control freak. When I said, we need to go to a neutral party and talk about this she said, "we are two adults two adults should be able to have conversation." When I said that I couldn't have a conversation with her, she said, well if we need a third party, I am not safe in my own home and you need to leave, and I am thinking to myself, I am not the violent one, I am the one who has been calm, who has been rational, and tried to be all things to these people, caretaker to my mom, giving my sister a chance to have a life so she didn't have to go up to my parents' house so often, giving my dad breaks,(he said several times he can't sit and watch my mother die, and on my few days off, my father the next day would say, "oh man, I can't do this more that 8 hours a night" when I came back) Instead I am being accused of having an attitude problem, being an ungrateful bitch because they have done so much for me, and because I tried to help my mom be in the best health she could be by being reasonable about her food intake and asking her to walk for four minutes a day, on the days she told me she didn't want to do so, I just let her sleep. Too which my father would come in after being gone all day and say, your mother sleeping again, that's all she does is goddamn sleep.
So yesterday, I sat in the local women's shelter, thinking I have been abused, I was frightened that my father was going to physically get violent with me, (he has done so with me, my mother and my sister in the past). My father fits the classic Power/Control Domestic Violence Wheel. He controlled my money, my time, what I was allowed to do on my free time. He might not have blackened my eye, although it felt like it was going there, he might not be my partner in a love relationship, but he is abusive to me, and to others. Since the vast majority of my days is spent in my father's home, and since he and my sister work in tandem to control me. Then I thought I was crazy, that I wasn't abused at all, I mean it was just my dad being dad, like he has done since I can remember. Like the time he stuck my mother's head in the washing machine while it was agitating, or the time he punched the hole in the wall, or how he used to use his belt to beat the attitude out of me, or the time he shoved my sister down the stairs. Or the times when he turns on dime and says in a contemptuous voice, your sister is a bitch. Or, "I will fix that bitch at the store, she didn't get me the right change." Bancroft says one of the hallmarks of an abuser is his contempt for women, and my father does have contempt for women.
So, this morning I woke up to a note from my sister wishing me peace and love, when all I want is her respect and belief in my experience, but also telling me I have 30 days to get out of her house. I crafted plans that will be tomorrow's post on my blog, but for the next 30 days I have to pour my heart into getting to survivor mode, finding a "real" job, getting shelter, and doing what I need to do to get my life together, not counting on the $20,000 my father says he is going buy me out with, not that I want it anyway. This blog will be my catharsis, but also my record of my journey, and a way to hold myself accountable.
thanks for listening. Over the past year, this and some other blogs have been my saving grace, and my only link to outside community. Thanks for letting me vent. And please give to your local domestic violence shelter if you can, even those hotel soaps would be great, they need them, and who knows your donation might end up helping me if I don't get my life together in 30 days. You can follow my story at my blog if you would like, I probably won't go all meta on you again here. Here is my blog.