Today’s Voices of Motherhood guest post is by a dear soul-friend named Kate. Kate is a special needs mother who chose to leave a life of domestic abuse, violence, and drug abuse (her partners) for a brighter future – one with a whole lot less pain. If you feel comfortable reading on, please do! Otherwise, you can find a snapshot of Kate’s takeaways right here.
Kate and I met through social media (most likely a sensory processing disorder group, now that I think of it!); and I believe that the Lord chose this friendship with purpose and intent. Inspired by each other’s response to wildness, we’ve both continually moved into a deeper relationship with Him and life over the last few years. It’s been an honor to share your growth journey, Kate! And thank you for letting me share your heart, hurts, and hope here.
Finding Peace: Moving Forward From Abuse
Written by Kate Capanear
“I am a flipping statistic.”
Those words were on repeat in my head as I sat in a courthouse office filling out page after page of forms. My mind was memorizing how the florescent lights burned my eyes, the way the sterilizing disinfectant smell cut through the air, the looks on the faces of the other victims that bore into my soul as they filled out their paperwork, recounting their own terrible stories. I can still feel how that Bic sat in my hand as I wrote in detail about Baby Daddy trying to strangle me to death in front of my toddler, how I could still feel his skin under my nails from trying to pry free from him as I struggled to remain conscious, and how hot and sweaty his skin felt against mine when he forced himself on top of me. The events of April 29, 2010 felt like they would play on a loop in Technicolor in my mind for the rest of my life. Looking back on that office in the courthouse, I think my brain was desperately looking for something new to remember.
Unfortunately, protocol would not allow me to slip into the comfort of forgetfulness. I spent hours talking to a judge, defending any choices I had made to lawyers and police officers, assuring my doctor that I was fine. It was exhausting telling the story continually to all of the professionals who were obligated to understand every minute detail. In fact, it was so draining that I have never shared the details with anyone in my personal life.
Now that I am nine years removed from that night, I wonder how I held it together. By the time I’d gotten there, the abuse had been going on for months. I worked so hard to cover up every bruise with clothes or makeup, prepared with a good backup story if needed. When people asked if I was excited for my upcoming wedding, I would plaster a fake smile on my face and gush about the dress and how cute Kiddo would be in his little tuxedo, never focusing on Baby Daddy.
Mostly, I blamed myself for stressing him out or for being too difficult. What was happening to me was because of my weaknesses and shortcomings; I was sure of it.
Feeling fragile after that night, I just kept doing life as it came so I wouldn’t have to deal with any messy emotions. I went to work, took care of Kiddo, handled family obligations, continued volunteering at church, and spent time with friends and loved ones. The goal was to fake it until I made it. Outwardly, not dealing with my trauma seemed to be working. Then one day, the brakes came screeching to a halt and it was painfully obvious that all was not well. Unfortunately, that moment wouldn’t come for four years. The only thing that forced me to really examine what was happening with me, was being dumped by my boyfriend (who I thought I would wind up marrying) because he couldn’t be with me since I couldn’t love myself. This coincided with a personal health crisis that messed with my emotions and hormones, the emotional combination left me spiraling out of control.
My rock bottom was lonely and overwhelming. Between having a special needs kiddo, co-parenting with my abuser, sorting through the emotions and hormones related to my health, and searching for a Band-Aid for my broken heart, I finally felt like I could no longer push past my messy emotions. I needed to embrace them. The only remedy I could think of was a therapist. And she would have to be something special because I was a hot mess.
Slowly but steadily, I worked with my new therapist to slog through the trauma I had experienced, unlearn some very unhealthy coping mechanisms, and embrace the woman I had become over the last four years. It took over a year and I had to face a lot of ugly things head-on. In many ways, it was the hardest work I had ever done. However, it was also the most rewarding.
I was finally able to see that I, while far from perfect, was not the problem in my relationship with Baby Daddy. His addiction to drugs and alcohol fueled the fire bubbling underneath his surface, resulting in abusive behaviors. This was on him.
For the first time, I was able to forgive him. It felt so freeing to be able to let go of that anger and hurt after holding on so tightly to it for years. I also was able to see him as a fellow human being, a child of God, and a struggling soul.
It served me well to remember while he was the bad guy in one part of my story, he was not a bad guy always. No one is truly all good or all bad. We are each a mixed bag of traits, passions, worries, merits, and faults.
Pastor John Bernsten says, “We are all bags of diamonds.” Like bags of diamonds, we are all a mixed collection of fragments that cut, some that are cracked or cloudy, but so many pieces that shine brightly. God sees the brilliant beauty in each of us and when we look to find it in others, we will be closer to Him and our purpose here. – Kate
Please don’t take that last part to mean we are all living with the butterflies and unicorns on some rainbow somewhere. The last nine years have been incredibly difficult on the co-parenting front and it’s been a ride of more highs and lows than an amusement park roller coaster. Baby Daddy has struggled with his sobriety, mental wellness, and overall health. He is gone more than he is present and when he is around, he is not allowed to be alone with Kiddo. I do most of the parenting solo and make almost all decisions for Kiddo unilaterally. Child support is non-existent and I can’t remember the last time Baby Daddy showed his face at a school meeting. More often than I would like to admit, I am devastatingly lonely and feel like life would be easier if Baby Daddy weren’t around at all.
Then I see Kiddo light up when his dad comes to a karate class, or how excited he gets when making brownies to bring to his house. He has lost so much time with his dad and that can’t be undone. However, I have been given the opportunity to safely integrate his dad into his life. Someday, Kiddo will know more about what happened and why his parents are not together. He will look back on all of the things that have happened between the three of us and the world around us. He will decide how he wants to handle it and whether he wants to continue a relationship with his father. When that day comes, my whole heart hopes that his father will have done the work and made the effort for Kiddo. I hope that Kiddo will be able to see that his dad has grown from his mistakes and has become a man that he wants in his life.
This is my family’s story and overall, I feel so grateful for the path we find ourselves on currently. This is not how it always works out and I cannot stress enough that everyone’s physical, mental, and emotional safety MUST be top priority. If you are in a situation where you and/or your children are not safe, leave now. It will feel impossible at first. Do it anyway. If you do not have a friend or family member to help you or to stay with, there are options. There are women’s shelters in many communities that will help keep you and your children safe in those first scary days if needed. They offer services, resources, and transitional housing while you get back on your feet. Please also consider filing a protection from abuse (PFA) or restraining order with your local court. While it seems like a piece of paper won’t do much, it makes things much clearer cut if you have to call the police later.
Make sure that if you have been physically or sexually abused that you go to your primary care physician or local hospital. It is imperative that you get checked out and make sure that any injuries are treated properly. Your health is of utmost importance. While no one can force you to have a rape kit done in the event of sexual abuse, please consider it. You never have to use it if you don’t want to pursue legal action, but having the evidence collected can help you in the future if you do decide you want to press charges.
Please do not ignore your mental health like I did. Had I gotten help right away, I would have been able to heal fully so much sooner.
I lost years of my life in a fog I didn’t realize I was in. There are support groups in addition to many wonderful therapists. You deserve to enjoy your life and making sure your mental health is protected is a crucial step towards that important piece of healing.
Remember, you are not alone and nothing is permanent.
You are strong and worthy and capable of giving your family a safe, joyful home. It won’t be easy and healing will not be linear, but you and your children deserve to be whole, happy, and safe.
After I read Kate’s story the second time, I knew that I needed to ask her a few questions about this journey.
Me: Kate, what was your faith like before this season of life?
Kate: Before I was abused, I believed in God and the Good News of Jesus, but I very much participated in my faith as if it were an ATM; I’d put a little in and take out what I needed when I needed it.
M: And your faith after?
K: God is now a major part of my daily routine and I find time every day to thank Him and to just listen. My relationship is deeper and more fulfilling than its ever been.
M: What advice or insight would you like to share with readers?
K: When life hits it’s lowest, scariest points, that is the time we need God and His light the most. However, that is the time we most often run from Him. If you can find the strength to hold on, you will find He does His best work when we are at our worst.
What a perfect ending. He does do His best work when we’re at our worst. My life experiences, too, are living proof. Thank you again for sharing, friend.
To our readers, we’ve included a list of resources below if you’re on a similar path. As always, I’m praying for you and cheering you on. xox J.
Helpful Links to Resources
Filing a PFA or taking other legal action to keep yourself safe: https://www.womenslaw.org/
Learn more about rape kits and other information related to sexual abuse: https://www.rainn.org/articles/rape-kit
Find a counselor: https://www.allaboutcounseling.com/dir/womens-counseling/
Find a support group: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/groups