WHY GO INTO THE BASEMENT … ??

I haven’t told you yet what made me go down those stairs, down into that cold, dark basement … Here is the short version. Graphic details have been left out because I want this to be a truth everyone can read …

I graduated early from high school and knew I wanted to study medicine. I studied hard throughout high school and graduated 5 years in 4, Ontario Honours, with a focus on maths, sciences and English ( Grade 13 was still a reality in those days).  When I was 16 years old I did two life altering things …I trained as an ambulance driver, before the days of the paramedics we have now. I also enlisted with the Canadian Armed Forces. I will explain why in a minute, but I remember that day very well. Because I was under the age of majority, but old enough to enlist, I required the signature of a parent or guardian to consent to my enlistment. The recruiting centre for the area I live was in my province’s capital city, in City Hall. My father drove me there and gave his consent.

My older sisters, twins and older than me by roughly 4 years, both left home shortly after their 16th birthdays. One was pregnant with her boyfriend/pimp’s child, the other a drug addict, hooked on acid. Both were seeking to escape the abusive home of our youth. At approximately the same time, when I was 12, I was raped by one of my team mates while walking home one evening from swim practice. I never told my parents. I didn’t want the label I knew they would apply … “just like your sisters” … (odd sidebar here … fast forward about 11 years. My younger sister was also raped while living away from home, attending college. She elected not to tell anyone either, least of all our parents, until she finally told me about 10 years ago).

I was now the oldest daughter at home and under enormous pressure from my parents to “succeed”.  I became an accomplished athlete in track and field and swimming. I studied music and mastered 7 instruments as well as vocals. I set county swim records, made solo singing appearances at high profile events, played in 3 different musical bands. I was an excellent student, winning several academic  achievements. I worked hard to not just meet, but exceed my parent’s expectations of me. And yet, regardless of the competition, meet or event, not once did either of my parents ever attend to witness my accomplishments. They didn’t even attend my high school graduation when I was awarded Honours.

Shortly before graduation, when I was 16, I was shocked by the revelation that my parents had no intentions of sending me on to post secondary education. Their words… “we saved money for your sisters’ education and they threw away the opportunity. We aren’t going to make that same mistake again”. Those words are engraved into my soul, they hurt so much …

My plan for my future needed an adjustment, hence my ambulance training and enlistment in the military. I intended to study at our military’s Officer Training College Medical Corps, serve out my time, then discharge and continue with a civilian career in the medical field. I attended basic training at Camp Borden, near my home and was to be sent to the east coast for 3 months basic training.  At the time I originally enlisted I had been dating my future husband for about a year.  When my orders for the east coast came through I was well past my 17th birthday. My boyfriend proposed to me, stating he would not wait for me to finish my 4 years with the forces so if I wanted to marry him I had to make a choice.

What if I didn’t make basic training? I would be sent back home to my parents. What if I washed out of Officer’s Training? I would be sent back to my parents. What if I succeeded, served my 4 years after College and was discharged? I would still have no where to “return” except to my parents. I accepted his proposal and moved into an apartment with my new “fiance”.

Marriage meant a means of escape from an abusive and dysfunctional family life.  I was married 7 years before my son was born.  During that time I put myself through college at night, studying finance while keeping a full time office job.  Once I became pregnant, my husband insisted I quit working and going to school.  It was now my job to prepare for, and take care of, our new family.  I was not allowed to work outside the home again.  I had decided on a career in financial management, a newly developing industry at that time, but was not allowed to continue my studies.  I was 26 years old.

After the birth of my daughter in 1987 I reunited with a passion I had since I was about 11 years old but had given up shortly before I was married.  I loved to write short stories and poetry. I had submitted some pieces that were published in Readers Digest sometime around 1979 and wanted to see if I still “had it”.  I’d had some of my poetry published and had won short story submission awards during my high school years.  I began writing stories purely for my own pleasure. I really enjoyed it. It was cathartic for me. Solitude in what was becoming an increasingly insane life

Early in our marriage my husband suggested I write stories for magazines like Playboy and Hustler.  You know the type – “Dear Madam X.  I can’t stop thinking about a fantasy …”.  Those types of “letters” are written by freelance authors and pay well per piece. My husband was the only intimate partner I had ever had so I was rather naive in terms of sexual fantasy. He suggested that I write what he told me he fantasied about, so I did.  He found the idea of his wife writing erotica, particularly HIS idea of erotica, highly arousing. He began suggesting more and more sexually deviant ideas for stories. In my limited experience and young age I found this very disturbing. During this time he confessed to me that he had been involved in a three way homosexual relationship when he was 16 years old.  He began suggesting we “role play” and act out my (his?) stories.  I stopped writing for him. That was when the emotional abuse began. His weapon of choice was guilt. He was very good at using it.

The bad part of my marriage really began when I was about 31.  For the next 15 years I lived for the weeks that he would be travelling for work. He traveled throughout our marriage on average about half the year. I welcomed the time away from him and alone with my kids.  By this time I had become accustomed to physical assault and mental abuse.   When he was away I was safe.  I enjoyed raising my children. I was very involved in their Montessori and public school lives, their extra circular activities.

In a way my children were my refuge. I raised my children as a single mother would have.  “When dad was away, the rest of the family would play …”  I would take them on outings their father had no interest in participating in. I would cook meals the kids loved that their father would not allow me to cook when he was home because he disliked them.  Simple things, but the things that truly knit a family together. But sadly, we were a family of only three, not four.

My daughter began horseback riding at age 4, my son played on 3 hockey teams and 2 baseball teams.  I was on many committees and president of many volunteer charity organizations.  I loved volunteering in the community and did a lot of it.  I was well known and well liked in our small town.  However, I was living a double life.  As my husband became more and more successful in his career he also became more controlling and abusive.  To the world I was the quintessential “trophy wife”.  I had the jewels, the cars, the perfect kids, the trips, the country estate home … On the surface I had a life my friends envied.

In private, I was nothing more than a sex object to be toyed with and punished if I did not please.  My husband insisted on practicing voyeurism, frequented swingers’ clubs, indulged in harmful fetishes, insisted I perform oral sex on random strangers in public and even pimped me.  I wrote a lot of poetry during this time, very dark and disturbing for the most part.

This lifestyle continued until 2005.  I had once tried to leave but he threatened to expose “my” lifestyle and have my kids taken away from me.  In my naivety I believed he could do it. Without a source of income of my own I could not support myself and my children. I couldn’t afford a lawyer to guide me and advise me. He was determined to keep me bound to him and without access to my own independent finances he was very effective at achieving it.

To add to the mix, from a young age I had suffered from a debilitating bone condition, or so I was told.  Between the ages of 34 to 37 I had six surgeries on my right leg.  By the time I was 39 I was in 2 leg braces and an arm brace. Occasionally I required a cane or even crutches to be able to walk. I was told by my surgeon at the time that I may as well “learn to use a wheelchair, watch soap operas and eat chocolates” because that was about the only future I had left.

I am a fighter and I have a strong sense of survival and I decided to take matters into my own hands and learn to walk again.  I joined a gym and began to work with a personal trainer and was on a strict strength training regime..  By age 41 I was strong again, walking, cycling, skating and among other things, put snow skis on my feet for the first time.

My daughter had become a downhill ski racer and I was president of the race club.  It made sense to me that if I was to spend a large portion of my time at ski hills I may as well spend it being active.  Two years later, without any kind of a ski lesson, my daughter’s race coach suggested I try to certify as an instructor.  To prove how ridiculous I thought the idea was, I took the course, expecting to fail.   He was right and I was wrong.  I passed!

That was 14 years ago. I have since built on that first certification and became a highly certified ski instructor. I began to believe I just might have the strength of character to stand up to my husband.  As a child I was belittled and ridiculed by both parents, and physically abused by my mother.  As an adult I was severely abused by my husband. My self-esteem was not great, to say the least, but obtaining that first certification after everything my body and my mind had been through proved to be my life line.

In 2005, the quintessential “empty nesters”, I convinced my husband to move from the home we had lived in all of our children’s’ lives.  We moved to an area where no one knew us.  For him this meant fresh “hunting grounds”.  For me it was a means to an end.  I encouraged him to buy a house that I knew would do well in the real estate market short term.  My purpose was to build my husband’s net worth.  I was getting ready to leave him.

I wasn’t proud to be an abused wife.  11 years ago I told my husband I wanted a divorce.  He begged me to give him a second chance.  He told me he would seek help with his deviant sexual behavior.  He promised to get counseling for the emotional and mental abuse.  He promised all kinds of things.  I stupidly gave him the benefit of the doubt. After all, by this time we had been married 27 years. But he did none of the things he promised.

For 5 more years I lived in a world of hell worse than anything I had ever known.  My health was bad, I was severally depressed, I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, my only confidante, my sister Vicky, died in 2010 of the same cancer. I had a leg that did finally give out and put me into a wheel chair.  I required a prosthetic implant and a 35 degree rotation of my right leg.  I required two surgical procedures to treat the cancer.

I didn’t see any end to the hell that was my life and so I chose suicide.  I decided to overdose on a painkiller cocktail, unaware that I was not alone in the house.  My husband found me as I was in the process of taking the pills and prevented me from taking the majority of them. He called 911 and reported my attempted suicide.  When the police arrived I was able to keep it together well enough to convince the officers I was fine and my husband had lied.

Just a few days later I received a call from my surgeon’s office.  There had been a cancellation and I didn’t have to wait any longer for my leg surgery.   The following week I was in the hospital, proudly showing off the 42 staples holding together my new leg.  I was given a 50% chance of making a full recovery and an expected two year rehabilitation timeline. I required home care and extensive therapy upon my discharge from the hospital. I was sent home a few days later, presumably with at home care, but in reality, my husband had left me alone to care for myself. He felt it was more important for him to be half way around the world in China “on business”.  But I don’t give up easily …

I had the surgery October 24th, 2010 and was back on my skis on December 23 of the same year.  Two months.  Not two years.  8 months later, in June of 2011 I walked my son down the aisle at his wedding and the following day I walked out of my marriage.

Now I own my own little home in one of my very favorite places, I re-connected with friends that my husband had banned me from seeing, I am making a new social life for myself, and I am very happy.  I am not lonely, and don’t mind being alone.  I am finding much joy in pursing lifelong dreams.  I am a hobby photographer, I collect classic cars, I love to spend time with my dog Dallas, I’m still working on improving my skiing even more, I began breeding and training rodeo horses and at age 52 learned to barrel race and even began competing in rodeos! More recently, and most rewarding of all,  I took up writing again. I am currently working on a novel.

I sometimes traveled with my now ex husband on business, but only where and when he said I could. He dictated my movements, both at home and abroad. It’s different now. I have taken control of my life. I make the decisions. I go where I want, when I want. I have hiked the Inca Trail in Peru, cruised the Nile River in Egypt, learned to read the Mayan calendar at Chitzen Itza, toured the Nazca Lines high in the Andes mountain range, visited floating islands hand made of lake reeds in Lake Titicaca, slept in netted hammocks slung in the trees of the Dominican rain forest, explored the battlements on Diamond Head in Honolulu and scuba dived the reefs of Bora Bora and Morea.  I’m not done exploring the world yet …

I realize now that I have never been in love.  I have never been loved except, perhaps, by my children and my sister Vicky.  But that’s ok. I still have a lot of life ahead of me. I love who I am and I do not dwell on who I once pretended to be.  I am proud of my strength and my accomplishments. I don’t mind chipping my manicure if I have to fix the plumbing.  I am gracious and I am goofy.  I talk a lot and listen even more.  I laugh and cry at the same time.  I dance in the kitchen and sing off key to the car stereo.  I am sophisticated and uncomplicated. I am content, well adjusted, at peace in my life and balanced in my soul.

I do not have a past, I have a future.

3 thoughts on “WHY GO INTO THE BASEMENT … ??”

  1. You are SO strong… to go through all those horrible, unspeakable things… and come out in the end to not only love yourself – but to want to help others through the process! I am new to blogging, too… and share the same mission… to shine a bright light on mental illnesses – so we that suffer can have reasonable and fair treatment. I was date raped… and I believe that the trauma of it (and the lack of oxygen… the experience of leaving my body during those 10 minutes of whatever… resulted in being bipolar w/ schizoaffective disorder. I’m 40 -never been married… no kids….but since i have the meds that are working for me…i have hope that i will have my own family one day. I’m going through a new therapy called Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). I like what you are doing in your blog! Keep it up! today i wish i could be as brave as you… in sharing the depth of the abuse and pain….

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    1. Thank you for your kind words and while I have just recently suffered a set back for the first time in 11 years, I will be back writing very shortly. Interestingly, it was blogging that brought about the relapse, but I have been able to use it as a positive step in my journey. Stay tuned for the whole story, and stay strong. 🙂

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