Click, click, and click. My eyes connected with my three boys as the last buckle snapped into place. My head suddenly screamed at me, Two minutes left! I ran back inside and opened the door of my girl’s room. I reached into the beds for my girls and lifted them both up: innocent, pure, and wide-eyed from being awakened in the middle of the night. My legs pumped back through the kitchen towards the van as I snuggled their faces against my chest to muffle their cries. Everyone is in the van! I thought. ONE minute LEFT! I turned to enter back into the basement apartment for the last time of my life.
Over the past nine years, I had to return to this basement over three different times. For the last time, I entered the kitchen door, where he first lifted me over the threshold—then life soon hit me that the “honeymoon” was over. Next, I passed the hallway were only two night before my legs dangled above the laminate flooring as his strong hands held my throat in a firm grasp and he hissed he “would have freedom!” I touched my throat at that memory as I ran through the living room. I bumped into the couch. That jarred another memory of how I would usually find his body in a hangover state of unconsciousness from his “self-medication” of drugs and alcohol.
I passed the bathroom where three years ago his paranoia and mind friends took control of him as he ripped off the pictures from the wall screaming, “Where are the cameras? Where did you put them? Why are you spying on me?” And finally, I passed the bedroom where 24 hours before, the cold steel blade of a knife was pressed against my neck as his eyes shifted from reality to his schizophrenic state of mind. He was trapped in his mental illness listening to his mind friends. His smoky breath fell across my face as he screamed, “I will have my FREEDOM! I will silence my family for my FREEDOM!”
Quietly my legs flew back to the girl’s room. I grabbed the final item, the collapsible crib. I clicked the rails, lifted the bottom, folded the sides, wrapped it and zipped it into the bag. With the crib in my hand, I tiptoed through the cereal crunched, milk spilled kitchen and into the garage for the last time. I left it all behind and shut the door to the basement apartment, never to return to the abyss of abuse.
How did I get out from nine years of living in the abyss of abuse with his mental illness to find a way out? What did I do? There is an old Native American saying that there are two wolves inside each of us: one of love and one of war. Which wolf wins? The answer, “The one you feed.” Again, the question is how did I get out? I finally stopped listening to the voice of the destroyer and turned to find pinpoints of light that my Heavenly Father placed for me as a guide to leave the abusive marriage.
It took learning how to pray and follow His direction to find the pinpoints of light. My answers were pinpoints of light over the nine years of domestic violence: 1) I kept my covenants, paid my tithing, and learned how to follow the promptings of the Spirit—those actions kept me anchored with faith to my Heavenly Father. 2) I worked with my Bishop and gained the strength. Through that strength, I knew the “timing” of when to leave. 3) I gained the perspective and answer that I could not help, fix, or lead him towards the light. He was in the hands of Heavenly Father—I had to LET GO! 4) I gained my financial independence by getting training and becoming a teacher (but it took five years in my marriage to reach that point). 5) Circumstances led me to a Police officer who gave me crisis center information. 6) The crisis center advocates helped me to obtain a Temporary Protective Order. And Finally 7) I was granted by the court a permanent protective order, then divorcement, and full custody of our children.
During my Master’s courses in Special Education, my learning cohort inadvertently became my counseling support. Their differing backgrounds and approaches to life pushed me to gain perspective. My employment became my financial support and my ticket to freedom. And, my co-workers became examples of what healthy and unhealthy relationships looked like. I observed how they communicated with one another in all of these settings. Through those observations, I gained perspective and hope that communication, friendships, and love could be developed.
With pen in hand, I would observe, record in my journal, and then read and re-read over and over again to find patterns, supports, structures, friendships, and the pitfalls that can happen to any of us. There were mental and emotional setbacks while I was healing; these occurred during my nightmares. The destroyer’s voice would hiss out lies, telling me that “You are too much: too much work, too many children, too much special needs, etc. Who would ever what you if you left? You have too much to deal with. You were too weak to help your own husband.” The destroyer pounded negative thoughts at my self-worth trying to get me to believe that I was worthless.
The haunting echo that bounced around in my head following these episodes, fortunately, didn’t last for long—there was no time to feed that wolf. Why? Because of the sheer volume of work that I had to do: I was a single mother of five children three of whom have Autism. I kept and keep my covenants. I was time teaching fifth grade to children with Autism. I was obtaining my teaching certification, and I was gaining my Master’s degree in Special Education all at the same time. As I focused on my work, my testimony and my life, I gained perspective and evidence of my blessings. That evidence silenced the destroyer’s voice because I cut off the food source.
As I fed the wolf of love, I learned two powerful points: 1) Heavenly Father’s love for all of His children is perfect. 2) Heavenly Father will not interfere with the agency of His children because of that love. Through our agency, we can choose light or darkness, love or war. How? By feeding the wolf of love, we are in tune with the promptings of the Spirit. By feeding the wolf of love we can have hope! And finally, by feeding the wolf of love we can find the pinpoints of light to guide us out of the abyss of abuse. Which wolf will win? The answer is the one that you feed.