Is this abuse?

I thought it would be a good idea to post a link to the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s  list of questions, “Is this abuse?”

I remember very clearly when I realized I was being abused by my ex-husband.

It was after I had already moved out.

That’s right: I didn’t name it as “abuse” or “domestic violence” before then. I just knew I was afraid of him and I thought my life was in danger — and I wanted to protect our young daughter from him, too.

I was sitting in an ugly brown office in the LA Courthouse, waiting for a mandatory appointment with a counselor. I don’t know if the law has changed since then — this was 1990 — but when you sought divorce and had children, it was mandatory that you speak with a court-appointed counselor.

Before the counselor came into the room, I noticed a poster on the wall, titled something about “domestic violence.” It asked if you had experienced any of the following things in your relationship — similar to the ones on this list, which is provided on helpguide.org (that page also has several good resources with contact information).

I checked every one. Every single one.

Examples: Does your partner hurt you or threaten to kill you? (Yes.) Does your partner force you to have sex? (Yes.) Does your partner criticize you and put you down? (Yes.)

I literally felt sick to my stomach, and I had the sensation in my head that I might faint.

How could this happen to me?

Because it happens all the time. To people like me. To people who are different from me. There are no lines of demarcation when it comes to domestic violence: it can happen to anyone.

Is it happening to you? I hope not, but if it is, please call the hotline and seek help: 1-800-799-7233.

Making my voice heard

Last year, I was supposed to give a speech at my friend’s company’s annual convention, because their one philanthropic endeavor was focused solely on supporting shelters for women who leave violent relationships.

Unfortunately, my friend’s company went out of business. And of course, I couldn’t give the speech.

But I’m resurrecting it. I don’t know exactly where I’ll give this speech just yet, but I figure I’ll write it and worry about the logistics later.

When I was starting to work on it before, I asked some women in an online support group what topics they thought I should cover. Here are some of their ideas:

  • Why doesn’t she just leave?
  • The universality of the experience: domestic violence doesn’t discriminate along class, educational or racial lines
  • The myth that it’s not real abuse unless it’s physical
  • The myth that it’s not physical abuse unless someone is hitting you
  • The myth that there’s some threshold number of incidents before it becomes abuse
  • The myth that if someone you know is being abused, it will be obvious
  • The myth that you can’t rape or sexually coerce someone in you’re in a relationship with/married to
  • “Everyone knows what domestic violence is, so why discuss it?” Wrong!

I think all of those are really important topics for a domestic violence speech.

Something else that has ahold of me is the detrimental effects on our society: all the women whose lives were derailed before they even began (like mine), and they never were able to develop into the person they were meant to be, sharing the gifts they were meant to share, contributing the way they were meant to.

I’ll consider all of these topics and others, and I’ll also plan on reading a few excerpts from my book. If you have ideas on what you’d like to hear from a domestic violence survivor, or if you’re a survivor yourself, please feel free to comment here and let me know your thoughts.

 

Is it possible?

About 18 months ago, my dear husband was in the throes of a major problem, which at the time I thought might be depression or some sort of dementia. His behavior toward me and his personality had altered drastically, to the point where I was literally afraid for him.

And to be honest, some of his behavior scared me, too. He seemed disconnected from reality, he became aggressive with me, and he seemed to not know me anymore, in a very real sense. Yes, he knew my name and all of that, but certain elements of our life together seemed to have vanished from his memory.

It was terrifying. Especially because at the time, I was going through trauma therapy related to domestic violence. So these alterations in his behavior and personality were very unnerving to me. It made my recovery process longer and more difficult, and I’m still struggling with all of that today.

That particular episode subsided some, but the remnants remain. He hasn’t been the same man I married for at least 10+ years and was recently diagnosed with dysthymic depression. Although he started an excellent treatment program 16 weeks ago, and we’ve noticed some positive changes, something still seems “off.”

Like we don’t have the full answer yet.

Yesterday, he went out to see some old friends for a barbecue. I had some other plans that I couldn’t cancel, so he left our home before I did. When he left, I looked into his eyes, and I said to myself, “He looks drugged.”

Not just tired. Not just depressed. Not just sad.

Drugged.

Let’s rewind to 18 months ago …

At that time, I was very suspicious that all of these personality changes that appeared to be some sort of mental illness or dementia were actually caused by a drug. The timing was just too coincidental, I thought. He started taking Mirapex for restless leg syndrome about 10 years ago: exactly the time in which we began to experience the first signs of his depression.

Eighteen months ago, I did some research into Mirapex and was quite disturbed by what I found. Long story short, it is in a drug class called “dopamine agonist,” meaning it activates dopamine receptors in the brain. Mirapex is typically used for Parkinson’s. Some of the possible side effects are depression and the resulting anhedonia (a classic symptom of depression that means people can no longer feel pleasure over the long term). Other side effects include personality changes, gambling addiction and other compulsive behaviors, like overeating. Many of these side effects, such as gambling, were either not known or had not been made public when he started taking Mirapex.

I read a lot of anecdotal evidence, as well, with many people describing their Mirapex-taking spouses as “totally changed, like I don’t recognize him anymore” — those kinds of statements. Many said they were divorced, as a result, or on the brink of it.

Is it possible? Could this drug be the root cause of my husband’s depression? And can he safely go off of it without being harmed, in the process — so we can see if it makes a difference?

In the meantime, I continue to struggle daily with living with a man who is so different from the person I married back in 1997. Perhaps someone without my history of domestic violence would be better able to deal with this, but I’m tired. Exhausted, really. Don’t have much strength left to cope, after all these years of tolerating the emotional void that has become the center of our marriage. Our anniversary is coming up next month, and I want an answer to the Mirapex question by then.

Stay tuned …

More than 700 copies sold

Just a quick post … I’m on a short vacation right now but will be returning home in a few days and will then resume writing here.

More than 700 copies of my book have sold, which is amazing to me. Is it a blockbuster? Well, technically, no. It makes me feel like perhaps I’ve been able to help a few people, which makes it a blockbuster for me.

More blog posts soon …