This is My Story Then

This is my story then.

It happened very quickly.

He pinned me up against the wall, his hands choking me. I don’t talk about it much, but I will now. It happened long ago. Over twenty five years now. To be bluntly honest, I knew the minute I met him he was not right for me. I knew it. I felt it in my solar plexus – the core of my being, as my acupuncturist would say. Dead smack center. I knew it. And I didn’t pay attention. I didn’t pay attention to a lot of things back then, mostly my own inner voice that often and reliably spoke the truth to me, “HE is not right for you,” my inner voice said on more than one occasion. I didn’t listen. We were together for almost five years. He, like myself, was a writer. Writers, incase most of you don’t know go under the category of freelance. Which means in part that it’s not a very stable or reliable source of either income or confidence. Back then, twenty five some odd years ago, we – he and I – were trying to break into the film business. And the film business is a very competitive and heart breaking business. It’s heart breaking even if you’re successful. We wrote screenplays — sold a few, became moderately successful, as in: people knew who we were and hired us. We were known as script doctors. A term that is somewhat deceptive. Although, in the Jewish community, it gave my mother a bit more clout when she spoke of the work I was doing. “A doctor.” The thing was, when we weren’t working, he felt completely powerless. He became belligerent, mean, and moody. He was a malcontent — moping, and stewing, and spewing. I would come home and find him reclining in his own misery – sitting in the dark. And while we had great flurries of work, we also had months on end when nothing seemed to generate. I knew this going into the film business. What I didn’t know was how brutal it can be on the ego, particularly, an ego that is fragile at best. Someone once told me that the film business teaches you how to love yourself. What it doesn’t teach you is how to love someone else. “He is not right for you.” My inner voice would say, loud and clear. I ignored it. I heard it, but I paid no attention. I believed with every fiber in my being that I could change him. If I were just a bit kinder, nicer, sweeter, more generous, more understanding – he would stop being so unhappy. I could save him from his misery. It began with yelling and screaming. Escalating into the breaking of things and walking out, being gone for hours on end. I of course would scream back and often be the first to slam the door. Out of guilt, I would return, apologizing for…my bad behavior. I would call my friends, and they would encourage me that it wasn’t my fault. I made a ton of excuses for him: he’s not working, he’s unhappy, he’s trying to find himself, oh, you know, Hollywood can be so cruel, etc., etc., etc., etc. As I look back on that time, what I really see is a girl with very little self-esteem. Someone desperately wanting to be loved, someone not quite sure of her place in the world, or where she belonged; someone who believed that others had more power or control. I see a young girl who never really believed that she deserved to be happy, whose choice in men mirrored her lack of self-confidence and reinstated that misguided belief system over and over and over again. And then I hit a comfort zone – where familiarity absolutely breeds contempt. A place, as my friend Emi once reminded me, that at best, was less than mediocre. It happened very quickly. He pinned me against the wall, his hands choking me. It felt like an eternity. I managed to gather enough saliva and spit in his face. He slapped me hard. I pushed myself away from the wall. I looked into his eyes; they were dull and flat and hateful. There was a loud exchange of words, and he came after me again. I held my hand up and screamed, “If you touch me one more time…” Just as I don’t exactly recall what it was that made him lunge after me, I don’t recall what it was that stopped him dead in his tracks. Maybe he saw himself in the full-length mirror leaning up against the wall that he had pinned me to. I grabbed a bunch of clothes, throwing everything into one suitcase, along with some very personal items, and left. I got into my car, and drove away. I never once looked in the rearview mirror. I drove straight to a friend’s house. A friend he didn’t know – my friend, not our friend. I had black and blue bruises that went all around my neck right down to my clavicle. Cell phones were not popular back then, so he had no way of finding me, or getting in touch. I called my parents and told them that we had broken up. I didn’t mention the abuse. My father gently reminded me that he was not very fond of this guy from the get go. I asked them to not tell him where I was. I stayed with my friend for a few weeks. I tried covering the bruises with make-up, but it couldn’t cover up my shame. I was filled with unbelievable shame. The kind that makes you want to stay in bed and hide from the world. His father had abused his mother. His grandfather had abused his grandmother. His brothers, all four of them, abused their girlfriends and wives. We watch, we learn. We repeat patterns. I had no desire to return to him. I walked out of that relationship a bruised, scared, shameful girl and emerged (through great support, love, nurturing and time) a brave, fearless, courageous woman. What I know now is that it took a horrible, poisonous experience – being abused and mistreated – to uncover my truth: the power, the beauty, and the unlimited potential of who I was truly meant to be. “Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” – Indian Proverb.

My story.

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6 Responses to “This is My Story Then”

  1. Denise Fey

    Amy, you have this uncanny knack for reaching into my soul and pulling out feelings that are hidden deep within.. I am so proud of your courage to speak of your experience and to have grown into the strong vibrant women you are today.
    With tears I am going to openly admit that I am living day by day in a verbally abusive relationship and don’t know why it has been so difficult to simply walk away – Close the door behind me – Regain my self
    confidence, strength and self respect. An on again off again 10 year relationship that never changes, only settles down to a quiet co-existence occasionally. 10 years of inwardly saying “I can’t do this any longer” and outwardly doing nothing to make it change. 10 years of stress eating myself into a larger than life version of who I used to be. Now is the time to start living again. Time to start living the life I want rather than the life I am settling for. Big Hugs Amy. Thank you!!

  2. Madge

    Amy, thanks for sharing. All of these experiences led you to Ken, a gentle loving man. Too bad it took some awful ones along the way.

  3. Debra DeAngelo

    Amy….. ((((((HUG)))))

    My mother was battered by my father and her second husband. When I got married the first time, I told my husband right from the start: The first time you hit me or are physically violent with me, I will leave you.

    The trouble is, he knew how to walk that line carefully. He’d break my things, grab a glass of wine away from me and throw it in my face, or punch the wall right next to my head and leave a dent or hole in it. But he never actually touched me, in his mind not breaking The Rule, and in my mind, not recognizing violence and intimidation for what it is. I didn’t understand that he was battering my soul every day, with both words and actions.

    But one day, he grabbed me by the arm and shook me hard enough to leave finger-shaped bruises on my arm. That was the trigger. I filed for a divorce the next day.

    I don’t know if I ever felt shame about this… the feeling was more like deep dark despair. I looked at all of life from under the deep murky water back then. BUT… when I held fast to what I said… touch me and I’ll leave you… I felt SO empowered and intact and proud of myself.

    We were divorced six months later. End of chapter, turn the page.

    Thank you for sharing your story, Amy. I wish upon wish that every hand that touches you for ever after will be loving and kind and gentle. It is what you deserve.

  4. kristine

    you are brave, so very very brave…

    Once upon a time…my family blew up, there was no one left…each thrown to different corners of the earth licking their invisible wounds.

    I needed someone. I needed anything that resembled a family, or someone who saw that I had value.

    I settled. He was an alcoholic and I had had two cocktails my entire life. We were not a good match. He was older, worldly, accomplished. I was fresh out of college with no where to go and unsure of how to create a life for myself. So when he said, “you don’t have to do anything, just come along for the ride.” I did.

    He was jealous when he was sober, threatened to kill a waiter on more than one occasion when they looked at me a second too long. Once, while visiting with a co-worker in a bar after work, Mr. Wrong came up from behind HIM and shoved his head into the quite large bowl of prepared avocado nestled in the salad bar.

    I stayed, afraid that HE might be as good as it got for me…that he might be the only one who found any value in me…I stayed cause I was convinced I couldn’t stand on my own two feet.

    One threat lead to another; pushing me out of the car in the middle of the night, name calling at parties, breaking windows, doors, etc. I finally decided that ALONE was better than DEAD. I snuck off while he wasn’t looking…to this day I don’t think he noticed or particularly cared….

  5. Donald Sanders

    Men that abuse women have what I call, “The Little Man Syndrome.” They are little men that consider themselves big. The tools that they use are always the same. (loud voice-physical abuse) Men like this consider themselves to be above a mere woman and are therefore controlling and abusive. They are good a twisting the situation around to persuade you to do things his way. Little boys are taught this starting at a very young age through observation and imitation of their father. Only a mother using the tools of love can insure that their sons do not fall into this catagory.
    Boys learn very early that it is ok to press your will upon others that are smaller or weaker. On a larger scale, this very thing explains why many men feel it is OK for one country to force itself on another, thus war. It all can be tied to the upbringing of your sons. A strong and loving mother makes strong and loving sons and husbands.

  6. Aprille Bernard

    Amy Amy..makes you love Ken all that much more..when you see how low down and dirty life is. From 15 on I spent with men one point or another, decided it was ok to get physically violent with me. It started innocently enough. Yelling, verbal abuse, spiritual abuse and then it would turn physical. All but the first one I left right away. He was my first physically. I was a virgin. 5 yrs and I thought it was me. He lived with us and my mom always told me I MADE him do it. She would say I pushed him. It was all about control. My mother could no longer control me. She felt he could take her place. The saddest part? I was a good girl. Always in school, did my homework, my chores. I was the good girl. He died about 3 years ago, alone, with his little dog. He was not found for 3 days. I knew he was sick, in and out of the hospital and caught up with him. He apologized for what he did to me. I lived that abuse thru 3 more relationships, staying with one for much too long just because of the fact that he never hit me. Stupid right? All the other stuff was there. I am with a beautiful man now. I have come so far. There are still bullies in this world. I am sometimes still that scared little girl that men came after at 6 and 8 and 9 years old. My little girl inside has grown from 5 to 9 in 2 years. That is what love will do. That is what real love will do. Much hugs and thank you for sharing this with all of us.

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