I was home alone, with mixed feelings about being home alone, trying to stay busy while also trying to enjoy the quiet of an empty house. A delicate balance.
It was too quiet though…
It was my ex’s birthday, and my kids were with him to celebrate as expected, most likely in some elaborate way as he now made a habit of doing since our divorce.
Still too quiet…
Then a text came through, from an unknown number. I get quite a few telemarketing calls and unknown numbers, since my phone number is from our previous move, and I never changed it after moving to another state. I know when I know someone from that area code, and I didn’t know this one.
But it was a text. And it simply said “Hey”.
I thought about it for a minute or two, trying to decide if it was a scam or telemarketing ploy, before responding “Hey”. Safe enough to see what happens.
I also considered that I had just gotten a new phone and all of my contacts may have not made the move over, because I’m kind of a tech idiot sometimes, maybe I did know this person? Maybe it was a previous contact from my first dating attempt so long ago?
I replied that I have a new phone and the name isn’t coming up…”Lol I’m a random person. I was just bored so I texted a random #. Care to chat? Lol”
That’s a new twist, funny too, didn’t see that coming.
Why not chat with an unknown texter? What else was I doing besides feeling sorry for myself, while debating about how many beers or glasses of wine was acceptable to drink before 5pm, while laying on the couch?
Our conversation went from that funny moment to something much deeper very quickly.
“Did you know being bored is a form of depression?”
“actually yes I did”
“Wow you’re smart. Lol most people don’t know that when I tell them”
“I’ve learned a lot about depression over the last few years”
True that. I have learned more than I ever expected or desired, to be honest. Hell, I was sitting there bored and slightly depressed when this text came through. Is the universe trying to tell me something?
Our texting continued, becoming more of an online therapy session pretty quickly. My random texter divulged that they suffer from depression, along with panic attacks, that was all too familiar to me.
We shared small details about ourselves, but enough to realize that neither of us was truly alone in what we felt, or what we went through. Sadly, it’s not that unusual to be sad, depressed, anxious and stuck in a bad relationship.
I offered the idea of therapy, explaining that it changed my life and my mental health, admitting that maybe had I done it sooner I possibly would have left my emotionally/mentally abusive marriage years earlier.
Even if you don’t get the right therapist the first time, which I didn’t, you needed to keep trying until you find someone that fits. Which I eventually did and it made all the difference in the world.
They even have apps for it now, I quickly found and shared by text.
Over the course of our texting conversation they revealed that they were in an abusive relationship, the last few years of a seven year relationship, and could not see a way to get out of it. That’s when my texter also revealed that “they” were in fact a woman, she had talked to friends and family about her situation over the last couple of years, only to hear the same suggestion, “just leave him”.
But it’s not that easy.
Statistically, it takes seven times for a victim to leave their abuser for good.
Early on, after my divorce, I had taken a 40 hour domestic violence training course with the idea (and hope) that I could eventually help other women break the cycle. It was hard to do, some of it triggering me, a reaction that I never expected, to the point that I would sometimes leave and cry in my car before driving home.
It unearthed so many buried memories, some that dated back to my childhood and the violence that I witnessed between my parents and my aunts and their partners, and some non-violent memories from my own marriage. I could feel my skin prickle, my brain begin to spin, and my stomach churn as I sat quietly at my six foot table surrounded by other women probably feeling the same things.
Quietly. Too quietly sometimes.
I had no idea how it had truly affected me until the bandaid was unknowingly ripped off with this course. I never took the next step to volunteer at the shelter, as much as I had planned to and wanted to, I was too unsure that I could handle it or be helpful at that point. I was too raw, too affected.
But that was then, and this is now. I’m a stronger, more healed version of myself now.
We texted for awhile longer, she asked if I was a doctor because I knew so much, but I assured her that I was just another woman with a lifetime of experiences to back me up. No PhD here.
She asked me if it ever gets better, and I am here to say that yes, it does.
She asked me how I will make sure that the next time I am in a relationship I will see the signs before it becomes toxic or abusive. I told her I didn’t really know. We just have to try our best, to learn from our previous experiences, and to give ourselves permission to walk away – or to push them away.
Creating boundaries of what is acceptable, for ourselves, even if it makes you feel like you’re being “difficult” is the key to your mental health and safety.
I told her that I’ve gone over the red flags from my marriage, and the dating that took place before, and I am using them as a starting point. I no longer make excuses for poor behavior or mistreatment that makes me feel bad about myself any longer.
“I need to get like you lol”
Yes, she does. And with the right help, she will. Hopefully.
A few months went by, the pandemic and quarantine had just begun, but she was always in the back of my mind, wondering if she had made the move to get out of it. Hoping that she was safe and healthy, and not stuck somewhere with her abuser.
During the pandemic and quarantine there has been a documented uptick in the number of calls to the domestic violence hotlines, as well as increased numbers of injuries being documented in the hospitals.
This is a dangerous time for current victims of domestic abuse, they have nowhere to go and their abusers are more likely to be home with them all day and night, leaving them little opportunity to seek help.
The possibilities are endlessly disturbing and frightening.
I texted her to let her know that I was just thinking about her and hoping that she was well. She responded and said she was well, which gave me a small bit of relief. Then again, what was I going to do if she wasn’t?
I didn’t even know her name. Or where she lived.
A few more months went by and she texted me out of the blue, “…thanks for the time you spoke with me that really made my day & I still think about it occasionally…”
She signed her name.
She now has a real name in my contacts, with the title “random texter” for reference. She sounded happier, upbeat, and that made me glad. Still not sure of her relationship status, but it wasn’t my place to question just to be there if she needed support.
Then last weekend, I woke up to a new text, “Hey! Good news. Yesterday was my birthday I turned 24 and also ended my abusive relationship…I had to basically teach myself self love while in an abusive relationship and you were one step of the way in the journey.”
Tears of joy, and relief. Disbelief too.
It all started with a random text.