What happens when the rose-colored glasses break

I’ve been hearing that a lot. Like it’s some sort of valid argument against the fact that a vast majority of women are raped and/or abused at some point in their lifetime.

Meanwhile, I’m just over here putting the pieces of MY life back together. Trying to figure out how I even got in this mess to begin with. These days they claim that a lot of adult problems stem from childhood trauma, right? Mommy or daddy issues, SA, or something of that variety. The thing is, I was raised in a good home. Pastor’s kid, both parents still together, nothing significant to speak of. Through the healing journey, more memories surface. But still the mystery remains. How did I end up in not one, but two abusive relationships? Both rapists, but not my only rapists.

And then I remember.

The pedophile in church.

You read that right.

I’m a pastor’s kid. I grew up in church. My dad’s church. Which happened to have a pedophile in the congregation. A pedophile determined to “marry” one of the pastor’s daughters: ME. Oh, sure, I was never full-blown raped by this man. That’s mostly thanks to my own vigilance than any protection from anyone else. Growing up, I and other girls my age were frequently encouraged to ride with this creep (in his car) to outreaches or other church functions. I was very vocal about my discomfort and the inappropriate things he said and did when no one else was watching. Occasionally, someone took me seriously and said something. Once he got “kicked out” of the church – but only for a few months and then was allowed to return – only to pick up where he left off. For the most part my protests were ignored. I was treated like I was making things up to cause drama. The “not all men” who should have been a safe space for me made light of what was happening. In the church! I’ll never forget the time I went to my dad (the pastor) about something that happened after a church service and he laughed at me. I guess my concerns were ridiculous and petty.

It’s no wonder I stopped speaking up whenever a man chose to harass me. It’s no wonder I learned to tolerate and accept verbal, physical, and sexual abuse from men. It’s no wonder I never bothered – in fact, was afraid – to report the many crimes that have been committed against me over the years. Why bother? Our police and court systems are run by men who will spend more time and energy interrogating the victim than the offender.

The “not all men” camp don’t actually care. Not even a little bit.

That includes my own dad.

The evidence is in their silence.

Over the last week I’ve felt a noticeable shift, emotionally. The bad days are still there, but they’re getting less intense. The good days are blanketed in an overwhelming feeling of peace and calm. I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors. The weather is absolutely gorgeous. The cold, dark winter feels like a bad but vivid memory. The air is calm and mild. The days are long again. The chorus of the birds around me lifts my spirits. The sunsets warm my soul – you know I love a good sunset. Even the sound of the train in the not-so-distance is welcomed.

The logical part of me wants to credit the change of seasons for this refreshing feeling of … Alive! But I know it’s far more than that. I missed all of this, entirely, last year. It’s the absence of that constant heaviness in my chest. The sheer exhaustion. The irritability. The deep, burning sadness. It’s like those things have dissipated into the atmosphere.

The only time I feel any of them returning is when I’m somewhere I might bump into Garrett. Even then it’s not so heavy. I recite all the things I might say – or not say – to him in that moment. But I also remind myself that he’s a coward and likely wouldn’t approach me in public or anywhere with potential witnesses. I think he’s stopped stalking me, but I don’t know – I haven’t been looking for him and I haven’t asked if there’s been any sightings. I don’t care. I would much rather enjoy my peace than give him any more space in my mind.

This last weekend was Memorial Day Weekend. In the days leading up to it, I felt a bit panicked. What would I do? Normally we would put the boat in the water, go fishing, swim, grill steaks or tacos. I had no one to fill that time with me – all of my friends are traveling or had plans with family. Before Garrett I would spend the weekend with my own family, at the beach, having bonfires and backyard barbecues. But here, that isn’t an option. I seriously started to panic. So I decided to take a little staycation. Get an AirBnb in a nearby city I’ve been meaning to explore. Problem is, the place I fell in love with got booked as I was looking at it and all the others were just too large for a single person. Then came the sense of dread that I would end up spending the weekend working, just to start the work week already burned out – UGH!

I ended up having an incredible weekend. When Saturday came I gave myself permission to stay in bed for no reason other than to exercise my freedom to do whatever I wanted. Then I started on some projects I’d been meaning to get done. I made a list of things I wanted to do – both chores and pleasure – and I checked them off one by one. I stocked up on healthy foods, I fixed/replaced things that he broke, I purged, I did some clothes shopping.

Monday, Memorial Day, was the best day by far. I went on that long bike ride I’ve been wanting to do. Just shy of 22 invigorating miles in the most perfect weather. A friend recently encouraged me to start venturing out on my own, so Monday afternoon I decided to go watch a water ski show. Alone. I had an absolute blast! As I was sitting there in a crowd of people I realized how much more enjoyable this was without feeling obligated to converse with someone – while at the same time having the freedom to interact with anyone around me if I chose. After the show I took a walk on the beach, watched the sunset from the pier, and then treated myself to a nice meal at a restaurant with an outdoor patio in earshot of live music from down the road. I even made friends with the dog and her humans at the table next to me.

That evening, as I was reflecting on my weekend activities, I wondered why the challenge of enjoying activities alone seemed so daunting. It honestly didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. Then I realized I used to do this sort of thing all the time. From stargazing in the middle of the night to trips to the beach, to runs in the park or hikes wherever, to exploring a random farmer’s market. You name it, I did it. If someone wanted to join, great – I always enjoy good company – but if no one was interested, no big deal. That’s when I realized for three and a half years I was groomed – trained like a dog – to not go anywhere or do anything without Garrett. Attempting to do so would be met with passive-aggressive comments or outright complaints later. Turns out, it was never me who couldn’t stand to do things alone. It was Garrett. That man wouldn’t even go to the grocery store by himself! If he couldn’t have them delivered he would send his son. Worst case scenario, if he had to step foot in the grocery store I absolutely HAD to go with him. Even a quick gas station beer run required my company (Zach isn’t yet old enough to do beer runs).

So now I know. This wasn’t even my insecurity – it was imposed on me. All I needed was a push from a friend to remind me of just how much I enjoy my own company – and how capable I am of connecting with positive people when I’m in my authentic version of myself.

This weekend left me with the incredible sense of taking my power back.

I am going to have the best summer ever.

I am starting to feel alive again.

I am back on my bike and just loving my evening rides. I did 14 miles today. Soon I can start towards my goal of reaching the end of the trail. But for now I’m enjoying the speed, feeling my lungs expand with fresh, clean air. Springtime is beautiful here. I stood on my deck and watched the bats fly around at sunset. I love that we have bats here.

Last week my daughter visited for her birthday. We had such an amazing time together. For the first time in years we were able to freely enjoy each others’ company with no interference. I think it was good for both of us. Then I went and visited family. Spent precious time with my dad and two of my sisters. I can’t even begin to explain how therapeutic it is to just be in the presence with good people who love me, no matter what. They ground me. They remind me of who I am – who WE are. I am reconnecting with friends again.

My therapist gave me a list of amazing hiking spots – they are officially on my to-do list. He encouraged me to reach out to friends. We talked about me being indecisive, and he challenged me to work on making decisions.

I was asked the other day if I would go on a blind date. That was my first noteworthy decision – no. I’m not ready. Right now I’m focusing on healing and getting back to ME. The old me would have felt bad saying no and decided to give it a try. But right now I am also working on setting my boundaries, being true to myself, and saying “no” (and sticking with it) when it’s what’s best for me. I have zero information on this guy, other than he’s older than me and I trust the recommending person’s judgment. There’s a good chance he’s a good guy. If that’s the case he would respect my need for time and space. If he doesn’t, he’s not someone I should have in my life anyway. Right now my goals are to heal, get to a place where I never again tolerate mistreatment, and not allow the scars from my past to hurt another person. That means no dating until I’m back to being ME again – and have gained the strength to never again allow a man to stifle the best in me and bring out the worst. If I’m being totally honest, it was good for my ego. Lord knows after all of the verbal abuse I’ve endured, my self esteem could use a boost.

Today is 7 weeks no contact, which ties the record without a cluster b episode and discard. My mind is still untangling past events. Now it's things I had completely forgotten about. It's like I'm seeing these events in the natural sunlight for the first time. I'm realizing with a new clarity how early and intricate the deception was.

I'm still angry. Not always and I don't dwell on it, but every once in a while a memory hits and I'm pissed at both the abuse and the enablers. I still want to set the record straight. I still want to expose him. I still want to warn potential future victims. I still want to watch when karma collects her dues. But I don't attempt any of these things. I know how they would end.

I am stronger now. Instead, when this happens I focus on myself. I reconnect with my passions. The gym and my bike have become my lifeline. My body is responding faster than expected. I guess I had more trapped cortisol than I realized. I'm sleeping better, though not yet completely normal.

Yesterday I looked in the mirror. Really looked. The woman staring back at me was not the woman he abused and discarded. She was also not the woman he met. She was an entirely new person. She had a light in her eyes. A strength in her gaze. A determination in her shoulders. She was beautiful. As I stared I realized this woman would terrify him. His insecurities would cower in her presence. As they should.

The next milestone is my daughter's birthday, followed by Mother's Day. Both are days I've come to dread because of his obsessive hatred and his tendency to throw temper tantrums right before days that mean something to me. This year I get to celebrate both days however I choose, with people who actually DO love me and without DRAMA!!!

Next after that is the one year anniversary of Tori's death. That will be an extremely hard day. But I must stay away at all costs. I must not allow myself to be available as his emotional punching bag. She is gone. Grieving with him won't bring the comfort I think it will. I can honor her best by honoring and maintaining the no contact she herself implemented 6 months before her death. He can live the rest of his life without both of us. Which is exactly what he wanted anyway, isn't it?


It still hits me at random times and almost always without warning. The most unexpected things will send me right back to that place.

It happened again this afternoon. I was busy at work, reviewing medical records for a girl in her 20s involved in a car accident. Nothing too out of the ordinary – until I got to the medivac records. Still, nothing crazy. It wasn’t a life-threatening injury. She just needed to be transported to a different hospital and helicopter was the best way.


Next thing I know I’m back in that time and place. It’s a gorgeous June morning. The sun is shining and the weather is perfect. I barely notice because I’m sitting by the entrance of the hospital impatiently awaiting a distinct sound that’s taking way too long. Finally I hear it: an engine approaching from above. It gets so close I can hear the blades spinning and the wind under them. Inside that helicopter is my step-daughter, unconscious and unaware of what is happening. I know it’s bad. I have my fears, but don’t yet know for sure how bad.

The following evening I listened to that same sound two more times. Once as the chopper arrived, empty. Again a few hours later – this time carrying only vital organs of the previous morning’s passenger. Pieces of that beautiful girl on a mission save as many lives as possible. Between those flights the sky opened up and poured down rain. Both times I stopped and listened, silently acknowledging what was happening. Everyone else carried on with what they were doing, seemingly unaware of the significance of those moments and that sound.

I guess helicopters are a trigger now, too.

I struggled to get through the rest of those medical records. It took me much longer than it should have. That girl is going to be fine. She is not Tori. Her injuries healed. She will probably never take another helicopter ride, but I’m pretty sure she’ll remember the one she did.

That feeling that I can’t describe hasn’t yet faded back into whatever corner it has been hiding in. The reality and the horror. The time between those helicopters was an absolute nightmare that seemed to go on forever. The amount of trauma that life can manage to cram into a less than 48-hour period is unfathomable. I would never believe it if I hadn’t lived it. The hell that ensued in the weeks and months afterwards … I don’t think there’s a novelist in the entire span of time and space with a comparable imagination.

At the end of it all, when the world resumes spinning, the reality still remains.

She’s gone.


I will never get to know her as well as I wanted to. I was just getting started. There will be no weddings or babies, or even just holidays. I can’t text her on a Saturday morning to see if she wants to grab brunch or send her a picture of something that reminds me of her. Since then, her dad’s abuse has escalated to the point where I finally had to cut him off completely. I can’t even share those moments or memories with him or her brother. Or her mom, or her family, or anyone other than my own daughter – who is struggling as well.

I guess I’ll just keep them to myself.

I love you, Beautiful Girl.

This word was introduced into our relationship very early on. He told me his last ex-girlfriend was a narcissist.

I thought we shared some common ground on this topic. I told him I suspected my ex-husband might have been a narcissist. I hadn’t even heard the word until many years after my divorce. As the word gained attention a lot of the descriptions made a lot of sense. The grandiosity. The love-bombing. The outrageous stories. The pathological lying. The mood swings. The projecting. The twisted sense of reality. The accusations of things I later learned he was actually doing. The triangulation. The rumors he spread about me (and others) – in an effort to turn people against me. The fits of rage. The holes in walls. The messes. The cheating. The controlling. Hours spent hiding from him and crying. The constant fear. The gaslighting. The fact that even to this day I have no idea what was true and what wasn’t.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but he had no such similar experiences to share. He simply claimed that their couples counselor told him she was a narcissist and to run. He complained a lot about her son. He said her son’s bedroom was a mess. That it smelled and he ruined the carpet. That instead of making her son do his chores, she would cover for him – get up early and do his chores for him so he wouldn’t get in trouble. He claimed she said hurtful things to him. Things like she didn’t “need” him. He complained about her girlfriends and how much time she spent with them – especially the best friend that didn’t like him. He claimed he took her son in as his own and helped her through some legal issues with her (abusive) ex. (I later learned that he got in contact with her ex and promised to help him gain custody of her son.) He bragged about throwing her out of his house. From what I understand, when they broke up she moved out and that was the end of that.

At first I believed the things he said about her. But as time went on things just weren’t adding up. She disappeared so quietly and just moved on with her life. If she was a narcissist, where was the grandiosity? The obsession with her image? The love-bombing? The hoovering? The smear campaign? The cheating? The controlling?

He clearly held a lot of bitterness towards her but I couldn’t really figure out why. Some of the things he said about her seemed exaggerated or blown out of proportion. Then I started noticing similarities between the way he talked about her and her son and the way he talked TO me and my daughter. It started to look a lot like he simply has a problem with other women’s children. The issue of chores, for example. My daughter was responsible for MOST of the cleaning in the house. No matter how hard she worked, she could never do anything right in his eyes. The rules he placed for her (and me) did not apply to himself or his son. I found myself keeping a log and taking before and after pictures to prove that she had done her chores. I couldn’t help but notice that the things he was saying about his ex’s son were very similar to the accusations he was making about my daughter.

I started realizing he was also this way with his “own” daughter – who is not biologically his. The expectations he set for her were much higher than the ones he set for his biological son. The way he spoke about her at times was appalling. Very little of what she did went unnoticed and the repercussions were often harsh. In contrast, his son is mostly free to do as he pleases. Things like ignored chores or wild parties when dad is away were generally overlooked.

His ex-girlfriend was the first person I heard him call a narcissist. He also implied that her son was one (he was a young child). In the early months of our relationship he started suggesting that my daughter was a narcissist. A few months later he graduated to calling me that as well (among many other things). Fast forward a year or so to a conversation I had with his daughter. She informed me, without any knowledge of my story, that he had called both her and her mom narcissists.

So who really is the narcissist in this story? How can it be that almost every woman in this man’s life is a narcissist? AND her children?? This leads me back to the story of the counselor calling the ex-girlfriend a narcissist. Is that really how that went down? What is the ex’s side of the story? Could it be that the counselor was actually warning the girlfriend of his narcissistic traits?

I wish I could ask her.

Is this woman really who he says she is? Or is she actually a survivor who managed to escape before too much damage was done?

One thing I do know: she is a strong woman and I am proud of her.

We all see those social media posts raising awareness for things like cancer, autism, or other disabilities. The same goes for fundraisers for local or international tragedies. Sometimes we share them ourselves – usually only if it's something we've personally been through, or know someone going through that particular situation.

What if I told you that every single person reading this message personally knows at least one person who has experienced or currently is experiencing domestic abuse? In fact, you probably know quite a few people silently suffering from this pandemic and you don't even know it.

Or you do.

Maybe they've tried to tell you. Maybe you have your suspicions. Maybe they've tried asking for help just to get dismissed. Because you don't want to get involved. Your life is much more comfortable staying out of it, right? Maybe you avoid the topic because some of the stories you hear are similar to some things you've done in the past. Speaking out about mistreatment might mean holding yourself accountable for your own behaviors. Someone might disagree with you (God forbid) or look down on you for whatever reason. You might lose some friends or even family. But what if I told you the people that would turn away from you for using your voice against abuse are most likely abusers themselves?

If I told you that tomorrow you could lose a loved one because of abuse, would that change your position? If, in the wake of someone's passing, you discovered they had spent the last several years living an abusive nightmare would you wish you had done more? Would you wish you had spoken up or reached out to help? Would you kick yourself for not noticing the signs that are oh so obvious now?

The thing about abusers is they are everywhere. They are in your grocery stores, in your workplace, in your neighborhoods, maybe even in your church. So are their victims. They are carrying huge secrets – too ashamed to admit what is happening to them or too scared to speak up. At the same time, they are silently praying someone will notice.

Some of these victims might have finally found the courage to speak up, just to be silenced. Often times it's the abuser that shuts them down with threats, gaslighting, deflecting, blackmail, or more abuse. Many abusers will even go so far as to spread nasty rumors about their victim to make them look like the abuser (or crazy) so nobody will help them.

Sometimes it's the bystanders who keep them silent with their judgmental questions, apathy, or useless advice.

“Why did you ___?” “He's such a nice guy, he would never do that” “He's never done that to me” “It must have been something you did” “Have you tried couples counseling?” “If it was that bad you would leave” “Why do you keep ____?” “Call the police” “Just file a restraining order”

What many people don't realize is that often times in cases of true abuse the “solutions” they offer could actually create an even more dangerous situation. True abusers are manipulative and vindictive. They will manipulate their friends, their family, the police, the court systems, even therapists into believing they are not the problem. They will also retaliate and when they do, their punishments are harsh. Abusers don't fight fair – things are never equal. Payback for exposing them is severe and it is cruel.

So why would you get involved? Why in the world would someone willingly put themself in harms way to protect someone?

Because abusers see your silence as approval. Justification. Support. Because with every perceived nod of approval they become more bold. More hurtful. More dangerous. To a victim your silence is defeat. Very, VERY few people are successful in escaping without help. How can they find help when no one will listen? When they are met with silence? Or judgment? When they are surrounded by people who have bought into their abuser's lies? If they do manage to make it out on their own, it often takes a very long time with a LOT of strategic planning – all while being dismissed, judged, and questioned by the very people they so desperately wish would help them.

Because abuse isn't a genetic trait – it's learned. Deep down, abusers are extremely insecure. They crave approval and control. Their abuse escalates into manipulation, gaslighting, and slander because they are very concerned about their image. The thought of people thinking less of them will eat them alive to the point of obsession. If they were confronted about their abuse by someone other than their victim there might actually be a chance of them stopping their abuse.

Because abusers don't just create victims – they recruit and train as needed. An abuser rarely abuses alone. Again, the disapproval of others discourages that behavior. They NEED the approval of others. Most abusers are also parents. A vast majority of their children will end up becoming a victim of abuse or an abuser themselves. There is no neutral zone as far as an abuser is concerned. You are either with them or against them. Again, silence is perceived as support.

Because one day that victim might be someone you love. Your friend. Your coworker. Your sister. Your cousin. Your niece. Your mother. Your grandparent. Even your daughter. People who look up to you. People who trust you. People who NEED you. People who may one day need to turn to you for help. People who will see your silence as exactly how their abuser sees it: support of the abuser.

When it comes to abuse … Silence = Support.

April 30, 2021. Tori was over after taking Madeline driving. Garrett, Tori, and I were on the back patio talking. For whatever reason, the conversation turned political. Garrett is borderline conservative extremist to the point where he won't even associate with someone he views a liberal and often has rude things to say about their character based on their political opinions (or his assumptions of their opinions). Tori is (was) liberal leaning but usually very careful to avoid discussing politics – especially with her dad.

At some point in the conversation, Garrett decided to start talking trash about the BLM movement and voicing his opinions on social media telling people what to believe. He brought up crime and incarceration statistics, arguing that black people are more likely to commit violent crimes. Tori argued that white men are more likely to commit sexual crimes (and get away with them) and that she often felt safer with black men than white men. Garrett responded with an underhanded, rude comment clearly meant to get under her skin. I wish I could remember what it was. Possibly something about white men being wrongfully accused – he often uses the Judge Kavanagh debacle to argue this point whenever the topic comes up. Tori got very quiet, clearly upset, and quickly came up with an excuse to leave.

Not long later I received a text from her apologizing for getting “angry” (she was nowhere near angry). She told me something had happened to her – twice, both by white men, and that the first time it was a black man who walked her to class so she would feel safe at school again. She also said the first time her dad didn't believe her because she didn't want to report it.

Let me break that down for you:

His daughter was assaulted. In SCHOOL. By a white “man.” She tried to tell him. He DIDN'T BELIEVE HER. Flat out dismissed her. It happened more than once.

If there is ONE PERSON in the entire world a girl should feel the safest with, the once person she should be able to count on to protect her – it should be her dad. Hands down, without question, a daughter should ALWAYS feel that she can count on her dad to be there for her. To believe her. To protect her.

But not this dad. This dad refused to believe her. This dad downplayed what happened to her and treated her as though she made it up. And then he completely forgot about it.

I believe her.

Tori doesn't know this, but he also did the same to me. Ignored me every single time I tried to open up to him about things that have happened to me in the past. Or he changed the subject. Or he argued. Brought up that Judge Kavanagh thing. Every. Single. Time.

After Tori's death he flat out accused me of lying about my past experiences. Out of the blue, for no reason at all – other than to hurt me. (Why would anyone make something like that up? With absolutely no motive.)

Tori also didn't know that her dad would one day become a member of that club. It's no surprise, knowing how flippant he is about the subject and how good he is at dismissing and justifying his behaviors.

Today I'm remembering what Tori told me about her dad stealing from her.

I don't remember the story verbatim. She's gone now so I can't ask her to remind me of details.

She was young – 17 or 18. Garrett was still on her bank account because she was a minor when it was set up.

If I recall correctly, he was moving and wanted her to help. She was no longer living in his home. She had plans, so she couldn't. Or maybe it was something with expecting her to help with the household bills even though she was no longer living there. Either way, he expected something of her that she was not obligated to give.

He punished her by cleaning out her bank account.

Took everything.

Somewhere around $2,000. She had to jump through hoops at the bank to get his name off her account. Went in person and met with a manager. Eventually managed to get him removed.

I was horrified when I heard this. What “parent” does this?

He doesn't know I know this. Of course he would deny it.

I believe her. I know she's not a liar.

Tori was a sweet, kind, beautiful soul. I know for a fact she did not make these stories up. The things she told me – without even knowing my own experience – is proof enough.

I will be the voice he fought so hard to silence. I will forever defend that beautiful girl.

My daughter from another mother.

He has stolen from others too. He stole from me in many ways – the most blatant was when he held my snowmobile hostage, sold it to pay his mortgage (because he was unemployed), and never gave me a dime. Not even when he could afford to. (I bought it for $3,500 the year before.)

He stole from his friend Keith – “borrowed” money and then refused to pay it back. Cut off ties and blocked him instead. I believe around $3,000.

In a way, he stole from his own son.

When Tori died, Garrett got the bulk of her life insurance policies. (I have no doubt she was manipulated into naming him as beneficiary.) At first they agreed that all life insurance money would go to Zach. I was there, as was Jason. Both parents agreed without hesitation Zach should get it. But when the money came, that all changed. He instead told his son that when his mom turned over her ENTIRE portion of her life insurance settlement, he would match it and write off the child support she “owed” him. Of course that never happened. He oh so easily justified it. I don't care what she did or didn't do with her portion – she only got a fraction of what he did ($17,000 to his $100,000). Rather than doing the right thing, he broke a promise to his son and shamelessly blamed their mom. Meanwhile, he made a show of buying himself a new truck and plenty of other nice things.

What I don't understand is why and how he was ever awarded “child support” from her. She was the homemaker in their marriage. She took care of the kids and the home while he worked. They were married for over 10 years. Why did he not owe her alimony?

Tori's car is still sitting in his driveway. I know he didn't pay it off. That car loan is most likely in default by now.

I am 99% certain he is stealing from the energy company. When I lived there, that bill was in my name. $400 a month because of the lighting, heater, and always-running compressor in his garage. (To this day he still blames my daughter for running small loads of laundry and long cycles on the dishwasher. He still uses the 4 ½ hour cycles on his dishwasher.) After I moved out and switched my service he never called to set up service to his house in his own name. That was a year and a half ago. For whatever reason they never shut off his power. He admitted to me close to a year later that he hadn't yet set it up. A few weeks ago during an argument he started up again about Madeline and her laundry. He once again started claiming she's the reason the bill was so high. I asked him what his bill is now – he claimed $200. I know for a fact he was lying. We had a very cold winter, gas prices have skyrocketed, and the energy company recently raised their rates. Also, in December when there was an energy crisis and something going on with the pipeline, the energy company sent an email to all customers asking them to conserve energy. He didn't get that email – because he's not a paying customer.

That man is a lying, cheating, manipulative thief.

So that fight continued on into Saturday. Round and round in endless circles. More nonstop accusations and crazy-making. I finally told him no matter what I say or how much evidence I provide, he will just continue arguing and making random, wild accusations – and I asked him to leave me alone. He continued for a bit, but I didn't respond.

Yesterday he reached out one more time asking if I want my things ...

Meanwhile, I am finally making some progress in changing my number. After a lot of work and technical difficulties, I got a new number set up on a new phone with a new carrier. Got everything I could think of changed over and reached out to as many people as possible to advise of my new number. Obviously Garrett and his enablers were excluded. I sent Madeline a new phone and am working on getting her number ported over (he doesn't know her number). My old number will be disconnected at the end of the billing cycle – next Sunday. Hopefully I survive until then.

Today was supposed to be our second couples counseling session. I reached out ahead of time to let the therapist know Garrett would (hopefully) not be showing up and asking if he was okay meeting with just me and he agreed. I was nervous all morning not knowing if Garrett would show up and cause a scene. Lots of breathing exercises in the waiting room fending off a panic attack. He didn't show. This session provided the validation I have needed for so long. It started with the therapist confirming the abuse. He said Garrett clearly has some “anger management problems” and later confirmed that he noticed it (and his difficulties maintaining relationships) in our first session. This man sees it. He sees everything! Finally, someone who is not fooled – was not manipulated by Garrett! He will be working with me through my journey to healing, happiness, and learning how to establish healthy relationships.

He strongly encouraged me to let my landlord know and make it clear that Garrett is not welcome on this property. This evening I finally found the words to text Pete and relay the message and apologize for all the drama. The response I got: “I hope this goes without saying, but if you have any trouble, do not hesitate to call me. I got your back.”

I was not prepared for the wave of comfort that came over me. I have people. Here. People who know me for who I am and they care. People who will support me without having to know the details or getting involved in the drama – because my character has spoken for itself. People who see Garrett's slander and manipulation for exactly what it is – abuse.

I am so incredibly grateful for the people God has placed in my life. Finally I can see and feel His hand of protection over me. I have no idea what the next year or two will look like for me, but for the first time ever I finally feel like maybe I can actually escape this awful man.

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