I ran 2 miles. It may not seem like much, but I ran those miles barefoot. It was 28 degrees outside. It was February. I ran those two miles as fast as I could run. I ran those two miles to the police station. I ran those two miles with my then-husband chasing me. I ran those two miles for my life.
Two nights before, we had argued. About the kids, about money, about social media, about his girlfriend, about why I wasn’t a better wife, and about why the sky was blue. If you know anything about domestic violence, you know arguments in my house didn’t end in resolution, or communication, or even one of us sleeping on the couch because we just needed to take a break and regroup in the morning. They ended in holes in the wall from fists aimed at my face. Broken glass, and broken bones. Arguing in my house only made one of us feel better, and it was never me.
Two nights before I ran two miles, I think I died. Right there in my kitchen.
My sister and brother-in-law had taken their kids and gone home after the birthday party we’d had for my son. I tucked my son and bonus daughter into their beds and then, while everyone I knew slept, a monster that hid in the closets, behind the shower curtains, and under the beds, woke up and killed me.
He was an uninvited houseguest that popped in from time to time. But as hard as I tried, I could never seem to evict him. He would leave, sometimes for months, and when I’d let my guard down and dared to think I had rid myself of him forever, he’d drop by just to remind me that I would never be free of him completely.
The monster dragged me up to my feet by my hair and held me there because he had an important question to ask me. I couldn’t stand on my own so he gave me a hand. With his other hand, he grabbed a knife from the butchers block and pressed it to my throat. He was just wondering if I had ever thought about what it would feel like to be stabbed. He asked me nonchalantly if I wanted him to kill me. I couldn’t speak but I whispered, ‘Yes.’ And he did.
The monster killed me, but my heart kept beating. Well into the night as he continued to pound away on my face, my body, and my soul. When he was finally tired, he laid me on the bed, and instead of slinking back into the shadows, he crawled into bed with me and held me there.
I woke up the next morning and couldn’t remember how all that blood had gotten on my pillow. I couldn’t move my legs, and my ears were ringing. I tried to sit up, and that’s when I knew something had happened. I could tell I had a broken rib or two because the more conscious I became, the more pain I was in. My husband was sleeping like a baby next to me but I noticed his knuckles looked bruised and swollen.
I didn’t know what to do. I scanned the room for my phone, and noticed it placed neatly beside his on his bedside table…. only mine was smashed beyond repair. Then I started looking for the monster. As usual, the daylight had forced his retreat into whatever pit he had crawled out of.
When I looked over at my husband again, I felt the usual sadness and heartache that came with a morning-after apology. And I felt the longing for the love that burned so hot in the beginning. A purgatory. Lost between the heaven of the good times, and the hell that accompanied the monster.
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The night before I ran two miles he bought me a new phone, he had apologized for the black eye, and told me that if I wore enough makeup to cover it up, we would go to town tomorrow and have lunch. My ribs were still sore and I still had a nasty bruise on my cheek, but I was hopeful. We could talk, work out our issues, and I could get my nails done while he went to Bass Pro Shop. As sad as it was, I was excited. I knew we would have a few days of peace. We would be “happy.” The kids would be “happy.” Because he felt better now that he had released his frustrations.
I got up early, got the kids to school, and curled my hair while he slept. I put on enough makeup to hide my bruises. I was smiling. I decided to call in an order from the cafe down the street. He loved bacon and eggs and no matter how hard I tried, I could never get his eggs right, and this had to be perfect. I realized I needed to go get him a Monster Energy Drink. He drank those things like water. I look back and laugh because the term “Monster” was so fitting. He would wake up to breakfast and it would be the perfect start to our magical happy day. When you walk on eggshells to survive, you LIVE for days like this one was starting out to be.
I was walking out of the cafe when I got a text. It simply read, “Where are you?” My stomach dropped. My heart started pounding and I immediately started damage control. I text back that I was 5 seconds away, and for him to stay in bed. I pulled into my driveway and he was standing shirtless on the porch. I could see the scowl on his face from the road.
I parked the truck in the driveway and before I even got my seatbelt off, he was opening the door. I put on my smile, held up the bag of food, and his drink and said, “I got you a Monster!” He snatched the can from me and hit me in the face with it. I took my seatbelt off but just sat there.
“Where have you been? Why did you leave without telling me? I swear to God, Shanna. You have pissed me off for the last time.’ (I didn’t speak or move.) He grabbed me by my beautifully curled hair and pulled me down from the truck. I didn’t yell. I didn’t twist or try to get away. On instinct, I just kind of let him pull me. Resistance was futile. I had learned this the hard way.
I still had the plastic sack with the food in it in my hand and my only thought as he yanked my hair was that I hope it hadn’t spilled into the bag. He would be mad about that too. Since I didn’t ask if I could go get it, and I’d have wasted his (our) money to pay for it, and then he couldn’t even eat it??! That would go over like a lead balloon. So, no, I couldn’t let it spill.
He was still holding my hair and pushing me toward the house. My flip-flop had fallen off and I tried to stop to get it back on and that’s when he grabbed my throat.
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Something in me snapped.
My husband hurt me in ways I will never tell anyone, but his “favorite” thing to do was choke me. He would choke me until I passed out. [Also known as strangulation.] He would wake me up by dumping cold water on me and my body would shake, seizure-like, and I would feel dizzy. He would do it over and over. More than 100 times, he cut off the oxygen to my brain. I woke up choking on my own vomit more than once. I had bled from my nose, and eyes from him choking me in the past. Each time, it was getting harder and harder to recover.
When he grabbed me this particular morning, I knew this would be the day he killed me.
I was confused.
This is not how it was supposed to go.
We had already fought. He had already hit me. He had already apologized. We were supposed to be happy today.
This time felt different. I KNEW if he squeezed my throat, I would pass out, and I wouldn’t wake up.
As soon as his hand tightened, I dropped to the ground. I scrambled away, losing my other flip-flop. I ran into the street. He was right behind me.
He said, “When I catch you, you’ll wish you hadn’t done this.” He was trying to grab me, but I kept running.
He was fit, muscled and he exercised for fun. I was overweight and you couldn’t pay me to run to my mailbox, but he couldn’t catch me. I was running for my life.
He stopped chasing me and started texting me. I didn’t even know my phone was somehow still in my hoodie pocket, until I felt it vibrate. I didn’t stop to look at them. But they kept coming, one right after the other. I got to the police station and stood outside. Long enough to catch my breath, check my phone, and decide if I was really going to go through with this. The messages were still coming in, so I sent them to spam and walked in the station.
I gave my statement. I let them take pictures of my body and I called my sister. I cried. And I waited.
He was arrested at 12:07 pm, February 27, 2015.
I have gone to hell and back since the day I ran two miles.
I almost bailed him out of jail 68,993 times.
I cried. I screamed. I was so incredibly sad.
My journey was FAR from over, but I was free.
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence of any kind, even if it’s not physical, please reach out. Please tell someone. It’s not your fault. This is NOT love. This is NOT healthy. This is NOT normal. THIS IS ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR. This is not love. You are not fat or ugly or stupid or lazy or any of the horrible things he says you are. You are strong. You are smart. You are capable. You are worthy. You are worthy of real love. You are worthy of a love that doesn’t hurt you. You are good enough. You are enough, just as you are, right at THIS moment. Please know you’re not alone. It does get better, but it’s up to you to be brave and find your courage to leave, and to stay gone.
This story was originally published on Love What Matters. It was reprinted with permission by the author.
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