Editor's Note: This article is the first in a series that deals with the consequences mental illness and abuse can have in a marriage. *Jake S. agreed to tell his very personal story to the readers, in the hope he can share his experience and help others going through the same thing. * All names/locations have been changed to protect the parties involved.
By Michelle Zudeck with Jake S.
I am new at this and thought it would be a breeze to write about something I have frequently talked about. I did not know how wrong I was, writing about the experience is like living it all over again. I have totally rewritten this article three times and edited each of those numerous times before deleting them. This time I decided just to write it out without stopping and only correct grammatical errors. There may be too much information here, but in this situation I would rather give too much than too little.
I was born in Edison, NJ in 1961. My family moved when I was 12 years old. When I was 24, I realized I was going nowhere, so I went to the Navy recruiter and left for boot camp the next week. While I was in the Navy, I got married for the first time. I adopted my wife's son, who I had known since he was six months old, and supported her while she went to college for her Master’s in Education. Six months after she graduated, she initiated divorce proceedings. It was equitable at first, but turned horrific after the first disagreement. She accused me of threatening her after a mediation session did not go her way and got a restraining order against me- even though the mediator testified that she was lying. I ended up losing my adopted son, who was 12 years old at the time, not to mention suffering financial devastation. The court ruled against me, no matter how much evidence I had of her lies and abuse.
After I retired from the Navy, I reconnected with an old friend and we later married. I knew she had some emotional problems due to severe parental abuse. I went to counseling with her and she seemed to get better. We moved to another State so she could be with her daughter. We got custody of her daughter and in 2008, we had our daughter, Kimberly. After the birth of our daughter, we started having a lot of problems. We had some problems before, but nothing like this. My wife would not get up to feed our baby. I was working full time and at night I would sleep in the recliner near our daughter’s room. When she woke up, I would warm a bottle and sit in the recliner to feed her. I burped and changed her and she usually fell asleep on my shoulder until she was hungry again. I thought it might be post-partum depression and we started going to counseling. We requested and received copies of her military record and I discovered she had been diagnosed with a personality disorder and had been in the mental ward in the Navy hospital. Things went from bad to worse. She flew into rages against me and the children. She would hit anyone near her, throw things, and punch holes in walls. We tried every type of therapy and help we could find, nothing worked.
She became convinced I was projecting “sharps” into the air that would stab her and she would barricade herself in the bedroom for weeks. During one of these times, she called the police and accused me of holding her prisoner and denying her food and water. Liberty Police Department sent five of the seven officers on duty to my house. When I opened the door, the officers had their hands on their guns and had taken up a defensive posture. I invited them in and explained she had a dresser against the door and refused to come down. I took her meals on a tray, set the tray outside the door and knocked. When I was downstairs, she would open the door and take the tray. An hour or so later, she would set the tray outside the door and I would take it to the kitchen. The lead officer went upstairs to talk to her and came down shaking his head. He apologized for the inconvenience and wished me luck.
A few days later, she came down and we were talking. I turned my back on her to close a door and turned back just in time to deflect a boom box she was trying to bring down on my head. A couple months later, she tried to stab me, but I took the knife away from her. Once, she took our infant daughter and her thirteen year old daughter for a five mile walk to a hotel in below zero weather. During this time, we went through three counselors, because my wife said they were “invalidating” her by disagreeing with her.
One night she barricaded herself in the bedroom and started texting me that she was going to overdose on the pain medications we had accumulated over the years. I convinced her to let me in and I collected the pills to take downstairs. While I was putting the pills in a grocery bag, she threw her glass of Coke at me and then jumped on my back and started hitting me and screaming at me. I pushed her off me and picked up the pills and went downstairs. When I left the bathroom, she was sitting on the toilet glaring at me. It was close to Thanksgiving and I was baking pumpkin pies, so I went back to baking. I heard the bedroom door open, so I went and stood in the hall leading to the kids' bedrooms- I did not want her trying to take Riley out of the house. She came downstairs and left the house without looking at me or saying a word. I thought she was going to a friend’s house and was relieved she was gone. Thirty minutes later there was a pounding on the door. I opened the door to find two very angry Sheriff’s Deputies. The first one said “Turn around, you are under arrest!” I was floored, but obeyed. The first officer went upstairs and came down saying he had been in the bathroom and “There is blood everywhere.” I later found out the deputy saw the coke my wife had thrown at me and mistook it for blood. There was some blood by the front door I had not seen and some drops on the stairs. I called a neighbor to come look after the kids. The deputies told me my wife had a gash above her eyebrow and a broken cheekbone. They looked at my hands and took pictures of them. I heard them talking and they seemed puzzled because there were no marks on my knuckles. The deputies tried to twist what I was saying into an admission of guilt. They were so blatant about it; the friend that had come over got upset and told them to stop. She was so upset, I was afraid she would get arrested. Our friend later told me that my wife’s first statement when she got back was “Now I will get Riley”. I was taken to the county jail and booked for felony domestic violence.
The jail experience was not bad at all. I was in a two man cell and my cellmate was surprised that I was not feeling cramped, like most guys the first couple of days. I explained to him that I had been in the Navy for 20 years and our cell would have housed at least 18 people on a ship. He was in jail for non- payment of child support. I found out that most of the guys in our cellblock were there for child support problems. I discovered that in Missouri, and many other states, the man starts out at a disadvantage. I also discovered that if you did not get bail posted in a certain period of time, you would be in jail until your trial. My wife showed up at my bail hearing and tried to get my bail reduced. After I got an attorney and posted bail, I filed for divorce. I had a restraining order preventing me from returning home. I had another friend go to our house and get me clothes and toiletries. While he was there, he looked into the bathroom. He said it had not been cleaned and the only blood in the bathroom was a little bit on a corner that “looked like someone had wiped it there with a finger”. There was no other blood within five feet of the bathroom, even though my wife said she sat on the toilet bleeding for 15 minutes after I hit her.
Before all of this happened, we were considering moving. My wife had found a place she liked, and we had begun moving stuff to the new place. We also started seeing a new counselor. My wife would go in first and I would join them. After the session was over, she would leave first and I would wait ten minutes. After three visits, my wife no longer wanted to go anymore. The counselor had told us that she did not believe my wife’s story. It had changed numerous times and my wife disagreed with events that were proven to have happened. The therapist believed my wife had Borderline Personality Disorder. It is an untreatable mental disorder characterized, as the therapist said, as “go away, don’t leave me.” The person pushes you away and then begs you to come back. This counselor is the first one to tell me I was a victim of physical and emotional abuse. I could not believe her! I am 6’2” and weigh around 250 lbs. and I do not take garbage from anyone, I did not think there was any way I could be abused. She asked if it would be wrong for me to do the things my wife had done. I said no, I would be arrested. She said, if it was wrong for one, it was wrong for both. Once I realized she was correct, I was on the road to setting my life right.
Stay tuned for the next chapter in Jake's Journey.