How Writing My Story Saved My Life

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How Writing My Story Saved My Life

I lived in an abusive marriage for 27 years.

The first thing that had to happen before I could escape was that I had to begin to see my life for what it really was.

There were a number of events that led up to me finally acknowledging the severity of my situation, but there was one thing I did that helped, perhaps more than anything else: I started secretly writing an honest account of what was happening each day.

Writing my Story

Initially I kept a hidden file on my desktop computer, then I received an iPad as an early Christmas gift from my parents. I kept my iPad locked with a passcode and my journal hidden there.

I’ve kept journals for many years. When I was younger and single I wrote honestly.  After I was married I stopped being honest. I stopped because the truth was too terrible. Instead of writing honestly, I kept journals filled with lists of things I was thankful for and wrote about what I learned as I read my Bible and prayed each day. I was doing my best to simply survive.

I’ve always been an overly resolute person. If I say that I’m going to do something, then I do it. This can be a wonderful character trait but sometimes I “choose the wrong hill to die on”. Staying in an abusive marriage for so many years was one of those decisions. I did not think that divorce was ever an option and I truly believed with all of my heart that if I would be a quiet, submissive wife, trust God and keep praying, that the Lord would eventually honor my prayers and change Tom.

Isolation and Gaslighting

I was tremendously isolated. For so many years I was very, very alone in all that happened. I want you to understand that I told no one what was going on during all of those years. Even my best friends and my parents, who lived in the same city as me had no idea of what my life was really like.

I told no one of the affairs, and how I was not allowed to seek out counseling or help after Tom confessed having multiple affairs to me. He decided to clear his conscience by telling me of his ongoing affairs while we we were at a Christian marriage conference. He stood behind me and whispered his transgressions in my ear as we waited in line in a huge crowd of people to get lunch. I was so physically sick that I had to go sit down at a table.

I couldn’t tell anyone about my deep grief and confusion. The bottom of my world had fallen out and I couldn’t speak to anyone, even Tom about what had happened. I was shocked, devastated, betrayed and so overwhelmed that I could barely function for many, many days after that.

I couldn’t tell anyone how angry Tom was with me for struggling so much in the wake of that confession, accusing me of “wounding” him (because I was so sad and upset) and telling me that I must not have really forgiven him (and certainly I didn’t really love him) or I wouldn’t be struggling so much.

I want you to know that in abusive marriages the controlling person “re-writes” history. For the 27 years that I was with Tom, after every skewed discussion, every abusive event ~ if I were brave enough to bring them back up to him later, his response would be shocked confusion… telling me that I had totally misunderstood what happened, or that I was being overly sensitive. Living in that environment for so many years made me question everything I saw and experienced with him.

There were days when I was subjected to relentless angry lectures that would last for 3-4 hours. One day, after a “discussion” like that, Tom called me later from work. On the phone I brought up how angry he was with me earlier in the day. He paused for several seconds then said, “Susan, I don’t know what you are talking about! I don’t ever get angry with you.” (this, I now know is a common abusive tactic called gaslighting)

Living in such a confusing relationship for so many years caused me to deeply question my perception of reality. Surely my situation wasn’t that bad, was it?

Breaking the Silence

The first important (and terrifying) step that I took was to break the silence. I gathered all of my courage and shared a few incidents with a trusted friend from my college days. I had no idea if she’d believe me or if what I shared was even “that bad.” She was aghast at what I told her ~and I hadn’t even disclosed very much and certainly not the worst events. She wisely told me that hiding sin isn’t loving and I really needed to confront Tom and demand that he get help.

I also told my parents, who were tremendously shocked, but 100% supportive, even offering to help me escape with my children. (But my escape is a story for another day).

I did eventually confront Tom and (very gently and resolutely) asked that he seek out help. That’s when my situation went from very bad to horrifically unbearable.

[Please note, if you are in an abusive relationship, confronting your abuser might be the very worst thing you could do. Many times making plans to leave in secret without confrontation and then going “no contact” is the very best and safest option. I’m simply telling my story here, not proposing that you follow my example.]

Writing my Story and Embracing the Truth of My Situation

This is when I began to write. After I asked Tom to get help but before I was forced to flee with my children, I wrote. I wrote truthfully. I wrote to figure out what I thought and as a way of remembering what was actually taking place.

Each day when I could find a few moments away from Tom I would write, honestly chronicling events and conversations from that day.

Tom was a master of “re-writing history” and my superpower was forgetting traumatic events. I had to, to survive and take care of my children for so many years. As a result I still have huge gaps in my memory of the 27 years I was with Tom.

When I bravely began writing down each day’s events that all began to change…. my perception of my story changed. Tom no longer had the power of being able to re-write history for me. I knew that I was honest and accurate in what I had written down. All I had to do was go back and re-read what I had written. It was all there for me to see.

When I decided to face reality by writing my story I began to see my situation for what it was: a very abusive marriage.

When I decided to write and own my story ~ my true story ~ it saved my life, and ultimately, the lives of my children. Perhaps that sounds like an exaggeration to you. It wouldn’t if you knew my story.

My Story Gave me Wings

I am still dealing with the horrific fallout of abuse. I have PTSD as do several of my adult children. But we are here. We are free now and are bravely moving forward. Many days I don’t feel brave but now that I know the truth I won’t go back to hiding sin and living a lie. 

I now know the power of writing my story, as horrific as it is. Writing my story and owning it as mine was incredibly painful. Embracing the truth of my situation felt like it was going to kill me. It didn’t ~ it gave me wings.

Writing my story truly did save my life.

What is your story? Perhaps writing your story ~ your truthful story~ will set you free too.

hope of spring

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2019-01-11T23:01:56-05:00

45 Comments

  1. Celeste Wilson April 28, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Susan, I was always blessed by our times together. You inspired me. Once again your brave words touch my heart. I thank God that He sustained you through all of this. So grateful for the precious woman you are and how you are seeking to help others through an honest account of your story. May God continue to heal you and your children. Blessings friend.

    • susanmoore April 29, 2016 at 3:41 pm

      Celeste, I have such fond memories of our times together too. Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging comments. I really appreciate hearing from you.

  2. Issie April 28, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this. This a powerful story and lesson which others can benefit from. I admire your strength and capability to not only have written your story in a time of need, but to still write your story and use it to help others.
    -Issie (Liliths friend)

    • susanmoore April 29, 2016 at 3:41 pm

      Issie, thank you.

  3. Kathy davis April 28, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Such a powerful and moving story you are telling. You write so well and can help and convey to others, your struggle.. Helping them on their path with inspiration.
    Praying for continued healing for you and the children!
    Peace, Kathy

    • susanmoore April 29, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      Kathy, thank you so much for praying for us and for taking the time to comment. It means so much to me.

  4. Kelly W April 28, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Thank you Susan for sharing your story. I pray God would continue to strengthen and encourage your heart ( and your children’s hearts) and give you all peace. He is faithful and will continues to heal your broken hearts and bind up your wounds.

    • susanmoore April 29, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      Kelly, my friend! Thank you so much for your encouragement and prayers. I value both more than you could know.

  5. Leeann Lukianuk April 28, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Thank you Susan for being so honest and brave in chronicling 27 years of domestic abuse. That you and your children have survived and come out the other side is truly Gods miracle. I know others will see themselves in your story and be inspired by your courage.

    • susanmoore April 29, 2016 at 3:43 pm

      Leeann, thank you. You have always been so faithful to pray and encourage me. I deeply appreciate it.

  6. Virginia Knowles April 28, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    So many of my friends have thanked me privately for linking this on Facebook. Your writing makes such a difference!

    • susanmoore April 29, 2016 at 3:44 pm

      Virginia, thank you for sharing that with me. This post was so hard for me to write and publish. My desire is that it would be an encouragement to others who are in the position I was in. There are way too many of us out there. Thank you for sharing my writing with others.

  7. Ron Wheeler April 29, 2016 at 6:35 am

    Wow, Susan, I had no idea. When we’d get our kids together, I could sense there was something unusual about your situation, but nothing like this. Two thoughts now come to mind:

    1) When you came over to our house I used to joke with you about “being let out of the compound”. For those comments after what you’ve gone through, I am truly sorry. That’s not funny in light of your story.

    And, 2) I also used to call you “supermom”. I still think of you that way. You still set the standard in my eyes as someone who was extremely upbeat and organized about how you managed your home. You had to be to raise a large family … and you did it very well.

    • susanmoore April 29, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      Ron, please don’t feel badly. I was always so glad for Micah and Nate to spend time with your kids. Your kindness to both of them meant more than you can know. Thanks for taking the time to comment here. I really appreciate hearing from you.

  8. Jeff Crippen April 29, 2016 at 10:05 am

    I know at least in part exactly what you describe here and I wish I had begun to write these things down ling before I did. The wicked abusers who targeted me over the years in the church I pastor (all of them now exposed and gone) all re-wrote history. All if them. They are in other words children of their father the devil who is a liar from the beginning. Thank you for sharing and encouraging us all.

    • susanmoore April 29, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      Jeff, I’m so glad that the abusers who were in your church are now gone. Sadly, it seems that churches can be prime hiding places for abusive people. Thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad that my post was encouraging ~ that was my hope in writing it.

  9. Marla April 29, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    bless you, friend that I haven’t met!

    • susanmoore April 29, 2016 at 4:48 pm

      Nice to “meet” you here, Marla. I’m guessing that we have things in common. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Lesley Boyer April 29, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    (((((Susan)))))

    Thank you for sharing your story. Keep writing! And more power to you!

    • susanmoore April 29, 2016 at 4:48 pm

      Leslie, as always, you are so encouraging. Thank you so much.

  11. Patricia April 29, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    You are such a help and an inspiration to so many by sharing your story. I think you already know this, but I wanted to thank you for opening up the way you have about something so personal and painful, because it may be the lifeline that another woman in your situation needs. Thank you Susan.

    • susanmoore April 30, 2016 at 9:35 am

      Thank you so much. That really is my desire… to be an encouragement to other women. This was tremendously difficult for me to write and share. I’m just praying that the Lord will use it in someone’s life.

  12. Shar April 30, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Have you written a book? If not, I believe you should. I know it would help others.

    • susanmoore April 30, 2016 at 11:49 am

      Shar, you are very sweet. Nope, no book, but I have considered that in the future. Thanks for the encouragement.:)

  13. Bruce Bergh April 30, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Susan,

    I am very enlightened and blessed by your words. I am sharing them with my wife. Thank you for taking the effort & time to share what was on your mind. God bless you in your healing time, overcoming your relationship.

    • susanmoore April 30, 2016 at 5:30 pm

      Thank you Bruce.

  14. Overcomer April 30, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am in the process of writing mine in the form of a book. I can relate to many things you shared. When I escaped my abuser, I was so confused from all his gaslighting (which ramped up after I confronted him and reported his abuse to our do nothing church) that I had to write down simple thoughts in order to process them and come to a logical conclusion. Thank Jesus we both escaped. My youngest has very bad anxiety and PTSD from living with him. She is with me now thank God.

    • susanmoore April 30, 2016 at 5:38 pm

      Oh my! I’m so glad that you are out and that your youngest is with you now as well. I wish I could give you a hug. Helping children deal with the fallout of abuse can be overwhelming in itself. It sounds like writing has been tremendously helpful for you as well. Sadly, I have heard from so many other women that their church wasn’t willing to listen to their cries for help. It breaks my heart. I am sure that your book will be incredibly helpful to many other women. How wonderful that you are working on that. I’d love to see it when you are done.

  15. Janice Killian April 30, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    I had always kept mini diaries. After I left, my kids were sadly shocked. Little did I know that d had told them lies for years, about me. So much sense now. The isolation, the affairs…..the severe financial problems of control.
    I wrote a letter to my children about the 42 yrs of abuse. The two youngest ripped it up in disbelief. They do not talk to me,anyways. The letter helped me,tho.

    • susanmoore May 1, 2016 at 9:05 am

      Oh my! Janice, I am *so* sorry. It’s all so heartbreaking. I am glad that you are out now and that writing and documenting your story helped you. Perhaps, in time, your younger children will see the truth of your story. {{{{hug}}}}

  16. Stacy May 1, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    I have just ended my marriage of 34 years due to emotional, psychological, financial and physical abuse. The abuse began before we were married but I was too afraid to tell anyone then or during all the years of our marriage. No one knew about the reality of my life. About halfway through the marriage I began to journal because I found that I had to write down the thoughts about the violence to get them out of my head. The thoughts about what was happening to me were too overwhelming to let them stay there. When I put them on paper I could escape them. They were trapped in the spiral notebooks I used. Once the memories were out of my head it was easier to deny that any of it was real. I could live my pretend life, the same life I showed the world. The same life I lived during the good parts of the abuse cycle when I could believe his promises that the physical abuse would never happen again. That he did “love me dearly”. That his “only desire in the world was to make me happy”, just like he told me. Just as he told our friends when he joked about being a hen-pecked unappreciated husband. Until the violence inevitably did cycle through again, but then I would journal the memories of his violence and threats of violence out of my thoughts. Process them out. Again. And again. And again. I also journaled about the frustration of living with what I now recognize as emotional, psychological, sexual and financial abuse. But at the time I didn’t know it was all part of an abusive personality. I just knew it was making me feel depressed. And stressed. And frequently feeling emotionally unbalanced after dealing with his outlandish accusations of relational infidelity and from experiencing the ups and downs of what I rationalized as his “excessive moodiness” and a “short temper”. At the time I couldn’t share anything of my real life experiences in this marriage with outside people, but I could share my experiences with my journal, it became the confidant I could trust to keep my secrets. The journal wasn’t going to tell anyone. The journal wasn’t going to tell me to get away from this man. The journal understood my fear – that if I tried to leave, my abuser would live out his pronouncement of “I don’t believe in divorce, I believe in Smith & Wesson”. It gave me a safe way to process my experiences, the only therapy I had at the time.
    15 months ago I finally trusted family members enough to tell them about my secret. By this time my abuser had pointed a gun at me more than once and threatened to kill us both. I no longer felt I could endure his escalating anger and violence. My family rescued me and I am safe. I have continued to journal all through this experience. But now my journaling is about my journey through the divorce and my learning to experience God’s faithfulness and rely on His strength. Strength I have needed to make it through the relentless and unexpected attacks by my infuriated abuser who had no intention of giving up any of his control or abuse of me, feeling helpless as he successfully used anything and anyone he could to attack me, including several therapists, attorneys, and former friends. I journaled about my feelings of weakness and frustration as I watched him twist the truth and bend reality with ease, and the people around him cheered him on! I journaled about the education I have gained regarding domestic abuse and the universality of incredulity when the abuser gets exposed but then manages to turn himself into the victim, making many victims doubt the wisdom of exposing their secret lives of abuse. I journaled about how Jesus was with me through every wave of attack, helping my fears and anxiety, showing me Bible verses promising protection, showing me websites and blogs to encourage me. Reading your blog and the blogs of other women of faith who have experienced abuse and come through it stronger in their faith have renewed me and given me peace. Thank you.

    • susanmoore May 2, 2016 at 10:50 am

      Stacy, thank you for sharing your story. I’m so glad that you are now out and can heal. So grateful that the Lord has continued to make His presence known to you as you have walked this hard, hard path.

  17. Mom of seven May 2, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Thank you for your inspiring words. I am in the process of trying to leave an abusive after 22 years of marriage. It’s the most difficult thing I have experienced in my life. My six younger children and I are simply trying to hold onto Gods strength until the storm is over. We are so thankful for the friends He has given us to support us, and trying not to lose heart in the midst of relentless abuse by my husband, who seems to want to destroy us, if he can’t control us, on the way.

    • susanmoore May 2, 2016 at 3:07 pm

      Mom of seven, {{{{hug}}}} … oh man do I understand where you are. It’s beyond horrible. Praying for you and that the Lord will give you the grace that you and your children need… praying for hope for all of you. Thank you for sharing here.

  18. Carmen May 5, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Susan, I am so thankful that you were able to break free, and am praying for peace and healing for you and your children. You are so courageous to share your story. Thank you.

    • susanmoore May 5, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      Carmen, thanks so much. I really do appreciate you praying and your support.

  19. Laura Clark Barefoot May 19, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Thank you.
    This has not only touched me deeply, given that I recently began writing about my horrors, as well…but, it touched my heart as recognizing a sister.
    You are brave, and others will only benefit from your message.
    God bless your journey.

    • susanmoore May 19, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Laura, thank you. I think you are brave too. Writing your story is a *huge* act of bravery. {{{{hug}}}}

  20. Robin Lewis August 17, 2016 at 5:43 am

    I recently discovered your Facebook page and now you’re blog and I am glad. What you’ve written here today is nearly identical to my story. Your words are helping me to remember more of what things were like in my 22 years of marriage and the few years after the divorce. That was 2001 and sometimes I still battle PTSD and wrong self denial.

    Since then my journals have held truth, too. Thank you so much for this for it touches me in a very deep place. I want to remember more and write it down. I don’t know how I remained sane those 22 years except for Jesus literally holding me and who I was. He kept me.

    Towards the end of the marriage the Lord gave me verses like Isaiah 43:18-19 and 32:18 about living in undisturbed places of rest. Lately I’ve been realizing that there’s still a lot of pain left to come out that was buried all those years ago. I keep inviting it to express itself and released. God is healing me completely.

    Today I am a speaker and life coach for women specializing in boundaries and assertive communication with the foundation of a woman’s true identity, value, and purpose in the Father’s eyes. Thank you again.

    • susanmoore August 19, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      Robin, how wonderful that you are now a speaker and life coach! I’m sure that your empathy and life experiences have equipped you so well for what you are doing.

  21. Lakelie August 17, 2016 at 8:10 am

    Thank you for sharing your story! I kept nodding in agreement! Mine was not a physical abuse, it was an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage, But nearly everything you wrote, I can relate to. I still deal with the seed that he planted that I’m crazy, stupid, and always confused. It helps to be able to identify what happened!

    • susanmoore August 19, 2016 at 8:55 pm

      Lakelie, emotional and verbal abuse is just as bad, if not worse than physical abuse, contrary to popular opinion. Feeling stupid, crazy and confused … oh man ~ yes! And 100% agree that it helps to identify what was going on.

  22. Kelsey August 17, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. Your words were just what I needed to read right now. I’m only 26 but I’m in the middle of trying to find the courage to divorce my abusove husband of 4 years. I’m terrified of losing custody (or even having to share custody) of our one-year-old daughter with mild special needs which is why I haven’t made anything legally official yet. I’ve been separated for a year (literally since the day our baby came home from the hospital) and he has literally no idea how to take care of her and he makes her cry all the time (and he has even once threatened to take her away from me and turn her against me), and yet I still find myself thinking the same thoughts you described. Feeling like I shouldn’t “give up,” Being an “overly resolute person,” as you described. Sometimes I really feel sorry for him, and start thinking maybe I should just go back and give him another chance. Don’t risk the custody battle. And yet I continue to see him demonstrate more and more manipulation and gaslighting. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. Maybe one of these days I’ll be as brave as you.

    • susanmoore August 19, 2016 at 8:52 pm

      Kelsey, oh wow. I hardly know what to say, except this: your fears and concerns are 100% valid and I am 110% empathizing with you! {{{{hug}}}}

      I can highly recommend Lundy Bancroft’s books … “Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” helped me *so* much as I was trying to sort out what exactly had happened. And in reference to child custody issues, Lundy’s book “When Dad Hurts Mom…” has a bunch of helpful information, not only on helping children who are caught in the middle of custody battles, but also offers advice on improving your odds of gaining custody.

  23. Trisha March 23, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Susan, I just wanted to thank you for being willing to share your story even though it is so painful. As a pastor’s wife now, I find myself counseling many people, even informally. Not having ever been exposed to abuse personally, your story has helped me to be aware of things to look for / listen for. Just the other day, we were talking with a young lady who was describing her parents’ relationship. When she stated that her father abused her mom, but it wasn’t that bad, just pushing her down the stairs and things like that, we stopped her right there to address it. I was really surprised to hear her not think that abuse like that was not very bad. I knew from you sharing your story that those enduring abuse may not realize the reality of their situation. May God bring His peace and healing to you and your family as you continue to seek and serve Him. ~Trisha 💗

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