By Lindsay Kastanis | January 31, 2023

I am a strong believer that mental health is very important and no matter what season of life you are in, there is nothing wrong with needing to lean on someone for help.

When I was 16, I met the person I thought was the love of my life!  Needless to say, two kids and 14 years later, I finally was strong enough to make the long overdue 911 call which was the first step of my freedom.

During those 14 years, I lost all my friends, my sister and parents didn’t talk to me anymore, and I almost lost myself as well.  No matter what I did, I was always wrong and blamed for everything.  No matter who I talked to or about, I was scolded. If I was one minute late calling him when I left work, I was accused of cheating on him. The abuse didn’t stop there either. There was also physical abuse, but I thought that if it was only a few times a year, I could handle that.  I knew that most of the time I had pushed his buttons while he was having a bad day, so it was ultimately my fault, right?

During this time, I had a healthy son, Cole, and I secretly hoped my husband would settle down or become a better person, but that never happened. Now what? I was 23 with a baby boy and an abusive partner –I might as well have another child, as I had dreamt of having two kids. I might as well have a second child so I could have the two kids I had always dreamt of.  My partner and I talked about having a second child and he was not in agreement, saying he would never love the second one the same as Cole.  I thought his mind would change once a tiny baby was placed in his arms. I lost a baby boy at 20 weeks; I blamed it on the stress of being with him and he, of course, blamed me. Four years after that initial conversation, along came Carly. She is almost 10 years old now and her dad meant what he said about not loving the second kid the same. Sadly, both Cole and Carly see this every time they see him.

I had one very close friend, Stephanie, who hated my husband.  I vented and told her all kinds of things about him and the stuff he said to me, but never the real bad things because I didn’t want anyone to know how bad things really were.  It was embarrassing and I knew better than to stay with him, but I was not raised to be a divorcee.  My parents raised me as a strong independent individual!

One day, I was venting about not wanting a divorce because I hated to be a statistic. Stephanie said, said, “Honey, you are a statistic.” THAT was the moment that changed my life.  That was the very moment that I knew I had to get all my ducks in a row to get out somehow.  I knew it was only a matter of time before he laid his hands on me again, and when he did, my phone would be dialing 9-1-1 before I hit the ground.

All of this happened about seven years ago now. I have seen a few therapists and learned some techniques to help cope from day to day.  You truly have no idea what world you really live in or how you lived in it until you are outside looking in.  I experienced all the emotions including grief, which was an odd one for me.  You would think that after all the time that passed and having a whole new life now, things would be better mentally, but no.  I still see my therapist every 2 weeks.  We are currently working on ME. I have no idea how to forgive or take time for myself.  I don’t know me. I don’t know how to love me. Just when I think I figured it out, I get reminded that I still have more to learn.

I am proud that I see a therapist so frequently.  I tell my kids that I see a therapist. I keep it all very open as to normalize it in our household. I have also since remarried. I have known John since second grade, and he truly is my best friend. Our relationship couldn’t be more opposite than my first.  At least once a week, I have flashbacks or feelings that something bad will happen, but instead of putting up my wall, I have learned to talk to him about it. I have learned to lower my wall, bit by bit and brick by brick.

If you are experiencing intimate partner violence, know that you are not alone. Help is available. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or to learn more and resources in your area.