I was ecstatic with my new found freedom. I reveled in it, experiencing things I’d never done before.

After some time, I decided to join one of those online dating sites. I was really only doing it for fun, living life “on the edge” because it was probably the craziest thing I’d done in my life up to that point.

Steve was in a whole new place of his own. In 2006, he experienced his very first seizure. He had been carrying groceries in from the car and started seizing on the way inside. The say ‘don’t cry over spilt milk’. Well I’m not sure anyone cried, but surely the quest for answers started. Within months Steve had several more seizures and was suddenly on medications he’d barely heard of before.

His doctor tried every antiepileptic medication that has been made. Only one of them seemed to have a slight reductive quality for him. But every one of them, and with every change, came terrible and life-altering side effects.

Western medicine is completely based on managing symptoms. Today’s doctors are trained to layer pills on top of pills to manage side effects. It wasn’t different with Steve’s medical care. He was on so many medications at one point that he was doing liver enzyme tests every month!

The next step was a bit more extreme than pharmaceutical medication. The medical staff started pushing for the placement of VNS – a pacemaker-type device that can sometimes reduce seizure frequency or duration. It does not take the place of medication.

Before this procedure had a chance to take place, things went horribly wrong. He had a seizure while walking out to his car at his apartment complex. After regaining consciousness, he tried returning to his apartment. If you’ve ever known someone with epilepsy, you may know that confusion, lethargy, and incoherence are all par for the course. Well, it was this incoherence that stopped him from going to his apartment that evening.

He went to the door he thought was his, it was locked. Getting frustrated by the locked door he thought was his, and desperately needing to enter, he decided to fix the lock. Police found him drilling at the lock of the clubhouse building of the complex. Shortly thereafter Steve had another seizure and law enforcement took him to the hospital. But it didn’t stop them from taking him to jail.

As the criminal justice system is so skilled at churning out convictions, they bullied another victim into taking a plea. Attempted breaking and entering with intent – how he was intending to do anything is beyond me, but that’s not the point. The point, of course, is that Oakland County keep their stellar conviction rate!

Steve spent 8 months in jail, and found himself divorced in the meantime.

About a year after getting back on the outs, Steve found himself scrolling through pictures of cute ladies on an online dating site, when he found one that was particularly striking! I thought he was super cute too and we spent a couple weeks emailing. He told me about his epilepsy and that he chose not to drive because of them.

He was very clear in telling me that he was not going to have a girlfriend, he didn’t feel his life was at the place which a girlfriend would be a good idea. I was fine with that too, I had, after all, just divorced even more recently than he had.

Within weeks I was his girlfriend. About a month after that we were unofficially living together though we lived 80 miles away from each other. A month after that, I found a new job at a nice preschool near Steve, and I left Jackson County for good!

Growing up I was pretty straight-laced. My mom did a great job on her own until the time came when she met the man I would call dad, and the two of them were a perfect pair. I learned how to obey authorities, how to be a contributing member of society, and that the system was set up to give us freedom and protect the people. I worked with special needs kids from the time I was eleven years old. Missy was a girl who influenced my life the most, and she continues to influence it to this day. She was little, with big brown eyes and a gorgeous smile. Oh yeah, she also suffered from a variety of disabilities. In a wheelchair, Missy needed to be fed, changed, carried, and she often had seizures that took her mind elsewhere. I remember many times sitting in front of her trying to talk her back into consciousness and timing every seizure. Too long and we’d have to rush to the ER to get her checked out. Then the time came when Missy would leave us. At 15, she joined the angels and I knew my life’s work would be to help people who were sick and suffering. I was not yet an adult myself.

I attended a Christian University, first to study medicine, but before long I noticed the first hint of a flaw in the system I had thought of so ideally. It dawned on me that being a doctor with a practice or in a hospital was not the ideal way to treat and actually care for sick and disabled people. I changed my focus to teaching. For 10 years I worked in various teaching capacities. I worked as one-to-one respite caregiver, an early childhood teacher for infants, and mostly a preschool teacher.

I met my first husband at college, the Christian University atmosphere was the ideal place to start thinking about settling down and before I ended my attendance there, I was dating *Max. Instead of moving back home to my parents when I left the college, I got a job and an apartment so I could stay nearby while he finished 2 more years of school. We married a week after his graduation and he never had to spend a minute of his life alone as a bachelor.

Within weeks of the wedding, everything changed. Don’t get me wrong, I knew there were going to be changes. Marriage always brings changes. This was the unwelcome kind of change though. The kind of change that churns the pit of your stomach.

Suddenly I had to answer to someone, and when the answer wasn’t the desired one, there was a price to pay. I became so badly controlled that I had to hand over every last penny of my paychecks, I had to account for every last minute of the day, and my only allowable friends were mutual ones. If ever I stepped out of line, I would have my car, my purse, my phone taken from me in an effort to teach me a (successful) lesson. I had at least 5 phones destroyed when Max would snatch them out of my hand and throw them.

To make matters worse, it didn’t take long before the violence escalated also. Max hid behind the faulty excuse that as long as he didn’t specifically hit me, everything was alright. I was grabbed, pushed, manhandled, raped, and bullied. And even though I had always told myself I would not be a battered woman, I found myself cowering under his grip every time. Only once was a police report ever filed, it was because of the persistence of my parents when they noticed odd bruises on me. Alas, even given the perfect opportunity, I never mustered the courage to walk into the police station and tell them I wanted to press charges.

Oh how different my life would be now if I had.

Within a year of the police coming to my home and photographing my bruises from that occasion, I found out I was pregnant. Max spent the first day in disbelief, trying not to accept the 5 tests on the bathroom counter, and demanded I go in to the doctor to make sure. He did not want a child, at least not for another 5 years. The doctor confirmed what I already knew, and I was expecting a child on or around Christmas Day 2006.

I think I expected the relationship to change after Elliott arrived….  It didn’t. I was the one working, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and taking care of the baby, all while being closely monitored and leashed.

I was rarely honest with Max. Though, even to this day, I don’t find that to be damning. How could I have been?  Despite those shortcomings in my first marriage, I have not found the need for dishonesty in any other part of my life or to any other person, and anyone who actually knows who I am would agree.

And then one day it hit! Out of the blue I suddenly realized that I could not, in good conscience, continue to subject my young son to the toxicity of my relationship with his dad. I could not expect to raise a good son while he learned, with my help, how to treat a woman in this manner.

I decided once and for all to leave. My son gave my the strength I needed to do it.


*Name has been changed for no other reason than to protect me.