First of all, the response and support I received from you all after my post last month, “All for a damn piece of paper to say, ‘please stay away from me.”, was absolutely overwhelming. I knew I wasn’t alone or unique, but you all really took that to a new level. Many of you shared your stories with me, many of you cheered me on, many of you empathized with me, and even those of you who haven’t had these experiences shared your support from the bottoms of your hearts. I could not be more blessed to have you all behind me and fueling me along during one of the hardest times of my life.
The last month of anxiety waiting for today has been hellish. My friends, loved ones, and insane travel schedule helped tremendously. I needed to be distracted because there was nothing I could do between the last court date and today to change anything. All I could do was try to put it out of my head and be positive.
But Monday night it hit me. I had spent an amazing weekend with great friends, came home and got some quality time with my niece and nephew, and went to bed knowing I had a tough week ahead of me. Then at about 12:30am I woke up with that sickness and anxiety. I am a GREAT sleeper so I figured it’d go away and I’d be back to sleep in no time. Nope, not this time. I was up until about 4am trying to distract myself with TV and keep the panic attack at bay.
I woke up again at 7am to try and get ready for work but the nausea and anxiety were worse. Back and forth to the bathroom, racing thoughts, and “irrational” fears. I called into my morning meetings at work and thought I could get myself together for afternoon meetings. But the time came and I was worse. This totally foreign feeling came over me and I just felt like there was no way in the world I could leave the house. I felt weighted to the couch.
Embarrassed, I told my boss and my husband that I just couldn’t make it out of the house. Both were incredibly supportive and I’m so blessed to have them and their support. I told my husband how I just felt like a POS at home paralyzed by this BS. Of course, he reminded me that’s not true and that he and so many people love me and are with me. But nonetheless, there I was paralyzed, sick, and exhausted and letting this crap F with my life.
But the universe knew what I needed and thankfully my brother invited me over for more niece time. There is no being depressed around that beautiful baby girl and it helped me get through last night. I fell asleep from exhaustion and woke up this morning still anxious but filled with resolve. I COULD DO THIS.
My sugar is up working the fires in CA, so I was on my own but I was prepared. I meditated, listened to positive podcasts, and just focused on my mindset. I took a Lyft in so I wouldn’t have to find parking and could quickly get into the courtroom without a run-in. Phew.
I got sat in my usual seat up front, furthest from the entrance, closest to the bailiff. Roll call came and he wasn’t there. I had a short glimmer of hope that he might not show, but that was dashed as he waltzed in about 30 seconds before the judge and sat in the front row too. And then I just had to settle in. It was ROUGH. We started at 8:30am and got called dead last at about 11:40am. In between that time he kept moving seats, came up to the bailiff meaning he was right in front of me, and I had to listen to all of the horrible situations the dozen or more families before us were experiencing. My mother and husband texted me nonstop and I was flooded on social media with messages of support. I used those to keep my composure and make it through this shit, once and for all.
Finally we got called at 11:40am and he was nowhere to be found. They gave him time and looked for him in the hallways, but no sign. I was so worried they were going to continue us until after lunch, but thank God the judge decided to proceed without him.
I relived my memories, my fears, and my hopes for protection moving forward but I got to do it in an empty court room with just the judge, bailiff, and court clerks. I didn’t have to feel his waves of anger again. I didn’t have to hear his craziness, arrogance, and ridiculous confusion. I didn’t have to see what the stack of papers were in his torn manila envelope that he carried with him today. I pleaded with the judge and HE BELIEVED ME. I was stunned. My tears of fear turned to tears of relief when he stated, “I’m granting you a permanent domestic violence restraining order for 5 years.”
IT’S OVER. I’m still in disbelief. After almost a year of hell fighting for this damn piece of paper, and I finally have it. It’s just a piece of paper, but to me it is PEACE. It means that I don’t have to live in fear ALL the time. It means I don’t have to step foot back into the family courthouse for 5 YEARS. It means that when my husband and I have children sometime within those 5 years, we will all be safe. They won’t ever have to go through this or even know about the ugliness that is their grandfather. It means that I’m not constantly on edge waiting for the next court date. It means I am FREE.
It was painful and grueling and brought me to the edge of my sanity, but I DID IT. And while I am rejoicing in that, and trust me I am (beer in hand), I’m still thinking about the dozens of women who I’ve been in the courtroom with, and what different outcomes they have found. A few have been able to feel the relief I feel today, many have more and more days in court as they try to do it “right” and fail to get their abusers served, and many others have given up. I think about them and pray that they’re safe, but know that many of them are living that hell right this moment.
It’s UNACCEPTABLE. It should not take a year of court appearances, time off work, pain, and re-traumatization to get a restraining order against someone who has abused you (in my case verbally, mentally, and through stalking for 30 fucking years). While we have amazing advocates available, there are still so many women who show up and aren’t sure how to make their case, what to tell the judge and what not to, thrown off in their memories and concentration because their abuser is sitting right next to them, and get denied or continued.
There has got to be a better way. A better way to provide service of a restraining order to your abuser, a better way to set up our courts that don’t mix abusers and survivors for hours at a time, a better way to expedite the process, a better way to provide the legal right of continuance for an abuser without the stress and re-traumatization of court and being face to face with their abuser just to be told to come back next month. If you want to help me figure out how we can make this system work for survivors, not abusers, sound off in the comments. I’m not stopping here.
Thank you all again for you incredible support. I pray that if you’re going through this you KNOW you’re not alone, and I’m here for you. I pray that you stick it out even though it is SO hard. I pray that you find the peace you deserve. You don’t have to continue living in fear, so don’t give up on that damn piece of paper.