My name is Linda. I came to live and love Alaska for many years. In fact, after relocating back East, Alaska is more my home than the place I grew up. Alaska is a place of unspeakably breathtaking vistas. It is the only place I’ve ever lived where watching eagles soar is a commonplace as listening to a robin warble. It is a sight I never grew weary of. Alaska is the place where I learned to listen to the quiet, breath fresh air, and drive on ice. Alaska taught me to let go of self-imposed images that were not my own and become the woman I am meant to be. I divorced and remarried in Alaska.
One of the things I also came to terms with in Alaska was SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s common there. In Southeast Alaska there are more rainy days than sunny days. It is, after all, part of a rainforest. Couple that with the abbreviated days during the winter, many people are medicated from September to April. I was one of them.
During my winter checkup with my local mental health professional he asked, “How are things going?”
“Alright,” I replied.
“You’re married, right?”
“Does your husband hit you?” he asked without looking up from my chart.
I was stunned. It seemed to come out of the blue.
It was true. He hadn’t hit me. But I felt a cloak of shame weigh heavily around my shoulders. My head dropped. He was getting too close to my secret.
“Any problems in your relationship?” he asked.
“Well sometimes we has sex with me when I really don’t want to.”
“He rapes you.” He said flatly.
“Rape.” I spent months denying the word. Rape is an ugly, shocking word. Rape is the word I couldn’t allow myself to say out loud. I’m an intelligent woman. Intelligent women don’t allow a man to rape them several times a week. An intelligent woman would just leave. But I loved him. He loved me. A man who loves a woman would never do that.
“Why do you stay with him?” He said as he hand me the prescription.
I couldn’t answer. The truth was hard, and painful, and lodged in my throat like an angry pill. It was suffocating me.
That day I began planning to leave him. I realized, somewhere during my marriage I lost me. I looked for a place to live but could not find anything I could afford. I look for a better paying job but time was running out at home. His mood was becoming more volatile. I was becoming more desperate. For the first time I was truly afraid for my safety.
As a last resort I called my mother an asked for the money for a plane ticket. My husband I had discussed separation. He believed I would remain in town. I didn’t mention the airline ticket. He seemed a bit relieved with notion of the separation. His outburst became less frequent. He wanted to continue some sort of relationship after I left. I let him believe whatever it took for me to clear the house with little incident.
One night he “discovered” the airline ticket I was keeping in my bedside table in a book. His temper flared. Everything was my fault. I kept quite to allow him to vent. Arguing only made things worse. The next evening he demanded I sign some documents.
“No. Not right now,” I sobbed. I knew never to do business when I was emotional.
He became enraged. He called me a name no man should ever call a lady. I turned to walk away. He fired more insults. In a blind rage I slapped him.
I was shock. I was afraid. I was hurt. I hadn’t hit anyone since a seventh grade playground scuffle. I wasn’t sure if he would hit me. The man I loved wounded me, again. I rushed to the bedroom and cried hysterically. He called the police.
The police officer arrived. I was still in the bedroom sobbing. He was shouting. I could hear him pacing heavily in the kitchen. I was arrested.
Juneau didn’t have a jail at the time. I spent a night in the state prison. I was place in a dingy cell alone as surveillance cameras track my every move. It was quiet. I was alone. For the first time in months it was quiet. There was no fear of the next outburst. There were no flying dishes, no shouting, no tension. While sitting on a steal cot, covered by a thin mattress, I was one with God. I knew I safe. I knew I would be whole again. I knew I would do more than survive.
I believe that hope can ebb and flow, but faith can sustain you in times of unspeakable duress. I believe in the resilience of the human spirit. I believe that whenever I want to give up, God keeps putting me back on my feet. This I believe.
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