The Evolving Woman: Intimate Confessions of Surviving Mr. Wrong
By Catherine Lanigan, Jodee Blanco
I was working six, sometimes seven days a week in our retail swimming pool store, taking care of my son, writing novels at night and on the weekends, and walking on eggshells living with an abusive mate.
Frankly, I was just trying to make ends meet and get through the day. I was blamed if it rained, blamed if my husband's shirts weren't ironed properly, blamed if our friends didn't invite us out on a Friday night. Weekends were the worst. Something always went wrong on a weekend. During the week our business kept us so swamped there weren't enough hours in the day to put out fires and keep eighteen balls in the air.
The mental and physical exhaustion finally hit my Achilles' heel: my kidneys. I've had kidney problems since the age of three. I thought I'd learned to live with the flare-ups, the trips to the urologist, the antibiotics. But this time was different.
It was also during this time in my life that I'd started using visualization techniques to further intensify my prayers, my one solace in life.
As the mental manipulations increased, so did my resolve to turn to my life over to God. I was looking for answers. I'd been to a counselor for over two years, who subtly convinced me that the marriage would work as long as I worked at it. The priest I spoke with at this time inferred the same message: It was my duty to keep the marriage, hearth and home together.
All of this further instilled shame in me, undermined my confidence and dressed me in a cloak of guilt.
The distress in my life took its toll on my body one particular night when I awoke with incredible pain in my lower back where my kidneys were.
This particular infection was so strikingly dissimilar from previous occurrences, I didn't know what to think. The pain, rather than being dull, was jabbing, stabbing . . . even searing, as if I'd been lanced in the back.
I tried to get up but could hardly breathe because of the pain. I knew I had to get to the bathroom, but the walk across the room seemed an interminable length. Somehow, holding onto furniture and the walls, I made it without fainting.
I remember looking at the clock. It was 2:22 a.m. I was just beginning to learn about the significance of "master numbers" and I knew that 22, like 11, is a master number. For me, a master number appears when angels are about.
Once in the bathroom, I realized I was bleeding heavily. I remember having tremendous chills and cold sweats. I was shaking and then burning up with fever. My urologist had prescribed Bactrim for me and I always kept some on hand in the house for emergencies. I stumbled to the kitchen and, after rifling the medicine cabinet, I discovered the bottle was empty.
I panicked. I knew to drink plenty of water and cranberry juice to help kill the burning during urination. When I went to the pantry, the cranberry juice I normally kept stocked was gone. At the time I thought this very unusual, but I was getting weak standing in the kitchen.
Then I realized that blood was running down my leg. I was fearful I was hemorrhaging. The only answer I could think of in my confusion was to get back to bed, hoping I would feel better in an hour or so. But as time passed, the pain intensified.
I tried to rouse my husband and told him I needed to go to the emergency room.
"You're waking me up because of another kidney infection?" he grumbled dispassionately. "Go back to sleep. I'll deal with it in the morning." He rolled over and was instantly asleep.
I couldn't sleep. The exertion of breathing was crushing. Tears slid down my cheeks. I thought I was dying. I didn't know what to do and so I prayed and visualized healing my body. I prayed intensely all that night until dawn rolled over the horizon.
Finally, around seven, I was strong enough to get to the bathroom without stumbling. However, when I did, I realized that my nightgown was soaked with blood. I cleaned myself up, put on a new nightgown and again, tried to rouse my husband.
"If you're sick, go see a doctor and don't wake me up again!" he snapped.
"I can't drive myself; I'm too weak," I said.
"I told you to leave me alone," he shouted and pulled the covers over his head.
It took me an hour to get dressed, I was so disoriented. It was as if I was moving in slow motion. My muscles didn't want to perform even the smallest task. I remember sitting on the closet floor to put my shoes on.
I got in the car without even calling my urologist's office. I wanted to beat the rush hour traffic to the medical center which was nearly a thirty-mile drive from our house.
Without power steering, the old clunker was hard to handle and it sputtered so much, I was certain it would never make the trip. For the car and myself, I prayed.
And then I did it. I made the one promise I knew I would have to keep.
"Please God, if you let me live through this day and this illness, I promise I will divorce him. I vow I will find the courage to file those papers. If I don't, I'll die."
If ever there was a wake-up call, I'd gotten mine loud and clear. This was not my life, driving this unsafe car in a half-conscious condition all because of a selfish, manipulative abuser whom I had allowed to run my life.
If God would see clear to letting me live, then I would take care of the rest and make certain my life was filled with happiness, joy, peace and harmony.
After a grueling one-hour drive, I finally made it to the medical center. I knew office hours weren't for another half-hour, but I was hoping luck was on my side.
Miraculously, the door was open. I walked in and Sharon, the nurse, greeted me with, "Catherine! What are you doing here . . . I mean," she gasped looking at my ashen face, "You look terrible. What's the matter?"
"The usual," I replied making a stab at a joke.
"Oh, no it's not," Sharon said with concern as she led me to the bathroom, and showed me the plastic cup for the urine sample. Since I was the only person in the office, she was able to send the sample to the lab for an immediate culture.
My doctor came in, examined me and we talked for quite some time.
"Catherine, I want to know what you took before you came here."
"What medication?" he asked with an intensity edged with sharp curiosity I'd never seen in him before.
"Harvey, if I'd had any medication, do you think I would have practically risked my life driving here? There was nothing in the house. That's why I'm here."
He gaped at me. "You had to have taken something."
"No. Nothing. Not even an aspirin substitute," I said. "Why are you looking at me like I'm some kind of amoeba or something? I'm telling you the truth."
"Okay," he said with a sigh. "I believe you."
Shaking his head he looked back at me. "This is impossible. At least in medical science it's impossible."
I shook with chills but not the kind that come from being sick. These were goose-bumps. "Go on."
"Catherine, we ran the culture. "The results show that while there is a lot of blood there is no bacteria present. It's virtually impossible to have that much blood and to have been in the pain you described with no bacteria present." Suddenly, I felt as if I'd crossed into some zone or dimension that medicine and man had never experienced or at least had not revealed. My mouth went dry, but I summoned up the courage to tell him the truth. "It wasn't what I took. It was what I did. I prayed and visualized getting well."
"Catherine, I'm a firm believer in holistic healing. I've seen miraculous cures before. People making themselves well. But this . . . this is entirely different. To my knowledge there's never been a case like this."
We spoke a bit longer, and I left his office with the realization that if I could cure myself physically, I also had the power to cure myself emotionally by taking control of my life. Driving home I was amazed at how relieved I was having made this decision about my life.
Once I was home, my husband pulled his usual trick of being contritely sorry for not taking me to the doctor's office. He was oh, so sweet.
But this time the veil had been lifted from my eyes. I saw his manipulations in all their damning clarity. By nightfall, he was back to his cutting remarks, blaming me for the problems he had at work that day and all of it ending with him slamming the door on his way out to the bars and nightlife again.
The following Monday morning I was seated in my attorney's office signing the divorce papers I'd called to have him prepare.
That day was a turning point for me in both my marriage and in my spiritual life. I came to a new understanding about what God does and does not expect from me.
He expects me to help myself make myself be happy. The rest of everything is in his hands.