The Courage to Leave

| This is the 165th story of Our Life Logs |


After trying to have a child for fifteen years with no success, my parents had grown desperate and immigrated from Britain to the state of Utah in the US in the late 1960s. At the time, Utah was a leader in the emerging technology of fertility treatments. And I guess it worked because there were eventually three of us kids, all girls. But once they were done with the need for the treatments, we all moved to Canada.

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My sisters and me (I’m on the far right).

I had a relatively normal childhood, though some people might scoff at this, knowing that my mom was an alcoholic. She was never an abusive or dangerous alcoholic; she was just distant and emotionally unavailable. On the occasions when my mom was too drunk to function, I would help my dad with a lot of the family responsibilities. Being the oldest child, I felt that it was my job to hold things together.

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In my early 20s, I settled down with a Canadian guy. We had two boys together, and I couldn’t have picked a better father for them. For a long while, life remained content.

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Me, pregnant at 21 years old.

In 2004, my father was diagnosed with colon cancer, and I moved back into my parents’ house to take care of him. My mother was riddled with guilt, thinking it was somehow her fault. When he passed away, her drinking became more frequent. I’d find her sprawled around her house, and I couldn’t bear to leave her alone anymore, so I moved her in with my family. I tried to get her committed a few times, but rehab was the best I could do. Still, rehab wasn’t enough. She drank herself to death one night. I was devastated to know that I couldn’t save her from herself.

In the wake of my mother’s death I realized that the love I had for my husband had faded away. He was a great guy, and a wonderful father, but we just weren’t meant for each other. By the time we separated, I was in my 40s and my boys had grown up. Through my friends, I met a guy who lived in Indiana. Let’s call him Ricky.

The hope of new love was exciting. We talked online for weeks, and he seemed decent enough. Soon we made plans to meet in person. I mulled around the idea of moving to the United States. Ever since I was little, I felt a pull to return, and after getting to know him, it felt like destiny.

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In April 2012, I moved to Indiana so that Ricky and I could be together. It turned out Ricky was a crack addict. Eight or nine months into our living together the violence started. But there were still some happy moments, and love is supposed to conquer all, right? After about a year, we got married while on vacation in Las Vegas, a spur-of-the-moment thing. Well, there should be a six-month hold on any marriage in Vegas so you can have a chance to change your mind.

I found a job as a behavioral health tech at a hospital, and fell in love with it. One of my patients at the hospital encouraged me to go to nursing school after seeing how well I worked with others, and I decided to go for it. As I got deeper into the nursing program and had more work to do, I began to see changes in Ricky. He’d distract me from studying, like he didn’t care about my career. Money started disappearing and keys started going missing. He would leave for days without calling me and get violent if I didn’t agree to his demands. It started out small with just verbal abuse and some shoving, but over time it got worse. Our house turned into a war zone where I had to tiptoe around him, not wanting to set off a landmine and bring out the violence.

For years I watched my father stay by my mother’s side despite her dysfunctions, and I thought I had the same strength. I thought maybe if I stayed loyal to my husband, things would change.

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Ricky had been picking me up after work (when he remembered), but one day in August 2016, he didn’t show up. I figured he had forgotten and asked one of the other nurses to drive me home. I had a bad feeling when I walked up to the door. I had given Ricky some money from my stash that day so he could buy a major appliance for the kitchen. When I got home, he and the appliance weren’t there, so I had a pretty good idea of what he was out doing. I kicked myself for giving him the money in the first place.

I called and told him he needed to bring my truck home so he wouldn’t wreck it later. He dropped off the truck before leaving again without any argument, which surprised me, but I let myself have the small victory. Later that night, he called me over and over asking me to pick him up. I knew it didn’t matter if I picked him up or not. I was going to get beaten either way. So, I just kept telling him I wasn’t coming and locked myself in the bathroom.

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The next morning, he came home and busted down the bathroom door. I saw a fury in his eyes scarier than ever before. The rest of the day he held me captive. I was beaten and sexually assaulted all day. It was like his anger couldn’t be quenched. That night, with his fist next to my head, he made me call off work. Through it all, I would try and close my eyes, to go somewhere else in my head, but he wouldn’t let me keep them closed. In one of his eyes was a little black spot. I focused on it, trying to make the pain go away, even just slightly, to survive. I still have nightmares about that black spot.

But the beating didn’t stop there. He dragged me by my feet down the stairs, with my head bouncing off three or four of them. I felt dazed and was bleeding, and he became worried that he had gone too far this time. He told me he was going to take me to the hospital, but only if I told them that I had fallen down the stairs. As he went to get the truck, I could no longer stand, so I crawled onto the porch. A neighbor saw me and called the cops. They took him away and that was the end of us.

I finally found the courage to control my own fate.

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For years, it felt like if I were to leave, I’d leave with nothing. I had been telling myself, “At least I have food now; at least I have a roof over my head.” Before, I didn’t think I could make it on my own, like most women in that situation. But after that horrific beating, I realized how misled I had been all this time. I was going to school and working, while he was spending all his money on crack. I was the one paying the bills. So, yeah, I could make it on my own. I always did.

Finally, I began to see my worth for the first time. I vowed to never let a man ever hit me again. I felt a sense of empowerment that I wish I’d had before Ricky.

In December of 2016, I decided to move to Ohio. I found a job as a psychiatric nurse, I made friends, and I started getting my life back together. I found my own place and started attending local heavy metal concerts where I found a community of people that understood my pent-up rage and respected it.

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Me getting ready to go out, 2018.

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Still today, if I get in a heated discussion, or if a book gets put down on a table too hard, I’ll flinch. It pisses me off because that is the legacy the violence has left me. While I have small triggers, I’m not looking over my shoulder as often as I used to. That’s no way to live. Surely I still have nightmares, but they don’t scare me anymore. If I hadn’t found the courage to leave, there’s a chance I wouldn’t be alive to share my story.

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This is the story of Kathleen Thompson

Kathleen currently lives with her boyfriend in Dayton, Ohio where she works as a psychiatric nurse. Growing up in Canada with an alcoholic mother, Kathleen always felt that she needed to take care of everyone and put others’ mental state before her own, and she soon realized how toxic that could be when she got into an abusive relationship. It took years before she finally got out of that relationship. Today, she refuses to live in fear. Though her own kids are grown, she has had the chance to co-parent a three-year-old boy named Billy that her friend recently saved from a drug-addicted mother. Kathleen is thankful to have Billy in her life and says he keeps her young. Kathleen loves to go to metal shows and is very active in the Dayton metal scene. She loves being the “metal mom” to a lot of people. 

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Kathleen making a silly face with Billy.

Kathleen is even using her connections to organize a benefit for victims of domestic violence to help other women find the courage to leave. She believes if she can just help one woman leave, then every single beating she took was worth it. To learn more about this event, visit its Facebook page.

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This story first touched our hearts on September 12, 2018.

| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: Colleen Walker |

4 thoughts on “The Courage to Leave

  1. Glad you got out alive, I know your story all too well. I loved a similar one. I stayed too long, in addition to the physical scars it made me a bitter and angry person. I wish I had been stronger like you. God bless you and your kids.

    Liked by 1 person

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