‘He was going to shoot me and my family and take my son, he was going to poison me, set my house on fire.’: Abused woman finds power in fitness, ‘It gave me the ability to sleep through the night again.’

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“If he had just kept running that day, how different would our lives have been? Would we still have found a reason to hate each other? Would we still be the same people we are today? Would I have found a strength inside of me I never knew was there? Would he have ever gotten the help he needed?

If we had just walked away from each other when we needed to, when we knew it wasn’t right, would we have been hurt the way we were? Would we get along now? Could we co-parent correctly? Would our son be better than he is now? Questions that haunt me someday, but give me peace of mind others.

As a child, I watched my mother be torn down with words and actions by the man I looked up to the most in the world. He would call her names in front of us, tell her how stupid she was, and sometimes just flat out act like she didn’t exist. When I was 11, my parents split up. My mother never talked bad about my father, even when he stopped answering our phone calls and decided we weren’t worth seeing ever again. She still reminded us of how much he loved us and made excuses for him. I grew up thinking this was just how it was. But the older I got, the more I found out and the more times my mother told me I was better, that I deserved to be loved like the loves in a movie. She taught me to stand up for myself, to know my worth, and for a long time, I did. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression my senior year of high school. I remember hearing, ‘How can there even be such a thing as a depressed cheerleader?’ I had it all, I was 3rd in my class, I was a cheerleader, I was voted most school spirit, I had a jock boyfriend (who everyone thought was the nicest and sweetest guy in the world), I had so many friends. So how was it possible to be depressed?

Courtesy of Erin Fodor

I also had enemies. My name stayed on the bathroom stalls and in people’s conversations. I know the girls who wrote/said those things were jealous or mad because they thought I had everything I wanted, but they knew nothing. Their biggest mistake was not realizing I was my own worst enemy. I constantly held the responsibility for the happiness of everyone around me (it’s still something I struggle with 11 years later). I allowed myself to be controlled, and torn down, told I was worthless, told I was ugly and had all my flaws pointed out until I believed I was nothing but flaws. There was one person at the root of all of that, someone who told me he loved me. But how could he love me if all he wanted to do was change me? He made me small, he shoved me in this little box, so he could control me and never lose me. He would cry, and manipulate me with stories of how hard his life was. He would make me feel like I was the only thing he had left to live for, he threatened to take his own life countless times, in order to make me stay. He broke me mentally and emotionally: while we were dating, when we got pregnant, when we split up, and when we got married knowing we shouldn’t have (he literally ran away that day).

When we got married, it got worse. I was not allowed to work, I was not allowed to leave the house without telling him. I had to change my number and only the people he allowed were able to have it. I went from a size 2 to a size 22 over the course of my pregnancy (due to toxemia). The feelings of worthlessness just got worse after that. I was constantly told how much better I looked in high school, how fat and disgusting I was, that I would never be the person he fell in love with again. I was constantly criticized no matter what I did. I didn’t do laundry correctly or make dinner as he wanted, I never had the house clean (even though he would purposely leave everything everywhere). I wasn’t allowed to work, but I was never once told I was doing a good job at home or for taking care of our newborn child. I couldn’t even tell you how many times neighbors threatened to call the cops because of the constant screaming.

I was called everything under the sun. They say the one accusing things is normally the one doing things and this situation was, of course, the same. I would find messages on his phone on the rare occasion he would forget to take it with him to take a shower. He actually broke his Blackberry when I did confront him the first time, and every time I was so willing to take him back because we said vows and I was going to keep mine.

His abuse of choice was never his hand to me and for that I am grateful. His choice of abuse was just as bad. It was the inability to say no when he wanted to have sex (I was his wife, it was my job to take care of his needs whenever he wanted). He would attack me mentally, insist I was crazy, cause panic attacks so bad I would spend hours unable to do anything but hug the toilet. He knew what to do and how to say things to make it always look like I deserved it and I believed I did for a long time. He made the fact that he never laid a hand on me seem like it couldn’t be considered abuse. But it was. There is a stigma around abuse that someone has to leave bruises for it to count. I promise you, mine did leave bruises, just not the visible kind.

I stayed longer than I should have because I thought I was doing what was right for my son. One day I realized it was not right for my son. There are plenty of examples I can give of times he threw large objects at me, or when he banged his head on the floor on my birthday until he bruised his forehead then went to work and told his coworkers I did it to him.

However, to save time I’ll tell you the most important story instead. It was Labor Day weekend 2010, I was with his parents while they were working a yard sale. I was working on a surprise video for everyone with memories and songs from the last 6 months. When he found out I had been on the computer all day instead of tending to my wifely duties, all hell broke loose. I was immediately brought home and punished. This time though, I had barely put my son in his pack n’ play before the screaming and throwing began. The closest thing to him this time happened to be a cologne bottle that nearly missed my head, and came entirely too close to hitting my child. I had finally taken the abuse for long enough. When I threatened to call the cops, he left. And at that moment I had the strength to leave too. My mom, sister, and uncle were there within minutes and before he made it home, all my stuff was on its way out the door. I finally had the strength to leave, but it still didn’t stop there.

For years I allowed him to control me and push me around, even when he and I had both moved on. He still had power and strength that I wouldn’t even try to match. In 2012, I was planning my second wedding to the man I thought was going to save me and my son. I was going to move away, show my son a life where he was wanted and loved and safe. Instead, I ended up having to get a restraining order against his father to protect myself, because my life was threatened multiple times in multiple ways. (He was going to shoot me and my family and take my son, he was going to poison me, set my house on fire). He was sent to court-ordered anger management classes. When he was no longer allowed near me, that’s when his friends started coming into my work, passing on the threats for him. I was the poor, helpless, overweight, coward who couldn’t do anything but hide behind a piece of paper that obviously wasn’t going to stop him, and I had finally had enough!

Oct 13th, 2013 I started a journey that would change my life forever: I bought a copy of Focus T25 from the flea market and I decided I was going to change my narrative. I was going to lose weight, become stronger than I had been, and I was going to stand tall and proud next time they came at me with their passive-aggressive threats. I would wake up every day and for 25 minutes, I blasted the music that motivated me the most (most of them were his pre-game songs because they reminded me what I was fighting for and who I was fighting against) and I would push myself as hard as I possibly could. I lost the weight, yes, but I gained the strength and confidence I was so desperately looking for. I became a beach-body coach and found the most amazing community that checked in on me, not just physically but mentally, who talked me off the ledge when things got rough, people I owe my life to, because there were many days I didn’t want to keep living. I started doing other programs, ones that gave me proper techniques to protect and defend myself. Those programs gave me courage, and strength to stand up to my abuser when my son started coming home with bruises. I had the courage to stand up for me and my son in court, it gave me the strength to tell the judge my side of the story without fear of repercussions. Fitness and my community gave me the courage to be who I am today, to fight for what and who I believe in no matter the cost. It taught me how to control my fear and use it for motivation. It gave me the ability to sleep through the night again without fear of what tomorrow might bring. I found a love for myself through my health and fitness journey.

Courtesy of Erin Fodor

In 2014, I moved away from the small town that was holding me back. I left the pain my past brought me and my son and we started over. In late 2015, I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Depression. My primary care doctor had changed my anxiety medicine for the third time before she finally set me to a psychiatrist to be evaluated. I felt my world crumble, but I also gained so many answers. This was why I allowed myself to be made small when most people would have walked away, this was why my lows were so low, but it also made my highs higher. For years I blamed my circumstances for my anxiety when really my anxiety was causing my circumstances. I had let myself become the victim, because of something I could have been controlling the whole time. That’s also why exercising made me so intensely happy. It’s why I became addicted to that high like an adrenaline junkie, it was my body’s natural hormone regulator. I went on medicine, I started to make working out and eating a priority again, I started seeing a therapist regularly, I began to become that strong, happy, confident person I used to be again.

In February of 2016, I got news that just made me even more over the moon, I was expecting another child (I had experienced loss 3 times since my son at this point), but this one, I just knew it was different. I made it to the doctor for an ultrasound, the first time since my then 5-year-old. It was the highest high I had felt in my entire life until it wasn’t anymore. April 1st, 2016 my son was evacuated from my womb, his heart had quit beating a week prior. My whole life flipped upside down. I moved to a new home, left that child’s father, started a new job, upped my medicine, tried everything I could possibly think of to make myself whole again. Nothing worked.

Working out in my own home with no one around was my safe place. I started to feel complete again. I gained back that confidence in myself and found independence I had never felt before. I eventually ended up moving back home, just in time for my mother to be diagnosed with breast cancer. But what started out as me scared to lose my mother allowed me to find the man who was going to make me understand my worth. I found my now-husband around the same time my mother’s suspicions of breast cancer became reality. He has been with me from the beginning, never faltering, never becoming angry with me for not having my undivided attention, never feeling obligated to stay, he stayed by my side during her surgery, was at every appointment he was able to be at, he was right there the day we found out she was in remission, and he’s remained my constant since the beginning.

He walked into my life at a time when I wanted so much to give up, and he kept me going. He’s taught me how I deserved to be treated all along. But above all, he has taught my son how you treat the love of your life. He has become the most solid role model my son could ever need. He hypes me up when I’m feeling down, he reminds me that this is my journey, and I’m exactly where I need to be. He helps me be better, and for that, I will always be thankful. My husband and my son, my life the way it is right now are truly my silver lining to a past I never thought I could be thankful for. If it wasn’t for my trials and tribulations, I would never be where I am at this moment. My friends and teammates–who push me every day to wake up and be active and put my health and fitness first so I can be the best version of myself for everyone around me–are my light in the darkness. My journey is all the pieces of me, all the anxiety, depression, domestic violence, loss, bipolar disorder, etc. They lead me to fitness, my family, happiness, health, joy, community, strength, and faith.

Never be afraid to stand up for yourself, if just one person is able to leave a bad situation, and find the strength that’s hiding deep inside themselves, I will feel beyond accomplished.”

Courtesy of Erin Fodor
Courtesy of Erin Fodor

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Erin Fodor of  Tazewell, TN . You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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