I'm trapped and going crazy and I just need help!

I'd leave my husband and take my daughter but that would be kidnapping!

By Cary Tennis
Published May 13, 2009 10:19AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I need some advice quickly. I'm a 25-yr-old mother of a beautiful 2-1\2-yr-old daughter who I love dearly, married to what I thought was the one for me but here we r 9 yrs later and I know he is not the one. We got together when we were 16, proposed when we were 18 -- matter of fact on my 18th birthday. At 20 we moved to Iowa, by 21 we had our own place, by 22-23 we had our daughter. During those yrs, they were not the best. We have both put our hands on each other, not like punch in the face or anything but a shove or kick or two, here and there, not proud of it. Have also done it in front of my daughter.

I love him but am not in love with him anymore. I'm kinda stuck between a rock and a hard place. I want to leave SOOOOOOOO BAD but I'm thinking about my daughter first and formost. If I take her they can get me for kidnapping 'cause I would have to go back home to Florida 'cause I know no one here in Iowa, it's all his family here, and if I leave they can get me for abandonment and my daughter is my life. I could not go on without ever seeing her face again ... I know him, and his family would do everything in their power for me to never see her again if I left. My family is not the greatest family, they have a drug history, but that's them not me. At this point I have nowhere to go but to my family's house.

I am soooooo confused. I don't know what to do. We have tried to work this out for years now and it seems like it goes OK for a few months but then it always goes south ... and we don't really have the money to get professnal help like counseling or anything. I don't think he would do it anyways. He always says I should leave but YOU'RE NOT TAKING HER WITH YOU! ... SHE IS MY WORLD I COULD NOT LEAVE HER BEHIND EVER!! Then there's times where he is like, Just leave and take her with you, he don't care about either of us ... which I know is not true, I think ... at least not the part about her ... PLEASE HELP ME I'M GOING INSANE I'VE FELT THIS WAY FOR TOOO LONG I'M GONNA LOSE IT IF I DON'T DO SOMETHING SOON I JUST WANT TO MAKE SURE WHATEVER I DO IS THE RIGHT DECISION ... THANKS SO KINDLY


Dear Confused One,

Today you change your life. Seriously. Today.

The first thing you do today is you find a place to sit quietly for five minutes and just breathe. Use your kitchen timer or your cellphone timer or whatever you have and set it for five minutes. Just see if you can sit still for five minutes and breathe. Just pay attention to your breathing.

After you have done that today, your first priority is to make contact with people who can help you. Clear two hours for yourself. I don't know if you are working at a job or staying home taking care of your daughter. Maybe clearing two hours means getting out of the house to a friend's house where there is a telephone and a computer you can use, or going to the library and using their computers, or just getting your husband out of the house so you can do what you need to do. But the first thing you do is clear two hours in your schedule, and use those two hours to reach out for help.

Here is how you start. Here is a Web site, funded by the Iowa Department of Human Services, that will help you find free or low-cost counseling, and other kinds of help that you may need.

Take some deep breaths, my friend. Get some paper and pencil and begin taking notes.

Don't go to Florida yet. That won't help. You need to stay here in Iowa and build yourself a life. Later maybe after you have some stability and some schooling and you have better control of your situation ... but that's getting too far ahead.

Let's just stick with today. Clear two hours from your schedule, look at that Web site, and begin calling places. Tell them that you're in crisis and you need somebody to talk to.

Do not be deterred if your first phone call does not get you exactly what you need. As you start looking for help, you will learn how the system works. Some people might not give you the time of day, or will be rude. Don't let that stop you. Some may say you need money. Don't let that deter you. Keep calling until you find somebody you can talk to who understands your situation and can offer some help.

I do not recommend going to Florida. I recommend staying in Iowa, reaching out for help, trying to slowly improve your situation by finding people who are on your side and working with them. They are out there. That's the amazing thing. There are people out there who want to help you. Maybe it sounds strange, but it's true.

So the No. 1 thing you need to do is start calling these people and find some folks to talk to and begin making a plan. If you do that, you can slowly untangle this situation. You can learn how to live one day at a time with the situation you're in, and take care of yourself, and take care of your kid, and bit by bit bring some stability to your life. One day at a time. It may be weeks or months before you feel you are making progress, but you will begin to feel progress. Just take it one day at a time.

Meanwhile, here are several other things you can do to bring some stability and order to your daily life.

Pick one thing to do every day at the same time. If that is exercise, then exercise at the same time every day. Or maybe it is a meal. Could you begin having dinner at the same time every day, cooking a meal every day and sitting down to eat at the same time every day? I say this because from the tone of your letter I get a feeling that your daily routine is full of tension and chaos. Perhaps you are home alone with your child all day while your husband is out of the house, and you don't have a minute to think straight? Or perhaps you and your husband are both working and childcare is handled by his family? Perhaps then your work situation is very hectic and you have no time to think or relax. I don't know. But you'll be surprised and pleased, I think, at how much it can help just to stabilize your daily routine. Pick one thing to do every day at the same time.

There are other things to consider as well, in the area of general health and well-being. How much sleep are you getting? Try to get half an hour more. Go to bed half an hour earlier. Get the house quieted down and crawl into bed for a good night's sleep before you really have to. Try to do that every night for a month and see if you don't feel a little more relaxed in the morning.

What kind of food are you eating? Are you eating fresh vegetables, fish and meat, beans, rice, fruits? Are you drinking enough water? Take a look at the kinds of processed foods you are eating, and the soft drinks you are drinking. See if you can cut these out. They may be affecting you poorly. Do you have any food cravings? Pay attention to your food cravings. Are you getting enough B vitamins and minerals? If you are under a lot of stress, sometimes taking more B vitamins can help compensate for all the B vitamins that are used up during stressful periods. Eat some greens. Eat some carrots. Eat vegetables that you crave.

Exercise also helps with stress. Get some exercise every day. If you can take your kid out to the park every day, do it. If you can take her for a walk in the sunshine, do it. If you run, or dance, or can take an exercise class, do that. You need to carve out some time for yourself every day where you don't feel like you're going to explode.

Have you ever meditated before now? I know I suggested doing five minutes right off the bat, just because with all this stuff going on in your life you may be too agitated to think straight without a little meditation. So try doing it every day. Try sitting at your kitchen table for a few minutes and doing nothing. Just sit there. Sit there and pay attention to your breathing. Just be quiet and do this. If you have a timer, set it for five minutes. See if you can sit there quietly, just paying attention to your breathing, for five minutes. After the first five minutes, if you still have time, try it for another five minutes. Try doing that every day. After a while, you may find that it is a pleasurable activity that you look forward to, and that refreshes your spirits and makes your problems seem less pressing.

I almost forgot about church. If church is a part of your community's normal routine, or if your husband's family goes, then try going along with them. For one thing, it is something that happens every week at the same time, and that adds stability to your schedule. Also, it is a relatively quiet space where you can sit in safety and think your own thoughts. If the minister seems to be speaking gibberish, just tune him out and think your own thoughts. Meditate. Maybe he'll think you're praying or whatever.

There is one more long-term part of this: education. It's time for you to get educated in an occupation that you can pursue for the next 10 to 15 years. Since you got together with your husband when you were 16, it's possible you did not finish high school. Or maybe you did. Maybe you went to college some too. You don't say. But now is the time for you to pick an occupation, get the training you need for it, and learn some things about the world at the same time. Maybe pick up a language. Do some English composition. Learn study habits. Education will unlock doors for you. It will give you options. You just have to pick something to study -- nursing, optometry, food science, law enforcement, library science, animal husbandry -- and get a certificate that proves you know what you need to know, and go into a field of work that suits you. If you do that, then you can know that you can take care of your daughter no matter what happens between you and your husband. You will not be dependent on him or his family or your family.

Finally, here is what I really want to say: It is time to change your life today. You can do this. You can make new choices and do new things that will make you happier and safer. You can start today. You can have a great life. It's right in front of you.

Thinking about changing your life? Why not do it today?

Makes a great gift. Can be personalized for the giftee of your choice. Signed first editions on sale now.

What? You want more advice?


Cary Tennis

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