Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Stacey

(Disclaimer: I'm still really sick - I'm writing this from my bed, in my pajamas, trying desperately not to swallow. If I don't write, though, my head will explode: there's only so long I can go without doing something with my brain. If I don't make any sense here, you'll understand why...)

I teach fitness classes at a local health club and one of my participants in the Sunday morning step class is a woman I'll call Stacey. She's a quietly friendly person, about my age, with a bright smile and a gentle manner and a determined, tenacious streak which I love - she was hell-bent on figuring out a particularly challenging step pattern last year and insisted that I teach it every week until she got it. We chitchat a little bit before each class starts and, though I don't really know her very well, I know enough to like her.

About four or so months ago, I noticed that Stacey had started to change. It was subtle at first - she was a little more quiet than usual, she'd lost some of her bounce and enthusiasm. When I asked after her, she'd reply that she hadn't been feeling well but that she was really okay and I shouldn't worry. I accepted her explanation, but kept an eye on her just the same.

It didn't take long before the subtle changes started getting overt; she seemed sad and despondent, and she'd started dropping weight at an alarming pace. A couple of other regulars in the class noticed, too, and asked her if she was all right - she told them she was, but I wasn't buying it anymore.

A couple of weeks ago, I cornered her in the lobby after class. I basically said "look, Stacey, I know something's up with you. You don't have to tell me what it is, but I know there's something. You're not the same person you were six months ago, you're melting away to nothing, you look tired and scared and I'm genuinely worried about you." I pressed a scrap of paper with all my contact information on it and told her that I'm here and available if she needed me for anything.

About a week later, I got an email from her telling me that she'd found herself in an abusive marriage and was considering getting out. The email was what I imagine is typical of abused women - she blamed herself for the behavior, she told me that he really does love her, she said that she doesn't want to leave because that will only make things worse. My responses were always the same - she had to assure her own safety - sooner rather than later - and that I was available to help in any way that I could, up to and including picking her up and bringing her to the shelter.

She hadn't shown up to class in a couple of weeks and I was beginning to worry. I heard from her on Sunday, though, when she told me that her parents were coming to physically remove her from the situation. She was distraught and shaking, but resolved. I assured her that this was the best thing that could possibly happen to her, that she needed someone to come to take her from this situation which she clearly wasn’t strong enough to overcome on her own, and that I was relieved to finally know that she’d be safe.

I haven’t heard much from her since Sunday. She emailed to say that she was at her parents’ home in a nearby state and that she was physically safe but emotionally wrecked.

I say that’s better than the other way around.

4 Comments:

Blogger Kizz said...

In a few years she'll probably wonder why she didn't just walk out herself. Isn't it odd how we are simply incapable, physically often, of doing or quitting something that, from the outside, seems like such a no-brainer? I wish the map of the human genome could address that. I know I've been there and even when the brain is all, "Yeah, this needs to not be happening." somehow the rest of one doesn't follow.

2:20 PM  
Anonymous claudia said...

It's incredible how the brain can sustain a state of denial.I worked with someone who had been saying what a volitile temper her husband had and came to work one day saying (somewhat casually in my mind) that he had "slapped her last night". I immediately told her "that is abuse!". She gave me a very long and detailed defense and said that she really "hadn't been hurt." Being who I am,I said something to the effect that I really didn't think concussions,internal bleeding or broken bones should be the determining criteria for abuse. She gave me a long blank stare,then proceeded to sucessfully avoid me for the rest of the shift. She came to work the next day saying that she had "moved out last night". She didn't know where things would go from there,but since she had thought of herself as a "strong" woman,she was dumbfounded that she had allowed things to get to that point for her and had made excuses for his behavior. Last I heard-she was remarried and very happy. For all woman who need the support,thank you,Ms Chili for speaking up!!!

2:50 PM  
Blogger vanx said...

It's good that you reached out to her to start with. That kind of intervention and support, seemingly small, gets the ball rolling for a person that needs to do what Stacey needed to do. And it's not such a small thing. It couldn't have been easy confronting her and letting her know that you're concerned.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

Update: She emailed me yesterday with this message:

Doing okay. He is furious with me and wants me to go back. I am very
tempted. It would be so much easier.

My reply was something along the lines of "Easier than WHAT?!?!" I looked up the number of a battered women's shelter and told her to call, NOW, to talk to someone who knows what they're talking about - and to get herself a counsellor and an attorney. She wrote back saying that she would call, and that my help is still welcomed because she knows she's not seeing things very clearly right now.

I'm pretty sure her parents have a good handle on her and won't let her do something stupid - and quite likely dangerous - like come back. I'm just hoping they can hold on to her long enough for her to realize that herself.

I'll keep you posted when I hear anything else.

10:57 AM  

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