Last weekend H and I went to a big celebration for a member of his family’s 80th birthday. There were a lot of people there, many of whom I’d never met before as they live in other states. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the party but I didn’t have a way out of it, so we went. I spent the majority of the time sitting alone drinking and socialized minimally. Toward the end of the evening people had mostly left and those that were still around I know and like. I decided to hang out with other people finally.
Instead of enjoying some time with the family members I actually know and like, everyone was picking on me. I was being teased about all kinds of stuff, and I really wasn’t in the mood to take it. Unfortunately H’s family doesn’t back off when they should. I got pretty agitated and went inside, where I was immediately teased by someone else. I went back outside to more teasing and at this point was royally pissed off. I told H we needed to go home and said goodbye to the family outside. One of the younger guys (maybe a cousin?) patted me on top of the head. I was furious! Just because he is tall and I am short does not give him the right to touch me like that. I went inside to say goodbye to the rest of the family and get the hell out of there.
I walked inside and said, “The next person who pats me on top of the head is losing an arm!” I then proceeded to hug my mother-in-law goodbye and moved on to my father-in-law. In the mood I was in, I stood next to him and offered only a one arm half-hug. He returned it so his arm was behind my back. Everything was fine until his other arm, which I couldn’t see clearly as it was on the opposite side of his body from me, reached for my head. Before I even realized anything had happened, my other hand had come up, intercepted his hand and I saw his head snap back. I immediately let go, asked if he was alright and apologized. Needless to say he was not happy.
My in-laws didn’t know that I’m a survivor of domestic violence, but they did know that I have over a decade of martial arts training. When my father-in-law moved his hand toward my face with his other arm around me blocking my escape I was suddenly consumed by uncontrollable fear. I reacted purely on instinct to defend myself. Unfortunately I did so in a family setting where I was not in any danger. H and my in-laws were understandably shocked and upset. I was so upset I was suicidal. I didn’t tell anyone that part.
After we got home and I had explained to H as best I could what had happened and why, I called my father-in-law to apologize again. He was clearly still upset but wanted to let it go and accepted my apology. H wasn’t quite so forgiving and made me promise to get help, as he thinks I may have PTSD. I agreed to try to find a psychiatrist. I had actually tried that in the last year and was unsuccessful as I couldn’t find one in my insurance network who was accepting new patients. However, I’m looking once again. After that H said that everything was okay, but I certainly was not okay.
I determined that the only way I would feel things were truly okay between myself and my in-laws would be if I told them about my past abuse so that they had as complete an explanation as I am capable of offering for why I attacked my father-in-law. H and I met them for dinner Thursday night and I told them. It was incredibly difficult and I was truly afraid they wouldn’t want me anymore once they knew. Luckily I was wrong, they still love me and were grateful I opened up and told them. H assured me this would be the case, but that did nothing to assuage my emotional reactions to the thought of telling them.
Ever since I told them I have been in a much better place emotionally. I’ve smiled and laughed, and I’m no longer suicidal. I made the right decision in trusting my in-laws with something I don’t like to discuss or share, and I think our relationships are stronger now. I have committed to H that I will seek help to diagnose and treat PTSD, and I am ok with that.