My God! He’s going to sit there and watch me die…and doesn’t even care.
That was the sickening realization that crossed my mind a few years ago as I sat in my living room, struggling for breath. The muscles in my chest and back were cramping and each gasp sent searing pain burning through my lungs and ribs. I had already been to the Urgent Care clinic earlier that day with a severe asthma attack, and treatments with my nebulizer breathing machine had ceased to be effective. My swimming head told me it wouldn’t be long until I passed out. But my husband (a volunteer EMT) sat just a few feet away, so absorbed in his video games that he somehow managed to completely ignore me.
I have asthma, so whenever I get a cold (if it goes down into my chest) or seasonal allergies flare up, it usually means I’ll be using my nebulizer, steroid inhaler, rescue inhaler and cold or allergy medicine several times a day, every day for at least 2 weeks. Last week I had a scare because a head cold I’ve been battling migrated to my chest and I was caught off guard without my steroid inhaler or nebulizer, and my rescue inhaler had run out.
Luckily, a friend of mine drove me to my house (a 30 minute drive from a neighboring town I was visiting) and I was able to get treatment, narrowly avoiding a trip to the emergency room. So, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the last time I landed in the ER. And I’ve been thinking about neglect, the kind of abuse that stands by knowing someone desperately needs something, but does nothing to extend a helping hand.
The last time I ended up in the ER, it was my dad who finally drove me there because I had limped into my parents’ house in the middle of the night on my last breath to beg for a ride.
The nurse treating me had asked, “Do you feel safe in your home?”
Hmmmmm…..I’m suffering an asthma attack so severe, I thought I might actually die and my own husband, an EMT no less, refused to take me to the hospital for treatment, choosing instead to play video games. NO! I do not feel safe!!!
But could I actually tell her that? What would be the next question? Would the police get involved? Would they question him? He hadn’t hit me or yelled at me or hurt me. Maybe he didn’t realize how much I really needed to get to the hospital. Maybe I would have been fine and was over-exaggerating. And he would be mad anyway about the huge bill.
I’m such a burden. With no insurance, we can’t afford for me to even be here right now!
Fear tightened around my middle and instead I said, “I’m fine.”
I wasn’t fine. Far from it. But I realized something important that day. I realized how little he valued my life, how insignificant and alone I really was, but it wasn’t until years later that I understood that neglect is a form of abuse that can be as harmful, and sometimes deadly, as physical abuse. I wasn’t battered, bleeding or bruised. I couldn’t say he’d actually threatened me. But I was afraid, had feared for my life and had ended up in the hospital, just like many a battered woman.
There is a website that provides many great resources for women (and men) experiencing spousal abuse on all ends of the spectrum. It is:
On this site abuse is defined as the following:
“The definition of abuse: A pattern of coercive control (ongoing actions or inactions) that proceeds from a mentality of entitlement to power, whereby, through intimidation, manipulation and isolation, the abuser keeps his* target subordinated and under his control. This pattern can be emotional, verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, social and physical. Not all these elements need be present, e.g., physical abuse may not be part of it.
“The definition of domestic abuser: a family member or dating partner (current or ex) who has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one s/he* chooses to mistreat. This mentality of entitlement defines the very essence of the abuser. The abuser believes he is justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control.
* Sometimes the genders are reversed.”
I urge you to visit this website and check out the numerous resources, articles, etc. listed there.
No matter what you have believed. No matter what has been done to you. You are valuable. You are significant. And you deserve to be loved.