What I am about to tell you is complicated… but I can no longer carry this weight. I had a long talk with my therapist yesterday about this. It has been a great problem for me and catapulted my depression to my breaking point back in 2014. The constant crying day and night. It didn’t matter if I was at work or home. The feeling of never being happy. The fear of never realizing my goals in life. Bogged down in what felt like inescapable debt that I saw no way out of. The anger I had towards the person who I blamed for all my problems… and rightfully so… yet at the same time realizing that I allowed everything that happened to me. I felt at the time that his way was the only way. The only way I could survive. Do what he says. Limit the confrontation. Stay in one piece. Reality was that I was shattered and when all was said and done I couldn’t talk about it anymore.
Sure I can sit there and go off on all the horrible things my ex did. The physical and emotional abuse that I endured. I spoke about it with anger in my voice and tears in my eyes. Angry at him. Angrier at myself. What I could never truly scratch… was the surface of the financial abuse.
I gave you drips and drabs about how he took all my money and I barley had anything for the bus or to get myself something to eat. Clothes? Forget that… I wore the same shit every week and shoes until they formed holes… then wore black socks to make it less noticeable. It is not hard to understand my sudden shopping addiction that grew over the past year. Anything new I received via gifts or clothes HE purchased would end up ripped… especially if it was something I loved to wear. Then there was that time I walked around for about six months with no glasses because he snapped them in half. I super glued them together and he kept breaking them and eventually made me throw out a car window… and I had no money to buy new ones. I have terrible vision. My world was one big blur for what felt like forever. Eventually he bought me new glass but those ended up having to be super glued together… well you get the cycle.
Back to my point. Financial abuse is a very real thing. It is another way for an abuser to maintain control. National Network to End Domestic Violence has some information on it here. I’ve taken some of the bullet points from the article and listed those that apply with examples below.
- Forbidding the victim to work- He didn’t forbid me to work but wanted to control where I worked.
- Sabotaging work or employment opportunities by stalking or harassing the victim at the workplace or causing the victim to lose her job by physically battering prior to important meetings or interviews- He often made me call out because he needed help with his homework or made me late on purpose because he was… well an asshole who needed to feel control over every fucking thing I did. I was lucky I wasn’t fired and grateful for my coworkers that stuck up for me.
- Controlling how all of the money is spent- I had no say here whatsoever. One time I paid a bill with some money we had and I was accused of stealing from him… how is paying our car insurance stealing???
- Not allowing the victim access to bank accounts- Supervised access. Only allowed to use his card to buy food whenever he was hungry… sometimes this was at 2 in the morning…
- Withholding money or giving “an allowance”- Barely gave me a dime. He didn’t want me to eat because I was fat so money for food was a joke. Imagine getting an allowance from money YOU MADE!
- Not including the victim in investment or banking decisions- It was none of my business.
- Forbidding the victim from attending job training or advancement opportunities- I’ve mentioned in past posts about Queens College and how he didn’t want me to get my Masters of Library Science Degree because HE wanted me to be a teacher instead. More on this later in the post.
- Forcing the victim to write bad checks or file fraudulent tax returns- Bad check for rent… my accounts went negative often 😦
- Refusing to work or contribute to the family income- We lived for a while on my income and his unemployment because he didn’t want to get another full-time job. His unemployment checks were more than what I was making. He wanted me to get a full-time job so I searched and searched but couldn’t land anything. I took a city test for a full-time promotion within the system I was working but when it came time to go for interviews he made me miss them because it is not teaching… WHAT? Yea ridiculous. The job I have now is because I called up central and begged to be put back on the lists and within a month of that I now have my current job… funny how if only I was able to interview back then… whatever it worked out for the best right? I chalked it up to I still had lessons to learn. More on this another post though.
- Withholding funds for the victim or children to obtain basic needs such as food and medicine- See bullet point number 5.
- Refusing to pay bills and ruining the victims’ credit score- For example, I received four traffic tickets one evening getting him food (I forgot to put my seat belt on then the cop had a field day) and he wouldn’t let me pay them. My licence was suspended because of it and I was forced to drive without one for 2 years. That was the FIRST thing I did when I got my first tax return post relationship. I got my licence back! I had to retake all the tests and everything but it was my first step towards financial repair. I tell this story another day.
When all was said and done and the dust had settled this is what I was left with…
- Student loan debt more than what it cost to go to the classes. I had to take money out to help pay his taxes and any other bills there were.
- Anything I didn’t take out of my name when I left the apartment. He never paid those bills and they ended up on my credit report. My fault for not taking my name off. Gas company 230 bucks. Internet 186 bucks.
- Library fines of over 200 bucks for DVDs he “lost”
- Four traffic tickets of 973 dollars
- Overdrawn bank accounts… 6,100
- My credit was “very poor”
- The number one kicker… 11,700 in back tuition owed to Queens College that got sent to collections
Then 2015 came and it was truly a turn around year. I scratched and clawed my way out of the financial hole he put me in. Now my credit is “good” and I get credit card offers in the mail every week. I got approved for two that I am keeping up on. One of them even gave me a credit increase and I didn’t even ask for it! I paid off the bank debt and through a miracle… something that I never thought I would be able to do… my Queens College tuition.
The reason that the Queens tuition drove me to the deepest point of my depression was because I never thought I’d be able to pay it off. At the time I was only making a little over 700 dollars a month. This is the breakdown of how it happened.
- I wanted my MLS… he wanted me to get an Education masters.
- I fought against it and went to Queens anyway. He did not want to give up control.
- He saw Queens as a way to get money in order to supplement his income through me registering for classes and taking out extra on my loans. Then he would make it impossible for me to make it to all my classes.
- Spring 2012 I was registered for 4 courses and only made it through two of them. Due to two of the classes being dropped Direct loans took that money back causing an outstanding bill with the college.
- I was able to register for summer and fall before any blocks went on my account.
- Summer classes I attended only 1 of the 2. More back tuition owed.
- Fall I attended only 1 of the 2. More back tuition own.
- The kicker was that I am basically paying for each of these dropped classes twice!
- With help from my parents I was able to pay off an agreed amount so I could register for the following Spring with the promise that I would give them the money I took out on the loan to pay off the balance at the time… My life was threatened if I didn’t find a way to register…
What made it even worse…
- He took that from me and paid other stuff with it making Spring 2013 my final semester and 6 credits shy of graduation with zero hope of ever doing it.
If you are still reading this… I know it has been long… this is my confession.
Due to circumstances that at the time I felt were out of my control (as I did not want to die)… I racked up a back tuition debt that I could not pay and therefore never graduated with my MLS. I went into a downward spiral six credits short from achieving something I wanted so badly that I fought as hard as I could for it. I felt defeated. When I was out of that relationship I spoke repeatedly with a woman in charge of collections at the college begged her to let me register. I needed to in order to take out the loan that I would then use to pay off the back tuition… you get the deal. I was caught in a catch 22 and saw no light. While the woman was very sympathetic to my situation there was nothing she could do until I can come up with at least some of the money. Dream dead in the water. My abuser won. I’d never get my MLS.
I am sincerely sorry for never saying something sooner. I fought a long time with this. Through my conversation with my therapist yesterday she felt that I am overthinking and causing myself unnecessary anxiety. It has been so long that I fear that people I consider to be close friends would become upset that I never addressed this when it was happening and never corrected them on the assumption that I had finished.
I hope and pray for understanding. Understanding to the fact that I wanted to bury it because talking about it was too painful. Understanding that I am writing this post to address it because it is the easiest way for me to get out all my thoughts without speaking them brokenly through tears. This was all my own doing because I allowed myself to be treated poorly and something that will never be repeated… but I couldn’t get the words out when I needed too and for that I feel ashamed.
I am coming out now because I am in a place I never thought I would make it to… I am finally graduating. I am writing my thesis and will be done with it this December. I am coming out now because I am overjoyed and I want to celebrate it. I want to celebrate my MLS… but I mostly want to celebrate the final defeat. I didn’t let him win. I fought this whole time and I came out on top. I want to take pictures in my cap and gown with my middle figures flying in the air because FUCK YOU for trying to suppress my dreams because I wasn’t doing what YOU wanted me to do.
I got here through determination. I may not enjoy my job but after 6 months I qualified for free tuition for six credits a semester. Six credits… Exactly what I needed to graduate. So I called up that lovely lady at Queens and we cut a deal. My father helped me with a loan from his retirement of half the tuition owed and she let me register for my final coursework because it wasn’t going to cost anything. I paid off the remainder with a small loan from two extra classes I registered for (GPA boosters) and I am now at zero….unbelievably so. I am grateful that I didn’t throw in the towel and grateful for everyone who helped me get through this rough period.
In 2015, I met a man. A man that changed my life for the better. I left a job I LOVED for one I don’t in order to work full-time. I wanted to chip away at this debt because I didn’t feel good enough for him. Truth is I was always good enough but he gave me that drive to want to be better for myself. The love I feel for him is extraordinary. I want to celebrate it all out loud and not in secrecy.
I hope you will still be with me as I do.
It is with fear and a shaking hand that I press publish on this post.
I love you all and I’m sorry.