I shouldn't be blogging at work, but the patient scheduled at 11:30 didn't show up and when I sat down to write a couple of notes, I was too distracted to concentrate. Bernadette's walking into a lion's den.
Bernadette came in this morning for a follow-up appointment. She looked pale and tired but determined. She's spent the last year waiting for the moment to come when she'd have to tell her husband she wanted a divorce. The last time she went against his wishes was 2005, when she traveled to another state to visit her daughter's new baby, Bernadette's first grandchild. Her husband thought the trip would be a waste of money; Bernadette took half her paycheck for two months and deposited in a separate account, bought the ticket and went anyway. She came to see me a week after she returned. She had adorable pictures and a frightening story.
It seems that while she was away, something happened to the door in her bedroom. It had been repaired and repainted, but her husband said nothing about it. It was one of his buddies who asked if she thought it was funny that he'd put his foot through the door. Bernadette was sure he'd actually destroyed the door in rage when he realized she'd followed through on her plan.
Since that episode, she's met with a lawyer; she's opened her own bank account and gotten copies of all their financial records, which she has put at a friend's house. They've gone to marriage counseling, but she doesn't think anything is fundamentally changed. Last week he screamed at their daughter for an hour about homework. Bernadette came in today and told me she was on her way home to tell him she wanted him to leave the house.
What if he refuses to leave? Oh, she said, I can push him a bit and make him mad enough to justify calling the cops, and then he'd have to leave. Plus I already took all the bullets out of the house. I tried to talk her out of it; I suggested she take someone with her, have the conversation in public, leave the house herself. Her lawyer has told her that leaving isn't in her best interests, and I'm sure that's true. But I'm worried about her survival.
I could write a lot about domestic violence, about the statistics and the ways in which the American myth of family and self-determination support smacking women around, about the myriad ways in which the women I know are abused and battered even when he doesn't lift a finger. But I don't have enough brain left for that right now. I'm too worried about Bernadette.