Brianna's journey (part 1 of 3)
Updated: Apr 26, 2019
My story started like so many others. I was young when I fell in love with Ryan. He loved me so much. He showered me with gifts and attention. It seemed normal that he was jealous of other guys because we were so in love, he didn't want to share me. But sometimes he could be mean. He was always worried I was cheating, and in those times he called me nasty names. I did everything possible to reassure him that I loved him. I quit my job when he said I spent too much time at work, I spent less time with my friends when he was lonely, and eventually I lost touch with even my family. I was isolated, dependent on him for income and he still wasn't happy.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was so excited! But Ryan was jealous of the baby and would fly into a rage when I talked about him. It was a difficult pregnancy. When Jackson was born, Ryan hated that so much of my time was focused on feedings, diapers, and playtime. When I noticed his aggression was turning on Jackson every time he cried, I knew it was escalating; I couldn't keep my son in that house.
I called my best friend Sharon, the only person who still tried to keep in touch with me. She couldn't let me stay with her because she was afraid of Ryan, so she suggested I call a shelter. When Ryan left for work, I called IHO's crisis line and talked to Sarah. At first I wasn't sure it was abuse because he never hit me, I just thought it might escalate into abuse. But after talking, I recognized that Ryan was emotionally and financially abusive and I was afraid of him. My home wasn't safe. Sarah suggested I gather some documents like our birth certificates and my ID, but Ryan kept those locked up! He said it was to keep them safe, but he wouldn't tell me the code to access them. Sarah assured me they would help me get the documents I needed and sent a taxi to take us to the shelter right away.
When we arrived that night, Sarah welcomed us into IHO and we talked in her office for a while. I have never been as terrified as I was in that moment. What had I done? I walked away from someone who was going to be furious with me and I had no money, no job, not even clothes! I hadn't worked in years and had an infant son but suddenly I was going to live on my own and become a single mom? Was I crazy?! Sarah knew I was overwhelmed and helped me relax.
When I was ready, she showed me to my room. I didn't expect it would be so comfortable. There were pictures on the walls, a window for natural light, a crib for Jackson and even the essentials I didn't think to bring, like pajamas and toiletries. Sarah gave me some emergency diapers for the night and made sure we were comfortable.
I didn't get much sleep the first night. Jackson and I got up early and ventured into the dining room. Sarah was making coffee for the residents and asked me how my night was. She reminded me of where I could find food for breakfast, which was great because the day had been a blur. She told me that different workers would be coming in soon, and Charrie would meet with me later that morning to make sure i was settling in alright.
I met the other residents staying at the shelter as the families got ready for school. Everyone seemed really nice. The other moms were really friendly and smiled at me. It was nice knowing they had gone through this too. The other moms told me how cute Jackson was and it made me proud! I didn't have to pretend I didn't adore my son. After breakfast, Lisa introduced herself as the Child & Youth Counsellor. She just loved Jackson! He hadn't had much contact with other adults because of Ryan's jealousy and isolation, but he responded so well to Lisa! She offered to watch him for a little while so I could shower. It was exactly what I needed and helped me feel like myself again.
Those first few days were overwhelming. It was a new place and I was going through a lot. I met a lot of people at IHO and everyone was so nice! Even when all the kids were home and it was noisy, no one was yelling at me. This was an environment where Jackson and I could heal. A few days later I was telling Charrie how much I missed my friend Sharon, and she told me Sharon could visit us! I was so excited to see someone familiar! My excitement to bring Sharon into our space made me realize that we were really somewhere safe. Maybe I could get through this after all.
Brianna's journey will continue with Part 2 in the Spring 2019 newsletter!