There it was, Pat's name tucked under the most recent obituaries in the local newspaper. Her name, short list of relatives, loved her dog, and a successful career as a social worker. Nowhere in the obituary did it say she saved lives. I know she did because she saved mine.
It was more than 20 years ago when I first met Pat. I was raggedly stitched together emotionally when a very astute older friend identified my emotional abuse and suggested I start seeing Pat.
Emotional abuse is odd in that there are no visible scars. It all happens so insidiously, behind closed doors. I remember vividly the sense of isolation and the lack of self- worth. Back then all I did was wake up every day and hope I could hold myself together for another day in my marriage.
It was her smile I first remember, and eyes that lit up. I felt so at ease from the moment we met. She became an integral part of my life for the next two and a half years through my separation and divorce.
I recall many days when all I could do was numb myself until I got to the appointment at the end of the work day. It was a time in my life when I felt that pieces of me were scattered to the wind like bits of paper and I was running wildly to try to catch them.
I asked her how the perpetrators of emotional abuse feel about their actions. With a nefarious apathy, he saw me in emotional shreds and didn't stop. She expressed concern for his ulterior motive.
Looking through my journals from that time I see an insecure, immature woman who believed every criticism and insult. They reflect a firm belief that my duty was to prop up his fragile ego. The scam of his mid- life crisis had hung over our marriage for years. It was a crisis alright but had no relation to his mid- life.
I didn't know how to be me anymore. For years my life had been dedicated to looking younger, slimmer, prettier, anything to make myself acceptable in his eyes. Everything was my fault.
Naïve enough to believe my wedding vows, I was stunned to find my married life had all been a duplicitous lie. Stunned is maybe too banal a word. Shattered probably best describes it. My journal notes Pat said 'none of the self -help books describes the intricate depth of deception that shaped my married life.'
Pat knew when to guide me, when to let me stumble, always helped to pick me up and keep me moving forward. More than twenty years later and some of her words of wisdom and comfort are still with me.
Pat knew when to listen and when to cajole me forward. She believed in me. The duplicity had made me feel that my married life had been unreal. She was the one who identified my marriage ' was real to me ' and anything beyond that was out of my control.
Methodically, Pat began to help me stitch my new life together. Emotional abuse recovery carries attributes of a post traumatic marriage disorder with triggers, dark times and risky behaviours. It takes enormous effort to claw your way back to reality.
Pat told me it was not my fault. Very few situations where the blame can be placed on only one partner but it was his life choices and deceit that had destroyed our family life. I was shocked. I had lived with repulsion in his eyes for so many years.
Pat was a woman with incredible patience. There was no pressure to get better fast. Just encouragement and hope. It had been years since I felt hope.
The challenge was to see a future. I had spent years absorbed in my partner's perceived problems. There was never anything left over for me, believing as I did, if he got enough attention then my life would go back to the fairy tale I thought I lived.
Pat helped me to see and accept that there had never been a fairy tale. It was a deception from the beginning.
I stumbled in so many different ways, making bad choices, and then more bad choices. Through it all she never gave up on me. Feeling very much a lost soul, I muddled my way emotionally for a while.
Every week I would show up at Pat's office. Eventually life started to lay down new tracks. The ground appeared again. She helped me with those painful baby steps into my future.
I went through horribly dark times over 20 years ago. I was victimized but thanks to Pat, I did not become a permanent victim. If you have been emotionally abused get the help you need. Don't be afraid, ashamed or embarrassed. There is a counselor like Pat out there for you.
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