My Husband; My Tormentor PT II

My Husband; My Tormentor PT II

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Please read this disclaimer before reading this story. 

DISCLAIMER: In this series, we will be covering stories on Toxic and abusive relationships. This may be a triggering topic for some. This particular story mentions instances of gaslighting, intimidation, threats as well as other forms of emotional abuse. It also contains mentions of stalking and controlling behaviour.  Kindly remember to be mindful of your mental well-being and that of others when reading and sharing this story.

My husband was my tormentor. He never physically harmed me in any way. He never even raised his voice – anyone who knew him knew he was very soft-spoken and well-put together. I know now that some of these soft-spoken people could be the worst tormentors. The culmination of the psychological torment and fear had led to a decline in my health. To date, I still struggle with a back problem that manifested  during my marriage.

It started after the birth of my first child, and initially, my mother thought it was because I strained too much running up and down with work. The back problems got so bad that I eventually had to take it into the hands of specialists. I will never forget my orthopaedic surgeon- God bless that man! After I’d been doing treatment for some time, he decided to talk to me on a human level.

I was just over 30 at this time, and I could not work. I was placed on medical leave for six months. My surgeon looked through my medical history and decided that at my age and with my medical history, I had no business having such problems. He didn’t attribute it to childbirth.

One day, I was in his office, and he put my file aside and said, “You’re the age of my second child. My second born is 31. You’re not doing what other 31-year-olds are doing. You can’t work, you can barely walk. You’re limping. I thought you had been in a road accident when you initially came to see me, but now I know that’s not it. Why do I have a feeling your backache is not medical? Tell me about your life.”

I didn’t know what he wanted to hear. He asked me where my husband was. He added, “Every time you come here, you are alone, and I know this backache must have affected your conjugal life. I expect him to be here, wanting you to be well.” My husband and I had moved to Nairobi by this time, so truly there was no excuse.

I cried my eyes out. I thought about how whenever I came home from the hospital, my husband would not even bother asking how I was doing or how my sessions went. He demanded that I cook because he claimed our house help didn’t know how to cook as well as I did. He would easily become fussy about everything: the food was not tasty enough, that his shirts were not well-ironed, anything and everything.

I opened up to my surgeon and told him everything. He told me that my backache had to do with psychological issues. I had been getting physiotherapy for almost a year at that point and was not responding well to it. He told me that my medical leave would likely expire before I could move around again and that I would probably have to undergo surgery. My discs were degenerating, and it was the only way to slow them down or stop that from happening.

After I opened up to him, my surgeon suggested separation. He noted that if I was already doing that badly, I could end up in a wheelchair if I stayed with my husband any longer. The funny thing was that my surgeon was a church elder, so typically he would not be advocating for separation. However, my marriage was costing me my health, I needed to get out. When I went home, I didn’t sleep that night. I remained awake till morning. My marriage ended within a year of this conversation.

I talked with my mother and told her I didn’t feel safe in my marriage anymore. I didn’t dare to tell her everything that had happened, but I let her know I wanted out of the marriage. The sum total of this alienation, control, spying, and seeing him abuse his power to get his friends arrested all culminated in my absolute fear.

The story of how I eventually walked out of this marriage after about ten years could be a movie.

After the tears at the orthopaedic surgeon’s office, I could not get our conversation out of my mind. I thought about it day and night. I was on medical leave, so I was not going to work. I was helpless, and most times, I limped around the house. I started sleeping on the floor because my back issue was terrible. I had to sleep and sit on the hard surface because of the severity of my problem. I couldn’t sit on the couch. I had to wear a back brace to keep my spine aligned. I was in a terrible position and had nothing to do but think of a possible way out of my marriage.

During this period, I was also not a present mother to my young children – my daughter was barely four years old, and my son was around nine. I was not a hands-on mother to them as I was just lost in my miserable world.

I walked out of my marriage and never looked back on the night of September 26th. The three weeks leading up to that were a whole affair. There was a lot of terrible torment within these three weeks.

At the beginning of September, I started getting anonymous messages on my phone threatening me. While my movements were limited because of my back, I could still go out and about. I could still drive, even if it was challenging. Every so often, when I got tired of being at home, I would get into the car and go to Sarit Centre or The Mall (neighbourhood malls) for coffee.

We were living in Westlands, so I would go hang out at these places alone as they were close to home. The messages I received would tell me exactly where I was at any given time. They came from numbers I didn’t know, and applications like True Caller didn’t exist then.

When Panari Hotel opened, I decided to drive down Mombasa Road to see what it was all about. There were a small number of vehicles in Nairobi in those days, so traffic was not a big deal. I went to this new hotel that was the talk of the town to have a cup of coffee, and I got a message early that evening before my husband came home telling me that I was at Panari. I was terrified beyond measure. I was already not feeling safe in my marriage, but this was a whole new level. I started asking myself who could be watching me and where were they watching me from?

I started fearing leaving home, and I could not confide in my husband because we were barely talking. Our conversations were limited to exchanging grocery lists or yes and no questions. We were not relating in any way whatsoever. When my phone beeped that a message had come in, even when I was in the house, I was afraid of even opening the text because I didn’t know what was happening.

After a short time, I got a message telling me that I was pretending I was sick with other issues but that the truth was that I had HIV/AIDS. These events will be clear in my memory for as long as I live. When that message came, it was an afternoon, and I was sitting at my bedside looking out the window. Our bedroom window had a beautiful view, and I enjoyed looking at it.

Shortly after seeing that message, I put my phone down and tried narrowing down who could have been sending me those messages. Each time, they would come from different numbers, but it had to be one person sending them. From the texts, particularly this last one, the person had to be aware that I was sick and no longer going to work.

I stood up and went searching inside my husband’s bedside table. I wiIl become spiritual for a minute and say that I believe God opened my eyes on that day because I don’t know why I did it. Even if people say God hates divorce, I think God also knew it was time to save me.

I didn’t know what I was searching for in those drawers, but I was struck by the urge to do something. I couldn’t understand why someone would tell me I had AIDS and what it had to do with anything. Where could I have even got it? I pulled out an envelope, and something told me to look at it. I found a printout of my husband’s test results. He had taken an HIV test without my knowledge. I was familiar with it because I had taken them when I was pregnant. Back then, women were highly encouraged to take the tests for the safety of mother and baby. I knew how the information was presented.

My husband’s test was negative. It dawned on me that he had something to do with the messages. He must have taken the test first to be sure of his status – positive or negative- so that, depending on the outcome, he could torment me from that angle. I don’t think he thought that I would ever find his results. This incident convinced me to face my husband.

That evening, I waited in the bedroom. I didn’t go down to eat dinner; I lacked appetite. I just wanted to wait for my husband. So I just sat on the bed, looking out the window, and waited. He came in at around 7 p.m. When he entered the bedroom, I called him to sit beside me.

When my husband sat beside me, I told him to read all those messages and tell me where they came from. Initially, I was holding the phone and scrolling through it myself. I was convinced if I let him touch my phone; he’d delete the messages and deny they ever existed. But he convinced me to hand over the phone by telling me he couldn’t see clearly. I gave him the phone. Suddenly, his hands started shaking.

I forgot I was sick. I stood up and started shouting. “I want to know where all these messages are coming from! How do these people know I was in Sarit, Panari, or wherever else? Whenever I leave the house, I get a message telling me exactly where I am. You know where these messages are coming from!” Of course, he denied everything.

The last message he got to was the one I had received that day. I asked him, “Where is this story of HIV/AIDS coming from? This must be someone who knows me.” 

I didn’t tell him I had seen his results. The envelope was sealed and back in its place in his drawer. I emphasised how because we had not had anything that could be called marriage for quite some time if I had AIDS, I could only have gotten it from him. He was trembling as he held my phone.

He thrust the phone back in my direction while still denying everything, but I was also insistent. I told him I would go to my family with all those messages. I said I would call my mother and siblings and show them everything, and he should know that our relationship was over, even if I was still there physically. I said when I went home; I would seek the help of my family members to help dissolve our marriage since we had done both the civil and customary marriage.

I told him I knew he could send me messages from different phones because, working in the telecommunications world, he had access to multiple other lines. I remember telling him, “You are no longer my husband; you are my enemy.”

As he continued denying all those things, I walked to his drawer and pulled out that envelope of his. I gave it to him and asked him to explain himself. Why had he taken an HIV test about a week earlier? I wanted to know what kind of a person he was. I resolved to leave for my mother’s place in Machakos the very next day, and I would not be back. I didn’t care about the state of my back.

Eventually, he asked me, “What messages are you talking about?” Then he got into the shower. As he was showering, I sat there fuming. I was totally worked up. The children were knocking on our bedroom door, wondering what was happening because they heard me shouting. He came out and went downstairs like nothing had happened. I heard him reassuring the children, telling them, “You know mum is sick, so she’s just a bit upset. But it’s okay; l have calmed her down.” My daughter started crying, asking to see me, but he calmed her down and convinced both of them to go to bed. When I saw how calmly he had acted, I made up my mind that I could not spend the night in that house.

I called my elder brother – I’m the second born in my family, then my follower is a girl, and our youngest is yet another boy. It was almost 10pm when I called my brother, and I remember exactly what I told him. I asked him to come for me immediately. He asked me what was wrong, tried to placate me, and asked me to wait till morning, but I told him, “I don’t want any conversation. I want you to come for me now. Leave your house now and come for me. If you don’t come for me now, you better come here with a hearse tomorrow morning because you will be collecting a dead person. If you don’t come now, be here tomorrow by dawn with the police and a hearse.”

That scared him because, within 30 minutes, the doorbell rang. I cracked my bedroom door open from upstairs and heard my husband inviting my brother into the house. He had come with my sister and her husband. I crept down the stairs enough so that | could see what was happening in the foyer, but they could not see me from downstairs. My husband tried to be his usual, soft-spoken, charming self, but I could tell by my siblings’ reactions that they were very cold towards him. My brother is a very calm and composed guy, and in his usual fashion, he asked, “What’s going on here?”

My husband acted like nothing was amiss. He didn’t know that it was me who called my brother from up because he was downstairs watching TV. My brother explained that he got a call from me, which was very alarming. He said he wanted to see me. My husband responded by saying that I was upstairs asleep. He added, “Remember, she has been unwell. She has to spend a lot of time resting.”

My brother insisted that how I sounded on the call meant something was wrong with me and said it didn’t add up that I could be asleep so soon after calling him. He explained that he went to get my sister and her husband because, from my call, he didn’t know what he was walking into. He needed to inform other family members and needed backup. He told my husband that the most distressing part of my call was me saying that I would be dead by morning if they did not come for me as I asked.

My husband continued playing dumb, like nothing was wrong, insisting that I was okay and everything was fine. He said, “The only thing I know is that her illness has taken a toll on her. You know, having a back problem is not a joke. She’s unable to live her life as normal and do everything she is used to, so I suspect it is taking a toll on her mental health.” He added that he was looking into how I could get psychosocial support because I was not myself. I could hear all this from my spot hidden on the stairs.

My siblings tried to insist that they wanted to see me, but my husband continued to convince them there was no need. That the last time he was upstairs, I was dead asleep. My brother remained unconvinced. My sister spoke up and said they should be allowed to see me if everything was okay. I knew it was my time to act.

I returned to the bedroom, shut the door softly, and called my brother. I heard him open the front door and go out when he saw it was me calling him. I rushed to one of the bedroom windows overlooking the parking area. He was wise – he had moved out of earshot of the front door and the foyer. I told him, “I am upstairs. I have heard everything you people are being told. Imagine, if you believe that man and leave, be ready to come back tomorrow morning to collect a dead body.”

I asked my brother to come back into the house, ignore everyone downstairs, and come upstairs to meet me. He came rushing into the house and up the stairs. I could hear my husband asking him where he was going. He didn’t even answer; he just told them all to give him a minute.

My brother found me standing at the top of the stairs. We entered one of the vacant bedrooms, and I told him everything quickly. I couldn’t give him all the details, but I told him what had happened that evening and told him i would show him the messages as proof. When I looked through my inbox, though, I found that all my messages had been deleted. It turns out that when that guy was shivering there holding my phone, he was busy deleting the texts. I suspected he would do that. Something had told me to save them on email. I can’t remember how I did it, but I transferred them and had a backup. Again, I attribute that to God. So before he deleted them, I had the copies in my email inbox and the backup messages.

When I saw my empty inbox, it confirmed to me that my husband was the person behind the messages I was receiving. Otherwise, why would he delete them? I went to my saved place, fearing those backups had also been deleted, but they were intact. I showed them all to my brother. He just shook his head and said, “My goodness. This is what you’re dealing with? Is this what you’ve been going through? What do you want us to do?” I told him all I wanted to do was leave with him.

I was in my pyjamas, nightgown and socks, but I was ready to leave as I was. My brother asked me what would happen to the kids, and I answered, “I don’t know. May God take care of them. But I can’t spend one more night here. Let us just get out of here.” That’s exactly what we did.

The only things I took were my wallet and my phone. I left dressed in night clothes and followed my brother down the stairs. The first thing my husband did when I came down was look at me and speak in a placating tone, “Oh! You are awake! You have woken up? You didn’t have to.”

I didn’t even talk to him. I was the first person out the door. My sister, brother-in-law and husband didn’t know what was happening, but my brother followed me out the door. The other three came out as well. My husband tried to ask me what was going on, and I answered, “I’ve gone, and you will never see me again. You’ll only see me again if you attend my funeral.”

He pretended to show concern for my health and said I shouldn’t act this way while I was sick and that I could talk to him about anything. He spoke a lot of nonsense, acting like he was the person who cared for me most in the world. I got into my brother’s car, and I could hear my husband asking my siblings why they were taking me and where we were going. He tried to play it off like he was concerned about me because my back injury had somehow affected my mental health. He told them that this behaviour was proof of what he had told them earlier about how I needed a lot of psychological support. My brother said, “We are not yet sure where we’re going, but we will decide as we drive. We will talk tomorrow.”