It must have been a pretty calm, uneventful day. I say that because if there had been any incidents of abuse or strange behavior, I would have recorded it in my Mad Man Matt journal.
Matt was stretched out on our overstuffed comfortable couch, lying on his side, elbow bent, hand under his head. I was curled up in the overstuffed comfortable matching chair, covered with a blanket. We were watching a movie…I have no idea which one. Night had fallen and the room was dark except for the candle in the window and the flickering of the screen. We hadn’t spoken in quite some time, both of us resting after a long day.
Matt sat up, stretched, and stood up. He walked towards me, his face expressionless. Without saying a word, he leaned over me, pulled a pillow from underneath my arm, placed it over my face and pressed down hard on either side of my head. My head was push way down into the soft, overstuffed chair, face completely covered by the pillow. I was immediately flooded with panic. Without a second thought, I lashed out with both arms and legs, trying to thrash my head from side to side, but I was no match for my body-builder husband. My heart was racing so fast it felt like it would burst out of my chest. I felt like I was on fire. I struggled to breathe but could get even the slightest bit of air. My lungs felt like they were going to burst. The blackness was absolute. I was fighting for my life and it was becoming quite evident I was losing.
Then, I stopped. I don’t know what made me stop, but I just went limp. I may have passed out. I don’t remember.
The next thing I remember was Matt, still holding the pillow, stepping away from me and saying, “There, that should teach you.” Then he threw the pillow at me.
I had no idea what lesson I was to learn.
I slumped back into the chair sucking in as much air as I could. I was soaked with sweat, panting, blood was roaring in my ears, my stomach was churning. Even with my eyes open and the pillow away from my face, it was hard to focus. I have no idea how long he had suffocated me. I know it wasn’t, but it felt like hours. I was exhausted, disoriented, and terrified. I didn’t know if he would be coming back to do it again, but I knew that if he did, I wouldn’t survive.
Matt had experienced my claustrophobia several times before. I panic when my airways are covered. I can’t cover my face in the winter with a scarf. I sleep on the very edge of my pillow, so that my airways aren’t covered while I sleep. I have even gone into panic mode at times when I have had a bad cold and couldn’t breathe through my nose. I’ve been that way my entire life. What was for me, a minor inconvenience, was for him, a weakness he could prey upon. It was one of his favorite methods of terrorizing me. The above incident was just one of many. Some were even worse, but it’s hard for me to describe them to you, even for such an important topic as this one.
A few years earlier, while working in the carving shop, I was having frequent nose bleeds. The wood we were working with was tupelo, a common wood used by wood carvers because it is extremely soft and easy to carve. I had been working on a Mr. and Mrs. Snowmen (snow people?) and was using a Dremel Tool. Because tupelo is like working with butter, the dust from it is super fine and I had my head down close to the wood as I whittled away with the electric sander attachment. It took a little while, but we realized the fine dust particles where what was causing my nose bleeds. Wanting to help one day, Matt walked up behind me and slipped a dust mask over my mouth and nose without warning me. I didn’t hear him coming since I was using the Dremel. In one swift motion, I dropped the Dremel, reached up, ripped off the mask, threw my fist back and smashed him right in the face! I felt so bad! I didn’t mean to punch him. It was a knee jerk reaction to having my airways blocked.
Why am I reliving these painful memories and relating them to you?
I’ve written about it before. I will write about it again if necessary.
Masks can be triggers for victims of abuse…children as well as adults. Just has I have to speak out for victims of domestic violence, I have to speak out and educate others about the panic wearing a mask can bring to some people.
A rape victim who had her mouth covered by a hand, or tape, or a rag shoved in her mouth while she was being raped can relive that event over and over again if she is forced to wear a mask. An adult who, as a child, was silenced while they were being molested can feel anxious and unable to breathe while wearing a mask.
We can’t “Just get over it.” It doesn’t work that way. For some of us, it is IMPOSSIBLE to wear a mask. We DON’T have a choice.
For those of you who are deathly afraid of spiders. Imagine being held down and a dozen spiders are dropped on you, crawling around over your arms and face. For those of you who are afraid of water. Imagine someone throwing you in the deepest part of a pool and then dunking your head under again and again. For those of you who are afraid of snakes. Imagine being locked alone in a room with large slithering, sneaking snakes all around you. Forcing someone to do something that is so terrifying to them is inhumane and just cruel. Trying to force a victim to wear a mask is also.
I understand the thinking behind wearing masks, and there are many people who can wear them without a problem. I’m speaking for those of us who absolutely cannot wear a mask.
This “mandate” of having to wear a mask makes life very complicated for those of us who can’t. I would like to eat, and to eat, I have to shop for groceries. I have a letter from my doctor. If I can’t go into a grocery store because I don’t have a mask on, and I tell the store owner I have a medical condition which makes it impossible for me to wear a mask and they allow me to shop, what about the other shoppers? I’m uncomfortable with them thinking that I’m being “selfish” or “inconsiderate” an “idiot” because I have come into a store without a mask. I don’t want a confrontation. Should I walk around with the letter from my doctor in my hand so that when I get dirty looks I can show it to them? I don’t want to have to explain that I was almost murdered by being suffocated and can’t wear a mask. I SHOULDN’T HAVE to explain. This is victimizing the victim all over again. This is supposed to be a free country.
The possibility of me catching or spreading the virus (which I don’t have) are extremely slim. The panic I would feel wearing a mask, even if I could put one on, which I can’t, is 100% going to happen.
So, I’m asking everyone, please, please, please, if you see someone without a mask, avoid them if it makes you feel safer, but please don’t judge. They are probably more uncomfortable about it than you are and are just trying to get through this trying time as we all are.