My Story: Chapter Four

What It’s Like to Live in Hiding

Learning to live in a shelter


A woman hiding at the end of a hallway lit from behind
Photo by ammar sabaa on Unsplash

When I returned to the shelter I settled into a daily routine of wake, make breakfast, homeschool with the kids, lunch, rest, talk to the other women, work on my to-do list and just survive sharing one room with all my kids. We were fortunate that we didn’t have to share our room with anyone else. When we first arrived there were two other moms and their children and a few single women all sharing three bedrooms.

We received a crash course as we learned about those from other cultures and economic statuses. We shared the common parts of the shelter with others and there was a large playground in the back with a long porch. I spent many hours on that porch talking to the other women and finding our common background of being abused and controlled.

We were responsible for our own breakfast while a food coordinator took care of lunch, snacks, and dinner each weekday. There was a food pantry we could select food from and fresh dairy and other foods came in once a week from a charity.

The first week back from court I pulled the power and control wheel out and decided to face the truth. I looked at it once a day and then slowly began to make notes. I asked questions of the women who worked at the shelter to help me fully grasp the amount of abuse I had lived with. At one point the shelter manager told me that my husband hit every category of abuse. I slowly began to admit to myself that this was true.

During this time my husband was texting, calling, and emailing me. Every time I read or heard a message I would stress out and talk to the other women about it. I never responded to anything. I was doing my best to be no-contact with him and I didn’t want him to somehow figure out where I was if I replied. I began to receive phone calls from random numbers many times a day and realized he was using an app or something to disguise his number in the hopes that I would answer the phone.

None of his messages mentioned that he was sorry for hurting me or asked what he could do to make it better. They were all demands that I return his vehicle and tools, that he wanted to see the children, and then one cussing at me because my friend had made him mad. On and on it went.

At one point he even left a message saying, “Hello, this is Frank(not his real name) your husband….” That one made me laugh. Now that I know more about narcissists and how we aren't real to them unless we are right there with them I see he actually feared I didn’t know who he was anymore.

Then I received a message from a service processor who wanted to serve me with divorce papers. I began to scramble to find a divorce attorney. I found a domestic violence organization that said they would represent me and I was elated that I would have someone to protect me from my husband.

When I knew for sure that he was divorcing me I began to accept it and start thinking of what I would do to provide for my children as a single mom.

I remember crying in the shower every morning so the children wouldn’t know that I was upset. Every morning I would cry, bent over in agony until one morning it wasn’t quite as bad as it had been. Then each day was less painful and I accepted my reality and began to make plans for my future.

Things were looking up. I was accepting my future and hopeful the divorce would be over quickly so my children and I could go back home. How wrong I was!



Julia Freeman, Trauma Recovery Coach in training

I believe survivors of narcissistic abuse and domestic violence deserve to live in freedom and peace.