Warning: This article includes descriptions of graphic traumatic experience including physical violence. If you have recently experienced trauma or are sensitive, please do not read this at this time.
Today, Friday the 13th in March of 2020, I decided to do something rather strange. Instead of starting my day with work, my intuition told me to resume watching a film I had started a few days back. It was the new release by Netflix called “Spencer Confidential” starring Mark Wahlberg. I had turned it off because it was more violent than I prefer watching. I had no idea why I was directed to watch this action film, but it was meant to be. About halfway through the film there was a graphic strangulation murder scene which flooded my head with memories from that fateful Sunday in June nearly a year ago. The title of this article was breathed into me at that moment. Once I had the title, everything filled the page with life like lungs starved of oxygen.
We take the ability to freely breathe for granted. We never imagine not being able breath unless we are swimming or in outer space, but for some, that is cut short. Before being strangled I never gave my breath much thought. Since that day my breath has meant a lot more to me.
It is funny, or not so funny, but we see strangulation depicted constantly in film and TV. Most of us never give it a second thought or question it. I never noticed these scenes until the day my former wife tried to kill me on June 16, 2019. For months afterwards, I could not watch TV without having flashbacks. I never realized how often people are strangled in our media. Once it has happened to you, life is never the same.
The first thing you notice when you are being strangled is that you cannot speak. This is ironic because most of the time in the movies they portray someone screaming demands as they are strangling the person. This is followed by a dialog between the two actors. But this is not possible, nor reality. When your lungs have no oxygen, you cannot speak. As my wife laid on my back, pinning me to the ground, she kept screaming at me, “Just tell me you will not call the police.” She recited this over and over in hysterics. I noticed my mind was sharp for a while and all I could think was “Are you fucking serious? You’re strangling me. Of course I am calling the police!” At least that is what I thought for the first twenty seconds of the experience, before panic set in.
The next thing that occurs is you lose all motor control. The body requires oxygen for your muscles to function. Without oxygen, they cannot work properly, which means you cannot defend yourself. This is probably why perpetrators choose to attack with strangulation. When I was losing control of my body, I realized my wife was planning on killing me. She had threatened to kill me since March of that year and this was not the first time, but the 3rd time she had placed her hands around my neck. The other two times she was in front of me and I was able to push her off. On this day, she jumped on my back and strangled me to the ground. When a perpetrator is in this position, you have no ability to fend off your attacker, especially when you love your attacker and do not want to cause them harm.
For the first twenty seconds, I could not believe the situation. I was in complete shock because we had begun this beautiful June morning in the most wondrous way and I felt things were finally getting better. I was mistaken.
My wife had been threatening me on a regular basis. The threats started in January when we talked about divorce. She threatened that if I divorced her she would destroy my reputation like my previous ex had done. She used my experience with that as the fuel for her threats the entire marriage. The threat morphed into threats of killing me and making it look like an accident, along with physical violence beginning around my birthday in March. With each attack they kept getting more extreme. I was terrified of my wife.
A friend understood my terror and passed a long a copy of a book covering the Jodi Arias murder trial. Ms. Arias’s murdered her ex-boyfriend by shooting him in the face, slitting his throat and then stabbing him 27 times in the bathroom. Ms. Arias was described as an “petite, attractive and soft-spoken” woman, similar to how others would talk about my former wife. I still hear people say to me, “But she’s so small.” Few can comprehend how a small, innocent looking woman is capable of such terrifying things. You can listen to this transcript from moments after our first police interaction on May 14th 2019. My former wife shared how she was taught that fear was the only way to make people give her what she wanted. My friend warned me to stay far away from my wife and not be tempted to reconcile.
But, on that Sunday morning things felt very different, the terror I had been feeling for months had vanished. I believed our relationship had a new track because of what had happened the day before.
On Saturday, the 15th, we drove up to Elk, Washington to a tranquil spiritual center where we meditated for the afternoon. During that adventure, I felt like our relationship was starting over. I recall feeling love for this woman for the first time in a long time, and real hope for our future. I recall saying “I love you” to my wife at least 3 times during that day and really meaning it. We drove home that night holding hands and things felt perfect. The terror I had been feeling for months was subsiding.
So waking up that Sunday morning was like no other day I could remember. We laid in bed and cuddled for over an hour and everything just felt perfect! Then she started getting ready for the day as I stayed in bed with my laptop to do some projects for a client. Because I was feeling so safe, I began a conversation with one of my best friends while I was working and I shared with her what had been going on behind closed doors.
To this point, I had not been honest with any of my local friends or family about what I had been going through. The only people who knew were her father and two friends who witnessed my wife’s episodes while traveling. Initially, I only felt I could be fully honest with her father because he had seen this behavior since she was a child and spoke openly about it after she started attacking me in front of him. She constantly threatened to hurt me if I told anyone about her abuses, so I kept quiet. Well, because I felt that we were turning over a new leaf and she was no longer going to hurt me (yes, I see how delusional this thinking was), I decided to open up to my friend in that conversation on Facebook Messenger.
I was finally sharing about some of what had been going on and I felt so much relief! I believe this relief caused a false sense of safety which allowed for the following events to occur.
My wife started doing things around the house, and I kindly asked her if she would plant the plants I had purchased for her earlier. We bought them four weeks before and had an agreement that she would plant them immediately. Well, that did not happen. Instead, I was now watering the plants on the porch every other day, doing my best to keep them alive. I even spent a few hours clearing the ground for the plants so it would be an easier job for her to finish.
She had been manipulating and controlling me in every capacity since our wedding day. For the months leading up to this day, I had felt so emotionally strangled by her that my neck and shoulders burned from when I would wake up until going to sleep. My acupuncturist knew a little bit about what was going on in my marriage and she did her best to relieve my pain but it only worked temporarily. I felt as if I had a sore throat cold for over a month although I was physically well. I see a bit of poetry with how my wife chose to end our marriage, by physically strangling me after emotionally suffocating me for so long.
Life was like walking on eggshells. I was so afraid of my wife and I simply did not want to trigger one of her episodes. Asking her to plant the plants did exactly this. She did not want any responsibility and requests were met with anger. Moments later she came into the room screaming at me about a music festival in July that she wanted to attend. She wanted to fight instead of going out and playing in the garden. I could not understand this reaction but I have learned that it is difficult to understand the mindset of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. She then was screaming at me about how controlling I was and that she needed to go to this festival with her mom a week before Spokane VegFest. I expressed that the timing was not good and that I needed her help with the event during that time. She had made an agreement to help with the festival. I reminded her that we had a trip planned to visit her family two weeks after VegFest for our post VegFest vacation. I simply asked her to be patient so we could get through VegFest.
The way the conversation was going did not please her. She responded by telling me that she wanted to go on a date with another man and see a movie that week. An hour before, we woke up and things were beyond incredible. Now things were getting ugly. When she brought up this date, I was without words.
This was another big struggle in our marriage. Often when she would get mad at me, she would bring up other men that she was speaking with daily. I believe there were five single guys that she would text throughout the day, including while we were in bed or at the dinner table.
She loved attention from men and would prey on anyone who would give her attention. She confessed that she had been sharing with these men details about our marriage including talk of divorce and our sexual [trauma induced] issues.
In her previous relationship, I was unknowingly one of those other men. She would tell her boyfriend, “If you are not going to do what I want, Josh will let me stay with him.” She described her boyfriend as controlling, abusive, and diagnosed with Schizophrenia. I thought I was helping a friend in distress when I offered refuge. Later, I would learn that her description of him was just another one of the lies she used to seduce me. I was unaware that I was a pawn in her other relationship until January. At that time she began using the identical threats on me by saying she would go stay with another guy when we would have an argument. Being on the other end of these manipulations was incredibly painful.
I could never have imagined what came next. My wife ran into the kitchen and started shrieking Disney songs as she would every time she was upset. Then, about 20 minutes later, she came into the bedroom with an empty quart mason jar. She proceeded into the bathroom to fill it up, walked up to me and said “ Josh, move your laptop, I am going to throw this on you!” I was perplexed. “What??? Why???” I exclaimed! I did my best to move my laptop to safety and I kept begging her to stop. Just as the laptop had gotten out of the way, Splash! I was completely drenched waist up along with the bed. Even the paintings on the wall behind me were dripping with water.
She proceeded to run into the living room as I got up. Dazed and confused, I walked into the living room and asked, “What on earth are you doing?” As I got close to her, she rushed me and started beating me with the jar on my chest. She did not hit me with much force, but because this was so common I said to her, “You are hitting me again, I need to call the cops!”
Now, again, something new happened. As I started to grab for my phone to call for help, she grabbed my phone with one hand and my ponytail with the other. She had never pulled my hair before and I, now 3 years with long hair, was still not used to having it at that length. With her hand she tugged sharply on my hair. My face immediately spun up to see the ceiling and my neck seared with agony. I shrieked, “What the fuck are you doing?” We struggled for a few moments and somehow I got away and started running towards the front door. But then I stopped dead in my tracks.
See, I was not wearing any clothes. I was in the bed just moments before so I had one sock, boxers, and nothing else on. I stopped to think about grabbing pants instead of protecting myself. This is a great example of how fucked my mind was. I was caring more about what others thought about me running into my front yard wearing only boxers than my own safety.
Anyway, that moment gave her time to catch up and she jumped on my back with her hands around my neck. With a thud, we slammed into the ceramic tile floor. I recall sort of chuckling when this happened because I could not believe it was real. Again, just an hour ago, things were dreamy. They were perfect. I felt so safe. It was this false safety that allowed my guard to be dropped like a drawbridge. I let her Trojan horse into my heart once again, and I was not willing to believe my current circumstances.
Now, as she had taken the last breath out of me, I was beginning to see this was for real. I recall she did let up once, allowing me to have a half of breath. Maybe just for play, like a cat dangling a mouse. It was not enough for me to regain the strength in my arms and break her grasp. With her fully on the back of me, I was not strong enough to get up either. Combined we would have been about 300 pounds. At this moment, about twenty seconds in, I was trying to think of a gentle way to stop my wife from killing me. The only thing that came to mind was to reach around my back to tickle her side. She was normally very ticklish and in that moment I had full confidence that it would work. So, I did just that. It was not successful.
About thirty seconds in, I noticed my hearing was now being distorted and my vision, too. Things were getting fuzzy. My brain still seemed semi-sharp but nothing else was. After giving up on the tickling strategy, I thought to myself, “She’s really not going to stop.” That is when I went into a full panic. She was still screaming, “Just tell me you will not call the police!!!” I recall still opening my mouth trying to respond, but nothing could come out. The stubborn part of my ego did not want to give in, but my soul decided to live! I recall nodding my head and instantly the restraints on my neck were released. I took the deepest breath of my life and just laid there for about twenty seconds, getting my vision and strength back. The dragon was out of breath, too. I took those moments to get my wits about me and figure out how to save my life. I felt that if I did not get out the front door immediately, I would be doomed.
My phone was my safetynet and I noticed it sitting to my right, unharmed. I was relieved it had not been destroyed in the struggle. I felt safe to make my move. As I picked up my phone, I heard the sound of it turning on. My wife noticed the sound and my movement. I picked up the phone and in a flash jumped out the front door, but the dragon was on me again! My left arm was caught in her grasp and she started pulling me with all of her force back into the house. I had no grip on my feet because one foot was still wearing a sock. I grabbed the frame of the front door and pulled myself through the threshold and onto the front porch. She was ordering me to not call the cops and to come back inside so “we could talk”. I did not accept these demands. I wanted to live! I made it all the way to the tree in front of the house, about 25 feet from the door. I wrapped one arm around the tree’s trunk, so I could hold on to it, while she was tugging at me. The trunk supported me while I dialed a friend to help me figure out what to do next.
I never would have called the police. I was too afraid to follow through and make the call, but I did want to talk to my friend who I was just messaging because I needed support. I was scared shitless and standing mostly naked on the front lawn. As I dialed, I could not stop thinking about how embarrassed I was for standing in boxers in front of the whole neighborhood. I wondered if one of the cars driving by would stop and intervene, but none did. I told my wife that I wanted to talk to my friend and begged her to leave me alone. When I would not disconnect the call, she let go of my arm and ran into the house screaming, “I am going to kill myself!” My heart dropped.
I fled into the house hoping to protect her from herself. She had been suicidal on numerous occasions, including cutting herself and leaping off the back deck one night. That night, she tried to jump from the 10 foot spot on the deck and I caught her just before she dropped. It was midwinter and I remember my cold bare feet on the deep snow-covered deck. I will never forget that moment. I had her by the waist and I picked her up and pulled her back in the house. She immediately ran into the bedroom and jumped off the 6 foot drop from the bedroom’s balcony falling onto the shrubs. The universe was protecting her because she just walked right back in the house, like a cat jumping out of a tree, without a scratch. I was in disbelief. She returned calmer and we went to sleep shortly after.
Nothing could have prepared me for the sight as I walked into the house. I saw her in the kitchen at the far end of the room. My wife was holding the 11” chef knife about to stab herself in the chest. I screamed “NO!!!!!”. She dropped the knife and picked up a smaller yellow handled paring knife and proceeded to stab herself in the chest a half dozen times. I was hysterical. Why was she doing this? I kept screaming for her to put the knife down!!!. She finally did and dropped it on her foot. This whole time I kept at least ten feet of distance from her. I did not feel safe, but I was more concerned with her safety than my own. I thought I was still on the phone but, when I asked if my friend was still there, the phone had been disconnected. My wife ran into the back bedroom and I walked onto the front porch to call my friend back.
When I reached my friend, she let me know that she had called the cops and they were on their way. I was instantly relieved. My dear friend did what I was not capable of. She did not have the distorted lens of a trauma bond, and could make the decisions that needed to be made. I got off the phone and proceeded to the bedroom’s bathroom where my wife was packing in a panic. I explained to her that the cops were on their way. She ran out of the bathroom and placed herself in front of the bedroom’s exit. She then sat down on the floor and began to beat herself in the left eye. She had a habit of beating herself on the top of the head any time she did something awful, but I had never seen her beat herself in the eye. Two months before this, she got in a similar rage which left a 6” gash across her left cheek from her long fingernails. We were housebound for a week due to her embarrassment of the mark on her face.
I tried to leave the room but she would not let me by. I pulled out my phone because I realized what was going on. She had promised that if the cops were ever called she would kill me and make it look like an accident or harm herself and say I did it. My ex from four years previous had used the same method to end our relationship, and my wife knew this would be the perfect exit. I pulled out my phone to record the self abuse attack. I held my phone at my waist with the camera in her direction to film this scene. The moment she noticed the phone, she stopped hitting herself and began wailing even louder than before. She kept saying that she wanted to go to a friend’s house. I responded, “You just tried to kill me, you need to go with the police.” I asked her to explain why she tried to kill me and her reply was just as insane as the rest of the scene.
First, she explained that she was not trying to kill me, but wanting to “strangle me to sleep.” She then explained the reason why she went off in the first place. When I asked her to work in the garden, she was scared of getting a sunburn. She said she did not know where the sunscreen was but did not want to ask me. I still cannot believe this was her response. I thought to myself “What? You tried to kill me over a tube of sunscreen?” Yes, the marriage was clearly doomed, but wow! In the video I explained that the sunscreen was where it always was, in the bottom drawer in the bathroom. I go find it and show the camera. I then return and continue to record her rant. She began to calm down and I knew the police were getting close, so I put on pants, and met the police in front of the neighbor’s house. I wanted to make sure the police knew she was no longer a danger with a weapon. I did not want them to hurt her.
As we began walking back toward my house, one of the cops observed my wife on a bicycle fleeing the scene away from the garage.
That was the last moment I saw my wife in real life. She was found two hours later about a mile from the house and spent one night in jail. The paramedics checked me over and I gave my report of the situation which was very blurry because I was in such deep shock. The whole time my only concerns were my wife’s safety, and the potluck I was hosting at a park in an hour. I kept asking how my wife could get out of the felony charge. I asked if there was any other charge that would be a lesser sentence. They explained the severity of the situation to me and I began to accept whatever was to happen. For some unknown reason, the police report had quite a few errors. It said that this was the first violent episode even though she had hit me dozens of times, strangled me three times, and made threats for half a year.
I learned the following week that the Washington State prosecutors will not prosecute a young, attractive woman because they do not believe a jury would ever convict. I was appalled by this. I did not want her to get a felony charge, but I felt she needed to have some sort of consequence for attempted murder.
I have mostly healed from the trauma and accepted the situation as it unfolded. The books that I have shared in the Bookshelf Of Healing along with The Little Shaman’s Podcast on Youtube helped me the most through this journey. In the end, healing is each individual’s responsibility. Healing is not comfortable and more painful than I could have imagined, but totally worth it. Learning to love yourself in a non-egotistical manner and allowing yourself to face your pain is the way to healing. Loving and accepting everything as it unfolds is the only way I know of to fully heal from such traumatic experiences. This includes unconditionally loving those who hurt us.
Another thing people do not talk about is how long it takes the neck to heal from strangulation bruising. Even though the outward marks were gone within a week, I struggled to swallow for over a month. Breathing was even more of a challenge, always feeling like I needed to gasp for air. I could feel her thumbs on the left side of my neck for even longer. The marks from her fingers were on my right side, but the thumbs, which left no mark, was where it hurt the most. It took me many months to let go of the feelings associated with the attack. I had never been assaulted in such a manner before. When someone forces themselves upon you in such a violent way, it really takes awhile to find your “self” again.
Until March 2020, I was paranoid of anyone behind my back, I did not realize the connection until recently though. I regularly dance in a local Ecstatic dance group and the whole time for the past year I would carefully make sure my back was never turned towards the group. I believe this started before the attack but this fear increased after the strangulation. As of Sunday March 1, 2020, I have no fear of spinning or turning any longer. It is wonderful to feel safe once again.
I want to share my deepest gratitude for my friend who called the police on that life-changing day. Thank you so much! It took me months to feel the deep levels of gratitude because of how insane my life became after all this happened; however, it was such a great gift! Thank you my friend! You did what I would never have done for myself. I will always love and be grateful for you!
I am feeling prompted to share the document from the Domestic Violence (DV) support order which I filed in February 2020. I have many fears about sharing my experience with the world, but I feel this is the right time. The file includes photos from the attack described above, audio recordings of my former wife threatening me and my two cats, plus details of a few of the physical and emotional attacks during our marriage. The court has accepted these two recordings as evidence in the DV case. All details are a part of the public record now. I pray that my former wife gets the help she needs so she does not harm another partner, as she has hurt her past three. There is a sweet and kind soul deep inside her. I am grateful for all that has come out of our short marriage. I have no resentment toward her and I only wish her the very best.
Note to reader
This article may stir up feelings. I understand how hard these feelings are. I was petrified to share this story for 9 months now. I have experienced so much pain because I have not shared my experience. I have allowed others to speak for me. That stops now. I am still nervous but I believe that not Standing Up and allowing others to be poisoned by lies is more harmful than speaking up. This is why I have decided to share. I have nothing to lose from being honest. I want our community to heal from these traumas. It is cruel when we don’t speak up. Sharing our experiences is kindness.
“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community.” ― S. Kelley Harrell, Gift of the Dreamtime – Reader’s Companion
The readings from Alan Cohen’s A deep Breath of Life on the day I wrote the rough draft of this article and the day I published it.