WARNING: This episode might be triggering for anyone who has experienced or is trying to heal from domestic violence, sexual abuse, financial abuse or any type of intimate partner abuse. Listener discretion is advised.
For decades Dana Diaz lived in the grips of an abusive relationship. Like many others in similar situations, Dana stayed for two reasons.
First, she worried about what would happen to her son if she left. Second, she stayed because she didn’t feel like she deserved better. But when she found herself in a doctor's office because she only weighed 90 pounds and her organs were shutting down, Dana knew something had to change.
In this podcast episode, we dive deeply into the world of fear, violence, and abuse. With unflinching honesty, Dana shares her journey through an abusive childhood, an abusive marriage, and the life of resilience and recovery she’s finally created since her divorce.
Dana chronicles how she finally broke free from the violence and abuse. (Spoiler alert: Just getting a divorce didn’t change that!) Her story of courage reminds us all about the power resilience and self-love have to change lives.
NOTE: If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner abuse, please contact the domestic violence hotline as soon as possible.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Dana studied journalism and psychology at DePaul University. She has also had life-long experiences with narcissistic abuse. Thankfully her education gave her the ability to accurately express how narcissistic abuse creates confusion and conflict within victims.
Today, Dana is a proud voice for fellow victims who are unable, afraid, or too ashamed to share their experiences. She strives to create awareness and understanding to ensure victims are given the support they need to both understand their situation and heal from it.
Dana’s first book, Gasping For Air: The Stranglehold Of Narcissistic Abuse. chronicles her experiences in a 25-year-long abusive marriage, as well as the healing and empowerment she’s experienced since then.
Where to Connect with Dana
You can learn more about Dana and her story on her website Dana S Diaz. Dana also has a quiz to help you determine if you are in a relationship involving narcissistic abuse.
You can follow Dana on Facebook at Dana S Diaz and on Instagram at Dana S Diaz. You can get your copy of Dana's best-selling book, "Gasping for Air: The Stranglehold of Narcissistic Abuse" on her website or wherever books are sold.
Key Takeaways From This Episode with Dana
- Dana Diaz grew up experiencing narcissistic abuse and neglect from her mother and abusive stepfather.
- She had a teenage mother who did not want her and was emotionally distant. Her stepfather was verbally and physically abusive towards her as a child. This led her to have low self-worth and seek love and approval from others.
- At 19, Dana met her future husband who reminded her of her abusive stepfather. Despite red flags, she married him and had a son. Her husband was controlling, abusive, and threatened her physically.
- The abuse escalated over their nearly 30-year marriage. Dana was very ill from the stress and her body was shutting down. A doctor told her she had to make changes to survive.
- Dana secretly saved money over the years and made plans to leave. After a separation period due to COVID, her husband moved out suddenly one day.
- After finally divorcing, her ex-husband continued to stalk and threaten her. After he shot a gun outside her home, with help from a lawyer, police reports, and witnesses, she got orders of protection and restraining orders.
- Dana and her son moved away and started fresh. She remarried a supportive man and regained her health both mentally and physically.
- Dana wrote a book about her experiences called "Gasping for Air" to help other abuse victims. She encourages women to save evidence, document abuse, and know that support is available when leaving an abusive relationship.
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Gasping for Air: Dana Diaz on How to Break Free From Narcissistic Abuse
narcissist, abuse, survival
Karen Covy, Dana Diaz
Karen Covy Host00:10
Hello and welcome to Off the Fence, a podcast where we deconstruct difficult decision making so we can discover what keeps us stuck and, more importantly, how we can get unstuck and start making even tough decisions with confidence. I'm your host, Karen Covey, a former divorce lawyer, mediator and arbitrator, turned coach, author and entrepreneur. And now, without further ado, let's get on with the show. A word of caution about this episode. In it, we talk about domestic violence, sexual abuse and physical violence. If you have ever been the victim of domestic abuse, sexual abuse or any kind of physical violence, you may find this episode triggering Listener. Discretion is advised.
With me today it is my pleasure to introduce Dana Diaz. Dana studied journalism and psychology at DePaul University. She's also had lifelong experiences with narcissistic abuse. Thankfully, her education gave her the ability to accurately express how narcissistic abuse creates confusion and conflict within victims. Today, dana is a proud voice for fellow victims who are unable, afraid or too ashamed to share their experiences. She strives to create awareness and understanding to ensure victims are given the support they need to both understand their situation and heal from it. Dana's first book, gasping for Air the Stranglehold of Narcissistic Abuse, chronicles her experience in an almost 30-year-long abusive marriage, as well as the healing and empowerment that she's experienced since then. Dana, welcome to the show.
Dana Diaz Guest02:00
Thank you so much for having me.
Karen Covy Host02:02
It is my pleasure and I'd like to start, if you don't mind, with your backstory. And you said you had lifelong experiences with narcissistic abuse, and the reason I want to start here is because so many other people who are caught in the same cycle have similar backstories. So if you don't mind just jumping in and starting with your backstory, start wherever you want to start.
Dana Diaz Guest02:27
Yeah, absolutely, and I'm actually in the process of getting a book together about my childhood because I think it was so important to understand how that led me into a marriage where I was experiencing a lot of the same things plus some, but generally, I mean literally from the start I was born to a teenage mother who didn't want me, and this was during a time in the early 70s that it wasn't OK for teenagers to be unwed and have babies. And the added fact of her not wanting me, in fact she had her tube site immediately after I was born. So yeah, going into that kind of life was a little hard. Now my grandma and great-grandma loved me very much, made her keep me and they were wonderful, they just. My great-grandma especially holds a very special place in my heart. She was my true mother.
But when my mother did find somebody and get married, she and her husband decided it was time to take me and move to the suburbs and away from everybody and everything I knew, which was hard enough. But the harder part of that was that my mother was always emotionally distant. She I didn't feel any affection from her. It was almost neglectful. But I was OK, you know, like, just go along with my life. When you're a kid, you're just trying to play with kids and be a kid and jump around and do cartwheels on the lawn. You know simple life. Just to jump in for a second how old were you at that point?
She got married when I was seven. She was seeing him since I was a year old, so we had already a pretty long history. I mean, he's the only father figure I knew in my life. So the thing was I never liked him, but I was a kid, so nobody bothers worrying about a kid's opinion of somebody. But you know, he was left to take care of me in the mornings because my mother was working so much. You know, they were trying to make ends meet and get their life together and that's just when things would start.
And I feel like, with narcissistic abuse, looking back, this is how it starts is just these little things that end up being really big things. You know, as time goes on they just kind of push their boundaries a little more every time to where you're always on the fence of like, ok, that's not right and it feels wrong, but it's not so much that it could be completely. It could be taken either way, you know. So it was little things, like pulling too hard, you know, making my pigtails in the morning, just generally being just nasty to me. But as time went on, as I got a little older I'd say around middle school age he was constantly calling me a whore. You know, he'd drive me to dance class. I would be wearing a leotard for dance class and spandex leggings or something and he would call me a whore and I started experimenting with makeup. I looked like a whore.
He was constantly telling me that nobody ever wanted me, I should have never been born, he shouldn't have to pay for another man's child, so all these things during a time where you know it's hard enough being a kid, and especially a girl. I feel like no offense against boys, I never was one, so I don't know, but I feel like girls are hit with so much. We're going through our bodily changes during that time. You know our hormones are changing and there's all these societal pressures about what you should look like and your body image and all these things, and your self-esteem is so crucial. So to have crushed that, just I mean, neither one of them just ever gave me a chance. I just felt I felt insignificant and unworthy and unlovable and all these awful things as they made me believe that I was, and even though I was strong-willed and even though I knew it was wrong, I had nothing else in the world telling me that they were wrong, so I believed it. You know and it's a hard way to go out into the world. Then you know when you're seeking a partner.
Karen Covy Host06:39
Oh yeah, 100%. So fast forward to your own marriage. Yeah, once you know. Did you have an idea before you married your husband?
Dana Diaz Guest06:51
Oh, absolutely. Oh, okay, I can answer that right now, because I mean I left my home. So when I mean, literally on my 18th birthday, bye, see you later. And nobody even tried to stop me, I mean it had been to the point where I almost felt I felt like I was pushed out. But looking back I realized now there's a name for what I was, and that is codependent. I was a people pleasing I will do anything if you like me, because, like I'm like a puppy that just wants a treat, like nobody has ever loved me, I'm pretty sure nobody will ever love me, because that's what I've heard my whole life. So, please, somebody love me, somebody just like me a little bit. Just give me a little, a little nugget, give me something.
So, yes, this guy walks into the real estate office I work at I'm I think I just turned 19. And I think he's a jerk. As a matter of fact, I am thinking he reminds me of my narcissistic stepfather who abused me, and there was physical abuse too. You know, like I said, it got so bad in my childhood. I need to go back to that. I mean, you know I was talking about pulling my pigtails too hard, but I mean, by the time I left the house I'd been slapped, strangled, thrown down. So I mean it got bad Authorities were involved. So you know I am, I'm in a low place in my mind. So I think this guy's a jerk. He reminds me of my stepfather who's done all these things to me, and I mean talk about a red flag.
But you know, one day he was nice to me one day and he's like you want to hang out? Well, I have nothing better to do and nobody else wanted me. So I thought why not? And it didn't go well. He spit beer on me, he was drunk, he was just. You know, unfortunately he was very aggressive sexually with my body and he had gotten me so wet that I took off what I was wearing, which was dumb. You're dumb when you're young, forgetting that like I didn't even have undergarments on or anything. So he took that as an invitation.
That happened. Didn't want it to happen, but it did. I was a mess, oh my gosh. But this man by the end of this night says I love you and wants me to stay and says we're just going to. It's the two of us against the world forever. So it's like a truck hit me. I'm like OK, this is a lot real fast, like a lot happened I didn't like and a lot's happening that I want to hear, but it's hard to but the mind space I was in and that's what I want to express is am I smarter than that? Oh, yes, I am, and I was done too. But when you are feeling in your head you know that you aren't worthy of more than that and that you don't deserve better, you fall into these circumstances that you can do dumb things, even if you're a smart girl. So I stick with this guy.
Karen Covy Host10:12
How did you go from there, though, to mirroring, I mean on some levels the red flags were going off. It sounds like you were aware of them Very, which still kept going.
Dana Diaz Guest10:24
Because there was nothing else in the world telling me that I was worthy of love, except for this young man. And when he was nice to me he was very loving, very affectionate, very sweet. We'd laugh. But boy, the angry outbursts, the punching, the holes in the walls and crowbars and hockey sticks and the name calling, and. But I didn't know any better. And I think the problem is that if you would have given me a nice boy to go on a date with, I wouldn't have known what to do with that.
I think we tend to fall into what's familiar and people say I'd never let somebody do that to me, I'd never let somebody control me or manipulate me. But when your head is in a place where, again, you don't think you deserve better than that, and it's all you've ever known, is that tension and that hostility your body. I hate to say it's almost like an addiction. You almost need it to feel like you're being loved. I mean, I had essentially learned to equate anger or violence and all these negative things with love, because if somebody was nice to me I'd be like you're boring, Like you must not love me, and that's not something that might make sense to somebody that grew up in a home where they were supported and loved and encouraged, and all this but from the perspective of somebody who did not grow up in that way. All I can say is that's how it is and fortunately I'm better now, in my 40s, but took a little time.
But yes, I married this boy. Even on my wedding day though I remember when the wedding march played I just I'm standing there panicking, thinking I should not be marrying him. We're just going to end up getting divorced, Like I knew. I knew and I didn't know what to do. I felt too embarrassed and too ashamed to run away.
Karen Covy Host12:28
Well, at that point. So you're at your wedding. You're thinking all these things before you're walking down the aisle. Did you have the traditional wedding, everybody was there, all the things, or was it pulled out OK?
Dana Diaz Guest12:45
Yeah, and I'm on the arm of my stepfather because I was told that I couldn't invite my biological father or he couldn't have any part of the wedding. Otherwise, my mother and stepfather weren't going to pay for whatever portion of this wedding and they weren't going to come. So here I am on the arm of somebody who abused me my whole childhood, ironically walking me down the aisle to pass me up to the next one.
Karen Covy Host13:09
Wow, you mentioned your biological father. Did you have a relationship with him growing up?
Dana Diaz Guest13:18
I did not meet him until I was 16 years old. My grandma and great-grandma did tell me that after I was born he came around for my first year of life. I don't have memories of that, but he was very enthralled with me, very loving, very involved, despite being a teenage boy himself. He was only 16. But my mother, out of vengeful anger towards him, just put an end to that. She didn't want him having anything to do with me and so I didn't see him again until I was pretty insistent at when I was 16 that I wanted to meet, that I needed to know where I came from.
And I think that's something that anybody who doesn't know a parent or who's been adopted you do wonder, especially when you're in these circumstances where you're like, ok, like I am actually being told I'm not part of this family. My stepfather would tell me that too You're not a part of this family, you're not one of us. So it's like I just wanted to fit in, I wanted to be accepted with somebody. Like where did I come from? And when I did first have that first phone conversation and then the first meeting in person with my biological father, it was instant. I mean the instant we talked on the phone it was like it's an overwhelming feeling of like. Now I know who I am Like. Now I know where I come from, because he and I despite me not being raised by him so much alike I mean our views on things, our sense of humor, everything. And it was amazing.
But that got squashed too, because it's a typical narcissist thing. They can't have you feeling any joy or having any happiness in your life, and so the phone calls where I was being ridiculed for them, my mother and stepfather, were making it more difficult for me to have those phone conversations or to see him. So it was one of those casualties, as I call it, that I had to let it go to maintain peace. And that's basically what ended up happening in my marriage, especially after we had my son. My ex and I had a son together. You just get to the point where you're not submitting because you're submissive, but you're so emotionally exhausted that you just want peace and you're just like Lord, fine, we'll just do it your way, we'll just. That's fine, I'll do this that you want me to do, even though I don't want to do it, or this isn't right. But fine, I just settle down. You just do anything to appease them so that you don't have the consequences and that you don't have these angry things happening around your kids or around people.
Karen Covy Host16:09
Well, so you marry this guy, you have a son, you're in a relationship that is. It sounds like it's not going well. Was he physically abusing you at that point?
Dana Diaz Guest16:21
So here's the irony of the whole thing he swung a crowbar at my head once. He swung a crowbar at the wall a few times. Hockey sticks yes, there were. He kept a knife next to him for years at the where he'd laid to watch TV in the living room and I always said that knife was like my shock collar because it kept me in line without him having to use it, because I didn't want to push him to the point. So did he ever lay a finger on me? No, but was there physical threat? Yes, and the worst part of it is by the end of you know our well.
About a year before I finally filed for divorce, I had been very sickly. Sickly to the point where I was experiencing about two dozen random symptoms every day. I had dwindled down to 93 very skeletal pounds. I looked like a Halloween decoration. My hands were in so much pain and didn't work. I couldn't even tear toilet paper off the roll. Sometimes, I mean, I would sit there and cry like I mean, in my early 40s I can't even basically take care of my needs. It's a very sad place to be and I went through all kinds of doctors, specialists, all these tests, long and short of that, it was actually a sleep neurologist of all things.
He got me with Mayo Clinic and they discovered I had had so much cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that's similar to adrenaline, so when you're very stressed out it pumps through your system like adrenaline would if you're like fighting for your life. I had had astronomically high amounts of cortisol pumping through my system for so long that my body thought it was trying to kill, like a cancer or something, and basically started killing itself. So all of my major organ systems were damaged, my white blood cells were depleted and all of these symptoms I was having were autoimmune issues. And at that very low point he sat me down and said your body's shutting down. You are on an oxygen machine because you can't breathe. But if your lungs aren't breathing, your heart's not beating. That's why you cannot move your muscles, that's why your vision's blurry, because your brain's not working. And I mean nothing was working. And he said stress really can kill you. So you really need to think about your life and change your circumstances where you can, because all this toxic energy around you is literally killing you.
So it was at that point that I realized this man didn't have to lay a hand on me in order to kill me. How about that? You don't think about those things. So that's when I you know, unfortunately, as I say in my book, that's when I realized that all this love that I had been looking for outwardly, I had to find it in myself and love myself enough to get over my religious beliefs and my promise to my son to stay in this marriage. And you know my noble efforts to try to make this work and keep our family safe. Nobody wants to get a divorce, but I had to save myself. I had to love myself enough to live, and so that's what I did.
Karen Covy Host19:51
So how did you do that, though? Because it's hard. There's a whole mindset that goes along with having been abused for so many years. Right, so you're in the doctor's office. You realize that your body is shutting down, that you have to change in order to survive, but how do you go from there to moving out and getting a divorce and essentially taking the steps that you needed to take to save yourself?
Dana Diaz Guest20:20
Yes, I had a lot of. I guess I had put enough good juju in the universe or something that I had some things just fall in my lap as blessings. But it also took a lot of planning and I should say, because I had always known. I had always known I kind of wanted out before I even got in it. I had always kept, like you know, Grammys, you know birthday check or your mother-in-law I just cashed in and put it away. I learned enough to keep a little safe that nobody knew about except for me, that I could hide, and I just hid cash in there.
So I had several, lots of tens of thousands of dollars saved because I needed to make sure, because also in narcissistic and probably a lot of relationships where men are very controlling and I'm going to say women too, because it's not fair to say men but if your spouse or partner is very controlling about money, this is financial abuse where they don't allow you on their checking accounts or on credit accounts. You know these are the things that were happening to me, but he had access to all of my money. So I had to, in my mind, especially after I had my son, I had to make sure that if we had the opportunity to just walk out and if my son would come with me because when he gets to a certain age I can't just carry him out and he was a teenager at this point you know I needed to make sure I had money for down payment on an apartment or you know wherever that I had money for rent, for food, for all these things. So I had been planning for a long time, which was lucky for me, which I know a lot of people don't have. That fortune. I was also very lucky.
The irony is that I consulted. They say an abuse victim goes to an attorney seven times, or goes to seven attorneys before finally filing and ironically, I went to the sixth attorney early in 2020. And she gave me some things we had to do because we had a little complication of living on a little farm. We had cows, we had pigs, we had so it's not just about me just walking out or him moving out we had other live things that were assets that we needed to consider. So I had to kind of figure out those things. You know, talk to some farmers, see if I could, you know, and see if my husband would even sign the animals to anybody or consider selling them. So there were things we needed to do.
We go into the shelter in place for COVID a week after I talked to the attorney. So now I am locked in this house with this man. Mind you, at this point he has sensed because you do when you make that decision that you're done. You try to hide it, but they know it, they know it. So there was a lot of tension. So once the courts were, you know, fortunately right about when the courts reopened, I came home from work one day and the house seemed strange, like I noticed something was different, but I didn't realize till I walked up to my office, passed by my bedroom and saw that all the sheets, blankets, his closet, everything was cleared out. He had actually taken his stuff and moved out while my son and I were at work that day.
Karen Covy Host23:52
Wow, so all right. So, during all of this time, first of all, you go to the lawyer, you don't file, and then COVID hits right, lockdown hits, and then you know, but you had made the decision that is so interesting that he fought. How long had you been well before we get to, how long you'd been living with him? It sounds like you were actually still going to work, like you were leaving to physically go to work.
Dana Diaz Guest24:22
Well, I could only work a little bit, if that makes any sense. I owned a housekeeping business at that point, so most people were not allowing me in during COVID, but there were business. We live in an agricultural area so there were agricultural offices that were open, that were considered essential you know employers so we could still clean for them, so I wasn't leaving the house much, but he wasn't working at all, so we were stuck in this house. My son was there. I moved actually to our basement because at this point he knew something was different with me and there were a lot more threats coming through from him and he was texting them to me, emailing them to me, even at one point saying this would be easier if one of us was dead. But the implication was he wanted me dead and it's a very scary situation to be in.
So I started keeping. I actually took one of these notebooks that my son had, you know, at the end of the school year, brought home that just had scribble on it. It was unsuspecting. So I tore out the used pages and was using that to keep track of the things that were being said and the things that were happening, because if something did happen to me. I wanted to make sure that people knew it was him and I kept that hidden under my couch cushion in the basement there, where I basically took up residence. I slept on the sofa down there. I used the laundry room sink for brushing my teeth and sponge bathing myself just to avoid being near him at all.
Karen Covy Host26:01
So how long did you live like that in the basement before you came home and found him gone? Three months Okay, and then you come home, you find him gone. I would assume that at that point you file for a divorce right.
Dana Diaz Guest26:19
Well, the courts were still closed so they were just starting to reopen, but they were so backed up. So what I did while I was waiting was I tried, when he was in a good mood or on the days that he was trying to call me hey, beautiful, you wanna have dinner? Trying to reconnect because it's easier for me to just let him back in and go back to our old life. I would use those opportunities as terrible as it sounds, to try to hear in there, just negotiate a little something as far as the house and living arrangements and money and things like this. Well, what do you think about? You think we really need those cows? Should we think about maybe selling them? Just trying to work things out? But I was doing it also through email and through texts, so I had it in writing.
So by the time I called my seventh attorney, because my sixth attorney was so backed up from COVID I found the seventh attorney. He said that if you have everything all worked out, I can get you divorced in three weeks. And I said no problem, and I got everything. I just took him all the texts and emails, printed him out. We got the paperwork done within a day and I asked him if I could present the paperwork instead of having the paper served, and it was very nerve-wracking for me to be in any space that wasn't my own territory, so to speak, with a man who did not want me alive. But he signed the papers. He didn't even bulk at it. He didn't ask for any custody or any responsibility with our son. The only thing he was worried about were his firearms. He wanted to make sure that he was able to have his firearms.
Karen Covy Host28:17
When he left the house, did he take those with him or did you have them?
Dana Diaz Guest28:22
So I did not look. Honestly, I knew his main gun case was emptied. However, the very first day that my son and I were in the house alone I had gotten home a little earlier that afternoon my ex had put ring doorbells on our door to notify his phone. He was spying on us and I'm not good technologically, I'm just gonna admit it. It made us very uncomfortable.
So I got home early this next afternoon after he moved out, and it must have notified his phone, because within maybe five, 10 minutes of me getting home, I heard the door open. I turned around. I had left it unlocked. We live in country. I would know if somebody was expected, but he walked in, didn't say one word, walked up the stairs to the bedroom, came back down carrying the handgun, walked out, and I knew he had purposely done that. He hadn't forgotten that gun. He was. It was just like that knife. He was trying to make sure I knew he had the gun because he didn't say one word Interesting. He just wanted to make sure that I knew. And, just like the moving out, it was all for his pride, though it wasn't that he had to leave me because he knew I was getting ready to leave him.
Karen Covy Host29:52
So he comes back and he does that, and then at that point, did you change all the locks and make sure that you were safe, or were you not able to do that?
Dana Diaz Guest30:04
It's an issue. It's an issue because our son, he knew who his dad, he knows who his dad is and he knew what was going on. But if I had changed the locks or changed codes or any of that, my son could just have easily given them to his dad still. So I had to leave everything how it was. I was putting chairs under the doorknobs at night just to give me a little extra time in case you know. Fortunately that divorce did happen within three weeks. But unfortunately and I am finding this is very common with abusive situations the offense of the divorce usually provokes more violence after, and I did experience that one night, about a month and a half after the divorce. He had found out I was taking a plus one to my sister's wedding ceremony and just he came to the door in the middle of the night after leaving threats in my email, threats on my voicemail, and my son wanted to go out and deal with him. And I just froze, I was just paralyzed. But my son came back in, put his head in his hands and said I would have never forgiven dad if he stabbed you with that knife and that, just that, scared the heck out of me. But my son said don't call the cops. I told you never call the cops. He didn't want to be that kid. That in this small town that everybody knew everybody, that, oh, what happened to your dad? Your dad's a loser, your dad's in jail.
Three nights later my son went out with some of his friends. They were out a little late. I went to sleep and again it's that that ring doorbell. 15 minutes after my son left, who's outside my bedroom window yelling all kinds of profanities, calling me vulgar names. I ignored it and the next thing I knew I heard gunshots. I heard at least three. I don't know if there were more because, honestly, everything just kind of goes blank. I went from being in the bed to I'm in the corner of the room, away from the windows, on the phone with 911 hysterical, because where we live it takes county cops about 45 minutes and I wouldn't have had that much time.
But there were six squad cars that showed up. They did not arrest him, they did not charge him, they did not even remove him from the property because in the amount of time that he had before they got there, they confiscated the gun, the shells, any evidence. This man wasn't even wearing shoes. He was drunk Clearly. Even the police admitted it. But they said they couldn't arrest him. Even though that property was the title and the deed were only in my name, they could not remove him. They had no reason to remove him unless I had video proof. and I said well, what did women in the 1960s do when there was? No, I wasn't standing at the window. When he's shooting a gun, wanting me dead with my phone to video him, I was a little worried. I was on the phone with you guys, with 911, and they said well, without video evidence we can't prove it. And he's saying he didn't do it, but he's here barefoot and drunk.
Karen Covy Host33:31
So how did you finally get him out of your life? Because you were already divorced from him at that point. Yes, yes, that wasn't the issue. The issue is the man is shooting at you, right?
Dana Diaz Guest33:44
Yes, I went to court. That was on a Saturday night, that was actually sweetest day of 2020. And yeah, they'll never forget. I went to the courthouse again first thing, Monday morning, because I had gone there after the knife incident, even though my son said don't involve the cops, I just filed, you know, a little report. I didn't have them do anything, but I wanted to keep some record at this point. I went Monday.
The judge said she did not see any reason that I was in danger, denied my request for an emergency order of protection. I was able to appeal it, so I got another court date. She said bring witnesses. And so I reached out to I have, everybody has a certain amount of acreage. Everybody's got little farms. But I reached out to one neighbor that I had been friendly with years before but I had stopped because he had stopped me being friends with anybody. And she said, yeah, we heard the gunshots. She said we even thought about coming over there, but he had shot our dog a few years before, shot our dog in the neck, and we were afraid that he'd come and shoot us or our kids. And so we, she said we saw the cops, so we were hoping you were okay. And I said well, you know, explain the situation. She said she would come into court and, and when she did her testimony, he had apparently been over at their house for a bonfire a few weeks before and told everybody there that he was planning on killing me. Yeah, so I got my order of protection. But again, I know it's like a soap opera. It's a wonder that I'm. I'm okay.
I got my order of protection so that I was granted. He couldn't come within 10 feet of me and I said, with all due respect, you're on, or he could throw a two by four at me. I am 90, some pounds from 10 feet away. He could hurt me with a two by four. He could throw a knife at me, he could probably throw a fork at me. He was a good shot, 10 feet. And she said, well, I'll, I'll put a no contact order as well. Well, by that afternoon he had already violated that. He left a note on my windshield and it wasn't anything significant. He was just testing me to see if I would call on it, because if I called on this note that meant nothing, then my son would be mad at me and probably never talk to me again. And so here I was back in the situation where he was showing me that nothing I could do could stop him from doing whatever he wanted to do.
Karen Covy Host36:39
You know, fast forward a little bit. How did you? Because now you have broken the cycle, you've yeah, really you have gotten away from him. How did that happen? What did you have to do, like both internally in your own head and externally, to finally break the chain from him and get him out of your life?
Dana Diaz Guest37:02
Well, truthfully, it was just. I felt like we I did not want to stay in that house. It was not. I had no sentimental attachment to it Like most people do to a home they'd been in 17 years. It's where I raised my son. I was trying to be respectful of the fact that he was in his senior year of high school and wanted him to have some stability and consistency. But for me, I mean, once we got past the new year, I just had this itch. I talked to my son and I said, I know, I said we should stay here till you're done with school. That's what you wanted. But I think we just need to move on. You know, let's start fresh.
I had had a longtime friend, you know, who had been my plus one at that wedding, and we I'd known his family 16 years, so there wasn't really courtship or anything. We were very good friends and so we decided we would get married, so we were gonna go be with him anyway. So it just worked out really well that my son already knew him. Everybody knows everybody. It's all good.
My son said, yes, let's sell this house, and I feel like that was the factor was just getting out of there, even if it would have just been me and my son going off on our own, it was separating ourselves from that property, because I think at that point then my ex could see like we didn't have anything that he couldn't have, if that makes any sense, because I think he saw us remaining there only because I was the only one who, financially, was able to keep the house. He didn't have a job so he couldn't, you know, take the mortgage on his own. But I think he saw once we weren't in the house that he felt was his. It lightened things. But he had also moved on and found somebody else that he, just like me, moved in very quickly, moved in her kids. So his attention was directed elsewhere and stayed away from me. But certainly, being in a new place where we have cameras, we are protected, we're safe, I think he knows he can't get away with the things that he could back at our old house.
Karen Covy Host39:16
So what would you at this point, from where you sit now, because you've been on your own journey, you've healed, you are now happily remarried.
Dana Diaz Guest39:26
Yes, yes, very much so and healthy, most importantly, being out of that atmosphere. I've put on weight. I look like a normal human being and not a Halloween skeleton anymore and I'm not. I don't even know the last time I used my breathing machine. I'm doing very well physically. I don't have all these autoimmune things happening constantly, so it really it's just getting out of that toxic situation. It just drags you down.
My advice, honestly, in retrospect, you know the irony is my biological father has is a retired Chicago cop, so he had been very stressed as well seeing me in this situation because he said the paper trail is so essential and so when he was seeing me be denied these order of protections and such, he understood it because he's seen it happen.
But he also understood that a lot of situations that start out as domestic issues do end up in murder. He said a lot of the murder scenes they come on usually started as domestic that were never reported. So I think the main thing for me, I think it was essential that I kept that notebook hidden at home just in case. But if I had to go back and do anything, I would probably have been leaving that paper trail with the authorities because I think that night he shot the gun. If they could look back and say, oh, we have all these, you know these 10 other incidences, they probably would have removed him from my property instead of leaving him there. Because I wasn't gonna stay there, obviously, with this crazy person shooting a gun outside my window, I left the house in the middle of the night. You know it was not safe for me.
Karen Covy Host41:23
Yeah. So, Dana, thank you so much for sharing your story. It is so powerful and it's such an important message for people to hear that there are things that they can do, and the strategy that you made, the decisions you made along the way to save up the money, to keep the journal to. You know, it was as if you were listening to your intuition, in spite of yourself, yes, and doing the things that ultimately enabled you to break free and then, once you did that, to get to the point where you could start the healing journey Exactly, to move past it, so that you didn't do the same thing again and didn't end up in a similar relationship or situation. Your message is so important and I wanna talk just for a second, because I know we're out of time, about your book yes, can you tell me a little bit about that, where people can find it, and the prequel in the sequel that you're also writing?
Dana Diaz Guest42:34
Yes, I am in the process of trying to get those. They're written. We're just going through revisions and edits and all that fun stuff. So hopefully by next year we'll have those out next summer at the latest.
But gasping for air, the stranglehold of narcissistic abuse is available anywhere you buy books online. We can also access it on my website, danadiaz.com. There's also a quiz on there you can take to see if you're in a situation where you're experiencing abuse, or narcissistic abuse specifically. I have a blog where I share some extras. Other podcasts, including this one, will be on my press room page, but certainly I ask people to reach out Facebook and Instagram, or even to you as well.
You know we just wanna be able to provide resources and my biggest message to anybody listening that can relate to anything I've said whatever your situation, I am promising you will have shelter for you and your children. There are even people that foster pets for victims of abuse. There are food pantries and churches that offer meals to families. You will not go starving, you will not go without shelter, you will have clothing and you will be okay. I am telling you I never imagined that my life was one that would be worth living, and I am standing here telling you I'm so glad that I sawed it through and went through with everything, because I am so fulfilled and so happy and healthy and I'm safe. So please, if anybody does have a safe opportunity to remove yourself from a situation that's not good for you and or your children, please just consider it and think about how you can make a change for yourself.
Karen Covy Host44:26
Dana, thank you so much for sharing your story and all of the. You know everything that you went through and again, for everyone listening or watching, you can find Dana at Danasdiaz.com get a copy of her book Gasping for Air. Dana, thank you so, so, very much. I really appreciate your having the courage to come on and tell your story. Thank you so much. For those of you out there who are listening. If you like what you heard and if you enjoy listening to this podcast, please do me a big favor like, subscribe and by all means, share. I look forward to talking with you again next time.