Jessica Fahl

Jessica lives in a small suburb of Minneapolis with her husband and their four children. In addition to her full-time day job and occasionally moonlighting as a birth doula, she has discovered an interest in writing and hopes to find more time to work on the projects endlessly mulling around in her head.

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This is my story about falling in love with a man I thought loved me, only to find out I’d been emotionally manipulated for years. I’d been completely isolated from the truth, not knowing what it meant to be loved. Once the fog began to clear, I found happiness and a life I was proud to call my own.
I Am Jess, a memoir
My Submission


Sitting on the floor of our home office, I was surrounded by paperwork; piles of bills and credit card receipts closed me in, suffocating me. Scott kept everything, every piece of mail that came to the house. I disliked clutter and it had always annoyed me that he kept stacks of paperwork around the house. But now, I was grateful for the opportunity to sift through them, to find information.

I was astounded at the things I found and became obsessed with reading through them, finding more and more outrageous line-item purchases; expensive dinners and shopping trips in Vegas, nail salons, custom-designed clothing, porn sites, and donations to websites for women that wanted breast implants. He was living this extravagant lifestyle away from home while his postpartum wife stayed home to care for their newborn and their special needs child; he had no regard for any of it.

All of this information should have sent me running, taking the boys, and leaving. But I stayed. I stayed because I was too broken to leave. Because I didn’t know where I would go or what I would do. I waited until he came home the next day to confront him about what I had found, my stomach aching from the knots tied so tightly within it. I tried to remain calm.

“You’re disgusting. You have an entirely different life in your mind than you have here with us. “

Scott started laughing, asking, “What in the hell are you talking about, psycho?”

“I’ve been going through the office computer and paperwork and you’re obsessed with porn and sex!” fighting my urge to break down sobbing, I started yelling, angrily.

“And you’re paying other women to get their boobs done? There’s sex and porn everywhere, and obviously, you haven’t really been traveling for work with all those receipts from Vegas…”

I didn’t know what more to say as there was nothing he could do to deny it, and I didn’t care much to hear him explain it anyway. As was typical, he deflected, and I became the one with the problem. Suddenly, I was a stalker invading his privacy, and that’s what I get for going looking through things that aren’t mine. What did I expect of a husband that wasn’t getting as much sex from his wife as he wanted? Not an ounce of remorse, not a single attempt at an apology, and not a single acknowledgment of the pain he had caused me.

Every time I tried to catch him in his lies, he’d accuse me of being a stalker and that I was crazy. I did feel insane! The absolute denial and refusal to validate any of my concerns was the cruelest form of manipulation I faced. Every time I’d find something new, I’d think, “There’s no way he can deny or get his way out of this one.” I didn’t know how this could be happening, how someone that I thought loved me could treat me this way, with such disregard.

This terrible information I’d learned was all my fault because I went looking for something I had no idea I’d find. Broken and defeated, I left the topic alone and went on with daily life as usual.

Telling this part of my story screams “How could you not leave?!” This scene in a movie would be when the wife tells her husband to leave, to get out of the house and she doesn’t care where he goes. Those women are the strong women, the ones that have been betrayed and won’t stand for it. Those women have this horrible thing done to them just once and they say, “No more, not ever again.” I am not a member of that group of women. I am a woman who was so worn down from years of emotional neglect and abuse that I was used to it.


I am not special. I have done nothing extraordinary, and nothing extraordinary has happened to me. I’m telling my story as if it were to a close friend sitting next to me on the couch with a glass of wine, because friends help each other, and I need more friends. I need friends to know that their stories are important enough to share. How you experience something is valid, and even if you don’t feel like your something is significant enough to matter to anyone else, find people that will listen. A lot of people know someone that has gone through an unimaginable tribulation. Their reaction and response will not be the same as anyone else’s, but the more stories we hear, the more we can try to sympathize with others and learn to show compassion.

My story is about falling in love with a man I thought loved me, only to find out I’d been emotionally manipulated for years. It’s about realizing afterward that I’d been completely isolated from the truth, not knowing what it meant to be loved. Once the fog began to clear, I found happiness in myself and now have a life I am proud to call my own. My story is about “things” that I’ve gone through in my adult life, which there are quite a lot of given that I’ve only been an adult for like, 5 years… totally kidding, I’m old. Listening to others’ stories helped me realize I wasn’t alone, and I want others to know they’re not alone either.

My story is worth telling, even if it’s only to release the pain and sorrow I hold in my soul. I want to share my experiences in hopes that I may reach another that is suffering without knowing they’re suffering, to let them know the world is a very bright place and they deserve all the happiness they dream of.


I am the oldest of four daughters, and I exude all the quirks and characteristics of typical first-born children. I am reliable and mature, a caretaker, and I aim to please; I’m organized, ambitious, and very type-A. My sisters typically fall into their respective birth order traits as well, being middle, middle, and youngest. As the oldest and bearer of the “dependent on others’ approval” trait, I followed the traditional path after high school – college, wedding, job, babies, etc. My sisters have traveled along different paths, taking their time in deciding what they want to do when they grow up, experiencing all that life has to offer. I’ve been jealous of them throughout the years, wondering what my life would’ve looked like had I been less rigid in the goals I’d set for myself, less anxious to get my life “started.”

There are nearly nine years to the day between my youngest sister and me, and we have not traveled along the same path in the slightest. None of us have. Most people that know us would say that they have never seen sisters so different from one another. Even though we all grew up in the same house and came from the same parents, we are all apples that fell from long branches off the tree in opposing directions: North, East, West and South.

Growing up we weren’t remarkably close as sisters often are. I have numerous friends and acquaintances that have one or more sisters, and they all seem to be the best of friends as adults. They get together often, and their kids are not only cousins but the best of friends, too. I’ve been jealous of them, too.

We spent a lot of time together when we were young. Our parents took us camping, on annual spring break trips to Florida, and tried to have family dinners at least three to four nights per week. There were “green bean races” at dinner, where we would see who could eat a green bean the fastest. Somehow, daughter number two (in birth order only!), Marie, always won. She almost didn’t even have to chew them, just opened and down the hatch it went!

As I was the first child for my parents, I was special. For nearly three whole years, I was the only one to be cared for, doted on, and loved. Dad had always wanted kids, several of them, but Mom wasn’t so sure. They both came from families of four kids, my dad the oldest of four boys, and my mom the youngest (by far) with two sisters and one brother. Apparently, four was the number of kids to have!

When I was born, Dad was in his residency for medical school, and Mom wanted to be a career woman. Her first love was biology, and as a self-proclaimed science nerd, she tested out of all the intro courses in college. Her oldest sister used to take her out fossil hunting, so she decided to pursue geology, graduating with two bachelor’s degrees – geology and geological engineering. Mom didn’t set goals for herself, she went with the flow and dealt with situations as they arose. She never thought she wanted children yet ended up with four of them because Dad kept wanting more. When Mom was pregnant with her fourth daughter, my youngest sister, the doctor remarked that she must be trying for a boy, which upset her tremendously; she loved her children, regardless of their gender, and wasn’t accumulating children in the hopes that one of them might be a boy. She made sure we had a pantry full of snacks for after school and carted us around to our sports events. She bought me my first car, a white Oldsmobile Toronado with a red velvet interior. She found it at an auction, deciding it was a safe “boat of a car” and great for a first-time driver. Mom was a helper and a fixer and wanted to help others fix things, like their taxes or purchasing a home, and she’s great at it.

Dad was a nature-lover and has been outside more often than in for as long as I can remember. He would go for a run outside for an hour or two every day, even in the dead of winter where snot and tears would freeze on his facemask and it looked like he’d just taken a face plant into the snow. He was once on the cover of a running magazine. The picture was of him running through the snow, passing by the crooked, old red barn at the end of our hobby farm driveway. As kids, we were so proud of our dad and thought it was so cool that his picture was on the cover of a magazine.

We lived on twenty-five acres with a lot of lawn to be mowed. When we first moved into that house, I was eleven, and Dad used a push mower to mow the lawn. Not a gas-powered push mower that didn’t have a self-propelled option, an actual non-motorized mower consisting of five long blades with wheels on either side attached to a handle that you pushed around while it clipped the grass. After about a year he realized this wasn’t efficient and wasn’t feasible for his young daughters to use, so he bought a gas push-mower that we could use to help with the lawn. I would argue that a lot of people with a lawn this size would have a riding lawn mower, but not my dad. He wanted the exercise and effort of doing work. In addition to the hour or two runs every day, he spent just as much time fiddling in the garden (both vegetable and flower), mending the fence, or pruning bushes and trees. His second full-time job was the farm’s caretaker.

Dad’s true full-time career was as a doctor, a family physician. He graduated with honors from medical school the year I was born; undertaking his residency while I was a toddler. I think he was meant to be a doctor, and he loved his patients. He specialized in family medicine because he enjoyed caring for all ages and wanted to be able to address any ailments they had. His patients became regulars and we often knew their stories by first name, even though we never met any of them. Having a dad as a doctor meant that kids at school thought we were rich, and friends often teased us about our “huge” house and how much money we must’ve had. I didn’t feel rich, and I didn’t feel like we were different from any other family. I often said “My parents have money!” and it wasn’t me that was the different one. Dad wanted the big house, the farm, and the nice things, and Mom managed the finances to make those things happen for him.

Looking back on my childhood and my relationship with Dad, there are only big moment memories or memories evoked from photographs. His true loves were his career and his outdoor hobbies, and sometimes those things would intertwine with us, if we’d be outside playing catch or riding bikes, or when we’d go camping as a family.

Two days a week Dad had to work the evening shift at the clinic, so on Thursday nights Mom ordered pizza and we watched Friends. We lived on a hobby farm across from a lake with a beach; there were a lot of animals to take care of and a lot of space to roam. We had goats, chickens, horses, dogs, and a cat. I liked the horses but hated the chickens—mostly the roosters. They would chase after us whenever we’d go down to the barn, and they terrified me. Tiny creatures that I’m sure I could’ve launched across the yard with a swift kick, but instead, I just tip-toed by to not disturb them.

Mom sent Marie and me to horse camp a couple of years in a row, so we learned how to properly ride them and take care of the tackle. We had a couple of big ol’ Clydesdales, like the Budweiser horses, named Bob and Blossom, and our parents would hook them up to a trailer so we could go for hayrides around the neighborhood. During one of those hayrides, whoever was “driving” the horses dropped the reins, and I remember jumping off the trailer, running up to the horses, and grabbing the bridle and reins to get the horses to stop again. Clearly, they couldn’t have been running, or even trotting, if I was able to catch up to them, but somehow, I remember “saving the day” by getting them to stop so we could continue the hayride. People called me brave, but I didn’t feel that being brave was one of my personality traits; I simply did what needed to be done in the moment.

At ten years old I was babysitting the neighborhood kids, sometimes three at a time. I had three younger sisters, two of them under two at the time, so I was used to helping out at home. By age twelve a friend and I started a day camp for the neighborhood kids called “Sunny Day Camp.” We were just kids ourselves but were bored and ambitious. We printed flyers and dropped them off at the houses we knew had kids, and almost all of them signed up. For a few hours every day for a week, the backyard was filled with fifteen kids playing games or doing some sort of arts and crafts project. I’m sure we could’ve made a real business out of it as the years went by, but we mostly did it just for fun and something to do. My goals then were to be a teacher and a mom when I grew up because I loved being a caretaker and hanging out with kids.


In elementary and middle school, I always felt shy and uncomfortable around boys, which I thought was because I didn’t have brothers from whom I could learn about boys. My friends didn’t seem to have the same insecurities, which made me feel even more awkward in my own skin. By the time I reached high school, I must’ve figured it out because some of my closest friends were guys. With them, there was no drama and things just seemed easy. They didn’t take hours getting dressed up to go out or gossip about what other people were or weren’t doing.

“Want to come over and hang out?” meant exactly that – let’s listen to some music or watch a movie and have some popcorn. I remember lying on the couch watching movies with Matt, the big, hairy, hockey player that everyone called a teddy bear. Just the two of us, not talking about much, but enjoying each other’s company. There was nothing romantic about it; we were truly just friends.

I’d stay up late with my friend Eric at whoever’s party we were at, just chatting about life and who was going to do what after high school. Eric was a grade above me in school and had been dating one of my girlfriends for a while. He was genuine in his friendships, making sure everyone was comfortable and having a good time. He was kind and caring, the quiet yet hilarious type.

I often drove around town with my friends Bobby and Dan, and they’d play me all kinds of new music they had found. We’d lie on the floor in the living room, the three of us in a row with the speaker at our heads, feeling the bass beat through the carpet at our backs. I had the biggest crush on Bobby all through high school, but he was popular and always had a girlfriend, which was never me. To be fair, I never told him how I felt because I didn’t want to chance ruining our friendship. I enjoyed his company and settled on being his friend.


Teal background with an ivory puffed dandelion spreading it's seeds. The title, i am jess, is in lowercase black lettering at the top of the cover.