Last August, reality TV became all too real when the body of Russell Armstrong, the estranged husband of 'Real Housewife of Beverly Hills' star Taylor Armstrong, was found hanging. The season was especially difficult to watch as Taylor slowly crumbled and was clearly under enormous pressure.
After Russell’s death it was revealed that he had been physically abusive to his wife. Their relationship is recounted in ‘Hiding from Reality,’ a brutal account of their marriage. She writes of how he dislocated her jaw, severely beat up a close friend’s fiancee and punched her so hard that she needed orbital surgery.
Then there is the emotional abuse, the name calling, the constant threats to leave her and accusations that she slept with other men. Shockingly Armstrong went back to him time and time again and writes of her deep love for the man who regularly called her a "f***ing whore."
FOX411: This book is hard to read. How tough was it was to write?
Taylor Armstrong: Incredibly hard, yes absolutely.
FOX411: Why did you still want to be with him after so much abuse?
Armstrong: That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to write this book, to help people better understand it and help people recognize when they’re involved in a relationship like this to get out before you get addicted to that cycle and it is a love addiction. Also I have my own abandonment issues and self esteem problems. It was almost like two broken people found each other and it just created a dynamic that was destined to go badly.
FOX411: He screamed at you and accused you of sleeping around on your first date.
Armstrong: Correct, I know a healthy person would look at that as a red flag and walk away. When you’re someone who has these abandonment issues you need to have a man in your life all the time to fulfill you, those are unfortunately the types of relationships you gravitate towards. And the more someone tries to push you away the more you want them and that’s one of the lessons I want especially young women in college and high school to start recognizing - if you’re running after people who aren’t good to you than you need to start doing some work on yourself.
FOX411: You kept on coming back to him, and you really wanted it to work out.
Armstrong: I absolutely loved him. The biggest part of love is hope and I just kept holding out that something was going to change if we got counseling or medication. Also, obviously I wasn’t right about this, but I just kept thinking if I keep loving him as much as I can, eventually we’ll get past all of the little things. As you see throughout the story there was always something else that was going to set him off. There was never an end to what could set him off because it could be anything.
FOX411: As violent as he was the emotional abuse he inflicted on you was as disturbing, like making you take a lie detector test?
Armstrong: Like you say some of the emotional abuse was so much worse than the physical abuse. I almost would have rather just had the physical side of it because the emotional stays with you for so much longer and robs you of your time with your children. I was so focused on the words that it was hard for me to be present with my little girl. It was almost like I was physically there with her but emotionally I was still back in that fight playing the tape back. Of course the lie detector was just one of the most humiliating things I have ever done in my life. I remember having the strap removed from my midsection and feeling just filthy.
FOX411: Did you think that doing the show would make things better?
Armstrong: Yes I did think the cameras would offer a bit of protection. Typically people don’t act out in public. It’s almost like being in the mall, you’re not going to see someone acting out in front of all those people. So having millions of people watching us, I felt would really provide me with protection and maybe it would just make things change.
FOX411: Last season on the show you had a nervous breakdown.
Armstrong: Yes I did and yes it was very hard to watch. I could almost viscerally feel some of the emotions come flooding back. I was a person completely breaking down. I knew that the abuse was going to come out, there was too much of it swirling around, I didn’t know how I was going to keep it from coming out and what the consequences for me were going to be.
FOX411: Why did you lash out at Camille?
Armstrong: Because I didn’t want it coming out on the show for reasons of fear. I’d told the girls in confidence off camera and when it was said on camera I knew the cat was out of the bag. I wasn’t angry with her as much as I was scared and I was reacting to that.
FOX411: Are you worried the effect this book is going to have on your daughter Kennedy?
Armstrong: No memoir that I write is going to have a bigger effect on her than the fact that her Dad chose to take his own life, but I feel because Kennedy knew enough of what was going on... I had domestic violence in my house as a little girl and that had a huge impact on my life, and as I mentioned, I have abandonment issues and all types of things because of it. It was never discussed. Nobody ever talked about it. I have to make this a conversation with her. I try to tell her that her Daddy loved her very much and I also have to make it clear to her that we did not have a healthy marriage so she doesn’t model this behavior when she’s older. I also want to make this a national conversation. Domestic violence is such a secret thing and yet three women are dying everyday from battery. Unless we start making it a public conversation I don’t think we’re going to have much luck changing it.
FOX411: Do you miss Russell?
Armstrong: I miss him terribly, absolutely all the time. I cry over it, but at the same time there is that element of fear that’s been removed. A lot of women say they’re fearful of their children having visitation with their abuser without them being there to protect the children. That’s something that I felt too. Once you leave then you have to co-parent. Sometimes it seems like a better idea just to stay to keep an eye on him.
FOX411: He left you in debt.
Armstrong: Yes he’s left me with quite a mess but we’ll get through it, and that’s another thing for women out there. The financial stranglehold that someone has over you in a relationship of inequality. That’s why I want to talk to young people about what it is to have a healthy relationship, how to recognize the red flags and hopefully they’ll learn from my story and get out before I did.
FOX411: You’re not dating right?
Armstrong: No, no dating. I’m just enjoying the time with my daughter, just getting stronger. I’m in therapy every week, doing a lot of journaling. Trying to build up my self esteem so I make good choices going forward for me and Kennedy.