Freedom

The sun glimmered faintly from behind a thin veil of clouds, the water slapping against the hull as the sailboat creaked and danced its way before the wind. I felt like dancing too, if not for the tip and slant of the curved boards beneath my feet. Cheeks glowed on every one of a half-dozen faces, pinched to rosy life by a wind both cool and brisk and bearing the promise of salty brine.

This was a moment, where life felt vibrant, and real. I felt alive, with that same wind raking its fingers through my tousled curls, and the freedom of clear water before me. The last time I felt like this, was when I traveled overseas with friends a few years ago. I thought I fell in love with foreign countryside, but I think I fell in love with being responsible only for myself. No snarky or belittling comments. No cleaning up after anyone else. Continue reading

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‘A league of our own…’

I could root around in the terror, apathy and distraught moments of the last few months of my marriage, but instead – I am going to focus on the amazing women who brought me out of that dark place. Although leaving has been painful, it is like the bright, brilliant glare of a warm sun after being huddled in a dark, windowless, lightless room. My eyes are not used to the glow, just as my soul isn’t used to being cared for so lovingly.

Maintaining my friendships was never easy, but it was something I’ve worked hard at over the years. Often, when I went away for the weekend, or out for a night with my girls, he would stay home and drink (or make ‘fun’ references to being drunk). Especially in recent years. At the time I never put two and two together that it was an attempt to control me, and prevent me from going out altogether. He always said one thing, I don’t mind.’ and seemed to act another that put the lie to those words. Luckily, those tactics failed more than they worked, but I did fall for it some of the time.

But I digress. Because that’s not the point, entirely, of this post. Continue reading

Fitful anger

The bus rattled along the road, but I could barely grasp the images glimpsed so fleetingly through the windows… not with my eyes turned down to stare at my phone. The people texting from another side of Facebook messenger were the only ones loosely tethering me to sanity.

Yesterday, it took me three bus stops and uncertain, spastic wandering to catch the one bus I needed.

It wouldn’t have rubbed me so raw, perhaps, if I hadn’t gotten to the first one early. Only when the unusual quiet and the absence of other passengers hit me did I finally go to check the schedule on the transit pole. And then I saw it. Bus rerouted due to construction. Continue reading

What is domestic abuse?

There are a lot of ways that abuse can happen, and this is a good list of many (if not most) of the signs and various presentations. If you connect to any of these behaviors, whether you are the one doing them, or you are the one experiencing them, it’s probably good to step back and take stock. No one should treat another person like this.

I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to realize what was going on. In some ways, I wonder if my Ex hadn’t escalated so rapidly, if I would still be there.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” – Charles Dickens

I’m not sure if it is this way in every abusive marriage, but as I attributed so many of the bad moments to his Bipolar Disorder, it made sense to me (in my attempts at coping) that we would have periods of good times and periods of bad times. Sometimes it was difficult to enjoy the peaks, as a part of me was always wary of the sharp cliff that could drop off into the valleys of anger and depression.

I watched for his triggers. Some weeks, everything seemed to rub him raw:

Continue reading

Six Habits That May Lead You Into an Abusive Relationship

I have had a lot of these habits for a very long time, though I’ve been working on discarding them one by one. I no longer fear being alone (rather, I began to long for it), but the rest come and go. At least I am growing more aware of my own tendencies.

The worst, I think, is apologizing or taking responsibility for the things that are not, have never been, and will never be under my control. Must work more on that.

“If only I had spoken up sooner…”

Met with one of my oldest friends tonight; she’s had some rough emotional days. We started out our time with mani/pedi’s, and I got her to tell me about some of her recent struggles that she wouldn’t let me get out of her via text or IM. Life worries. Relationship struggles.

And then came the following little nugget of honesty, when she finally admitted to me,  “I wish I had spoken up sooner. I wish I had been brave enough to reach out to you before. Or say that I was worried about [your ex] and you.” Continue reading

Insomnia

The hand ratchets steadily across the pale, numbered face. Ticking off the seconds that form the hours of sleeplessness. Today was a good day. Wasn’t it? And yet I am restless. Disjointed. Unable to find my ease.

Perhaps it is because my thoughts are revolving around him tonight. Shadows bring doubts, while sudden grief tugs me towards sympathy. Towards tolerance. Towards a place I am happy to no longer be. I know this. I know that I sleep better alone in this springy, uncomfortable bed than I did on the Memory Foam mattress in our condo. But old habits die hard.

Continue reading

“Brave” – Sara Bareilles

I ran across someone else’s blog, and recalled how meaningful music was to me in the months leading up to when I left. This is perhaps too popular and ‘pop’ of a song for some folks, but the words bolstered me. Elevated my spirits.

(Funny, my ex hated this song.)

“Brave”

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up

Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Continue reading

Compromising Myself to Keep the Peace…

I love playing games.

The non-drama ones, at least. The ones that involve cards, or boards, strategies and interaction with others, either in groups or one on one. The games where nothing really matters, but there is an element of challenge and friendly competition anyways. When I was a kid all the way through my teen years, my family would gather around the dining room table on a Saturday. The games always varied, though a 6+ hour marathon of Empire Builder (a game involving ‘building’ train tracks across a map of Europe, or the US, and making deliveries) was a family favorite.

Sometimes we never actually finished a game, but we would all cluster around, even helping my much younger siblings to play. Although we all wanted to win, so long as we had our soda, and our Cool Ranch Doritos, and each other, it was just a time of great fun.

A few years ago, my ex was pushing for me to start playing a game called “Magic: the Gathering” with him. Looking back, I was reluctant to get involved in another distraction. You see, I love strategy games. Especially mildly convoluted ones. I love finding the patterns in things, learning the mechanics of games, and with new cards every quarter, it keeps M:tG rather fresh. Yet the more I protested, the more he pushed. And eventually, I caved. It was my own choice, but as I’m looking back and reexamining our time together, it’s one of many subtle ways I have begun to wonder if he was sabotaging my focus on school. I myself made all the decisions that didn’t prioritize finishing my degree, but he always wanted me to do what he was doing. Whether it was beer-making, or playing a certain type of game. And he would kind of sulk if I didn’t feel up to going, or want to go. (In a healthy relationship, it shouldn’t feel like such high-pressure stakes. You should enjoy spending time with your spouse, right? You shouldn’t feel guilted into doing everything?)

Anyhow, at first joining my Ex playing in M:tG went well. I was a brand new player. He enjoyed the role of teacher. We would go to Friday night events, and I inevitably wouldn’t know exactly what I was doing, and rank fairly low. It gave us another point of contact, time one on one with a game we could play against each other at home too.

But then I started doing better than him, sometimes.

And he would get frustrated. Especially if anyone else commented, teasingly, that I was doing better than him.

Continue reading

The Narcissist’s Dilemma: They Can Dish It Out, But . . .

This sure sounds similar to my ex. Even down to the issues in childhood.

No More Silence

Sure, the narcissist’s many defenses protect them–but at what cost?
Post published by Leon F Seltzer Ph.D. on Oct 12, 2011 in Evolution of the Self

The ability to take criticism well depends mostly on how secure we feel about ourselves. Yet it could hardly be said that any of us actually enjoys being criticized. For it’s a challenge to avoid feeling defensive when we experience ourselves as attacked. At such times, it’s more “natural”–or rather, more aligned with our conditioning–to go into self-protective mode. And typically, the way we choose to protect ourselves is through denying the criticism, indignantly turning on the criticizer, or hastening to disengage from the uncomfortable situation entirely.

Such a well-nigh universal tendency is elevated almost to an art form with those afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). When criticized, narcissists show themselves woefully incapable of retaining any emotional poise or receptivity. And it really doesn’t much matter whether the nature of…

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To speak or not to speak…

The emotions of shame are there. I feel them swirling around me with the opacity of a bridal veil. But I’ve always been stubborn. I don’t like those moments where I feel like a victim, and there is something about such a long silence, that drives me to speak. That pushes me to talk. That makes me want to explain all the things that no one ever understood.

But I can’t. Not quite yet. Not as openly as my soul desires, as it wants to be seen, and understood, and forgiven for the misunderstandings and the friends that turned away because I seemed uninterested or distant. Continue reading

Fear

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

When you live in fear, at a certain point you come to a crossroads. You can allow it to overwhelm you, or you can try to fight against it. Can you believe that there is still a little voice in my head, that questions if I am over-reacting? Still? It is quieter than it has ever been. But it still murmurs, from time to time.

If I had acknowledged my own little hell, I could not have coped. Would have lost the ability to function.

But now the reckoning has come. Simply by virtue of being in a safe enough place that I can acknowledge the truth. Or at least, begin to pick out the little lies I told myself. Continue reading

Reblogged: Staying, Surviving, and Defying the Good Victim Paradox: A Perspective on Domestic Violence

The post linked below was fantastic, although more for the friends and family of the abused than for those living in that hell themselves.

For me, I ‘knew’ my husband was ‘sick’. That he had a mental illness. I convinced myself that the anger issues were a part of the Bipolar. That somehow, it made it ‘ok’ on some level, since he couldn’t control that side of things. For the past four years it had been a slow escalation. Two 911 calls. A 2-week involuntary commitment. And endless manipulation. He would do what he could to check off the minimum of my demands, when I found the courage to set a boundary, that would allow us to go back to a comfortable status quo (I should add: comfortable for him). And always, I was frightened to push too far, and ‘make’ him do something we couldn’t recover from.

Growing up a dedicated Christian, and still holding on to that faith, I never wanted Divorce to be an option. I didn’t want to fail. Or be a statistic. I wanted to do everything I could to make it work. I didn’t want to ‘push’ him to the point I would have to make that decision.

Hindsight being what it is, I’m beginning to understand the flaws of my logic a little better.

It took a lot for me to break away: the amazing timeliness of 4 amazing, attentive friends; learning a long-time friend was pregnant, and afraid of my situation endangering her and her unborn child; husband escalating and growing more threatening to myself and others, as well as physically violent to things around me; and a friend, who started going to counseling, and reached out to me simply by sharing her very real struggles, and thus opening the door to those deep, intimate conversations where I began to reveal the daily occurences of my life. Her love for me, and her bravery in telling me she was frightened for me – helped me realize that enough was enough. I needed the reassurance that I had a safe place to go. I needed the active assistance of people willing to make the coordinating plans for my exit strategy – calling lawyers, researching Protection orders, arranging a safe place for me to go afterward. Mentally, it was all I could do to pretend things were normal, afraid that he would lose it if I did anything suspicious.

From the first time I called 911, when my husband – at the height of a manic rage – threatened to slit my throat in my sleep – to the day I finally left, took about 4 years and 4 months.

No one wants to be a quitter. No one wants to abandon someone who is ill. We all want to think we are strong, or strong enough. That if we set boundaries, and do all ‘the right things’, we can help someone change. That we can provide enough love and commitment for the both of us.

And by the time we realize it’s more important to quit, than to endanger ourselves and our families; that we deserve to be taken care of too; that sometimes being strong is not enough when someone is determined to crush the life from you; that boundaries only work when they are respected; that people cannot always change; and that you can love unconditionally, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept hateful, unloving behavior.

By the time I realized all of the above, I had been entrenched in this life for years. Sometimes I burned bridges with those who might have helped me. Fearful for them. Fearful for myself. Shamed that I kept running into the same struggles over and over, I stopped reaching out. It took a lot of gentle loving, openness, readiness, and patience on the parts of those who were concerned for me. And finally, finally I took that step and left.

Not everyone has all the support I did in leaving. Some people have the additional worry of children. I honestly don’t know how anyone could manage to break away without all the hand-holding I had every step of that last week. But I know some people do. And I have nothing but the utmost respect for them.

theradicalidea

“Why didn’t you/she/he/they leave?”

When it comes to domestic violence, I feel like this is often the most common question.  Why not leave–as if leaving is the most obvious thing in the world.  As several other media outlets and Twitter campaigns have striven to show, there are any number of reasons why someone doesn’t leave: they think it is their fault, they lack the resources needed to find a new place to live, they still love/care about their abuser, they are dependent on their partner for income or health insurance, they are trapped in a cycle of substance abuse, they don’t have anywhere to go…the list goes on and on.

The thing about these stories is that they illustrate an important point: domestic violence, from the perspective of the survivor, may not be black and white.  When people ask why someone didn’t leave, the truth is that they are judging…

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Coming to terms

Love is a funny thing. It stems from a deep and vibrant place. Yet for me, I think, I’ve muddled my understanding of what love is. It became something I had to choose every day, mixed in with Survival and Coping, Stubbornness and a misunderstanding of how to be Loyal.

Survival. Coping. Stubbornness. Loyalty. I suppose, in some ways, these are all masks I wear as needed. Whatever helps me to manage the stress and anxiety and find some way to function. Continue reading