Life in the Fast Lane

Sometimes everything in my life blurs just beyond my immediate view, like staring out the passenger window during a road trip. Moving so quickly, distinct features fade into hazy generalities. Flash of orange. Rising and falling gray. Fuzzy depths of ambiguous green.

I can guess what those things are… a road sign. A concrete barrier. Trees. But all the details fade with the rush of travelling at 60 mph. Right now my world feels a little like that, emotionally, and I have to consciously ‘pull over’ to stop and examine what is going on.

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Rest Stop

Sometimes I forget it is not possible to be in control of everything, all the time. Or that, even if I am in control, my choices do not always lead to the best results. Or, even if my choices don’t lead to ‘the best’ results, who determines what is best and worst? Me. And sometimes those determinations are a little arbitrary, or based on other peoples’ expectations.

The last few weeks have brought with them an overflow of information, a few realizations, an incident with the ex, the Flu, a heart to heart with myself, time with friends, preparation for a long-planned minor surgery, and some heavy considerations regarding my priorities, relationships… pretty much the whole nine yards and then some.

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Relational Crossroads

Somewhere in the last year, I met someone who genuinely valued me. Who supported me. Who seemed to enjoy my oddities and find a simple pleasure in my presence. Someone who shared my interests, and who could handle defeat of various kinds with grace and kindness and an odd sort of self-confidence that was dashingly attractive.

Tonight, I realized our relationship was lopsided. That I look at a deepening relationship with as much fear as he does eagerness.

Someone in a group made a comment about his wife, and I felt the brush of Guy’s fingers, and felt as much as saw the warm glance he turned my way.

There is one problem, however.

I am not ready.

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5 Ways to Stay Safe

Reblog Tuesdays: This kind of list cannot be emphasized enough. I’ve shared my own story and some advice, but if you’re in a dangerous situation please seek help.

The original author asked what other safety tips someone might have. I actually wrote a brief post on this called “How Do I Leave” a few months after I left an abusive relationship. An Excerpt:

“Whenever possible, have someone else coordinate resources and plans for you, and perhaps be a point of contact. My mother did this for me. I barely had the mental capacity to get up in the morning, let alone function on any rational level due to my level of exhaustion.”

My mother, being my main point of contact, also gave me tasks, one at a time. Sometimes these situations can be overwhelming, and having someone to help manage your exit – if you can find them – will be a huge help and benefit your safety, as others can coordinate with them and you leave less of a ‘trail’ for your abuser to follow.

Got Hope Blog

One of the big questions many women (and men) have regarding their relationship is how safe are they. Safety is always an advocate’s number one priority. Some of the top tips of advice we can suggest include the following 5 ideas.

  1. Always be aware that you can be monitored online and on your phone.
    Due to all the technology advances, it is really easy to install programs on your computer and/or phone to monitor your activity. Sometimes abusers know exactly what is said in every text message, or they can look at your history on the computer. For that reason, a safer option might be to use the computers at the public library to research safe places to go. If you can afford a simple phone for emergencies, keeping a secret phone would be a good idea. Even if you don’t think they would do this, it’s one of the…

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Recovery

The fear is about everything.

And yet, a part of me knows it should be about nothing. That I overthink. That I am reacting emotionally and outside of logic. Yet too often, I think I try and discount my emotions. Pain of any kind is always unpleasant, but usually, especially with physical pain, it points to something that needs attention to heal properly.

Understanding the smoke and mirrors of anxiety means looking beyond the easy answer, beyond the initial spark of fear, or numbness, or pain. Of course, a certain situation or memory or word or action will likely be that initial trigger. Yet it is like it stirs a domino effect of fears, too many, too broad, too overlapping to easily pick apart when in the midst of a panic attack.

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Numb. Because life isn’t Complicated Enough.

Most people, when they see rolling hills and wide grassy expanses feel a sense of joy and relief in the beauty of the world. In reality, I can entirely relate to this and even crave the peace and quiet and regenerative qualities of the great outdoors.

Yet, with anxiety, the emotional counterpoint of those rolling green hills takes a darker turn. Beneath that beauty, lies a minefield, and if I’m to function, I have to find a way to cross it.

Fun! (Not.)

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A voice worth hearing

 

Some times it is still difficult to find the words that lay closest to my soul. To be truly vulnerable. To be truly myself.

But it is getting better.

Saturday I met some of Guy’s friends for the first time, the first part of the day I hung out and studied. The second part I played a few games. The last third of the time at their house we discussed the world at large, concepts of personal responsibility, thoughts on the issues our society here in America are facing. We didn’t always agree on the solutions, but I think the essence of our motivations were similar enough, and understood enough, we were able to have a genuine conversation.

One that I immensely enjoyed, for the first time in nearly a decade. Continue reading

Nightmares

Despair greeted me when I awoke this morning, opening my eyes to the light pouring in the window. My heart pounded, and it took a little time to place the objects in my room.

No ex.

None of his things.

None of the rooms present in my dreams.

Although I immediately relaxed from that state of near panic, I’ve been on edge all day. For a few moments, I thought everything of these past 18 months had been but a dream. In it’s place, the actual dream placed me back with my ex. The location, however, was the house I grew up in. We had his niece staying with us, roughly 9 years in my dream, and another teenage girl. I returned home from work, and found them both uneasy. The older girl was supposed to stay with us, but had called to be picked up, even though it would take a few hours.

We all moved on eggshells. Me, as I didn’t want to subject the younger girls to my ex’s verbal diatribes. I don’t recall what happened next, but my ex followed me about the circular house, screaming his anger at me.

I eventually turned around, and stood up for myself. At the least, yelling back that it was not alright for him to treat me in that manner. His response was to become sulky-angry, and he stormed off to hide in the office.

The older girl went out the front door to wait outside for her ride. The niece looked at me with wide eyes, and I heard from her that my ex had been vocalizing this kind of anger while I was gone. I started gathering things, and quietly told the girl that if my ex came out of my room to just go out to the car. She wanted her things first, but unfortunately they were in the office where my ex was.

I went to try and retrieve them, and my ex opened the door when I got there, staring at me with his cold death stare and a freezing anger. The kind of anger that led to things breaking, while I held my breath and wondered if, this time, I would be next.

That is when I awoke.

I have been trying to shake that dream off all day, with little luck. I can’t focus. Can’t study. So I decided to write it down. Try and put it into words in an effort to dump it from my mind.

I am safe.

I am out.

He can’t reach me now.

I just wish my nervous system would get the memo.

Cognitive Dissonance.

One of the truths of the past decade, is that my understanding of interpersonal dynamics is terribly skewed. It’s like a picture, hanging on a wall. What do I use as a basis for it being properly aligned? Items askew must be adjusted in my world, so usually you pick one straight line – the ceiling, the floor, the edge of the wall – and use it to line up the square or rectangular decorations on your walls.

For almost my entire marriage, nothing lined up right. So I did the best I could, found the least offensive way to put some order to my life. I lined myself up against my husband’s beliefs, not always accepting, but not always protesting or standing up against the ones that were incorrect. My options? Leave. Work towards change. Adapt. Continue reading

I am.

I am worthy. My values and beliefs matter, as well as the manner in which I convey them. Every person is due respect, even if we disagree. It is okay to pick my battles. Having the last word isn’t necessary, so long as I feel confident in my last words on a topic. I don’t have to be friends with everyone, and I do not need everyone to be happy or approve of my opinions. Continue reading

Safety lines

“How would you feel about going away for a weekend?”

I froze, sitting in the car, suddenly aware of the thrum of the wheels against the pavement, the fragility of the windows, Guy – relaxed and easy, driving, and unaware of my fight or flight reaction.

“No rush on deciding,” he continued, voice easy and nonchalant, throwing a smile my direction before focusing back on the road. “but I was just thinking it might be something fun for us.” His own uncertainty slipped out then, as he hurried to add, to reassure, “I want you to feel comfortable, though, so don’t let me pressure you if you’re not ready.” He offered two location options, and then a third with more of a ‘surprise’ potential.

As quickly as my anxiety reared it’s protective head, it settled back down, coiling up like a wary, sleeping dragon with tendrils of smoke and steam still sidling from its nostrils. It wouldn’t take much to stir it up again, but for now, it lay somnolent. Continue reading

Leaving your abuser: Discretion in a digital world

Having written a post with tips on how to get away from your abuser many months ago, I thought it might be helpful to provide some information on covering your tracks. There is a plethora of information available to us online, but if our significant other has access to our computers, phones, or other media (instant messages, etc.) – and has had a history of abusing these or us – it is important to know how to protect yourself.

I expect this post will get updated from time to time. If you have found a good resource you would like to share, please feel free to link it below.

Computer/Mobile Web Browsing

This link is a great place to start, Cover Your Tracks, for the computer/mobile. A quick summary:

  • Learn how to delete the history on your browser so your abuser cannot tell you have been to our site.
  • Safest way to find information is at local library, friend’s house, or work.
  • Modern browsers and “hidden” modes. (Also you can search Google for how to browse in private.)
  • IMPORTANT: If you’re reading this YOUR ABUSER ALREADY CAN SEE YOU’VE BEEN TO OUR SITE unless you started browsing using a mode listed above.
  • Private browsing on mobile devices.
  • How do I cover my tracks if I haven’t used one of these modes or have already visited this page without one enabled? This website has some good information on how to erase your browsing history.

 

Additionally, hide smart, don’t just eradicate all your online activities. If someone goes looking for your online search history, make sure to leave some innocuous information – like news sites, etc. Essentially, misinformation.

For the tech-savvy abuser, be aware they may have access to spyware or keylogging programs.

Private messaging/mobile phone folders

Strategies

There are a lot of great strategies you can employ to take back control of your life, even if only in small doses. Consider if any of the strategies at this link will be helpful for you (see summary below of topics covered). Technology Safety Planning. This article was written from a Canadian perspective, but shares pretty universally useful tips.

  • Trust your instincts – if an abusive S.O. possesses information they shouldn’t about you, take note of it.
  • Plan for safety – there are resources out there, but you may not have immediate access to them. Finding someone you trust who can help you with research is great. (In an emergency, don’t forget the police. I myself called upon them twice here in the US, and they were both professional and kind to me.)
  • Use the safest computer/technology access you can.
  • Create a new email, Facebook or instant messaging account – be anonymous, and provide no details. Always sign out of your email or social network sites.
  • Check your mobile phone settings
  • Change passwords and pin numbers
  • Also keep anti-virus software up-to-date on your computer and other devices. This may assist you to identify and remove any unknown programs.
  • Minimize use of cordless phones or baby monitors
  • Get your own mobile phone
  • Get a private post box and don’t give out your real address
  • Google yourself
  • Save evidence and consider reporting abuse or stalking

 

Hopefully you don’t have to use these tips, but my “How do I leave?” post has been getting a lot of views lately, and I felt additional, detailed help might be useful.

Walking the Tightrope

There is a fine line before me, and I set one foot carefully before the other. Sometimes my movements are confident, other times I am hesitant. But I must keep my eyes on the goal ahead, for where I look, the rest of me will follow. Focusing on what is behind me, or below me, may set my feet in places that send me tumbling to the ground.

One of the things I’ve noticed, cruising around the blogosphere, are the different ways that people use to cope with hardship and grief. Some focus on the present. Others on their thoughts. There are blogs that focus on understanding the things or people that have caused the author harm. Still others, seek to inform and educate.

Sometimes I am not sure why I am here, my words are often somewhat unfocused, and I veer from self-help, to streams of consciousness, to random thoughts. I’ve spent a lot of time following the stories of fellow bloggers, reading and considering their insights, and pains, and the validation that comes from knowing you are not alone in this experience. Continue reading

Amused frustration

There are always loose ends.

My divorce was final over six weeks ago, and yet my ex has yet to send me the money he was instructed to. This is the second time in three months a check he has supposedly sent to the P.O. box has gone astray. His comment mentioned something about how ‘Frankly suspicious’ he was regarding us not receiving it, but he would resend one anyway. (I know him well enough, he would not send ‘a new’ check if he thought I had access to both. He attributes his own level of maturity and vindictiveness to me. Which is to say, a very little and quite a lot respectively.)

He then proceeds to snark at me for not contacting a group to sign documents which will allow them to work on doing away with a portion of our mutual debt. Does he provide the contact information? No. Has he? No.

This, after throwing a tantrum that he can’t reach me directly through our one e-mail. It is grating on him, that he doesn’t have direct access to me. He keeps suggesting I change the protection order, and I can’t quite understand what he thinks I think that will accomplish. I am quite happy with someone else vetting all communique’s. Continue reading

Scar tissue

One of the things we don’t realize, with a surgery, is how difficult and painful scar tissue can be. It binds up the places beneath your skin, thick and difficult and invisible until you make a movement that places tension on it. Which brings pain. And if you do not listen, more pain.

Having excised my ex and his abusive behaviors from my life is a really great start. My protection order is good for another year, the divorce is finalized, and life is regaining some sense of normalcy. From all outward appearances, someone might think me hale and healthy.

Yet for the first time, as I share more time with Guy, I am realizing how much emotional scar tissue remains, however normal I appear on the surface.
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