Forging my own relational path

Learning to love….? again.

Love is a funny word, when you come to think of it. So many meanings and applications. I know how to love: with my family, with my intimate girlfriends who have kept me sane and supported, with my friends children or my pets. All of those things come easily to me.

When I think of love, I’ve often interpreted it in the past as action. If we love someone, we look for and strive to meet their needs so that they feel valued. A relationship is formed when that person offers the same to us. As a piece of the relational puzzle, it is a really important one. But I’ve come to learn that actions cannot exist in a void, and love itself is too multi-faceted for any strict, single definition. But, to get back to my original train of thought… Continue reading “Forging my own relational path”

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Love Letter to Me

An article I read recently, while sitting in my therapist’s waiting room, mentioned that it takes 5 positives to offset a negative. Apparently our brains our wired to process negativity, perhaps as a coping mechanism, perhaps as a stimulus to change or avoid the things that cause negativity. I recently read a post by Hurricane Heather, where she openly shared a list of those negative things she struggles with and feels vulnerable about. I could relate to so many of those items, but challenged her to write a similar list describing the awesome things about herself. And she did, and challenged me right back. Follow up to Letter’s I will never send (but already sort of did): Dear J. Response: Dear Heather.

Heather? Challenge accepted.

So here goes – in letter form. A love letter to myself, because if we can’t love ourselves, how are we going to be able to love others?

Not normally my kind of music, but this Fifth Harmony song, “Brave, Honest, Beautiful” is pretty inspiring.

My challenge to you? 50 things that make you you, and make you awesome, OR a love letter to yourself. If you accept, please post here and link your article so I don’t miss it. 🙂

Continue reading “Love Letter to Me”

Waiting for the other shoe to drop…

Over two months since my last post, encapsulating work emergencies, new friends, a possible new relationship, and many moments of challenging myself to heal.

As I posted in a reply to a comment someone left me today, I realized that as of today it has been 9 months. Three quarters of a year, and each moment more fulfilling than the last. Most days I wake up contented, my days are filled with happy moments and an easy resilience that I though impossible 9 months and a day ago. There are the occasional nightmares, dredged up by triggers, or by slowly re-engaging people where before I had placed barriers.

And believe me, I can appreciate the irony of meeting someone not long after my ‘single and not looking’ post. It’s been interesting, being courted by someone who shares many of my own interests, who spent about eight weeks maneuvering that fine line of consistent interest, friendship, and yet not being pushy.

Continue reading “Waiting for the other shoe to drop…”

Freedom to be Exhausted

The trouble is sometimes I have too much to say, and yet too little. Feelings churn, revelations slip into reality between one moment and the next. Then, when faced with a blank screen, a keyboard, and the desire to find words to express these matters – nothing comes.

I’m not sure where this hesitance comes of late. Perhaps some of it is being a little self-conscious. Who am I, and why would anyone care what I thought about life? It’s not like I have any answers, or any plan, or any real direction. All I know is I am moving forward.

Forward means taking care of myself. The embarrassing things like remembering to put on deodorant in the morning. Which requires me to get up when the alarm first goes off in early pre-dawn hours, which, in turn, requires me to ensure enough sleep and getting to bed at a decent hour.

Showering. Eating. Getting to work. Making the medical appointments to keep me healthy. Going to counseling.

This is my life right now. It isn’t necessarily an unpleasant one – my last tweak of my anxiety meds seem to have given me that littlest oomph I needed to be able to push myself over the hump of whatever barrier stood in my way. I’ve been making it to work, been accruing leave again instead of lurking dangerously near empty.

I didn’t know what to expect when I left six months ago, but I didn’t really expect myself to transition so quickly to this need for actual sleep. Now, I am tired if I only get 5-6 hours of sleep. Back in February, a good night’s sleep was 4-5 hours, as I was lucky to get more than 1 to 3 a night. What amazes me is that I was able to function at all.

Part of it I have to attribute to God. Though I’m not active in a church, and struggle with certain things about Christianity/churches, I still hold onto my faith. Part of it I have to attribute to my German heritage – that side of the family is irrepressibly stubborn.

But you know, best of all? I don’t have to function, and be responsible for everything anymore. I can have an off day, or a down day, and be ok. I can cancel plans with friends, though apologetically, and they don’t disown me or get angry. It’s still hard, there is a lot of physical and emotional fatigue. Friends are making sure I stay safe. People are stepping up and standing up for me. Even if I have very little to offer them right now. But for the first time in a long time, I’m beginning to accept that. I’m realizing there are people I can actually rely on, who won’t resent me as a nuisance or burden. It’s freeing.

Worthy

“Who am I, that anyone should care what I have to say?”

“What use, or space, or function do I fill that a dozen other people could not fulfill just as easily?”

“Who am I to ask for anything?”

“I’m not worthy of Happiness. It is simply the ideal, but finding contentment in any circumstances is the only realistic goal, true happiness is fleeting.”

I’ve believed these things for so long. And there is a grain of truth, perhaps, to some of them – happiness can sometimes be a choice. My counselor has highlighted several feelings and beliefs central to my worldview, things that have crafted my history to be the foundation for my struggles today. From a very young age, I was aware my parents had given up a lot to become a family. To raise me, to commit to one another. While on one hand I knew they loved me, that understanding lived alongside the feeling of always being an imposition. Of them always having to sacrifice for me. That I was to blame when they fought and argued. Continue reading “Worthy”

‘You made me a pariah.’

There is a discomfort in unpleasant honesty. The price of mine, might very well have made it more difficult for my Ex to find somewhere to stay.

I could hear the accusation, even in the stark text of an e-mail I shouldn’t have read.

‘You made me a pariah.’ Continue reading “‘You made me a pariah.’”

Why Didn’t I leave? Part II

Part II: The Practical Quandry

My personal emotional quagmire was not the only reason I struggled to leave. There was a practical side to things too.

  1. Where will I live?
  2. Can I afford to live on my own?
  3. How am I going to get around without a car?
  4. Will I lose friends and/or family?
  5. Can I afford to keep/protect my pets?
  6. How do I break away financially without him getting suspicious?
  7. What happens to our joint mortgage/bills?
  8. What happens when people get tired of helping me?

Even though I have a full-time job, people offering me rooms to stay, my situation over the past few years left me reluctant to put my life, livelihood, and living situation in anyone else’s hands. There are matters of trust I had to get past. Fears of inconveniencing others (though they assured me, time and again, I would not be an inconvenience.) Fears of being let down, or dropped, when I became too great of a burden. (I assumed I would be).

My ex’s patience with me was so short, I didn’t want to exchange that for simply another situation where people would be short and angry with me, too. I wasn’t willing to risk losing the independence I did have simply for a chance to be miserable somewhere else.

The fact of the matter was, I was paralyzed by the unknown of the distant future, and too emotionally exhausted to cope with more than one or two days of my present.

The reality of the situation, now that I am out, is this:

I don’t know what the next few years will have for me in the way of belongings, or possessions, or financial situation. I might be in a lot of debt for a long time. However, I will have my family. I will have my friends. I will have my pets. I will go home (wherever that is) and be at peace. Already I am sleeping more than I have in a long time, even when I don’t sleep well. Instead of ‘not sleeping well’ meaning 1 to 3 hours of sleep, it now means I ‘only’ got 5-6. Some nights I even manage a few, full eight hours.

I have no car. My personal space is limited to an 8×8 room. But I still have my job. The rest can come with time. I have a lifetime to figure that out.

Still, however, if I think too far ahead, the fear of the unknown is paralyzing. You see, for so long, when you live in an abusive relationship, it’s your job to overthink the possibilities. You have to be aware of what can happen, so you can minimize the fallout and the pain (emotional in my case, physical for some others) that you will experience. It’s something my counselor calls being hyper-vigilant, and was a way I survived in that terrible marriage for so long. But the trouble is, the things we learn to protect ourselves in an abusive relationship, don’t always translate so well to reality as other people see them.

I still marvel, that I am one of the lucky ones. I had the people to help me escape. I never let go of my job. I grieve the loss of children I’ve never had and may never have, but I know that choice of having no children made my departure easier, too. But I am out. And now that I am out, I realize that none of the above things really matter.

Because I will survive, and I’ll be happier doing so without an abusive marriage hanging over me. If I can escape that, I can do pretty much anything.

Bastard

I ruined my father’s life.

No one ever told me this. But somehow this understanding became a pervasive part of my childhood, and I cannot remember a time that knowledge wasn’t firmly rooted in my soul. My parents fought to do the right thing, when they found out I was about to exist. My father, the honorable man who asked my mother to marry him immediately. My mother, afraid to enter into a marriage with a man she hardly knew, who said no.

My mom said no to a lot of things, including her own mother, who wanted her to have an abortion. Continue reading “Bastard”

Coming out

No, I am not gay. (And despite the fact that I am a Christian, I have no problems with who people decide to love. I know some amazing people who fall in the spectrum of LGBT.) But talking about abuse seems like something so many want to sweep under the rug, to hide like a skeleton in the closet. And I’m going to be damned if I sit in silence any longer.

This was a painful and emotional weekend.

As part of my protection order, my lawyer suggested it might save us money if we wrote a way into the contact order to contact one another outside of lawyers. At the time the judge made it clear, that the e-mail option we chose, was not to be used in a threatening way. However, my ex has been growing more and more comfortable with it, and I shut it down on Sunday.

Here he is, in our home, with our car, having me pay half the mortgage for nearly 3 months now, barely inconvenienced – while I am borrowing rides, working out carpools with strangers, riding the bus, reliant on others. I’ve barely taken anything from the house. Some personal property, and three shelves. The crock pot. Candle stuff.

Continue reading “Coming out”

How do I leave?

Those who are struggling with issues of Domestic Violence involve not only the person experiencing that situation first hand, but also those around them who know or suspect what is going on. While there are a bunch of resources out there for people in domestic violence situations, the difficulty is in getting those resources to the people who need them. Not only that, but it can be difficult to disseminate the information in a safe manner.

My situation was helped by the fact I had a good support team. When I got married, I made a promise to myself to prioritize my friendships and relationships with the people I cared about. If you are going through a difficult time, I know it is hard not to hide away and isolate yourself, but try to keep or rebuild some connections. If you haven’t, now is the time to slowly start establishing any relationship that is non-threatening to your abuser. Try and have something you do with enough regularity that it becomes routine and he or she hopefully doesn’t question it. This might help give you a break, and will help you make contacts that may help you if you need to leave.

If you are in a dangerous situation I highly encourage:

  • Have a safe word or phrase (or two). I had a safe word for “Call 911 and come right away, I am in immediate danger”. I also had another safe word that was, “We need to move up my departure plans ASAP.”
  • Do not use any computer or phone that the abuser has access to, or that the abuser can access the history or contact records of.
  • Be wary of your use of social media and instant messenging.
  • Create an emergency bag you can store at a friend or family members home.
  • 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. Below are some links you may find of immediate assistance.

Preparing to leave:

Creating a safety plan

Why didn’t I leave? – Part I

Part 1: Emotional Quandry

Nearly five years ago, my husband glared over the breakfast bar at me, and snarled, “I am going to slit your throat while you sleep.” Standing in the kitchen, body strung taught like a bow about to launch an arrow, he had easy access to half a dozen knives of all shapes and sizes. I don’t remember the moments immediately prior. I don’t remember the moments immediately after. What I do remember is the hard look in his eyes and feeling more terrified than I ever have been in my life.

Although I called 911 – citing fear my husband was suicidal, and stating that I didn’t feel safe – I didn’t breathe a word of what happened to anyone. Not the full words. I did mention to two people, after a struggle, that he had said ‘something really bad’. Continue reading “Why didn’t I leave? – Part I”

Aftershock (…and ramblings)

My cheeks ached from forcing smiles by the time I climbed into my borrowed car, stuck the key in ignition, and yanked the door awkwardly closed. After the heartpounding throb of loud music and the bouncing flamboyance of a Drag Queen show, the silence echoed. There was something about the silliness of it all that was actually fun, and yet the talent of the actor/dancers in mimicking a famous celebrity was just as astounding.

Yet now the evening was over, and I was sitting alone in my parents van.

The night was bittersweet, even midst the fun moments. Apparently it was Bachelorette night, as they had at least nine brides to be, some blushing furiously and others simply settling in for a long night of drinking. For the first time, I felt a surge of hearty cynicism, reflecting on what I’ve just emerged from, and trying not to think of what these mostly younger women might be walking into. Continue reading “Aftershock (…and ramblings)”

‘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 “‘A league of our own…’”

“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 ““If only I had spoken up sooner…””

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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