Tag Archives: abuse

the end of an era

In fifteen minutes it will be January 20th. In approximately eleven hours Trump will take the oath of office and Obama will say goodbye to the post he’s held for the last 8 years.
 
The last 8 years have been revolutionary for our country. Even if you aren’t a fan of Obama’s you can’t argue that this man made history. As history was made and the future shaped so was my life. And in many ways Obama’s presidency represents my recovery journey.
 
You see 8 years ago the weekend before inauguration day I broke up with my abusive boyfriend with the help of some amazing friends. As Obama was sworn into office I stood in the office of the hall of my college hiding from the man who terrified me. I had no idea what was to come and I’m sure neither did the man who I was watching with his hand on the Lincoln Bible taking an oath that would change his life, his families and many others including my own.
 
In the next 8 years that Obama watched over our country I experienced more change than I thought possible. As Obama began forming his legacy I sat in treatment centers with women who would become life long friends and others who I would mourn their deaths just a few short months or years later. I learned how to eat again. I was taught that I was enough as I was. I experienced flashback after flashback but worked my way through them to see the light that was waiting for me. I received my first service dog and then just four short years later held him as he died in my arm. I trained my second and returned to the show ring for the first time in 10 years.
 
I got the word hope tattooed on my arm. A word that Obama embraced and the thing that saved me when I was in the depths of anorexia.I celebrated five years of recovery. I gained weight instead of loosing it. I ate ice cream whenever I wanted and enjoyed every flavor of Cadbury eggs. I watched Michelle kiss the queen and ate snacks everyday.
 
As Obama negotiated international and domestic conflicts I negotiated my own conflicts of who I was as a person and how I could live this life limited by the confines of my own brain. I began to talk about my trauma in college thanks in a large part to Biden’s work on campus assault. I learned to set boundaries and became a proud feminist who admired Michelle and watched with tears in my eyes when she spoke about Trump’s actions. I watched Obama treat his daughter’s and wife with respect and the belief that they were equal. And I unknowingly absorbed the message for the first time – that perhaps being a woman didn’t make me “less than”.
 
And today as I prepare to go to bed on the last day that Obama is president I realized that this last eight years was the first time that I have lived without abuse. No bulling. No harassment. No rape. No partner abuse. In the entire time Obama has been president I have known that I have not belonged to a man who would abuse and use me.
 
And so as the Obama’s leave and this chapter of history is closed so does a chapter of my own life. Both America’s last 8 years and mine can be explained as chapters of pain, conflict, confusion, unexplainable joy, hope, despair and most importantly freedom and safety.
I’m saying goodbye to the man who has traveled a road at the same time as me. A road that was unknown and unpredictable for both of us. I also say goodbye to two men and one incredible woman that fostered an environment that gave me the courage to begin to heal.
 
Life doesn’t end here for either Obama or I (or for America). It’s just beginning. It’s time to spread our wings and experience a new adventure; one of freedom but informed by experiences of the past 8 years. And so as Obama says goodbye to the White House and the presidency I say goodbye to the 8 years of healing and recovery. It’s time to truly live.
 
 
 
 

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Filed under abuse, abuser, anxiety, Ben, body image, bullying, culture, depression, dog training, dogs, eating disorder, eating disorders, Election 2012, election 2016, feminism, Hope, Identity, life events, Life Story, New Life, politics, PTSD, Recovery, service dog, social change, society, survivor, the past, trauma, writing/poetry

Fifty Shades of Grey…normalizing abuse

Well I’m blogging again. I planned to start blogging for NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness) Week next week but I’ve decided to start early and wade into the discussion on Fifty Shades of Grey (probably regrettably) but here it goes…

Many women celebrate Fifty Shades of Grey because it breaks barriers and says that sex is not bad and women can enjoy it. I’d be all for the book/movie IF this is the only thing they are saying. As a survivor of a relationship that was controlling, manipulating and abusive I see many red flags in Anastasia’s relationship with Christian Grey. So many things that were in my relationship with my abuser. The power, the control. The things that are perceived as sweet and protective but are really about ownership and controlling every detail in a woman’s life.  Yes, you man argue that Christian did it out of love. But love doesn’t excuse this type of behavior. If a woman arrived at a shelter describing a husband who controlled her finances, showed up at her place or work or recreation unannounced, utilized tracking devices on her phone, when she was unconscious undressed her and put her to bed (regardless of whether or not he had sex with her), and continued to have sex with her even when she said no many times it would be described as  abuse. In fact it might be enough to get a restraining order.

It doesn’t bother me one bit if a couple chooses to engage in BDSM and it wouldn’t bother me one bit if a book chose to describe this as long as the relationship between the two people was healthy. But the reality is that Anastasia’s and Christian’s relationship is not.  The type of relationship that is described in Fifty Shades of Grey is not healthy nor should it be perceived as normal and it bothers me very much that millions of women are buying into the idea that it is.

I worry that young people who see this movie (and we all know they will) will think that this type of a relationship is normal and wind up in abusive relationships themselves but excuse all of the behavior because they believe they are living their own fairy tale and can “tame the beast”. It doesn’t work that way. Relationships like this end with heartbreak and hurt sexually, emotionally and physically. It can take years of therapy to move past them. Fifty Shades of Grey normalizes abuse and this, not the sex, is what is so concerning. I wonder that if I had read the book or seen the movie six years ago would I have found the strength to break up with my abuser or would I have seen his behavior as even more normal and I even more as the one with the problem. I certainly think it’s more than likely. I wonder how many women will stay with their abusers in part because of this film. I don’t think I exaggerate when I say this. Films and books especially popular ones influence culture in many ways. And I think Fifty Shades of Grey contribution to society is to normalize abuse and that is extremely frightening.

*I know not everyone will agree with me. Many of you won’t in fact. Share your opinion if you would like. I’d love to hear it. I have a hard time comprehending that this relationship can be seen as anything as abusive but if you don’t think it is I’d love to hear why.

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winning the war with PTSD, facing the battle to come

I did something big today. And one reason it’s an even bigger deal is because it didn’t really occur to me just how big a deal it was until hours later. I visited the high school I attended for all four years. I went because it has been remodeled but enough of the old school remained that I defiantly saw identifying markers. Why is this a big deal? Because I bullied so badly that I developed PTSD (it began at around age 10 but continued on into high school). You name the type of abuse/bulling and I experienced it. So I went today and walked through the buildings without much thought. None of the bullying I experienced. A few random “I’m so glad I’m not in high school thoughts” and a definite “my life would have been so much better in high school if I had Gus” but PTSD thoughts? Nope. Absent.

It’s been a looonnnggg time coming to this place. Most of my trauma work in treatment was centered around the bulling. We approached what I consider the more major work but really hit this aspect of it hard. And this is the first time that I’m really seeing it pay off. I didn’t know if I believed someone could be “cured” from PTSD but it seemed at least today that my PTSD was long gone as I walked through a place that at one point would have sent me into flashback after flashback. I know there will  still be times when the memories hit me but they pain has receded some I think and that feels amazing. I never thought that would happen.

Now I have to move that hope onto the other aspect of my trauma we are just beginning to approach. This one feels insurmountable, terrifying and altogether impossible to handle. But I felt these things about the bulling at one time too. This time I have the benefit of experience on my side. The knowledge that I lived through the therapeutic process once and I give live through it once again. And this is invaluable because when you are in the thick of PTSD symptoms you think the very last thing that is going to happen is that you are going to live. But I need to remember that  I did once and I will again.

So tonight I go to bed with the knowledge that I have survived that part of my past. The rawness feels gone and I am now ready I think to close the therapeutic door. The relief is incredible. I also go to bed realizing how far I have yet to go. How many PTSD symptoms I still experience and the work ahead of me.

And finally I go to bed with a friend heavy on my heart as she fights with her own demons of PTSD tonight. I love you friend. I understand. And I am always here for you. You will survive. I did (and will continue to as I approach the next phase of my journey) and you will too.

 

 

 

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Filed under abuse, abuser, bullying, Hope, Life Story, PTSD, Recovery, school, survivor, the past, trauma

#whyistayed

There is a movement going around mainly on twitter with the hashtag #whyistayed. This is referring to women who stayed in abusive relationships. The movement started after Ray Rice, a NFL football player was caught on tape beating his wife. The media began criticizing and shaming the woman for not leaving him. And so they hashtag #whyistayed was born and thousands of women joined in by sharing the reasons why they stayed in an abusive relationship. And so here is Why I Stayed…

#whyistayed:  because he threatened to commit suicide if I left him.

#whyistayed:  because he told me and I believed him that no one else would ever love me like he did.

#whyistayed: because I felt like the only way to atone for my “sins” (they were his but he made them mine) was to marry him one day.

#whyistayed:  because I was alone on a college campus where I knew no one and had no support for the first part of our relationship and then it was too late.

#whyistayed: because I had been taught my by male peers in high school that this was what I was to expect out of men.

#whyistayed: because I didn’t know if I could handle how I would feel leaving him.

#whyistayed:  because my world was about his world. I had no true identity.

#whyistayed: I was scared.

And this is why I left…

#whyileft: I had wonderful roommates who encouraged me to do so.

#whyileft: He took things one step too far and I was finally able to see something wasn’t right.

#whyileft:  I found some courage I didn’t know I had.

#whyileft: I was exhausted.

#whyileft: I didn’t want his version of the future anymore

#whyileft: I finally was able to see past the deception, the lies and tight control he had threaded around me for just long enough to make the decision to break up with him and then have friends hold me accountable.

People tell me I’m a smart person. Yet, I fell prey to an abuser. One who charmed most people he met and had no idea what went on in our relationship. And couldn’t believe it even when they heard bits and pieces of it. And I couldn’t leave. It’s not so simple as breaking up with a person or packing your bags and moving out. There is so much more to an abusive relationship than that. Remember it is a relationship. A malfunctioning one but one. And there are good moments as well as bad. And sometimes it’s easy to tell yourself the good outweighs the bad. It also takes time and sometimes outside support to find the courage to leave.

So don’t judge. Unless you have been in a toxic relationship you cannot understand. You can try, you can listen, you can emphasize but do not judge those women and men who did not leave after the first blow was thrown or the first signs of abuse. It is not that simple.

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Filed under abuse, abuser, culture, feminism, Identity, Independence

All I can write is this quote tonight:

 

One Day I will forgive you; until then there are scabs everywhere that you have touched me

– Salvador Plascencia, The People of Paper

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Filed under abuse, Life Story, PTSD, quotes, survivor, the past, trauma

survivor?

I was at a women’s health fair this past weekend and I stopped by the domestic violence/sexual assault prevention and support booth. I picked up little ribbons that signified support and somehow ended up telling the women there that I had PTSD from being abused. This was a big step for me. One to admit it out loud and two to tell someone else. What happened next though stunned me more and it’s something I have been left thinking about since then.

The woman who runs the center responded to my telling her of my history by saying – “oh you’re a survivor!”. This completely stopped me in my tracks. A survivor? Me. No certainly not. I don’t deserve to have that title. Plus to say you are a survivor means that you had to have survived something significant. Yes I was abused and yes I’m here but survived it…that makes it sound like it was important or something.

I have a hard time wrapping my head around these facts. Denial? Yes, most defiantly. I’ve been in enough therapy to know it when I see it. I don’t know if I’m ready to look at my past and see it for what it was. At times I am. I can sometimes say parts of it out loud like I did initially to the woman but then I balk and retreat away from my story.

I’m closer to accepting it and being able to process it in therapy than I ever have been before. Perhaps it’s time to start that work. I’ve done very little trauma work..  And so I leave for Wichita in a few hours (psychiatrist, dietitian and therapist) and perhaps today in my session I’ll start talking.  And if I go in with at least somewhat of the beginnings of the belief that I am a survivor it will go that much better.

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Filed under abuse, feminism, Hope, life events, Life Story, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma

dear unnamed abuser

Dear Unnamed Abuser,

I know you read my blog. I also know you read my tumblr so you are now reading this. Someday I will speak out about what you did to me. This is not a threat. It is a promise to myself and to all the other survivors of sexual abuse, assault and rape. I won’t mention you by name for many reasons one of which is that your name itself deserves no time on my lips.

I know you have not forgotten me. I don’t know if I haunt your nightmares or your dreams or am just a fleeting thought but your presence on my blog and tumblr proves that you have not let me go.  Good.

Think of me when you read about women raped, beaten and abused.

Think of me when you see women and men give impassioned speeches about how the young men in this country must change, must own up to their actions and above all must never hurt a woman.

Think of me when you visit my tumblr and see the quotes I post there about letting go of my past and know that it is you I am freeing myself from and I have never felt more empowered than I am right now as I go through this process.

Think of me as you go to church and present a sparkling clean image to everyone around you. Know that unless you tell the truth that image will forever be tarnished by acts you can never undo and only ask for forgiveness for.

Think of me when you return to where we spent the majority of our time. Look around and remember how that time is darkened by the acts you committed. Know that for you that place will never be the pure mecca you thought you created.

Think of me if you have a daughter. Look at her and wonder how you could have committed those acts against a woman. Look at that tiny beautiful face and pledge never to hurt another woman (or person) so long as you live.

Think of me when you read of  women who have moved mountains, and who have beaten unspeakable odds.

Think of me when you read of women of strength, of power, of influence.

Think of me when you hear the word survivor and especially when you hear the word warrior.

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Filed under Hope, Identity, life events, Life Story, New Life, PTSD, survivor, the past, trauma

falling, falling

This poem/thing-without-a- proper- name describes some of my past experiences with dissociation.

Falling. Falling.

I’ve lost control of my own body.

My brain has once again betrayed me.

Not in thoughts. They betrayed me there long ago.

But in my movements, my mechanisms of survival.

I am trapped. Trapped in a body that won’t connect.

That skips flight and fight and goes to freeze and fall.

Holding onto banister and walls to walk willing myself to stay upright

But what good is will when the brain can trump all the willpower in the world?

They say – “walk. Don’t fall. You lie.”

I stand and walk.. But then – something happens. Something I do not see and suddenly the floor is rising up to meet me.

I cannot comprehend how my brain has forced my legs to betray me.

And neither can they. Attention seeking they call it. Despair I call it.

Wheelchairs, lectures, the silent treatment.

My brain has once again brought me to this lonely place.

A place I am familiar with. A place I am disliked and despised.

A place where my history has proven I belong.

A place where people hate little girls who have the wrong haircut

Sixteen year olds whose only crime was to play the wrong instrument

And an eighteen year old whose worse offence was to be born female

And now my brain has brought me there again – forcing my legs to slide and slip.

And so I’m back where I belong.

Alone. Hated and disliked for something I did not choose and cannot control.

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Filed under eating disorder, eating disorders, life events, Life Story, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma, writing/poetry

“No” is a complete sentence. – Oprah

“Just say no!” That was the chant we learned in D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). In high school a bored health teacher told a group of us equally bored sophomores that in a relationship no means no. In reality, no means different things. No, means keep convincing your parents until they say yes. It means nagging your friend until they are peer pressured into doing the dumb thing you want them to do with them. We are a society where no means – “convince me” or “it’s not over yet”.

However, there should be no more powerful word than the word no. It should be the end all be all. It should stop a child pleas for a toy, a friends pressure, a bullies taunts and a man’s hands. The reality? It doesn’t. I know from experience. For many years I have lived with the assumption and the belief that my voice has no value. That it is not heard. That because my “no’s” went unheeded time and time again the world remains an unsafe place that will continue to hurt me. The world will never change. It will always be a place of abuse, neglect and terror. A place where no matter what I say – I cannot stop the things that happen to me.

In therapy, we have recently begun to discuss how unless I begin to let myself believe that perhaps the world is safe and I can exist in it without being hurt I can never truly heal. I’m not sure I agree and I’m really not sure I can do this. To let go of my many, many layers of protection, to work through the fear in therapy would require a vulnerability that terrifies me to no end.

While browsing tumblr the other day I came across the quote:

“No” is a complete sentence. – Oprah

I stopped. Scrolled past it and then scrolled up again. And something inside me shifted it. Never in my young adult and adult life had my no’s been treated as complete sentences. They were invitations for manipulation, convincing, cunning, threats and force. Yet here was a woman who is known all over American for being wise saying that the word “no” is a complete sentence. This had never occured to me. Perhaps, I had done what I was supposed to have done. Perhaps my no should have been enough and it was the other people who were wrong. Not me. But them because they listen to my no. They didn’t hear it as a complete sentence even though it was.

So then maybe my work not only lies in not only in seeing this world differently but seeing myself and my past differently. That a no is a no and a no is a complete sentence. It wasn’t me that had it wrong but the other people in my life. And perhaps that should terrify me more. Knowing that I had no control over how someone reacted to something I said even though it was the right thing but for some reason it doesn’t. It makes me sit back and look at my past and think how messed up the people were who hurt me were. How messed up they were that they didn’t know that no was a complete sentence. And how if they haven’t learned that by now they are going to get in trouble in someway in the future.

So, I’m still terrified of giving up the belief that the world is an unsafe place. I’m not ready to do that yet but this does reframe things for me a little bit. It allows me to see that I did try to use my voice. It wasn’t heard but I did try to use it. And I did the right thing. And knowing I did the right thing  is a step towards lifting s a large amount of guilt and shame off of my shoulders

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Filed under bullying, Hope, PTSD, quotes, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma, Tumblr

i am NOT a victim – four years was long enough

I wrote a post the other day. If you read my blog regularly I’m sure you read it. I’m not going to link to it because quite honestly I don’t like the post. I talk about how I am a survivor but also a victim. I could take down the post but that would be dishonoring how I felt in that moment and still do at times. This blog chronicles my journey and I made a pledge this year to tell my life story and part of my life-story is very much wrapped up around what prompted me to write that blog the other night. So hear is the back story that I left out.

 

There are people in my life who I hope and pray I never see again. I’m sure there are those people in everyone’s life like that. The list I have includes the usual – the classmates who were there when I went through my most awkward stages of development, those that betrayed confidences, the kid who shoes I passed out on while waiting in line in the college cafeteria (ok maybe that one isn’t that normal) who also happened to be the radio DJ who then talked about it on the college radio station, the professor whose class I had to take an incomplete in and then turn in a horrible paper that my starved brain somehow managed to produce, the music judge where I horribly messed up my piece and on goes the list.

However, then there is this other list. The list that includes the people who hurt me. I don’t want to see people on this list because of so many reasons. The memories that the encounter would produce. The possible flashbacks. The danger (yes danger). The vivid reminders of those times of my life. The absolute fear that these people still produce in me and the horrible reversal from survivor to victim.

The other night when I wrote that post. I was in a more victim stance. And why was I that way? It was because I had seen one of those people who had hurt me. Not in person. No thank God. However, as I waited for the elevator in my apartment complex I happened to glance at a photograph that hung on the wall that had previously been covered up by holiday decorations. My apartment decorates with pictures from all over my city. I like it. It’s unique and special. However, something about this picture was wrong. Immediantly, those little things that go off in my brain when faced with trauma triggers erupted because in the middle of the picture of our local swimming pool stood one of my tormentors. He was lifeguarding.

It was just a picture. I know this. However, to my brain in that moment (and actually still to some extent) this person and everyone who I associate with had suddenly invaded my apartment. My safe space. The space that I have created. The place I call my own. The place where I try to live without fear. Suddenly, my apartment was dirty. Unsafe. Invaded.

It was a rough night and next day. And in that mindset I wrote that blog. This picture is still up. I’d like to rip it from the wall or scribble over his face or draw a pig over it or do any of the other things my recovery sisters have suggested however this would be a bad idea considering there are cameras and I’m pretty sure not only would I get kicked out of my apartment but also get arrested. So my focus is going to have to be on how I’m going to handle this. I’m not sure right now. Beth is going to have to help me with this one. She’s going to have to help me figure out a way to make my safe place safe again. And she’s going to have to help me move out of the victim role into the survivor role again. Because I don’t want to stay in this fearful, scary place.

I don’t want this person or any or the other people who are associated with him to have any control of my life. They did for four long years. I think that’s long enough don’t you?

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Filed under bullying, coping skills, eating disorder, eating disorders, Hope, Identity, Independence, life events, Life Story, New Life, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma