Showing posts with label A Year after my abusive relationship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A Year after my abusive relationship. Show all posts

Friday, September 19, 2014

One Year Later

This week marks One Year since leaving what may have been the worst relationship of my life.  I've debated whether or not to talk about it, because the details are hard and the story isn't pretty.  But at some point, you need to let go of the things you've been holding on to and that is what I'm doing.  If I can help one person, if one person can see something in my story that helps them... then it isn't in vain.  This is my story.  

September 21st marks One Year since The Incident that ended with the police taking my now ex-boyfriend to jail. The past year has been a jumble of complex thoughts, situations and emotions. 

At first, I tried treating it like any other break-up, even sharing tips on How to get over a break-up.  I expected life to go back to normal.  I expected to feel free again and while in some ways I did, it wasn't what I expected.  For a long time, I thought maybe I was just feeling Fragile and needed to be handled with care for awhile.  I was hurting, bothered, upset by things that I couldn't put a name to just yet.  I was exhausted.  I was struggling with depression.  I was having nightmares.  I was anxious.  I was stressed.  I just knew that something felt "wrong", toxic, and as if it were feeding on me.  

For a long time, I struggled to identify exactly what was wrong.  I had physically scrubbed my house and bleached everything, even buying new sheets.  I started getting acupuncture on a regular basis for the stress and anxiety.  I smudged my house with sage and sweet grass.  I got an energy healing session (Reiki).  I reached out to friends who had stuck with me during our relationship and tried to resume a normal social life.  I made Resolutions.  I pushed myself to try and find joy in my hobbies again.  But I couldn't seem to shake the feelings of doom and gloom.

Then one night my landlord left town.  I had gone downstairs to feed his cats and as I was leaving his apartment I was standing in the porch we share and there was a loud bang.  I ran up the stairs, unlocking the door (because I lock my doors now even when I leave for 5 minutes to feed a cat) and slamming it shut, bolting it behind me.  It took me a minute, as I leaned up against the door with my heart pounding in my ears and breathing heavy, to realize my stupid neighbors were setting off fireworks again (it was August).  It was then that I realized that everything that happened had left me wound so tight that the sound of fireworks were upsetting to me.  I'd never felt like that about fireworks in my life. 

Shortly after beginning to realize all of these things about myself, I realized that I had so much fear because I still worry he will kill me.  I have this fear that the door is going to be splintered by a determined kick and he will come after it.  That night with the fireworks, I couldn't see outside because of the lights on the porch and my reaction was because I thought it was him.

And then the light bulb turned on.  What was I doing to make myself feel safe?

I hesitated to describe what I went through as abuse because so many women have been through and experienced worse, as if by being really lucky in that I never took a hit invalidated the fact that everything that happened was abuse.  I felt saying I had been in an abusive relationship was an insult to women who'd been through so much worse.  At some point I realized that abuse is a broad spectrum and while there are usually many things in common between situations, the fear is the same.

Fear is not a feeling I'm able to admit to easily.  For a long time I felt that admitting to being scared or afraid was weak, which probably contributed to why I was so humiliated when I was forced to admit I was afraid and that I needed the help of the police.  It also explained why I struggled so long to admit that I was in an abusive relationship with someone who made me afraid in my own home.  I had been working on forgiving myself.  I had been working on the blame, shame and humiliation I felt.  I had been focusing on finding myself again and being the person I want to be and I'm supposed to be as opposed to the monster I genuinely thought I had become.  I was rebuilding faith in myself and in my intuition.  I had been pushing myself so hard to be "OK", and the truth is that I wasn't because I still didn't feel safe.

It isn't that I feel that I haven't been making progress, because I know that I have.  But progress is like a recipe: you can mix all of the ingredients, and that counts for something, but you aren't going to get the same results if you bake it "as is" if you would if you had all of the ingredients.  Feeling safe was the missing ingredient and as I'm still going through this journey I have yet to determine if it was the one missing ingredient or one of many.

I know that some of the things I am going through right now are classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I might feel afraid for a long time.  I made an appointment with my doctor and we discussed the depression, anxiety and exhaustion and we're working on it together.  I've started paying closer attention to the things that cause me anxiety.  When I'm able to identify what the anxiety stems from, I take the time to identify what the rational and irrational fears are, and then I make changes to make sure I feel safe.  I've spent many moments telling myself, "You are okay. You are safe.  He is not here". This might be something that I will have to continue doing for a long time, and while I haven't been able to tell myself "You Won"... I'm going to get there, because I'm going to be bigger than this.

In the Aftermath there was so much anger, shame, hurt, stress, and blame.  I'm still working my way through the complicated mess of things that both led me to the relationship, and what has been left behind as a result of it.  But in a weird way... I know that I'm going to come out of this a better person.  In a lot of ways, I already feel like I have.

As a result of having been in that relationship, I was forced to look at myself and my life in a different way and really rediscover who I want to be, what it is I want for myself and what I expect from my relationships as well as who I want to be in terms of my relations with others.  I had to take a hard look at what kind of image was being created as a result of the tiny dots that make up my life.  I lost some people and while that hurts at the same time I can't help but think that the people who are a part of my life now are the people who are supposed to be here.

One of the greatest gifts of this experience and coming back from it is feeling my own resilience.  I got my first tattoo when I was twenty.  It had taken me months to decide what I wanted and somewhere along the way I came across the word "Invictus".  The Latin Word Invictus has many meanings, mainly: unconquer, unconquerable, undefeated.  At the time, I wanted it because to me it was a testament to everything I'd been through already and a reminder of my own strength for future trials.  I'd already been through so much.  I hadn't read the poem by the same name until two years after I had gotten the tattoo.  Somehow, after this experience, it seems so much more relevant now.

I'd felt so hopeless at the lowest points in my relationship and there were times I didn't think I was going to make it...but I did and I am here.  As of this moment, I have a 100% Survival Rate of every challenge I've ever faced in this life.  That means I have a choice about where I go from here, who I become, how I conduct myself and what happens after this.  Not everyone is so lucky.  But as long as I have a choice, I should be the master of my fate and the captain of my soul.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233  or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). They have people on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week who can offer support and lists of resources in your area.

Other resources with information about Domestic Violence and Abuse:
Symptoms, Treatment and Recovery from Emotional and Psychological Trauma

I see Narcissistic People

This week marks One Year since leaving what may have been the worst relationship of my life.  I've debated whether or not to talk about it, because the details are hard and the story isn't pretty.  But at some point, you need to let go of the things you've been holding on to and that is what I'm doing.  If I can help one person, if one person can see something in my story that helps them... then it isn't in vain.  This is my story.  

It's been nearly a year since the break-up and as I get closer and closer to the One Year mark I can't help but think about how far I have come from the way things were, and how far I have left to go.  I've made progress, but as I look back and read "Breaking up is hard to do" written a mere 4 days after I was forced to call the police on the man who had been living in my apartment for over a year and had been in a relationship with for nearly three, it makes me a little sick.

I was so tangled up in the web of Narcissistic Abuse and when I read that post, I can see it.   I see all the nice, sweet things I wrote that were not really the truth and actually symptoms of what I had been living with during the entire course of our relationship.  I can still see the complete and utter denial.  I see how hard I tried to still be pleasant and "make nice" even though I knew he was going to make things hard for me.

When I read what I wrote back then, I can see that even when it came to our breakup I approached it and wrote about it as if I was left with no other choice and not acknowledging that I wanted the relationship to end and he finally gave me the last and final reason I would ever need to leave.

The scary and sad fact is that I don't know that I would have left if things hadn't happened the way they did that day. 

I decided that I needed serious healing, that I needed to fix the things about myself that led me to being in that relationship or it would be every relationship I ever had for the rest of my life.  I started reading.  I started looking at myself and moments when I ignored my intuition, and started exploring why I ignored it and how to learn to trust it and strengthen it.  I began looking at events that had transpired, and started to see manipulative patterns. Then I looked at my other relationships - platonic, romantic, even professional - past and present to see if I could figure out why I let someone treat me like that.

And then it hit me... the behaviors I was victim to in that relationship have been present for most of my adult life, through much of my teen years, and even some in my childhood.

That is a hard pill to swallow.

I'm not saying I had a horrid childhood, blaming my parents or the system, trying to portray myself as coming from a hard place, or saying that I'm completely surrounded by Narcissistic Abusers.  What I AM saying is that life is an example of Pointillism: every experience you have, book you read, person you encounter, song you listen to, food you eat... is like a tiny dot on the canvas of your life applied in patterns to make an image.  A series of canvasses foretelling what will be, who we are, and chronicling our life story.

In a lot of ways there have been a lot of "dots"- things that happened that I never told anyone, behaviors and hurtful comments that I excused or allowed people to get away with, people who hurt me that I made excuses for or tolerated for years - and when all of those "dots" were combined it created a picture of a woman who would tolerate all of the tiny little dots that equal one big bad relationship.

There are people out there who might say I was overreacting.  There are people who would say that if you look for something hard enough, you'll find it.  I wholeheartedly agree that if you're looking hard enough, you can twist anything into being what you what it to be, but I feel like I was finally opening my eyes to what was going on around me the entire time.

I started paying closer attention to the way people reacted to the things I said and did.  I started to notice there were people in my life who instead of respecting my decisions would try and cajole or manipulate me into doing what they wanted me to do in spite of what I said I wanted.  I began to notice how certain people would say rude or hurtful things to me every time we spent time together.  When I would question or confront people about the rude things they said to me they would respond with gas-lighting.  Distancing myself from people because of the gas-lighting led to them giving me ultimatums about our relationship.  I started seeing the same Red Flags and behaviors in many friendships that I should have seen (or not ignored) in my previous relationship.  I started seeing my ex everywhere.

Me too, kid.  Me too. 

It made me angry.

The horrible things my ex did that people told me I didn't deserve, things that people held against him and judged him for were things that some of the people who were closest to me were also doing.

I tried to explain to people when they would do things that bothered me.  I tried ignoring the gas-lighting and tell someone how their behavior or choice of words bothered me.  I even flat out compared things that were said or done to stories of things that actually happened in an attempt to explain myself to people.

There were people who just didn't get it and I lost some friends.  The upside is that I began to really see the people that I didn't need in my life.  In a lot of ways, it gave me the push I needed to start removing people.  When you're struggling to find the energy to function, it becomes a lot easier to see where your energy resources are being used and abused.  I also started changing how I look at friendship.  In the end, I started realizing the people who show the same signs and red flags as someone who might be an abusive partner probably really aren't the best of friends either.

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233  or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). They have people on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week who can offer support and lists of resources in your area. 

Other resources with information about Domestic Violence and Abuse:

Thursday, September 18, 2014


This week marks One Year since leaving what may have been the worst relationship of my life.  I've debated whether or not to talk about it, because the details are hard and the story isn't pretty.  But at some point, you need to let go of the things you've been holding on to and that is what I'm doing.  If I can help one person, if one person can see something in my story that helps them... then it isn't in vain.  This is my story.  

The Incident wasn't over yet.  As I sat in the car with the 911 Operator on the phone, she asked me to open the garage door so I could see the Officers when they arrived.  I watched my ex walk by with the TV to the garbage and then walk back towards the house shaking his head and glaring at me through the back window.  He wasn't outside when the first officer showed up so I can only assume that is when he went back up to our apartment and sent me the text calling me pathetic.

The first Officer who responded walked around the corner of the door and I remember letting out the biggest sigh of relief.  I was still scared, but I've probably never been so relieved to see a Police Officer in my life.

The Officer spoke with me before asking me to go in the house.  My ex was on the sidewalk speaking with another officer.  The man who had spent the last few hours calling me names and wishing "diseased" children on me before throwing a television off a balcony was downright jovial and sociable with them.

I was humiliated.   I was sobbing when the first officer arrived and (as inappropriate as this is) he was good looking which only heightened my embarrassment.  I remember interacting with three, maybe four, officers that day.  I remember feeling like I probably looked like just another statistic to them, and I was afraid they weren't going to help me or take me seriously.  I was even more afraid that they would fall for his act and leave me there with him.  There were three cruisers parked around my house in the middle of the afternoon for everyone in the neighborhood to see.  I had three officers in my home and the apartment was trashed.  I had stopped cleaning, caring or trying and it showed.

They left me in the house to go talk with him.  I didn't hear what was being said because my mom called and I quickly tried to explain what was going on.  When I hung up the phone, they were explaining to him that they were arresting him for Disorderly Conduct.  As I stood in the front room watching them arrest him, I felt numb.  I wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel, but I felt nothing and wondered what would happen next... would he be back?

The Officer explained that he could be released as soon as he posted bail and could come back for his vehicle but there was a No Contact order in place until court.  It was explained to me that he would be able to come and get his things with a police escort.  The locks were changed before he even posted bail.  He came to get his vehicle an hour and a half later.  He didn't even so much as look at the house, just got in the car and left.

I spent that evening at home packing up the rest of his things and moving them outside of the apartment and in the days that followed he would come with a police escort to get his things from the porch where I had left them.  This would happen twice.  

I was put in touch with the local domestic abuse and advocacy group in my area and spoke with one of their Crisis Advocates.  My work schedule left me unable to attend any kind of group therapy with them or get much assistance outside of talking with Crisis Advocates over the phone.  I was trying to work and remain independent and functional while keeping myself safe and I wanted help.  The times I was able to meet with someone, they were incredibly gracious enough to stay late to meet with me.

The thing they don't tell you is what the Aftermath is like.  The humiliation.  The stress.  The anxiety.  I spent the next few weeks not sleeping well at night.  

I had to tell people we broke up, which left a lot of questions because I hid so much from the outside world.  He had met me for lunch at work the week before.  People knew our relationship had problems, but for many this seemed to just come out of the blue and many people had questions.  There were people who doubted my version of the story and implied that perhaps there was nothing for me to be afraid of because "I never had any problems with him.  He seemed like a nice guy".  There were people who expected us to get back together and in the weeks following often asked if I had heard from him and if he'd apologized yet.  I just kept repeating, "He can't contact me.  We have a No Contact order.  If he does, I will be calling the police".

I was angry at myself for letting the entire relationship happen.  I was angry at the messes I had to clean up.  I was stressed and embarrassed because I needed to see a doctor because he had said he had been cheating on me and I was afraid he'd brought something home.  I was humiliated because I had to tell people what had happened so they knew he wasn't supposed to show up.  I hated myself because the relationship had changed me into someone I didn't like.  There were times when my reaction to the abuse was just as bad as the abuse, and he used those times to threaten and shame me, and tell me I wasn't any different and didn't deserve better because I wasn't being better.  I was angry at myself because I had stepped in to take the abuse for others...his daughter, the cashier who couldn't do anything when his deli chicken rang up at the wrong price, his family member who had made him angry.  I knew he was going to be telling people stories about me that weren't true, and I was mad because he was going to be lying.  I hated myself for letting this become my reality.

I spent my free time and weekends cleaning up my life.  I bleached the floors and shampooed the carpets.  I cleaned all of the nooks and crannies.  I scrubbed the toilet and the shower and the sinks.  I was on a mission to eradicate him from my household because I felt like he was still there in so many ways.  I wanted every smell, every thing, every cell gone from my life so I could reclaim my space.  I lived with the shades closed and rearranged the furniture so he wouldn't know the layout of the apartment if he came after me.

My body was so tuned to the schedule I had when we lived together that I would have anxiety attacks every night at the time he usually came home.  If I wasn't home, I felt like I needed to be so that I could be inside with the doors closed and locked and so that I knew everything was OK there.  Every night as the clock ticked up to the time he used to come home I would grow more and more anxious.  I would find myself listening to the passing cars.  Listening for him. 

My heart would jump into my throat and my stomach would clench every time my cell phone made a noise.  I received calls from restricted numbers sometimes twice a day which would send me into a panic.  I later found out the Crisis Advocates call from blocked numbers and didn't leave messages, but those calls left me in a panic time and time again.  I ended up deleting a lot of things from my phone simply to stop the consistent dings and rings from notifications from various apps.

When I would leave or come home, I would look up and down the streets for his vehicles.  He works in my neighborhood and I would see him driving around, often doing a slow roll past my house or around the corner.  When he was arrested, I had asked the officers about it and was told that as long as he didn't approach me or the house there was nothing that could be done about him being in the area.

I would not hear from him again until the day before Thanksgiving, two weeks after the case had been resolved.  It was then that the harassment began.  He believed I owed him things, but when I requested that he email a list of the property he believed was owed to him and I would present it to my lawyer, he responded with threats to call the police for accusations I still do not understand.  He never sent the list.

The harassment would continue with him sending me a long rambling message the week of Christmas.  When I didn't answer text messages, he began sending me game requests through the Word with Friends app.  When I would reject the games, he would send me messages through the chat feature asking me what what wrong with me, telling me that I wasn't myself, accusing me of keeping his things and taking his daughter's things.  Once even pleading with me to talk to him because something was going on and he didn't know who else to talk to.  I never responded, but I took screen shots of all the messages and emailed them to myself on as many email accounts as I could.  Soon the messages were coming almost daily, sometimes multiple times a day.

He was escalating again.  The messages were mirroring the behavior I had seen and experienced before he threw the television off the balcony.  When he sent me a message telling me to jump off a cliff, accusing me of keeping his things, and calling me a "hooker and a prostitute" I went to the police department.  I had asked him not to contact me.  I had not been responding.  I felt I shouldn't have to deal with someone sending me those kinds of messages anymore.  The officer I spoke with said he was toeing the line of harassment, but he would be calling and speaking with him and asking him not to contact me further.

I haven't heard from him since, but I still had so much more work ahead of me.  I didn't realize how much my life was going to change in the coming months in how I looked at the world, even changing my friendships and how I looked at the people around me.

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233  or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). They have people on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week who can offer support and lists of resources in your area.

Other resources with information about Domestic Violence and Abuse:
Symptoms, Treatment and Recovery from Emotional and Psychological Trauma

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Incident

This week marks One Year since leaving what may have been the worst relationship of my life.  I've debated whether or not to talk about it, because the details are hard and the story isn't pretty.  But at some point, you need to let go of the things you've been holding on to and that is what I'm doing.  If I can help one person, if one person can see something in my story that helps them... then it isn't in vain.  This is my story.  

I haven't talked about the events of the day I called the police for multiple reasons.  Mostly, fear.

I've been afraid of what people would think of me.  That no one would take it seriously.  That people would say hurtful things about me for making the decision that I did.  When I say the relationship was abusive, people automatically assume I was hit.  Throughout the course of our relationship, my ex had never hit me.

I wish he had hit me.

Physical abuse is so much easier to identify than any other kind of abuse.  I ignored the signs and I didn't realize what was going on until I was emotionally attached, invested in the life of his child, and everything about me had been torn to shreds.  No... what happened that day, taken out of context, is pretty laughable.  

My Ex threw his own television off of the second story balcony of my apartment. 

My landlord had been watering the grass like a lunatic for weeks, and when he tossed it off the side of the balcony the corner of the television hit the ground and it was so moist that it left a corner shaped dent in the soft dirt.

See?  It's kind of funny, right?  So... if I think it's kind of funny now, why did I run then?

In the months leading up to the breakup, something in me had broken.  

The relationship wasn't broken because there wasn't really anything there to break anymore.  It was as dysfunctional as ever, but with every stupid argument, every plead for basic human respect and consideration, every time I tried to fix things and make them better and he called me names or laughed in my face at my emotions the less I cared.  And the less I cared the more I realized just how badly I didn't want to be there.

Except realizing I didn't want to be there didn't mean anything.

Not. A. Damn. Thing.

I had realized I didn't want to be there once before.  I'd leaned on people for support.  I'd told everyone about our break up and what a horrid person he was.  I'd gone through the motions of getting over a breakup and faced the embarrassment of listening to people say horrible things about the person I'd loved and ask me how I could stand living with him.  I complained about all of his gross habits and declared him a neanderthal without home training, not realizing that the disgusting things he would do were really all part of disrespecting me-both figuratively and literally soiling the things that I took pride in.  He had harassed me for months afterwards.

Eventually things got quieter.  He still texted every now and then, wishing me a happy birthday, occasionally asking how I was and I never responded.  I know now that it was him making it a point to illustrate to me, "I'm still here".  I'd already been isolated from many of my friends so when life got crazy and I didn't know who to turn to or how to handle it, and I responded to the person who was consistently there. He'd made sure that he was that person.

The fact that I didn't want to be there once before didn't mean anything because after everything I'd said and done, I'd taken him back.  It wasn't even two weeks before I found out he had been lying to me, was seeing someone else and he hadn't ended it yet.  The next year and a half started out OK but went downhill back to the way things were and worse.  I'd made a decision to go back for more of the same.

There are always promises of change in abusive relationships.  Ours was no different.  How long the "change" lasted decreased with every incident. Eventually, I reached a point where I needed to ask myself what would become the most important question I've ever asked myself: If things never change, is this how I want to live the rest of my life?

The answer, obviously, was no.  I was tired of walking on eggshells.  I was tired of not only explaining the basic elements of human respect to a full-grown man, but begging and pleading with him to be an equal contributor to our household and relationship (in more ways than money).  I was tired of being falsely accused of infidelity by a man who cheated.  He'd broken things given to me by my father, torn up pictures, and ruined my furniture - things I cared about and had worked hard for.  I was tired of being called every name but my own.  I was tired of not being allowed to sleep at night, or crying myself to sleep.   I was tired of being with someone who would never be the partner I wanted or needed.  I was tired of being afraid in my own home.

He'd never left peacefully before.  Once an argument started, it would go on until I relented or he would do something intimidating and scary which would shut it down immediately.  Things would be dragged out until I was so exhausted I gave up.  I couldn't get away from the memories of past arguments and the feeling that I was never going to get away because he was not going to leave and he wasn't going to let me leave.  I started to believe that the only way I would get away from him was killing myself.

I just stopped caring about everything.  I didn't nag.  I didn't try.  When I disengaged, he started trying to turn on the old charm.  When I didn't respond to his attempts to buy me things (his frequent go-to), he turned hostile and began accusing me of cheating.  I'd reached a point where the things he did, like playing on the computer all night, didn't bother me as long as he was leaving me alone.  The longer I stayed disengaged, the more irrational his behavior got.

That day... I wanted to sleep in.  When I got up, he was angry with me because there were things he wanted to do.  We started fighting because he was mad at me for not being ready to go and follow an agenda that I didn't know existed.  Then the name calling started.

And I said I couldn't do it anymore.  I wanted him to leave.  I didn't want the relationship anymore.

He told me if I wanted him to leave, I could pack up his things.  I started packing my own clothes.  I was going to leave.  He came in, grabbed my bag and threw it into the closet.  Then started pulling his clothes out and throwing them on the bed.  He started packing, verbally abusing me the entire time and even going so far as to tell me he hoped I moved on, got married and my children came out diseased.  He didn't even get halfway through the closet before he shoved past me to go out to the kitchen.

He came back with a snack.  

Sounds like a bad joke, but I'm not kidding.  Cheese and crackers.  He sat down and started to eat.  I couldn't stand to watch so I left and went to the gas station. When I came home, he was playing games on my laptop and drinking a beer.

When I walked in, he tried talking to me but couldn't even bring himself to look at me while he was promising to change and telling me how much he loved me.  Once he realized that tactic wasn't working (imagine that) he tried a different tactic: sex.  I rejected him.  He told me if he left, he wasn't going to come back again and that we would be done forever, and asked me again if I really wanted him to go.  I told him I didn't want to be with him anymore.

He stood up suddenly, his belly shoving me out of the way.  He went into the bedroom and began wrestling the TV that he had given to me over a year before off of the tall dresser I had it on, reaching out to rip the power cord out of the wall and yelling at me to open the sliding glass door.  I just watched him as he slid open the door, balanced it on the corner of the balcony.  I watched him look over the edge of the balcony and as the TV started to tip over I grabbed my keys and ran.

I heard the TV hit the ground.  I heard him yell my name and come after me.  I heard his footsteps (it is hard not to hear a 450 pound man coming after you).  I flew into the garage, fumbling with the keys before getting in my car, locking the doors, and calling 911.  I stayed there until the Officer arrived.  In the meantime, however, he sent me a wonderful little text message.

The fact of the matter is, nothing about the situation is funny.  When I told people what happened, they looked at me in disbelief, then said, "Wait, he gave you the TV?  So it was really HIS TV?  He threw his own TV off the balcony?" and they laugh.

But I ran for a reason.  I'd heard him talk about wanting to kill the mother of his child.  He had shown me that he had no regard for my life or his when he lost control, like the time he accelerated my car to 96 mph and threatened to jump out.  He once smashed the screen of my cellphone against the side of his head because I was going to call the police.  He had access to weapons.  With every incident, his behavior grew more extreme.  When I disengaged, his behavior had started escalating and he was growing more and more irrational.  A week before everything happened, I'd gone out to a movie with my brother.  I'd been accused of cheating on him that night.  When he found out it was a movie he wanted to see the outright fury, alternating silent treating and yelling, went on for more than three days.  Three days of doing things like waking me up by slamming doors in the middle of the night because I went to a movie.

I genuinely felt like he had been slowly losing control for weeks.  He had never left quietly before and when he tossed that TV over the edge of the balcony I was afraid that it wasn't going to be the only thing that got broken that day, and I didn't know if it was just going to be everything I owned or me.  I was scared, and I would stay that way for a long time.

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233  or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). They have people on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week who can offer support and lists of resources in your area. 

Other resources with information about Domestic Violence and Abuse:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I Saw the Sign (Not Really)

This week marks One Year since leaving what may have been the worst relationship of my life.  I've debated whether or not to talk about it, because the details are hard and the story isn't pretty.  But at some point, you need to let go of the things you've been holding on to and that is what I'm doing.  If I can help one person, if one person can see something in my story that helps them... then it isn't in vain.  This is my story.  

It has been a year since I left what might have been the worst relationship of my life.  In the aftermath of the relationship with the Boyfriend-That-Was, I started to find myself again and as I did I began talking about the relationship I had been in, and the way things were.  More than once someone told me, "I never thought you'd let someone treat you like that" and "I didn't think you were that kind of woman".

Guess what?  Me neither.  Before this experience, I didn't think it COULD happen to me.  I literally and ridiculously believed that I was just too strong and I thought I knew what abusive relationships were, how they started and I thought I'd taken every precaution not to end up in one.  I was somewhat educated.  I had taken responsibility for my sexual and reproductive health at an early age, and while nothing is foolproof I'd done everything to the best of my ability to safeguard against an unwanted pregnancy that would tie me to someone I didn't choose to be with.  I'd worked two sometimes three jobs at a time to maintain financial independence, refusing to even consider a roommate.  I maintained my own household, supported myself, and enjoyed my own company.  I wasn't desperate or lonely.  I thought I had done everything a strong, smart, functional adult woman was supposed to do.

So how did it happen?

I never even saw it coming and for a long time I struggled with wondering how it happened, how and why I let someone say and do all of the things I swore I would never let someone say or do to me, and how I found myself overlooking or forgiving things I said I never would.  It wasn't until I started learning about Narcissistic Abuse that I realized that how subtle it all starts.  The fact that I didn't think it could happen to me was exactly why I didn't realize when it started.  Looking back, I was vulnerable to this specific kind of abuse because I didn't really know anything about it.  I knew about physical abuse, but the warning signs for an emotional/psychological abuser are so much more subtle.

You know when you first start seeing someone and you want to spend all of your time together?  It started before that.  In the beginning, he pursued me more aggressively than anyone ever had and it's hard to ignore because you mistakenly feel like someone is really interested in you and it's flattering.  While I didn't consider myself desperate, it HAD been awhile since someone showed genuine interest in me and I enjoyed the attention which was unlike anything I'd every experienced before and he was rather charming.

Within two weeks of seeing each other, he was spending days at my house at a time.  While that would be unusual with someone you had just met, we had known each other since we were teenagers so I wrote it off because we already "knew" each other and so there wasn't going to be a "getting to know each other" stage.    What wasn't normal was that when I wanted my own space or I didn't want him to come over for days at a time, he would casually say that if he couldn't come down and stay he wouldn't be coming down again for awhile because he just couldn't afford the gas (he lived 45 minutes away).  

It was so subtle that it was prevalent in every area of our relationship.  I don't remember what the first meal I ever made for him was, but I remember he took maybe two bites before looking at me and saying, "You know what would make this even better..." .  At first, I didn't mind because I thought he was just sharing his food preferences.  While I thought it was a little rude, I considered myself a good cook and I was still eager please this person who was so intensely interested in me.  In three years he never ate a single meal without a negative comment; He would criticize every meal at some point during the first plate, but that never stopped him from going back for seconds or thirds, and it certainly never stopped him from licking the plate.

A month and a half into our relationship, he called me a fucking bitch.   Who argues within 2 months of seeing each other?  And I tried to end it.  I remember sitting in the Wal-Mart parking lot on the phone telling him the fact that he called me that was NOT OK and that I didn't want to see him anymore.  The details get fuzzy, but I remember there profuse apologies.  There might have been some promises made, there might have even been flowers given.  I ignored the red flags in the beginning, and before I knew it my feelings for him snowballed just like the verbal abuse would.

I was always taking things “the wrong way”.  I was being “sensitive”.  I was “misunderstanding things” and always thinking the worst of him.  I will never forget the night we were laying in my bed together spooning and I was about to drift off to sleep when he casually said, “What would you do if I told you I had cheated on you?”.  He later assured me that he was just thinking stupid things out loud, but it is just another example of the way he liked to keep me insecure and on edge even in my most relaxing moments.

While things started out good, though intense, eventually our sexual relationship turned abusive as well.  I’m not meaning to imply that I was sexually assaulted or raped, however sex was used as a weapon against me in the form of subtle sexual abuse and sexual coercion.   When we first started dating, he had pictures of other womens' breasts on his phone and he often asked me for intimate photos.  I would be grabbed or fondled in public in ways that made me uncomfortable.  I was not allowed to go to bed mad.  If I did not want to engage in sexual activity, there would be nagging, then anger, then a fight with accusations of cheating that would last late into the night until I gave in.   He once told me I was “a cunt just like my ex-wife” because he wanted to have sex in his room at his parents’ house with his daughter sleeping in the room across the hall and I was on the verge of sleeping after not being allowed to sleep the night before, uncomfortable with the idea of doing it in his parents' house, and I had the nerve to turn him down.

I still didn't leave.

In fact, I wouldn't leave for 11 months when I ended our relationship during an argument after he left me embarrassed at a holiday and was not interested in exposing his behavior to my more judgmental extended family (who still talk about a guy I dated when I was 15-16).  I left the house when he got two inches away from my face and told me I was trash, and a two-bit fucking whore.

He left the house that day, but it wasn't long before he was calling and messaging me again  He would send me short videos of him taken with his cell phone, crying and begging me to talk to him.  The worst moment was a week before Christmas when he sent me a video of him standing in his bathroom and holding a gun to his head telling me that he loved me and just wanted to talk to me.  I called the police and the police officer who responded to the phone call called me after speaking with him and said that he’d made a bad decision and was fine.

The harassment continued turning into late night phone calls and driving past my house in the middle of the night when I wouldn't answer the phone, sometimes coming to a stop on the road my bedroom window faced and blaring the horn in the middle of the night.  I finally stopped talking to him after he showed up to my house in the middle of the night on Valentine’s Day, pounding on my door and screaming to let him in and demanding to know who was with me because I had refused to see him

I didn't speak to him again for months.  Then I hit a rough patch and he had been making himself "available", and I called him.  The cycle started again.

Then I found out he had been seeing someone, and while he was staying at my house he was still messaging her, telling her that he loved her and missed her while going to bed with me at night.   I chose to forgive him because at that point in time… I WAS desperate.  I didn't realize then how bad things were and it wasn't until months after I  left I started to be able to see just how deeply the relationship had affected me.

There were so many signs before we actually lived together.  He destroyed things.  If we got into an argument late at night and I told him I wanted him to leave, he would wake his daughter up in the middle of the night and make her pack her things.  I was expected to maintain the house, but he couldn't be asked to wipe the seat or hit the garbage can, and I would often find disgusting messes all over the house.  In the end, I went back for another round.  Which ended with the incident that lead to the break-up.

This power and control circle makes me cry because I look at it and I have a personal story of almost every single example listed.  

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233  or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). They have people on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week who can offer support and lists of resources in your area. 

Other resources with information about Domestic Violence and Abuse:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Way Things Were

I woke up this morning and picked up my phone to look at the time and happened to notice the date.  I stopped and stared at the screen momentarily, wondering how I didn't realize what yesterday was.  In fact, I hadn't even thought about it... not for a year now, anyway.

Yesterday was the BTW's (boyfriend-that-was) birthday.

As I laid in bed I thought about all the things that had changed, the things that seemed to stay the same and all of the roads I have left to travel.  As the one year mark of “the breakup” looms closer, I've struggled with wanting to say so much and not having the right words to express how bad things really were, to acknowledge things I know in my head and heart but can’t say out loud yet, and to tell people a story I’m still ashamed to have been a part of.

A year ago, my life was totally different.  I was in an unhappy relationship. We had conversations only about dinner, work, and bills.  There was no intimacy, emotional or otherwise, other than when he would come in to use the bathroom while I was getting ready to go somewhere if that counts.  We basically just did the same thing day after day, both of us revolving around this idea of a relationship but not really having one and only really interacting on the weekends when we would fight on account of being forced to be awake and interact with each other for more than a few hours.

He had a daughter who would stay with us every other weekend.  She was a good kid and I like to think we loved each other.  Things eventually disintegrated to the point where the only reason I stayed was because I thought me being there made her life better and I thought if he could take out his bad behavior on me it wouldn't be solely directed at her.  A year ago on the weekends, he slept in late every morning, and spent the majority of his day ignoring her and playing video games while I did everything for her from giving her medicine to doing laundry and poop inspection when she drank too much red juice and thought something was wrong.  When she started having behavior problems and problems at home, I was the one reading articles on the internet and staying up late at night losing sleep and sick with worry while he snored in bed.  I will never forget when he told me that he paid child support and that meant that I didn't support his kid in spite of the fact that I had purchased every item of clothing we kept for her, the bed and bedding she slept on and had been the one paying the bills and buying the groceries during his unemployment and for most of our relationship when he didn't actually “live” with me but spent every weekend at my house.

For his birthday last year, he wanted to have his daughter a few extra days.  We fought about it because money was tight and we would have another mouth to feed for 4 extra days (not to mention the fact that somehow toilet paper use doubled due to the presence of a single nine year old).  I didn't see the point in having her there when he was just going to play video games and ignore her anyway and she should be home with friends enjoying summer instead of being cooped up in the house with her dad.  I eventually gave in and then spent days agonizing over the grocery bill, anxious as to how I was going to afford the ice cream cake he always insisted on and worried if the gift I was going to get him would be “good enough”.

Three days before I was to go and get his daughter for the extended weekend, he messaged me at work and threatened that if I did anything to celebrate his birthday I would regret it.  Yes… if I tried to do anything for his birthday there would be a fight, it didn't matter if his daughter was there or not because he wouldn't have anything to do with it and I would be made to regret it and the money spent would have been wasted.

He changed his mind and apologized the day before his birthday.  I should have not done anything instead of running around last minute doing all of the things I had been afraid to do four days before, but I was afraid not to.

Even now, thinking about it sends a twinge of irritation up my spine and leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Looking back, the birthday incident was basically every incident in our relationship. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn't, and that feeling wasn't limited to his birthday because everything was like that.  Nothing I did was appreciated, nothing I sacrificed was acknowledged, and I was never respected.  If I demanded more out of the relationship or asked him to be an equal partner around the house, I was a nag and a bitch.  If I wanted do see or do something I had to beg him to get ready then deal with his rude and obnoxious behavior which ruined my good time, but when I quit trying to have interests and go places I was chastised for never wanting to go anywhere with him.  When I didn't “behave” and do what he expected, I was called a cunt.  When I cried, he laughed in my face.  When I shut down and stopped begging for attention and decency, when I quit setting myself up for his rejection, and when I no longer wanted his affection…I was accused of cheating and called a two-bit whore.  When I decided I no longer wanted to be in the relationship and tried to leave, he did the same thing he always did and fought with me until I could not fight anymore or did something so shocking and scary that I stopped fighting, then ignored me and continued staying in my house.

Eventually I started feeling like I was never going to be free of him.  We’d broken up before and I had been harassed for months.  He’d sent me a video of himself with a gun pointed to his head, I’d called the cops and they responded only to call me to say he made a bad choice but was “OK”.  He’d drive by my house at night.  He’d text from time to time.  In the end, none of it was enough to keep me from going back and making it worse for myself by letting him move in.  A year ago I wanted to get away from him so bad that I wanted to kill myself because it felt like the only way out.

Here I am a year later.  I forgot his birthday that caused me so much stress and anxiety for weeks beforehand last year.  I didn't worry about trying to be good to someone who threatened to make me pay if I did.  In fact, I kind of quit doing things for people who make me miserable.  I go to bed with my furry babies every night and I no longer cry myself to sleep; I don’t go to bed lonely and lay there wishing I were actually alone anymore.  I can go do things, explore things and see things that I’m interested in and make me happy without having to beg someone to get ready and come with or deal with anger, accusations or guilt if I don’t do the begging and just go alone.  I do things because I want to do them, not because I’m afraid to say no or because someone manipulated me into it.  I have goals and things I want to do.  I have people in my life who love me.  I have hope for the future.  It is amazing how much life can change in a year.

I'll probably never forget all of the things that happened.  But realizing this morning that I'd forgotten is kind of a birthday in itself... a rebirth of the person I used to be before what would become the worst relationship I've ever been in.  And that in itself is worth celebrating.