Give Me the Baton

I believe that there is a big misunderstanding of why women stay with men that abuse them.  Actually many misunderstandings.  But the one I am thinking about today is the idea that we stay because we don’t love ourselves.  That is patently wrong and I want to tell you why.

We, as abused women, have a huge capacity for love.  Period.  In order to love another, especially a disordered fuck?  That takes enormous amount of resilience and courage and love.  The fact remains that abusive relationships do not start out abusive.  They just don’t. It’s the slow boil that starts out kindly with the promise of so much goodness and love to come.  The fact that the trajectory starts out at a ten and ends up at a zero is invisible to those of us who have never stood face to face with such masked deception.

I will not be told that if only I had loved myself, this would never have happened.  I’m quite sure that if I didn’t love myself, I would never have even tried to forge ahead, post divorce (which in itself was an act of self love), looking for someone to add to my life.   I definitely wasn’t looking for someone to abuse me in the targeted and deliberate ways James did.  I just wanted someone I could love and who would love me in return.

The person who doesn’t love themselves in this equation?  It’s James.

When I was a little girl, I used to escape the drinking inside my house by taking my baton and twirling it for hours and hours on my front lawn.  My neighbors must have thought that I was bonkers because I wasn’t any good.  But I marched and twirled and danced until the sun would set.


I like to think the little me did that because despite the chaos going on inside my house (for which I was not to blame and could not control) I knew a way to escape it. That little girl?  She loved herself.   Just as I do now.

If you think to yourself,

“What should I do now?”

then take the baton, girl,

you better run with it.

There is no point in standing in the past

‘cause it’s over and done with.

Brave Enough

After my trip of a lifetime (which I will absolutely redo at some point) to Japan with James, I found myself on the doorstep of a local women’s shelter.

It was very difficult for me to make the initial call.  I felt ashamed, confused and scared.   On the other side of the line was a kind woman who asked me some preliminary questions to determine if I met some of the basic criteria for their services, which I did.  I told her I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.  That I didn’t want to use their resources in the event someone in a more dire situation needed it.

The woman I spoke with said, “Do not minimize what is happening to you.  What you are experiencing is a form of domestic violence.  If there was a way to see what you’ve endured, you would be covered in bruises and scars.”  When she said that I started to cry and made an  an appointment to develop a safe exit plan for leaving James.


Waiting for the appointment (it was two weeks out) was difficult.  There were moments when I felt like I was reclaiming my life and there were moments I was filled with complete doubt.  When the day finally arrived, I brought two things with me.  One was a risk assessment to determine James’ propensity for violence and the other was a list of all the things, big and small, that I could think of that had occurred in the (at that time) nine months I had known James.

The counselor was very knowledgeable, had so many years under her belt dealing with not only victims but the abusers themselves.  She took great care in listening to me and reviewing my situation.  At one point I asked, “Can they ever change?”  And while there are statistics on this very question that show that a small percentage can change, she said that in her twenty years of working with abusers, not one had changed.  Not a single one.

For better understanding the possibiltiy of abuser changing, please read this:

Is Change Possible in an Abuser

A typical sociopath falls under what is called a Cluster B Personality Disorder.  Cluster B includes antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder.  All of these disorders are marked by unpredicatable and dramatic behavior.

For me, what James “is” is mostly irrelevant except for two facts.  The first is that treating a personality disorder is like climbing Mt. Everest without an oxygen tank.  Is it possible? Yes.  It is more likely you will die trying?  Also yes.  The second is that with any of these disorders, the ability to love is lacking and, in many instances, absent completely.  And it is true, James didn’t ever love me.

It was time to let go and, to borrow from the wise and lovely Cheryl Strayed, break my own heart.  James had already taken so much that I would, if nothing else, deny him the opportunity to do that.


Dear James, Part 5

Dear James,

October is a beautiful month.  Cool autumn evenings meant for snuggling under warm blankets, bright red sunsets, amber leaves falling from tired trees.  It’s my favorite month. Or rather it used to be my favorite month.

Last October, I went with you on a trip of a lifetime to Japan.  I should edit that to say that it was the trip of a lifetime for me.  You were already a world traveler and, while excited, from your behavior there, it didn’t seem like anything special to you.

On the flight home from Tokyo,  you were so verbally abusive to me that a fellow passenger asked me if I was okay and would I be safe once we landed in Chicago.  You did not know this because she waited until you got up to use the restroom to ask me.  It was an urgent and quick conversation that ended with me saying that you were like this often and that I would be okay.

I did not believe my reply and I doubt she believed me either.  But what could I do while flying over the mountains of Russia with the man who was supposed to love me in full on, hateful, rageful abuse?


When we landed, you talked excitedly about how wonderful the trip had been.  It was absolutely surreal.  Did you forget you had just yelled at me and ignored me for the entirety of a 14 hour flight?  And that your BFFs Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde accompanied us throughout the entire trip?

I have a picture of you that I took at the ryokan we stayed at in Kyoto where you are lying on the floor facing away from me on the opposite side of the room, as far away from me that you could possibly be nearly hugging the damn wall. There we were, a million miles from home in this beautiful place, and you were ignorning me.  For what offense?  Being too happy?  Smiling too brightly?  I am a completely flawed human being but I didn’t deserve that.

I looked at you so hard and so long in that moment, ready to tell you that I would find a ride home and that this mess of a relationship was over.  Why didn’t I?  I was confused that maybe I was misunderstanding you. That I was doing things to incite your rage.  I thought I loved you.  And I was scared of you.

You have to understand that before I left, I told three people who I know and love the best that I was scared.  (One of which had figured you out from nearly the very beginning and was also scared for me.)   I told them that if something happened to me while I was in Japan or, for that matter, when I returned, that you had done it.  Never before in my life had I thought it necessary to leave a trail of crumbs in the event I went missing or was found dead.

But I live.  It’s a hard sort of life right now.  I’m not sure when I am going to stop feeling like a fool for ever believing that any part of you was real.  Or when I am going to stop feeling like I can’t breathe.  Or when I am going to stop crying out of the blue.  My job does not allow me the freedom to find a quiet place and collect myself.  I am on hyper alert still, all these many months later.

Your abuse has messed with my ability to be productive and carefree for so long and in so many ways.  No, I am not playing the victim.   I am being real about abuse you deliberately inflicted upon me.  I stood no chance against you.






Have you ever listened to the song Rudderless by the Lemonheads?  There’s a part that goes, “A ship without a rudder is like a ship wihout a rudder.”  There’s other parts that are quite lovely.  I’ll put the complete lyrics below.  Anyway, that ship without a rudder?  It’s me.  I am in the fucking abyss and cannot get out.


I do not miss James.  Nor do I yet feel tender to him or what caused him to be an abusive fuck.  That day will come and I look forward to it.  I am a forgiving person but I don’t know how you go about trying to forgive someone who wanted to destroy you when all you wanted to do was to love him.

I still feel lucky for each day I can mark off on the invisible calendar in my mind that he is gone from my life.  But I feel like I am left in all of these messed up pieces that I cannot for the life of me put back together.  Thankfully I don’t feel like this every day. But on the days I do, it’s so hard.  Today is one of those days.  So was yesterday.  And the day before that.  My hope for July being the happiest of months is fading quickly.

When I think about writing, the thing that has unequivocably saved me, I feel paraylzyed. I start out with an idea, write a paragraph.  Then delete it all.   Because while it is so healing for me to write the truth, to be honest about what domestic violence can look like, the idea that James will somehow stumble upon what I have written lurks everywhere.  Why?  A sociopath needs supply.  Supply doesn’t have to be positive.  The fact that I suffer still and, even better, write about it?  He would love that.  It would fill that empty teacup of a soul of his with a warm, comforting Earl Grey.  And for now I’m stuck inside of my head, my thoughts swirling around the rushing, white-capped waters of my brain.


Waiting for something to break
Left my heart out to bake
Nothing there in my glass
Wasn’t never made to last

Hope in my past
Hope in my past
Hope in my past

All the way down to the lake
Found the lake was wet
How much more could I take?
Better yet

Walked back home to my place
Tired of getting high
Guess I don’t wanna die

Hope in my past
Hope in my past
Hope in my past

Hope in my past
Hope in my past
Hope in my past

Waiting for something to break
Left my heart out to bake
Slipped my mind that I could use my brain
I’ll stay up all night, crash on the plane

A ship without a rudder
Is like a ship without a rudder
Is like a ship without a rudder

A ship without a rudder
Is like a ship without a rudder
Is like a ship without a rudder

A ship without a rudder
Is like a ship without a rudder
Is like a ship without a rudder

Is like a ship without a rudder
Is like a ship without a rudder
Is like a ship without a rudder
Is like a ship without a rudder

I’ve Got No Strings

I’ve talked a bit about how determining if what you are experiencing is abuse is confusing because the abuser isn’t abusive all of the time.  (If they were, the chances of getting someone to stay would be slim to none.) So as odd as it may sound, there are plenty of fun and happy times peppered amongst the abuse.  As I’ve mentioned in prior blogs, this is so very intentional.  An abusive person wants to keep you confused and on edge as a means of controlling you.


In any event, I had originally thought that in telling my story I would discuss some of those joyful times.  I had a moment last night, though, where it hit me so hard and I completely changed my mind.  I’m not going to talk about those times.  I will never talk about those times.  Why?  With a narcissistic sociopath like James, any happiness is deliberately manufactured to manipulate and, therefore, a complete lie.  Why retell a lie? What good does that serve me or anyone else for that matter?  It doesn’t.

Our entire relationship, from start to finish, was a lie.  The ironic part of this is that James labeled ME the liar from nearly day one.  Silly, foolish, abusive, lying through his veneered teeth James.  He is the liar.  Just like Pinocchio.  If only there was such an easy tell as a nose that grows and grows in the real world.

I’m the non-lying version of Pinocchio who’s decided to cut her strings.  I’m nobody’s puppet.  I am getting back all of the things I lost by facing the lies planted in my sweet noggin by the monster that is James.  And he would be so pissed to know that.  I think July is going to be my happiest month yet.


Jenny Be Good

Through therapy, I’m learning more and more about how I got stuck at the bottom of this rabbit hole.  For me, accepting the “how” is an unusual mix of feeling both validation and then, sadly and I suppose not surprisingly, violation all over again.


Much of the “how” stems from goodness.  A sociopath targets his victim because she is a good person.  I’m not trying to inflate my ego by saying that.  It’s just the truth.  A sociopath relies upon all traits relating to goodness (acceptance, positive energy, humility, validation, empathy and forgiveness being paramount) for their supply.  To put it most kindly, they are emotional vampires. To put it more realistically, they are emotional rapists who are addicted to a constant stream of attention and adoration.  This supply is a sociopath’s portal to abuse his selected victim.

Supply, however, will either eventually bore the sociopath or enrage him.  I think it did both to James.  I figured out fairly quickly that there was something off about his behavior.  I can distinctly recall a conversation I had with him over dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant where I asked, over many tears, why he was treated me kindly one minute and coldly the next.  I also asked if this was something any other woman had asked him about.  It was early along enough in the abuse that I could still rationalize that (1) something was wrong and (2) I couldn’t have been the first woman to have experienced this.

James reaction to my questions was not what I was expecting.  With any other relationship I have ever had, a discussion like this (although NOT over this kind of behavior) went calmly and with a normal back and forth.  Maybe some tears.  Maybe a raised voice, definitely no yelling.  But not with James.  He became immediately defensive and accusatory saying that I was the one acting unpredictably.  That I ran hot and cold.  And that I am being overly dramatic and didn’t accept him for being occasionally depressed.

Okay…can we pause right here?  I do not run hot and cold.  I am not dramatic unless I am being silly (which I am excellent at) and I have nothing but love for mental illness. Anyone who knows me casually or intimately knows that his assessment of me in that moment is a pile of complete and utter shit.

My goal in having that conversation with James was to show that I cared about him, about us and to fight for our relationship.  I thought that maybe we had just hit a rough patch and we could talk through it.  It never, ever occurred to me that I was actually trying to reason with a snake poised to strike and inject me with his venom. So, no, the conversation did not go as planned.  It ended, as many more to follow would end, with me apologizing and being so very sorry.  I learned quickly that the wrath that would follow any questioning of his behavior would be unbearable.

Today I know to walk away from such nonsense.  Today I know not to be sorry.  Today, today, today.  I’m so glad I am regaining my strength and believing that I have worth, that the goodness James saw was real. But so much damage that he will never acknowledge or be held accountable for in any way remains strong.  Even this morning I found myself weeping at the register at Office Depot buying toner for my printer.  Why?  Because trauma runs deep and is not forgotten, as much as our hearts beg for closure and peace.