Dear James, Part 7

Dear James,

So that last e-mail you sent to me.  Was that really what you wanted to say?  Is that really how you felt?  That I was a cheating liar of a slut who you feared had given you an STD? There were no tender thoughts about me or moments where you thought to yourself, “what have I done?”  Because if you ever really cared about me or loved me, you would have wondered what you had done to me.


I must have apologized to you on the average of once a day for the entirety of our relationship.  But you could not, in that note, muster up even a modicum of remorse? What about now, though?  What about today?  Are you sorry even a little bit?

If there is one thing I want more than anything, it’s for you to say you wish that you could have been a different man, that you understand what you did wrong, that you wish it wouldn’t have happened, that you are taking measures now to make sure that you never treat anyone this way again and that you are so very sorry.  I need that and, quite frankly, I deserve that.

Me going to the courthouse to get the order of protection after receiving your e-mail? The. Lowest. Moment. Of. My. Life.  Without any doubt the lowest.  And I thought I had already hit that low with my visit to the women’s shelter.   Nope.  Not even close.  But what was I supposed to do with the “you have not suffered nearly enough….”  Who says that to someone?  Why on earth did you say that to me?   You really believe that my life needs more pain?

I can’t live my life hoping for an apology from you that will likely never come.  I have to tell myself that I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for thinking that you meant anything sweet that you ever said to me.  For believing that I could manage your highs and lows and unpredictable behavior.  For putting my hope of a happy life in your empty basket.

I am such a fool.  But you knew that from the start, didn’t you.



I broke up with James on a Saturday night.  We had already broken up nearly 7 times in quick succession prior, with me doing the breaking up, him hoovering and me going back. I am not at all proud of that and wish I could say I did it once and that was it.

If you don’t know much about hoovering with a sociopath, take a peek here:

Hoovering with a Narcissist/Sociopath/Psychopath

My safe exit plan*** involved a quick sayonara via text.  I know that sounds cold but talking face to face could present danger and talking on the phone could put a crack in my resolve to be done.  James is a master at twisting words and situations to place any blame directly upon me.  One of his favorite things to tell me was that I was playing the victim.

In my text to him, I said that our relationship wasn’t healthy, that we were done and, in classic Jenny fashion dealing with James, that I was very sorry.


I knew without question that I would never have the real James back.  That I was not James’ soulmate as he had claimed many times. That I wasn’t different from anyone else he’d ever met.  That despite admitting he was abusive to me and promising he would get help, the likelihood of him actually going or things changing was slim to none. That the abuse would never end and that I deserved not just better but something extraordinary.

So I texted him and then immediately initiated, as I had done the seven times prior, the rest of the exit plan which was to block him from any and all parts of my life.  My cell phone, my e-mail, Facebook and Instagram.

I also had to delete and block any of his friends, however much I liked them.  And I liked them so much. But keeping them as part of my life in any way is unhelpful at the least and a way back in at the worst.  Me doing all of these things was not an act of emotional immaturity, it was an act of survival.

After I hit send on my phone, I spent a tearful and scary night alone.  I think I went through a box and a half of Kleenex.  I didn’t sleep either that night or Sunday night.  On Monday, I was very worried that he would show up at work but settled into my day despite my fear.

As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, I own a small business.  I communicate heavily and nearly exclusively with my clients via e-mail and often check my spam filter for any lost messages.  My heart sank when I opened spam and saw that James had sent an e-mail on Saturday night with “A Final Note” in the subject.

It was a cruel and hateful message that scared me to my very core.  I read it twice, called my dad, called my attorney and headed to the DuPage Courthouse to file a temporary order of protection.  Getting that order?  Not at all an easy task.   And that’s a story for another day.

*** It is so important that you develop a plan that will work for you.  Leaving an abusive relationship is very dangerous, even if the abuser has not been physical with you in the past.  Nothing is more important than you and your children’s safety.  Please contact the National Domestic Violent hotline if you need help.  I will provide a link below.

The Hotline




Goodwill at Nordstrom

I feel like I don’t see any part of me in the past several entries I’ve written.  It’s been a rough several weeks.  I don’t really know what else to say beyond that.  Luckily, I have a great circle of friends and family who love the crap out of me.  And a team of smart and creative professionals who also love the crap out of me.

Two weekends ago I finally got a chance to shop the tail end of the Nordstrom anniversary sale.  Looking at the Paige and Madewell display and talking to the sweetest sales girl, I had a moment of either instant clarity or madness.  Whichever it was, it made me feel like a bit of a genius.  I was going to reinvent myself.


When I broke up with James (yes, I really will tell you that story another day) I got rid of every last thing he ever gave me.  It didn’t take long and involved a Trader Joe’s sized paper bag.  We’re not talking about needing a U-Haul or calling  1-800 Junk.

I was finding, however, that even with the small reminders gone, I was being triggered by, of all things, my perfume and my wardrobe.  I know that sounds odd, but it’s true.  So standing there, in the middle of the preppy and minimalist section of Nordstrom, I realized I needed to purge anything in my closet that are triggers to the PTSD (dang, why can’t I shove that in a paper Trader Joe’s bag and deliver it directly to James…a return to sender kind of thing) that I’m battling at present.

After several hours and four huge trash bags, it was all gone.  I’m not saying everything I owned in my closet was gone.  But about 3/4?  You can find it at Goodwill.  While it may sound wasteful or rash, it was neither.  It was wonderful and freeing to load up my car with the shirt I wore in Japan, the dress I wore to one of our first dates, the cardigan I threw on when I was cold walking to The Replacements concert and on and on and on.  Every last piece of it is gone.

Yes, I can heal with those items still in my life.  But why do that?   With the abundance of love I have in my life right now, I have found that I need less.  I now am working to build a classic minimalist Frenchy kind of wardrobe with just a few pairs of jeans, a few dresses, tops, basic tee shirts, a few cardigans, black flats, leopard flats, new Converse, a rockstar pair of boots and a super cute winter coat.  Add a layer of Elizabeth and James (not disordered James!) Nirvana White (simply divine) and this girl is a little less triggered and a lot more peaceful.

Three Private Posts

There is a big piece of what happened with James that is missing from the stories you will read here.  I recently wrote three entries to get it out of my head.  To put the pain on paper so to speak.  But if you find yourself here, read what I’ve written and ever think…this really wasn’t that bad.  Let me assure you that it was.  And that’s all I have to say about that.


I have a cute house in a cute suburb.  My basement is mostly finished but I don’t go down there much unless I’m doing laundry.  The other day I decided to spread out on the sectional with my dogs to watch North and South (not the Patrick Swayze one, the BBC one) for the millionth time and my eye caught a towering stack of Jenga pieces in the corner. My heart sank knowing that Eli, James’ middle child, had built that tower for us the very last time I saw him.

James has three children.  I love them still.  Not loved, love.  Even today knowing that I will never see them again, I love them with every part of me.  If any good came from knowing James, it was them.

Eli and I were especially close.  He was always the first to grab my hand, snuggle on my lap or give me a hug.  I remember him saying, “Jenny, let’s play Jenga!”  And I happily replied saying, “Just a second, I’ll be right there.”  Only that second turned into, what, six months?  I never got to play with him that afternoon and the tower still stands.


We did so many things as a pretend family.  My kids were very sweet with them nearly all of the time.  They were willing to go to zoos, museums, parks and kid-themed activities with his much younger children.  Those moments together felt hopeful and good.  James is/was excellent at maintaining a facade of being engaged and funny when around strangers, acquaintances or people he never wanted to know about his dark side. My children were part of that mix.

What James wasn’t counting on, however, was the fact that my children are very intuitive. Even without an outburst, they knew something was off by the time last fall rolled around. Charlie, my sixteen year-old, commented that James was “sneaky” and that he didn’t trust him.  He even suspected that James does not, in fact, actually have his PhD.  Claire, my fifteen year-old, didn’t like the way he treated me.  That surprised me only because James did an excellent job of keeping his Nice James mask on with Charlie and Claire.  But she is her momma’s daughter and could see the cracks in him even so.

As I’ve mentioned before, my children are why I fought (and still fight) so hard to extract myself from James.  Behind the scenes, James didn’t like me attending their music or sporting events on my non-custody days. (This should not have surprised me as he didn’t go to his children’s activities on his non-custody days.)  Or even text them when I was kid-free.  I don’t know that he actually minded me texting them but my texting, in general, filled him with suspicion.  He wanted complete control over my interaction with them, just as he did with anyone else in my life.   Many friends and professionals said that this had to be where I drew the line, that enough was enough the moment my relationship with Charlie and Claire were at risk.

I’d like to say I immediately took steps to leave James once this started to happen.  But leaving for good took months longer than it ever should have.  There was part of me that desperately wanted that family of the seven of us to work.  It was never, ever to be.  And James, I realize now, quickly tried forging this pretend family to secure our fake relationship.  He knew how much family means to me and used his sweet children as pawns in his terrible game.

I think about his three littles often.  I hope they know that I love them and that I tried so hard to manage their dad’s sick and disordered mind.  That in a perfect world I would still know them or at least know how they are doing.  But that can never be.

In the meantime, it’s time to put the tower of Jenga away.  I need to know in my very core that taking it down and putting it away is not a defeat.  And it doesn’t mean it never existed.


And She Goes On

So as you can tell from my last “I’m Kinda Giving Up” post, I had a bad weekend.  Like a really very super bad weekend.  I don’t want to say more except…yeah, it was bad.

I think what happens when you suffer a trauma is this: you stay sad and numb for a very long time.  Then either gradually or with a burst, the dam breaks and the numb is replaced by a pain that is unbearable.  And the thing is, I thought that dam had already broken.  It had not.

I don’t know how to describe what’s happening.  I have been told by three clinicians that it is severe PTSD caused by James.  I wish there was a way for me to explain how you don’t have to beat someone to a pulp to, well, beat them to a pulp.  You absolutely can destroy someone by words, suggestions, scary glances, coercive control and covert actions.

The thing that happened that broke the dam?  I cannot and will not discuss in this forum. Not today, not another day, probably not ever.  But I have relived it in a sad and numb way since I extracted myself from James several moons ago.  And today, right now, I live it in a raw, very fucked up kind of way.

I have a rudimentary plan compliments of a great team of clinicians in place to cope. There is no “if A then B” kind of scenario that gets you out of here.  It’s a very deliberate “you must not fall deeper” sort of plan that includes (beyond the love of my son, my daughter, my family and friends):

  • Trauma therapy
  • Running shoes
  • Jane Austen novels
  • Writing
  • Silly podcasts
  • My kindle
  • Fresh blackberries
  • Fullersburg Woods
  • Instagram
  • My “Though She Be But Little She is Fierce” Spotify playlist
  • Deep breathing
  • Walking my dogs until their feet and mine cannot take another step
  • Learning how to write legislation
  • Allowing new people into my life who love me genuinely and tenderly because I was always and am very much still worthy of exactly that

This girl has fallen.  But she goes on.


Pretty soon you’ll be able to remember her
Lying in the garden singing
Right where she’ll always be
The door is always open

In her soft wind I will whisper
In her warm sun I will glisten
And I always will remember
In a world without end

She goes on
She goes on

She goes on

– Tim & Neill Finn

Here’s Where the Story Ends

…for now.  I just can’t continue to write about James, domestic violence, narcissist abuse, sociopathic behavior, coercive control, any of it.  It hurts too much and I am nowhere close to being through the pain or making sense of what happened to me.

In the meantime, I am thankful beyond measure for my small posse of family and friends who love me fiercely.  I promise I’ll come back to you.  I just wish I knew when.


People I know places I go
Make me feel tongue tied
I can see how people look down
They’re on the inside

Here’s where the story ends

People I see, weary of me
Showing my good side
I can see how people look down
I’m on the outside

Here’s where the story ends
Oh here’s where the story ends

It’s that little souvenir of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore
Oh I never should have said the books that you read
Were all I loved you for
It’s that little souvenir of a terrible year
Which makes me wonder why
It’s the memories of the shed that make me turn red
Surprise surprise surprise

Crazy I know, places I go
Make me feel so tired
I can see how people look down
I’m on the outside

Oh here’s where the story ends
Oh here’s where the story ends

It’s that little souvenir of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore
& who ever would’ve thought the books that you brought
Were all I loved you for
Oh the devil in me said go down to the shed
I know where I belong
But the only thing I ever really wanted to say
Was wrong, was wrong, was wrong

It’s that little souvenir of a colorful year
Which makes me smile inside
So I cynically, cynically say the world is that way
Surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise

Here’s where the story ends
Oh here’s where the story ends

– The Sundays