Tiny Little Discovery

PTSD has been so unkind to me lately.   Sleeping poorly, vivid flashbacks and fear have returned as uninvited guests.  I’m unsure what to cite as the cause other than the fact that our brains do not come equipped with an erase button.  Grateful as always for the people in my life who love and support me without hesitation.

destruction

Did you know that in the UK, PTSD is referred to as PTS?   The reason is because it’s not considered a disorder.  Post traumatic stress is a typical response to any number of traumatic events, domestic violence included.   I’d like for this notion to be commonplace in America as well.

I’m not suffering from a disorder.  I’m just suffering.

The difference between the two means less judgement and more hope.

 

Frozen

As you may know from reading my past entries, I used to be a shopgirl.  It was, beyond any doubt, the happiest thing I’ve ever done professionally.  I miss it dearly but am grateful that it continues on with owners who love as much as I did.

When I first opened my shop, Disney’s Frozen had just come out.  I had the soundtrack streaming throughout the store all day, for what seemed like every day, for a long time.  One of my favorite vendors made Elsa and Anna necklaces  that mama bears would line up well before the shop would open just to snag one.

Anyway, that really has nothing to do with anything other than Anne (my EMDR guru) has suggested for many sessions now that I write about something complicated.  I told her I didn’t want to, how would I even start, what would I say?  She said, “I’m not sure, Jen (yes, she is one of maybe one person in my life who I allow to call me Jen) but I know you’ll find a way.”  So here I am, not at all finding a way, and using a Disney movie as a starting point.

Okay, here goes.  Did you know that it is not uncommon for a victim of sexual abuse within the dynamic of intimate partner violence to freeze?  You don’t fight, you don’t scream, you don’t run out of the room and you tend to not tell anyone.  Simply put, you freeze.  And whatever vile act is about to occur or is in progress continues.  In all of its pain and humiliation and fear, the act plays out.

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When a victim freezes, she is left feeling as if she is responsible and to blame because she didn’t say no.  What I have learned from Anne is that not saying no does not mean that you were not a victim of assault.

When an abuser inflicts pain, he is fully aware of what he is doing.  He knows that you are hurting, he knows that you are in pain and he knows that he is humiliating you.  He knows and he continues to satisfy whatever sadistic need or compulsion that is alive within him all the same.

I am here to tell you something very important.  Freezing is saying no.  Freezing is fighting back.  Freezing is crying out for help.  You freeze because your flight or fight has kicked in.  And while you are neither in fight or in flight, you are trying desperately to endure what is happening to you.

Freezing is not consent.  Freezing is what you did to survive what is, by all counts and acknowledged by any educated official of the law, sexual assault.  I know that you think sometimes that you allowed this to happen.  You did not.  You were sold a dream and given a nightmare.  How could you have known?

Your abuser has already set the stage for this to occur.  He has idealized you, showered you with more kindness than you’ve ever experienced and made you feel like you have found pure and true love.  But then, over time and nearly imperceptibly, all manner of abuse begins.

More than anything else, I want to talk about this because I don’t want one more woman to feel like she is to blame for the vast humiliation and deep pain that was purposefully inflicted under the guise of love.  Love that controls, undermines, distrusts and destroys.  Love that is a lie.

 

 

 

As Long As I Know

My son and my daughter were victims-by-proxy of James’ abuse.  Domestic violence mars every surface it touches.  You cannot wipe it away.   The shell of the mom that James’ abuse created was devastating for them.   The con he presented to me, the trickery he has mastered?  It’s evil.  I don’t really even know what else to say about that.

A big part of my freedom from James has been rebuilding what was lost with my children as a result of his abuse.  Charlie and Claire are my raison d’etre.  I would move any mountain from them.  Especially the trash mountain that was James.   We cannot get back the time he took from us but we have rebuilt our lives.

This month has been bursting with so many first-lasts for Charlie.  He’s a senior, first in his class, a National Merit Scholar and gearing up to apply to some really amazing schools to study nuclear engineering.  My daughter, a junior, is taking nine classes. Every period of her day, including an hour before school starts, are a mix of rigorous academic subjects, music and art.   She even skips lunch to make room for an extra class.

Last week was Homecoming Week at their school.   A variety show is part of their school’s Homecoming tradition.  Claire auditioned for the variety show, was selected and performed the Cake version of  Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” to a packed crowd.

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Hearing her strong, beautiful voice echo throughout the auditorium was like nothing I have ever experienced as her mom.   She was so poised and confident. It was jaw-dropping, quite frankly.   If literally bursting from pride was possible, I absolutely would be in a million happy little pieces.

Even though I’m quite familiar with that song, hearing Claire as its conduit was like listening to it for the very first time.  “As long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive.”   Preach!   That one little sentence sums it all up.

What’s the difference between a sociopath and the rest of us?  No, this is not a party joke! The difference is having empathy and being able to love.  I’ve taken that for granted nearly my whole life.  Never again.

Because sometimes it’s just easier to borrow from the wise writers who have already done the hard work, to follow is a passage I’ve quoted before from James Joyce’s Ulysses:

–  “Force, hatred, history, all that. That’s not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it’s the very opposite of that that is really life.”

– “What?” says Alf.

– “Love,” says Bloom.

It really does boil down to just that.  Life is love.  Grateful to know it and live it, even if it took me half of my life to figure out.

Hang in There

Morning, sunshines!  I was reminded of something so wonderfully absurd yesterday.  As I’ve explained, the sociopath’s MO makes them remarkably predictable : Idealize>Devalue>Discard. These three things happen throughout a relationship (survivorship, disastership, shirtstormship) with a sociopath.  It’s a cycle that is intertwined with the cycle of abuse you experience concurrently with these disordered individuals.

James’ future fakery/idealization often consisted of him telling me he wanted to marry me and have one great big, happy family of our combined five children, my two dogs and his psychotic cat.

Disclaimer: I like cats.  I love dogs but I genuinely do like cats.   If I’m having a bad day I often envision a basket of fluffy kittens or the encouraging “Hang in There” cat holding onto a tree branch poster from my youth.  This cat, however, was feral.  It really was.  It hated any human contact save that of James.  That cat drew blood on me many times and his children were so scared of her that the oldest child would guide his younger siblings out of harm’s way if the cat was nearby.   She needed to be the kind of cat that lived out a life in a barn chasing mice or with a lonely and malignantly narcissistic hobit in The Shire.

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Anyway, there was a day in the winter of 2016 when James, in a concerned and hushed tone revealed, “Jenny, I’m worried that the honeymoon is over.”   This in response to him being upset that our combined five children were not meshing well one particular weekend day.

I mean, c’mon.  They were 4, 6, 8, 14 and 16 respectively.  They are allowed not to get along and have moments where they are upset or that they all would prefer to be doing their own thing.   It’s normal, way okay and something that we as adults help navigate when necessary and let go of when it’s appropriate for them to be fussy.

What I didn’t realize fully at that time (but was oh-so-close, within a month or two of finally figuring out) that the ONLY person who was allowed to have a bad day was James.  Not me, not my children, not his children, not my (his words) “unsanitary” dogs and not even his crazy as fuck cat.  The golden crown of losing one’s shit was only bestowed upon James.   And if I can be a bit complimentary, he wore it beautifully.

Beyond being the only one to wear the crown, having a bad day for a sociopath also serves as a calculated move.  It (1) means all attention goes to them (2) your needs are discounted fully (3) he retains control of the relationship.  It’s so fucked up.  And it must be a brilliant way to live if only it didn’t happen to destroy everyone within striking distance.

I think, though, that James assertion that the honeymoon was over was highly accurate.  His crown had slipped badly and the light was starting to shine into the cracks created by his sociopathy.  He knew I was no longer a novice at tolerating, and even more importantly, understanding his behavior.  The light generated by those fractures was a beacon of sorts that allowed me to fully see his true nature.

I wish I could go back in time and reply, “Oh you silly, sad man.  YOUR honeymoon is over.  Mine is just about to begin.”

 

Start Here

If you stumbled upon my blog and need help, please know that you are not alone.  Abuse is difficult to identify when we are entrenched.  Love and adoration are mixed with trauma, contempt, isolation and deep pain to keep us confused and doubting ourselves.  

Trust your instincts.  They are there to help protect you when your heart is held hostage and your brain has been rewired to expect the highs and lows that accompany abuse.

If you are thinking of leaving an abusive relationship, please do so safely.  Even if you believe your abuser would never harm you, I urge you to develop a safety plan.  Leaving any kind of domestically violent relationship is dangerous.

Please refer to the resources below for assistance:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Genesis Women’s Shelter

The National Sexual Assault Hotline

Sociopath/Narcissistic Abuse Support 

If you are new to my blog and you’d like to read about how I’ve learned to live a life free of my abuser, start here:

The Beginning

And if you’re already one of my sister-friends, my newest entries are just below this post.  

Messy Bun

Last summer, I had a day when I was completely miserable.  Despair is a word that comes to mind when I recall it.  I was working in my shop on a hot summer day.  Every noise was triggering me.  I felt fearful and broken and alone.  If it would have been acceptable for me as a shopgirl to curl up in the fetal position on the floor with a soft blanket, I absolutely would have.  But I placed those feelings aside, as I always tried to do, to give a little joy to my customers.

That afternoon, one of my favorite shoppers, Lauren, came in bursting with sunshine.  She is young and adorable and I love her.  Her hair was in the cutest messy bun.  I told her how much I liked it and how I am useless when it comes to styling my hair.   She laughed and said, “Come here, I’ll show you.”  And with a single elastic band and some gentle and quick twists, turned my sad mop of hair into the cutest messy bun.

Messybun

She had no idea what I was dealing with and sprinkled a dash of love on me because that is the kind of person she is.  I had no idea until six months later that not long before popping in the shop that day, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She was facing several surgeries ahead of her, along with the loss of her hair.  And in the midst of that grim diagnosis and an uncertain future, she showered me with kindness.

We are all faced with things that we cannot wish away.  In our quiet and lonely struggles we carry on.  For as self admonishing as I can be, I believe that we carry on bravely.  I think we want to spare those around us from our grief.   And we carry on because we believe in the genuine goodness of others and a hopeful future even when faced with things we never deserved.  That’s what Lauren did for me in that moment of unexpected kindness last summer.  Despite it all, our compassion remains intact and as impossible as it seems, flourishes.  Extending goodness amid great pain is about as beautiful of a thing as I can imagine.

Gold

During the early part of our relationship, James told me that nearly every woman he’d dated had been raped or molested.   At the time, I thought nothing more of him revealing that fact other than the man I loved had such understanding and compassion for us walking wounded.  Such a gentle and caring man!

James’ confession to me that his past relationships were nearly exclusively with women who had experienced molestation or rape?  While statistically 1 in 6 women in the United States are the victims of a completed or attempted sexual assault, his pairing up with women like me was no coincidence.  Let me put it this way.  As with other parts of being an abuser, he was fully aware of what he was doing.  He knew.

For James, a woman with a past fraught with difficulty and pain from sexual abuse?  It’s like panning for gold and finding a huge shiny bar.  He knew what he had found and he exploited it.  Each and every time.  And with each and every relationship, he learned more, changed up his playbook and became better at exploitation.

The learning curve of educating myself about a sociopath is an upward trajectory.  (Not the healing from a sociopath, that trajectory is messy.)   In the beginning when I was still entrenched, I was going on faith alone.  Meaning, every professional I consulted concluded I was in the midst of serious abuse and I trusted their assessment.  After I extracted myself from James, the cognitive part kicked in and I could logically process what had happened.  It was reassuring to know that there are specialists, professors and doctors who have studied such exploitation and the disordered minds that revel in it.

But now, all these months later, I can logically take it in and feel some sense of relief. That for as shameful and humiliating as playing the role of his girlfriend ended up being for me, all this shitty and vile behavior is 100% on him.  It doesn’t make the ick go away.  No, that stuff lingers.  Just as he knew it would.