Self-Indulgent Drivel

naked on the internet

Month: February, 2013

Some of them want to abuse you

I got engaged when I was 22, but I never married. There’s a wedding dress in my closet that’s been tried on at least a dozen times but has never been worn. I had an engagement ring with a diamond on it, but I sold it five years ago for grocery money.

I spent much of my twenties with someone who said I was he love of his life and everything he’d ever wanted in a woman, but it seemed that he was determined to destroy me. Every bit of trust I had, all the love and patience and understanding I had in me, were used and wasted on him. He would reel me in gently and spit me out violently, over and over. And I stayed, and I followed him, and I put up with because I thought that’s what love was.

Until one morning I just couldn’t anymore. I woke up and I was done. There wasn’t a question, I had absolutely no doubt, and I have never missed him. The fact that we remained “friends” for three and a half years after I ended our romantic relationship speaks to the fact that I am a loyal and giving person, but our friendship died the same way our relationship did– suddenly and absolutely. We haven’t communicated since Christmas 2011, and since I’ve been back in Portland I’ve run into a couple of his friends but never him, thank god. I think I saw him at a bus stop one day; it would be hard to mistake that sour expression for anyone else.

I went to therapy today, and it stirred things up. So I’m here now in my bedroom remembering the time he got drunk and tried to push me down the stairs. The day he spat in my face as I drove us home from couples therapy. Or the time he broke the bookshelf he’d bought me the week before and some of the things that were sitting on it. The day he mocked me while I was crying. The New Years Eve when he screamed at me that I was a whore, had always been a whore, would always be a whore, and no one would ever love me if they knew who I really was.

Here’s an email exchange from a few months after we broke up: 

Kate:

I received full funding for this term – over six thousand dollars. Next term they are offering me over nine thousand, some if it being grant money that I won’t have to pay back. Next year I’ll start receiving money from the most recent GI Bill – I’m eligible for seventy percent, as it turns out.

I move into my new studio apartment downtown tomorrow evening. [My band] will be releasing its first album next month, and we’ll begin playing shows. My [job] is still solid.

My fucking troubles are over, dude.  

-Michael

[I immediately respond]

Hoo Fucking Ray, dood.  Congratulations.  I’m so glad to hear you’re doing well! Continue to be well. 

-Kate

[MINUTES after receiving my email]

Since you’re obviously around, I want to take this time to provide myself with a sense of closure.

Reading your blog over the last few months, I’ve been both horrified by what I’ve read, and also relieved – my every suspicion about your character has been confirmed, and my every reason for leaving you has been justified. It’s sad that you can’t amount to much more than that for which you’ve settled, and I hope you can gain some sense of identity and self-esteem one day through less destructive means.

I still do not want you to approach me if we happen to come across each other in public – it’s not acceptable in the least. Consider me gone forever, because I don’t think that we’ll ever be so much as friends. 

I wish you the best.

-Michael

So then I said:

Michael,

Yes.  Everything has been confirmed.  Don’t you feel ever-so-fucking-proud of yourself?

Except, darling, here’s the thing.  I’m not cheating on anyone, just like I never cheated on you—but you did cheat on me.  I’m not lying to anyone, not like you lied to me, on numerous occasions.  I’m remembering what it feels like to actually LIKE myself, something I’d managed to forget while I was with you.

Am I having sex?  Yes I am.  Am I committed to one person?  No, I am not.  Maybe I’m not living by the rules you’d like, but I’m doing okay.  And no one has called me a whore since the last time you did. 

In other words, honey, fuck you.  And by the way, I BROKE UP WITH YOU.  You didn’t leave me… you moved out and still tried to control every aspect of my life.  You harassed me for months, which only stopped when I got a phone number that I made damned sure you didn’t have.  You need to get over yourself.  You need to get over me.  Believe whatever you want about me.

You don’t deserve to be a part of my life.  Here’s your goddamned closure.

Sincerely,

Kate

Twenty-three days after sending that message saying “Consider me gone forever, because I don’t think that we’ll ever be so much as friends,” he wrote back

I’ve been seeing somebody for a little while now, and it’s going very well. As a result, my bitterness toward you has subsided significantly. I don’t know if I’m comfortable with us talking in person yet, but I hope that we can do that some day. I also hope that everything is going well for you, and that you’re getting what you need and want from life – you deserve at least that much.

Take care,
Michael

Because he’s motherfucking insane.

And he did this over and over during the eight and a half years I knew him, while we were together and after we broke up. And I put up with it. I kept putting up with it. For years.

Abuse changes you. It makes you not trust other people, but it does something much more insidious– it makes you distrust yourself. And that’s fucking brutal.

The emotional and psychological scars of having been in a relationship with an abuser for much of my twenties, well, they’re hard to shrug off. The abuse fed into my long-held suspicion that I’m damaged, that I’ll never be good enough, that my love isn’t worth shit to anyone. Every relationship I’ve had since has been informed by that abuse. Every time I meet someone I care about, I start to panic about how and when they’ll let me down and how bad the damage will be this time.

The first three or four months I spent with Michael were like a fairy tale. The next four years were hell. I stayed with him in California when I could have left him easily, I stayed at my mom’s house when he locked me out of the apartment, and then I moved to Portland with him, I stood by him when he cheated on me, I took him back each of the literally hundreds of times he told me I sickened him and he didn’t ever want to see me again. I never betrayed him, I never snuck around or called him ugly or told him he should be ashamed of who he was. I tried to give him all the love he hadn’t had as a child. I tried to heal him with my own shattered heart. It didn’t work, of course.

And then I realized that the reason he didn’t really have anyone else is because he is a destructive, cruel, shitty, terrible, unkind, abusive, self-indulgent person with no sense of personal responsibility. He shut out his whole family and changed his phone number so they couldn’t find him. He alienated his friends and mine. He took a starry-eyed 22-year-old who was crazy about him and would have done anything for him, and he turned me into a shell.

I learned, I grew, I changed. I am better off now than I was then. But the scars from that relationship have never healed, may never fully heal. I spent four years of my life in love with someone who tried to kill the best parts of me, and almost succeeded. I spent eight and a half years trying to be the mother, sister, and counselor that he never had or was too proud to seek out. I am astonished that I didn’t run away from him sooner. And if I see him on the street, I can’t promise I won’t scream, or hit, or cry. I hope I’ll have the strength to just turn and walk away. He doesn’t deserve anything more from me. Not even my rage.

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It’s almost everything I need

I have a friend whom I’ll call Six. Six is tall and her kisses quench me like a drink of iced tea on a hot day. She has an elegant, gawky, geeky grace, and she sings along to the songs she knows at the karaoke bar without any embarrassment, moving her lithe body to the beat, un-self-conscious and beautiful. I never have to worry about seeming cool with Six, because she’s the coolest, and she’s not worried about seeming cool in front of me.

the prettiest

Six has skin like silk. She has the perfect rose-pink mouth,  eyes like the deepest part of my favorite swimming hole, and a heartbeat that sounds like low, soft music. I have been smitten since the night we met.

The way I feel about Six scares me sometimes. It reminds me about how I felt about a certain someone five years ago, and that is a path I never want to walk again. There’s a certain magical quality to our interactions sometimes, like we’ve stumbled upon something hidden and rare, like Six is the sort of drug or meditation that can set my head right and give me some peace. But I can’t afford to be addicted to anyone the way I was five years ago, the way I felt like I was being knocked over and washed away by a tide of LOVE LOVE LOVE, that I was helpless, that I would do anything not to have to give up my new favorite thing.

But I’ve grown up since then. I am more myself. And though I have to be deliberate and careful and take extra measures not to lose myself in love with someone else, I now know that [redacted] wasn’t the only person I’ll ever feel this way about. I had been frightened that I’d already had my one great big love  and that everything else for the rest of my life would pale in comparison.

Last night, after I’d had a bit of a freakout the night before, Six said “I still love you,” and then a pause. And then “you know that I love you, right?”

No, I didn’t know that. And while I’m aware that you don’t mean that you’re in love with me, knowing that you love me, being able to take that and hold it in my heart, made me feel like my chest would burst with happiness.

I love you too, my dear and darling one. And I feel blessed and very grateful that I get to know you.

99 (er, 7) Problems

I WOULD NOW LIKE TO OUTLINE FOR YOU THE WAYS THAT MEN ARE OPPRESSED IN AMERICAN SOCIETY:

1. They often lose in child custody cases.

2. Sometimes they’re accused of rape, and they didn’t do it. I mean, sure, this hardly ever goddamned happens, but it HAS happened. And it’s totally as bad as rape, even though it’s less prevalent. Even though people who make false accusations are often fined and/or jailed. It’s oppression. Obvs.

3. Jock itch.

4. Not being able to cry at movies without being thought of as a sissy.

5. Sometimes, like, some bitch sabotages the birth control, right? And then the guy has to make these fucking payments for, like, 18 goddamned years. Oppression.

6. Women and children first off of sinking ships or whatever.

7. The Friend Zone. You know what I’m talking about.

to the pain

Jesse and Naomi both got sick this past week. There was one day that my brother asked me to feel his forehead, and I worriedly made sure the water pitcher was filled, threw some cough drops at him, and checked in every hour or so until his wife came home. Naomi complained of, among the usual symptoms of a winter cold, body and head aches.

And I resented her for it.

Let me take a step back:

I have a condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which makes it so that my tendons and ligaments don’t do a very good job of supporting my bones. I can throw a shoulder or hip out of joint by doing things that most people don’t think twice about. My muscles are stronger than my bones can handle, I’m exceedingly flexible in many of my joints, but rather than stretching, my collagen tends to tear. While I’m strong enough to do a lot of things, I’ll suffer for overextending myself (literally overextending,) and I sprain easily and don’t heal as well as most humans.

I have had a bad back since I was 20-or-so. Years of sleeping on a collapsed mattress (which had been in nigh-constant use since the early 1960s) had caused my already-lax spine to fall permanently out of line, and it’s hurt consistently ever since.  I can’t hand write very much because the connective tissue in my hands is worn out from years of taking notes in high school. If I try write more than a page or so, my fingers will freeze into a claw.

Aaaaand I was in a car accident 16 months ago that fucked me up pretty good, messing up my back and right shoulder even more. I also suffer from post-concussion syndrome, which was causing daily headaches for awhile– it’s calmed down considerably, but I still have several days a month where I’m nearly incapacitated by pain in the left side of my forehead.

But life doesn’t stop because you’re in pain.

So when my sister in law gets the sniffles and begs off doing the dishes for a few days, I become almost irrationally angry. But only for a second. Because it’s not her fault, and being sick does suck, and after awhile we can adjust to all but the most profound pain. It just becomes normal.

So I’m not mad at Naomi. I just need to put a heating pad on my back and take some deep breaths and some more ibuprofen.

But pain twists us. The cost of “getting used to” daily pain is that one is irritable  distractible, and prone to self-pity. It wears away at one’s patience and good will toward other people. It makes us less compassionate when the people in or lives use their pain as an excuse. It makes us want to yell “LIFE DOES NOT STOP.”

There was a night about a year ago when I tried to take off my boots and couldn’t. I could not raise my right leg, and I couldn’t bend. Something in my hip had gone terribly wrong and I could barely move. I had to call Naomi in to help me take my boots off and help me stand up so I could finish getting ready for bed. I limped along for the rest of the evening and the next day, wondering how I’d managed to dislocate my hip while sitting on my bed. Eventually it felt better. That’s how my body works– pain will start and stop with seemingly no trigger.

Naomi helped me. She didn’t bitch about it or tell me I was being melodramatic. She pulled my boots off and helped me get to the bathroom. She made sure I was okay before she left me.

I think the reason that I have trouble with sick people whining has a lot to do with the “walk it off” attitude of my mother when I injured myself (until the physical symptoms could no longer be denied, at least; it’s not like she wouldn’t take me to the doctor if something was visibly wrong.) And after years and years of chronic pain, it does piss me off when I hear someone bitch about having a headache or a backache or whatever. JOIN THE CLUB, ASSHOLE.

I think what I really want is, every now and then, for someone to say “I’m sorry you’re in pain. That sucks. It stinks to be in pain.” And then they should rub my back. But my pain is not out of the ordinary. It’s not notable. I have, for the most part, gotten used to it.

And life does not stop.

I’d rather leave than suffer this

I think a lot of us assume that we’re too smart or clever or self-aware to be abused, so when someone abuses us, we don’t want to see it as abuse. “He can’t be abusing me, I’m not the sort of person who gets abused!” And it can go on for years. “But he’s nice most of the time!” Yeah, and the other 5% of the time he’s out to destroy you. Run. It isn’t your job to fix anyone else. No one gets to treat you like that, even if he’s had a hard life. Even if he doesn’t have anyone else. Even if you provoked him. Even if he promises he’ll change.

Here are some signs of abuse, from my own experience and from people I know:

  1. Isolation. Your partner tries to keep you away from your friends, family, and anyone who might influence you or take your attention away from the abuser. No one has a right to tell you who your friends are.
  2. Bad-talking your friends or family.
  3. Making you choose between them and other people or things you enjoy.
  4. Secrecy. “Don’t go telling other people about our problems.” Punishing you for asking for outside support.
  5. Shame. “If other people knew what you were like, no one would love you.” “Your brought this upon yourself.” “You’re not perfect either.” 
  6. Minimizing or lying about their actions. “I’m not yelling!” “I never said that!” “I never did that!” 
  7. Minimizing the impact of their actions. “What’s in the past is in the past. Why can’t you let it go?” “Oh, come on, what I did isn’t so bad.” “I can’t ever do anything right by you!”
  8. Trying to make you feel crazy or like you’re overreacting.
  9. Jealousy. “I saw the way you were talking to her.”
  10. Accusations and suspicion, especially when used to justify bad treatment. “I know you’re cheating on me!” “I wouldn’t have cheated on you if you weren’t such a slut.”
  11. Excuses. “I had a really bad day at work and that’s why I’m so angry.” Most people can vent frustration without being abusive.
  12. Making and breaking promises. “I know I said I wouldn’t drink, but it’s a holiday!”
  13. Punishing/controlling you with anger and fear of anger. Everyone feels frustrated and angry sometimes, but it’s not normal or right to take that out on other people.
  14. Silent treatment, ignoring, and withdrawal of affection.
  15. Destroying, damaging, threatening to damage, or other violent action (throwing/punching/knocking over) things, such as furniture, clothing, computer files, or other things that are important to you. Abusers often escalate from taking their aggression out on objects to physically abusing their partners. And abusers don’t tend to de-escalate, ever.
  16. Hitting you, “pretending” to hit you, making fast and violent non-contact (pulling a punch or pretending to slap), threatening to hit you– even “minor” things like pinching, back-handing, grabbing, pushing. It doesn’t have to leave a mark to be abusive.
  17. Name-calling.
  18. “Jokes” that are cruel, play upon your insecurities, or are repeated when you’ve asked your partner to stop.
  19. Drug and alcohol abuse, especially when it impacts your financial situation, personal safety, or ability to do normal activities.
  20. Pretend helplessness, playing the victim, sympathy-grabbing. “I’m so lost and alone, I wouldn’t have anyone if I didn’t have you.” It isn’t your job to save anyone.
  21. Threats of violence to the abuser’s self or others. “I’d kill myself without you.” “I’d kill you if you ever cheated on me.”
  22. Refusal to allow you to cool down, continuing to act abusive even after you’re too upset to react, or after you’ve asked them to stop. Won’t disengage or allow you to disengage from the fight. Won’t let you close a door, leave the house, or take time to think.
  23. Mocking. “Poor baby!” Repeating back things you say in a sarcastic tone.
  24. Controlling your access to money, transportation or resources that would allow you to get away.

That’s just off the top of my head. It’s not a comprehensive list.

I know a lot of very smart, really cool people who accept terrible treatment from their partners and can’t or won’t acknowledge that they’re being abused. I hope that someone out there will see yourself, your partner, or a friend in this list and get some help.