“Am I going crazy?”

No, but you might be in an abusive relationship. I wish I’d known that this sense of self-doubt was one of the surest signs of being psychologically abused; that the very act of questioning oneself over and over again in the face of clear evidence to the contrary is a good indicator that you’re being manipulated by a cunning and sadistic creature.

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Even after physically leaving the relationship, it took me months to break free from the mental, sexual and emotional abuse that continued. After trying so valiantly to assert myself, I found myself uneasy, afraid, frustrated and very VERY confused by my partner. In the end, after sifting through mountains of psychological bullshit, I was able to call him on it, to see him for the snake that he is.

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It’s hard for people to understand why one stays in an abusive relationship. Even harder to understand the true nature of the abuse when there are no visible scars. You still cower even though no physical punch is coming, you still run, cry, scream for help even though he doesn’t touch you. Because, in reality, he’s bypassed your skin, your muscles, your bones and organs and sunk his teeth straight into your psyche, your soul. And these are the things that are bruised, battered and broken when he’s done. You feel as though you’re losing your mind, you feel like a ghost of your former self, a desert island, a barren wasteland, a deep well, an endless night.

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If you recognize any of this, it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you and it’s not/never was your fault. You can still get out. It doesn’t have to be today or tomorrow or even next week but you can. As long as you can hold on. Because he won’t kill you–he’ll wait for you to do it. I survived two suicide attempts before finally leaving.

My best advice is not to make an exit plan so much as to start building another life. You can do it in secret if you have to. If you find yourself jobless and without friends or familial support, like I was, start making connections that have nothing to do with your relationship. If you love to draw–draw, if you love to dance–dance. Beautify your living space–only for you, not for him. What you’re doing is psychological and emotional nesting–you are building a home for yourself inside.

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One of the things neglected when trying to exit an abusive relationship is creating an alternative. With all my heart, I believe you have to have someplace to go if you want to leave. This place isn’t just a friend’s house or a shelter, it’s a place you feel truly at home, comfortable and safe. So even if you have to do it in your mind, create that safe, luxurious, wonderful place for your refuge. Make it come alive in as much detail as possible. Populate it, if you like, with things and/or people who bring you comfort. When it is real to you, when you’re ready to walk through that door, you’ll do it.

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Happy Happy Happy!

The description said “How to Make Every Day of Your Life Happy.” My first thought? “Stop trying.”

POPSUGAR published a 365-Day Happiness Challenge, replete with suggestions to increase your happiness EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR!

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Well let me cancel my prescription for Zoloft, and blow bubbles instead! Silly me, I thought happiness was more elusive. And here it was right under my nose!

No.

One of the reasons people get depressed is because of the unrealistic expectation to be happy all the time. I don’t know where this expectation came from but it needs to be tossed because it’s making people miserable.

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What is “happy” anyway? Are you always smiling, laughing and pleased as punch with all the events unfolding around you? I certainly hope not! There’s a lot of crappy stuff and horrible people out there. In my opinion, the only people who are happy all the time are people who are delusional or in complete denial. Yeah, a prescription for Paxil and a generous helping of narcissism will keep the clouds away!

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Frontal lobotomy anyone?

NOBODY is supposed to be happy all the time. In fact, if you are, I would say it’s a sign there’s something wrong. It’s normal to get sad, mad, frustrated, jealous, impatient. These feelings are normal and might even be useful cues that change is needed. If you’re continually frustrated at your job, maybe it’s time to quit! If your friends make you feel like crap all the time then maybe it’s time to get some new friends. You don’t need that shit!

One of the sickest things our culture does to people who aren’t compliant and complacent is convince them there’s something wrong with them and not what’s going on around them.

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Don’t let others define happiness for you. Decide what you want in life and go for it. It doesn’t have to look like what you see in the media or what your family or friends tell you it’s supposed to be. In fact, if somebody else is telling you what you “should” be doing, chances are it benefits them more than it benefits you. Seriously, the media tells you what to do so you can monetarily enhance somebody else’s life (mostly through buying a bunch of useless crap) and there’s plenty of people out there giving unsolicited advice on how to live your life in the way that best suits them. Fuck that shit. Do your own thing.

 

 

To My Psychopathic, Abusive Ex

You hang around

like gum in my hair.

I try to get you out

but you’re still there.

The snake on your shoulder

the gap in your teeth

You stole years of my life

you fucking thief.

You’re not here now

but your stench remains.

California, Colorado, Florida, Ohio

No matter where you go–ya make shit rain.

The king of lies ,

and only 35.

I escaped from you–

barely alive.

Still want to be a therapist?

God, I hope not.

For all your tricks,

I hope you get caught.

I wish I could be there

to see you take your final breath

But for now I’ll settle

For a poetic death…

 

Mental “Health”–What does it look like to YOU?

I posted this on a PTSD support site I belong to and it seemed to resonate with people so I thought I’d post it here as well–

EVERYBODY has “stuff.” Not everybody can see their stuff. Some people see their stuff and try to work through it; other people project all their stuff onto you and try to work through/hammer it out that way.

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My point is, just because you’re in distress, don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with you. Just because others seem to be doing better than you, doesn’t mean you’re sick by default. There’s a lot of people who go through life in complete denial, shut down emotionally. Some people just unload all their crap on others.

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Our society encourages people to be emotionally shut down and disconnected, if you’re not, you might suffer. Especially if people use you like their own personal garbage disposal to process all the stuff they don’t want to deal with.

YOU get to define what health, happiness and success look like. If it doesn’t look the same as everybody else’s — forget ’em. I support you, 100% ! It’s all relative! Don’t judge yourself by somebody else’s standards.

Sexism Doesn’t Suck HALF as Much When You’re Medicated!

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“Aah! Thank goodness I don’t have to bother with pesky morning sickness anymore! Now I can get back to doing what I love best–serving an ungrateful husband!”

Ads like these have existed for decades–aimed at women who are conscious enough to know their lives are unsatisfactory but maybe not enough to know why.

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Instead of acknowledging women’s oppression, they tell women that their unhappiness is pathological. The solution? Numb out! Or…..get JACKED! On Ritalin!

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She’s not apathetic because she had dreams of becoming an aviator and got stuck with this instead, she just needs a little PEP! These ads seldom come out and say that women are oppressed but this one gets pretty close–

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And if you’re not saddled with a husband and children…..WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU???

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There, there, go to sleep now my neurotic, single friend.

“Thank goodness these types of ads are a thing of the past…”   THINK AGAIN!

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Ooh! A free trial offer? Where do I sign up? I feel like I have to be beautiful, successful, caring and polite…it’s like everyone thinks I’m some sort of wind-up doll…

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Oh dear.

Pristiq, clinically proven to treat the depression, anxiety, general malaise and seething rage associated with being a second-class citizen in a society that treats you like a tool.

Shh…this has all been just a bad dream….go back to sleep now.

Toilet Paper and Other Necessities are Now Taxed

Wouldn’t that be ludicrous? If the things we need to survive like food, toilet paper and medicine were taxed? Well, it happens, but only if you’re one of the unlucky.

Yes, if you’re part of the group whose needs are not as important as the other, you might have to pay sales tax on something you need, something without which you would surely miss significant amount of school and work, without which you might have to stay holed up in your bathroom for weeks or even months out of the year! Good lord! How could anybody be allowing this to happen? Who are these people that have been deemed less important than others and what is this thing that they absolutely need??

Well, if you get a period, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about and if you DON’T, you better listen up because if they can tax tampons, they can tax toilet paper! A period is just as involuntary as a bowel movement and we all know what it’s like to be shit-out-of-luck when you have one and realize there’s no toilet paper. Well imagine how you’d feel if every time you took a dump in a public place, you had to pay 25-50 cents for the toilet paper you needed to clean yourself up? People who get a period are expected to pay for these types of necessities, why shouldn’t everybody else?

This is exactly the issue described in an article by The Nation writer, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf in Why Are We Paying Sales Tax on Tampons? Bleeders and non-bleeders everywhere are asking this question and if you think it’s not the same, just imagine only taking a dump once a month and when you do, it lasts 2-7 days and you need a way to still have a life while that’s happening. Got it? Congratulations! Your imagination still works and it’s a good sign your empathy may be intact too! Go, you!

If you think that shit is whack, I encourage you to stand with your fellow humans and take action. Whether you get a period or not, join one of the groups mentioned in the article or if you have access to tampons and pads, leave them in public restrooms for people who need them! I’m certainly not saying you should steal them (wink wink) but really, that shit should be WAY more accessible than it is. Fight the power and have a lovely day!

Why I’ve Got to Go On an Internet Diet

In general, I don’t believe in dieting; I do, however, believe in being conscious of what you’re putting in your body. That goes for media too. I expose myself to varying amounts of media at different times. Sometimes, all I consume are books and movies. Sometimes, I’ll read the “news” (it’s rarely new information). And sometimes, I’ll take in a few blog posts. Of course, there are times when I do all of the above in a constant stream of meaningless sounds, words and images and eventually I want to blow my brains out.

Yesterday, I read a couple of articles on theguardian and a pictorial on boredpanda. This turned out to be a huge mistake. The first article was about how mindfulness might be making some people “ill.” The author talked about peoples'(including her own) experiences of mindfulness meditation triggering traumatic feelings and memories. Instead of delving into why this might happen for some, the article suggested that mindfulness, NOT PAST TRAUMA, might be the culprit. The culprit of what you might ask? Scary feelings! That we haven’t been taught to question, accept, or cope with! AAAGGGHHHH! In a culture that offers up introspective practices as some sort of anesthetic to dull the pain of an existence in which your worth is measured by how much you contribute to the GDP, of course you’re going to be disappointed when mindfulness does not offer the quick and easy fix you might have hoped for!

From this article, I bounced over to one about how older women are being under-utilized in the work force. The author sought to convince readers (maybe potential employers) that older ladies were still great at multitasking, more caring and “less self-centered” than they were in their younger years. Sooo…..older ladies are willing to sacrifice more of themselves for others? They’re less self-centered so maybe they’ll accept less pay for more work! Older ladies are a precious resource just WAITING to be exploited! Score!

The straw that broke the camel’s back was a pictorial on boredpanda that supposedly showed how war veterans that had lost their limbs could still be “sexy.” It featured numerous (mostly male) amputees, slathered in oil, giving their best “sexy” poses for the camera. Some of them with the weapons that may have taken off those limbs! No, it wasn’t done ironically, the guns were supposed to be sexy. Not even a bored panda could look at this crap and think it was anything worth consuming. Where do I start with all the denigration this article represents? The people pictured with their limbs blown off were devalued when they were considered expendable in war, they probably had to devalue the other side in order to feel okay about blowing them up and after being blown up themselves, they’re reassured of their status as objects by being sexually objectified. Don’t worry, you can be a sex object no matter how you look! Objectification for all!

Needless to say, a piece of my brain atrophied and I am now on life support and typing with a straw but it’s for the better–makes it much harder to click my way into another brain aneurysm any time soon. Ta!

Against Apathy (To my favorite gamer/addict)

Hate is not the biggest threat today, it’s APATHY. You are what’s wrong with the world. Do you know how kids keep getting molested in the Catholic Church? It’s not because The Church is so powerful and the rest of us are just helpless victims–it’s because everybody’s turning a blind eye and pretending they don’t see what’s happening. APATHY! Do you know how Kitty Genovese died? It’s not because the murderer was super stealthy or because nobody was around to hear her scream–EVERYBODY heard her scream, they just didn’t do anything about it!

The internet, the “news,” your f***ing iPad/phone/etc., alcohol, food–they’re all opiates people use to numb-out. We’re all a bunch of addicts, sucking down whatever we can to numb the pain of existence; numb the pain and everything else too–even the really great stuff! The Jaded Masses. Nothing impresses us or excites us except the worst of the worst or the best and the brightest. We want saccharin-sweet and shit-your-brains-out spicy! Black or white, no shades of gray, no subtlety–that shit doesn’t even register on our jacked-up nervous systems. We’re f***ing spent.

Everybody’s looking for the next best thing, the fastest, most expensive, newest, greenest, locally grown, high-tech fix for their ravenous addiction. Well you can have it because I’m not buying it. You know why? Because you can’t take it with you, not any of it. When you’re on your death bed, all that BS is not going to be at your side, comforting you in your last moments before all fades to black. When you’re sitting on the toilet and you have a heart attack (from the years of neglect and abuse you put your body through) your iPhone will NOT perform CPR and Suri  is NOT going to hold your hand until the medics arrive!

All you’ve got left is yourself and you’ve been the worst companion imaginable–you may think you’ve been answering your own needs and desires by pumping yourself full of the crap I mentioned earlier but while you were numbing yourself to the external world, telling everyone and everything to shut up, you silenced yourself as well.

Perhaps that deep-down voice was silenced years ago, perhaps slowly over the years but at some point you became complicit in your own neglect, your own abuse. Your eyes longed for a sunrise but instead you watched the latest episode of I-don’t-know-what, you were hungry for nourishment so you choked down a protein bar as you rushed off to work, your joints ache but instead of stretching them or strengthening your muscles, you sit and click and sit and click and SIT AND CLICK SOME MORE! “Why does my back hurt? Why does my wrist hurt? I’m bored.” 

I WONDER WHY!!!!

Have we forgotten how to think with our brains and feel with our hearts and use our imaginations? All we know how to do is tune out. What can we do? Well, it takes courage but we can start by feeling something, emoting, SPEAKING OUT! Ask questions! Be angry when the situation calls for it and be jubilant too! There’s a lot of awesome stuff in the world that goes unnoticed because we’re too shut-down. And take a break from looking outside yourself to look inward–this is where real change begins.

 

We Need to Talk About Suicide

I still think about suicide. Maybe not often but it does come up from time to time–mostly when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I think about what it would take to complete it in one go….then I think about who and what I would miss and who might miss me.

Before my two most recent hospitalizations, I was hospitalized once as a teenager. I honestly don’t remember the circumstances that clearly–I think my mom and I may have had a fight. Let me be clear, our fights were not her asking me to do something and me not wanting to do it, it was more like,”Mom, why won’t you listen to me? Please don’t leave when I’m sad.”

I didn’t realize for a long time that my mom’s behavior was abusive. She used me in a way no child should be and I suffered most of my life, believing the reason for my sadness and struggles was some inherent flaw in me. When I got into an abusive relationship a few years ago, I never thought it would happen to me. I never considered that my life up to that point had probably primed me for that type of relationship. Still, the pain was like nothing I had ever experienced and it was unbearable.

I contemplated suicide throughout my relationship. I attempted suicide too for which I was later punished by my abuser. During my relationship, I became very isolated and my world got smaller and smaller. I attempted to leave multiple times but always returned. So few doors seemed to be open to me–the thought of suicide was my only constant. It was always there if I needed it, not looming like the Grim Reaper or some terrifying bottomless chasm but like an open door, a friend even.

You see, my life had become a terrifying bottomless chasm. I suffered from PTSD because of my partner’s actions and it was followed by more abuse. Suicide beckoned me at times, almost like a rescuer,“C’mon, let’s get the hell out of here!” She held the door open for me, waiting, watching.

Sometimes I would just stand at the door and hold her hand, sobbing and frightened, my tormentor behind me, so angry. My world was shattered and chaotic. I wanted peace….just not the forever kind.

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I bring this up because although I’ve felt utterly alone at times, I know that I am not. I know there are others who’ve stood at the threshold, some who’ve passed over it and returned. And I know it is a lonely place. We are often afraid to talk about suicidal thoughts and attempts–afraid of burdening others, afraid of being misunderstood, afraid we will be committed, afraid of being shamed or abandoned. These fears are very real, many of them based on people’s actual responses to us speaking up.

I want to tell people who feel/have felt suicidal or made attempts,”You have nothing to be ashamed of. You are not crazy or weak. Suicide is not an ‘easy way out,’ it’s anything but easy. There’s nothing wrong with you, there’s most likely something wrong with your life and you sense that. You’re not selfish, you’re probably far from it. Also, we were not meant to go through this life alone and if your burden is too heavy to bear by yourself, it’s healthy and acceptable to reach out and get some help carrying it.”

I’ve got some advice, which I rarely give because I don’t like to think I know what’s best for anybody else but this feels important:

Accept yourself, question everything else.

It may sound simplistic but it’s not. Self-acceptance is a long, hard road for many of us and having the courage to speak about our pain is a MAMMOTH step in the right direction. In the meantime, start to question the beliefs that cause you pain, beliefs like: “You’re responsible for stopping/preventing people from abusing you,” and, “happiness is the most desirable thing and it’s attainable if you just apply yourself,” and,”depression and mental illness are signs of weakness/something wrong with you.” There’s a preponderance of beliefs like this and they tend to relieve people of any responsibility for each other which is just inhuman. We affect each other greatly and have the capacity to help and to harm one another.

Our lives are made up of many interactions with many different people and there’s no reason you need to do the hard parts by yourself. Talk to someone. Please don’t stay silent. You have nothing to be ashamed of. If people make you feel crappy when you speak up, they’re the ones who should be ashamed for being so callous and ignorant.  There are others, people who will listen and people who can help.

You’re not alone.

Figure and Ground: The Importance of Seeing Light and Dark

“I don’t want people to feel bad for treating me like crap.”

I was startled by my own words in my last therapy session. I’d already acknowledged that I harbored a belief I must be “good” so people wouldn’t treat me like crap but this was on another level. Not only did I could affect how people treated me but I also believed I needed to protect people from feeling bad about treating me poorly.

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Boundaries are learned and developed over time–children who are abused learn their boundaries are useless and may as well not even exist. Those whose boundaries are repeatedly violated are essentially sent into the world with faulty immune systems. We are unable to absorb the nutrients and nourishing things people have to offer while we are simultaneously unable to defend against future abuse and mistreatment. (Incidentally, child abuse/trauma survivors are much more likely to suffer from autoimmune disorders as well.)

In addition to our faulty immune systems, we suffer from a type of blindness which prevents us from seeing the world as it truly is. Like many survivors of abuse, I struggle to recognize my own virtues and often fail to see the wickedness inherent in others. This type of blindness is reinforced over time by people who benefit from it thus making it very difficult to recover from.

Not until my most recent relationship was I able to acknowledge the depravity that exists in others. I was raised to see only the good in others and no doubt my partner benefited from that. It was only when I learned that sociopathic behavior was not limited to serial killers and the sensationalized monsters presented by the media that I was able to see my partner for who he truly was.

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Many people are reticent to acknowledge the harm that people are capable of inflicting on others. Oftentimes, it seems we are more comfortable heaping blame and shame on victims than placing it where it belongs. Victims fall into this same mindset and fail to see their own virtues while succumbing to the belief that they can change their abuser’s behavior if they are only good enough, thereby accepting blame for the abuse.

In the course of my abusive relationship I all but forgot the person I truly was: empathic, sensitive, curious and understanding. Even once I acknowledged I still possessed these qualities, I saw them as weaknesses or reasons I was abused. Likewise, I felt the need to protect my abuser from accepting the blame for his callous, degrading and monstrous behavior.

The truth of it is, being sensitive, open, empathic and understanding are wonderful qualities that should be treasured and cherished. Average, feeling individuals who encounter these qualities in others will not exploit them no matter what. Horrific as it is, there are also people walking this earth who are devoid of empathy and unable to truly feel or care for others. Their relationships are based on deception and the insatiable thirst for dominance and control. They fly under the radar with most people and often present as charming and affable, never letting on that they are missing something essentially human.

I have only just begun to separate figure from ground: seeing my wonderful qualities for what they are, realizing they had nothing to do with why I was abused and moving toward placing sole responsibility with my perpetrator. Separating these things out can feel like sifting grains of rice from sand: impossible. But it’s worth it — worth it to see the light that lives inside me. Indeed, sometimes we must acknowledge the dark that exists in others in order to recognize our own light.

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Thank you for listening with an open heart.