First of all, I don't know if I'm just a crybaby, or what. I have everything I could ever want: good grades, a roof over my head, a perfect family, Internet, electronics, etc. But, there is something missing.
It is not fun.
I used to be a jolly little girl until the age of about 7-8. Before that, I loved life. I thought the world was a beautiful place. I had a temper and was sensitive, yes, but there is something about being so young, and so happy. But then, I entered 2nd or 3rd grade. It was not fun. My temper and sensitivity were at their peak, and that was followed by social problems. They got worse and worse. I didn't know what to do.
For a while, it was just gossiping. I felt I was being treated unfairly, but I wasn't being bullied. At least not then, but it was still horrible. Every once in a while, I'd receive a stupid remark like, "You're a brat," or "Crybaby!" but it wasn't really bullying.
Then, a bit into 4th grade, it got worse. I was bullied. It felt horrible. This other girl in my class, let's call her Rose, hated me for who knows why. All she wanted was drama. She would say inappropriate and disgusting things during lunch that made me want to puke, and she made fun of me. She'd laugh with her friends about how when I punch I "look like a dying old lady," and stuff like that. It hurt inside, and I tried to keep it in. I really did.
Then it got worse. I found out through a good friend that people were saying horrible things about me, behind my back. We were talking to each other, opening up. That's when she told me. I found out someone hated me because I had braces. BRACES! SERIOUSLY! That didn't help my situation.
I'm in 4th grade currently, 10 years old. I go on the internet to cheer myself up, but it doesn't work. Rose hates me. She distracted me during a game we were playing, so I was out. She also kept whispering my name and talking to me and another kid sitting near us during class, when I was having trouble on a worksheet. Then, she accused ME of distracting HER! She was the one distracting ME! I said, "No! I haven't said a word!" And she became angry with me.
As she continued yelling at me, memories flashed back to me. Back in Kindergarten, we were out at recess, and I was all alone, in the sand box. I was having fun. A group of girls who I thought were my friends, lead by one of my best friends approached. I was just minding my own business, being jolly. Suddenly, five voices were screaming into my ear the "___ and ___ sitting a tree" rhyme, with a boy I was friends with. I ran away from them, but they followed me. I cried for the rest of the recess as the voices pounded in my ear.
With that memory, I want to ask. Am I just being a wimp? Am I just greedy? I need answers. My self-esteem is low.
I didn't get to work yesterday. I went to the hospital instead. At the insistence of my fiance, I called in sick and we headed out. This was after three days of hearts pounding, palm-sweating, barely able to focus anxiety. We pulled off the road for gas and breakfast, only to have the car completely break down. We weren't going any further that way. Our replacement car is over a week late, the current broken down junker has been a death trap for a while now. Needless to say, this turn of events did little to improve my stress level. I did my breathing exercises and fought a losing battle to stay calm. We called a cab, we got to the hospital. Very friendly people. Smiling nurses, nodding sympathetically to my plight. Always the same questions "any idea as to what set you off? Do you have any triggers? Are you at risk of self harm?" and "who's this with you? Do you want him to stay?"
No, no, and hell no. My Fiance, yes.
The thing is, nothing has gone wrong. Work is awesome. My recent trip with my mother was fantastic. I met my fiance's mother, a narcissistic woman I'd been dreading encountering. It was a pleasant visit, far better than expected. There's just the background negativity that isn't going anywhere, that for some reason, some unknown reason, was louder and more demanding than it has been since I was in the midst of abuse. Stuff that makes me feel that I'm not good enough, my life is going to fall apart, it's my fault my step father got away with so much, that he has uncontested custody of my little sisters. Sisters I miss so badly, and want to have as bridesmaids at my wedding. Sisters I may never see again. Just the same old shitty baggage, that isn't going anywhere. I wish I knew how to just let go. The doctor gave me some pills. They put me to sleep, and for a while the background stuff is gone. It's not perfect, but it helps me focus on the pretty A+ foreground I'm making myself.
For now, it'll do.
Until I can let go of the shitty past and current yet distant circumstances beyond my control, it'll have to do.
You know how when you are on a road trip you pass signs saying what city is ahead? And in your mind you go, "Oh, I'm nearing Detroit or I'm in the Dallas area." So somehow at some level you *know* where you are, but let's face it, all freeways look pretty much the same. So you don't really know what being in Detroit or Dallas or where ever means.
But if you need to stop - take a break from driving, fill up your tank - or the car's - you pull off on an exit and you start to get a feel for where you really are. Maybe it's the sports teams logos, or the architecture, or the people. But there's something, and you suddenly get a flash of what it means to be in that city. Maybe you don't fully internalize it, but there is a moment of insight, an "aha" of ... "I'm really here now."
So what does any of this have to do with abuse? Let me set some context.
I am white, male, well-educated, good job. Reasonable health, tall and relatively strong. People who know me might find me serious, but generally positive and up-beat. I have good friends and wonderful kids. From the outside, everything looks pretty good. But it's what's inside that matters.
I realized in the last year or so that I was being abused. Not physically, but emotionally. I knew it logically. I could finally see the road signs. And I acted. Maybe not fast enough, but I finally separated from my abuser about six months ago.
Since then, I've been adapting to a new life style. I've being taking control of my life and even gotten a promotion (of sorts) at work. Really thrown myself into the journey. The knowledge of what I had been through was still there, but it was just a fact.
Lately, however, my gas tank has been getting low. So I pulled off the road. I took Friday off work and ended up sleeping much of the day. Then I heard from my abuser again. And the pain came flooding back.
I was embarrassed. I should be stronger than that. Why was I letting her continue to hurt me? I vented to a trusted friend.
They made a very simple statement that shook me to my core: "You are an abuse victim."
There it was. I am a victim of abuse. It's going to take a long time to "get better". And even when I'm passed the worst of it, I'm not going to be the same person I was before.
Those simple words brought me to tears. Tears of relief. It was okay that it still hurt. It was okay that I needed a break. I need to heal and maybe, just a little, in that moment, I was able to heal some more.
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I have mentioned before on this blog that I'm a writer. Sure, an amateur certainly. I decided the other day that perhaps it would be useful to write a memoir of some kind, documenting the conditions of my childhood. In a way, I suppose I would like to see my own progression to this state on paper. If I ever complete it, I suppose it would help someone understand the nature of mental illness and how it can be one big event or many tiny ones that really trigger depression, anxiety, borderline personality, PTSD, etc.
The thing is that I've been remembering things that I hadn't thought of in a long while. Like how much I loved the Dukes of Hazard when I was a kid. I would call my dad Boss Hog and make him buy a cigar to smoke. The thing is, I have always had this tendency to see the worst in everything. It's not new, and it would be easy to place the blame on my ex wife.
Truth be told, I have always had this sense of not belonging. Whatever my condition is, I have always had it. To be sure, it hasn't ever been so intense and difficult to deal with. But it's been, to borrow a phrase, a death of a thousand cuts. Sure, there were some really bad incidents that went down. By and large though, I think it was isolation that really irritated this condition I bear.
Why are so many authors or artists also burdened with this malaise? Does the disease of the mind inspire the art, in an artist's effort to express themselves, or are the traits of an artist a combination that is vulnerable to mental illness?
All I know is that for me, it seems to be a combination of these reasons. I suffer from insufferably high standards. This is why I am so pessimistic. Eastern thought cautions us against the formation of expectations, and boy do I ever have a knack for letting myself down. My standards are so high that I defeat myself. I realized this while I was playing fetch with my dog the other evening. I expect everything to be awesome and perfect the first time. Always have. And I am crushed by the letdown. Either because others didn't perform to what I expected or because I failed in some way. Not that my dog wasn't fetching, but only because my damn brain never stops thinking.
But both of these conditions arise from my expectations of perfection. It doesn't really reflect on my capability nor that of those around me. Perfection is impossible. I cannot remember who the author was, but it was a book about recording music. He said that the pursuit of perfection is self-defeating, because the moment we get close to perfection, we realize how it could still be better. Perfection is an endless climb.
Idealism has been somewhat of a plague to me. For this reason, I have two books, several dozen short stories complete with another book in the works along side of a memoir. I know I will probably never submit them for editing with intent to publish because of my own expectations. They won't ever meet my own standards, so why would I expect them to meet the standards of others? I need to kick that. I'm actually kind of a good writer and nothing ventured, nothing gained after all. Perhaps, if tamed, my sense of idealism can be an ally.
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