Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from May, 2017

Everyday Perverts

We've all experienced it. Women have experienced it moreso. Casual, lewd comments from the store clerk. The teacher who looks down students' shirts. The cliche construction worker cat-call. Assholes on the street who tell us to smile, and harass us when we don't play along. The creepy old man who demands hugs from young girls. The sweeping, misogynistic comments from some dick uncle who was "just kidding." These are everyday perverts.

We all know them. They are the kind of men who are generally considered to be "good" people, even though their sexist behavior is far from it. They have been allowed to get away with it all their lives because the people around them are so conditioned to think that their bad behavior is normal. It gets dismissed. That's just who they are. They don't mean anything by it. It's not like they are deranged or anything. They're just... quirky.

Fuck. That.  It's sexist as hell, and I'm not going to take i…

Word Salad

Once you see the signs of abuse, it's almost impossible to unsee them. I was recently party to a conversation between an abuser and someone confronting her intentionally vindictive behavior. The abuser simultaneously denied any wrongdoing, while also claiming she "forgot," because, you know, she's so busy and important, and also threw in a heaping dose of blame while calling everyone involved in the incident (except herself) liars. It was the all-you-can-eat buffet of word salad.

Word salad is when an abuser attempts to deny, blame, and deflect responsibility away from their abusive behavior. It's a form of gaslighting and manipulation designed to throw you off course. It's when you ask someone a direct question and they give you a five minute rant not answering your question.  In other words, they are lying liars caught in their lie. It's also used in reference to schizophrenics launching into a tirade of nonsensical words. For narcissists, psychopaths,…

Fuck You and Your Platitudes

Oh, by the way. My birthday is coming up and I've decided my gift to myself this year is to swear more. It's one more way I'm going off script from allowing the expectations of others to control me. I mean, really. When someone is more worried about avoiding the word fuck than keeping their children away from sexual predators, that is some disordered thinking right there. I believe in the power of words, and I think the more words that are at someone's disposal, the better. If you've ever been abused or controlled by another human being, allowing yourself to use words that were once off limits are especially important.

Which brings me to why I absolutely fucking hate platitudes, and the insipid people who say them. Platitudes are the lowest form of human thought. They are the cockroaches of words. Is there really anything less emotionally shallow than offering an "everything will all work out," or "God is in control" when someone bares their…

Looking for a Home

I am obsessed with real estate. As a pastime, I scan Zillow for houses in the way that some people pick out wardrobes and party ideas on Pinterest. I know every house on the market in my zip code (and probably yours). I  pick out the prettiest houses in every city, searching hundreds of Victorians, Craftsman, and Spanish Revivals. Or maybe I'll go look for the quintessential rustic vintage mountain cabin. I like to think about what it's like to live there, in those homes, in those cities or countrysides. I go for the colorful and eclectic ones. Pretty homes are my escapist fantasy. They are my Harlequin romance novels.

It doesn't take a degree in Psychology to understand why I am interested in finding the ideal home. There is no better analogy for family life. Growing up, I lived in a big, empty, lifeless house. It was a mass of standard grade tract home white walls and sensible dirt brown carpet. My parents were weird about money in the way that they were weird about lo…

When Positive Thinking is Not Enough

There is a self help book by Louise Hay, written in the 1980's, called You Can Heal Your Life. It's about the emotional connections to disease in our bodies. According to Hay, our negative thoughts literally lead to our pain and suffering. Back pain is rooted in not feeling supported and carrying the burdens of life, Headaches are self-criticism and invalidation of self. Cancer is caused by deep secret grief eating away at the self. She wrote it at a time when there wasn't much science to support her ideas, and it was really to be taken more as a way to become generally more aware of how our physical bodies respond to emotional wounds. While it was embraced in certain New Age circles, it was considered junk by most professionals. That is, until science caught up to many of the same conclusions. She doesn't have it all right, but there is some old-school wisdom in not letting your thoughts eat away at you. While I don't agree with everything Hay writes, she was on …

Permission

For people who have lived under the thumb of an abusive or overbearing person, it is difficult to feel free to be who you are. I am in a long, slow process to lay down the burden of expectations that others have put on me, or that I put on myself as a result of coping with abuse. It feels like a revelation to be "allowed" to do something that was previously forbidden. I am being more intentional about giving myself permission to be who I am, feel what I feel, and say what I want to say. Here's a list of a few things I give myself permission for today:

1. You have permission to say no.
2. You have permission to say HELL NO. 
3. You have permission to feel all your feelings, especially the unpleasant ones.
4. You have permission to feel the pleasant ones, too.
5. You have permission to rest.
6. You have permission to play.
7. You have permission to turn off your brain and binge watch TV.
8. You have permission to kick some metaphorical ass.
9. You have permission to kic…

It's OK to Not Be OK

I wear a lot of hats, as most women do. Most of my life has been spent being too busy to deal with a lot of the things that now lie naked on the examination table. But right now, I am being intentional about making the time to look at the true impact of abuse in my life.

I've spent most of my time pretending, either to myself or to others, that I'm OK. To not feel OK seemed, I don't know, out of control. It's much easier to go through life thinking I was over it or that the past didn't have much effect on me. Except, of course, that that kind of thinking wound me up into a hypervigilant, performance-driven, insecure, always-looking-over-my-shoulder, mass of nerves.

So now I am giving myself permission to not be OK. For me, that means I am going to allow myself to cry if I feel like crying and let out my rage when I am pissed off. For others, it means they get to see a side of me that is more vulnerable. I am going share my feelings more. I am going to apologize f…

Emotional Toddlers

People who have experienced trauma often get stuck at the emotional age the trauma occurred if they have not dealt with it. It's why people who have been abused become abusers themselves. It's also  why someone who is in denial about their own abuse becomes irrational and defensive. People who have some disproportionate reaction to stimuli are emotionally stunted.

My father had the emotional intelligence of a young child. His impulsive, tantrum-like behavior was almost exactly what you'd expect from a toddler, not a grown man. In his teens, he started drinking. He made a comment to me once when he stopped drinking that he felt like a teenager. He meant it as a compliment to himself, but as he was in his fifties at the time, I did not see it the same way.  In many ways, he remained the broken child throughout the rest of his life, wholly self-centered and wholly unable to see the point of view of another. He was obsessed with revenge on anyone who crossed him. I don't…

Gaslighting

Lots of people are legitimately confused right now. We live in a world where the people warning us about "fake news" are the ones fabricating the lies. "Alternative facts" are spun daily to reinforce these lies. And while there are plenty of smart, fair, balanced reporters pointing this out, the narrative has been spun so far out of control that anyone who challenges these lies is made to look like the enemy. The most horrible part about all of it is that a lot of people actually believe this narrative, even when there is zero real evidence to support it. This is gaslighting.

Gaslighting makes people doubt their own perception of what's going on. Masters of gaslighting know just how to take hold of fears and spin them into someone's worst nightmare. Gaslighters manipulate so that victims have to rely on them, and them alone, to get their information. They are always one step ahead, because they know they lied, and they are already twisting information arou…

It's not the Politics, It's the Behavior

Don't you hate it when you're trying to recover from narcissistic and emotional abuse, and then your country elects the Mother of all Narcissists into office?  Don't you hate it when your government mirrors the same gaslighting tactics of your abusers? Don't you hate it when all the people who have been brainwashed from twenty years of FOX News blaring in their living rooms no longer have the critical thinking skills to see they are being duped? Don't you hate it when people you know who once believed in "values" start making excuses for the bad behavior of the person their party chose, even though he is the antithesis of said values?

Yeah, me too.

When you've already lived through the wrath and destruction of a narcissist, it is really, really hard to watch millions of people fall for one. I am watching a slow motion train wreck and so many loved ones are on that train. Sometimes I have to look away for the sake of my own mental health. But I also …

Hate Couch, Part Two

You guys, I found my hate couch. It's the perfect dusty, moldy tweed. A little muted, and still not quite as hideous as the original inspiration, but it'll do, pig. It'll do.

I had been watching it on Craigslist. They wanted forty dollars for the damn thing. Then they marked it down to twenty. I got it for free, because, really.  Ironically, the ad said, "Love the 70's? You'll love this couch!"  If they only knew that "loving" this couch was not my intention. I had loaded it up and was just about to sneak away when the lady came out and asked me what I wanted with a 70's couch. Perhaps there was just a little too much twinkle in my eye. I managed a non-committal response and peeled out of her cul-de-sac, fast.

Bonus: I picked it up in a suburb that looked like the neighborhood where I grew up. Even more bonus: the name of the street was shockingly similar to the name of the street I lived on. In fact, it was exactly a mash up of the street…

Spiritual Abuse: The Wolves Among Sheep

This is an enormous topic to address in one sit-down, but here is the first stab at something which I hope to devote more time to in the future. I have an eclectic spiritual history. I had started writing a memoir about my spiritual journey when I realized I needed to delve deeper into the effects of abuse in my childhood. At the core of  every event in my life is understanding the mind of an abused child. It is so central to who I am, and the thoughts and beliefs that shaped my choices and decisions. For me, spiritual growth goes hand in hand with emotional and psychological growth. Over the years, and in many different formats, I've also seen a lot of spiritual abuse. People who abuse emotionally, physically, sexually, and financially, are the same people who abuse spiritually.

Here is my brief spiritual resume. My mother was raised Catholic and my father was raised Protestant. Both of them left their faiths before they had me and my brother, but distorted fragments of their r…

Just One Person

Because I was a good girl, I helped my parents cover their tracks. They were covert. They knew what to do and to say to look like normal people in front of others. I mostly played along with the image they projected out to the public, not because I agreed with it, but because it was the only way to get through it. The physical, emotional, and sexual abuse had become "normal," and I had become so conditioned to cope with it. There wasn't any kind of big, After School Special-type moment to reveal it to anyone. What would I say? My parents are mean? The only thing that seemed to get anyone's attention in the 1980's were bruises, and even then, things like that could be explained away. All of my prior attempts to communicate it to others were shot down, and no one (by design) was close enough to my parents to really see it. Sure, some people clued in to the fact that my parents were "weird," mostly due to their metaphysical beliefs, which I haven't ev…

To My Abusive Mother on Mother's Day

Dear Mom,

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry that you are estranged from your children. I'm sorry that you drove them away after years of blaming them for your own problems. I'm sorry that you only saw them as a extension of yourself, something to mold into your fragile self-image. You missed out on so much. They were strangers to you even when they lived under the same roof. How sad for you that you never got to know who they were. I'm sorry that you felt it was more important to enable an abusive father over protecting your own children. I'm sorry that you chose dysfunction and denial over integrity and truth.

I'm sorry that you are estranged from your grandchildren. They are beautiful, shining little people full of heart and spunk. They are deeply loved. They are seen, heard, and protected. They are allowed to say no and to express how they feel. Because of your example, they are being raised to respect their bodies, hearts, and minds. Because of your example, they…

Hate Couch, Part One

In therapy, I am finally getting to a place where my anger is surfacing. For me, anger is the least "safe" emotion. I was punished for expressing it in any form, so I repressed it. On top of that, my father was a rage-a-holic. His anger was so scary, and his behavior so unpredictable, I lived in constant fear. Anger on our part wasn't allowed because his took up all the air in the room. I spent many years trying to "let go," aka repress my feelings. I am finally getting to a place where I feel safe enough to acknowledge my own anger, and man, I am pissed.

My therapist suggested I find some way to let out my anger, such as taking a kickboxing class or going to a thrift store and buying some dishes to break. That's when I thought of hate couch. Growing up, we had the world's ugliest couch in our family room. It was a brown tweed abomination that had to be the most hideous thing in the store in its day. I hated it with a passion. Naturally, my parents own…

Letting Go of Toxic People

Because I had been raised by abusers, I used to think that I could handle difficult people. I see the traps long before most people do, and I thought seeing them meant I could manage to avoid them. But I learned in the hardest way possible that I am not immune to abusive people in my present. I can manage abusive behavior, but it takes its toll on my mental, emotional, and physical health. For me, being around an abusive person, even if I am not the one being targeted, triggers all my past trauma.  It literally feels like poison in my body. When it comes to narcissism and other incurable personality disorders, the only solution is to get far away.
Toxic people see an opportunity in me to be their codependent. You see, I have empathy. I am a hard worker. I have integrity. I play nice and get along with others. I allow others to have the spotlight. I prefer to let my own actions speak for themselves. I believe in the principles of "yes, and." I am a peacemaker. I don'…

Fear of Retaliation

As I reveal yet another aspect of abuse that I previously kept hidden, my mind and body take a while to recover. Last week, publishing a few details about sexual abuse for the first time, I was in my kitchen making breakfast when I suddenly burst into tears. My whole body shook. The information is not new to me, but it would be new to some others. Most of the people who read my blog don't know me, but when I think of the ones who do, I re-experience the trauma through their eyes.

It hurts to reveal something that had been previously pushed aside. When all of the emotion that had been previously denied is now allowed to come to surface to be felt, it can be overwhelming. I think this is why so many people choose to live in denial of abuse for so long. On some level they know how much it will hurt them to acknowledge the depth of those feelings.

Another reason people choose not to disclose abuse is a fear of retaliation. For many, retaliation is legitimate concern, and it is not li…

Mixed Feelings

One of the most difficult aspects of facing the full impact of child abuse is the conflicting feelings that go along with it. The parent-child connection is hard wired into us, so when the people who literally gave us life become the ones we have to protect ourselves from, it's mentally and emotionally exhausting work. I think this is why people remain in denial about child abuse. Every cell in our bodies want a positive emotional bond with our biological parents, so it becomes extremely difficult to admit the betrayal. Sometimes it's just too much to think that yes, actually, they did mean to hurt you.

Most challenging of all is that I still love my parents. It doesn't make what they did excusable or right. Not only is it deeply painful to admit what they did, but also that they were incapable of loving me back. It's a hard line to tow, to choose to love them and release them at the same time.

I am continuing to work with the ways I shielded myself from the betrayal…

When it Started

I have a strong memory. I always have. I remember going to Disneyland when I was two years old. It was December. We were sitting  in the parking lot, in our RV, eating breakfast and looking toward the park as the sun came up. I was anticipating the rides, and whether they would be scary. At the park, the first ride was the Matterhorn, and when the yeti jumped out at me, I was terrified. Later, we rode the Pirates of the Caribbean, where my dad told me the pirates were real. The idea that those drunken pirates could jump down and grab me at any moment was scarier than the Matterhorn. I remember my dad laughing while I panicked. I also remember thinking that I should be grateful for the trip, so I was. It was one of the only memories I have from my childhood where we did something kid-related. In my family, every activity revolved around my dad's interests and hobbies. Even though some scary things happened that day, I filed the memories under "good." It was only later th…

When Pets are More Loving Than People

I'm a cat person, and for me, my devotion to cats is directly linked to the abuse I endured as a child. When I was growing up, my cats were the only consistent source of companionship.

Growing up in an abusive environment that where I left left essentially to raise myself, my cats were always there to comfort me. I was often attacked and then left to cry in my room while my dad continued to rage outside my door. When the yelling stopped and all was quiet, I waited in the darkness, trying to stave off the loneliness that consumed me. My cat Athena somehow always knew when I was upset or lonely. She came to me, and curled up against me, purring away. It occurred to me that this animal had more compassion than my own parents. She calmed me down and connected me to feelings of safety and affection.

I spent a lot of time alone in my room growing up, feeling abandoned and hurting from the constant verbal attacks. My mother would occasionally come in after one of my dad's rages, b…

Non-Supporters

Since making my abuse known to the public, I have received a wide range of responses, from dead silence from close friends to private and public encouragement from acquaintances and unknown fellow survivors. I expected the range, and I was curious to see who would choose to step up and who would choose to slink away.

There are two kinds of people who do not support victims of abuse. The first are abusers. These people must keep their own mask on at all times and make sure everyone thinks it's the victim's fault. These are deranged people who need help. It's imperative that they are to be avoided, especially during recovery. But sadly, abusers are everywhere.

The second kind who do not support victims of abuse are those who are victims themselves. These people are in denial about the impact of abuse in their own lives, and when someone speaks up about it, their immediate impulse is to shrink, push it away, belittle, cover up, or make general platitudes about it. They must…

When is it Abuse?

We have all, at times, completely lost our mellow in the face of conflict. We've all said things we shouldn't have said, or done things we shouldn't have done. We've all hurt the ones we love. It's human. So what's the difference between that and abuse?

There are a lot of ways to classify abuse. One red flag is intent. I grew up with narcissistic people who wanted to punish me for any behavior that indicated I wasn't fawning over them. I was punished for tiny, bizarre things, like not answering a question at the dinner table fast enough because I had food in my mouth. The difference between an abuser and a normal person is that they want to hurt you. They look for ways to hurt you. They do not apologize for hurting you, and if they do, it's a manipulation tactic in order to hurt you again. An abuser lacks true remorse, and is unmotivated to change. An abuser will say, "I didn't mean to," but unless there is actual evidence over time of re…

Teaching an Old Brain New Thoughts

How the mind works fascinates me. I'm not a scientist, but I've studied quite a bit about it over the years. There are some fascinating new discoveries (that support ancient truths) about the way the brain stores information and how our physical and emotional health are all connected.

Part of my process as I sort through my thoughts and feelings on abuse, is to re-examine all my core beliefs and attitudes that brought me to this point. EMDR therapy is instrumental for me in uncovering and repairing these thoughts. EMDR stands for  Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing,and it is a process in which the patient recalls a traumatic event and the negative belief about oneself that goes with it. It uses bilateral stimulation, which can be a sound, physical sensation, or a movement the eye follows back forth to ignite both sides of the brain. The process includes a form of exposure therapy to conjure up old traumas and then through the bilateral stimulation, reprogram the ne…