How does it Start?

bridge clouds cloudy dark clouds

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Ask any survivor of any kind of abuse and this question circles in their minds.  Most abuse that people think about jumps immediately to the physical side against women.  The sad truth is that abuse takes many forms and degrees of severity.  The abuse hardest to combat is mental with verbal abuse tying it for first place.

If you ran your own survey of people on the street and asked, “What is the most important part of a relationship?” and I bet the majority would gravitate to a response in the vicinity of compromise wrapped up with a good dose of understanding.  This seems like a reasonable response, even encouraged.  Everyone knows that each person possesses their own beliefs developed from their own experiences.  I feel that most people would at the very least respond in thought with, “duh”.

What happens when person B in a relationship with person A does not agree with person A’s beliefs?

Anyone with children, who has watched people with children or watched a movie or TV show with children have a passing understanding of what someone testing their boundaries looks and sounds like.  It’s the child in the checkout line asking the same question over and over again about getting a candy bar, hoping like heck that if they ask you just 101 times, you will say no only 100 times.  It’s the screaming child in the cart because their parent just couldn’t hold the smallest child anymore and push the special racing grocery cart with the two oldest children pretending to drive like bats out of hell.  It’s the eighteen month old stopping in their tracks, throwing their head back, letting their little body go completely limp so they drop to the ground and begin to wail for the entire store to hear (and no, I am not joking about that).

The parent now has multiple reactions racing through their mind but editing for your time and my need for sleep, we will limit the reactions to two.  The first is sticking to your guns, holding your ground on whatever the issue is such as not having a third waffle in less than 2 hours or giving in to the child’s demand to get them to quiet down so you all can move on to the next task and live to fight later that day.

Sometimes, as the parent or adult in the situation, you fight the good fight and stick to your guns.  Other times you decide to cave in because of any number of reasons (no judgement, been there done that, will probably do it again).  Caving in means that you allow the child to think if they act that way all the time they will always get what they want.  Abusers act in the same way.  They test their partner’s boundaries by what they say and gauging their partner’s reaction.  Too much fight to a comment and they find another way to abuse in the hopes of getting past their victim’s boundaries.  The abuser’s testing can take a long time as they establish their pattern of abuse to get the most abuse for the least effort.

Now, imagine person B pouring out their heart and soul to person A.  They share their thoughts and dreams and frustrations and everything in between thinking that the more they share of themselves, the more likely person A will see how person B feels and be willing to compromise or empathize on an issue.

Toxic relationships do not work this way and never will.  Person A will never compromise.  They will put on a good show and do any number of things in response to person B’s sharing.  They will deflect, project, gaslight, isolate, demean, name call or even go silent.  Either way, person A is left trying to figure out what went wrong, how better to explain their thoughts and feelings so person A understands because all person B can think is that if they explain it just a bit better it will get through to the person who claims to love them and support them.

Unfortunately, this is just a small piece of mental abuse and why it is tied so closely to verbal.  It is also the hardest to pinpoint.  As a survivor of a narcissistic abusive 11 year relationship, the verbal and mental creeps up on you without warning many times.  It creeps in because the abusive partner issues the abuse but then turns around and acts like it didn’t happen or treats you as if you are the most important person in their life.  When you don’t stick to your guns and hold them accountable, they find that important chink in your boundary.  The next abuse hits that very spot.  It sounds or looks different than last time and maybe it is couched in concern for you but it is abuse all the same. Confused and unsure, you think that maybe they really do care and you just need to change how you are acting or need to communicate better to your partner.  The next wave of abuse hits.  Your self doubt increases.  The abuser continues to use the best verbal and mental tactic they find against you with increasing frequency.

You read up on abuse and at first think, none of those signs of abuse exist for you.  You think you understand why the abuser says what they say and see the validity in their beliefs.  The cycle of abuse, then doubt, then denial continues until as the victim you are left with no confidence in even day to day decisions like what you are wearing or the sequence with which you get things done at the most basic level like brushing your teeth and showering.  Your world becomes myopic without you knowing it.

How does it start?  Who can truly say because for every abuse survivor, their story is unique unto their experience but every survival story starts at the same point.  Your survival story probably starts a lot like mine, “I left on _____” and you can provide the exact date of the day you left.

The choice to leave an abusive relationship / environment is not the start of your survival story.  That began long ago with the start of the abuse.  Each time you got up or kept on going during or after an abusive episode is part of your survival story. Never forget that.

Today’s Challenge: Trust your gut.  Remember who you are and where you came from so that you can move forward to your future.

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Sleep & Divorce

 

alone bed bedroom blur
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Sleep is that elusive thing that that no one discriminates against.  Without counting, I can only guess at the millions of studies conducted about sleep, it’s effects on people, about lack of sleep, etc.

Needless to say that anyone in a stressful situation loses sleep.  Everyone knows that as a parent, sleeplessness seems almost like a rite of passage.  For anyone living, anxiety, relationships, environment, pretty much everything that makes up your day and life can lead to lack of sleep or provide a basis for good sleep.

Either way, may the force be with all of us in pursuit of this elusive creature because as we all know, sometimes even when we do get sleep, our physical body is revived but mentally we are still exhausted from all the things running rampantly in circles in our minds.

Today’s Challenge:  In the words of my retreat team from 9 years ago, Let Go and Let God.

Settlements & Sentiments

 

Image result for settlement

I wish the ideas running in my head revolved around settlers of long ago who were establishing homes and just trying to survive.  My battle right now is along the same lines though with a modern twist.  I am trying to separate myself and boys from an unhealthy home situation and establish a new home for ourselves.  We are blessed with an abundance of family support but I am still working through the frustrations of not having a true household to call my own and I know my boys sense this frustration in me as well.  In essence, we still are simply trying to survive but the terms and conditions of this survival look a bit different but we are still better off than we were 8+ months ago.

I am reminded by my best friend of something vitally important that I am currently lacking:

Prayer & Patience

 

Today’s Challenge: Sit myself down, be still, pray about the problems, dump them on God’s lap and then try to step back and be patient.

Where to Start?

Image result for mazes

I miss the daily posting words.  I miss randomly selecting posts to read that catch my eye or interest.  I miss the daily word as the push for me to write something.  To take a word and turn it into a thought, feeling or experience.

Now it seems it is time for me to buckle down and figure out just what I am going to write about as I am left to my own devices.

Even as I type this, it feels like I returned to an old friend.  One who listens, doesn’t judge, does not rush me and allows me to ramble at will with the hope of getting something coherent on the page that is not one long sentence.  The geek in me thinks though that one long sentence for a whole blog sounds really cool and an amazing challenge.

Either way, let the fun and games begin.

Churning, Turning, Swirling

The definition of Churn fits my mood & situation quite perfectly in this moment.  For those with any kind of experience dealing or operating within the legal system, with each motion, communication to your lawyer or anticipation of communication to opposing counsel the liquid in your stomach becomes agitated and no matter how much peppermint you ingest, there simply is no cure.

In the meantime, all the possibilities and ramifications of each choice and stop churn about in your mind and all you can think is that a dark quiet space with  no technology is really the best option for the moment or next many moments.  In spite of all the deep breathing exercises and self care moments you take or do, there never seems to be a way to settle what is churning around in your mind and heart because as an abuse survivor, especially in situations of prolonged exposure, you continually fight the battle of trying to figure out if what you are feeling is your feelings or what your abuser trained you to think.

Today’s Challenge:  Take just 5 minutes to BE STILL.  5 minutes doesn’t seem to terribly long but when you have been physically, emotionally and mentally agitating/churning, that 5 minutes can seem like FOREVER!  Try it though, I dare you.

Patience and It’s Fine Lines…

Patience

The first thought that popped into my head was that there are all types of patience and then that there is a fine line between patience and procrastination.

Let me explain…

  1. Patience & the Legal System:  For anyone who participates in the legal system for any reason (because I am sure what I am experiencing is not specific to divorce), will understand that this is prime time for a person’s level of patience to be tested.  The fastest part of my divorce to date is the day I walked out of the house and submitted and was awarded an ex parte.  For what ex parte orders involve, these have to move fast.  After that though, things move a lot slower at least for my case.  I know it is in part because of the protection piece of the order put in place while everything for the divorce gets ironed out but, HOLY SMOKES people!!!  Should you ever have to work within the legal system for a divorce, especially one involving mental, verbal, emotional abuse and marital rape, be prepared for a Marathon because that is what it is.  Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
  2. Patience & Your Abuser:  During the 1 year of dating/engagement and the 11 years of marriage, many times I excused behavior with the following thoughts/theories/etc: “I love him and this is just how he thinks”; “He feels this way about family because of having to move while his parents were in the Marines”; “His group of friends when he was young made fun of him for an injury and that’s why he feels the way he does”; “He just wants to keep me safe”; “He’s just looking out for me and the boys”; “This is part of marriage and working together”; “He knows best”; “Let him decide since he works in an office while I am home with the boys during the day”.  The list could keep going.  The point being that after rationalizing his behavior for so long and listening to him put me down in very subtle and controlling ways, I realize now during recovery, I extended all levels of patience, grace and mercy to a man who did not love me for me.  Ever.
  3. Patience & Relationships:  I realize now just how patient my immediate family as well as extended family was during the time of my marriage and now during the process of divorce and recovery.  My support network is large and not one of them have judged or criticized how I handled the past and the present.  I remember my paternal Grandmother and the abuse she was subjected to and her lack of support due to the isolation she was subjected to as well as the hands off, don’t ask, the wife belongs with the husband don’t interfere culture of the time.  For that, I know that I will never truly understand how she not only survived with non existent support but limited financial resources and six children.  To you Grandma, I extend all my love and overwhelming need to try to live up to the loving example you set for my dad and all his sisters and brothers.
  4. Patience & the Mind:  For any survivor of a traumatic incident, you know just how delicate this balance in your mind plays out.  Mental recovery is not like physical recovery.  I remember from reading in a book that with a physical injury, there are set steps someone can take to get better.  There is a well documented process from the time of the injury to full recovery and maintaining that health post recovery.  This process works for everyone.  If you follow the steps and are patient with yourself, then you will get there.  Recovery of the mind does not work quite the same.  For person A, they can follow steps 1, 2, 3 in order to reach the end but for person B, maybe they have to do 3, 4, 1 to recover and even then the recovery is not guaranteed.  With surviving a traumatic incident, there is any number of little or big triggers that could change your mood in a second.  And yes, it happens just that fast.
  5. Patience & Offspring:  I think that pretty much covers what I could say.
  6. Patience & Yourself:  For me, I struggle with this a lot.  Because some days I do well and other days, I feel like I am swimming up stream.  Other days, I feel like I am using being patient with myself as a crutch to take a break from getting things done not just for my boys or myself but to help me reach who I want to be and what I want to accomplish for myself and my boys.

With all that being said, Patience is one of those words bandied about quite readily by just about everyone.  But for each individual, patience looks and means very different things.  Amazingly, patience can create all sorts of fine and not so fine lines in your life.

Today’s Challenge:  I know this may be hard but take a few quiet minutes to ponder just what Patience means to you and what that looks like in your life.  If you can’t seem to find a few minutes to ponder it, than just let the idea roll around in your brain, or draw a picture, or write about it or as I like to do a lot these days with my 3 boys, make up a song about it.

 

Wrinkles, Wrinkles Everywhere

Wrinkles, Wrinkles Everywhere

Wrinkles in my hair

From here to there

From there to here

Wrinkles are everywhere

Thank you to Dr. Seuss for everlasting inspiration especially since I am adult and because I am so very tired of adulting.

Wrinkles are those pesky things that not only show up on your body but make appearances in every aspect of your life.  From parenting, to work, to self-care, to recovering from abuse of any kind to simply trying to function from one day to the next.

It is especially evident in any kind of divorce proceeding especially when your ability to co-parent is hindered by your child’s other parent and their need for control, always being right and their belief they have done nothing wrong and that everything that went wrong is your fault but when you express this idea, you are being melodramatic and the phrase, “Do you want a little cheese with your wine?” comes from the other’s mouth (or some version of that).

Then while the wrinkles of the legal system involving divorce with children make themselves apparent, the survivor deals with the wrinkles of recovery.  That not every day is great but all you can measure it by is that may today, you had no panic attacks or that you were able to shut the abuser’s voice in your head down or at least recognize it for what it is and what it is not.

Eliminating the abuser from your life regardless of how long you were involved with them takes time and patience and forgiveness towards and for yourself more than anything.

Sometimes, you hear something, it may be the first time or the hundredth time but for whatever reason, in that moment when you hear it, it takes root and truly hits home.

That happened for me this past Monday when a fellow survivor told me:

“The best thing about right now is that you can reinvent yourself and be anything you want.”

I did not just understand this in my head as understanding what each of those words means.  I understood it in my heart and with my gut.  Now I am pulling out of my 6 week funk and have a sense of urgency and emergency to move forward with something positive for me.

Today’s Challenge:  It’s easy to say and hard to do but:

Be Patient with Yourself.  You deserve it.