Life

Repercussions of my ugly reality

I smoked my first cigarette when I was 15.

I had this friend, her parents smoked and she would sneak a few away and hide what became a habit for her, and as it would turn out, for me as well.

When I was fifteen, I went to this high school football game to see the guy I was starting to date, it was a small town in the deep recesses of Georgia and high school football was where everyone gathered on a Friday night.

The popular kids, who were my friends from church, invited me up to their section in the stands. My smoker friend was excited for this, getting an invitation was the first step, so I went.

In the stands on that football field, the guy I was dating, and the girls I was friends with from church seemed thrilled to have me with them, I had this warmth in my heart that I was being accepted, when only moments before I had been scared that the guy I was seeing wouldn’t want to see me since I had confessed to him that I had been raped, but everything seemed so good in those first few moments.

Knowing what I know today, I should have known that they weren’t thrilled, the smile that Lizzy had on her face wasn’t excitement, it was treacherous and manipulative, but I was young and naive. I wasn’t prepared for her to come at me with a full blast of accusatory statements, there was no time for me to get a word out of my mouth. I was embarrassed, humiliated, horrified that everyone knew now and then they all turned their heads away from me. I reached my hand out to touch the arm of the guy I was seeing and he jerked it away, not even looking at me. I burst into tears and he moved past everyone to get away from me.

In shock, I walked down the stairs to leave. I found my smoker friend, she asked me what was wrong but I had already pulled back deep into myself to keep the wounds I felt inside from bleeding any further.

I was broken, she took me to her house, we sat on her bed and she lit a cigarette. I didn’t say anything, I just took it from her, I coughed, choked, but the pain that it caused made me feel better. It took my mind off of the destructive abuse of rape, the searing pain in my lungs momentarily made me forget the humiliation of being shunned by my peers, the high of it – that sharp pain it causes in my brain – filled the void that had been left behind when I felt like I had been stripped and beaten from the inside out.

Today

More than fifteen years have come and gone as a painful blur. I dissociated to save my thoughts from the pain that my body went through, even though the emotions live inside like a black mold eating my body from the inside out. I blocked and blacked out in order to try and survive just one more day.

The healthier the people I surround myself with and the healthier my life gets because of therapy, the more it hurts and the more I hurt myself.

When I would dissociate, I could have an argument and I wouldn’t be present for it, I would go to an inner place in my head while my mouth spewed words that I would later be sorry for. When I am present and I have an argument, the adrenaline spikes and the trigger that it is, causes my face and body to ache in the locations where I have been hit. These areas on my face, my neck, my back, my stomach, my arms, they ache with the hurt of the past.

The monsters of my past haunt me every day and without realizing it, I’ve been helping them.

I felt like I was the worst kind of garbage after years of rape and abuse. I became so broken that deep down I believed I deserved to be treated this way, even though outwardly I was smiling and telling people that I was strong enough to stand.

The repercussion of the physical and psychological monstrosities is that I treat myself like garbage.

I hide from people I love in order to sneak cigarettes because the pain I feel when I smoke fills an ache of pain from my past and I think I deserve that. I drink too much at night in order to make sure that I won’t lie awake in bed terrorized by memories of my past, the headache the next morning … I think I deserve that.

I have stomach issues, lactose intolerance, GERD, and an ulcer, but I don’t stop eating food that is bad for me, because the pain it causes affirms that emotional feeling that I deserve to feel bad.

As it is every day, my vision isn’t clear because I have headaches that build into migraines. My stomach is burning with pain from eating. My neck tension is so severe that when I turn my head I hear cracking noises and pain reverberates, shuddering through my brain.

I panic that every day will be my last because of the amount of stress and pain I feel. I used to think that I was going to die from this pain, suddenly and swiftly.

I think about stopping all of these vices. These vices which have not helped me, but have only monumentally added to the pain I feel. My inner struggle is worry, that without these vices and bad habits – I am afraid I will feel everything. Is the pain from these vices really worse than the ugly reality of what happened?

Is the pain worse than finding out I’m a terrible at keeping a clean house and it isn’t just laziness?

Is the pain and fear worse than tossing and turning for hours, trying to shut out the monsters that haunt me in the dark of night, when the world is silent, but my mind is screaming?

Is it worth the pain and fear of dying sooner in life due to my vices and habits, because they help me dissociate from the agonizing terror of dying at the hands of someone else?

With these vices of mine, I have perpetuated and continued the feeling that I deserve to be in pain and that I deserve to feel bad. As the black tar of cigarettes coats my lungs with every inhale and the bottle of wine half finished is poured into another glass, I tell myself that I will get better, that I will do better, ironically, that is the same thing I used to say when I was being abused.

It is stunningly clear to me today, that the monsters of my past have evolved into new monsters in my present, in the form of things that I can become addicted to.

My addiction is clear for me, I am addicted to not wanting to feel, not wanting to remember, not wanting to look at myself in a mirror and seeing who I have become.

I did not want to acknowledge how I felt about myself, my face, or my body. So I embraced vices and habits that made me numb to everything but the pain that they themselves cause.

I have come to a place in the last few weeks where the vices and habits are making life harder, the purpose they served in the past is missing.

I have nothing to give this world but who I am, if I am numb and my eyes are vacant, I am not living. If I am in pain from a hangover and smoking, giving my body and mind less oxygen than it needs to function, I am only hurting myself.

There is a great quote, unknown to me who said it first, but it goes … I will remember and recover, not forgive and forget.

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I miss the person I once was, I sometimes dream of the person I had hoped to become. This life, with all of the good, the bad, and the ugly, is my reality and I think it is time that I confronted it.

I think it is time I fight for me, for who I want to be, and for what I want out of this life.

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Smile

I used to smile a lot. When I was a child… I’m sure that it was endless. I was a rambunctious little kid with a determinable spirit, in fact, when I was a toddler, my mom walked into the study to find that I had climbed the bookshelves as I smiled and waved to her from the top of the shelf. Either way, I remember smiling, a lot.

I stopped smiling along the way because of rape, abuse, and domestic violence.

Smile

I took this photo at a time where I felt, emotionally, that smiles were perfunctory at best, and I believed this. No one will like you if you don’t.

It isn’t true though, I know that today. I am almost two years past when this photo was taken and I smile now at the most ridiculous things. Sometimes it comes easy, like when I’m with my husband or my mom, they are the most vibrant people I have in my life and they love life, it’s infectious.

I smiled this last week because I am doing something new. I started a job, by choice, not by need. I felt proud and I was excited for what this next step in my future holds for me and I couldn’t help it, I was smiling. Smiling because the office I went to work for obviously had an interior decorator or smiling because the people in the office were so pleasant. Smiling because I will get to see my husband more when he switches out of the current job he is in. Smiling because the air smelled like Seattle rain, coffee, morning traffic, and my awesome Pandora playlist.

I was walking back upstairs to my office today when I came across a man I haven’t met yet, going into his office, he looked about 10 years younger than my father was when he passed away, but from his pose and gentle smile I felt a familiarity, he reminded me of my dad, so I smiled. I smiled because he reminded me of my dad, of love, of happiness, of a man who enjoys life, and who’s enjoyment of life is infectious. The smile was there on me. Then he smiled back.

It was in the next seconds that he turned to me as I passed him and he said – “your smile just made my day.” I looked at him and smiled even larger and thanked him for the compliment … then I passed him, headed towards my office he called out to me “I hope you give that smile to your father every day!” 

It stopped me cold. I didn’t want to say “my father passed away, I miss him more than you can imagine, I wish he could see that smile every day, I wish I could hold him, touch him, hug him, tell him how much I love him…” …… these are things we don’t say in the perfunctory world of passive aggressivo though….. so I turned around and held back my tears as I smiled again and said “I used to.”

I saw the look on his face as he realized that my father was gone, then he said “I hope you will think of him and smile like you just did for me.”

I said that I would, then I walked back to my office and I sat at my desk thinking about how terribly I miss my Dad, but it brought about a new thought for me, why not smile like I would for my Dad? It doesn’t hurt people to see a smile on someone’s face and I think that it is something we are missing in today’s world of duckface and selfie’s.

Practically Single

It’s been wholly uneventful this last week as both the husband and I were sick. So I really have nothing to blather on about.

It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it’s leaning against the wrong wall. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

My husband tells me this all.the.time. I tend to devote my schedule to things that are just busy work instead of devoting time to things that would make me successful as a writer and healthy as a person. I don’t do it intentionally, it’s like housework, there is always something that I could be doing to maintain our house, to keep it clean, clutter-free, but I could, and have, lost days, weeks, and months to that activity and it resulted in not spending time writing, working out, and I was left feeling like I hadn’t gotten any further in life.

This quote also translates to bad relationships, those are very much the wrong wall that the ladder is leaning against. There is no ultimate goal in working your ass off for a bad relationship, but we keep doing it, why? For one thing, if you’re in a relationship with someone that has a destructive personality, is narcissistic, abusive, or is simply not into you – all of what you do to try and make it a success is just a way of not focusing on the truth of the matter.

And the truth of the matter is that the relationship is:

A. Simply a bad relationship.

B. An abusive relationship.

C. A Narcissistic relationship. Which is a one-sided relationship where you meet all of their needs and they meet none of yours.

I call all of the above on my last relationship and definitely on the one my twinsie is in. Where a narcissistic personality is combined with tendencies to be emotionally destructive, you are left feeling like everything is your fault, so you try harder. The truth lies in the fact that when your significant other is consistently indifferent to your needs, and instead focuses on themselves, they neglect you. When they neglect you, what they are absolutely saying is ….

I really don’t care about you and you don’t mean enough to me that I will spend my time on what you want, or what you would like to do.

They also won’t want to spend money on things that you want or like. Birthdays? Mother’s Day? Christmas? The least expensive of gifts, if any, and the least amount of effort on their part. If kids are involved you probably feel like you cannot depend on your significant other, being with the children is a chore for them and you are left holding the bag, carrying the weight, and truthfully, you are what I like to call “practically single.”

I know this well, I went through it myself and I see my twinsie going through it now. With the help of my therapist I learned that even with years and years of therapy that there are just people who will not change to care about you. So strong is their conviction that their needs, their wants, their life is not meant to be shared, but to be focused on themselves and them only. Sure they’ll say they want to change, they will apologize for neglecting you and they seem sincere, but it will happen again, and again, and again. The day that you stop listening to their words and start watching their actions, that is the day that you see the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

Strange isn’t it, each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he? – Clarence the Angel “It’s a wonderful life”

I think that this is true in two opposite ways. The good versus the bad.

1. The good man’s life touches so many other lives positively. Like my Dad, he loved life and the people in it intensely and they loved him back. When he passed away, thanks to Facebook, people from all his journey’s in life, all around the world felt a hole, mourned, and missed him.

2. The bad man’s life touches people so negatively that even after he has walked out the door, left the relationship, or even passed away, the hole that is left is painful, not poignant. The hole that a bad person leaves is like an open wound, jagged around the edges, inflamed, and still bleeding.

The future never just happened. It was created. – Will and Ariel Durant – To Your Success

You cannot take charge of the present if you are busy reliving the setbacks of the past. – Newman & Berkowitz – To Your Success

I struggled with leaving a bad relationship because I was busy focusing on and regretting the decision to be in it in the first place. I was embarrassed to admit that I wanted to leave because I had worked so hard to make it work. If I had not fastened my bootstraps and climbed onto my horse of freedom :it was actually a Chevy Tahoe:: I might still be with someone who would never care about me more than himself, who would continue to cheat on me, neglect me, and abuse me. So forget what bad decisions we’ve made, everyone makes them at some time or another, there shouldn’t be any shame in it, there should be freedom.

Live it

Is it really Tuesday?

I was waiting for the coffee to brew this morning and I thought about when I was in college. I was trying to prove that I wasn’t a screw up to my parents, so I decided to graduate in three years instead of four. Overtime classes that had to be approved by the dean, round-the-clock days involving my classes, homework, and 2-3 jobs, but I did it.

In retrospect, it was a good time for me. I spent what free-time I had with my sister and friends, smoking on the patio with wine coolers, kidding, with beer. It was hard though, I was an art major and wasn’t doing well in my field. Some critiques were so hard that I would leave the building when it was over and sit in my car crying. I stopped being able to eat from the stress, I developed ulcers, and on more than one occasion broke down crying in the cafeteria, on the quad, or in general, where ever I was standing. I was in a mindset though, succeed or fail trying. I wasn’t going to give up and I just kept pushing my limits.

I wish my stories of hard-work, grit, and success were glamorous and sexy but they’re not. In reality, I was a tall, bony, sleep-deprived girl with an art bag bigger than myself and everywhere I walked there was a cloud of cigarette smoke around me. For the last few years, I wanted to reinvent myself as better than what I was even before the traumas, but today I’m comfortable with who I used to be.

To relate effectively with a wife, husband, children, friends, or working associates, we must learn to listen. And this requires emotional strength. Listening involves patience, openness, and the desire to understand – highly developed qualities of character. It’s so much easier to operate from a low emotional level and to give high-level advise.”
– The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I’ve been operating from a low emotional level. I was talking to my twinsie sister yesterday and she mentioned needing to talk to adults to break up some of her day since she is surrounding by her troops of babies. I, on the other hand, spend most of my day alone, without talking to anyone, adults or babies and I used to prefer it that way. We could blame it on the fact that I’m an artist or I could just admit that I preferred running on a low emotional level, but no more.

I’m starting to put myself out there during the day with family, friends, and strangers – not creepy strangers, but Starbucks-barista style strangers. In the last three days, I’ve found it exhilarating to step out of my comfort zone and to be confident with myself because I am legitimate.

I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all. – Laura Ingalls Wilder

I’ve been sitting here for two minutes wondering what the sweet, simple things are in my life and it’s hard to narrow down my list. These aren’t things that have come to be because of anything that I’ve done, it’s all thanks to those that care about me. Like morning coffee with my husband, spending time with my mom, ::added bonus, shopping with her:: seeing my sister and getting to hug her, my nephews laughter, when my nephews raise their arms up to be held, hearing them say “gramma”. One day there was a photo album open and a picture of my Dad in it, my sweet baby nephew points to him and says “papa, papa”. Some of the sweet, simple things right now are just memories of my dad. I worked at a newspaper once and he would stop by during the day and bring me a cup of coffee to shoot the breeze. I can still see him walking back to his truck, cowboy hat on his head and smiling at people as his went. These are the real things in my life and they are beautiful.

Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish” – Michelangelo

When dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly. – Langston Hughes

When you’re through changing, you’re through. – Bruce Barton