Strength

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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Consumed

I turned 29 about a week ago. Leading into this birthday, I started focusing on the future, I felt like a switch had been flipped, I needed what has been my life over the last “few” years to change. Then I started counting the years it has actually been, it wasn’t just a few… it has been 9 years, 9 years since I had a nervous breakdown and since that fateful day I have been consumed. Consumed with the horror of what happened, the fear of it happening again, terror of the unknown, panic attacks, and an inability to move forward.

I need this to change. I need positivity, I need hope, faith, strength, endurance, happiness, life. I made a decision on the morning of my birthday to no longer keep focusing on the past, being consumed by it. That has to end, I don’t live there anymore.

I wish I could write about happy things, but what I know, what I have lived, is dark and ugly.

So, final post on the dark truth before I start to shape my writings into something more positive.

I don’t remember my exact age when I was molested, but I was very young, and he had been a trusted family friend who was morbidly obese and could barely move. I never went near him again after the first time he touched me, he did end up going to prison (for touching/raping other girls) and he died there as well.

11, the summer that I stayed with my Grandmother and in those fateful months I lost all of my trust and faith in extended members of family. My cousin accused me of stealing her things, even after proven innocent, I carried the stigma of thief with *most of my extended family. I was a verbal whipping post for my Grandmother and cousin that summer. My sister was taken 75 miles away and I was left alone with them. Slapped every time I objected to being called names, I started to spend all of my time hiding in a room in the attic or outside in my Grandfather’s barn. Years later, I was still the one to blame if something wasn’t where it was supposed to be.

15, when I was raped by someone I met only hours earlier. My best friends and peers shunned me. He threatened to kill me and my entire family if I ever spoke out about it. So I didn’t.

19, when I broke up with a boyfriend who would go on to attack me physically, punching a hole in the wall when I ducked, breaking into the bathroom while I was showering to grab me by the hair and slam my head into the wall, raping me for leaving him.

20, when I moved in with a man who was so emotionally abusive that I would start my day by throwing up from stress, choked me and threw me into furniture when he was drunk and angry, and cheated on me with other men.

20, when I had a nervous breakdown. Which is ultimately what saved my life.

My life today is completely opposite of what happened over these years. My life is amazing, but I am only just starting to heal. That seems to unreal but at 22 I was safe and as each year has progressed I have made healthier choices for my life because I’m learning ….that I’m worth it.

Freshly 29, I see a future and I plan to focus on being the healthiest I can be for it, not on living in my past. Working through what happened instead of letting it consume me.

And removing my makeup every night. After all, it’s time I start behaving like an adult.

I need to get to know you

It’s been a while. I stopped writing because I felt like I was feeding anger instead of moving forward with hope and I needed to get my head straight on that point.

The husband and I moved to a new apartment, it’s newer, spacious, and peaceful. I’ve been running myself ragged the last two weeks for this move and trying to do more than I think my body could undertake. I started having massive panic attacks again this last week and yesterday I couldn’t get my heart to steady after one panic attack in the morning. I spent the whole day trying to breathe but labored with each breath, I could feel my lungs aching from the strain.

Because panic attacks are what they are, I of course think that I must be dying. This sounds like it’s funny, but it isn’t. It’s terrifying. This impending sense of dread and death is a stealthy stalker and when you’re having a panic attack, it can be crippling.

Before we went to bed last night, I told my husband what I was feeling and he did his utmost to comfort me and assuage my fears. As he rubbed my back in this steady motion that he’s learned calms me, I wondered how he knows just what to do.  It was at that moment that I realized how I am literally uncomfortable with myself. I wrote myself a quick email last night detailing all that I am uncomfortable with, like my appearance, my smile, the way I talk, the way I walk… the list was endless.

I went to sleep, trying to relax and breathe, thinking to myself and telling myself “I need to get to know you.” I need to listen to my body and take care of it, not hate it for what happened. I need to look at my face in the mirror and not imagine the bruises that aren’t there anymore. I need to let myself start to feel happy again without guilt. Neither my body or my mind has relaxed in the last seven years and in the last six months I’ve known that this needs to change, I can’t live like this anymore.

I have this recurring dream where I see myself, barely in my 20’s and the shower can’t clean enough off. I’m mute, paralyzed, and scared. There’s a party going on outside the bathroom and I just see the dirt trails going down the drain. Every time I have this dream I feel like fighting. Fighting for life, fighting for myself, fighting for happiness, fighting for this to end. All of it.

I need to get to know myself again.

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

Limitations.

This weekend was pretty rough. I have issues with bulging discs in my neck and when there are flare ups, inflammation, and pinched nerves I get a lot of sensory nerve pain. Everywhere. It wages a strong war against my motivation to go, go, go, and I find myself feeling limited in every way. limitations

If I take a second to really think about it though, it is pain, depression, and fear that make me feel limited. It is the exhaustion from pain that makes me unmotivated and when these go together I have always crumbled. I felt a shift happen today though, I realized that I have been limited, I let myself be limited by the fear and the pain. No more though. Swapping “What do I have to do….” with “What do I get to do.”

You can decide within yourself how circumstances will affect you. Between what happens to you, or the stimulus, and your response to it, is your freedom or power to choose that response. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

One thing I know to be true about myself is that in when hard times strike in life, I rally. Which is really strange considering how much a panic attack devastates me. The difference to me is that when tragedy strikes, or times are hard for people that I care about, I can put the war paint on and push as hard as is needed.

When Aeron abused me I didn’t think ::wow, I should leave him, what an asshole:: I would instead take the worst of what he said to me and about me and I would make a plan to be better, to be what he wanted, to be skinnier, prettier. This was the wrong type of rallying. I was fighting the wrong battle. I should have been fighting for myself.

Aeron was cheating on me, not only was he physically abusive, but the emotional destructiveness he wreaked was overwhelming. Every single time I found emails, chats, photos, and video’s of him cheating, I would try to breathe deeply and suck it up. I would go to the gym the next morning that much harder, I stopped eating, I started throwing up. ::not on purpose, but from the stress:: I stopped paying attention to what my body was telling me and I shut off my heart. I wasn’t even able to cry anymore. I thought I had to keep pushing to be better, that if I became what he wanted he wouldn’t do this. One day though, my body couldn’t take it anymore and I had a nervous breakdown. I fought the wrong battle. I should have been fighting for myself.

It is in the shelter of each other that the people live. – Irish Proverb

Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be. – James Allen

The future is of our own making – and the most striking characteristic of this century is just that development. – Joseph Conrad

What I never saw when I was in a bad relationship was that I was fighting the wrong battle. I haven’t fought for myself until now. My future depends on the decisions that I make today and if the decisions that I make are for someone that treats me badly, even if I win, I lose.

Fight

Unstoppable

This week has been a blur. I’ve had appointments, meetups with family and friends, hardly any time at home, and it has been wonderful. So many changes are going on with me, and my family, that I find myself gazing into the future instead of this constant focus I’ve had on the past. What a relief that is.

Our character, basically, is a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character and produce our effectiveness…. or ineffectiveness. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

My habits over the last seven years have been awful. Wake up in pain, focus on pain, eat breakfast, focus on pain and sadness, do hardly anything, focus on my past, eat dinner, drink wine, sigh deeply and dread tomorrow. The thing is, twice in the last seven years when I’ve worked at a job, my days were pretty great. Having a daily routine and having responsibilities didn’t allow me time to focus so heartily on my pain, sadness, or my past. Both of these jobs offered a respite from the daily onslaught of my bad habits. Unfortunately, by the end of most days, sometimes midway through I was panic-ridden, sweating profusely, slurring my speech, and simply trying to focus through tunnel vision.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been pushing myself to fight, to change my mind in order to change my life and this quote hits the nail on the head. My character, who I’ve been for the last seven years is completely made up of my habits. I stopped being outgoing, I stopped going out, I stopped talking to friends and family, I shut myself down tightly in order to protect what was left of me.

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Comparing and contrasting my habits and my character from before ::and by compare and contrast I don’t mean my little stick figure example:: to what they have been for the last seven years is terribly sad. I lost my innocence, I lost the part of me that was mine to give, and I thought I had to bury the rest of me with it in order to survive, but that isn’t true. It’s a lie that seems to come with being abused, you believe the worst of yourself. You believe that you aren’t worth loving, and that the world is better off without you, but it is a lie. It’s worth the fight to rebuild yourself, and make yourself stronger. My next brick is simple, I’ll admit my innocence was stolen from me, okay, fine. As I no longer have that, I’ll rebuild where it used to be with strength and grit

It is satisfying knowing that for a brief point in time you made a difference. – Irene Natividad

 

Dreams are renewable. No matter what your age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within you and new beauty waiting to be born. – Dr. Dale E. Turner

New beauty waiting to be born, I love that. I think of my sister when I read this. She is in a place where the man she’s married to has stomped out the light, torn down the dreams, and filled her ears with negativity, judgement, and ridicule of her, and our family. I wish I could have a conversation with her where I say….  “hey love, your dreams, they are still there, they are still huge, and you can still chase them down, but not while he is crushing your spirit.”

She is an absolute beauty, but she has withered under negativity, I can see the pain of emotional hurt etched in her face. I’ve been there, I was in a relationship so similar and she was the one who rescued me from it, why is it, that I haven’t been able to rescue her?

When I left the last bad relationship my mom or maybe my dad said to me “ditch the zero and get a hero.” Same to you my twin.

The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. – Goetbe

I’m moving towards strength, rebuilding, and I’m scared,  but I’m not terrified of failure like I used to be. If I fail today, I try again tomorrow. If I fail tomorrow, I try again the next day. Success doesn’t happen without failure, consider how many IOS updates we get over the year. Kidding, but since I’m on that analogy I’ll just stick with it, my life is an iPhone: the upgrades make me better each time.

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Motivation

It’s a Thursday, it’s Halloween, and it’s 2013. I’ve done hardly anything this entire week because I haven’t felt motivated. I can feel my slump turning slowly back into depression and it’s time that all of this changed. It’s been seven years since my panic began and for the first time I feel confident in taking charge of my life. I will fight this.

I need daily motivation, I know this. So I’m going to make it public. I can’t sit back if I tell everyone I’m going to do something. So here it is. I’m going to do this.  Day 1.

If we want to change a situation, we first have to change ourselves. And to change ourselves effectively, we first have to change our perceptions.  – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

My perception of almost everything has been bleak for the last seven years. I thought the worst of every situation, person, and dreaded interacting because they would see all of my past, my shame, my hurt. So how do I view today with a different perception? My short list for the day is that I need to do the dishes, I need to drag some things out of storage, and I need to take my mom on a drive to pick up a vehicle. None of this sounds exciting and ordinarily I would put off all of it except for the necessary, because the couch is calling and my pain level is at an 8. However, new leaf.  I will put music on while I do the dishes. I will get myself dressed and ready for the day instead of dreading leaving my apartment for storage and the drive. I get to spend time with my mom this afternoon, as well as my sister and her beautiful babies. I need to remember that every moment I get to spend with my family and friends is valuable. When we lost my dad a year ago I promised myself that I would never take the people I love for granted again, our time together is too short to be spent dreaded, put off, or unhappily.

If you can dream it, you can do it. – Walt Disney

Every candle lit; every home, bridge, cathedral or city ever built; every act of human kindness, discovery, daring, artistry or advancement started first in someone’s imagination, and then worked its way out. You have that power – use it. – To Your Success

I haven’t thought that I have the ability to do anything good in the last seven years. I’ve only thought negatively of myself and what I’ve accomplished. I’ve been wrong, even if it is simply human kindness today, I can do that. I’m an artist, I should be creating. We all have an ability to make more out of our lives… but depression, panic disorders, and PTSD, suck that belief and strength right out of us. Fight back. Today, I’ll fight back, human kindness I can do and maybe I’ll even crack a try at a little Instagram creativity.

Some people make the world more special just by being in it. – Kelly Ann Rothaus (The good life, celebrating the joy of living fully)

My dad was one of those people. My mom is as well. They have this innate ability to simply be wonderful. My dad took enjoyment from anything and everything, no matter how hard the day was – he was happy at the end of it. I remember how a picnic would light up his eyes, he would be spreading all of the food on the table, laughing at jokes, punning, and watching his wife and children simply be, and you could tell that he had utter contentment. I crave that joy. It hurts how badly I want to be happy again, but I have been so lost for so long that it has felt impossible to me. As I think about my dad and mom and their upbeat attitudes in the face of all things strife and contentious, I can’t help but think that the tug I feel in my heart is a shred of hope. I want to be happy, I want to enjoy my life again, that has to count for something. I gave up on it a long time ago, but today, I will embrace that tug on my heart as hope.