Sometimes you have to look back, just to see how far you have come.

New Birth; I have come a long way   .00000

A Slow Death; 2009

            I don’t want to fight. I reign in my thoughts, like a turtle withdraws his head to fend off attack, carefully tucking in my pride. My words will not be right anyhow, I just want to crawl into bed and sleep so I can forget.

But he persists relentlessly and my silence infuriates him more than my words. I have played this game for years and never won. But here I am again. Stomach clenching, mind frantic, I am rendered helpless as he blocks my attempt to escape and locks the door.

Cornered, I scream vile obscenities, spewing anger. “Hit me, hit me, you crazy fucking bitch” his furious, baiting words come at me. Clenching my fists, I start a tug of war in my mind. If I hit him, he will kill me; if I do not, I die a slower death of submission.

Quickly, I escalate into a caged, wild animal desperate for escape; my bedroom serves as my cage, my husband, the captor.

I tightly squeeze my eyes shut and try to will it away. I open them and charge to the door but he follows my every move and I feel his hot breath on my face.

I am powerless.

My heart pounding, fear crawls up my spine. Hate fills every pore of my body.

I hate myself, maybe more than I hate him.

I am worthless.

Sobbing and pleading for mercy, I receive none. “I told you that you are crazy!” he screams at me. Defeated by these words, I think he is right, again.

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Too Sensitive? Too_______? Fill in the blank.

I was accused of being “too chipper” when asked how my day was yesterday, which made me laugh at first, but then I paused and considered why someone would take issue with me being joyful? I reflected on the first half of my life; my dysfunctional childhood and marriage where criticism ran rampant and I was always “too sensitive,” “too loud,” “too this,” or “too that.” For too long, I internalized other peoples’ condemnations which had me convinced I was inadequate and somehow flawed. The point of this disclosure is to share what I know to be true; feelings and reactions are genuine, learned through exposure to a highly critical environment, and we should not allow others to discount them. Even the good ones. I am chipper, most of the time. And I claim it.

With that said, we should also consider the person who is being critical. Often, critical individuals struggle with their own inadequacies and choose to try and make themselves feel better by criticizing others. In other words, outwardly manifesting their own feelings of unworthiness.

Who in your life lifts you up? Who is often critical? There are so many loving and supportive people in the world, surround yourself with them.

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The Silence is Deafening

I have been struggling with a class conversation on domestic violence and whether to speak up when you see someone being victimized. My frustration comes from many places. Beginning on a personal level, I was in a domestic violence relationship for many years and one of the (many) reasons I stayed was feeling like I had no support because no one seemed to notice the way my husband undercut my thoughts and feelings by the way he spoke to me, or about me to others, or that I was often upset and stressed. At the time, I didn’t know how to reach out, or how it would be received if I did? After all, my (then) husband was often the fun, life of the party guy. My family seemed to love him and seemed to look past his harshness toward me, but then again he also treated me like a princess at times. Of course, my family has its own dysfunctional system in place. Did no one ever question why I was forced to take car rides and then came back puffy eyed and broken? I remember feeling hopeless when no one seemed to notice, and that hopelessness kept me isolated and questioning my own sanity. I was slowing drowning and didn’t know how to swim. Basically, I was in a frantic doggie paddle trying to stay afloat and still try to be a good mom. Would I have listened if someone spoke up and said “you deserve to be treated better” or better yet to my husband “your treatment is unacceptable?” I don’t know. But what I do know is a seed can be planted when someone steps up and speaks out. I can close my eyes and clearly remember a scenario in which a stranger spoke up on my, and my children’s behalf. It was at a gas station and my (then) husband was screaming at the attendant because of some perceived slight. The children and I were in the van and could see this interaction taking place. My (then) husband came to the van yelling about “how dare this idiot, lowly gas station clerk not give him paper towels” and when I asked my (then) husband to calm down his rage was directed at me. The attendant came over and asked me if the children and I were ok, and explained that he was worried about our safety. I, of course, said we would be fine but was, as always, inwardly not so certain. Long story short: this man’s simple, but powerful gesture, planted a seed in my head that not everyone thought my (then) husbands behavior was ok. This of course is the very short snippet of a very long battle of coming to terms of my situation. But my issue is, as a social worker, I feel it should be my duty to speak out and step in when I see this happening in public. I understand that speaking out can endanger myself and that of the victim, however, the victim is already in danger and has most likely lived through much worse than what is being publicly displayed. I don’t think domestic violence is going to be eradicated until people begin to stand up and declare, “No more! This is unacceptable!” That means within our families and in public. Apathy does nothing to promote change, and as a social worker and as a human being, I demand better and work hard at being an agent for change. I am working to educate myself so that I may interject in a manner that can be effective, but I refuse to remain silent. Silence can be deafening, and is just another way to re-victimize.

An open letter to the victim blamers of the world:

 As much of the world continues to consider domestic violence a woman’s “fault” for being weak and not walking away, I know better. I will fight until my dying breath to change perceptions of domestic violence, it is one of my missions: to educate, to inform, to change perceptions, and to fight for those who cannot.

I am angry. I am angry at the displaced blaming, the sheer ignorance and bias that permeates our society. When did it become a woman (or man’s) fault for the violence perpetrated upon them? How did society turn someone’s violent, controlling, obscene behavior into “why didn’t she leave?” “she should have taken the stairs” “she married him didn’t she” “she must have made him angry” and “he seems so nice.” 

Fuck that. “She” most likely grew up believing love is anger, love is control, love is conforming to make everyone happy, love is manipulation. She most likely believes that she is unworthy: because she is a woman, because she has been told she is crazy (over and over again)…until she believed it, because she has been threatened to have her children taken away, because she is told she couldn’t survive without a man, because she just. does. not. have. any. sense. of. worth.

So before you cast your stone, think beyond your nose. 

Disingenuous at Best, Manipulative at Worst

Being able to recognize the signs of a manipulative person is sometimes difficult. It is important for us to have tools in our repertoire in order to be cognizant of behavior that is  disingenuous and/or manipulative.

Manipulation is often used to coerce a conversation, instead of engaging in one, and can be used to intimidate and control.

Often, we go along thinking the best of folks and second-guess ourselves instead of second-guessing another person’s motive. We all need to be more attentive to our ever-present, and often disregarded intuition. If it just feels yucky or off, it probably is.

I have compiled a short list of signs that might alert us to manipulative behavior. Face it, we all are guilty of manipulation on some level, so we need to keep these in mind to guard against other’s subtle or aggressive manipulation, as well as our own possible conscious or unconscious motives.

These are but a few tactics used, and some of what I have found in my research over the years:

Feigning innocence: Quite often a person who is being manipulative will be adept at pretending they have no idea what you are talking about when confronted with their manipulative behavior: Who me? Be careful not to question your own instincts.

Shame and guilt: “You don’t care enough about me”, “I would never do that to you” or “You are selfish” are a few phrases used to shame or guilt a person. This is also an attempt to deflect the responsibility away from them.

Minimization: When you attempt to explain your feelings, a manipulative person will assert that his/her behavior was “not that bad.” Meaning: you are wrong to feel the way you do.

Victim Blaming: Turning your circumstance, tragedy, etc. into their triumph: “Oh, poor so and so, I hope they manage to get their life back together.” This is an attempt to make themself look compassionate, yet it is a dagger thrown at the victim while simultaneously claiming a self-righteous stance.

Anger and Control: “This is the way it is going to be and there will be no discussion about it!” Slamming of doors, walking out, and yelling are tools used to manipulate and coerce a person into submission.

Remember, you have a right to your feelings so don’t give your strength and power away.

Freedom

Surrendering to dramatized images of failure

Flashing in and out of consciousness

Absurd fears gnaw through my armor of bravado

Quietly slipping inward, my self-inflicted exile

Narration: A weary tool that maims

A radiant light has dimmed, history echoes

 

But I refuse to falter.

 

Or succumb.

 

To the demons that shackled me for so long.

 

I am free.