Lorelei: Chapter One, Part 2

Lorelei: Chapter One

Lorelei: Chapter One…Continued

 

There were rumors of a witch who lived in the woods near our house. I didn’t think they were true, especially since Elijah was the one who told us. He probably hoped to scare us, that seemed his mission in life. He also claimed the witch ate children, specifically girls. But I needed to find out if a hunger demon actually possessed Nan. I found no answers at church, too many old men with beards and scary stories of hell, damnation, and unworthiness. And every time I asked a question related to hunger demons, their beards shook with laughter and they patted my head, muttering amongst themselves.

After church, still in our Sunday gowns, Lorelei and I snuck into the woods behind our house. It was said the witch’s house changed location every day, to avoid detection. And that it only revealed itself to those with good intentions. Lorelei squeezed my hand. She hated the woods. I squeezed back and said, “We’re doing this for Nan. Just pretend we’re on a knightly quest to win the favor of some fair damsel.”

“But we’re girls,” Lorelei protested.

“Then pretend we live in a world where girls can be knights.”

“Girl knights on a quest to win some fair lad’s heart?”

“Or how about girl knights in a kingdom made up entirely of women! For Queen and Country!” I proclaimed, swinging Lorelei’s hand into the air. “Come, Sir Lorelei! We must slay the hunger demon that holds our dear Nan captive. The Queen’s advisors tell us of a witch that dwells in this forest, only she can lift the curse that binds this demon to Nan. It is a perilous journey, but we are the only ones in the kingdom who can do it.”

“For Queen and Country!” Lorelei chimed in, mustering her fake courage.

We marched through the woods, occasionally brandishing sticks as swords. In our fantasy, we marched for days, battling elves and trolls. I almost died twice, but Lorelei’s knowledge of healing spells saved me from certain death. We made a perfect pair, I with my brute strength and agility and Lorelei with her magical capabilities. We were unstoppable. The only problem . . . We were now lost.

In our fervor to fend off the hordes of trolls and elves, we paid no mind to our surroundings. And the sun slipped ever lower in the sky, barely penetrating the tree canopy over our heads. Our epic fantasy quickly left our minds as we clung tightly to the other’s arm, our senses heightening with each eerie sound emanating from the trees and the ground. Lorelei whimpered softly beside me. I gripped her arm tighter and whispered, “Imagine we have a spell of protection surrounding us.”

“But we don’t,” she frantically retorted.

A twig snapped behind us. I squealed and spun around. Nothing. I tried to blot from my mind all thoughts of ghosts or ghouls or invisible creatures that stalked the night, wishing to prey on two defenseless girls lost in the woods. But in my mind, I could see their evil eyes, their thirsty fangs, and their long merciless claws. My heart pounded as though it were trying to break its way out of my chest. All pretense of courage immediately fell as I quickly snatched Lorelei’s hand and ran.

To be continued . . . 

 

~Lindsey V.

Facing Your Inhibitions

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Insecurities . . .

Probably the biggest factor behind my anxiety. Probably the biggest factor behind my stress. Probably the biggest factor behind my bouts of depression.

There it is. All of it, out in the open. I seem to have it all together in everyone else’s eyes. I look incredibly happy, set to go, not a care in the world . . . but I have my bad days/weeks like anyone else. I hide it, like I’ve always done, because that’s the way I am. My struggles aren’t debilitating by any means, but they’re still there. Why? Sometimes I don’t even know what causes them.

My past definitely created the problems. Experiences with someone I loved continuously lying to me, about every action, eventually caused me to question everything . . . and bam! Anxiety stressor numero uno. If I question every statement, story, excuse, or reason given to me, then I have no time to rationalize the situation. My mind is too occupied creating possible scenarios in my head. My insecurities rush in and take over. One small step forward and then three giant leaps backward. Eventually the fears of being lied to take over and mild depression sets in. I’m still able to function, but it’s there, in the back of my head, to remind me that I’m not perfect.

And no one is perfect . . . obviously. But I am a perfectionist and will always strive to achieve it. I give advice to friends that experience similar circumstances, but have a hard time following that advice for myself. Overcoming the havoc that verbal abuse wreaked on my soul seems to be far more complicated than anyone really understands. The scars are so deep they may last a lifetime. You can’t just get over it, and leaving doesn’t instantaneously heal them. The toxicity of your relationship will make or break you. It will either make you stronger, or render you incapable of trusting at all. But there are ways to help understand your feelings more in depth and take charge of the downward spiral before it slips from your control.

Overthinking kills happiness. So that should be easy, right? Just don’t overthink the situation. Let bygones be bygones and walk away from it. Much easier said than done. I try to practice this habit on myself, but overthinking and anxiety go hand in hand. So instead, when I feel myself starting to play scenarios in my head, that, by the way, are almost always completely out of my control, I try to engage in activities to take my mind off of it. Exercise, writing, reading, games with my kids, cleaning . . . and usually that works temporarily. And honestly, at this point in time, temporary is better than nothing at all. Baby steps, right?

Insecurities kill self-esteem. Most often when I am feeling insecure about anything, I take to social media. I post a picture and voila, instant gratification. Not the best answer . . . this can lead to unhealthy use of these outlets and we need to live in the real world and focus on our true accomplishments. Some days, just getting out of bed can be something worth celebrating. We all have struggles, regardless of our experiences. Every single person on the planet has some type of insecurity that they struggle with. Embrace it. Know that you are not alone. Celebrate your progress and the things you like about yourself, and create goals that are attainable. This allows you to accomplish tasks and therefore feel better about yourself.

Lies kill trust. Most importantly, be honest with yourself. Don’t hide behind a facade of everything in your world is perfect. Nothing is ever perfect. Be honest to those around you. When you are no longer hiding things, no matter how small, the burden will be lifted from your shoulders, automatically making you feel better about your life. And pay attention to those around you. Put your faith in people, but keep yourself aware of red flags that indicate whether or not someone is trustworthy.

With these things, I can keep my anxiety at bay, and fight my insecurities. I will be a better, happier, healthier, me.

~Christa G.

Lorelei: Chapter One…Continued

Lorelei

Lorelei: Chapter One

Turning, I sprinted for the house. We had found the dead bird near the edge of the woods, which was normally a five minute walk from the garden. In my hurried sprint, it took me a mere minute to arrive panting on our front porch, blood now dripping from my arm, mud caking my shoes. Just as my mother burst to the scene, her scathing glance taking in the mud before the blood, Elijah pushed past me. Her attention quickly switched to his maimed face and without a word she slapped me hard across my cheek.

“You’ll have some explaining to do, young lady.” With a steady hand, she led Elijah inside.

I blinked away the urge to cry as I felt the sting of her slap. Elijah glanced over his shoulder at me, grinning sardonically. He quickly winced from the pain. I snickered, but it was poor consolation for the injustice of it all.

The rest of the evening wore on in some continuous loop of me trying to explain how awful and monstrous Elijah had been to the bird and to me. But my parents heard none of it. They shook their heads and shrugged.

“Boys will be boys,” Mama said.

“You overreacted,” Papa said.

“You’re too sensitive,” they both added.

The terrible ordeal ended with me banished to my room with no supper. That happened a lot. I always saw injustice where others saw normalcy. And it usually cost me a meal or two. Contentious brat, they called me. Just wanting to stir up trouble. Meanwhile, Lorelei floated along blindly. She never even stood up for me about the whole bird thing. I couldn’t blame her, though. Elijah frightened us both. Since that incident with the bird, we tried to avoid him and eventually he outgrew his interest in bullying us.

 

Lorelei spun her way over to my bed, playfully grabbing my arm in an attempt to pull me to my feet. I groaned more loudly.

“Rachel, come on! Wake up, sleepy head!”

“I am awake,” I moaned.

“Breakfast is almost ready and Nan made biscuits and bacon!”

I sprung up in bed. “Bacon?” We both giggled as I haphazardly dressed myself. I hated Sundays. And I hated my dress. Mama had them specially made for us. Lorelei’s silk pink dress complimented her soft, pale skin and blondish white hair. I wanted red because of my dark, raven-colored hair and deep chocolatey eyes, but Mama said red was an unholy color and so I got stuck with pale blue, which I felt went horribly with my black hair and olive complexion. So I pretended I was Lorelei’s gorgeous orphaned cousin, and that the pale blue dress was Mama’s way of telling me to remember my place in the family. It made me feel special, like a scorned heroine in a novel; Rachel, always the misunderstood, but incredibly smart girl. Even my name was drab. Not anything like Lorelei. Sometimes I could swear I was adopted.

Once I finished dressing, we chased each other down the stairs. The plush carpet beneath our feet barely hid our bounding steps. Our gangly legs brought us to the kitchen where the savory scent of frying bacon and sizzling gravy greeted our drooling faces. Nan swatted our greedy fingers away.

Her succulent cooking and flair for creating enviously elaborate entrées for Mama’s social dinner parties, made her almost a celebrity in our small town. And those who had the pleasure of tasting her culinary artistry, imagined her a rotund woman with an insatiable appetite. But Nan was quite the opposite, at least in regard to her stature. There were those who believed a hunger demon possessed her, that she could never halt her cravings because of its indelible influence over her. They said the more powerful the hunger demon, the skinnier its victim. When I asked Nan about this, she cackled.

“People are so funny about things they can’t explain or don’t understand,” she replied.

“But what if it’s true. What if you do have a hunger demon? Won’t you die?”

“If I do, I’ll die happy. And hopefully over a plate of camembert with blueberry compote, while sipping a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.” She sighed dreamily, her gaze fixing on an imaginary spot.

I wasn’t satisfied. I didn’t like the thought of Nan dying, even if she was happy to go while munching on her favorite cheese. Nan practically raised us. And when my parents forced me to go to bed with no dinner, she always managed to sneak a snack into my room. I felt closer to her than Mama.

I obsessed over the hunger demon for weeks. I had to protect Nan from this life-sucking entity.

to be continued . . . 

~Lindsey V.

Lorelei: Chapter One

 

(To read the Prologue, follow this link).

 

I felt different. Like only I could see the true color of the world. Like only I could see the lighthouse through the storm. I felt like this for as long as I could remember, since my sister and I were carefree children, killing the hours with our stupid games of fantasy and adventure. I would like to say it set me apart from everyone. That I had a special gift that others respected and envied. That they cherished my insight and opinion. That I had purpose in this sad, short existence which plagued our kind. But I can’t. It set me apart, but not in the way I desired. The first time I discovered my gift, I was ten, too young to know what happened to me. Life-changing moments or turning points in our history don’t always come on the crest of a tidal wave, sometimes they sneak in under the guise of a perfectly normal day.

I awoke to Lorelei twirling around our bedroom in her pink satin Sunday dress, singing a made-up song. I moaned and rolled over, pulling my pillow over my ears. Her singing grew louder and her twirling more violent. She annoyed me in the mornings. Despite the fact that she preceded my birth by two years, I felt older and more mature. Perhaps because I tended to see the darker side of things, while she flounced around in unending optimism. Even as a ten-year-old, my mind leaned toward the macabre.

I’ll never forget the time Lorelei and I found a baby bird lying dead on the ground. Lorelei sobbed, but all I could do was stare helplessly at its naked little body with its tiny beak parted slightly open. Our cousin, Elijah, happened across us while we grieved over the loss of life. Lorelei and I were debating on where we should bury it, when Elijah kicked it with his foot. I watched in horror as its limp, little body flopped in the grass. He laughed coldly.

“Disgusting little bird,” he picked up a twig and walked over to it. “I wonder if it’s just as ugly on the inside.”

Lorelei screamed and ran toward our house, but I sat frozen on the ground, watching in horror as my cousin brutally dissected that baby bird with a stick.

When he finished mutilating its body, he turned to me, bloody twig in hand, and said, “Want me to find out if you’re just as ugly on the inside as you are on the outside?”

My heart raced as he stepped slowly toward me. “You’re the disgusting one,” I spat angrily as I stood to my feet.

“You little brat! How dare you speak to me like that!” He quickly grabbed my arm, tightening his grip painfully around my thin wrist. “You’ll wish you never said that.”

I squirmed furiously, but could not loosen his grip. He was older and stronger. I felt completely helpless. He lifted the stick to my wrist and scraped it slowly across my skin, drawing blood. I yelped in pain.

“I don’t think you’ve learned your lesson yet, maybe I should go a bit deeper.”

“You’re sick!” I screeched. Bringing my other hand up to his face, I dug my nails into his cheek and dragged them down as hard as possible. His grip on my wrist immediately loosened. He stumbled back, dropping the twig as he put a hand to his cheek.

Lunging toward me, his bloody hand swiped the air as I ducked away.

Turning, I sprinted for the house.

to be continued . . . 

~Lindsey V.

Finding Yourself Again

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Abusive relationships systematically work on taking away your identity. You lose your sense of self, everything in your life revolves around pleasing your abuser, making sure you do and act according to his wishes, in order to avoid an incident. That’s why it’s important to make time for yourself after you leave. Rediscover yourself. Do all of the things you couldn’t.

I had given up so many parts of myself while in my abusive relationship. I no longer wrote creatively. I no longer drew or painted. I had been doing these things voraciously for as long as I could remember. Yet, while in that relationship, all of my efforts were exhausted on pleasing him. All of my mental energy was focused on whether or not I was behaving appropriately for him.

When I left him, I gradually felt more and more liberated as I began to exercise my freedom. I started writing a book (I never finished it, but it served as exhilarating therapy). I started creating digital art. I watched all of my favorite TV shows. I ate all of my favorite foods. I lazed around in my pajamas on my day off and didn’t feel guilty about it. I made so many day-to-day decisions without having to agonize over whether or not those decisions would affect anyone but myself. I could finally breathe. I could finally embrace myself again.

So I urge all of our readers. Whether you are recovering from an abusive relationship or not. Do something for yourself. Discover the things that make you happy again.

~Lindsey V.

Defining Abuse

abuse-dictionary

Domestic Violence: violent or aggressive behavior within the home.

Physical Abuse: any intentional act causing injury or trauma to another person, by way of bodily contact.

Verbal Abuse: described as a negative defining statement told to the victim or about the victim, or by withholding any response, thereby defining the target as non-existent. If the abuser does not immediately apologize and retract the defining statement, the relationship may be a verbally abusive one.

Emotional/Psychological Abuse: is a form of abuse, characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another person to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Financial Abuse: a common tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship. Forms of financial abuse may be subtle or overt, but in general, include tactics to limit the partner’s access to assets or conceal information and accessibility to the family finances.

Sexual Abuse: also referred to as molestation, is usually undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another.

Abuse affects everyone. . .

Elderly

Women

Men

Children

Pets

Abuse is an attempt to control the behavior of another person. It is a misuse of power which uses the bonds of intimacy, trust, and dependency to make the victim vulnerable.

~Christa G.

I’m The Victim Here

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More often than not, we experience verbal abuse and don’t even realize that it’s happening to us. I’m sure we’ve all had that one friend that would walk all over you, but when you tried to let them know that their treatment of you was offensive it became the end of the world. And how dare you point out their behavior as less than friendly! You owe them an apology now for sticking up for yourself!

We tend to brush off their actions with, “Oh, they’re just very outspoken” or “I was overreacting to what she said”. But it’s not healthy. We teach those around us how to treat us. They know who will put up with their crap and who won’t, and unfortunately it’s the ones we’re closest to.

It probably started out small with them making a rude remark about your home, appearance, family, or job. And they brushed off their behavior with a flaky excuse. . .  “Well you know I had a bad day at work, my boss was on my ass about being late, and my boyfriend and I got into it that morning.” Thus turning the focus from your pain to them, making you feel guilty for your pain. And now they’re the victim, not you.

Then the verbal battering becomes more frequent, and it’s almost as if they are just picking fights. They don’t allow you to voice your feelings openly, and when you do they interrupt or make you feel as though you’re overreacting and have no right to be upset with them. They minimize your emotional pain and hurt feelings with a “how dare you” attitude.

This is text book gaslighting. Manipulation at it’s finest and they are good at it. They are pros at making themselves the victim in every situation. They are pros at never taking responsibility for their actions or words. They are pros at getting their way. This is toxic behavior and just like we urge you to get out of a toxic intimate relationship, we urge you to distance yourself from toxic friendships. They will suck the life from you, eat away at your ability to find joy, and drain your emotional sanity until there is nothing left but a shell. A shell of a person that no longer knows who they are, where they belong, or what to do with themselves.

So, don’t forget that abuse isn’t always violent. Abuse doesn’t always happen between a husband and wife. Abuse can take place in any relationship, great or small. Keep yourself aware of the red flags of abusive people. It isn’t healthy to stay in any type of toxic relationship, your mental state will thank you later. Surround yourself with those that support and lift you up.

~Christa G.

Overreacting

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When it’s “that time of the month” I’m always reminded of my ex.

I got the copper IUD shortly after we started dating. I was done dealing with the side effects of hormonal birth control and didn’t wish to continue experimenting with other forms of it. The only major side effects of the copper IUD were painful and heavier periods.  I had always had painful periods, but then again who didn’t. So I went for it. It was rough at first, the pain was and is unlike any of my previous periods, and at first I had cramps every day. I started popping Ibuprofen like Tic Tacs. I nursed my cramps every night and avoided being active because it seemed to increase the pain.

This was around the time my ex was trying his damnedest to have me go to the gym with him. I believe I’ve expressed my hatred of such public facilities. I would be motionless on the couch, trying not to moan in pain and he would be debating with me about how that he knew girls who would work out to help relieve the cramps. I tried to explain to him that these cramps were like I had the Antichrist kicking my ovaries with boots that had daggers jutting out of their soles, while some other demon was trying to pull out my uterus. And that was everyday for me for awhile. He continued to minimize my pain, saying I just needed to get up off the couch and do something.

When we’d get into arguments about totally unrelated topics, he would angrily bring up how I always complained of my cramps, like it was somehow an excuse to get out of doing stuff with him (such as go to the f*#%ing gym). I started to feel like my pain was in my head. That I was a cry-baby, a whimp, who didn’t know how to handle pain like the other women in his life . . . The ones who liked to exercise when they were cramping.

I didn’t realize at the time that my pain was an annoying inconvenience to him. He wanted a girlfriend who would go to the gym with him, despite her cramps. He didn’t care about the sacrifices I made for both of us to avoid having children. He didn’t care about my feelings or anything about me. Everything always centered around him. How dare I use pain as an excuse to get out of running on a treadmill. I complained too easily. Just like how I complained of that one time when he kicked me in the ankle. He said he barely nudged me. Or that one time he yelled and cornered me in the bathroom when I was trying to leave for work. He said I was being overly dramatic.

One day he said to me, “So you know how I bought those new boxer briefs? Well, I now know what it must be like for you to have cramps. I wore those briefs all day and they did not fit right, they were really uncomfortable and it was hard to concentrate at work. And I thought, that must be how you feel whenever you’re experiencing cramps.”

~Lindsey V.

Moving On

 

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It’s so easy to say, “Let the past be the past. Forgive and forget and move on with your life.” Or “If you dwell on the past you’ll never be able to move forward.”

Wow are these statements true! If we continue to remind ourselves of all the times someone has lied to or wronged us, we will never be able to reach our full potential or full happiness.

Why is it so hard to remove the hurt from those past experiences?! Sometimes I wish I could scrub my brain of all the painful memories that resurface from time to time. The circumstances to which someone took advantage of my kindness and gullible nature. The times that I was too quick to forgive and move on, but didn’t resolve it fully so it still plagues me. The moments that left a scar in my soul and kept me from being able to live joyfully.

I am a shell of “everything is perfect” on the outside, while my mind is secretly working 100 miles an hour to pick apart everything that I’ve ever experienced.

General anxiety at its finest.

These are the emotions of someone that has been abused. And they are dealt with daily.

You’ve been lied to about what they were doing, who they were with, and where they were. You’ve been cheated on, cursed at, spit on, beat on, and blamed.

The survivors that are lucky enough to make it out alive are left with pieces of themselves that no longer fit. We must gently work to put ourselves back together. Healing and learning how to live again. Finding a place that we belong. Finding others that understand us. Finding joy.

We need to find the strength to let go of the past so that we can see clearly ahead. This doesn’t mean that you condone the way that person treated you, it just means that you are going to rise above it and no longer allow them to control your train of thought. I am going to purge myself of the negative impact from situations that are far gone and out of my control. It’s time for us to focus on what lies ahead.

~Christa G.

Helpless

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We’ve all been there. Woke up and it was a perfectly normal, happy day. Traveled to work with no incident. Maybe an hour or two goes by, also without incident. And then, suddenly, without any warning, a customer or a client forces an unhappy confrontation that throws the rest of our day into utter turmoil. Nothing seems to go right. We spend the rest of our day on edge, just trying to claw our way back to that feeling of normalcy.

I have been having these days all too often lately. The slightest offense will drive me into an uncontrollable irritability. I’ll come home with so much anger boiling inside of me, until I finally erupt in a fit of bitter tears for seemingly no reason at all, hiding myself in my bathroom, ashamed to display such childishness in front of my husband. I know, deep down, I’m still not over the manipulation I experienced in my childhood from my church. I’m still not over the years of psychological and emotional abuse I experienced from my subsequent boyfriends. I’m still not over the resulting self-deprecation and fears I carry around with me every day like a heavy weight on my shoulders.

I’m physically free from all of that abuse, but my mental liberation is still a work in progress. I still minimize everything I went through. I am continually holding myself back by recycling in my head every negative thing ever said to me. I can’t even take my own advice when I suggest to others to work on loving ourselves better or to stop abusing ourselves or to practice power poses. It’s so easy to give advice out, but to follow that same advice when you’ve made a habit of tearing yourself down, is something else entirely.

That’s why I absolutely love that quote in its beautiful simplicity. My sister posted this on her Facebook wall today and when I read it, it just clicked with me. A surprising revelation swept over me. Why do I let these outside forces influence my happiness? For a person who needs stability and structure, I take so much stability away from my life by letting unpredictable circumstances govern my overall contentment. Just like when I realized my ex needed to get out of my life for me to take back control, I need to let go of the pull that these outside influences have over me.

Yes, we all have good and bad days. I expect I will never be able to stop the sensation of having a “bad day,” but I want to be able to respond better to those bad moments. I don’t want to feel myself lose control to the emotions raging inside of me because I find myself helpless again. I’m going to take back control. Whatever it takes. If I need to meditate, I will seriously start practicing meditation. If I need to go back to counseling, I will go back. Healing is never just an overnight thing.

If you are also working on healing after leaving an abusive relationship, please share your thoughts. What do you find helps you the most?

~Lindsey V.