Lorelei

We are going to start breaking up our usual routine of posts with pieces from a book I just started writing. I don’t want to give anything away with a synopsis, so here it is. I hope you enjoy it.

Prologue

My sister’s thin frame lay motionless, sunken in a dirty mattress, the filth surrounding her blending with her soiled dress. I swallowed around the lump in my throat, my heart pounding in my chest. “Lorelei?” I lifted a shaky hand and pressed it gently on her shoulder, her skin cold as the frost outside. I tried not to think of the sharpness of her shoulder bone or the whiteness of her complexion or the way her clothes hung on her frame as though they didn’t belong. My heart sank as I glanced at her room, the floor seemed to move and I tried not to think of why that might be. I don’t even know how I managed to sneak in. But time was running out. Shaking her shoulder, I managed to loudly whisper, “Lorelei, wake up, I don’t have much time.”

A soft groan parted her chapped and peeling lips. Her brow crinkled into a frown as she squinted up at me, her red eyes widened and she opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out.

“What?” I asked, trying not to panic at the confused look on her pitiful face.

Her lips moved to the motion of a sentence, but still no sound.

Rage consumed me. She was worse off than I thought. I could not allow this to happen to her. “Get up, you’re coming with me. I’m getting you out of here.”

She remained motionless.

“Lorelei?”

She turned her head away from me.

“You’re coming with me, and you’ll thank me later.” I bent down to pull her up off the bed. A powerful wind punched me in the chest, knocking me clear across the room. I slid down the wall, landing with a painful thud. Bewildered, I stumbled to my feet, taking a step toward Lorelei. “Don’t you see what he’s done to you?” Adrenaline surged through me, I tried to control the quaking inside of me. “This isn’t you.” The same wind that threw me earlier, now circled around her bed, snatching up nearby debris. “Come with me!” I raised my voice over the howling of the wind. “You don’t know what’s best for you right now, let me take you away from here!” The walls around me creaked and moaned and bent inward as the ceiling expanded. I felt myself floating farther away from her. My time was up. “Lorelei! Please!”

to be continued . . .

~Lindsey V.

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.

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.

Better With Age

 

 

I’m a recovering chameleon. I lived mirroring those around me. I dared not show my true colors for fear of being rejected or humiliated. I conformed to my boyfriend’s ideals and lifestyle. So much of my time and effort was spent emulating those around me that I barely knew myself. I had no idea how to be myself and I’m still learning.

I was watching an episode of Grace and Frankie today, on my lazy Sunday. It’s the episode where Jane Fonda’s character, Grace, is trying to impress a new boyfriend by pretending to like golf. Lily Tomlin’s character, Frankie, calls her out on it and reminds Grace how much she hates golf. Grace admits that she is afraid her new boyfriend won’t find her interesting enough if she admitted to him that she despised his favorite sport. This really hit home with me and it broke my heart. Here was a 70-year-old woman (yes, fictional, but definitely relatable) who still feared rejection to such a degree that she continued to lie to herself, as well as others.

By the time I’m 70, I want to be that lady that dies her hair hot pink and says whatever the bleepity-bleep she wants to say. I’ve earned it. Like a mature Cabernet Sauvignon, I will just get better and more unique with age. I want to give wise, no-nonsense advice to poor younger girls still figuring things out. And when I do, I want to sit back, adjust my hot pink wig, and think how damn lucky I am to have lived through all that bullshit, whilst sipping a glass of Bordeaux. Because you see, life is too short to pretend to be something you’re not. And some people are too shitty and petty to waste your efforts on.

So right now, I am going to channel my inner 70-year-old Cabernet self just waiting to be aired out in a glass carafe and say, “How do you want to live the rest of your life? Forever comprising yourself for the pleasure of others? Or are you going to focus on what makes you happy and content and let all that other bullshit follow? Because, honey, when you get to be my age, you’ll wish you had stayed true to yourself.”

*sips glass of Bordeaux and cackles softly*

~Lindsey V.

Game of Life

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I’m all for second chances. Lord knows, I gave my ex a million.

But how do you know where to draw the line?

I think most of us want to see the best in people. We are optimistic when they promise change, promise to get help, or promise they won’t hurt us anymore. What we don’t realize at the time, is that usually those promises are empty. We’re told what they know we want to hear. They know exactly what to say to pull us back in and have worked too hard to mold us into their puppet to lose us. And we’re left gambling our life away, taking a risk that they’re being serious this time. This time they mean it, this time they’ll get help, this time. . . how can you tell if they’re sincere in their desire to change their circumstances?

Yes, occasionally, the person causing you emotional pain wants to change. . . but it is a rare occasion!

Here is what I did, and suggest to others experiencing these issues:

First, if they can’t discuss your fears and concerns in a civil manner, they will not be willing to seek help for the problem at hand. Whether it be a drug addiction, constant abuse, discord (we’re talking about seeking help and change for toxic behaviors that are tearing down your relationship and possibly even endangering you). Asking them to change their personality because you’re embarrassed by how loud they are, or you don’t like it when they’re lazy is never okay.

Second, if they are willing to sincerely seek out rehab, counseling, family counseling, or therapy to overcome their addiction or problem and they are not abusive to you during the process, it may be worth it to give them another chance. However, if this is the umpteenth time you’ve been through this they are never going to change.

Third, always ensure that you are not in danger staying in your environment.  If you are in danger, seek out help immediately. It is not worth it to risk your life. Healthy relationships will never put you in danger, make you feel worthless, or feel like your concerns don’t matter.

I endured the roller coaster for so long that I exhausted every bit of my ability to forgive my ex. I reached the point to which it was easy for me to walk away because the constant emotional abuse left me depressed, resentful, and cold. Don’t wait until you are so miserable you would rather die. Don’t wait until you are no longer able to lead a happy, normal life. Don’t wait until your kids can read your pain on your face.

Your happiness is the most important because without it you cannot successfully make those around you happy. We can only pretend for so long until exhaustion takes over. Do what you need to in order to find peace.

~Christa G.

Impressions

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When I was a little girl, I was described as a giggle box, deliriously happy, always smiling, and a bundle of joy. I was the little blonde thing bouncing around, skipping along, singing, playing, imagining, and creating. I couldn’t sit still, but I’m pretty sure I was a bucket of fun! Always mischievous and getting into something.

And then. . . I grew up. Growing up changes us. Through our teens and early twenties, we are the most impressionable. Soaking up the actions, words, and advice of others like sponges. It only takes one insult to bring in doubts. A few jabs at your looks, intellect, actions, or opinions and your self-esteem will drop fast. And sadly, in most cases, it’s only one person wreaking havoc on your self-worth.

My unhealthy relationship took its toll on me and left me stripped of the ability to find joy. I soaked up the degradation, name-calling, and misery. And it left me feeling worthless, depressed, and confused. I began believing all of the insults and twisted stories.

I lost myself in his version of me . . .

There was a time when I heard my mother say that I was like a zombie. I showed no emotion, and seemed to be walking through life aimlessly.

My father, at one point, told me he missed my care-free spirit and the girl that laughed at everything, even the things that weren’t that funny.

I had been molded into a woman with no confidence in myself or my abilities to overcome obstacles. I was quiet, compliant, never spoke my mind, looked at myself as plain, unattractive, and unable to achieve success.

This is what happens to people that are continuously put down, and made to believe their opinions don’t matter.

This is what happens when you’re told you would look like a guy with a short haircut.

This is what happens when you’re blamed for everything that goes wrong.

This is what happens when your life is dictated by your partner.

Today, three years free of that relationship, I have found that bubbly little girl that can laugh freely. My grandfather, rest his soul, recently told me that he was glad to see me so happy and successful. People that have only recently met me can’t believe I ever struggled with low self-esteem or confidence, and can’t even begin to imagine that I was ever depressed and suicidal.

Once I was free from the manipulation, I was able to find myself. I was able to see that I am smart, confident, and successful. I was able to be the mother that my children needed. I no longer allow the degrading criticism of others to dictate how I should feel about myself.

Don’t get lost in the opinions that other people have about you. Don’t let your abuser define you.

Find yourself. Find your inner-child. Find your happy ending. . . and free yourself from those that hold you back.

I decide who I am.

~Christa G.

 

 

Transparent

More Transparent

I write a lot about what I went through in the past with my abusive relationship, but I haven’t shared much about the night that I made up my mind to leave for good.  I tend to stay quiet about it because it was the start to some nasty rumors that tore me apart and destroyed some friendships. But tonight I am going to be completely transparent. . .

I had been working as a security guard for a few months, 12-hour shifts that could be quite boring.  I made several new friends while working that job, both male and female.  One such friend was a great listener and during times of high stress I would confide in him my marital problems. We began chatting via Facebook or text message, and it never stemmed beyond friendship. There was never any indication that he wanted more than a friendship, and I never gave that vibe either. I realize some would say a married individual should never confide in someone of the opposite sex, and maybe I was wrong . . . but I didn’t have a relationship to begin with.

I was alone in a miserable marriage, with a man that never wanted to talk, and when he did it was to belittle me or yell at me. I lived for 12 years believing I was the problem, I was unlovable, I was incompetent, I was crazy, I was a terrible mother, and an ungrateful wife. And so I talked about my frustrations with others because he wouldn’t, and didn’t care to listen.*

So, I befriended a young man that I worked with. One night, my husband went into an outrage and began throwing a fit over this friendship. He cornered me in our laundry room and while hovering over me, began accusing me of cheating on him and wouldn’t listen to reason. It was in that moment that it dawned on me, I had done nothing to deserve the way he treated me! I was the one who had been truly faithful for twelve years while he lied about going to parties, doing drugs, and spending nights with “friends.” I had endured all of his name-calling, yelling, and fits over the years. I was the one that took him back after his family decided to hold a drug intervention for him. I was the one that took care of everything. Why was I letting him get away with being angry when it should have been the other way around? When I couldn’t answer that question, I decided that it was enough. I would no longer let him dictate my every move, or decide who I could befriend, or decide when I could go out with my sister. . . I had enough. And so I left.

Of course rumors spread that I was the reason we were divorcing. I cheated on him, oh how unfortunate and pitiful for him. It ate me alive! I couldn’t stand the fact that people actually believed him. I constantly worried about how everyone viewed me. What everyone thought of me. I hated that anyone thought badly of me and was stressed over it for months. But in the end, those that truly loved me saw the entire situation for what it was. They knew the truth to everything and that was all that mattered.

If you are in an abusive relationship and are contemplating leaving, please know it will be incredibly difficult at first. One of those difficulties is that your partner will try and manipulate family and friends to think that you were the one that cheated, lied, and tore apart the relationship. They will do and say whatever necessary to appear to be the victim. Just remember to keep your head up. You know the truth, and you will be much better off when everything is settled.

~ Christa G.

*In a healthy marriage, you should discuss your problems and concerns with your spouse. It is not healthy to discuss every little issue with friends and family. They will not hold the same respect for the spouse that you will, especially if they feel that person has wronged you. This could, in turn, create a rift in family relationships that could be difficult to undo.

When Trusting You is Killing Me

 

 

Trust . . . it’s a big one. It’s HUGE.

You cannot have a successfully healthy relationship without trust.

Without trust, doubt runs rampant.

Without trust, your mind can play games.

Without trust, you will not be able to respect the other person.

I married at the age of 19. I was young, naïve, and didn’t know the meaning of doubt. I didn’t know it was possible for someone who loved me, to lie and disrespect me.

“You need to tell your husband to stop emailing my fiancé,” came the demand from a man I had never met, nor spoken to.

“What? What are you talking about?” was my surprised response.

He then proceeded to read emails that he found in his fiancé’s archived messages, from my husband, in which he claimed I was a terrible wife, a lazy mother, and I never took care of anything.

I was flabbergasted. I was the exact opposite of all of the accusations he brought against me. And while there was no romantic evidence in those emails, there was only one intent behind him gaining her pity.

Even while writing about it, the memory of the adrenaline rush and utter disbelief came rushing back to me.

Covered in a cold sweat and fighting off nausea, I hid in the bathroom, curled up on the floor, and tried to keep myself from shaking to death.

He stood outside the door and begged for forgiveness, claiming he only said those things because he knew that he was guilty of them himself and it made him feel like a loser.

And so, I felt sorry for him, and that began a long line of excuses, tall tales, and undeserved forgiveness.

This was the first panic attack of many to come in later years. We had been married for 3 years, he had just returned from Iraq, and it was the beginning to a long, drawn out history of lies, cheating, manipulation, and verbal abuse.

This was the beginning of many years of misery, degradation, pain, tears, and depression.

This was the beginning of a million empty apologies and pleas for my forgiveness.

This was the beginning of me giving him the benefit of the doubt and allowing “one more” chance to make things right.

NO MORE . . . After 12 long years, I was finally able to put an end to the madness and left.

You can only offer your forgiveness so many times, before the emotional roller coaster of being let down over and over eventually takes its toll on your mental health.

Yes, most often, you have to take a leap of faith and allow yourself to trust. Just don’t allow your trust to be stomped on time and time again.

There is a time to heal and work on your relationship, and there is a time to put your foot down.

If you find yourself being asked for forgiveness for the same mistakes every time, then you must realize . . . they are no longer mistakes, but choices being made consciously. Knowing they will hurt you and knowing that you will forgive them.

Stand up. Stand Out. Stand Tall. Take back your life, find what makes YOU happy and do it!

~Christa G.

 

Stranger Danger

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Why do so many of us fall into a trap of being conned by those closest to us? Whether it be a sibling, a parent, a spouse, or a friend, we seem to be blinded by love or by their sweet words and promises. Yet from a young age, we are taught about “stranger danger” and to be wary of those trying to scam us out of our hard-earned savings or cheat us into buying a worthless car. We are told to never trust a TV evangelist or a door-to-door salesman. Our mothers are constantly warning us to never walk alone at night and always have mace handy. “Stranger Danger” is something that is preached to us at home and at school. In our mind, we are conditioned to believe that the most harm that can come to us is from a stranger. But the sad truth is, we can receive more harm from our “loved” ones.

Why is that? Why are we warned about the dangers of strangers over the dangers of those we think we know best? How long has society just accepted domestic abuse as a part of life? And how many of us have thought it would never happen to us or anyone we know?

For years, domestic abuse was a hush topic, even more so than it is today. Victims were blamed for the abuse or shamed for it. There were no laws or orders of protection that would help the victims. And there were no shelters. Hundreds of years ago, it was even legal for a man to beat his wife, just as he could beat his apprentices and children. In some areas of the world today, it is still a legal practice. This is because women and children were considered property. They had no individual rights and were solely dependent on the man who “owned” them. When women began to have more legal recognition and gained the right to vote or to own property themselves, then the law began to change its attitude toward domestic abuse. The first shelter for battered women was opened only as recently as 1973. And, even more recently, The Family Violence Prevention Services Act passed through Congress in 1984 (one year before I was born). So there’s probably many around my age or older whose parents never gave them a talk about domestic abuse.

I was never shown the Power and Control Wheel. Sure, I knew that domestic violence was totally a thing and definitely a danger to look out for. But I wasn’t told specifically what signs to watch for. I knew what attributes to look for in a man—responsible, caring, handsome, polite, and funny. The problem with that is, they all start out that way. They are charmers. They say and act exactly how they think you want them to and when they have you where they want, the truth seeps out. Little things, here and there. Little comments that begin to undermine your sanity. My ex, when we first started dating, claimed he loved to cook for those he cared about. He started out cooking all the time for us. Then it eventually morphed into him complaining that he always cooked for me. Then he tried to train me to cook for him. Then I could never cook right or cooked too loudly, waking him up while he was napping. In the beginning, he was on his best behavior.

In our mind, we are conditioned to believe that the most harm that can come to us is from a stranger.


My lack of education in regards to abuse was no fault of my parents, they also were not told of the dangers of verbal or physical abuse. And those that may have experienced abuse themselves, may have just assumed their abuser was a rotten egg. There was no information floating around in the cosmos, warning people of the pattern of abuse. There were no courses at school warning us of how damaging domestic abuse could be to ourselves and those around us. We were shown videos on how to say no to sex and drugs—don’t even get me started on my thoughts about the state of sex education in our schools. We were shown presentations on the dangers of drinking while under the influence. But there was never a presentation of domestic abuse, no questionnaire, no Cycle of Abuse diagram, no Power and Control Wheel, not even a pamphlet or brochure. I didn’t even know emotional abuse was a thing, until I googled it in an airport restaurant immediately after breaking up with my abusive ex-boyfriend. I had only ever heard of physical abuse. I did not realize emotional manipulation was something to watch out for in a relationship. I just thought some people could be shitty to one another. I had no idea that there was a name for it or that there was a clear pattern of behavior, or even the damaging effects it could cause both mentally and physically.

This needs to change. We have to educate our kids about abuse. The biggest danger out there can come from those we trust, those we let in to our lives. I don’t want our children to grow up fearing intimacy. I don’t want us to spread paranoia. The more information we give on abuse, the more informed our kids will be in making life-changing decisions. Let’s teach our children and the children in our communities that domestic abuse is no longer acceptable and we all have the power to stop it.

~Lindsey V.

Not Just a Statistic

 

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There I was again. Sitting. Alone. Crying. Over what? Most of the time I was left confused, and struggling to understand why I was being yelled at and degraded, yet again. What did I do to deserve this, was a question that constantly plagued my mind. This time was different. He had wrung out every last hope I had for us. I had been mistreated, disrespected, degraded, and neglected for so long I had no room to accept any more empty apologies. This time, I left for good.

As I sat across from a desk and listened intently to my lawyer, the severity of my situation quickly came to light. He strongly suggested that I get myself and my children into a Safe House until the situation died down. I had just explained to him the chain of events that had taken place over the last several years leading up to leaving my ex. My lawyer looked at my father and me with sincere concern. He stressed the fact that he had seen far less abusive situations, in which the estranged spouse had no history of domestic abuse, PTSD, or drug abuse, still end in tragedy. My ex possessed all of those histories. The realization of the possibility of becoming a statistic was chilling.

. . . 1 in 4 women will experience severe physical violence in their lifetime.

Against the suggestion of my lawyer, I opted to move two hours away from my ex, instead of staying in a Safe House. Besides, the Safe Houses near me were all full and I didn’t know about other organizations, such as ALIVE Inc. (Alternatives to Living In Violent Environments). So I moved in with my parents, and felt comfortable with the fact that we had some distance between us. After a year-long battle over debt, our divorce was finalized and I was able to get back to a normal life. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many victims of domestic violence. Too often, it ends in the death of an innocent person trying to break free from their abuser.

The CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention states that Intimate Partner Violence is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans and results in serious consequences for victims, families, and communities.

  • In an average minute, about 24 people are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.
  • In 2010, 241 males and 1095 females were murdered by an intimate partner.
  • In one year, more than 12 million women and men reported being a victim of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.
  • In their lifetime, 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) report experiencing severe physical violence (e.g., hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, slammed against something) by an intimate partner.

At first I was surprised to find that the Center for Disease Control would have a division dedicated to violence prevention. But as I began to think about all of the issues caused by abuse, it made perfect sense. Not only is domestic violence to blame for thousands of deaths and millions of injuries each year, it is also a main factor for mental health issues. Domestic violence leads to millions of people being diagnosed each year with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and other mental illnesses. Help spread awareness, support your local safe houses, and let’s find a cure to end domestic violence.

~Christa G.