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.

Wuv, Twu Wuv

asdas
“Mawiage is what bwings us togevah today…”

Had I been asked 5 years ago if true love really did exist, I would have said absolutely not. Love seemed like a struggle to me. The term “love-hate relationship” was definitely the only thing I knew of. And if so much hate could be prevalent where there was supposed to be love, then it wasn’t true love in my opinion.

Love was a fairytale. A fantasy that could never be achieved in the real world.

Little did I know, the reason I felt that way was due to the fact that love was absent from my relationship. Love cannot be found where abuse is present.

When I was able to free myself from that toxic relationship, it was as though a veil was lifted. I was freed from the thoughts that I was worthless, ugly, and unsuccessful and found a strength I didn’t know I had. I gained true love for myself. It took some time, but I eventually realized that everything I thought a relationship should be like was a lie. When I discovered what love should actually feel like, I was changed in so many ways. Bitterness and resentment were wiped away and replaced with a newfound confidence. When you receive pure love, you are able to give so much more. The best description for love, that I can think of, can be found in the bible…

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

When love is present, so is hope, trust, faithfulness, and honesty. There will be disagreements, but compromise should always be achieved with civility. With true love, we respect each other’s time, beliefs, morals, goals, and wishes. Through it all, I have realized that true love should not come at a price to my own happiness and self-worth. Where there is happiness there is love.

 

~Christa G.

Game of Life

Dice

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

12247773_10204114874511345_6199817803510150369_o

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.

 

 

Brave

girl in thought colored pencil

 

“I’m not courageous, brave, or strong.  It’s not like I was being beaten every day.”

I still have to fight back the urges to constantly justify the terrible way that I was treated for so many years.  Always repeating to myself that yes, I am a survivor, I have overcome obstacles that would have kept me a prisoner in my own home.  There is no form of abuse that is justifiable.  Regardless of the severity, we need to understand that it is an incredible accomplishment to free ourselves from it.

“How could you cry while singing the song at the funeral?! It was your job to maintain composure for the sake of the family and you completely ruined it. I never should have let you take my place, I should have just sung through my hoarse voice.”

“It’s all your fault we’re overdrawn again, I should be in control of  the finances.  You will give me your paychecks from now on.”

“I’m calling in to work again today, I’m going to say that one of the kids is sick and you aren’t able to stay home from work with them.”

“If you don’t like it then just stop reading my text messages because I’m not quitting pain killers.”

“F@%* you then! You do nothing but nag!”

Over and over again, I would repeat to myself, while alone in my misery. . . “It could be worse, at least he doesn’t hit me.”

We ALL have stories.  Varying in degrees on the platform of abusive behaviors, but nonetheless, abuse.  Whether it be that one night when you were in high school and that boy made you think the only way you were attractive or worth anything was if you performed sexual favors for him. Or the girl that constantly put you down and made you feel like you weren’t good enough. Or the guy that beat you senseless because you used a “condescending” tone with him. Or the spouse that made you feel like you were worthless, incapable of success, and crazy. These are all abusive situations that have undoubtedly left an impact on your self-esteem, self-worth, and on your life.  None are to be excused with a “well it could have been worse” attitude.  Never let yourself think that you were in any way deserving of those situations. Never let yourself justify their actions because you don’t think it was severe enough to be considered abusive.  Never tell yourself that it was no big deal.

~Christa G.

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.

 

Roller Coaster

2016-03-05 20.20.39

I cried. I cried ALL the time.

It was like an incessant roller coaster of ups and downs. There was never a rhyme or reason to the outbursts that would reduce me to tears, they just happened. It was somehow, always, my fault. I had used a condescending tone, I didn’t give a harsh enough punishment to my misbehaving child, I forgot to wash an important article of clothing, I shouldn’t have been looking through his text messages, I spent too much of my time being involved with my church, and the list goes on….

There were days that I felt he was driving me to leave, he was pushing my buttons so that I would pack up and go and he would finally be rid of me. But when I would work up the courage to leave, he would immediately change his tune. He couldn’t live without me, he would do whatever it took to straighten up his life. And then the roller coaster would start all over again.

Strapped in, nowhere to go, hanging by a thread…

The nightmare repeats. He would manage a few weeks of normalcy, digging his hooks back in, reeling me back to the beginning.

Ascending. Click, click, click, reaching the starting point. Then, take off. Descending rapidly. Twisting and turning. Flipping and jerking. Highs and lows. Utter confusion. It’s the roller coaster ride that you just want to get off of, but it keeps going and going.

Why? Why, you ask, would anyone continue to stay in a relationship that makes you miserable? Victims of domestic abuse are blind to what is happening. We are blindfolded with manipulation, charm, and empty promises. Promises that we cling to with every hope we have left. Hope that our abuser will stop. Hope that our abuser will allow us to heal them. Hope that our abuser will one day revert back to that amazing person they were when we first met. You see, we know that they have the potential to be great. That’s how they won our hearts in the first place.

The nightmare will never end unless we remove the blindfold. Remove it, and see clearly where the torture is coming from.

I cried all the time for 12 years. Then one day, with the support of my family, I ripped that blindfold off. Now when I cry, it’s because I’m happy.

~Christa G.

Addicted

image

I don’t matter. My needs, my wants, my feelings, have all taken a back row seat to my partner’s need to feed his insatiable appetite for drugs.

Alone. Alone in my bed at night, alone with my thoughts, alone in my struggle to make a living.

The Man Cave. HA! More like Drug Cave. Lines of white powder, lines of crushed pain killers, broken ink pens, and powdery dollar bills. Everywhere.

What is happening? What has become of my life? When did I allow this evil to creep in and take control?

No more. It has to end or I have to leave. I’m drowning. Drowning in fear, in constant misery, in depression. Make it stop. Make him stop.

I don’t matter. Only the high matters to him. So I’m gone. I’m nothing.

. . . I would have been worn down to nothing . . . Eventually, his addiction would have destroyed us both.

Drug addiction is a need to satisfy a habit that is stronger than the urge to eat when you’re hungry. A need so greedy that everything else becomes non-existent. Some drugs are more intense than others, each yielding their own unique consequence, and each possessing the ability to change the addict’s personality drastically. Irritability, paranoia, depression, and irrational anger are just a few of the behavioral changes that accompany drug abuse. Chemical changes take place in the user’s brain which interfere with their judgement, ability to think clearly, control their behavior, or feel normal without drugs. People that abuse drugs are more likely to abuse their loved ones due to the adverse effects from using and the need to satisfy their high. According to the NCADV, 61% of domestic violence offenders also use/abuse substances. Often they try to blame their battering on being under the influence; however, substance abuse treatment does not “cure” abusive behavior. Their thought processes are highly irrational and even the tiniest irritation may throw them into a rampage. When you mix this issue with someone who already exhibits abusive tendencies, the behavior is exacerbated.

I had no rights to voice my opinion on his drug abuse, and when I did, I was met with ultimatums. If I wanted my partner to give it up, then I had to give up my occasional glass of wine. And by occasional, I mean once every few weeks I had a glass or two. In my opinion, it was entirely unfair. Some might have said that if I wanted my partner to quit badly enough, I would have given up my freedom to enjoy a glass of wine. Why? Why should I give up any legal freedoms in order to get my partner to stop doing illegal things which were destroying our lives? His ultimatum was a manipulation technique, another way for him to regain control over the situation. A way for him to justify his actions.

He said he was sorry. But the addiction to pain killers never stopped. I tried overcoming it. His family tried an intervention. I felt pressured to stay, to be another June Carter, a woman whose love was so powerful it cured her man’s addiction. But you can only try for so long, after that you are just enabling it. Some things never change. Some people don’t want to change. Some habits are too hard to break. And sometimes we need to open our eyes and see them for who they really are.

If I had stayed and tried again and again and again to be his June Carter, to be his whipping boy, to be his crutch, eventually I would have been worn down to nothing. Eventually, my depression would have been too much to bear. Eventually, his addiction would have destroyed us both. If there is anything that I want our readers to glean, it’s that sacrifice in the name of love is different than sacrifice in the name of selfish desire. At some point you have to learn to let go, for your own sake.

~Christa G.

Where It Begins

image

Life. It holds so many uncertainties. So many inequalities. So many injustices. As a human race we are a profound, complicated, and diverse people. Some are driven by power and riches. While others are driven by love and the need to help others. What makes us so different? What drives one person to be hateful and yet another to be understanding? There are so many factors that affect our behaviors and frame of mind. The majority of those influences take place during our childhood, when every decision, situation, reward, and consequence molds us into the adults we eventually become. With that being said, will childhood bullies develop into abusive adults? It would seem the most understandable outcome, since bullying is a child’s way of exuding power and control over their peers. So then, are we wrong to assume that a child displaying bullying behavior will only continue to intimidate and abuse others later in life?

Most children who display bully-like behaviors are experiencing abuse themselves . . .


According to a study performed and published to the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, it has been confirmed that bullying as a child can be an early precursor to adult domestic partner violence perpetration, at least in men. The study was done in Boston and focused on men at three different community centers. The study suggests that men who exhibited frequent bullying in school were at a much higher risk for aggressive and abusive behavior toward intimate partners. Of course, this is only one study that took place among a group of men, confined to one area. However, this has been a question for years before any studies were recorded. Another study published in the September 2010 Psychiatric Quarterly states that adults with a history of bullying are 10 times more likely to lie than those with no history. The study also suggests that they have a higher likelihood of stealing and cheating. Concerns are, of course, not limited to men that were bullies. There are plenty of girls known to have bullied their classmates, as well.

So where do we begin?  Is it possible to rectify the behavior of a bully in order to prevent abusive tendencies as an adult? We must first look at the environment of the child in question. Most children who display bully-like behaviors are experiencing abuse themselves, or they are witnessing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) between their parents. Unfortunately, without just cause or evidence that those children are in danger, they cannot be removed from those situations. It’s up to us to help inform children, at their young and impressionable ages, of what abuse looks like and how it affects others. Parents that have children in school can look into what programs are implemented to prevent bullying. And if you don’t have a child in school, but you want to help raise awareness you can look into programs being used in your local school districts. Are the programs effective? What can the community do to help promote them? What programs are being applied that are also available to parents and community members? How can we better a child’s home environment? These are just a few small steps to get where we need to be. It takes action to get a reaction, and we want that reaction to be a decrease in the amount of bullying taking place among our children. In turn, we will see less IPV in the future.

I recently became aware that my 13-year-old son is dealing with bullies at his school. It is incredibly alarming to know that these boys are subjecting him to belittlement, humiliation, and rejection. The mental deterioration that takes place during abuse can be devastating. I have taken action and scheduled counseling sessions for my son. This allows him the ability to express his feelings to someone in order to gain an understanding that he is not worthless, dumb, or ugly as these kids make him feel. But what of the bullies? They also need guidance. They need an understanding that their behavior is not okay and could possibly lead to harsher behavior as an adult. Domestic violence awareness and our fight to end it starts with our children. It starts in our schools. It starts in our communities. It starts with our future generation. We will never see an end or decrease in abuse until we stop the behavior before it begins.

I urge you to stand up in your community. Make your voice heard. For the sake of our children, put an end to bullying. We need to make a difference, we need to fight to end abuse, and we need to start where it begins.

 

~ Christa Gayle

 

 

Shades of Insanity

image

“You’re being completely crazy! Have you been taking your medication?!”

This was a regular occurrence for me in a past relationship. If I came across the hint that drug use was becoming an issue for my partner again, or that he was hiding something, I would raise questions about it only to be met with accusations of over-analyzing the situation. I just needed to calm down and make sure I was taking my anti-anxiety medication as prescribed. All those years I really thought I was overreacting, that I was the one with the problem. I was the one prescribed anti-anxiety medication to keep from having panic attacks when I would get upset. I was the one being treated for anxiety, not him, so then I really was crazy!

This was life with a psychopath.

They use their charm and manipulation to get what they want from everyone around them. They mold themselves into the person that they need to portray, in whatever situation they are in, in order to gain control. I had been manipulated to the point that I still question my intuition and sanity today, years after being out of that relationship.
The pain is still so vivid. I question myself daily. I question everyone daily. I question my gut feelings daily. Am I being overly analytical and crazy? Or are these fears normal? Do I have the right to question their activities? Do I have the right to question whether or not they’re telling me the truth? The struggle is real guys, and it’s extremely difficult to overcome. The constant strain on my mind, trying to overcome my own internal struggles, weighs me down and steals my joy. How do we overcome it? How do we take back our lives and the happiness that is so rightfully ours? We can’t depend on other people to make us happy, we have to look to ourselves. Dig deep and discover what makes us happy. Know that if in your gut you sense something is wrong, then your instinct is almost always right.

So, while it’s completely understandable that we suffer from a plethora of mental health issues after years of abuse, we also need to realize that we can’t use them as a crutch. Eventually we need to be able to move on with our lives. Build healthy relationships. Learn to trust again. Learn to live again. Learn to love again. And just in general, learn to be happy. It takes time to heal from emotional scars, sometimes years, and sometimes people never fully heal. Along the way to healing, we need to stay aware and keep in mind all of the red flags that let us know things aren’t healthy and we need to step back and analyze the situation. When looking at your relationship through a different lens, keep in mind these key signs that you could be dating a psychopath:

When you first meet them they shower you with flattery, displays of affection, and declarations of traits that make you both perfect for each other.

They prey on your emotions with stories to make you feel sorry for their past experiences. Whether with an ex, a co-worker, family member, or friend. They are always the victim in every situation of their life. You’ll quickly have a soft spot for them, they’ve used their charm so effectively that they have you hooked.

Now that you’re hooked they begin to create situations purposefully to make you jealous. They begin to surround themselves with people who provide them with added attention. They want you to know that they are wanted by everyone. So you better not slip up because they have plenty of admirers to fall back on.

Eventually you’ll come to the point that you begin to see through their behaviors. You’ll begin to question their activities, you’ll confront them about it and you’ll be met with accusations that you’re crazy. They are master manipulators and will rewrite reality in front of you, turning the situation around, making it appear to be your fault. They condition you to believe that the problem isn’t the abuse itself, but instead your reactions to their abuse.

They will accuse you of feeling emotions that they are intentionally instilling in you. They will call you jealous after blatantly flirting with an ex on social media, for the world to see. They’ll call you needy after ignoring you for days on end. They use your reactions to garner sympathy from other targets, trying to prove how irrational and crazy you are.
You notice that there is always an excuse for everything. They constantly blame others, it’s never their fault. They will spend more time justifying their behavior than improving it.

Eventually you won’t recognize your own feelings. Your natural tendencies for love and compassion have been replaced by uncontrollable panic and anxiety. You may even resort to taking anti-anxiety medication, as I did. You apologize on a regular basis for things you didn’t do and cry more than any other time in your life. After being broken down by an abuser, you will feel crazy, emotionally exhausted, empty, depressed, and worthless. Don’t let it come to that. Pay attention to the signs and get out before they drag you down the gutter.

 

We can’t depend on other people to make us happy, we have to look to ourselves.

 

The signs are there—in every situation, relationship, and circumstance in our lives. Pay attention, take notes, learn to trust your instincts, and know that no one has the right to belittle you, call you names, or beat you (men and women alike). Regardless of what you think your actions were that prompted their bad behavior, they are not a justification for them to hurt you. Abuse is real. Abuse is painful. Abuse is life-wrecking. There are options, there is help for you, and you can be saved. Please reach out to someone today if you can relate to anything in this post. Everyone deserves happiness!

~Christa G.