Believe

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First, I would like to express my regret for neglecting to post to the blog for so long. I would say life has been too busy, but there really are no excuses that will make it okay.

I’ve been thinking, heavily, over the last few months about what I could possibly write that would be beneficial. I’ve been battling with thoughts of negativity about my purpose here and whether or not what I have to say really matters.

“Does anyone really care to read?”

“Is anyone even gaining anything from the little stories I share?”

“Do they think I’m just sharing to gain attention?”

Then, a dear friend reached out with encouragement. She expressed to me that every time I’ve shared my story and experience it’s given her tiny rays of hope. And I realized, that in not sharing my experiences, I was being selfish and negatively impacting my growth and the possible growth of others. I don’t share with the hopes of humiliating abusers, I share with the hope that I will give victims a shred of hope, a step to freedom, the courage to get out, and the notion that they are not alone.

I fell victim to the lies that my mind was creating within myself. I’m a work in progress. Moving toward being kinder to myself, believing in myself, and spreading that confidence to others that need hope and healing.

So moving forward, here we go again…

Christa Gayle

^ what she said

I too, have been feeling incredibly guilty for abandoning this blog and anyone who might have been looking forward to our future posts. It’s a difficult subject to continually write about, but we were amateurs with good intentions. I also cave under pressure and the more compliments we received from friends saying how our posts were helping them or their friends through similar experiences, I felt excited but also nervous at the same time. Silly, I know. Makes no sense, I know.

I will be honest, these months away from the blog have been tough. I was battling a bout of depression and anxiety. I saw no purpose in life or in my existence. My days were spent feigning happiness at work and in public, but when I had a chance to myself I was a loaf on my couch wallowing in self-deprecation and fatalism. I have sought help and can now happily say I feel like myself, (more to be said on that later).

Long story short, we are here to help others. We are here to give validation and voice to those who may not feel their feelings are validated. We are here to bring awareness to an issue that has been out of public commentary for far too long.

I lost sight of this purpose for a moment. And we are humbly back, in hopes to continue helping others.

Thank you to those who supported us and thank you to those who may be reading this now.

Lindsey V.

 

 

Addicted

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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.

Shades of Insanity

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“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.

Washed Away

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Looking back on the previous year and the great strides my sister and I took in healing from our past abuse, I know that we still have a long way to go. I still harbor so much hatred toward my ex and even more hatred toward hers. There have been times when I admitted I wouldn’t mind if either of them were dead. But these are toxic thoughts that only prove the type of hold these men still have over my happiness and well-being. Instead of fantasizing about all the times I should have left my ex, I should focus on my now loving husband and on living a happy and fulfilling life with those who truly care for me. I should look ahead to the future, instead of dwelling on the past.

There is a beautiful festival in Thailand called Loy Krathong. “Loy” meaning to float and “Krathong” meaning a leaf cup or bowl. Hundreds gather with their small decorated “boats,” they light a candle and incense and send them to drift down a body of water to symbolize letting go of the past to welcome the future. Some will place a personal object onto the krathong, in the act of getting rid of the negative side of oneself, to wash away one’s sins.

This is such an inspiring tradition. Too often has the past dictated my future. I knew there was a reason to my continual destructive relationships. I knew there was something about my past that molded my future. Counseling helped me to let go of those past influences and to see the driving force behind my subconscious desire to be manipulated and controlled. I let go of some of that influence and moved on with my life. And in doing so, I was able to meet my wonderful husband, I quit my miserable job and moved on to a better company with better pay and better support. My life has only moved up since those counseling sessions, since I began letting go of the negative parts of my past.

Since I am human, however, there are times I remember my abuser’s disparaging words. I remember his criticisms. I remember the times I felt my lowest and believed he was right about my worthlessness. I still question if he was right. I still question why anyone would love or respect me. Everyday is a struggle. Memories creep back up and I am constantly battling these moments of self-deprecation. In my head, I know he was wrong. But I hate myself for ever letting him control me and for letting him continue to control my thoughts.

I am going to adopt this tradition for the new year. Instead of not only promising myself to uphold several New Year’s resolutions, I will symbolically celebrate a cleansing of my past.

Too often has the past dictated my future.

There is so much negativity inside me, spreading like a cancer. If I hold onto it, then I am continuing the abuse that I thought I escaped. It will break down every part of me that makes me who I am. It will attack every cell in my body until my body turns against itself.

I’m not going to forgive my ex. I’m not going to forgive my sister’s ex. I’m not going to forgive all of the abusers in the world. They do not deserve forgiveness. But I will forgive myself. And I will stop the echo of abuse in my life. His words have no more hold over me. I will let the memory of all of his wrongdoing float down the river to be washed away. I will see myself for the beautiful and inspiring human being I can be. He has no more power. He has no more control. His influence will dissipate with the flame and the incense. I will see my krathong drift into the horizon, taking with it all the hate and malevolence of his memory.

 

~Lindsey V.

Broken Record

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Laughter fills the air, people flood the shopping malls, couples frolic about hand in hand, and Salvation Army bells ring on almost every corner. The holidays bring families together and are the time of year that everyone strives to bring some type of meaning to the end of another year. The main focus of those around us has been to ensure that gifts were bought and wrapped and neatly placed under the tree for our loved ones. Unfortunately, not everyone experiences joy during the Christmas season. Domestic violence does not take a break for the holidays. Sometimes, the strain of the festivities can exacerbate an abusive relationship. There are many factors during this time of year that play a part in pushing abusers to their limits: financial stress, higher alcohol consumption, and tension between families. This is no excuse for their behavior, but rather a catalyst or justification for them to take out their frustrations on those closest to them. Many of us find that we question why the victim stays. Why do they subject themselves to the torture? Why don’t they just leave? We should be asking the question, why does the abuser put them through so much pain?

We are all guilty of questioning the victim’s motives in staying in a toxic relationship. I’m guilty of it, and I was a victim to verbal abuse for 12 years. I was one of the statistics that stayed and gave chance after chance, which left my family wondering why I wouldn’t just leave. Why is it that our society is automatically ready to place the blame on the victim?

“Well, she went back to him again, she should know better. I won’t feel sorry for her the next time he hits her.”

While family members can only handle so much pain, watching their sister/brother/cousin go through an abusive relationship, we also need to remember that abusers have an incredible hold on their victims.

He only viewed me as an object and not a person . . . It was not an easy revelation. It was devastating . . . at the time.

Their techniques of manipulation and control, with empty promises of change, allow them the ability to sink their talons into the victim and pull them back into their clutches, time and time again. When an abuser thinks they are going to lose the victim that they have spent so much time molding into their little puppet, they will bombard them with relentless phone calls and text messages of undying love. It’s up to us to help the victim become aware of what is happening to them, to help open their eyes to the reality of their situation and give them the confidence to cut themselves loose. This isn’t done easily, and they must be approached delicately. The main thing they need from their friends and family is support. Any attempt to heavily persuade or shame them into leaving their abuser will only drive them further away from you.

When looking back at my situation, I recalled a time when my sister brought to my attention the cycle of abuse wheel. When I first looked at it, I saw that I could relate to every single aspect on the wheel, but then something inside me flipped a switch. I had been manipulated for so long that I believed all of the issues in my marriage were my fault. I looked at my sister and said, “Maybe I’m the abuser.” She stopped immediately and didn’t mention any more of it. She simply requested that I do a little research for myself. After I left him, she later confessed to me about how terrifying that moment was for her. At first thinking she was finally opening my eyes to the reality of my situation to  then fearing she may have caused more damage, she was scared to press the matter any further.

We should never underestimate the harm that years of manipulation can cause. I have been tossing the memories back and forth, trying to find some way my family could have approached me early on that I would have been willing to listen openly. I have yet to come up with anything. In the mind of the victim they think they deserve the treatment, manipulated to believe that they are abused because of something they did. They will immediately defend their abuser, or become offended if anyone else points out the abuser’s bad behavior. We have often heard the response, “But you don’t know him like I do.” They will make excuses for the behavior of their abuser, they will believe wholeheartedly that he is going to change this time, that he loves them. After it was brought to my attention that I was in an abusive relationship, it took about a year before I realized nothing was ever going to change unless I made the change myself.

I couldn’t escape the hold my abuser had over me until I realized he never actually loved me. He only viewed me as an object and not as a person: something for him to vent his frustrations on, something to exert control over, something to mold and to shape. When I let myself realize this, I was  no longer persuaded by his empty promises and his declarations of unending love. I saw through the lies and was able to claim my life back. The cycle of abuse wheel planted the seed and I began recognizing the patterns of his behavior. I saw our dynamic as though it were a broken record, the constant repetition of abuse and promises, abuse and promises. It was not an easy revelation. It was devastating . . . at the time. But I am happier and healthier now than I ever was during those twelve years.

Now the holidays are a time for being around those I love and who truly love me.

~Christa G.

Harmless at a Glance

“Whose shirt is this? It’s not mine.”
“I don’t know, it’s probably your cousin’s, he is living with us right now. It must have ended up in our laundry by accident.”
“Well, I don’t recognize it.”

While this conversation is seemingly harmless at a glance, it was, in actuality, heavily drenched with accusation. On many occasions, I found myself on the receiving end of an interrogation brought on by my partner’s paranoia.

At first, I was flattered by his jealousy, mistakenly attributing it to his love for me.

When I voiced my concerns or my hurt, he minimized the abuse or twisted it around, blaming me for his bad behavior. In fact, most victims don’t even realize they have been abused because their partner has successfully manipulated them into believing they somehow deserved the treatment or “blew it out of proportion.” I was a victim of the blame game on so many occasions that eventually I lost my voice in my relationship. I had no say in anything that took place, and if I tried to stand up for myself, my concerns would somehow become my fault or were drastically minimized so that it no longer mattered. I stopped caring. I stopped voicing my opinion. I stopped trying to better my situation. And finally, I turned to antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication to help me get through a dictated and controlled life. There was a complete lack of communication. Only his voice was ever heard and only his voice was all that mattered.

“F*%# you, you crazy b*%#@!”
I heard this phrase far too often.

I’ve been called just about every name in the book. Name-calling is an example of emotional and verbal abuse. You may ask, why would anyone put up with being called names and subjected to so much abuse? Remember, the act of minimizing and deferring blame, makes the victim feel as though it is either their own fault that they are being abused or that the abuser is being influenced by outside sources (aka, bad day at the office). They blame their victim for being the cause of their outbursts and promise it will never happen again. THIS IS NOT OKAY! Nor is it normal. If you find yourself in this type of situation, you are in an abusive relationship.

Toward the end of my relationship, my younger sister managed to get me away from my house and away from my partner. As we ate lunch, she confessed to me that her ex-boyfriend abused her, verbally and eventually physically. She didn’t realize this until much later because he had convinced her that she was either crazy or too sensitive. But one day, the abuse reached such a climax that she decided she had to leave him or he would destroy her both physically and mentally. She read to me a list, detailing the signs of an abusive relationship. I found that I could relate to 90% of that list. That was a terrifying moment, yet liberating, because it helped me understand the source of my misery and that I needed help.

In fact, most victims don’t even realize they have been abused because their partner has successfully manipulated them into believing they somehow deserved the treatment or “blew it out of proportion.”

A few months after our meeting, I ended that abusive relationship and began the healing process to move on with my life. It’s important to support and educate others so they too can avoid or escape unhealthy relationships.

If you or a loved one are unsure of whether or not you may be involved in an abusive relationship, ask yourself these questions: Do you find yourself in a relationship and yet feel utterly alone? Do you often feel that you have nowhere to turn? Does your partner monopolize or control all of your time? Do you feel as though you have been wronged but can’t pinpoint why, or when you question it, you are made to feel that you are responsible for your current situation? Do you feel that you are blamed for everything, including your partner’s bad behavior? There are many more questions, if you answered yes to any of these, please see this list. You can tally up your points and it gives you a summary of your possible situation based on your final result.

There are red flags that everyone should be aware of in any type of relationship, whether it be intimate, work, or family. The first step to freeing yourself from abuse is to learn the warning signs. Looking back on my relationship with my former partner, I remember circumstances that were huge red flags. But I was young and naïve and never dreamed I would fall victim to something I thought was so easily avoidable. I mean, why not just leave if you’re unhappy, right? Unfortunately, it is never that simple. He would dictate who I could hang out with and who I couldn’t. I was not allowed to have friends that were boys, I couldn’t talk to boys at school, or sit next to any boys. I was an innocent 17-year-old and therefore didn’t know any better. At first, I was flattered by his jealousy, mistakenly attributing it to his love for me. But soon I resented it because his demands were completely one-sided; I could not talk to boys but he continued to hang out and talk with girls. Jealousy and control early on are significant signs that you are in, or will be in an abusive relationship. Guilt trips are also a common way manipulators gain control over their victims. It is not normal for someone to shame you into doing something that you are not comfortable with, or to keep you from being involved in something that is beneficial to your daily life. Under no circumstance is it ever okay for your partner to delegate who you can talk to, where you go, or how often you see your family. Neither is it acceptable for them to keep an obsessive record of your daily activities or ask you to provide details of everything you did. These are indications that they are manipulative and controlling, and this behavior CANNOT BE CHANGED.

This type of relationship is not healthy. It will eventually wear down the mental state of the victim. The victim will suffer from low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. If you are reading this and find that you relate to these circumstances, then you need to seek help. There are many ways to seek help that are confidential, educational, and supportive. If you find that you are in an abusive situation, try some of the links that are included on our Helpful Links page. There are 24/7 hotlines available to help you come up with a plan to get away from your abuser. We desperately urge you to contact someone before it’s too late.

Once you learn the signs of abuse, you can take the next step toward a better tomorrow . . .

~Christa G.