Where I’ve Been, Where I Am, Where I’m Going.

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My mom and dad have been full-time RV’ers for the past year. That means they work remotely from the camper and haul it around whenever they want, wherever they want. This has been a major life change for them, and my mom has been writing about her experiences. Her most recent post was so authentic, so genuine, that it really inspires me to tell you what’s been happening since my last blog post five months ago. All of these have made me feel unsettled at times and under a lot of pressure, so I wasn’t writing about it. I felt paralyzed. I think I need to let that go and just say the things I need to say. It’s a lot all at once, I guess.

Jeremy and I decided to move to Charleston, South Carolina and we have been in the process of planning thus huge move. We’ve been together a year and a half, but we don’t live together and we don’t even live in the same state. It’s been awesome, I wrote all about how much I love our long-distance relationship. However, the next step for us involves living together and seeing if this will work long-term like we hope it will. We decided to move to Charleston because we both wanted out of New England, and I had visited Charleston once and loved it. We don’t have a community, jobs, or any particular pull for going aside from the adventure. Reactions from friends and family have ranged from “wow how exciting!” to “this seems like a bad idea”. Thankfully everyone has been supportive (even when skeptical) and I really believe we can pull this off. That being said, it’s still a huge transition as individuals, and in our relationship. First time living together thrown into a new apartment, city, jobs, school, etc. We won’t even know where to get a good cup of coffee, or which grocery store has the best deals. It’s overwhelming. We’re talking about money and being transparent about our fears, which is great. One thing I really value about our relationship is our transparency. We can be really frank about what we are feeling and why, and we’re really kind to one another. But the pressure is mounting and I’m starting to get nervous. I’ve done this twice before and one ended in abortion, another divorce. Hopefully the third time’s the charm. But I’ve got some baggage and it’s hard to be optimistic when I’ve had such dramatic breakups in the past. I feel confident that if it wasn’t working we’d do what we always do: be communicative and kind. Ultimately we’re going to find out pretty quickly what’s working and what’s not, and hope that the communication skills we’ve worked on so far will see us through no matter what.

I am still working for the same restaurant, but I am a bartender now. In the beginning, we were short staffed behind the bar, so every shift I worked was a bar shift for the first three months after training. We are now to a point where we have enough bartenders to give us all time on the floor as well, which in nice because bartending does get pretty repetitive. It’s one of my favorite things about the job, but working so many hours of the same thing was burning me out. Learning a new skill set is so exciting though, and makes me feel marketable for future employment. Bar training is difficult to get at a restaurant, and I’m really grateful that I have this opportunity. It’s been a difficult transition, too, although a really fun one. The hours are long, sometimes ten hours a day (with a break somewhere in the middle) and my nearly forty hours (and almost all the money I make) is Thursday-Sunday. By Sunday I’m wiped.

I scaled back my therapy to once a month, then school ended and so did my therapy (she is a doctorate student). She began her practicum this fall at a local business, but I haven’t yet called to resume seeing her. I think we did great work once a week for nearly a year, and I have the tools I need to go out on my own. There has been some anxiety with that, and I might be a person who needs regular or semi-regular therapy for the rest of my life. It has been so transformative for me. Talk-therapy has been an effective way to work out my problems. I need to talk about stuff out loud to work through problems. They can’t be solved in my head, I become too overwhelmed. Therapy was basically me paying someone to listen to me talk, because very rarely did she say anything. I often couldn’t stop talking long enough for her to get a word in edgewise. This was really important for me because I have the solutions, but have difficulty accessing them alone. It’s a lot to ask of a friend or lover consistently, and therapy was my “work” space where I didn’t have to feel guilty for dumping my crap into someone else’s lap.

I also started taking an antidepressant. I take Lexapro, 20mg a day. I have suffered from mood swings and anxiety for many years. I thought once I got older, I would feel better. Instead, as I got older, I felt worse. And, even though many areas in my life were almost perfect, and I had no reason to feel sad or unhappy (love my job, love my relationship, love my apartment, love my school, etc), I would wake up and be exhausted by the prospect of the day. I was tired, unmotivated, unbelievably sad, and anxious. This happens once or twice a year, it goes in cycles, so I just ride it out. However, this cycle was particularly bad. The worst one yet, and it really scared me. I was frustrated it would cost me my relationship, friendships, and possibly my job. A particularly bad day included a panic attack at work and I was hysterical – I mean unsafe to drive home crying uncontrollable and just totally losing my shit on the phone with Jeremy) – for hours afterward. The next morning I woke up feeling drained and empty. I couldn’t even remember what I said to Jeremy on the phone about it, only knew I had felt really emotional. By this point, I had called and canceled so many doctor’s appointments (correction: I said I wanted to/should call my doctor, but never following through) but that morning I hit a breaking point. I was so embarrassed about having had a panic attack at work (my boss was fabulous, and continues to be) that I resigned myself to considering taking medication. Up to this point I stubbornly refused taking anything. I convinced myself I could change my brain chemistry through a positive attitude and sheer force of will. In retrospect this was fucking stupid. Like, really stupid. My doctor explained that while emotions are important and necessary, unbearable persistent sadness was atypical. There’s a better way to live, and it’s by increasing the amount of time serotonin hangs out in your brain. It’s released and then a re-uptake process happens where it gets reabsorbed. If this re-absorption happens too quickly, you don’t have enough serotonin and the lack of it makes you very sad. At least, that’s what they think. So anyway, an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) keeps serotonin from being reabsorbed. The effect? Well, for the first two weeks, I felt amazing. I was chipper, motivated, nearly manic. A few people thought I was drunk or stoned. Perhaps it was the relief that I took action or maybe it was the drug. Either way, the first few weeks were awesome and then I crashed. I almost had another panic attack at work and I was pissed. I wanted an instant fix, which was silly. It can take months to get used to a new med, and even longer to find the right dose or kind of medication. There have been some frustrations but my dose was doubled and that seems to be working. It does come with some sexual dysfunction. Having an orgasm is really hard. Sex drive seems to be the same, and it all feels great, but I can’t quite seem to get there. Naturally this has been frustrating for both of us, but I quickly realized my emotional well-being wasn’t worth risking. So we got creative and we’re figuring it out. I have it on good authority that it will get better over time, but I can tell you one thing for sure: I never want to go to that dark place ever again.

School is awesome and it’s my last semester here before I leave. I’m very emotional about the whole thing and don’t want to talk about it.

I chopped off all my hair in an impulsive decision to have my outsides match my insides. Traditional ideas of femininity include long gorgeous hair. Duh. Everyone wants to be a bombshell. But inside, I’m a badass motherfucker who takes shit from no one. I’m fierce and I may be totally messed up, but I’m gonna try to chase down every dream I’ve ever had until I die. So I paid someone to chop off my hair into an adorable pixie and that was very rash and I absolutely love it. It might sound cheesy but I had massive anxiety for a full day beforehand. So badly that my stomach hurt and I couldn’t sleep. I’m deeply attached not to the hair itself, but what the hair represents. Something I can feel beautiful in, think others find me attractive. Cutting it off was putting a big middle finger to the system and saying “I’d rather not have thick long hair in the South next summer, and I’m spunky and fun and don’t need this long hair to feel gorgeous”. Cause the reality is I’m gorgeous no matter what, I might as well be comfortable. It’s why I’m almost always in a bathrobe and sweats when I’m at home (no matter what time of day/night it is) and I don’t wear makeup. It itches my face. I don’t wear heels because they hurt my feet and annoy me. I wear regular panties because they stay put and don’t go places underwear ought not go. Besides, I’ve received exactly zero complaints from dudes who got to the panty stage. I’d rather be comfortable. But the hair… the hair. I just couldn’t let it go. I was going to be a bombshell with long gorgeous hair no matter what. Except it’s heavy and hot and gets in my face. It clogs my shower drain and let’s be honest I’m not going to curl it out to look like a movie star. It will just air dry and be kinda wavy and kinda sexy but really soft and usually smell nice. But I didn’t feel like a bombshell. So, I chopped it off and looked myself in the mirror and thought “you might not look like old Hollywood on the red carpet, but this is exactly who you wanna be”. Everyone loves it and I’ve been told I look like an adult and really sexy. Everyone’s always grinning at me and my new hair. It’s awesome.

My sister got married, which was awesome and fantastic and I love her so very much, as well as her husband(!). The event was lovely and impressive they put it together in just a few months, less than six for sure, And we only had one fight and it was on the phone way before the wedding so we were totally cool. It was really emotional to see her make vows to someone, and to see the tears streaming down his face before her entrance music even started playing. It was evident he adores her! Plus, Jeremy was able to get the time off work so he met my entire family in one weekend. Even better, he nailed it, and everyone loved him. Comments range from “Keep him” to “Can I marry him instead?”. How neat is that? And totally new. They didn’t even like my husband this much.

I’ve taken up a new hobby, photography. I am taking photos for free while I practice using the equipment and build my portfolio. I would like to have enough experience with the shooting and editing process to begin marketing myself as a professional (paid) photographer once we move to Charleston. As a result, I’m looking for subjects to model. I’ve done one engagement shoot and three head shots/portraits. I have a family session booked next week and several people approaching me about getting their picture taken. Let me know if you are interested.

My lease ends October 31, but we aren’t moving until December, so I’m crashing on an air mattress (which I have yet to purchase, actually) for the last six weeks of the semester. It’s gonna be a crazy few months, but I’m feeling the positive forward momentum. Things are clicking into place but I’m still struggling to write regularly. I think I’ve realized I don’t know how realistic it is for me to write professionally or have the pressure to be creative on someone else’s schedule. I want to get back to the raw energy that attracted people to my blog in the first place, rather than worrying about edits and structure. I don’t want my blog posts to feel scripted or formulaic. They should range in tone, length, content, and perspective. It’s an ongoing process, this growing up thing, and I want to get back to the place where I’m inviting you to see the different ways I’m growing and changing. I think I put too much pressure on myself to “really know” something before writing it, because I was worried people wouldn’t like my writing. Now I’ve realized that I started doing this for ME, and people liked it just fine. Some said they were too long, others said where have you been WRITE SOMETHING! So, this is how I’m feeling today right now. It’s not going to sit in my inbox for later review. Soon I’ll have reached a logical stopping point and I’ll just hit

Respect in Relationships


A few days ago, I read an article about second marriages. Jeremy and I have discussed it extensively, and although we have more to learn about one another, we aim to build a life together. Since I’m divorced, I often wonder what it will be like to be remarried. One of the major talking points in the article was this question:

Why did your last relationship (or marriage) end?

When I started thinking about it, I reflected on how far I have come since my divorce. There are several posts on my blog about abusive relationships and the aftermath of the separation and subsequent divorce. It was a very dramatic and upsetting ordeal, but I no longer recognize the woman I was a few years ago. I still have the memories, but they feel like the details of a story I heard a long time ago – someone else’s narrative.

If you had asked me a few years ago why my marriage ended, I would have given you the skinny on the terrible human being my husband was. I would have lamented all the mistakes he made, the terrible ways in which he treated me, and I doubt I would have focused much on the role I played in my divorce. What happened was so traumatic and distressing… certainly my transgressions didn’t even compare, right?

Now, some years later, I can assess the situation dispassionately and with fairness. I can easily see the fundamental problem with our entire relationship – all four years of it.

Our relationship lacked RESPECT.

Respect is one of those abstract concepts I can’t really define. If you asked me to define it, I would create a bunch of scenarios and describe respectful behavior, or perhaps I would try to look it up in the dictionary, as I did just now:


Even here, it’s like Google is grasping at straws. Yes, I understand you can respect someone FOR something. But what does it mean to pay someone respect? How do you show someone you respect them in a relationship? This is what I aim to figure out, probably over the course of my lifetime.

Hindsight being what it is, I can tell you exactly how I did not respect my partner over the course of four years, and how he did not respect me. On my end, I did not see him as my intellectual equal. I patronized him and I was condescending. I didn’t do these things on purpose – I don’t think I did, anyway – it was the result of being in a relationship with someone who lacked the things I needed to be happy.

If I could go back and do it all over again, I would gracefully exit the relationship after a few short months, rather than four years later in a courtroom, asking a judge to grant a divorce. At the time, I was terrified of being alone, of failure, and determined I could make our relationship healthy through sheer force of will. This might be possible for two people who already have a strong foundation and deep respect for one another, but for two complete strangers, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Things didn’t get much better as we argued about EVERYTHING. Every time a conflict arose, it was a bloody battle (hyperbolic here, no actual body fluids were shed in the course of argument). We were constantly fighting for “power” in the relationship. It mattered who was right and who was wrong, and neither wanted to concede. I don’t think either of us had figured out that it’s okay to back away from an argument with a white flag. It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you smart.

I felt a lack of respect in how he treated me as well. I’ve tried to figure this out, tried to understand where it was coming from. I can’t speak for him, of course, I can only guess. Maybe I wasn’t what he wanted either, and he was trying to mold me into his idea of a perfect mate. Maybe he was reacting to my disrespectful behavior. I suppose I’ll never know. What I do know is that there were many times when I felt myself dissatisfied and rather than walk away, I expected him to drink the Kyrston Kool-Aid and behave in ways I found acceptable. That’s not a solution – it’s arrogance. I’m sure at the time I deluded myself into thinking that I really was the “right” one. My suggestions were not outlandish – don’t drink and drive, please don’t call me names, stop trying to punch things when you’re upset – but it was not my place to outline his behavior and make corrections. The proof? I hated it when he did the same thing to me – answer your phone when I call you, don’t wear that skanky outfit, stop spending so much money. Can I really argue with his points? I could, but then we are missing the point.

In my current relationship, there is so much respect between us it’s almost ridiculous. I have a deep admiration for this human being, and am impressed by everything he is. Even more awesome – I can feel that he also admires me, and is impressed by me. Sure, we say nice things to each other, but we also show each other the respect we feel through our actions. We are polite toward one another, well-mannered, patient, kind, understanding, gentle, and we always give one another the benefit of the doubt. We don’t race to conclusions, don’t speak for one another, and I think we both have a self-awareness about the way we affect one another. We are incredibly present in the relationship. Respect drives our behavior, not passion or a sense of desperation.

I’ve only recently begun integrating these behaviors into relationships with other people, as well. I think, as a culture, we tend to be disrespectful of one another. “Live and let live” comes to mind – but what’s the fun in that? It’s far more entertaining to judge others, offer unsolicited advice, and behave selfishly. When someone is upset, we aren’t quick to accept responsibility for our own behavior.

By being self-aware about the respect I give others, I’ve seen a change in those relationship. There is a richness, a fullness. Our bond extends beyond common pastimes or where we work. There is trust there, and a growing sense that vulnerability is okay.

And yet, I still find myself constantly correcting my behavior, or receiving feedback from people around me. My best friend sometimes comments that I talk down to her and it makes her feel small. Rather than dismiss her comments (read: disrespectful) I try to understand where my behavior MIGHT be coming from (am I threatened by her, do I honestly find her to be a small person, am I frustrated with her choices, etc). More often than not, I think she wants to know that I HEAR her, that her feelings matter to me, and that I want to make an effort to show her more respect in our friendship. I certainly don’t intend to make her feel disrespected.

Being cognizant about showing respect is exhausting, at least for me, and it’s presented its own host of issues. I find respect is easiest to give and receive when two parties are being open and communicative about their needs. This is scary and does not come easily to some people. If you don’t tell me what you need, I can’t give it to you. I’m hitting a wall. At that point, I move forward best I can, erring on the side of caution.

Another issue I have noticed is that I don’t have the freedom to behave how I want to behave all the time anymore, because having an awareness about how my behavior affects others changes the game. It’s exciting to say whatever I want all the time, and it’s freeing to give literally zero fucks about what others think of me. But there is a delicate balance here. When is the time to bare it all, and when is the time to purposefully use a little more tact? It’s a case by case basis, not by person, but by moment.

Why do all this work? Well, quite plainly, I believe that all human beings exist to serve other human beings. We rely on each other – socially, emotionally, financially, the list goes on – and our relationships with one another require constant maintenance and care. It’s not easy and not fun sometimes to think of others just as much as I think of myself, but there is reward in enhancing those relationships and helping others to feel as respected as I like to feel.

Wherein I explain a BIG problem I’m having…

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This post falls under the following categories: stream of consciousness, emotional rant, and self-analysis. I’m a bit out of practice – having been on a writing hiatus these past few months – but I really need to sort some things out and I’ve turned to the page (so to speak) to do so. As with most tough-to-tackle life problems, I share this process with you.

When I was thirteen, I was riding a school bus when the bus abruptly hit a frost heave. Not surprising, considering it was March 12, 2003. March is a tough month for roads. Nice enough that snow melts, but so cold at night the freshly-melted snow freezes again. It also bears mentioning that I expected this bump in the road – and even joyfully anticipated it. Nothing is as exciting as your butt coming off the seat and catching an inch of air as you ride a school bus. I was thirteen, after all.

So, my sister and I boarded the bus, eager to race to the back for maximum air time. It was an empty bus – save for two passengers in the front seat (this was the “late” bus: running about twenty minutes after the rest of the buses left; intended for kids who had detention or after school activities).

We sat in our seats, perched on the edge, and placed our hands on the seat in front of us. Katy told me to get ready. When the bump came, we would grab hold. I did not have time for such a reaction.

When the front wheels hit the frost heave, I was suddenly and violently thrust out of my seat. My head hit the ceiling of the bus. I came down and landed right on my rump.

When the rear wheels hit the frost heave a fraction of a second later, I was again thrust out of my seat. This time, when I came down, my chin hit the seat in front of me. A school bus seat feels like a metal bar wrapped in thin vinyl. My mouth was positioned in an underbite (with my lower jaw extended and my lower teeth in front of the upper teeth) and the force of the impact cause my bottom teeth to jam my front teeth backwards into my mouth.

I remember standing up. I remember holding up my hand to the bus driver and trying to yell “stop” but my mouth felt funny. It was completely numb. I couldn’t talk. I walked forward slowly, swaying with each step as the bus swayed, and kept raising my hand in the universal “STOP” gesture.

Suddenly, I felt something in my mouth. I turned my head to the left and spat, seeing a spray of blood exit my face. I noted a tooth flew out of my mouth. From behind me, I could hear my sister laughing. She was walking behind me. I turned to face her, and her easy smile and carefree laugh was quickly replaced by an expression of shock and dismay. She immediately burst into tears.

The bus driver noticed me and quickly pulled over. I remember him handing me paper towels as he called someone on the radio. I pressed snow to my mouth and idly observed the way the blood changed the snow. The two children in the front seat looked on, impassive.

The driver took me home. My dad was striding out of the house and through the driveway as we pulled to a stop. I ran to him, clutching to him in panic and anxiety (he later told me that my face was almost unrecognizable as a result of the accident). I raced inside to look at my face. I bemoaned and panicked over the loss of my perfect smile and beautiful features. My dad ordered me to calm down and he called the orthodontist (ironically, I had been in the office just that morning to discuss the possibility of needing braces to correct an unrelated problem). The doctor urged my father to bring me in immediately, before the teeth set in place.

Once in the office, I was administered a few shots of Novocaine. I then lay on a table, in a back room, while a handful of dental assistants held me down. There was one for each leg, one for my shoulders, and one for my left arm. The doctor sat to my right and explained that he needed to press the teeth back into place. When one of the restraining assistants shifted her weight, I could just barely see my dad sitting in a chair by my feet, with his head in his hands.

When the doctor placed a thumb on each tooth and pressed them back into place, I was immobile and screaming from the pain. It didn’t feel like a scream, because my mouth was open, and I remember moaning. It was a desperate plea to stop, a helpless cry of someone who has no control over what is happening and in unbearable pain. My dad told me, later, that he had never seen so much blood in his life. It was spraying from my face, like a horror movie.

I was barely resistant in the placing of the braces. I just sort of laid there, probably in shock, or exhaustion. After that, we went to the ER to check for a concussion. Why they would make a child with a head trauma and no pain medication wait for more than five minutes is beyond me.

This was in 2003.

In the year 2011, I visited the dentist. At this time, I was 22. Freshly married and excited about my new grownup life. After taking my x-rays, my dentist advised me that due to short roots, I would likely need to fix my two front teeth (central incisors) earlier than most people. In my thirties or forties, he said. He explained that they drill down the tooth and place a crown over it. I remember going home to tell my husband this strange and not at all concerning news. The dentist was more concerned with my wisdom teeth, and they didn’t even hurt. That was 2011.

Two weeks ago, I visited a dentist for the first time in a few years. I’ve never had a cavity and take excellent care of my teeth, so when I didn’t have dental insurance, I simply didn’t go. I had my x-rays taken and immediately was questioned about the trauma to my teeth. The dentist was extremely anxious, and it was making me anxious.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Your teeth,” she said, “are so damaged from the trauma, they need to be replaced.”

“I know, my dentist told me that a few years ago. He said it wasn’t a big deal right now. Why are you so upset?”

The dentist looked at the assistant and then looked at me. “This is a problem right now. You might need a permanent retainer, or implants.”

“How much does this cost?” I say.

“Five thousand, maybe eight, it’s hard to tell. The surgeon will know.”

I went to the receptionist at the end of the appointment to schedule a follow-up with an oral surgeon. They scheduled me for a few weeks later. I went home and started poking around, looking for information on the accident. I knew it was a result of the trauma, and wondered if I could get the bus company to pay for it. I called my parents. They didn’t sue the bus company, just sent them the bills and the bus company paid for my braces. They didn’t have any paperwork.

I called the orthodontist’s office and asked them to send me any billing information in my chart. I received the name of an insurance company. I called, sent online requests, and eventually emailed with someone from the insurance company. She was very pleasant, and advised me she might need time to dig up these old records. I had been over ten years, after all.

A few days later, I heard from her. She told me that it wasn’t her office that processed my claim, it was a bus company claims adjuster. I contacted that person, and immediately received a response from her superior telling me the documents had been destroyed because the statute of limitations had been reached.

I was confused and frustrated. I had spent days trying this information down, fighting a mounting anxiety and sense of dread, and suddenly I was hitting a wall. I reached out to a local personal injury attorney – somewhat of a celebrity in this area – and he could not help me.

I met with the oral surgeon this past Monday, and the news was far worse than I had feared. My two front teeth (central incisors) are not connected to bone at all. Only soft tissue hold them in place. The teeth immediately to the right and left (later incisors; these four teeth are the front four in your top row) had over 50% bone loss. It would be irresponsible to replace two and not all four, as the second two have barely anything left.

For the front two? Maximum of two years. The second two? Five, maybe ten years. Maybe.

The surgeon then explained the only course of treatment available due to this advanced bone loss and root resorption. Remove all four teeth and place two implants on the lateral incisors and replace the front two with crowns. All four teeth are connected in a four unit bridge, drilled into the bone on the ends. Here is what that looks like. Same theory, but on the top row of teeth in the very front, instead of on the bottom row in the back (as pictured).


I again go to the receptionist desk and she types in everything the surgeon said. I am anxiously awaiting this dollar amount. A few minutes later she prints a long list of services – the treatment plan – with associated pricing. My insurance does not cover major restorative work. It should be noted that this is not considered cosmetic, as all the teeth lean on each other. These will fall out – and soon – and then my entire mouth is at risk, especially for increased bone loss and gum disease.

Total price tag for a permanent solution?


My heart dropped. Or maybe it started racing. My blood ran cold, or it started boiling. I was at ease, I was panicked. More than anything else, I was numb. And I desperately wanted this to not be my life.

Fifteen thousand dollars? That’s more than half what I make in a year. That’s three semesters of college. That’s more debt than I’ve ever been in – including student loans. It’s a new car, a down payment on a house, an impossible figure. I laughed at the sheer magnitude of this news.

Very quickly I discovered two things: I did not have the luxury of burying my head in the sand, and I had a serious problem: even more distressing than the massive dental expense was my insane urge to go completely haywire.

I have a tendency to behave very erratically when I feel powerless. In order to regain a sense of control over my own life, I act out in self-destructive ways. I sabotage relationships, put my job in jeopardy, blow off responsibilities, and engage in risky behavior. These make me feel empowered and safe, because I am doing something. The bad thing I am doing is better than the worse thing I can’t control.

However, I am a grown-up, and do not have the luxury of throwing a temper tantrum. I took a deep breath… and drove immediately to my job, where I worked as my last day of bar training for nine hours. My boyfriend was here and we talked through some creative ideas for funding, including a GoFund Me, becoming a stripper, and getting married to share insurance benefits. After a long day and impossible news, I was nearly hysterical with soul-crushing anxiety and exhaustion. Any option seemed better than the last, and I put Tanqueray on my feelings.

I awoke the next morning with a brighter attitude.

Technically, I woke up at the crack of dawn, and with a lot of anger. I snapped myself out of it pretty quickly – chastising myself for punishing Jeremy just because he was there. I think I only made one aggressive movement – throwing my chap stick a little too hard onto my nightstand – before pulling it together. I called my parents, told them what was happening, and came inside to find Jeremy on the phone with a family friend who happened to be a personal injury attorney. I spoke with her and she explained how the statute of limitations works and how firm the law is. If I were to file, it had to have been by 2010. There is no exception for this – not even ignorance.

Naturally, this sent me into an even darker place. I blew off class. I decided instead to spend most of my days off sleeping, cooking for Jeremy and myself, and watching Game of Thrones. I was determined to feel positive, but really I was just delaying the inevitable.

Today, the first day by myself since Monday when I got this news, I felt that overwhelming sense of anxiety creep in. I tried watching TV, I read Cosmo, I called a few friends. I couldn’t think about it, it was too huge for me to handle, and I felt myself want to unravel (which is a vast improvement to actually unraveling).

Then, tonight, I had sort of a breakthrough. I already know that I have control over my feelings (and how much things affect me), but I hadn’t admitted to myself that even if I want to be that kind of person, I don’t know how to do that. It’s pretty easy to say “turn that frown upside down, kiddo!”.

If I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, it’s impossible to delude myself into thinking I do want to get up. I’ll get up, alright, but don’t kid yourself: I’m just going through the motions.

In the meantime, due to staffing complications at work, I’ve clocked 80+ hours of serving and training the past two weeks, the semester is nearly over, my sister is getting married in a few months, a close relative is going through a tough time, and I’m supposed to move to South Carolina with Jeremy in six months.

Right. Like I needed another thing on my plate.

Oddly enough, despite feeling worse for wear and positively drained, I’m tougher than this. I’ve gone through harder things than this. The accident makes for a great story, but I’m not a traumatized individual. I drive a car and don’t have a fear of public transportation or frost heaves. It makes for a great cocktail party story to entertain a crowd, but I’m really fine.

I’m pretty angry that due to a technicality, the bus company can get away with not taking fiscal responsibility for a mistake made on their watch. I’m pretty angry that my parents didn’t explore litigation, but they did the best they could with the tools they had. What’s that saying…? Put want in one hand and shit in the other, now see which one fills up faster? All the wishing in the world won’t change the law or the past. It is what it is.

Despite that mundane truth, my emotions are all over the place. Writing is making me feel better – more focused on the task at hand. At the end of the day, I just need to solve the problem. Get creative with funding, look into less expensive treatment centers, change my dental insurance to one that includes these services, and get a second opinion. Hell, maybe I’ll go to Mexico. I probably won’t become a stripper or start a marriage for insurance benefits. But I will figure it out.

In the meantime, I have to live my life. Like I said before: the semester is nearly over, my sister is getting married in a few months, a close relative is going through a tough time, and I’m supposed to move to South Carolina with Jeremy in six months. I can’t put this on hold much longer, but I can try to be more frugal and aware of my spending habits, and create a plan. Taking action will make me feel better and less like lashing out at coworkers or loved ones.

But, on those days when I “literally can’t even”, it’s a good idea to really explore those feelings to their natural conclusion, give the feelings rooms to just be, rather than feeling guilty or trying to manage them. Instead of shoving those feelings aside or trying to bury them, give myself the compassion and freedom to feel what I feel when I feel it.

In other words, I’m doing the best I can.

Living with PTSD Triggers – My Story


My therapist told me I have mild PTSD. I laughed, nodded my head, and informed her that my last therapist told me the same thing.

Growing up, I was aware PTSD existed, but it was a term reserved for conversations about war veterans. I assumed I would never understand nor struggle with living with PTSD, because I was pretty sure I would never go to war.

The truth is, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can affect any person who has endured any trauma. The trauma can range from surviving a natural disaster to surviving a war. It can affect those who have suffered an assault and those who have no memory of ever being assaulted in the first place.

Not everyone who experiences trauma develops PTSD, but for those of you that have, this is my story.

Two years ago, I ended a marriage due to a violent incident between my husband and I. You can read about it here. It was that evening and those events which traumatized me. The word traumatized sounds melodramatic, but I assure you it is not. If it were anything less than that, I would not experience the symptoms I do today.

One such symptom is a set of “triggers” I now have as a result of the trauma. The trigger symptom does not apply to everyone, but it does apply to me. Also, even if many people have triggers, they manifest in different ways.

One of my triggers relates to hostility and aggression. I am “triggered” when someone behaves in a hostile or aggressive manner. The list of ways this can happen is extensive. I am triggered if someone raises his or her voice toward me. If someone has a caustic tone of voice, or a tone of voice that is biting, sharp, nasty, or harsh, I am typically triggered. If I get the impression someone is angry with me, I am usually triggered. When someone expresses anger in a physical way – pacing angrily, using body language that seems stiff and tense, advancing toward me during the conversation, pointing at me, etc – I am usually triggered. The reactions very on the intensity of the situation.

Sometimes, I have a reaction that is mild. This usually occurs when the person I am watching or talking to is only expressing anger about something else. It makes me uncomfortable to see someone so visibly angry. I am thinking to myself pay very close attention to what is happening. S/he could turn on you at any moment. Have an exit strategy. When I say “turn on you”, what I mean is I am usually waiting for the person who is angry about work/life/family stuff/whatever will stop merely venting and put all of that frustration onto me. This almost never happens, and I can usually manage my emotions fairly easily. I pay attention, check for exits, and try to calm the person down. The last one is most important. Keep the anger (of the opposite person) to a minimum so things don’t escalate.

The next level of intensity would be watching one person treat another person in a hostile or aggressive fashion, in front of me. This would happen if a couple or two friends were fighting in front of me, watching a parent discipline a child, or watching a supervisor correct an employee in frustration. Really, any human being acting this way toward another. My reaction is stronger in these scenarios – I tend to be jittery, anxious, and fearful of what might happen next. I fear for the (supposed) victim of the anger, for being unable to help or stop events from happening if things escalate, and I fear being collateral damage if something were to go wrong. I typically leave the room when this is happening, because what I am seeing has nothing to do with me, and I can walk away from the stimuli that disturbs me.

The most intense reactions come from hostility and aggression directed toward me specifically. If someone raises his or her voice to me, or uses physicality as a means to express anger, or uses a tone I find threatening, I am triggered and the reaction I have is not only disproportionate to the situation, but my behavior is inconsistent with my personality and logical assessment toward what is happening.

First, I’ll explain the reaction itself. All other reactions are milder forms of this, and this is as bad as it gets. There is a flood of adrenaline. My stress response goes into overdrive. My palms sweat, my head buzzes, and I feel chilly all over. My heart races, I find it hard to breathe, and I can’t think clearly. Whatever thoughts I do have are in capital letters (yelling) inside my head, and they tend to follow along these lines:


This is obviously a disproportionate response to most scenarios. Someone being angry and pacing across a room, or someone yelling at me because I have hurt their feelings, do not require a stress response as if my life were in danger.

My therapist explained today that during the stress response, we fight, flee, or freeze. I’ve heard the term “fight or flight” response before, meaning that you either fight against what is threatening you or run away. I had never heard the word freeze incorporated into that saying. For people struggling with PTSD, “freeze” becomes as likely as the other two.

When I have this rush of adrenaline, my body goes into overdrive and my mind races, but I am immobile. I am frozen in place, unable to take action, and feel powerless. What’s worse is I don’t even realize I am frozen until after the fact, and it’s certainly not something I am doing on purpose, which is why I say that my behavior is out of character for my personality and logical assessment of the situation.

Here’s a perfect example. A close friend of mine and I were having a conversation recently. During the conversation, I became frustrated at the way she was describing something. I spoke too quickly and came across sounding like an insensitive and non-supportive jerk. Her feelings were hurt, which made her angry. She snapped back and started arguing with me and yelling at me. As she kept talking, she got more worked up. I sat there while she yelled at me for what felt like a very long time (in actuality it can’t have been more than two minutes).

As I listened to her yell, and watched her become more and more agitated, I sat on the couch and didn’t move a muscle. My hands were clasped tightly in my lap and I stared, unblinking, into her eyes. I felt my head buzz and my body go cold. My palms started to sweat and my thoughts were in capital letters. At one point, I remember thinking “If I don’t calm her down she’s going to hit me”.

When she finally took a breath, I used that opportunity to speak to her in a very soft voice. I explained that I was sincerely sorry and I could hear that I had hurt her by the way I spoke. I soothed her with an even tone, and poured every bit of my regret through my eyes into hers. It’s difficult to describe, but in a way, I was trying to make it right as quickly and effectively as possible. I needed to calm her down before she attacked me, without appearing as though that’s what I was doing. In my head, the clock was ticking. I felt I had a narrow window to calm her down.

On the night my marriage ended, I was out of control of the events as they occurred. I did regain some level of control at the very end, but it was a bit of cleverness and luck that saved me. By then, it was too late. I had already endured the very worst of it, and had already experienced a thing I had never felt before: fear.

Lots of things are scary, and lots of stuff can give you an adrenaline rush. But trauma is different from riding a scary roller coaster or watching a horror movie. With those things, the risk is usually artificially inflated. The thrill of a roller coaster is that you might die, but most people understand it’s just for show. The scary movie is stimulating and might catch you by surprise or disturb you in some way, but you know it’s make-believe. Trauma is trauma because your life actually feels in danger. It’s not just your imagination or a structured game.

On the night my marriage ended, I believed my life was in danger. I had never felt that before, and as a result of believing that with every bit of my soul, I have triggers that did not exist before. Before that happened, I did not mind yelling so much. Physicality and anger were a part of my household growing up, in the sense that we had the freedom to be expressive as long as we were respectful. I never felt in any danger, and rarely did those things hurt me or make me feel unsafe. It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t a cause for panic. However, that last experience was different in that things spun wildly out of control.

My therapist also explained to me that it’s not: Step 1 – Stimuli, Step 2 – Emotion. There is a step between one and two that happens so quickly (and unconsciously) that we don’t even realize it’s there. It’s the schema step.

A schema is a mental structure used to organize information and help make quick decisions about the world. Schemas are typically used in uncertain situations. When we don’t know or understand what is happening or what might happen next, we take the information we do have and plug it into the schema machine. Our mind finds the situation or experience that most closely matches it, and fills in the remaining or unknown with statistically likely information.

In my case, a schema might be that anger and hostility lead to violence and danger. I did not feel this way prior to the trauma I experienced. A previous schema might have been that anger and hostility in arguments lead to some form of conflict resolution. But, the trauma changed that schema, in the same way that it changed the way I feel about certain types of men and situations. My therapist explained that part of my treatment plan would include identifying what schemas are already in place, and we will work together to change those attitudes. The schema is the attitude about how the world works, and the emotion comes from the schema itself. Thus, the schema step is the unconscious one in between the stimuli and emotion.

When I say that my behavior is not a representation of my personality or logical assessment of the situation, it means that the intense emotion I have from the stress response causes me to behave in strange ways that I would not otherwise behave. For example, when my close friend became angry and yelled at me, I could have done any number of things. I could have yelled back, argued with her, talked it out loudly, walked out of the room, etc. However, instead, I was completely immobile. I didn’t move an inch or say a word – I barely breathed – and when I had the opportunity to, I spoke in such a way as to reduce the danger by calming her down. My words were genuine and I did feel terrible that she was so upset, but I was more concerned with staying safe.

Prior to the trauma, I probably would have had an all-out argument with her until we got it out of our system. I might have been defensive or showed emotion, I honestly can’t say. I can say that ever since what happened with my husband, I am terrified of confrontation. Whenever one does happen, I want it to be over with as quickly as possible, and I will say anything to calm the other person down, whether it’s true or not.

Situations like these are difficult for me to wrap my head around, because I do not maintain a self-concept of being a submissive human being. As a general rule, I feel in control and empowered. I feel confident that I can handle whatever life throws at me. However, when it comes to these triggers, I often feel as though I am in a free fall, grasping for any opportunity to protect myself from what feels like a life-or-death situation. Later, I feel embarrassed at my inability to participate in what I consider to be “typical” circumstances.

In addition, I am not shy or modest about the parts of me that are fucked up. I speak about them openly, and write about them openly, so most people are aware that I struggle with certain things. As a result, those who love me are careful not to behave in a way to trigger me, and if they do, they always feel terrible. Although this feels practical and sort of like a solution to the problem, I cannot rely on the patience and kindness of others to keep panic and anxiety at bay. In addition, there have been several situations where I found out later that the person couldn’t talk to me or be open with me out of fear that I would get hurt in the process. Sometimes I feel like I’m handing people the kid gloves with which to handle me, or that I am wearing a packing label that says “Fragile – Handle With Care”.

This is a topic about which I know very little. As treatment progresses, I will no doubt gain insight into how my trauma affected me. It is only very recently I have discovered that the PTSD is something that can be fixed. At times I felt irreparably broken, while at others I begrudgingly accepted these new aspects of myself as the “new” me. Now, I understand that although these triggers are installed in me due to the trauma, I can uninstall them through therapy.

I’ll never be someone who hasn’t endured trauma, but with the right tools and support, I can let go of the fear and anxiety that plague my relationship with the world and people in it.

Praise for the LDR!

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What’s the LDR, you ask? Long-Distance Relationship – something I never thought I would enjoy. As it turns out, the LDR can be really amazing. I’m certainly not a relationship expert – but I have made enough mistakes to learn what NOT to do. I’ve taken these lessons and incorporated them into my current relationship, and I’m slowly learning what TO do. It’s going really well. We have found a way to find balance and happiness. But first, some back story. Everyone loves a back story.

I met Jeremy when I was sixteen – nearly a decade ago. We worked at the same restaurant. I quickly developed a typical high-school crush on him. He was older than me (26 at the time), smart, handsome, cultured… complete puppy-love. Total infatuation. I lusted after him the way teenagers do, but it was never gonna happen. I used to get jealous when he talked about his girlfriend, secretly wishing (in the way only a teenager can) I was in her place. It was all very charming, really, but we were just friends. I was actually okay with that, because he was a really cool dude.

We closed the restaurant together most nights, which meant we were alone for hours. While I washed dishes and he cooked, we would talk about our lives. We were so open with one another. We talked, just the two of us, and bonded. He never flirted with me (which was annoying) and refused my many offers for a hug (also annoying; I was constantly hugging people; he did accept a high-five once!), but we were friends, and that was good enough for me.

After I graduated high school in 2007, I moved to the Midwest. He moved away from New England as well, and we lived separate lives. It was 2009, about a month before I turned twenty, he was in town visiting a friend. How serendipitous!  We met for coffee and I was shy and unsure of myself. The sixteen-year-old inside of me still lusted after him. Sadly, I lived there and he lived far away. Plus, I had a boyfriend.

We talked sporadically over the years – a phone call, text, or Facebook message here and there – but we were both doing our own thing. We were never as close as we had been when we worked together, but talking to him always felt like a touch of home. When I got married, I tried to let go of that insane infatuation, but I always wondered “what would have happened if?”. I guess the teenage girl in me just couldn’t let it go.

When I got divorced, I called Jeremy to let him know what happened. He had recently ended a relationship, too, and we bonded over the phone, sharing the details of our respective relationships. I had moved back to New England and so had he, but we were still a few hours apart. It was the closest we had been (geographically) in a long time. We talked about how we should get together, but I was in the middle of an emotional shit-storm and it didn’t happen. Not then, anyway.

I had some more relationships, and so did he, and we didn’t talk for a year or so. Then, in January, we reconnected again. We talked for hours on the phone. About everything. We began talking and texting on a regular basis. It shocked me how after all that time – especially with long periods of not talking at all – he didn’t feel like a stranger.

In January, I was in a relationship that I was pretty sure would be for the long haul. When everything exploded in my face, I leaned on Jeremy for support. I cried, lamented, and talked about how terrible everything was. I leaned into him and he leaned into me, and I didn’t feel isolated at all. He was a supportive friend.

We quickly decided we needed to see one another – it had been five years since our last meeting (when he visited his friend in the Midwest). He lived about three hours away and agreed to drive up for a visit.

I was so nervous. So nervous, in fact, that I was pacing my front porch while my best friend tried to calm me down. I changed my outfit about five times. My mind was racing. What if he drove all that way and we had nothing to talk about? What if he drove all that way and we didn’t click like we always had? Round and round I went in my own mind. I was wringing my hands and a complete mess. Equal parts excited and terrified.

When he got out of the car, I took one look at him and immediately relaxed. This was Jeremy, after all. If we managed to stay connected through years of sporadic contact and hundreds of miles in between us, there shouldn’t be a problem.

We went to dinner and had an amazing time. I was relaxed, confident, and safe. Everything we said and did felt natural. I was at ease and incredibly happy.

Over the course of the next few weeks and months, I was hyper-aware of everything going on around me. Reconnecting with Jeremy in this way – realizing how happy we made one another – happened at a very peculiar time. I had just ended a relationship and was not interested in a rebound, nor was I interested in making myself vulnerable all over again. I was on the mend, and that made things with him very tricky.

He was my friend first, incredibly patient, and available to me for every need. He was exactly like all of my other friends, except I was even more attracted to him than I had been before. The sixteen-year-old inside of me was jumping up and down and excitedly shouting You want him, he wants you, go for it! while the cautious and cynical twenty-four-year-old was calmly saying Be patient. Take your time. If he really does want you, he will wait.

For the first four months, I refused to enter into an exclusive partnership with him. I was determined to give myself the time and space I needed to heal from what happened. It didn’t matter that he was the only one I wanted, I needed to feel free. Despite my best efforts to remain walled in and guard my heart and soul, there was something about him that made me want to open up. Little by little, I revealed more to him about myself. There were anxiety-provoking moments, nerve-wracking moments, and lots of times when I said things that might shock the average Joe, but Jeremy took it all in stride. He listened to me while I processed my feelings for hours on end (no joke – I think our longest phone call was four hours long, and the longest I have talked without interruption is 90 minutes), held me while I cried, and was always available to me. He was kind, respectful, and patient.

At the beginning of the summer, I realized I had to make a decision. I was still afraid of what this meant, constantly analyzing all of my thoughts and feelings. I felt so unsure of myself, questioning my judgement and decisions left and right. All the while, we were rapidly reaching a point of no return. When the opportunity presented itself, I decided to exercise the freedom I thought I needed, and discovered I didn’t need it at all. So, I chose Jeremy. He had already chosen me, of course.

From that point forward, things have only gotten better. A decade of friendship has transformed into a powerful love – one that is full of trust and safety. These two things are vital to me, because I have been betrayed many times by people I trust. It is crucial that I feel safe in a friendship or relationship, otherwise it just won’t work. There was a lot of trust to begin with, because we were friends for such a long time before falling in love. Sometimes I wonder if, even though I want to call it infatuation now, I did fall in love with him at sixteen.

Which brings me (finally) to the reason why the LDR deserves praise.

I have been in a lot of relationships over the past ten years, but this is the first time my partner has lived so far away. Up until this point, I would have said that this would never work for me, because I crave attention. How would I get it if my partner isn’t there all the time?

What I found, instead, is that being in a long-distance relationship provided me the opportunity to find balance between my relationship and the rest of my life. I get all of the time alone I never thought I wanted. As it turns out, I really like being alone. I appreciate solitude. For the past eight months, I have lived: A) not with a relative and B) not with a romantic partner. I have roommates, so I’m not completely isolated, but my schedule does not revolve around my relationship. Despite the heartbreak I have endured, I haven’t given up hope that I will one day remarry and have children. It’s a dream for the future, but right now I need a lot of room to grow and learn more about myself. Being in a long-distance relationship gives me the best of both worlds: my emotional and physical needs are regularly met while I have the freedom to come and go as I please.

When you’re in a LDR, you have to work to prove you want the relationship. I am certain Jeremy cares about me because he puts in a lot of effort. In any relationship, certain things (should be) standard – affection, meaningful conversations, and sex (to name a few). I’ve had all of these things before, but I’ve never seen someone try so hard to not only court me, but keep me around. In the beginning, it was difficult for me to accept that I could be so wonderful that someone would work a ten-hour day then drive two-and-a-half hours just to give me a hug. “Five hours for five minutes” – that’s one of the many cute sayings we have for each other.

On my end, I couldn’t do the same thing for a long time. I didn’t have a car for a long time, and when I finally got one, I realized it wasn’t road-safe so I had to buy another. Once that happened, I had to make sure the car would make the trip. Well, I arrived in one piece and the car handled beautifully, so that’s taken care of.

Since I couldn’t drive weekly to see him until now, I’ve tried to find other ways to show him how much I value him. Once in a while I’ll pick up the tab, even though he always protests. I’ve sent him letters and cards, hidden love notes in his things for him to find later, and I am as available to him as he is to me. But above all else – I directly ask him what he needs, then give it to him.

Speaking of asking – communication is crucial. Distance does make the heart grow fonder, and in our relationship, that means that my fondness of him grows as we connect through conversation. I’ve found that in-town relationships survive longer than they are meant to because sex and companionship carry you through times of doubt. Without either of those things to lean on for support, we can only talk to each other. We talk every single day. We talk in the morning, or late at night after work, or in the middle of the day. We try to keep in touch through text messaging as well. We are always in contact with one another. Sometimes our conversations have to be brief – a quick “How was your day? Love you”, but most of our conversations are very long and very deep. We explore ideas about the world and ourselves, using the opposite person as a sounding board. There have been lots of little epiphanies along the way, and I often joke that he is ghost-writing my book, because I’ve come to some rather amazing conclusions while talking to him about my life.

Along the lines of communication, skip the bullshit and be open about everything. This seems like a no-brainer, and it’s a piece of advice I would give anyone who is trying to develop a relationship. There is so much sacrifice in a LDR, so take a short-cut and just be honest. That way, if it’s not going to work, you’re not sacrificing for no reason. However, it takes time to work up the courage to say things that you don’t want to say, but there is some safety in talking over the phone. It’s a sort of anonymity – there can be no face-to face conflict on the phone, and you really have to pay attention to what the other person is saying. When we talk to each other, there are no distractions. We each have the other’s undivided attention for the duration of the conversation. Without facial expression or body language to give cues, we really have to listen to one another.

Can’t write a post about the LDR without talking about sex. Let me start by pointing out that sex is complicated no matter what kind of relationship you have, but being in a LDR does affect your sex life. The most obvious example would be: I want it now and can’t have it now. When you have an in-town relationship, sex might be available all the time. With the LDR, you are limited to the time you have together. In addition to that, there is a kind of pressure associated with that time you DO have together – I found myself wanting to squeeze an entire week’s worth of sex into two or three days. It was an unrealistic expectation to put on myself, and it only made me feel guilty. I bring a fair amount of baggage to the table, and some of it has to do with sexual abuse I have received in other relationships. This was a perfect opportunity to continue our open communication, talking about how we felt about it. We didn’t have to make an action-plan – we just agreed that sex should happen when it feels right. So, for the time we are together, sex happens when it feels natural. When we are apart, we just don’t have sex. It’s as simple as that.  In the beginning, the not having sex was really frustrating. All I can say is that I got used to it.

On the plus side, since we spend the entire week talking openly with one another and finding other ways to connect, the time apart ends up being a type of foreplay. All of that pent-up excitement and adoration is released all at once. It makes for a very satisfying time together, as long as you can handle the time apart.

The number one reason the LDR works for me (aside from that fact that Jeremy is still a really cool dude) is I know when my needs will be met. This doesn’t just apply to our sex life, it applies to everything. I like my hand to be held, to share a bed with someone, and to get lots of hugs. I enjoy laughter and lively conversation, as well as sharing meals and sharing time with the person I love. Whether it be a phone call or a visit, I feel happiest when I know when to expect these things. This might not apply to everyone, but I imagine that if more people knew what was happening in the relatively short future, they would be more at ease overall. There are lots of times when we simply cannot know what will happen next, but the LDR should absolutely have some sort of plan attached to it.

I always know when I will talk to Jeremy on the phone or when I will see him face to face. Sometimes we plan this out day-to-day, and sometimes we know a few days in advance what our work schedules will be like. Seeing each other every week is a privilege, because we both understand that during certain times of the year, we will see one another less frequently. During the summertime his schedule is crazy – working sixty or more hours a week – and during the winter we have inclement weather to consider. I am in school and so I have classes and I work, and we still have regular lives outside our relationship.

No matter what the circumstance is, I feel safest when I feel in control. What makes me feel in control is the ability to regulate my own emotions without feeling like the rug is being ripped out from underneath me. So, barring an emergency, I know when I will see him and for how long. It helps me manage the time we are apart. As long as I know when we will talk or see each other next, I can manage any feelings of loneliness.

In addition to the short-term planning, we have an idea of what the future looks like. I am staying where I am until I graduate from school, which will take a little over a year. After that, I’ll be transferring to a different school to continue my education. Jeremy and I talked about it, and he encouraged me to pursue my dreams. We both agreed that a LDR arrangement would not work long-term, but we can make it work until we can find another way to be closer together. It’s not a plan per se, but it is an idea of what might happen next.


To My Ten-Year-Old Self: A Letter

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Inspired by this video.

To my ten-year-old self:

As I write you this letter, I am 25 years old. A lot of things have happened in the past 25 years. While I do not reflect on any of these experiences with regret, there are a few things that, if I had known them, I would have avoided all of the unnecessary pain.

For starters, some pain is necessary. Dad will tell you in a few years that if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right. That growth comes from discomfort. You’ll resist this idea, but I advise you to chase after the things that make you nervous or scared. Lean into that feeling, let it fill you up, but never let it prevent you from chasing every dream.

In a few years, the bullying will start. Certain members of your peer group will mistreat you – and you should absolutely remove yourself from those relationships as quickly as possible. As a good rule of thumb, if it makes you feel bad about yourself, stay away from it. Teasing is never okay when it makes you feel bad about yourself. Even if something is presented like a joke, you will know in your heart if it is mean spirited in nature. When this does happen, understand that nothing anyone says about you can define your self-concept. They are only words, and for that matter they are only the opinions of others, which are none of your business anyway. What really matters is how you feel about yourself.

On that note, be humble. You will make many mistakes. Use each one as an exercise in humility. Always ask for help when you need help. Always apologize when you know you have done something wrong. Choose kindness first, every time, even when those around you do not behave that way. Learn empathy – the ability to understand someone else’s perspective – and learn patience. Also learn to believe in yourself, even when you are behind the curve on some things.

Never stop singing. I am telling you this because when you are 12, kids at school will make fun of you and accuse you for trying to show-off because you have a beautiful voice. Do not let them silence that voice. Of course you are not showing off – it’s not your fault you have the voice you have – and music makes you feel good. Sing loud and sing proud, kiddo.

Do not quit when things get hard. You will struggle with this constantly. Mom and dad will let you quit enough times to feel like you never had to see anything through to the very end, for better or for worse.

Speaking of mom and dad – pay them respect. Try to accept this now: they are way more than just mom and dad. They are Lee and Tracy, they have identities beyond what you see and the role of parent, and they are flawed individuals. They will make mistakes. This is because you are the oldest. Believe me – they love you endlessly and always want to protect you.

Be especially kind to mom during ages 12-17. Do not punish her because you are finally starting to realize she is more important to Dad than you. She always was.

Be gentle with your father, because as he watches you mature into a young woman, you will likely make some choices that make him very uncomfortable. You have the rest of your life to make private decisions privately; for now, just try to behave like a young lady should.

Be nice to your sisters, but stand up to Katy. She can be bossy and scary sometimes, and you might be tempted to let her walk all over you. Don’t. Don’t let anyone do that, as a matter of fact, including mom and dad, boyfriends, friends, teachers, and strangers. Stand up for yourself, but always be polite and respectful when doing so.

Make an extra effort to build a solid respectful relationship with Kasey. She is so much younger than you – only three now – that it can be hard to connect. When you are 25, you don’t want to worry that your sister, now 18, has nothing to say to you.

Relax. Relax. Relax. I know that you don’t understand a lot of your own intense feelings. I know that some sensory aspects of the world bother you. Dad is (or used to be) pretty high strung, and you are equally high strung because of genetics or modeling. Relax. Chill out. I know that you are fearful of the unknown and things you can’t quite understand, but just because you don’t know, that doesn’t make it scary. Nurture an appetite for adventure and never let fear get in the way.

Never stop reading. Silly, I know, but you will thank me one day.

Never stop writing. Write about everything. Write all the time. Don’t worry if it’s any good. Develop discipline by writing every single day, immediately after homework (you should get in the habit of doing it now) and before any play. Writing is your homework (some days) and your play (other days). The final product is not important. No one has to read it. Just write.

Speaking of writing, if you haven’t figured it out, you’re a writer. You will be (and can be) anything you want to be – but at the core you will always be a writer. You will spend much of your adult life (I think) trying to figure out what that means exactly. But, accept it now and never let anyone tell you that writers are “starving artists”. By the time you graduate from college, that won’t be true anymore. Technology and culture to the point where the writer is as commonplace as the Doctor, Dentist, or Veterinarian; do not limit yourself for any reason.

Finally – always put yourself first. I do not mean be selfish, not in the bad way that you are thinking. I mean take care of you. You have a huge heart and will want to help so many people throughout the next ten years. You will not be able to help anyone if you are not well taken care of. The person responsible for your emotional and physical well-being is YOU. So, drink plenty of water (don’t wait until you are thirsty), eat properly (or try to – it can be hard), love your body no matter how frustrating it is, forgive yourself for your own mistakes, forgive others for theirs, try to see the beauty in the world, get enough rest, and find balance between work and home. This last one is especially hard. Pour about half as much of yourself into people that you want to; this gets you a lot closer to a balanced life.

Remember that you are beautiful and unique and special, but so is everyone else. Respect yourself, respect others, and keep an open mind about the complexities of the world.

With love,

Your older self.

PS: It’s okay to experiment with anything you feel comfortable experimenting with, on your terms, in a safe manner. But do not smoke cigarettes. Once you start, you won’t stop for a long time.


Love and Cognitive Dissonance Theory


When it comes to ideas about why we stay in abusive relationships, I have drawn a conclusion (of sorts) from a few different philosophical and psychological theories. In order to tie this all together, I want to describe these theories first.

In social psychology, we are learning about the way external social forces impact our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Part of this discussion requires that we understand more about why we (as human beings) do the things we do in order to survive. For example – human beings classify things. This is not something we do for sport; it is a necessity. In order to safely exist in our own environment, we must find a way to understand our environment. This is how we ascertain which berries are safe to eat, why it’s important to stay a safe distance away from the edge of a cliff, and at what speed we should take a turn while driving. We are constantly collecting information about everything around us, and it is how we make decisions about what we see. This has kept our species alive. While some animals can easily survive with their speed or sharp fangs, human beings have only their minds. We are capable of considering the environment around us.

We do the same thing with people, as well. Just as we are aware we shouldn’t eat a certain berry because it is poisonous (something we learned from trial and error – it is not instinctual), we also learn about certain types of people. We subconsciously feel safer around people that match us – whether it be gender, race, socioeconomic status, or simply the way someone looks. Research indicates we gravitate toward other people that remind us of ourselves, because we trust ourselves, so therefore they must be trustworthy, too.

When you enter a room for the first time, your brain is busy taking it all in and making decisions in the background. You may not notice this happening at all. But, you enter a room and note several individuals also in the room. You need to take a seat. You will subconsciously sit near a person who feels safe, perhaps because they are well-dressed or dressed like you, or perhaps because you have a gut feeling that the person is probably okay. You might avoid someone who looks dangerous or unlike you, just to be on the safe side. You might also sit facing the exit, or sit in the seat closest to the exit, or simply pick a seat that is far away from strangers. We make these decisions based on feeling, sometimes without pausing to think about where the feeling comes from.

Our minds also categorize and gain information about people. We judge others despite our best efforts to be impartial – but don’t feel badly about this. Again, it’s all a part of the safety mechanism. Without claws or teeth or an especially strong hide (skin), we have to use our minds to give us an edge. Once we make an initial judgement, it tends to stick. In addition, a lot of the subsequent information we receive gets filed away to support our initial judgement.

So, that addresses exactly what our brains do, but let’s take a look at why that puts us at an extreme disadvantage. I’ll use a leaf as an example. This theory was explained to me with the leaf example, and it’s the easiest to understand.

Let’s say you pick a leaf up off the ground. You look at the leaf and remark: “This is a leaf.” By saying that out loud, what you are also saying is that the leaf is NOT the million things that make it a unique object in and of itself. You forever limit the potential of the leaf to be anything but that: a leaf. It’s a catch-22, of course, because if we didn’t call a leaf a leaf, the world would have no order. We must assign names and values to things, but by doing so, we are removing the possibility to see such things as anything but.

A person, of course, is more complex than a leaf. While a leaf has one million things that make it different than all other leaves – exact dimension, shade of color, intricate vein system – people have tens of millions of things that make them unique. We know this, of course, but as stated in the beginning of this post, our brains are busy categorizing and classifying things to determine what something is and what something is not; namely, what is safe and what is not safe.

When we meet someone, there are a few things we can determine right off. A person is male or female, a person appears to be a certain race or socioeconomic status, a person is such-and-such height and weight. Even more nonverbal cues can help create the picture of who this person “is”: he is wearing a baseball hat, ergo he must like baseball. Or, she has styled her hair, ergo she must take a lot of pride in her appearance and go to great lengths to look nice. Add to that the cultural and social knowledge we either subscribe to or has been taught to us from birth, and we might (unknowingly) make these assumptions: he is probably a “guy’s guy” because he is into sports, or she might be shallow because she takes so much time with her appearance.

This is all happening in the subconscious, mind you, whether we want it to or not. Again, it’s our way of defining the universe to feel safe and in control.

Let’s say baseball hat asks you on a date, and you accept. You go to dinner and discuss your hopes, dreams, families, and hobbies. Everything baseball hat tells you gets filed away in your brain under the folder “baseball hat”. The folder has probably been changed to “Peter”, because that is baseball hat’s name. So, Peter has a good relationship with his parents and is the oldest sibling. He works as an accountant and likes to spend the weekends taking his nephew to baseball games. Peter also enjoys music, but his favorite is country. The list goes on.

Fast forward again – six months – and you feel like you know Peter pretty well. You’ve fallen in love and you spend a lot of time together. You are confident that you can anticipate what Peter will and will not do under certain circumstances. You know he likes a lemon with his iced tea, and you also know that when he feels frustrated, he likes space. He always leaves a wet towel on the bathroom floor, but also always closes the shower curtain. To your knowledge, he has never lied to you, and he seems quite open about his thoughts and feelings. Peter loves you, too.

All in all, you feel great about your relationship with Peter. Things are going well. You are thinking about taking your relationship to the next level.

Then, Peter does something that you don’t see coming. Something that makes you sad, hurts your feelings, or confuses you.

It is quite natural for you to feel confused. After all, by this point, the Peter folder in your head is full of information. You think you know him pretty well, in fact.  Suddenly, you feel a cognitive dissonance.

The cognitive dissonance theory is a simple one – even though it sounds really fancy. Cognitive dissonance is made up of two words: cognitive and dissonance. The word cognitive comes from the word cognition, which by definition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. Synonyms include learning, apprehension, and understanding. Simply put – cognitive is what we think. The word dissonance is typically used in music, and it refers to a lack of harmony between music notes. It can be simplified to being defined as a lack of harmony (in general), or, even simpler, a clash.

In essence, cognitive dissonance happens when we think or believe two ideas that contradict one another.

In terms of a relationship, cognitive dissonance happens when your partner does something to hurt you in some way. It can happen on a small scale (your partner doesn’t call when he says he does) or something major (your partner hits you). The dissonance appears because you are holding two attitudes simultaneously: I love my partner; I do not love my partner’s behavior.

At this point, you feel quite uncomfortable. Most people are acutely aware when dissonance occurs, because it is an uncomfortable sensation. When any cognitive dissonance occurs, the mind tries to create balance by solving the dissonance. The two attitudes cannot exist simultaneously, so one of them has to change. The attitude “I love my partner” is emotional and intense. The attitude “I do not love my partner’s behavior” is also emotional, but has more to do with self-concept and self-esteem/worth.

In the end, you have a tough choice to make. Do you accept the behavior in order to preserve the love, or do you end the love because the principle of the infraction is more important? For some examples, it is quite easy to resolve dissonance. For example, Peter doesn’t call when he says he will. This upsets you because he left you hanging, and you feel disrespected. You later have a conversation with Peter and explain your feelings, and he apologizes and tells you he will not do that again. You know you are upset, but at this point, might think you are overreacting and in the interim you might have minimized the behavior with such thoughts as “He must have gotten held up at work” or “Maybe there was an emergency”. After all, it’s only a missed call, right? The love you share with Peter is so wonderful that a missed call won’t end your relationship.

Now, in the other example, Peter hits you. You know immediately that this behavior is not okay, but it has never happened before. You are very distraught because the Peter folder SAYS he won’t hit you, but then he does. You are confused and terribly saddened. The love was perfect, but then he hit you. Peter apologizes later, of course, and promises it won’t happen again. You crave his love and affection so much that you are able to rationalize his behavior. After all, even though Peter never said anything to you about it, maybe some part of his part makes him behave this way. Everything else feels great, this was just a blip. And, you are sure the message sank in.

This is where things get a little tricky. Although I think we can all agree that missing a phone call is a far cry from hitting someone, the thought process is still the same. Peter behaved out of character, and a dissonance resulted. You are upset about the behavior, you talk about it, and apologize. Since you love him very much, you want to work things out. Add to this the complex expectations socially and culturally, and you find yourself in a losing battle. It’s a no-win for you, because there is pressure everywhere. Maybe your parents are divorced and you want to create a lasting relationship. Maybe you are lonely and willing to let some things slide (since everything is okay for the most part) with Peter. Maybe other partners have told you in the past that you are far too sensitive and you have a complex about it. Are you overreacting AGAIN? It doesn’t really matter what kind of pressure it is, only that it’s there. You and Peter do not exist in a vacuum.

All throughout this process, you can’t help but shake the feeling that Peter feels like a stranger to you, and for good reason. Since human beings are biologically wired to classify and organize the world around us (including people), it would make sense that Peter seems like a stranger. After all, nothing in the Peter folder prepared you for this. But remember the leaf – by saying it is a leaf, you are also saying it cannot be the million things that a leaf is unto itself. The same goes for people – Peter can be anything included in the folder, surely, but can also be anything outside of the folder.

Once you consider that fact, it seems a little crazy to fall in love at all! If Peter can be anything he wants, what are the odds he’s secretly a serial killer or is really interested in joining a commune? What if he proposes the very next day? What if he decides to become a priest? This is why we classify the world – because chaos would be the only other alternative. But, as with Peter and the leaf, we see that classifying the world doesn’t make it so; that is just what we SEE.

Upon reflecting on all of this, you decide to ultimately stay with Peter. Maybe he hits you again or forgets to call again, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe it was truly a fluke or a result of some other set of bizarre circumstances that (hopefully) never come up again. Or, maybe you ultimately decide to leave Peter, because once is enough. Either way, now you know the ugly truth about the world: there isn’t a way to know everything about everything, including yourself. Future relationships seem scary because you don’t trust your own judgement when it come to picking a partner. You might feel embarrassment or shame, and don’t want anyone to know.

The only thing left to do is focus all of that energy inward. When it comes to setting boundaries in your relationships with others, you are in control. People will only treat you the way you allow them to treat you. In a fashion, most things we experience are a direct result of our choices. This is not to say that the behavior of others is excusable, because the allow them to get away with it, because the two conversations are independent of one another. You can simultaneously hold these two attitudes: This is how I want to be treated and This is how I am being treated. It will feel uncomfortable, which is an indication that something needs to change.

My advice to anyone contemplating this: if something about your relationship makes you uncomfortable, there is a good reason for that. There is, somewhere, a dissonance that needs to be addressed. Although love is important and precious, only preserve that love which creates minimal dissonance. It takes a long time to find the right kind of partner – the one who creates dissonance rarely. It’s a rather clinical way of looking at it, which is a good thing. The love is mushy and you get the feels – they cloud your judgement. Your partner falls into one of two categories: this is working and I know it’s working because I rarely feel dissatisfied, or this isn’t working and I can tell because the majority of our conversations are fights surrounding our behaviors and how they make us upset. We are not compatible, and likely never will be.

As an afterthought: no one gets to decide what makes you happy. Only you know. Never settle for less than exactly that.

The End – Summer 2012

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It is with mixed emotions that I share this story with you all. I am equal parts ashamed and excited to reveal this part of my past. As you know, I am writing a book. My last post was titled “The Beginning” – and it is an account of the first abusive event in my relationship with my ex-husband. It seems fitting that I share “The End”. This event marks the ends of our relationship and the reason I got divorced. It’s also the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. It’s an important story to tell because it illustrates what happens to a relationship when it goes unchecked. Things escalated to this point over the course of four years. It got dangerous.

This is quite long, but a compelling read. Despite the horror, I have to admit, it makes for a good story. No car chases, unfortunately, but lots of tension. I found myself caught up in the moment during my last edit, heart racing, and no doubt you will be as well. I originally wrote this piece in December 2013, and have edited it several times. It’s written in the first person perspective because I wanted to capture the memory as if it were happening in real time. It’s more intense that way, and helped me remember more. I am remembering events that happened in June 2012, so this is as accurate as it can be. Also, as a warning, this is adult content. Discretion is advised.



My phone rings. It is my husband. I sigh, knowing I have been away from home too long. This is the annoyed phone call wondering where I am and what I am doing. I am with family. We are recovering from burying my uncle after months of watching cancer ravage his body. We are tired and taking comfort in one another.

I answer the phone and he asks me to come home. He knows I am with family. He apologizes, but I don’t believe it’s a genuine apology. My husband is far too selfish for genuine apologies. He sounds emotional and I know I need to go home. A crisis with my husband is not unusual, and I respond when he has them. I try to give him what he needs. Sometimes I react this way because I genuinely care. Most of the time, I respond because if I don’t, he’ll make me regret it.

I tell my family I have to go home because something is wrong with my husband. If they react, I pretend I don’t see it. I feel guilty for leaving, but nothing more can be done. It’s over. I must return to my regular life. That includes the duties of a wife: tend to your husband.

I am emotionally spent. I feel numb. I have nothing left in me – or so I think. I am wrong. I have one thing left: fear.


When I arrive home, my husband is standing outside waiting for me. It’s strange – he is in the yard and not on the deck, but I am too tired to wonder why. As I approach, I see he is smoking a cigarette. He looks upset and I wearily sit on the deck stairs. We don’t hug or kiss in greeting. The warmth between us has been absent for a long time.

He asks me how I am feeling. I feel tired, so that’s what I tell him. I give him a thirty-second rundown of the funeral (which he did not attend). I know he is only asking how I feel to be polite, as a formality. He has something on his mind, and that’s why I’m here.

He launches into a dramatic story. His stories are always the same. They are always dramatic and he is always the victim. I have only been half-listening, but when I hear about the almost-fight, I start paying close attention to him. I watch him pace uneasily, the glazed look to his eyes, the minute changes in his facial expressions, and the sound of his voice. My husband is drunk.

Whatever sympathy I have drains away. My husband is drunk – again. I ask him how he got home. His truck is parked in our driveway. He seems disoriented because I have interrupted him. He comments that he drove home and continues with his story. I am no longer listening. I am thinking about how he drove drunk, after already having a DUI, a suspended driver’s license, and after having been arrested and gone to jail; I think about the many times I have yelled at him for continuously driving drunk – and he drove drunk. Again. Today.

He is still talking, but I am thinking. I am thinking I simply cannot believe we are having this conversation again. The last time he drove drunk, he ran his brand-new truck into a telephone pole. I am too tired to deal with this.

I tell him I don’t want to hear about his drama because all I care about is that he drove drunk. That is the only thing that matters to me in this moment. I tell him I am angry and too tired to deal with him tonight. I tell him we will talk about it in the morning.

My husband is not pleased. He tells me he is not drunk and I laugh. He thinks he can hide it, but there isn’t much a husband can hide from his wife. I’ve seen him drunk as many times as I’ve seen him sober, and I tell him that. He tells me I’m crazy. He is angry because I want to end the conversation. He starts telling me how supportive he has been the past few months, with my uncle dying, and I laugh at him again. This time it is a bitter laugh. He refused to go to the funeral with me today because he doesn’t like funerals. No one likes funerals. He’s a terrible husband.

I repeat that I do not want to talk to him tonight and that we will talk in the morning. I have to repeat myself a lot in our relationship. I walk through the house and he follows me, trying to continue our conversation. I tell him I want to go to sleep. I tell him how long a day it has been and that I want to talk in the morning. I tell him I don’t have it in me to talk to him right now and he is being insensitive.

He is angry. I am surprised at how little I care. Normally, by this point in the argument, I stop resisting him. It’s easier than holding my ground and has fewer consequences. Normally, I would stay up all night listening. I would try to fix his problems or make him feel better. Tonight, I am different. I am done.

I change into pajamas and turn off the bedroom light to go to sleep. My husband tells me he is taking a shower. I know this is a bad idea. Every time he gets drunk he thinks a shower will help sober him up, but it only makes him drunker. He doesn’t listen to me. He thinks it will help. He always thinks that, and he is always wrong.

I lie in bed and think about how miserable I feel. I don’t want to have to deal with this. It seems like my entire relationship has been one husband-crisis after another. I don’t know what I am supposed to do. The last time he drove drunk I told him if he did it again, I would leave him. I was not proud to make a threat, but I had tried every other rational argument. A threat was the last resort. Now that he’s done it again, I have to do something about it. I don’t really want to.

I finally start to relax. I am on the edge of sleep when I hear my husband calling my name from the bathroom. I ignore him and he yells my name louder. He pleads for me to sit with him. So far, he is following the same routine he always does when he drinks. Next, I will probably half-carry and half-drag him to bed. Recently, I have let him sleep wherever he lies. The last time was on the bathroom floor.

I continue to ignore him, so he yells even louder. I can’t fall asleep at this point. I walk into the bathroom to see him sitting on the toilet, naked. His head is in his hands, and when he looks up, his eyes are bloodshot. I have seen him this way many times. It’s a bathroom floor kind of night. I wonder if I will feel generous enough to get him a pillow or blanket after he passes out. I will probably just leave him wherever he ends up and hope he wakes up sore and cold. The thought almost makes me smile.

I tell him I am trying to sleep. He pleads with me to talk. He is on the verge of tears, it seems, but I have no patience for it. I tell him this and he pleads even harder. He is almost begging me to talk to him. I tell him to knock it off before leaving the room. I need a cigarette and a new life.

While I am outside smoking, my friend Eden sends me a text message to see if everything is okay. I tell her my husband is drunk and being difficult. I also tell her I might stay the night at her house. She only lives a few miles down the road. I have spent the night with her before. At this point, it’s easier to spend the night at Eden’s when things get hard at home.

I finish my cigarette and go inside to gather my things for an overnight stay. I hope my husband has passed out on the bathroom floor. I am surprised to see him dressed. He looks different from the man in the bathroom a few minutes ago. He has regained his composure and is alert. His eyes are still bloodshot, but he has stopped stumbling. He looks angry. He wants to know why I won’t talk to him. He tells me it wouldn’t be very much trouble to have a conversation. He doesn’t think it’s fair that I get to walk away whenever I want. I am slightly disturbed by my husband’s perception of what is fair in our relationship.

I tell him I am staying the night at Eden’s house and walk past him to get my duffel bag from the dressing room closet. He follows close behind. I suddenly wish I were with my dad. Thinking of my dad makes me compare him to my husband. The difference is so dramatic it hurts my heart. I wish my husband were more like my father. I would be so much happier.

I grab my duffel bag from the dressing room closet. When I turn to leave, my husband is leaning in the doorway, blocking my exit. He is six feet tall and two hundred pounds of solid muscle. I don’t see a way out without him moving. He tells me I am not leaving.

I reinforce that I am leaving. I tell him where I am going. I tell him when I will be back. He wants to talk. I don’t understand how I can be clearer. We have repeated the same few sentences over and over again for nearly an hour, but he still doesn’t get it. I insist I am leaving, gesturing with the duffel bag. He rips the bag out of my hands and throws it across the room.

I look at the duffel bag and look at him. I feel nervous. I ask him to move. He doesn’t move. I ask him to move again. He crosses his arms. I raise my voice and tell him to get out of my way. He leans slightly and I awkwardly squeeze through the space he created in the doorway, trying not to touch him. I walk to the basement door. He follows close behind.

I walk downstairs to the laundry room. He asks me what I am doing. I tell him, again, that I am staying with Eden tonight and I am getting clean clothing. He tells me I am not leaving. Again. This is starting to get old.

I grab a change of clothing and make my way back to the stairs. He blocks the staircase. Suddenly, I am reminded of our first fight. It was four years ago. He made me angry and I wanted to leave his apartment, but he backed me into a corner instead. I had to scream for his roommates to help me. He didn’t seem to mean any harm, but I made him promise to never do it again. Apparently, the message didn’t sink in. I am frustrated and shocked he would resort to trapping me after the promise he made.

I remind him of what happened four years ago during our first fight. It is obvious he doesn’t care. I tell him to move. He doesn’t. I move toward the stairs. He makes a counter-move to block my path. I am anxious and yell at him. I tell him he is holding me hostage. I tell him he is being abusive and he can’t keep me trapped in a basement. I tell him he is removing my free will. I make him say these same words aloud, thinking maybe if he says it himself he will snap out of it. He says all of this while looking me in the eye. It doesn’t seem to have an effect. He has a blank expression on his face. It scares me. I am running out of ideas and this is new territory for our relationship.

I push past him and run up the stairs. He runs up the stairs faster than me and gets to the door first. We bump into each other – it is a narrow staircase – and I almost fall down. I am able to wrench the door open and I walk through the kitchen, heading toward our bedroom. I need my car keys and a pair of shoes to leave.

Suddenly, I feel hands on my arms.

Then, I am in a new place.

I blink, once. I am confused. I saw the living room a minute ago. How did I end up on the other side of the kitchen, several yards from where I was just standing? Why is my back against the counter? I am disoriented. I realize he moved me here. He is screaming at me.

My husband has never been so angry that he dragged me across a room. He’s never even touched me while angry. He has never yelled at me like this. He has raised his voice and called me terrible names, but never like this. His screaming is indescribable. I’ve never heard any human being yell this loud. I am shocked and alarmed. I am crying. Crying isn’t even the word for it. It’s a hysterical sob – half crying and half moaning. I am acutely aware that I have never cried like this. I can hear myself, and I know I sound desperate and pleading. I can’t think of anything other than how afraid I am. I have assumed a defensive position. My shoulders are hunched and my head is lowered as if bracing for a blow.

He stands so close to me that saliva flies out of his mouth and lands on my face. He gestures wildly and points at me for emphasis. Because he is so close, when he points, his finger hits my shoulder. The physical contact makes me sob even harder. He is out of control and getting angrier as he yells. He isn’t calming down. I worry he will hit me. He is so angry that I am convinced he will hit me once and won’t be able to stop. I am sure he will beat me to death.

I realize I am begging for him to calm down. I hear myself say please again and again. I don’t know how long I have been begging. Begging is helping a little, or maybe he is tiring himself out, because he starts to calm down. He has backed away a step. Although he is still yelling, he has stopped screaming like a maniac.

I wonder how to proceed. I don’t know what to do. He looks like a rabid animal, or maybe a deranged person with a gun, like in a bank robbery. There’s always one bystander in a bank robbery that tries the gentle approach with the perpetrator. The brave soul uses a few kind words, a gentle tone, all the while slowly walking towards the perpetrator in an attempt to grab the gun. I don’t know why I am thinking about bank robberies, but it seems like the best route.

I slowly start to talk to him. I speak in a soft voice, almost a whisper. I tell him exactly what he wants to hear. I tell him I would love to talk to him, I love him, and everything will be okay. I tell him to calm down and to stop worrying. We will be fine. This seems to help. I am lying through my teeth, of course, but I think it is working. I try to sound genuine. I don’t want him to figure out I am lying. I need to relax him enough to allow me to leave the house. I briefly consider dropping to my knees and servicing him. I am willing to try anything to calm him. Maybe if I pleasure him, he will not beat me to death. After a moment of debate, I decide not to. It would be too obvious and might make him angrier.

I suggest to my husband, gently, that maybe we need space tonight – just tonight – and first thing in the morning we can talk about this. We are both so tired and everything will look better in the morning. We both just need some sleep. He was starting to calm down, but this was the wrong thing to say. He starts to get angry again.

I am next to the front door, barefoot. My keys are in the bedroom. We live in the middle of nowhere and I can’t make a run for it. I would never make it. I sidestep him and run to our bedroom. He is close on my heels. I barely make it and lock the door. He pounds on the door and yells for me to open it.

My hands are shaking and I can barely think. I gather my things and try to figure out my next move. I grab my phone and text Eden that things are out of control. Just as I send the message, he picks the lock and rushes in. He closes the door and locks it behind him. He strides towards me and grabs my phone. He texts Eden, pretending to be me, and tells her everything is fine and not to worry. I am immediately panicked. She is the only person who knows what is going on. I feel isolated.

My husband assumes a position in front of the bedroom door. The room is very small. There’s not a lot of room to move around the furniture. I am stuck between my side of the bed and the wall. On my husband’s side of the bed is a window, but I would have to jump over the bed to get to it. I start yelling at him, telling him to let me go. He yells back that all I have to do is talk to him and I’m not leaving.

I decide to try the window. I jump across the bed to the other side of the room. He rushes toward me. I am thankful that our bedroom windows are open as I punch out the screen. It’s a six-foot drop, onto an uneven slope, but I don’t care that I will probably sprain my ankle. I don’t even care that I’m not wearing any shoes. I’ll run anywhere. I have to escape. I have a better chance barefoot in the dark than in this room with him.

I have one leg out the window and I am getting ready to pull the other one through when his arms wrap around my waist and drag me back in. I kick and scream. He shuts the window and locks it. I run toward the door, but he jumps on the bed and off again right in front of me. Now the window is closed and the door is locked. There is no way out.

I begin to feel a sensation I have never felt before: true panic. It dawns on me that I will be stuck here for hours. No one can hear my screams and he will not see reason. I am a rat in a cage. He has my cell phone and car keys. He blocks my only exit. I have a bed on one side and a dresser on the other. I have very little space to move. It is my worst nightmare. Adrenaline pumps through my system.

I tell my husband I am scared. He is half-amused and half-irritated. Why would I need to be scared of him? He seems insulted. He doesn’t understand what he has done to me. I tell him I feel trapped. It activates my fight or flight response. I tell him I can either fight him or try to run. His eyes flash at the idea of me trying to fight him. He almost looks interested. His eyes say I dare you. It’s a pathetic option. He would take me out with one hit.

I tell him if I can’t get out, I will have a mental breakdown. I am not exaggerating. I tell him I will completely unravel into a comatose state. I tell him they will have to admit me to a psychiatric ward. I will recede so far into my mind they won’t know where to find me. It seems melodramatic, but I know it’s true. I can feel the tendrils of fear and panic wrapping around my nerves. It poisons me. I feel like I am dying. My breath is shallow and I speak rapidly. I am on the verge of a panic attack.

My husband doesn’t seem convinced.

I plead with him to let me go. I beg again and again. I promise I will come back in the morning. He won’t budge.

I feel anxious and my head feels cold. Everything is vibrating. I wonder what time it is. It must be late – around midnight. I try to calculate how much time I will be stuck in this room with him. How I could possibly survive it. The idea of being trapped until he passes out is terrifying. I don’t know what to do or what will happen next. I have never felt so afraid. I am seriously considering assuming a fetal position.

Suddenly, I have a moment of inspiration. A plan. I clutch this new idea and I know it is my only hope. I take a deep breath and try to calm down. I need to calm down. I only have one chance to get this right. I am sure if I slip up, this plan will never work.

I look my husband in the eye and tell him, calmly, that what is he doing is abusive. I tell him it doesn’t matter how long he keeps me here. Eventually he will fall asleep, and as soon as he does, I will call the police. They will come and arrest him for domestic violence.


If he lets me go right now I will not call the police. We can talk about it in the morning. We can pretend this night never happened.

My husband has an expressionless face. I think he is trying to figure out if I am bluffing. He probably thinks I am because I let him walk all over me. If he doesn’t think I’m bluffing, my plan will never work.

After a moment of consideration, he takes out his cell phone and tosses it on the bed. He crosses his arms and tells me to do it. He has a guarded expression, but he is challenging me.

I reach for the phone, carefully, afraid he will snatch it away at the last minute. This is my only lifeline. I dial 911. Before I connect the call, I warn him this is his last chance to let me go. Otherwise, I am calling the police. I ask him if he is sure he wants me to do this. He tells me to do it. I don’t know why he encourages me. I don’t want to do this, even though it means I will be safe. I know this will change everything. It hurts me to connect the call.

I hold the phone to my ear and hear a ring. My heart is pounding. I do not know what will happen next. Will he rip the phone away from my ear before a dispatcher picks up? He does nothing, only stands by the door, watching me carefully. A dispatcher picks up. She has a pleasant voice would like to know what the emergency is.

I immediately start crying and beg the dispatcher to send the police. I tell her my husband is holding me hostage and I am terrified. She asks me a series of questions about the situation. I am afraid to say anything besides yes or no, because he is watching and listening. The dispatcher must suspect this, because she asks me if he is in the room. I tell her yes. I am terrified he will run over and rip the phone away, but I remember that once dispatch picked up the call, they started to trace my location. I relax a little. They will come now, no matter what, and he knows it. He knows he cannot hurt me now.

My husband removes my phone and keys from his pockets and tosses them on our bed before leaving the room. I am frozen in place and I stare at the open doorway, willing him to stay away. I talk to the dispatcher. I realize, finally, that I can shut and lock the door. After doing this, I feel a little better.

The dispatcher is still asking questions. Is anyone under the influence? I tell her my husband is drunk. Are there any weapons in the home? I laugh bitterly. I tell her my husband is a former marine. Everything is a weapon. He is weapon. The dispatcher clarifies – she wants to know if there are guns or knives. I tell her no, but it offers me little comfort.

I pick up my phone and text Eden. I tell her to get to my house ASAP – emergency. My hands are shaking so badly I can barely type. I am crying and tell the dispatcher I am embarrassed because I am a nice girl. I come from a nice home. I feel like white trash having the police come to my house. The dispatcher tells me this sort of thing happens to all kinds of people – rich or poor. This makes me cry even harder.

She has finished asking questions, but I tell her I want to stay on the phone until the police arrive because I am afraid. It feels safer to stay on the phone. I look out the bedroom window toward the road. Every distant set of head lights make my heart pound. I am anxious for the police to arrive. I do not know where my husband is or what he is doing, but I am more afraid he has stopped bothering me. I don’t know why he stopped. After ten minutes, I see three cars pulling in. It’s a long country driveway, almost a mile long, and I am anxious for them to get here.

I tell the dispatcher the police have arrived, but I still want to stay on the phone with her until I am outside and standing next to a police officer. I carefully open the bedroom door and look around. The hallway is empty. I tiptoe down the hall, slowly, and peek into the living room. No one is there. I slowly walk through the living room and into the kitchen, but he is nowhere to be found. I walk outside and see him leaning against the porch railing, smoking a cigarette. I skirt by him nervously and walk to the driveway to greet one of the officers, thanking the dispatcher before hanging up.

I see Eden’s car pulling in and she rolls to a stop by the time I get to the officer. I notice, now that I am closer to the cars, that they are County Sheriffs. One of the Sheriffs greets me and I am immediately comforted by his size. He reminds me of a bear and has a gentle voice. He asks me what is wrong, but I want to wait until Eden gets to me. I need her standing next to me for support.

Eden approaches and I can see she is confused and furious. She will tell me, later, that when she saw the three cruisers pull into my driveway her heart almost stopped beating. She asks if I am okay and I give a tense nod.

The Sherriff asks for my first and last name to begin the statement. I give him my first name and pause before giving him my last name. I giggle. It is a slightly hysterical giggle because I have just remembered that it is my husband who attacked me and I am giving my married surname to a Sherriff. I feel like I must be dreaming. How did I get here? When I giggle, I can feel Eden and the Sherriff look at me nervously. I take a deep breath and try to behave appropriately.

I slowly tell him everything I can remember. I take my time and carefully include every detail the first time around. I do not want to do this again. I do not look at Eden, but I can feel her presence next to me. She becomes more and more agitated as I speak. Suddenly, there is a commotion on the porch. We turn to see two Sheriffs roughly escorting my husband to a cruiser. He yells at them and struggles. Each Sherriff has an arm and they are half-walking and half-dragging him across my front lawn. I can’t believe what I am seeing. How is he still so angry? Why would he treat a Sherriff with such disrespect? He will never learn.

After I finish my story, the Sheriff looks at his notes. He sighs. He tells me he wants to arrest my husband and charge him with domestic violence, but he needs my permission to do so. I beg him not to. He does not look impressed. I know what this looks like and I explain to the Sheriff that he does not need to worry. I’m not one of those women. My marriage is over, as far as I am concerned. But, a charge like this will haunt my husband for the rest of his life. I just want to escape my life – but I don’t want to destroy his in the process.

I ask the Sherriff if it would be okay to leave with Eden. He says yes and assures me they will keep my husband in the cruiser until I am off the property. I go back inside and gather a few things, including shoes. I also take his car keys so he won’t be able to drive drunk. Eden and I walk to her car. We are silent. I cannot bring myself to look in the direction of the cruiser that my husband is sitting in. Tomorrow I will end my marriage, but tonight I must rest.


The Beginning – Fall 2008

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As many of you know, I am writing a book. The book is designed to be a conversation with myself about my relationship with myself and others. A prominent figure in the story will be my ex-husband. If you haven’t read the post About that book… you may want to. It offers a brief explanation of what I am doing and why I am doing it.

This post is a description of where I was in my life prior to meeting my EH, and our first major argument. In terms of significant events in our relationship, this is the first one (chronologically).


During the summer of my nineteenth birthday, I ended a terrible relationship with a morally-questionable man. I felt confident about my decision – though I was embarrassed about my behavior before and during the relationship – and I was ready explore new romantic options. My attitude toward dating and relationships, at that time, stemmed from a desire to avoid loneliness. I sought companionship in an effort to always be with someone so I didn’t have to be alone with myself. In retrospect, many of the poor choices I made (in regard to relationships), I made because I wanted to be with anyone rather than be by myself. I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, or where I was headed, but I felt certain that if I could at least hold down a man, I could feel good about myself.

During that tumultuous summer fling, I befriended the man’s younger sister. She was younger than me and reminded me of my kid sister. We hit it off immediately. Even after he and I broke up, she and I became closer friends, even living together for a while. She introduced me to my (now-ex) husband.

I remember she told me she had a single, male friend whom she thought I might like. I don’t know what her intentions were, but I can imagine she ended up regretting setting us up in the first place. I don’t think anyone thought I was capable of getting married so young, to such a questionable young man, but I did anyway. If they had known, perhaps they would have introduced me to nicer guys. But, she didn’t know any of this. I don’t think I fully understood it either. And so, when she told me she had a single friend, I told her it was okay to give him my phone number.

As with most nineteen-year-old boys, he sent me a text message. I don’t remember exactly what the message said, but I remember it had a lot of spelling and grammatical errors. A u for you and a c for see… that kind of thing. I remember thinking to myself that it was beneath me to even entertain the idea of meeting someone who couldn’t even type a complete sentence. However, I wasn’t exactly in a position to be picky. I had been alone a full month (the horror!) and needed someone new. Also, I was still riding the righteous high that comes from a bad relationship ending. I felt daring and spectacular. I could handle anything.

We exchanged a few text messages and he invited me to his apartment to meet him. I remember driver there after work and he met me outside. He was tall with red hair. He had tons of freckles and sharp bluish-green eyes. He had excellent teeth and a charming smile, as well as high cheekbones and a strong jaw line. He was lean in the waist with broad shoulders and massive muscle. I couldn’t see an ounce of fat on his body. Naturally, I was immediately attracted to him.

We went inside and sat on the couch, talking about this and that. I had just left work and still wearing my scrubs. My hair was in a ponytail, I wore no makeup, and I was wearing a pair of sneakers. I felt pretty average looking. At the time, it was deliberate to arrive looking like that. I wanted to present the real me to him – without the bells and whistles – because I didn’t have the patience to try to win him over.

I can’t remember what we talked about. I’m sure we went over our life stories in an attempt to learn more about one other and bond. We talked for hours and at one point the conversation dwindled off. We sat together, in silence, enjoying the moment.

It was in that moment that I felt a warmth and comfort with him. Even though we had just met, it occurred to me that it felt like I had known him my whole life. During the course of our relationship, I never forgot or dismissed that feeling. At times when our relationship was tough, I reminded myself how amazing I felt the first time I met him. He was charming and funny. Tough, but sensitive. Incredibly honest. I remember him telling me how he loved text messaging and talking about his feelings.

My previous boyfriend – the mistake of 2008 – was either emotionally (and sometimes physically) unavailable or overwhelmingly sentimental. The back-and-forth of his emotions and behavior both confused me and charmed me. I soon found I could not get enough of that summer fling, just for those moments of sentimentality. After six months, I was too emotionally wrought to continue, so I stopped seeing him. After that summer fling ended, I knew I wanted to be in a relationship with a man who was sensitive and candid. I didn’t want to have to guess what he was thinking.

Kyle was the perfect example of what I wanted. He seemed to be the kind of boy who wore his heart on his sleeve. He had lots to say about everything and was an attentive listener. We started spending a lot of time together. I began blowing off college classes to spend time with him after work. Soon, I began sleeping over. A lot. My grandparents, whom I lived with, took issue with me always being gone overnight. It wasn’t long before I stopped going to school altogether. We partied every weekend and I became very popular with his friends. I cleaned, I bought case after case of beer, and I bought pizza almost every night. My 3,000 credit card was soon maxed out. It didn’t matter, though. Kyle adored me and everyone knew it. Soon, our peers took notice of our unwavering adoration toward one another. I was determined to do two things: be a “guy’s girl” – the girlfriend all the male friends hope for – and to have the respect of my peers for my perfect relationship.

After I dropped out of school, I moved in with my ex’s sister. We “lived” at her parents’ house, but spent almost every night in the same apartment; our boyfriends were roommates. As it goes with young women, she heard a rumor about me and kicked me out of her parents’ house. By that point, Kyle and I were spending pretty much every night together, so I put all of my stuff in my car and slept at his apartment. I did our laundry and contributed to the house, but I didn’t pay rent and I didn’t officially live there. Thinking back on it, I probably should have paid rent because when you sleep somewhere every night, you do live there, even if all of my possessions were in my car.

Kyle and I were always fighting. I got mad at him over lots of stuff. He drank too much and was too clingy. He was an asshole when he drank and he was always suspicious of my behavior. We fought about money, about our friends, and about a lot of things. When you’re nineteen, you don’t know how to have a healthy fight. You don’t understand the finesse of an adult argument. What ends up happening is a lot of yelling, slinging insults, and seeing who can talk the fastest and use the most cunning argument.

I didn’t mind the fighting so much, at the time. I knew I was smarter than him and I knew I was better than him. I felt I had more of my life together. Sometimes I had drama with work or my friends, but for the most part, I believed I was inherently better than Kyle on a cellular level. He would never be my equal. I regret feeling that way, because I am sure it affected the way I spoke to him. I know I was flat-out wrong. I understand now that every human being has intrinsic value, and no matter what else happens, it is not wise to maintain an elitist mentality.

Shortly after Kyle and I met, we had our first knock-down drag-out argument. The relationship should have ended that night. It might be fair to say that it should have ended as soon as we discovered each other, but it didn’t. For all intents and purposes, this is the first concrete red flag of our relationship.

Kyle told me, when we met, that he used to be in the Marine Corps reserve. He had been honorably discharged. When I asked him why, he told me he worked in Administration and did paperwork all day. He told me his security clearance kept increasing (for the paperwork he had to do). He claimed he was flying all over the country to do special paperwork for the Marines. This sounded fishy, and I didn’t know what to think, so I talked to my uncle. He was in the Air Force with my dad. I couldn’t talk to my own dad, but didn’t want to ask myself Why. In retrospect, I knew that my dad would call me out on this red flag, and I didn’t want to hear it. My uncle told me that Kyle’s story was bullshit. It didn’t add up, and the military just doesn’t do things that way. Kyle insisted that was the truth was angry at me for questioning him. I let it go and we didn’t talk about it, but I always had my doubts.

Then, one night, Kyle told me the truth about the Marines. I can’t remember how it even came up. I remember we were lying in bed. I remember my grandparents were out of town on a vacation, but I was already living with Kyle at that point. I may have confronted him or he may have just told me the truth. Either way, the truth was that Kyle was Marine Corps reserves. Earlier in the year, he had received paperwork for deployment to Afghanistan. He panicked and didn’t want to deploy. So, he stopped going to the monthly Marine training weekends. He stopped answering their phone calls. He went AWOL.

I was instantly angry that he lied to me. It hurt my feelings and made me furious. I didn’t care that he went AWOL. I could empathize with him. But, I was furious that he kept secrets from me to manipulate me. I admitted that if he had told me, I might have liked him less or left him for doing something so cowardly. Because he withheld information, I couldn’t make an informed decision. He stacked the deck in his favor, and I was furious.

After yelling at him for a while, I decided I had had enough and I was going to leave. He did not want me to leave, and seemed panicked I would leave him without resolving the problem. He wanted me to stay, and when I tried to leave, he blocked my path. His bedroom was in the basement. We weren’t the only ones home, but we were the only ones downstairs.

I got so angry I started screaming at him. I was freaked out and felt trapped like a pet dog. I felt so powerless and it pissed me off. It pissed me off more that Kyle wasn’t listening to me tell him to move, he was just arguing with me about something else. We were having two parallel conversations, wherein I would say MOVE, JACKASS and he would say I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WON’T TALK TO ME. Eventually I yelled for one of his roommates to come down and help me. Once I got out of the apartment, I ran to my car. He followed me and stood behind my car, trying to convince me to stay. I started backing out and forced him to move. Once out of the apartment complex, I raced to my grandparents’ house. They were in Florida on vacation and I had a key and the alarm code. Since he knew where they lived and had a car of his own, I needed to hurry.

Once I arrived to my grandparents’, I parked directly in front of the garage and ran to the door, punching in the code. My heart was pounding and I kept looking to see if his car was barreling down the long driveway. I ran inside and upstairs to my grandparent’s bedroom, setting the house alarm using the keypad just outside their bedroom door. I chose their room because it was the safest room in the house. It was safest because it was a giant master suite with three adjacent rooms in addition to their bedroom. There were lots of places to hide. There was a dressing room, a walk-in closet, and a huge bathroom with an additional room just for the toilet. I knew that one of the walls in the walk-in closet popped aside and there was a crawl space there. I used to play there as a kid. In case he came after me, I could hide in the crawl space and be safe.

Reflecting on this memory now, I find it interesting that in that moment, I had to run into their bedroom. The locked doors weren’t enough, nor the state-of-the-art alarm system. I was so freaked out that I had to run into the safest place I could find – the fortress within the fortress. I had to put five locks between us, with the potential to hide in a crawl space. It makes me ponder why the story doesn’t end here.


But, the story doesn’t end here. I slept in their bed that night and woke up feeling exhausted and resenting the idea of a breakup. I had just found him, and I did not want to be alone again. I was afraid of what I might find if I had to be with myself. I wondered if perhaps I had acted too harshly, too strongly, and if maybe we could have a conversation about the argument and come to an agreement: under no circumstances can you trap me. Ever.

Of course, Kyle and I sorted things out. The experience was exhausting and I wanted to let it go. I didn’t want to break up, I wanted him. In retrospect, it wasn’t him I wanted. He was the default. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first significant moment in my relationship where I should have left him and didn’t. It was the first of many. There is more story to tell.

About that book…


I need to write. Right now. There’s a sense of urgency in me, a humming along the skin, the kind of urgency where my hands fly across the keyboard and I struggle to keep up with my brain. All day today, I have felt this urgency mounting and just a few minutes ago I felt my mind literally writing the post before my hands had time to catch up. So, I raced to the computer, and here I am.

(deep breath)

I’m writing a book. The book is (tentatively titled) The Girl Who Stayed. It delves into the nightmare that was my marriage and the even-bigger-nightmare of my divorce. It is a creative nonfiction piece – a memoir – and will either be a published collection of essays, loosely tied together by one over-arching theme, or it will be a tale. A tale of my life, my relationships, my sense of worth, and my own personally crises. It will not be a sad and disheartening tale, nor will it be a collection of self-centered accounts of my own tragedies. Rather, it focuses on the most important person of any character: the protagonist.

In my tale, it’s not important what happens to the protagonist. Oh no. She is not the most important person because of what happens to her, she is the most important person because of WHO SHE IS. Who is this girl, when one abusive incident happens after another? Who is this girl, when friends and family voice concern and advise caution and her own inner voices begs NO, and yet she stays anyway? Who is this girl, The Girl Who Stayed?

Although I am disgusted that our culture and society is largely “victim-centric” (meaning: we, as a culture, focus on the victim of abusive situation, i.e. why was she walking home alone at night, why was she so drunk, why did she let him hit her), I am more concerned with the true story behind why women (and men) stay in abusive relationships. Moreover, I am concerned with how understanding myself better can explain how I behaved in such a way.

Through my own personal journey exploring why I made poor decisions, I hope that the lessons I learn can positively impact the way others choose to behave in relation to their abusers. I’m not the statistical outlier – I don’t represent a small percentage of individuals who stay in abusive relationships. I am part of the MAJORITY. Statistics show it, sociological research shows it, conversation shows it… the vast majority of people will experience abuse in their lifetimes. They will not leave at the first sign of trouble. They will stay. Why is this?

Now, obviously, the title is somewhat misleading because I am not longer with my husband. I’m no longer with any of them. The last abusive relationship I belong to is the one with myself. How can this change? How will that change affect my behavior? What would happen if I believed, truly in my soul believed, that I was deserving of love and respect and kindness?

I don’t believe that now, and haven’t (ever) that I can recall. It’s just not who I am. I suffer (and have always suffered) from low self-esteem, low sense of self-worth, a disposition to self-sabotage, and now: post-traumatic stress disorder. How did those emotional qualities keep me in my relationship, and what were MY red flags? A man screaming in your face: red flag. A woman who sits there and somehow (maybe even subconsciously) believes that she deserves it: bigger red flag. I want to stop blaming all of my tragedies on other people, and focus inward to reflect on my own behavior. I want to invite others along with me on this journey.

It will be painful. I just started working with a new therapist. My “homework assignment” (from me, to me) is to write down a list of all of the abusive things that happened in my relationship with my ex-husband (because they are the most recent and most pervasive in my mind) to bring to therapy next week. I want to print off of my current writing and review my relationship. The therapy provides an environment where I can process out loud and come to conclusions, without feeling guilty that I am putting my emotional burdens on my friends, family, and lover.

Then I will write. Write like hell. Write when it hurts, write when it’s hard, and write when I am afraid to see what happens next. I’d like to have the framework and bulk of the writing done by June. Will I get through my four-year relationship (and relevant significant events from my entire life) in such time? It’s steep, but I think I can do it. I am currently in the “reporting” stage. Get the information, draw conclusions, be thoughtful, consider how it makes me feel, and try to find some peace. Then put it on the page. At the end, maybe I’ll be able to pull it all together into a piece of literature that might HELP or SAVE someone from the same trauma that so devastatingly affected me. I may appear relatively normal day-to-day, but it’s a struggle. I’m not in any real danger, but I am putting a stop to this nonsense once and for all. It’s time to forgive myself for my past transgressions, and be real about what really happened.

I’m sure there will be a barrage of emotions. Shame, anxiety, fear, exhaustion, frustration, hopelessness. But also a sense of accomplishment, the feeling of freedom from these chains that so weigh me down, and the certainty that what I am doing MEANS SOMETHING. I have something to say about all of it – something I feel very passionately that everyone needs to hear – and I am going to say it.

I suppose I just needed to put that out into the world.