Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I Am Tired

I'm tired of the roller coaster ride of emotions that is my life. But there's also not much I can DO about it. I have mental illness. I am mentally ill. This is it for me. I can improve things, of course, but there's no fix or cure. I'm beholden to the whims of my mind for better or for worse for the rest of my life.

I've actually been doing really well over the past couple months. I finished up my one uni class this semester and I think I have a good shot at getting an HD (that's an A equivalent for you Yanks.. only it's way harder to get HDs than As cause Aussies are serious about this education stuff). I've been doing tons of writing and involving myself in various projects and learning and reading and more writing. It's really fun and I enjoy it. I've already seen a lot of improvement and I'm only going to keep getting better with effort. The second draft of the novel is also making good progress, and I'm weaving this crazy plot stuff together like a pro (hahahah not really, I have no idea what I'm doing... but I will get there).

It's not perfect, cause I'm still physically ill a lot and have no answers yet. I don't know that I ever will have answers, or if I'm just going to have to wait until medicine gets good enough to figure this out. I also went through a brain med change, which is... well, if you've done it, you know. It's basically the worst thing.

Still, I've been overall really good considering just how AWFUL things were earlier this year. And when I'm good, I'm really really good. Like, I have forgotten what that depression thing even is and everything is yay and I can do anything! Well, anything within reason given my sickness and anxiety, but still... it's nice to have a really short-term emotional memory when I'm in Up phase. It's GREAT.

But it makes the Down swings a lot harder to deal with. I almost preferred when everything was all terrible and difficult and I was miserable and angry all the time (no, not really), but there's much less of a fall when you're already down in the gutter. Y'know?

I pushed myself a bit too much just before my Final Exam this semester, and I ended up fatigued and sleeping through a couple of days instead of studying. Then there was Stress and frantic study and panic about doing well on the exam. And though I was relieved when it was over, the next day I had a horrible flare up of pain and could barely move. And after that I spent about five days battling a constant migraine and the pain off and on. It only just let up late last night, and I'm starting to feel slightly functional again.

Still, with physical illness flare, my mood decided to drop Down Down Down... deep into a really bad depression hole. Didn't matter all the stuff I'd been accomplishing, and all the effort I've been putting into everything, I was pretty certain that I would never feel okay again. Or, at least, it didn't matter how good I was or for how long, because I know that those downward swings are ALWAYS going to happen. They come whether I want them to or not, and suck out every bit of anything good in my life. I knew it was the depression painting everything grey, and I knew it was temporary (it's always temporary), but I didn't know how long it would stick around THIS time. It could be thankfully short like it was, or it could be months. And in the midst of depression, my short-term emotional memory works against me, because I can't remember being happy or what it's like thinking things will ever be okay or anything positive.

Tonight, I'm back to my "normal" self. (I dunno that I have a normal, to be honest. I don't really do in between.) I'm writing and bouncing around to music and back to focusing on all the things I need to do to keep getting my life together, as if I wasn't horribly depressed up to 24 hours ago. Soon, I'll forget just how drained and miserable and hopeless I was last week.

It's tiring, all the up and down. If I talked to my GP about it, there might be other meds I could try to help, but I'm also terrified of going the other way and evening things out so far that I just become numb. I'm also scared of those inevitable Downs. It's not a very safe space for me to be in for very long. Do I continue to hope that I am lucky and they stay short?

I dunno. There are no easy answers. There never are when it comes to mental illness. For now, I'm okay and I'm tired.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Speak The Truth Even If Your Voice Shakes

The thing that still angers me the most, that still hurts the most, is how he took my anxieties, my fears and my trust especially, and he turned them into weapons. "You are too dependent." He said it so many times and with so much confidence, it had to be true. Didn't it?

He said he cared. He showed he cared, until that moment he realised he didn't have to anymore. I trusted him. I gave him one of the most precious things I have to give. Trust that my well-being meant as much to him as it did me. Trust there was no venom behind his words and actions. Trust at all, because I can count the people who have truly earned it, unquestioning, on one hand; and only one even lives in the same city as me. And I don't mean "Here's $50 pay me back when you can" trust. Or "Please take care of my cat for a week" trust. Or even "I'm drunk, please ensure I get home unharmed and unscathed" trust. This is "My life is literally in your hands" trust. Because it was. To allow someone to support you fully in your mental illness is to hand them your ability to survive.

And he turned it into something vile, a poison to eat away at me from the inside out. A dagger sunk deep into my heart and twisted with a grin. I handed him the keys to my own destruction, and the change was instantaneous, like a venus fly trap snapped shut to capture its prey. Had he literally stabbed me in the back, it would have hurt far less.

The thing is, I never asked anything of him. At least, nothing he hadn't already proved over and over he was willing to give. But it was too late. Once the cage slammed down, there was no acceptable level of expectation. It was a trick, and it always was intended to be. Asking for anything, even the tiniest level of consideration, was always going to be too much. What I wanted, what I needed; it all ceased to exist.

He rode in, your stereotypical knight in shining armour, and gave me far more than I would dare to ask of anyone. But also not too much. If you're too willing, too helpful, the scales tip the other way and motivations come into question. No, he knew the perfect balance. Always more than I expected but never so much I grew suspicious, either. He tested my boundaries, subtle little aggressions which were easily brushed aside by an anxious mind trained to stop believing the worst about everyone and everything. Eating all but one of a snack I shared with him, just to see if I would complain. "Forgetting" to mention to me that the thing we planned together with friends was actually happening, to see if I'd protest at being left out of my own social gathering. So many little pushes here and there, trying to find out when he'd finally go too far. Swallowing down his good intentions, the boundary lines kept contracting further, inward and inward again, until there was nowhere left to go.

And so, I was caught in his web of honeyed lies. And once caught, that I gave him the thing he worked so hard to earn, my trust, became the basis of everything I was doing wrong. I relied on him, and suddenly attempts at contact would go unanswered. Suddenly, the white knight was overwhelmed and nowhere to be found. I pointed out he was hurting me, and I was expecting too much, I was dependant, and too broken for anyone to cope with. I gave him solid boundaries and guidelines to avoid triggering my anxiety, and these were promptly ignored. He wanted me anxious. Anxiety breeds fear, which in turn breeds compliance. Fear of scaring away my one source of support (after he had pushed me away from all others), and the fear that he was right, that I was too broken. The push was an easy one once he had my trust, because they are the constant plague of the mentally ill, that we would lose everyone and everything from something beyond our control.

I handed him the very thing that would be my undoing. Well, nearly. It took him messing with the already-delicate inner workings of my mind, pushing me to the brink of giving it all up, for me to say enough was enough. Finally, the one boundary I was unwilling to give up. That one little voice in my mind that keeps me going when every fibre of my being tells me not to, that thread of strength I rarely realise I have inside that forces me to survive. He was destroying me from the inside out, and I knew it had to stop.

And I was angry. It was a pure rage. To let him get so far, to give up so much to cling to something so deadly, to lose all sense of my worth as a person deserving of the most basic respect. I was so very angry, and I still am. Even that rage has been turned against me, proof that I am the one wrong, the one causing harm. To feel so deeply lessens your worth, and in a world run by power-hungry abusive controllers, we see this to be true. To not feel is a privilege, the domain of those with the ability to crush others under their heel without consequence. Anger is where the rest of us live, and it gives us strength and clarity to finally resist. That's why anger is wrong. That's why its condemned. Anger is power. Anger is revolution.

I am hurting. And I am angry. I am a threat, and as long as I continue to speak truth without fear, I always will be. That my focus has a specific He and Me is irrelevant. There are 'He's and 'Me's all over. Mine is a story told over and over, in so many places, in so many ways. We are angry and unafraid to speak. Tear us down. Call us crazy. Try to destroy us, if you can.

We know you are watching. We know you are afraid. We have the weapons, the truth, the daggers, the power, now, and we will never stop.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

More Context and Talking About Difficult Things

This is a thing I've been meaning to post about for a while now, but it's difficult to discuss. Yes, I know I'm super TMI a lot on my internet public spaces but even I have things I don't like to talk about sometimes. :P But I think this will help provide even more context to some of what's happened in my life over the past year.

I've mentioned how a) intentions don't matter and that actions can be classified as abuse regardless and b) I feel that some of the ways my husband treated me were abusive. It might seem weird that what happened with... ok, I really hate continuing to refer to him as a 'friend' so we're going to go with Jerkface... So yes, it might seem weird that what happened with Jerkface blew up in ridiculous and public ways and I pretty much would prefer he would stop existing (*bink* just gone.. nothing violent, I just wish one of those sci-fi time travelling things where you could erase someone would happen), and that I'm still good friends with the Husband and I still love him. How can I call both men guilty of abuse and condemn one and not the other? From the outside, it does seem hypocritical, but it's not like issues of abuse are EVER black and white. On the other hand, I find it hypocritical that I've mentioned that I feel that Husband abused me and people nodded in solemn and sympathetic agreement, but many of these same people went out of their way to justify Jerkface's behaviour and argue against my anger at him for mistreating me in blatant and damaging ways. So, y'know, whatever.

Intentions don't matter when categorising behaviour as abuse, but the attitude of the abuser towards the abused DOES matter. A lot. I haven't discussed the specifics of Husband's behaviour, because it's difficult and also it's not that important. I believe that he truly loves me and cares about how he affects me and, most importantly, is truly regretful of the ways he's hurt me. In essence, I believe the abuse was, for all intents and purposes, accidental. That doesn't make it less harmful, and my decision to separate and give myself space from the Husband was absolutely the correct one. Where things will go from here, I don't really know yet, but I won't condemn him as a bad person because I know deep down that he isn't. He can be careless and thoughtless. He can think he's doing the correct thing in a situation when he isn't. And he can find it difficult to admit he's wrong. But I've known him for nearly a decade and a half, and for much of that we've been in a relationship together. I probably know him better than anyone else. That he truly loves me and cares about my wellbeing has never been in doubt.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think I am. The difference between how Jerkface and the Husband made me feel overall is massive. Jerkface spouted a lot of things to placate me, said all the right words and then did things to hurt or provoke me anyway. He didn't care how he affected me at all, only that I was complacent under his control. When I wasn't complacent, I was punished. There was no regret, no real care about my wellbeing, only blame, manipulation and control. If there WAS regret at his actions and how they affected me, it was never expressed TO me. And that's why others have a hard time believing his intentions were anything but good. Because he said all the right things to them so they would accept he was just trying to do right by me, that he was trying to be a "good friend" but just didn't know how (bull fucking shit). But the fact that he never, ever would say sorry or take responsibility for how he made me feel to my face is damning in and of itself. I had to pull teeth to even get him to admit he "felt bad" that he hurt me in between all the guilt, blame shifting, and everything else. I was never a person to him. I was a thing, a toy that he could mindfuck to make him feel better about himself. I know this to be true. I will never accept his actions as accidental. I will never be okay that anyone else does. And I definitely will never stop being angry at anyone who believes he's a worthwhile person to have in their life. I don't have to be, cause I don't have to forgive anyone who would treat me that way and anyone else who enabled his behaviour in any way at all.

But I'm getting ranty and off point. So, why do I feel the Husband behaved abusively towards me?

Because his anger and frustration were often directed at me in ways that were unjustified, so that I have felt the need to just appease him so he calms or shut up and apologise so he'd stop. This was never physical, just verbal, but it was at its worst just before and just after the separation. It's one of the main reasons I had to leave.

Because he often phrases things in passive aggressive ways designed to make me feel bad. "YOU left ME so yadda yadda guilt guilt guilt." I think we all are guilty of this behaviour in some ways sometimes. I know I am. I'm not saying this in and of itself is damning. It's childish mostly, but also it's a strongly repeated behaviour on the Husband's part and still can be. I tolerate it less than I used to, and call it out if I can.

Because it felt like his behaviour and mood always worsened the more I became functional and independent, as if his role as my support was being threatened and I had to stay sick so he could continue to take care of me. I was always being dragged back down into my mental illness. I think this is something I've discussed here before, but my psychologist had to make me see why this was problematic and why she describes our relationship as codependent.

And because I feel that some of the ways he treated me "for my own good" helped me stay feeling "crazy and out of control". Such as physically restraining me so I wouldn't self-harm. It took hanging out in spaces on the internet for those of us who are neuroatypical and have experienced abuse to realise that this really isn't okay. And it's still the most difficult thing for me to discuss.

My real point with all this is simply that I've experienced a lot of abuse between the Husband and Jerkface, and that allows me to compare and contrast intention, attitude, and amount of harm caused in a lot of ways that no one else but me really can. I don't hate the husband and I'm not angry at him. Treating someone badly sometimes doesn't make you an irredeemable piece of shit automatically, and that I still want the Husband in my life makes sense to me, even if for now we also need a lot of space and time from one another.

When you've seen the intensity of my anger towards Jerkface and anyone who's defended him and see that I am STILL extremely angry and STILL hurting all the time, understand there's a lot of rational context surrounding it. I'm an emotional person. I'm often giving in to my emotional whims. But that doesn't make me wrong to be angry nor irrational in my hatred of someone who deserves it. I'm not "hanging on" to my emotions, nor am I refusing to move forward. If anything, I've done nothing BUT move forward from the utterly disgusting shit I had to deal with earlier this year. I am healing, though it will continue to take time. But I refuse to let go of anger that I feel is wholly justified.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Emotions have no moral value, and to judge others for their emotions is a privilege. If my anger makes you uncomfortable in any way, you are the one who needs to figure out why and rethink things.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Request

I am done. DONE. That the same people who see through the disgusting BS of the #GamerGate men could accept and defend the person who abused me is just too much. Hypocrisy at its best. It can't be wrong if it's MY friend.

I am so angry. I am angry all the time still, though usually I ignore it and y'know.. get the fuck on with my life.

Right now I am just angry angry angry.

So, do me a favour:

Read my Storify here where I pick apart some of the manipulative discussion techniques of the #GamerGate assholes.

Read my post here on why #GamerGate is abuse.

Read here where I give some of the emails from my abuser similar treatment.

And here which really sums up the only thing that matters whether I can "prove" its abuse or not.

And everything else on this blog to do with the asshole who treated me badly.

Take all that and shove it in the face of everyone still friends with my abuser and if they STILL insist he did nothing wrong, tell them to SAY IT TO MY FACE.

And I will happily explain to them all why they are hypocritical enablers. I yell less offline, so I might even do it nicely, too. But I make no guarantees. Niceness is reserved for those who deserve it.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Anxiety: A Story

Today, I needed to go to the shops and purchase a bus ticket, because my current one was going to run out. I was 98.7% sure that the shop I was heading to sold bus tickets. In fact, the idea that they wouldn’t sell bus tickets is almost absurd, especially as I’d looked up on the transport website at some point and seen that they are listed as a ticket retailer.

Walking into the shop, I looked around for a sign to reassure me that they did, indeed, sell tickets, but there wasn’t one anywhere I could see. Panic began to set in. I went to grab a water bottle first, as that was my other goal of this shop visit, and tried to decide what I would do about the situation. Here is where most people would ask the probably very nice woman behind the counter if the shop sold tickets or not, and of course I thought of that. It’s not that I didn’t realise that not only was that the fastest and most direct solution to my problem, but also that it would likely result in me purchasing the ticket I needed, because the chance they sold them was extremely high. We are talking 1.3% here.

But to someone with anxiety, it doesn’t matter how large or small that gap is between not being sure and being 100% absolutely certain you know what is going on, because 1.3% or 64% chance you are wrong is still a chance. Any chance something will not go exactly as you planned or predicted is enough of a crack for your anxiety to get in there and begin the rapid descent into dizzying panic. You go from walking into a shop fairly confidently to "Quick, run through all possible scenarios as to how this shop visit will now turn out" in the matter of mere seconds.

I decided to wander the aisles towards the back of the small store while my brain began its routine calculation of outcomes.

Some days, I am able to push the ridiculous amount of panic out of my mind long enough to force myself to do the easiest and most obvious solution, despite the fact that it's also the one that involves the most amount of variables and therefore causes me the most amount of stress. On those days, I have enough sense to realise that this is the most likely way to reach my goal and the chance of something going wrong that I haven't accounted for is so small that it is nigh on impossible. On those days, I leave shops happy and proud of myself for doing a thing my brain was screaming at me not to do.

Other days, the panic is just more than I'm able to handle and the thought of making myself do something with even the tiniest chance of an unpredictable result makes my brain freeze up and my heart pound and I go into "deer in headlights" mode. (Recently, I've learned that my "deer in headlights" mode is a form of disassociation, where I detach myself from my sense of reality because I'm finding it too overwhelming. Well. No wonder accomplishing things sometimes is just plain difficult!) On these days, I will wander aimlessly, pretending to intently study the products on the shelves, while in fact I am using all of my brain power to problem solve for a resolution to my situation that I'm able to handle at that given moment. Those days are the ones I generally leave shops angry and disappointed at myself, sometimes with and sometimes without the thing I intended to get.

Well, today was a spectacular failure in terms of coping with my anxiety. After a small amount of wandering, I decided that I didn't want to put back the water bottle and leave the shop to regroup and possibly purchase the ticket elsewhere (also scary for embarrassment reasons). I also didn't have cash, so I couldn't simply purchase the water bottle on its own with EFTPOS (that's a debit/credit card machine to you non-Australians), as there was a $10 minimum. So, the only solution I could stand the thought of was to find more things to buy and hope I worked up the nerve to ask the shop assistant about tickets when I went up to the counter.

No, I didn't work up the nerve as I'd hoped. I did, however, leave the shop after purchasing the water bottle and two large blocks of chocolate to ensure I was safely getting over $10 worth of items.

And I hated myself immediately upon stepping outside. But I did learn that crippling anxiety can sometimes have the positive side effect of leaving a shop with a LOT of chocolate.

(I did manage to get a bus ticket much later in the day after taking care of other things I needed to do, and getting cash out of an ATM and then braving a newsagent ALSO without signs. But newsagents not selling bus tickets would be even more absurd than my local shop not selling them. An awkward but painless interaction with a lady who was very trusting of my concession status ensued, and I felt dumb afterwards, BUT I had a bus ticket. Success at last.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

So, Here Is A Thing...: Abuse and the Men of #GamerGate

You may or may not know about the huge divide and other things going on in the gaming world at the moment. I do, because I like that sort of thing, but all you really need to know is that women are being attacked for talking about things as women, and men are trying to make it all about themselves.

Basic sexist bullshit.

Anyway, so there are the really disgusting harassers who are sending rape threats and doxxing women and scaring them out of their homes, right? Everyone agrees these are really terrible people, just like everyone agrees physical abuse and rape are bad. We don't know who these terrible people are, and they're certainly not US, but we all agree it is a Bad Thing. (Or we accuse the women of making up the harassment to play the victim, which is probably a good sign you or someone you know is doing the harassing. Just saying.)

On the other hand, there are a bunch of #GamerGate dudes who are distancing themselves from the /really/ awful people and are not misogynists, not even one little bit. They are the "cool-headed, rational" men who are fighting the good fight against "corruption" in the games journalism world. They want inclusion, really, but all the fun-hating Social Justice Warriors are trying to take away everything that is Good and Fun in games and ruin it for everyone. Or something. I don't really care enough to entirely understand what they are arguing, because it is a whole lot of justification and distraction from the real issue of sexism and misogyny because their privilege is being threatened. But they are clearly the ones being attacked, because people are all angry at them for some reason they can't understand and they are just trying to have an emotionless, rational discussion about what big babies they are that video games aren't a men's hobby anymore. You know the drill. "I'm trying to have a constructive argument here but you keep yelling at me because I'm saying really disgusting, hurtful things. Wah me."

My point is that they may not be the really, really awful ones actually making threats against women (though, I'm going to guess many of them are if they think they can get away with it), but it still reeks of abuser dynamics and so much bullshit.

Every time I see any conversation with one of the #GamerGate men, all I can think about is the friend who abused me telling me how "dependent" I was on him and how "problematic" it was for both of us. How I was in denial, and "violently so", when I disagreed with him (gee, maybe I was angry he was attacking me, no matter how subtle?). This idea that cool, distant rationality trumps all in any argument IS abuser dynamics 101. It is always used by people in positions of privilege and power to shut down any argument they don't like and direct attention to what they feel is the "real problem" we should be addressing.

Gamers are turning the spotlight away from the violent harassment of women and onto "journalistic corruption", because it serves their purposes to do so, their purpose being to protect their privilege and justify treating women as less than human. It puts people on the defensive, having to expend effort explaining why corruption ISN'T an issue, instead of continuing to put the responsibility of the disgusting behaviour where it belongs: on men in the gaming scene.

In my case, I was the "real problem", and putting me on the defensive meant I couldn't continue to try and hold him responsible for treating me like shit. I've stated it all before on this blog, so I won't hash it all out again. But it doesn't matter if he "truly" believed he was right or not. It doesn't matter at all if Gamers think they are honestly fighting against some sort of imagined corruption in games journalism. 

What DOES matter is that my friend's actions were abusive and harmful towards me. What DOES matter is that women are being abused and harmed by a section of the gaming community, no matter how large or small.

If anyone at all tries to distract from harm in any way, that is WRONG. And distracting from harm only ever benefits those perpetuating it.

The idea that emotional reactions to things makes you a bad person in some way is societal abuse culture, and it especially helps those who have the power and privilege to be able to react in an emotionless way. It is used to silence and oppress. It never, ever makes an argument more correct than anyone else's.

Most everyone I know agrees that the #GamerGate men are terrible people trying to frame a terrible argument in a way that others will swallow. They agree they are wrong.

So, why is it so hard to convince many of these same people that what I actually experienced was abuse? (Abuse that you will be hard pressed to make my abusive friend ever be sorry about, at that.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Few Words on Depression and Robin Williams (tw: Suicide)

It's been a really rough day to be on the internet. I'm glad this is opening up discussion of depression and mental illness. It's important to understand that this illness affects all of us in so many ways, whether you suffer from it or not. We need to talk about it and keep talking until the stigma surrounding mental illness finally falls away. And there are lots of great and amazing people out there saying a lot of things a lot better than I can, but I'm hoping getting some of these thoughts out can get them out of my head... because it's especially rough on those of us who can sympathise a bit too well.

Last year while at work, we were discussing the trains being late because someone had killed themselves and caused a delay. Most of the talk was respectful, at least (cause I've heard some really awful things about it being selfish to ruin everyone else's day by affecting transport, etc... ). What stuck with me, though, was someone saying, "I just don't understand it. I don't understand wanting to end your own life."

I didn't say anything, of course, but my immediate thought was, "I do." I don't know why I didn't realise it before then, but I finally understood just HOW different my mind was to everyone else's. Like, you mean not everyone fantasises about death and oblivion and the myriad ways you could end it at every given moment? That's my Thursday night. And Friday night. And every other night. I mean, last year was particularly tough for me, so my brain was in a bad place all the time, definitely. But to know, to really know the bleak depths that swallow you up, that desperate desire for everything to simply stop no matter what, the pain that feels as if it will never, ever end... to have your brain sap you of any and everything remotely good and replace it with darkness you can't see your way out of... even words don't quite do it justice, but every one of my fellow suffers of depression - they know it intimately.

Many of us didn't know Robin Williams by anything other than his work, but all of us with depression know exactly how he felt, and probably, like me, are a tiny bit jealous his fight is over. And that's why the internet has been a bit of a dangerous place for us today. Not that I'm in crisis or anything, but I have been avoiding being online too much, because that place in my mind is never too far away. (And if you, like me, have been triggered at all... please, do whatever you need to take care of yourself right now.)

But while the world screams tragedy over his death, I think it's important to not view it as such. Celebrate his life. Rewatch the many, many amazing and touching movies he's made throughout his career. Mourn him, but do not pity him. He wasn't weak nor was he selfish for finally succumbing to his illness. Just the opposite. He fought this darkness inside of him every single day for 63 years. 63 years! I'm barely halfway there, and I think that is a bit of a miracle. And in those 63 years, he has a massive body of work that has touched so many lives and we're all better for it. If I make it that long and I leave even a fraction of his legacy behind, I will feel like I've done something with my time here.

And that's why discussing depression is so important. It is silent and it is deadly. Unfortunately, it still wins far too often, but we only ever hear about it when happens to someone famous. Suicide rates are upsettingly high, and still so many are terrified to admit they suffer from mental illness and get help... because it's not discussed, or discussed in whispers, and we dismiss violent criminals as crazy, we dismiss victims of abuse as crazy, we dismiss a lot of things we don't like or understand that way. And depression already makes you feel alone and isolated and an outsider, and the stigma around it means that feeling is only intensified.

So, talk about it. Ask your friends if they're okay. Ask them especially if you suspect at all that they're not, and hope they trust you enough to give an honest answer. Listen without judgement to everyone around you, especially if they come to you for help. You don't have to understand, but you do have to listen honestly and openly. Don't freak out if what they tell you is scary. It is scary, but don't make it about your feelings, make it about theirs and whatever they need to get the right sort of help. And make sure your loved ones know how much you care. Tell them even if you're sure they know. Tell them over and over, because you never know when the right word at the right time might save a life.

          O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
          The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
          The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
          While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
          But O heart! heart! heart!
          O the bleeding drops of red,
          Where on the deck my Captain lies,
          Fallen cold and dead.
          O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
          Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
          For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
          For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
          Here captain! dear father!
          This arm beneath your head;
          It is some dream that on the deck,
          You've fallen cold and dead.
          My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
          My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
          The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
          From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

          Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
          But I, with mournful tread,
          Walk the deck my captain lies,
          Fallen cold and dead.

- Walt Whitman, 1865

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An Update: Still Not Totally Okay, But Also Not Not Okay?

I've been having a lot of bad days. I mean, healing will take time, and it's kinda hard to cope with a lot of scary feelings that just don't want to go away. On top of that, I'm having a bad flare up of pain from whatever it is that causes it. And sleep is still difficult a lot of the time. So, the more tired and hurty I get, the harder it is to keep distracted from the scary emotions and that's when the bad days happen.

But I also have days that are pretty okay? I've been trying to keep up with my Stats class for uni this semester (I'm a tiny bit behind but I'm doing what I can so I think it'll be fine), and I've managed to keep myself busy with working on some art, which is a thing I haven't done in literally yonks. (I dunno how long a yonk is but I imagine it's pretty long.) And when I feel okay, I start wondering why I felt so terrible so much anyway. It's like I forget and go, you dummy! Lying around being miserable is dumb, don't do that anymore.

I realise that I don't really have in between moods. When I'm up, I'm like yeah, I can do this!  Let's fix up the mess that is my life a bit at a time, and I get stuff done which only makes me feel even better. But when I'm down, it's waaaay down. Crying, angry, scary thoughts, and fighting hard not to self-harm down. I'm not sure I even know what those middle emotions even are. I don't know if I have always been this extreme or if all the craziness and stress of the past year has got me in a weird cycle. Or it could be the meds I'm currently on. I don't really remember what 'normal' for me is at the moment. I'm not sure I have a 'normal'.

I've been wondering quite a lot lately if there isn't something a bit more going on than simply depression and anxiety. I feel weird being like.. those are such garden variety mental illnesses, I'm not sure that's all there is to what makes me sick. Obviously, it's not to say that dealing with 'just' depression and anxiety isn't really difficult. But it's not like my therapist has ever really given me a diagnosis or anything, though obviously we talk about how those two things affect me a lot. I've always known I don't experience true mania the way those with Bipolar I do (I've seen its effects in both friends and family growing up), but I definitely have experienced hypomanic episodes. It's a milder form of mania, and actually looks a lot like functioning highly. It's a hallmark of Bipolar II on the bipolar spectrum, which is not really a 'lesser' form of being bipolar, just one that manifests differently than type I. And it's very hard to diagnose. Anyway, I have been meaning to talk to my psychologist about it, but I spent last session catching her up on everything that's been going on... but yeah. It wouldn't really surprise me, since manic depression runs in my family and that ups your chances of being on the spectrum pretty significantly. It's mostly important because it changes how my treatment might go. So yes, that is a thing to talk to my many lovely doctors about at some point soon.

Anyway, I realised something pretty important tonight... that despite how difficult things are right now and how terrible things have been this year, I'm actually still happier with who I am as a person more than I have been in, I dunno... forever. I don't... hate myself? Especially after the insane spiral down into guilt and self-destruction that happened while my friend was abusing me, it's a pretty noticeable difference now that I feel more free and less weighed down by really intense negative thinking. Yeah, I still deal with it on the bad days. It's a feature of my mental illness so it's not just going to go away. But even when things like "It's somehow my fault" or "I deserved it to happen to me" or whatever try to sneak into my head, I know that's my brain just being irrational. I can kinda talk myself out of it getting too bad, because I know realistically that I've done nothing wrong. A person treated me really badly and it still feels pretty awful a lot of the time, but that guilt I felt for SO long... well, that's mostly gone.

And I'm also kind of proud of myself overall. Not just for staying clean this long (which IS a pretty big deal of course), but that I have stood up for myself. That I recognised that something was wrong with my friendship (even though I didn't know what at the time) and that I told him enough was enough. That I have had the courage to speak out about the mistreatment, consequences be damned. (I knew it was a losing proposition from the beginning, though I didn't predict the extent he'd go to keep his reputation intact... even if now that I think back on it I should have realised.) That I had the strength to cut out a lot of people who think my abuser has done nothing wrong, because they don't deserve space in my life. That even though I acted rashly in my anger and frustration, I'm not beating myself about it. And, most importantly, that I'm still moving forward.. each tiny step at a time.

On the better days, like tonight where I'm feeling pretty okay, I realise that I'm actually tough as shit. Like really strong. I have every reason to break down into a crying blob of sadness and despair (and it happens), but it doesn't last. Every time there's a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, I grab onto it and start fighting again to get there. I've spent some time wallowing and the depression makes it a lot harder sometimes to see that the feelings will ever end. But they do, every time. I mean, I guess I've been at this a pretty long time. It's been a fact of my life that I've always had to push myself pretty hard to get anywhere. So, even on the worst days there's a tiny, tiny voice at the back of my mind that tells me, 'This too will pass.' I actually make a deal with myself not to act impulsively if I'm feeling really bad, if I want to self-harm or I have suicidal thoughts. I say, if I still feel this way in 24 hours, then I can act on these feelings. Y'know, in case this is the one time they finally don't go away. But obviously, the worst of it always passes. Always.

It's hard not to think about how scary a lot of this must sound to people who don't live this way. But this is just how things work for me? I guess? I haven't known anything else. But I'm still here. I'm still trying. I hold on to the smidgen of hope that someday this will actually get easier.

It's funny that for someone often so sad and hopeless, at my core I'm still an optimist and a bit of a dreamer. For a while, in my early 20s after my first trip to Australia where everything went kind of horribly wrong, I felt as if that part of me died... that my innocence had been forcibly stripped from me and I'd never be able to look at the world around me in the same way. As I struggled with my depression and it kept worsening, before I got into treatment, that continued to feel true, that I'd lost something I'd never get back. Slowly, slowly I've realised that isn't true. The positive, honest, passionate, and wide-eyed girl is still in there somewhere, deep beneath mental illness and the stressful struggles of my adulthood. I want to believe that the world and humanity are essentially good, that the bad ones among us are there but a minority, that if we all just try hard enough, we can accomplish nearly anything... that on a whole, karma balances everything out and tips the scales in favour of those of us just trying to get by and find some happiness in this weird existence of ours.

Obviously, it feels naive to me now, but I'm glad to know that not all of that is gone, destroyed by a world that's a lot more cruel and unfair than I ever wanted to believe it could be. Because I think hanging onto the part of me that wants to believe in fairy tales and happy endings is the source of my strength and resilience, not a weakness or vulnerability. Yeah, it makes me a bit of a target for people like my abuser, those who view people as things or a means to an end. But I also think he ultimately misjudged me, too. And now I've learned that much more about protecting myself from the predators, and I know what red flags to look for. I won't be taken in so easily next time.

Tactics of Manipulative Control

I'm posting this list on the blog because it's such a good summary. I'm stealing it from this Tumblr post, but the source of the information is a great book I think I've mentioned before, "In Sheep's Clothing" by George K. Simon. I experienced nearly all of these from my abuser.
Minimizing: Turning mountains into molehills (the character disordered and/or perpetrators do this; neurotics do the opposite). He trivializes the nature of his wrong doing. He tries to convince you that you would be wrong to conclude that his behavior is as wrong as he knows you suspect. 
Lying: Omission, distortion. Your abuser/manipulator will stop at nothing to get what he wants; therefore, you can and should expect him to lie. They have refined lying to an art. He will withhold a significant amount of the truth from you, or distort essential elements of the truth, to keep you in the dark. He uses smooth, calculated omissions to deceive you. 
Denial: “Who Me?” He poses as the humble servant. Your aggressor refuses to admit he’s done something harmful or hurtful when he clearly has. This “Who Me?” tactic invites the victim, you, to feel unjustified in confronting the aggressor about the inappropriateness of a behavior. It’s also a way for him to give himself permission to keep right on doing what he wants to do. He uses this maneuver to get you to back off, back down or maybe even feel guilty for insinuating he’s doing something wrong. 
Selective Inattention: Refusal to pay attention to anything that might distract him from pursuing his agenda. He actively ignores your warnings, pleas or wishes and refuses to pay attention to everything or anything that might distract him from going after what he wants. 
Rationalization: Excuses. Justifications. A rationalization is an excuse your aggressor/abuser makes for engaging in what he knows is an inappropriate or harmful behavior. This can be very effective, especially when he makes just enough sense that any reasonably conscientious person is likely to fall for it. If he can convince you he is justified in whatever he’s doing, then he is freer to pursue his goals without interference. He will often use shame and guilt to coerce you into buying his rationalizations / excuses / justifications. 
Diversion: Distraction. Changing the subject. Dodging the issue. Throw you a curve ball. A moving target is hard to hit. When you try to pin your manipulator down or keep a discussion focused on a single issue or behavior you don’t like, he is expert at changing the subject, distracting, dodging and throwing curves. He utilizes this maneuver to keep the focus off his behavior, move you off track, keep you off balance and maintain his freedom to promote his self-serving hidden agenda. Confronting a manipulator is like trying to nail Jello to a wall. 
Evasion: Your manipulator uses vagueness to avoid being cornered on an issue by giving rambling, irrelevant responses to a direct question. He deliberately uses vagueness to confuse you, to make you think you have an answer when you don’t. When he is not responding directly to an issue, you can safely assume he is trying to give you the slip. 
Covert Intimidation: This is your abuser’s use of veiled threats to keep you, his victim, anxious, apprehensive and one down. The abuser is adept at countering arguments with such passion and intensity that he effectively throws you on the defensive. A manipulator primarily intimidates you by making veiled threats. This way he can threaten you without appearing overtly hostile and aggressive. 
Guilt Tripping: “How could you think that of me??!” “How could you doubt me?!” Your manipulator keeps you self-doubting, anxious and submissive. This is one of your aggressor’s two favorite weapons, the other is shaming. Aggressive personalities know that others have very different consciences than they have. They also know that the hallmark qualities of a sound conscience are the capacities for guilt and shame. Your manipulator is skilled at using what he knows to be a greater conscientiousness in you, his victim, as a means of keeping you in that anxious, submissive state where you doubt yourself and your perceptions. All your manipulator has to do is suggest to you that you don’t care or that you’re being selfish or cruel [in finally calling them on their abuse] and you immediately start to feel bad. Whereas you can try until you’re blue in the face to get your manipulator to feel remorse for his hurtful behavior, acknowledge responsibility and admit wrong doing, to absolutely no avail. 
Shaming: Your abuser uses subtle sarcasm and put downs as a means of increasing fear and self-doubt in you. He shames you to make you feel inadequate and unworthy so you will defer to his dominant position. 
Victim Stancing: He plays the victim role to gain sympathy, evoke compassion in order to get something from you. He also uses this to play a false one down position to you in order to disarm you. If your manipulator can convince you that he’s suffering, then you, being a caring, sensitive soul, will want to relieve his distress. 
Vilifying the Victim: Your abuser makes it appear that he is merely responding to and defending himself against YOUR aggression, making you, the victim, feel like the villain while he masks his aggressive intent and behavior. 
Servant Role: Your manipulator cloaks his self-serving agendas in the guise of service to a noble cause; he pretends to work nobly on your behalf while concealing his own desire for power and dominance. One hallmark of a covert aggressive personality is he will loudly profess his subservience while fighting for dominance. 
Seduction: He charms, praises, flatters you and overtly supports you to get you to lower your defenses and surrender your trust and loyalty. Your manipulator is particularly aware that to the extent you are emotionally needy or dependent (that is, vulnerable, which everyone is to some extent), you will desire approval and reassurance and a sense of being valued and needed above anything. Appearing to be attentive to these needs can be his ticket to incredible power over you. He melts any resistance you might have to giving him your loyalty and confidence. He does this by giving you what he knows you need most. You don’t find out how important you really are to him until you turn out to be in his way. 
Blame Shifting (Projecting the blame onto you): Your aggressor is always looking for ways to shift the blame for his abusive behavior away from himself. He is expert at finding scapegoats in subtle, hard to detect ways. His willingness to blame you for his abusive behavior is in itself an abusive act. At the very moment he is engaging in the use of this tactic or any other he is in the act of aggressing. 
Feigning Innocence: He attempts to convince you that any harm he may have caused you was unintentional or that he really didn’t do what he’s being accused of. This makes you question your judgment and sanity and to doubt your right to call him on his abusive behavior. He adroitly uses the look of surprise or indignation, or the sudden gasp at being so accused. 
Feigning Confusion: Your abuser acts like he doesn’t know what you’re talking about or is confused about the issue you’re bringing. Plays ‘dumb’ to get you to question your perceptions, sanity, etc… 
Brandishing Anger: Calculated, deliberate display of anger he may or may not feel in order to intimidate, coerce and manipulate. 
When somebody uses these tactics frequently, you not only know what kind of character you’re dealing with (covert aggressors, manipulators, abusers, Narcissists, Anti-Socials, Borderline Personalities, etc…) but precisely because the tactics are both tools of manipulation as well as manifestations of resistance to change, you also know that he will engage in his problematic behaviors again. You can give up your fantasy that in time he will change and things will be different. Nothing will change until he decides to stop fighting and start accepting. As long as he’s engaged in utilizing these tactics, it’s clear he doesn’t intend to change. 
In Sheep’s Clothing, by George K. Simon, p. 96-112 
Freedom’s NOTE: And of course, with an abuser, especially a “professional” abuser, it is never appropriate to hang around in the abusive relationship hoping he will change. The point in the paragraph above is that as long as he’s aggressing, he has no intent to change. Realizing this could prove helpful to us in letting go of more denial about the abusiveness in the relationship and any hope we may have of reconciling with the abuser and picking up where we left off: namely, being abused by him again but calling it ‘love.’

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Breaking Things Down (Part 1)

This is something I've wanted to do for a while, but finding the energy and brain space is tough. I'm going to try and talk about the communications I received from my abuser while we were still friends in the context of abusive mentality and abuser dynamics, because I think it's important to understand that subtle or otherwise, these things come up all the time in our interactions with others... but being blinded by reasons and justifications doesn't make any of it okay. I've posted a lot of what he and I both said in this previous blog post (linked for all necessary context), so I'm not going to reproduce everything here.

Email 1:
There really isn't much to say from my part that I haven't already communicated to you. The only problem I had that personally affected /me/ was the stress (in the context of already being stressed) that I was feeling because I felt like all my options regarding you, you're health, and our friendship, were in some way massively deficient.
This seems reasonable on the surface, but it's a twisty way to get the focus OFF him and back onto me, by denying and ignoring things not related to his agenda. Though he had established himself as a carer/support person, it's still disturbing he is alluding to the idea that he needs to 'fix' me and/or us in some way. Relationships of all sorts need to be a two way street.
You do have a problem with self-regulation, because you (self-admittedly) react in ways when anxiety/emotional brained that when you calm down you understand were not helpful/in your best interest, etc.
By "self-admittedly" he's referring to the fact that I was already gaslighted at this point to take on the burden of guilt for everything going wrong. To be fair, it wasn't a huge push.. my anxiety and depression do already make me think that I'm a "burden" and "difficult to deal with", etc. Plus, it plays on the societal acceptance of the idea that rational=good and emotional=bad, something abusers use to their advantage all the time. My abuser particularly was covert aggressive (good description of this type of abuse lives here) or (as described in this blog post) a Water Torturer type abuser. Basically, this means he stays calm and in control at all times while provoking emotional responses from the target, thus being able to claim they are "overreacting" and "irrational", etc. to invalidate their emotions.
And you do have a problem with dependence, which, other than being observable, you've said as much yourself when you've calmed down.
 Look, this doesn't even explain a damn thing, which goes to show just how much of a gaslighting lie it was. "Being observable" is not actual evidence of anything, neither is the fact I admitted to it at any point (because... gaslighted). What he really disagreed with was now that I trusted him and accepted him as my main source of support, it was unacceptable to expect ANYthing from him that he did not want to give... and since I did expect him to actually give a shit about me and got angry when his behaviour showed otherwise, it was obviously asking too much. 
Now, whilst I accept my part in not being vigilant enough in trying to help you, to not let it become a dependence thing, the communication was /impossible/ until after you spoke to [REDACTED] on Wednesday. Because you were both in denial about the problem and quite defensive/hostile about it. 
Basically, I disagreed with him and therefore I was in denial and hostile. This is an attack designed to put me on the defensive. By putting the burden on me once again as the one with the problem, I'm pushed to either accept his views or at least have to continue defending myself (probably with some anger at the accusation), which would allow him to again call me "unreasonable". He also would often consult with friends about things between us to subtly prime them to agree with his view that I was overreacting or wrong in some way, so that when I spoke to others for outside viewpoints, it was assured I would be led back to his thinking and more likely to succumb to his control. I don't think he outright would say, 'I am right, she is being emotional and is wrong', but I do think he often played off, again, unwritten social rules. In this case, it's partially that being overly emotional is a 'bad' thing and also that he had to keep distancing himself from me because I was 'too much' (Mmm, mental illness stigma).
So whilst I accept that non-communication might be triggering for you, I do not feel responsible for being the trigger. Nor, given the context, do I think it's fair of you to try to tell me I'm responsible for.
Huge red flag. People who actually care about how they are affecting you do not tell you they are not responsible for the harm caused. Even hurting someone inadvertently, most of us would apologise for what happened, because it sucks to hurt a friend and you try not to do it ever again. Abusers, however, never ever take responsibility for their actions and their effects. It is a major thing that MAKES someone an abuser.  (see #9 in this post). And not only does he not care that his behaviour was causing me some massive and stressful anxiety (after I had set it as a hard boundary between us), but he then again turns the guilt and blame BACK onto me to make me feel bad I brought it up in the first place.
Now, if after calming down and maybe talking to [REDACTED] or [REDACTED] you realise that much of what you've just said was in no small way disturbing, I'm happy to ignore it. Either way I haven't taken it personally, or let it impact how I feel about you.
He's Very Kindly (sarcasm ahoy) forgiving me for being angry at him about him causing me a lot of undue stress and anxiety. How very nice and big of him. How very manipulative.
However, until you get perspective on the situation from a third party I'm not going to discuss this further with you.
And he ends with a good dose of stonewalling, or shutting down any further communication on the topic so that a resolution or compromise (other than accepting his views) cannot be reached. It's used to retain control of the situation and frustrate the person on the other side, and is another huge red flag when it comes to attempting to have a healthy relationship with someone.

Email 2:
Look. You are going to calm down at some point, maybe vent your shit at someone or whatever. Then you are going to freak out because you will think you've just destroyed our friendship. It's a pattern. And I like to think I have a pretty damn high tolerance for that kind of thing. But you are walking on very thin ice, tracing the circumference of my no drama policy.
 Let us begin with a threat. The cycle did keep repeating itself, because abuse is a cycle, and there would always be some way he'd try to control me that pushed just a little too far, so I'd get angry at him. Then the gaslighting and self-blame would kick in and I'd go crawling back, asking for forgiveness since it was the only way to keep things status quo between us. This is how abuse works (the only thing he didn't do was get violent with me, obviously, but everything else is true).
So, in the event that you do at some point realise that you are being completely unreasonable
Because I was always unreasonable if I was angry at him. Blame was always put squarely onto my shoulders.
You are very dear to me and I value our friendship. However, I'm /not/ willing to deal with this amount of drama, from anyone. So if you do in fact want to maintain our friendship, this has to stop.
He said I was dear to him and he valued our friendship in that exact phrase many times as reassurance. A weirdly particular way of putting it and I don't believe any of them were ever sincere, it was always just to placate me. And then there is another threat.
No more expectations of how I should or shouldn't act, no more trying (intentionally or otherwise) to guilt trip me over how /you/ are feeling or into me spending time with you (I say trying because I /don't/ feel guilty in any way). No more emotional venty outbursts at me for what you perceive I've done wrong but inevitably, and usually after talking to someone like [REDACTED], realise that you were, in fact, being unreasonable. No more drama, period.
Basically, stop trying to fight against my control in various ways. You can see how he twisted my valid complaints about his behaviour into things I've done wrong to him. He often accused me of being emotionally manipulative and guilt tripping, when in fact, he was doing these things constantly to me by trying to force me to accept the blame and responsibility of all our problems. By framing my actions in such a drastic framework, it, again, attempts to make me go on the defensive and also feel shame for trying to hold him responsible for the way he was affecting me. This is a list of demands that I had to adhere to for the friendship to stay intact, and yet he couldn't be held 'responsible' for the one thing I asked him to do to make me stop feeling terrible all the time. This is one of the main abuse dynamics, where the abuser must be free to do whatever they please without consequence, but you cannot do anything that the abuser dislikes within the relationship. And of course, again, I am unreasonable for being angry that he did not care about my feelings one bit.
If any of this continues after this particular incident, I intend on cutting communication with you for as long as it takes for you to fix your shit so we can go back to being friends without the drama. Hint: this will be measured in months, maybe even years, not days/weeks, to give you some perspective.
The threat in full, with added consequences of not submitting to his demands. Also, for someone so invested in fighting mental health stigma and mental health advocacy (it's his job at a non-profit, even), the phrase "fix your shit" is very demeaning and out of character for his usual "I'm such a nice, understanding guy" facade.
I don't want to talk about this with you, it is not open for discussion. I want our friendship to work, but if time apart is needed then so be it. This is the last time I will deal with it. At a minimum, I don't want to talk to you at all until you've calmed down and got some perspective.
And again, more stonewalling so that the only possible resolution is his resolution.

The second email was one of the last before the friendship dissolved, so it might make ultimatums seem more reasonable (though everything he took issue with was not an actual issue except that I kept getting mad at him for treating me poorly instead of shutting up and taking his crap). Still, he sent this after I had already expressed that I no longer wanted to continue being friends because of how he was acting. He attempted one more go at regaining control over me, but I'd had enough at that point, as you can see in my reply in the blog post linked at the beginning of this one. The issues I state in my reply were all the true issues as I saw them, instead of the ones he kept pushing on me to make me at fault and more compliant to his control. Never once would he address anything I wanted him to address, and instead derailed every argument into what he felt the problem was (aka Me).

These are not the communications of someone who ever truly cared about me, but they are pretty good examples of how subtle psychological and emotional abuse manifests.

It still baffles me that the people defending him believe that any of the above is acceptable, but then again, they probably believe him that I'm 'crazy' cause I'm mentally ill or that he just couldn't cope with dealing with me anymore (protip: relationships work on communication and compromise... not abusive actions like control and stonewalling and manipulation).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I'm Not Okay Right Now, But I Will Be (Someday)

I want to be the sort of strong, confident person that just doesn't care what other people think, especially since I know there's nothing I can do to make anyone see the truth. Rationally, I know I just need to focus on me, and forget about everyone who's bought into my abuser's lies.

Rationality doesn't make it all hurt less, though. Or make me less angry about what he's done.

I also know I can't just make myself snap out of this funk. Healing takes time. But I'm pretty tired of existing between the two states of either miserable or numb. Numb is still more ideal, if I can keep myself busy or distracted enough. The problem is that I can't manage it all of the time, of course. I'm also really tired of all the tears and fighting off the urges to self-harm. It's pretty exhausting.

I did have a good and much-needed session with the psychologist this week. She's treated me for 5 or 6 years now. She probably knows me better than anyone, other than myself. I think it was good to hear her reassurance that the me from earlier this year, the one who was in constant crisis and self-harming quite badly, isn't the real me at ALL. That was my abuser inside my head. I was in a super vulnerable place and he pushed all the right buttons.

Like, I know I'm an intensely anxious and reclusive person, so probably a lot of people (esp those neurotypical types) find that weird. So it's not a huge push to think that maybe the crazy, weird chick is super extra crazy. Certainly an easier leap of faith than to accept your friend has done something pretty terrible to someone else. I don't really blame anyone for falling prey to my abuser's manipulations. I know just how convincing his slippery silver tongue can be. And you can't ever have really known me as a person at all to believe I am the thing he says I am, so yeah... it's no huge loss on my side of things, really.

But it still hurts, and I am still very angry.

My psychologist asked if I felt like anything was left unresolved, and it was a very easy answer of Nooooo, definitely not. And that felt pretty good. I mean, I was really quite ragey and angry at him for a while, obviously, because he hurt me and continued to hurt me and gave zero shits about it. But I'm so grateful that the AVO stuff is settled and I can give zero fucks about his continued existence. All of my lingering emotions mostly centre around how easy it was for him to turn many people against me. I think getting over that will just take some time.

I guess I am kind of angry about people taking his side, even if I don't really blame them. I mean, this whole situation is just so fucked up, anyway. I guess it's the final insult, on top of everything else he's done to me.. because that is pretty much just how these things go.

Jokes on me thinking people would care more about someone abusing me as opposed to my anger at being abused by someone. Not like any of them bothered to ask me if I actually cared about having him back in my life (a. NO b. I told him to fuck off, not the other way around? Seriously, people), or asked me why I was so angry (to be fair, I was still confused on this point for a while), or even stopped to think about how unusual it was for me to even be so angry in the first place (have you met me..? If you haven't, fine, but I don't really do anger).

Enh, whatever. I've done my ranting.. there's no point continuing. I can run myself round in circles all day getting worked up over everything, but I know shouldn't bother. But this is my life.. this is kind of all it is right now, just... aftermath. A whole lot of emotional chaos and nothing that can fix it but time.

Because even if everyone who's been sucked in by my abuser's masterful pity performance suddenly changed their mind and realised I was right, etc. etc.... it still wouldn't magically heal what's been left behind. I still have wounds and I still have scars simply because one person went on a power trip with my life and my well being.

So yeah, I have a lot of strong emotions going on at any given time, and I know they won't simply go away. But even though it's still a struggle now, I also realise that it will get better and all these things will eventually pass, and someday I will be the strong, confident person I want to be... because I've survived and I'm still surviving, with the help of some very real and healthy friendships. Y'know, the kind that don't hurt and feel super shitty all the time.

I can get better, but the fact my abuser has 'gotten away' with mistreating me means that he will not. I'd much rather be my weird, emotional, anxious self with all the conscious and empathy of a good person than to live my life capable of such cruelty. I guess, in the end, the joke's on him, because at least I can learn from what happened and be a much stronger person for it. I can escape him and his influence, but he is stuck with himself forever, and living your life having to dominate and 'win' at everything is a very lonely place to be.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Bottom Line (TRIGGER WARNING for Self Harm)

There's things that have been nagging at me a bit that I think have gotten lost in shuffle and craziness of the past few months, in my anger and frustration, in my need to prove that it was abuse, and everything else.

Most important is this: the way I was treated was abuse, and no one gets to decide that but me.

I can shout until my voice goes hoarse, but it doesn't matter if anyone believes me or not, because no one can understand what I felt and experienced at the hands of the person who harmed me. He may not have laid a hand on me, but his actions were just as dangerous for my health as if he had. This could have been unintentional or subconscious, it could be an isolated incident and not a pattern he's exhibited with others (especially partners), he may not be a malicious, terrible person and something made him behave out of character with me (frex, a need to "protect" himself, such as I discussed in my last blog post) ... ALL these things might be true, but none of them make it okay.

And the scars may have come from my own hand, but they are lasting and real. I have self-harmed off and on for 15 years, and never have I experienced the crazy intensity of visiting the ER multiple times for wounds as I did the beginning of this year. Coincidentally, I was also gaslighted into a devastating spiral of guilt and self-hate. When you fuck around with someone already in a really vulnerable place, it is dangerous.

TRIGGER WARNING: Self harm scars

The largest scar on my thigh is from the second to last ER visit I had (the last being when my abuser called the cops on me for being suicidal). I had to go in because the wound refused to stop bleeding. I know the photo is a lot.. I get triggered by similar online all the time, so I'm sorry if it is. But to me it's a physical reminder of just how insidious his behaviour was, how real the pain and trauma he caused me was. I wear a lot of scars from the years of self-harm, but nothing, nothing like this. This was him inside my head.

And I can hear the excuses coming from his side, that it is some sort of 'proof' that I was using the harm to gain his attention or get him to spend time with me. Not only is it a disgusting stereotype that those who harm do it for attention, but no one who harms both seriously and longterm does it for anyone but themselves. It's hard to discuss all the thoughts and emotions that go into taking everything out on yourself, and violently so, but it is pretty fucking selfish to make a terrible and destructive act about YOU and not the person actually in pain. (I don't know if my abuser's said anything to this effect at all, to be fair, but it makes sense after how many times he accused me of being too 'dependent' and unable to 'self-regulate' and being 'emotionally manipulative', as well as his fear of 'attaching his presence to things'.)

And that's the key, really, that in times of conflict, disagreement, or distress.. it was ALL about him. Everything was always about how I was affecting him, and nothing was about how I was feeling, how he put himself in this position of support/carer, how he affected me. I was the problem. I was manipulating him. I was too much. It was okay to hurt me because he had to. I had to adhere to his boundaries and restrictions, but he had to continue doing the one thing without warning that I asked him to give me warning for. The control he exerted over me was for my own good. He'd given so much already, so expecting anything (especially consideration of my feelings) was unreasonable. No one else was good enough to help me, but I wasn't good enough to be worthy of his help, either. He reassured me and lied to my face over and over, empty promises, and then caused pain all over again.

It was dehumanising, invalidating, painful, frustrating, and I was always on edge, always anxious. I am still overly anxious, unable to sleep, terrified that I will run into him somewhere, always a bit paranoid that it is not actually over. I don't care who, what, where, when or WHY, but he controlled and manipulated me using his position of power over me (a self-appointed position of support), and it harmed me. That is abuse.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Disability is Not Your Excuse and Holding Each Other Responsible

There is a strong push these days for self-care, removing toxic people from your life, knowing when enough is enough, that there is such a thing as TOO nice, etc... and obviously, these are all super important things that we should all keep in mind, because your own health and safety do take priority over other peoples in your life. But I found this blog post on Tumblr yesterday which resonated with me on some levels, though I suffer from an invisible disability, so I guess I'm lucky to not have strangers coming up and telling me they're 'praying for me' and things of that sort. People with mental illness are vulnerable to abuse in a lot of ways that many are not, however, because it takes even less of a push to paint them as 'unstable' and 'crazy'. Like, obviously, we already KNOW they are, cause weird stuff goes on in their head that you can't understand, right?

The part that I felt was the most poignant from the post is this (bold emphasis mine):
I am telling you now because I want you to stop telling girls and women with disabilities that we’re broken, that we need prayers, that we’re burdens, that it’s okay if someone hurts us because “they’re probably just stressed” from having to “deal” with us, or that we’re pretty “for a girl in a wheelchair.”

I am telling you now because I want you to start telling girls and women with disabilities that we’re beautiful, that we’re wanted, that we’re worthy of love, that you recognize us as sexual beings, that we’re capable, and that no one should ever hurt us no matter what.
 On the one hand, we do need to take care of ourselves before we take care of others. This is a healthy attitude for anyone to have, and one I'm still learning for myself sometimes. But predators, abusers, manipulators, and anyone else who is unable to empathise properly turns this into an excuse, into something to absolve them of responsibility for their actions, to avoid any consequences.

I left my husband because I had to, for my health. I'm still realising even now the extent of just how fucked up things were between us, but he is still a person and I still care for him. Not once did I forget how my actions would affect BOTH of us, how I worried about his ability to function on his own, or if the separation would tailspin him further into depression and isolation (all things my therapist has reminded me are Not My Problem). I probably tend to be an over-empathiser, so yeah, all those admonitions of self-care and 'your health first' are basically made for me, but I don't think normal, feeling people ever truly forget that our actions have consequences on others, for better or worse.

And even if you accept that someone has to hurt someone else for legitimate reasons, there's a big difference between peripheral hurt and directly causing someone hurt. Most of us would not directly cause someone hurt if we could at all avoid it, or we'd find ways to protect ourselves while minimising the damage to the other if it truly came to that. It feels pretty shit making someone else feel shit, intentionally or not... at least, if you have a functional sense of empathy.

Obviously, I don't believe my abuser is an empathetic being or he would have handled things a lot differently... but even if you disagree, if you accept that perhaps he was acting in ways to 'protect' himself because dealing with me was simply too much to cope with, then yes, it may be a reason, but it is not an excuse. It does not magically make his poor behaviour okay or mean that his actions have no consequences or absolve him of the responsibility of his choices. To believe so means you must dehumanise me, to believe that my illness makes me something less than human and there is some level where harming me is 'okay' if it's absolutely necessary. And that is not something most people I know should be willing to accept, because it is a disgustingly ableist attitude to have when so many around us deal with mental illness to varying degrees.

I've read a lot lately about how geek communities/social groups/spaces tend to fall prey to things such as The Five Geek Social Fallacies and The Missing Stair. There is a strong feeling of needing to be inclusive and accepting of things beyond what is reasonable sometimes because many of us were outsiders when we were younger and 'we're not like THOSE people', or that being a friend means we have to be okay with everything about a person to a fault. The Geek Social Fallacies touch on a lot of these ideas really well, so I won't go over it all here.

My point is simply that we need to expect better, especially of ourselves and our friends. Being a true friend should mean being able to call out poor behaviour, holding others accountable so that we can all do better and be better friends and human beings. Change and growth is a good thing for all of us, and honestly caring and supporting one another should include not allowing the bad things to slide as much as we encourage positive things. No one likes being called out on this stuff, and it can be hard to feel like you'll just create conflict or 'drama' (the dreaded D word.. pretty closely related to the topics addressed in the Geek Social Fallacies). But I have people close to me that I trust and I value that they are willing to tell me straight up when I go wrong as much as when they cheer me on when I'm doing well. And part of the strength and value of the friendship is that I listen to them, because I know they just want me to be a better person overall.

I have a lot more to say about how my abuser's actions were truly harmful and the condemnation of emotions and other various related things, but those are for other blog posts. I think I can sum it all up with this:

Letting things slide because it seems like a good enough justification perpetuates a culture of abuse, it allows predators to slide through the cracks and hide among us. Accepting that it is 'okay' to harm others in significant ways because they are 'too much' for one reason or another is both dehumanising and ableist. And don't let reasons become justifications or excuses, because avoiding responsibility for our actions is never really okay (and it's a huge red flag for those who manipulate and/or abuse). Supporting each other as friends should include calling out bad behaviour, because it is in everyone's best interests to encourage a culture of straightforward openness and honesty and help prevent falling into Missing Stair or other related situations.