Not Just a Hashtag

I thought my It Happened to Me blog was hard to write, but I’m afraid that this blog will be much more difficult. Frankly, I’m scared. This was a visceral experience, I still have nightmares, it still makes me sick, I still blame myself, and this person is still in my life in one way or another albeit distantly.

I haven’t shared the full experience with anyone but my husband and my younger brother (who took it to his grave). I never told my parents. I never told my son. I have a handful of close friends who know what happened, who know this person, who’ve heard parts of what went on but not the whole thing.

It’s terrifying to put it out there because I feel like I still need to protect this person’s anonymity. He has a life and kids and knows a whole lot of people I know. I’m afraid to say when I dated him. I’m afraid to say how I knew him. There’s still so much fear and so much emotion and guilt wrapped up in this I may not even publish what I’m writing.

One of his ex-girlfriends asked me once if he’d ever forced me to do anything I didn’t want to do. From the time we first dated he was very aggressive and yes, he had coerced me and manipulated me and harangued me into doing things I didn’t want to. I heard “well I’ll just break up with you if you don’t” frequently and often. His ex grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye waiting for an answer, and told me he’d hurt her. I look at her and said “me too.” That’s why the #metoo hashtag struck such a chord with me. I remember this conversation vividly because I said no when she asked if I thought we should tell someone and I became involved with him again a couple years later. I feel so much shame I can’t even express it in words. I did nothing and I put myself right back in the tiger’s cage after I’d gotten away scarred, but alive.

me_too

I’m going to be very blunt about what happened, as much as I can stand. I understand the details might be triggering and upsetting. It makes me nauseous, it makes me want to go back in time and scream at myself, it makes me cry. I’ve woken up from countless dreams where this person apologizes to me or simply acts like nothing happened or tries to kill me.

I told myself I was in control of the situation. I told myself this was my conquest. I told myself this was revenge for his offering my “oral skills” to another boy the day we broke up. I wanted my power back, I wanted him to hurt the way I hurt, and I still had feelings for him. Everything leading up to this experience is so complicated and such a mess of insults, rumors, revenge plots, and negativity it’s no wonder it happened. I knew it was possible, I hoped he’d changed. He hadn’t.

I believed it was “we.” Apparently it was just me and clearly he had something else in mind.

I’ve tried to reconcile what happened as anything but assault. It started out consensual. Was there anger between both of us? Yes. We both gave voice to it, we knew it was there, and thought maybe a friendship was salvageable if we just got this out of our systems. I believed it was “we.” Apparently it was just me and clearly he had something else in mind.

When it started I was in a comfortable controlled position. I could have stood up, put my clothes on, and tried to leave. Five minutes in everything changed. He picked me up and dropped me down on the couch on my back, my neck completely scrunched into the back of the couch, my tailbone on the frame, my legs pinned in the air. I thought, ok this is fine, he won’t keep me in this position for long when I say it’s uncomfortable so I encouraged him to continue. Then he got rough. Really rough. I was in pain. I was being smothered by the damn couch cushions. My neck was being crunched into the back of the couch, my tailbone forced into the frame, not to mention the pain from what he was doing to me. I looked up and said very firmly “Stop, this hurts! It’s too rough.” He looked down at me and said “just shut up and take it.” At that point I tried to get up, I tried with all my strength to get some leverage to pull myself up, to fight him, I tried to move my legs- nothing worked. He pinned me harder, he pinched the inside of my thigh until I screamed, he pushed me down and choked me, he pushed my abdomen down into the couch when he didn’t have a hand pinning one leg or the other. I knew telling him to stop again wouldn’t work, I laid there concentrating on gasping for air while his full weight was on me, while he was thrusting me into the back of the couch. Tears slid down my cheeks and I sobbed and moaned from the burning pain between my legs. I waited for it to be over while berating myself for being there, for thinking this was going to be mutual, for thinking he cared. I know he said things while all of this was going on, unkind things about my body, calling me names- but I tried not to listen and tuned everything out. He did things I hadn’t let him do to me when we were together because I couldn’t stop him. This time I was in his house, no one was coming home, no one could hear me, I was helpless and terrified. No one could save me, not even me. I deserved it. I put myself there.

When it was finally over I remember the blood, being asked if I was on the rag (I wasn’t), being told I had better not have gotten anything on the couch, and both of us laughing about how he’d “almost fucked me right through the back of the couch.” Yes. I laughed. I just wanted to leave safely. I was petrified, I was humiliated, I wanted my mom, I wanted my bed, I wanted to tell my brother and have him hold me and hug me and say it’s ok and prove not all men wanted to hurt me. I just wanted to get the fuck out of there.

He asked if I was ok, I think he saw that I was still crying. I nodded yes. I don’t remember getting dressed, I don’t remember how I got there or how I got home, I don’t remember what happened when I got home. I do remember the blood. I remember the pain in my neck, my back, my entire lower body, and in my soul. I remember not being able to walk for a day or so and playing it off as menstrual cramps. I remember the heating pad between my legs. I remember sobbing by myself curled into a ball in my closet. I remember my brother begging me I to tell my mom and dad. I remember begging him not to tell them.

He continued to do and say more hurtful things and found every way to kick me while I was down as often as possible.

I knew no one would believe me. This happened in the middle of consensual sex, I convinced myself it wasn’t rape. I thought my parents would be angry. I didn’t want to get him in trouble, for some reason I still felt like I needed to protect him and his reputation. I just didn’t want anyone else to know. So I played it off as rough sex. We joked about it, but I tried to steer clear of him- which was difficult since we saw each other every single day, 5 days a week.

As the year went on I dated someone else, became pregnant, and had a very scandalous and widely discussed abortion. At the hardest time in my life I had to deal with him calling me a slut, a whore, a bitch and a lot of other names. He continued to do and say more hurtful things and found every way to kick me while I was down as often as possible.

I still wake up from the nightmares wondering when they’ll stop.

I never did anything to stop him from hurting anyone else. I hope he saved that behavior for only me and never anyone else. I was weak and I still am. I still wouldn’t call him out. I tried to leave out identifying details and I’m still nervous that someone will put two and two together and figure out who this person is.

Twenty plus years later I continue to hope for an admission of guilt and an apology that will never come. I still wake up from the nightmares wondering when they’ll stop. He still has control over me that he likely doesn’t know or care about. I doubt he remembers it at all. I doubt he would admit that he didn’t stop when I asked him. None of that matters though and here’s why:

I know when I say stop that no matter what’s happening or what the situation my partner should stop- as I would if asked to stop. I made sure my son understands how important it is to not only be aware of others feelings, to listen, to be gentle and to stop when asked to stop. To take no as an absolute answer and never hear no as maybe.

I married a kind, protective, and rational man. A man who holds me when I cry, who empowers me, and is a calming presence when I need it. I don’t always tell him about the nightmares. I don’t always tell him when I’m feeling down on myself over what I should have done or what I allowed to happen. I know if I did tell him he’d be there for me. I hope that if I’m ever approached by or about this person he would protect me and help me protect myself.

This experience, harassment throughout my life, and other assaults (including being molested by a church member when I was 10 years old) completely broke me, but broken bones grow back stronger and broken spirits can too.

Tell your story. Don’t keep it in. You don’t have to point a finger or say “he’s the one,” but if you do you might keep the same thing from happening to someone else.

Don’t be silent. Because, yeah- me too.

If you made it this far I’d like to mention that I had several boyfriends and dated several people who were wonderful, caring, and treated me with nothing but respect. I hope they know who they are.

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Old Demons Resurfacing 

My waist is down to 27 inches and all I can think about are the extra 3 inches and the 20 lbs need to lose, and FOOD. Before you judge or assume that’s some kind of humble brag, there’s more, something deeper and it’s not pretty.

I long for the food I can’t eat. I dream about it. I create fantasy grocery lists. I touch the things I miss eating when I walk by them in the grocery store. 

And you know what? It pisses me off that I can’t even indulge. Since I treated my body like the midway at a cheap carnival for 17 years even a little sugar, a little dairy, a damn fortune cookie puts on at least pound. I ate sugar free candy and dairy over a weekend and gained 4 pounds! Not water weight, actual weight.

I send the following fantasy grocery list to my husband and told my son I feel guilty when I ask him to bring home protien pancake mix.  

This behavior is bad. Saying fatter is bad. I know what it means. I know 400-600 calories a day is a huge red flag. I know obsessing over food is an even bigger red flag. The demon bitch is back. The demon bitch that says you ate yesterday, you can skip the next 2 days. The one who carries the tape measure in her purse (yeah, it’s in my purse right now). The one who makes me obsess every minute of every day over what I ate or didn’t eat or the water I didn’t drink. I know why she’s here. 

She wants control. She really misses someone, not the food.

I lost control of a situation recently and it’s caused me to spin out in a significantly larger way than I ever expected. I have a hard time sleeping, getting up on the morning, just facing the day. They’re gone and I couldn’t stop it from happening. I couldn’t fix it. I didn’t have enough time with either of them. I fucking miss my dogs. 

Our most recent loss was the most painful, so much so I can’t talk or write about it without full on weeping. I wake up and touch both of my dog’s ashes and whisper good morning and I love them and miss them. I watch videos of them a few times a week. I scroll through pictures of them. I disappear into the bathroom and sob until I can get a hold of myself again. I sleep with the toy sheep they shared. 

I couldn’t control their passing or my emotions. The only thing I can expertly control is my weight.

Little Tucker Butt
Bubba Ein

If this was 2007/2008 here’s what my day would look like:

  1. Hit Burger King first thing in the morning, get 2 crossanwiches, hash brown bites, French toast stix, Coffee with 5 sugars and cream, and a large orange juice. Eat in the car, most likely while hiding.
  2. Smoke 3 cigarettes.
  3. Hit Maverick and grab an Arizona Iced Tea, Doritos, a king size Twix and a pack of smokes. 
  4. Smoke 3 more cigarettes.
  5. Eat all of that in the first 2 hours at work. 
  6. Hit Wendy’s for lunch (my best friend can confirm all the food I could put down, she was there). Order 2 Triple Cheeseburgers, Fries, chili, a large Pepsi, and a Frosty. Most of that would be gone before I got back to work (which was 5 minutes away if I wasn’t driving).
  7. Smoke 3 more cigarettes. 
  8. Hit the freezer a couple hours before I went home, I usual had a hot pocket or Mac and Cheese in there. If not I had chips, trail mix, gummy bears (I’d eat the biggest bag I could find), or a theater size box of Dots in my desk. 
  9. Smoke 3 more cigarettes on my way home. 
  10. Eat a bowl of Reese’s Puffs with half n half (yes, I said half n half not milk), or if I had it, eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s before my husband got home. 
  11. Drink another 40 oz of Pepsi or sweet tea. 
  12. Make a giant scratch lasagne, buttered french bread, and salad with cheese and ranch dressing. We usually didn’t have anything left. 
  13. Smoke another cigarette
  14. Eat a bag and a half of Pop Secret Homestyle popcorn with extra butter I melted myself and red vines. 
  15. Eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food (I’d stop at the store and buy extra if I knew I was going to eat one before my husband came home).
  16. Drink wine or a cocktail with my last cigarette.
  17. Eat a piece of left over pizza if we had it. 

I have no idea how many calories that is, but I do know I ate like that for a really long time. I’m a stress and emotion eater and to be 100% honest, I miss the comfort. 

Today it’s coffee, no lunch, steak or chicken and salad or a vegetable for dinner. Rarely over 700 daily calories since mid February. One day it was a piece of salami and a pickle, that’s right back to 1992 when I’d eat 2 pepperoni and a bell pepper slice in the span of 3 days. That was peak anorexia.

It has to stop. My dogs are gone. I have to come to terms with the fact that I’ll never have another dog, I’ll never wake up to another happy little corgi face or thumping into the door to wake me up for belly rubs and that’s just the way it is. It’s time to accept this and understand that I’ll never be able to control who comes in and out of my life. Death is part of life, no matter how brutal the decision to contribute to easing the end of life for a little being who can’t tell you what to do or if they love you or if you’re doing the right thing.

It’s hard to find other ways to comfort yourself, to gain some control, to feel safe. It’s a lot of work when those demons start screaming at you, poking you, lighting your mind on fire with self doubt and depression. 

The fact is, I have to fight. I can’t continue to go to extremes. Exercise, ok great, but don’t be crazy every day. Let the scale say what it’s gonna say without me standing on it staring at a number that rules my life. Stop with the measuring tape, measure happiness with the love and support given to and received by others. Stop obsessing over the loss of my dogs and focus on the humans that are still here. 

Like this human

Let go. Eat some chocolate…

…just not ALL the chocolate. 

The Big, Bad Depression and Stuff

It’s like sliding into a steaming bath on a frozen day. It makes sense at the time, feels great, it’s comforting. After a short time you’re warm and drowsy, 10 minutes later you’re dizzy, moments later you’re nauseous, your skin is burning and flushed. You need to get out, but it’s so cold outside the bath you’re afraid to freeze. So you stay in because you know eventually it will cool down and you’re unlikely to drown. 

This is what my depression feels like. It’s familiar. It feels right. I feel like I’m allowing myself to slip into it without a second thought. No big deal, I’m getting depressed, it’s happened before, it’ll go away like it always does. But, what if it doesn’t? 

I’m in it now. I can feel a fairly severe bout of depression coming on and I can’t stop it, maybe curve it a little. Anxiety is on its way, social situations will be nearly impossible to handle, crowds are out of the question, even the grocery store will be challenging. My focus will be hard to hold on to and the memory loss is no fun.  

Sure I’ll take my meds. Sure I’ll take care of myself and try to avoid the negative self talk. Yes I know this won’t last, my mood and behavior will even out, life will return to a balance. What I don’t know is how this cycle will affect my relationships. Some haven’t faired well during the storm, either chipping away or breaking completely. Some are constant, always by my side no matter what, but I wonder if that will last. Will they be there next time, the time after that? Should I just go it alone? I often hide these cycles from everyone with happy selfies and a forced smile, but these cycles tend to spark migraines and make me sick so it’s inevitable that friends and family will notice I’m either mid-depression or just coming out of one. 

I know why this happens. I let myself get run down, I put myself in anxiety and self-doubt causing situations, I gain a few pounds, I don’t eat the right foods, I don’t sleep enough, I’m affected by the seasons changing. It all adds up to down. By the time I realize all the elements are there it’s too late, the bath is drawn and waiting. 

So here we are. I have to cancel plans and hope no one resents me for it or believes I don’t care or I’m stuck-up (do people think that? I wonder.) I have to hide away, clinging for dear life to my # 1 support system and ponder how many more times he’ll go through this with me before I’ve completely exhausted his patience. I have to do everything possible to prevent migraines, flu, colds, etc. I have to get some kind of exercise (which I abhor). I have to stay away from whatever triggers anxiety or makes my depression worse (goodbye Facebook). 

I really should give my friends and family more credit for sticking by me. Sometimes this lasts a couple days. Sometimes weeks. Sometimes longer. They’re a persevering group of people. I love them for it, I can’t thank them enough for putting up with my moping, sobbing, long silences, and general avoidance. 

I know I’m not alone, not even close. This is inherited. It was passed to me by genetics. I passed it on. It will be passed to other generations. I know my brain is starving for chemicals it’s missing and I’m not simply sad for no reason. I know it’s the most commonly diagnosed condition in the US. It’s not just me, but I still feel alone. 

I’ll get through this, though it will happen again. I won’t drown. Eventually I’ll get out of the bath and a fluffy, warm towel will be waiting in the arms of my husband, ready to wrap around me tightly and shelter me from the cold. 

Until then I’ll hug myself, touching the dopamine and serotonin molecule tattoos on my ribs and remind myself that these two small, but very important friends will come back to live where they belong and I’ll gain my equilibrium soon.