My Story – Part 10 (My Relationship with KR)

Continued from My Story – Part 9 (Relationships with Family)

When I began this blog at the beginning of the year, that very first post, The Year Rang In Like A Cyclone, described an atypical experience from mine and KR’s relationship, at least atypical up until that point. First, a little background info from: Help Me Understand, Alone on a Limb

My current boyfriend and I met online back in 2000 while I was attending college. I’ve referred to him as KR in “My Story” and here. Quick recap since I didn’t go into much detail about our relationship in that post: We went on our first date in July 2000, and he moved in with me the following December. We dated for a little over a year and a half that first time we were together. The reasons for our break-up in March 2002 were complicated. I felt completely overwhelmed at the time and could feel myself slipping into a deeper depression. I had just been hospitalized for the fifth time at a psychiatric hospital. While I was in the hospital, he moved us out of my apartment and in with a friend because I could no longer pay my rent. In retrospect, this move was the final straw for me that caused me to break up with him at that time.

However, KR and I remained close friends even after the break-up and talked occasionally. In November 2006, I was facing homelessness again. KR offered to take me in when no one else would. I accepted, and we’ve been together for a little over 7 years this time [our 8 year anniversary is coming up in a few days]. I’m not going to say that it’s been any easier this time than the first time because each of us has our own issues that cause us to struggle financially as well as emotionally. I don’t blame KR for this any more than I blame myself. Placing blame does absolutely no good. I accept that our struggles are part of who we are, that the person he is and the person I am does the best we can in order to survive.

After I moved in with KR in November 2006, he became my rock, the one person I felt I could trust and depend on. He became the person who could bring me back to reality when I felt it slipping away. Even with all of my issues, he stuck by me through everything. Even after our relationship ended in March 2002 and we went our separate ways, he was there for me when I needed a shoulder to cry on. With his help, love, and support, life for me became a little more stable during that first year and a half we were back together. We had our fair share of ups and downs during that time, but I finally found some breathing space to begin processing some of the chaos that I lived through for so many years.

When KR was fired from where he worked in May 2008, this triggered many of the same worries and insecurities that caused so many of the problems I struggled with previously. Lack of money and financial stress are a recurring trigger throughout my life. KR losing his job was a devastating blow. Like I said in an earlier post, the money I received from SSD benefits barely covered my student loan payments and child support. At the time, I had also received part of an inheritance from the sale of my grandmother’s farm; but I knew I had to make that money last for as long as I possibly could to cover my share of the expenses.

Another disaster struck in December 2008 when a fire broke out in the apartment above ours. Thankfully, most of our belongings were fine, even the electronics; but our apartment sustained heavy water damage, particularly in the kitchen area. A large portion of my inheritance money was spent to secure a new place for us to live and for moving expenses. We ended up moving into a different apartment complex, another gated community, right across the street from our old apartment. This was my second favorite apartment that I have ever lived in (it would have been my first favorite, but nothing beats living in Hawaii). This apartment was beautiful! Perfectly set up, a gorgeous kitchen, and even a screened in patio for our cats (and me) to get some fresh air. For the first time in my adult life, I felt contentment in that apartment. However, the constant sirens (we lived right next to a hospital) and the occasional gun shot were enough keep my nerves on edge.

KR remained out of work until October 2009. We survived on that first portion of my inheritance money until it was all gone. KR finally accepted work through temp agencies; but money was tight. Fear began taking over my life. I was terrified of losing everything again. I had already become increasingly fearful of leaving our apartment due to several incidents I experienced while riding the bus and during bus transfers downtown; but by this point, I rarely, if ever, left our apartment without KR’s company. He was my “safe” person.

Maybe it was the stress of travelling to my mom’s for the first time after so many years or being around other people for the first time after a long period of social isolation; but a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving 2009, I ended up sick, very sick. More than likely, it was the H1N1 virus that was going around at the time. I never went to a doctor. We couldn’t afford it. Delirious from fevers that spiked to 103° at night, I lost an entire week that I have no memory of. KR said there was at least a couple of nights that he thought he would have to throw me in a tub of ice water. The care and nurturing KR showed me during that illness were proof enough to me of his gentleness, devotion, and love.

Financially, things were getting dire by around May 2010. Rent was due and we didn’t have it. We were desperate for a solution. KR’s dad and step-mom, who had only recently reconnected with him around Christmas 2009, lived in Cookeville, TN. His dad wasn’t in good health, and I think he wanted KR nearby to mend their broken relationship before he died. (KR, as well as his siblings, suffered physical and emotional abuse by their dad and step-mom; but that’s his story to tell, not mine.) Since KR wasn’t having much luck finding a permanent job in Nashville, he stayed a few days there with them to check on jobs and housing. Then, Nashville flooded and he couldn’t get home for another couple of days (it was a bad flood!). On May 8th, 2010, we moved to Cookeville, TN.*

*I understand that this tidbit of information may give away my identity since I’m probably one of very few people who actually blogs in the Cookeville area — a little cross-referencing between my 2 blogs would give it away; but at this point, I’m less concerned about anonymityThis is, after all, my story; and I shouldn’t be ashamed to tell it. — With that being said, should you discover who I am, I ask that you, please, be respectful.

I liked the Cookeville area from the start. It reminded me a lot of my hometown, but they rival each other in beauty. I’m much more comfortable in a rural setting like this than a concrete jungle like Nashville. In that respect I was more in my element, but the new-found obligations to KR’s family stirred up quite a whirlwind for more than a year. I wasn’t accustomed to being around other people. I felt incredibly nervous and socially awkward, probably due to the prolonged isolation. Often, I found myself overwhelmed, shutting down from over-stimulation. It took me quite a while to work into somewhat of a routine to feel more at ease with my surroundings.

After KR’s dad passed away at the end of January 2011, KR’s step-mom was lost. Her grief consumed her. Later that year, she moved back to their hometown in Michigan where the majority of KR’s family still live. KR mourned the loss of his father in his own way while pretty much denying that it affected him at all. I’m sure that his dad’s death stirred up a lot of his own childhood insecurities because it was around this time that I first noticed changes in our relationship — nothing concrete, only an intuitive feeling that something was off.

That “feeling” was paralleled in our homelife. When we first moved into that old, decrepit trailer more than 4 years ago, we had no idea we would be stuck there for so long. It was only meant to be a temporary housing solution. In the beginning, we tried very hard to make the best of it and get along with our neighbors despite their odd behavior. For the most part, we did get along with them for the first couple of years. Oddly enough, you’d be surprised what you can get used to; but increasingly over the years there, our neighbors’ behavior became stranger and more bizarre as the living condition of both trailers on the property deteriorated.

I’ve written extensively about that trailer KR and I lived in prior to us moving this past June; so feel free to read any of the following posts from the last few months for a better understanding of what KR and I dealt with while living at our previous address:

I’m so thankful to be out of that deplorable living situation. That rental was absolutely in worse shape than any place I have ever lived; and I’ve lived in a number of “bad” rentals over the years. I’m fairly certain that it was the reason for many, if not most, of mine and KR’s most immediate problems. While the move did our relationship a world of good, I find myself worried about KR’s recent moodiness over this past year. Many of our issues have been there for much longer, especially those concerning sex and the fact that I’ve been unemployed for more than 9 years. These are issues I’ve coped with my entire adult life; so I guess, that makes them more my issues than his.

I love KR with all my heart. I can imagine growing old with him. I want to grow old with him. Despite all of the struggles we’ve been through together, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would do it all again because there have been more happy times, more good times, than bad. It’s all the little things that I’m so thankful for. Things like:

  • Playing video games together into the wee hours of the morning.
  • KR making me sit through everything Monty Python because it’s just silly. 
  • Watching every episode of Star Trek: the Original Series together… and Star Trek: the Next Generation… and Star Trek: Voyager… and Star Trek: Enterprise… (we will make it through DS9 eventually) because Gene Roddenberry’s reality was so much more hopeful than our own.
  • Lying on a blanket on the ground during a neighborhood black-out, side-by-side, star-gazing.
  • Any of the hiking excursions we’ve taken, especially the one on my son’s birthday in 2012 because KR knew I was having a rough time and needed to “get away” for the day.
  • During our move from Nashville to Cookeville, I became so overwhelmed that I lashed out during a meltdown. KR safely restrained me, patiently holding me until I calmed down. (In my opinion, there’s no greater love than a person who can do this for another person without losing his temper.)
  • KR writing love messages on the bathroom mirror so that they “magically” appear after a shower.
  • KR leaving me with a kiss every day before work (even if I’m still sleeping).
  • KR painting my toenails because I impatiently make a mess of it and paint my whole toe!
  • The fact that he tries to understand me, my thoughts, my triggers as I try to understand his.

These are only the first 10 things that popped into my head. These are the types of memories I want to focus on, remember, because they are far more important to me. Emotionally triggered arguments that feed off of our insecurities only have power when I give in to the parts of me that obsessively ruminate over past resentments and perceived maltreatment. Perhaps, a few of those perceptions are justified; but it does our relationship no good to concentrate on negativity when the positive aspects of our life together suffer as a result. My continued goal for this relationship as it has been for the past 8 years is to focus on the positive.

Most of the time that’s easier said than done, but nothing worth doing was ever easy.

To be continued….

My Story – Part 9 (Relationships with Family)

Continued from My Story – Part 8 (The Relationship with My Son)

I grew up believing that it was unacceptable to express sadness, hurt, disappointment, frustration, or anger toward anyone or anything that provoked these emotions in me. For that reason alone, resentment built to an intolerable level that fueled my “running away from home” at the age of 19 when I married so young. I was never great at communicating with my family. None of us were. From an early age, I often felt as though I lived in a house of complete strangers who occasionally interacted. Sure, we watched TV together, ate dinner together every night, took trips together, and occasionally had fun as a family; but I often felt like something was missing.

It was like that emotional bond that’s supposed to be there between family members had simply been severed or nonexistent to begin with. No words could really explain it. No matter how hard I tried to make my family proud of me, it just never seemed to be enough. This felt like an impossible task after 1998. I felt like a colossal disappointment after that. I often felt like I did as a child, helpless to stand up for myself against an indifferent family whose expectations were completely contradictory to my own. It took years of therapy and a lot of distancing for me to realize that I’m not here to please my family. I have to make my life count for me.

As I discussed earlier, when I left Tullahoma in 2005, the feelings of rejection and invalidation I experienced at that time strained the relationships with my mother and sister. This was during a period in my life that I was struggling immensely, financially and emotionally. I asked to come home to stay, to live, if for no other reason than to have the emotional support of my family, but also to be closer to my son so that I could be involved in his life. I was told ”no” by both my mother and sister. Mom said she didn’t have the room for me and my sister simply said that I should stay where I was and work out my own problems. I felt rejected, abandoned — an abandonment that I felt so often growing up.

If you could ask anyone in my family, immediate or extended, they would probably tell you that I was an emotional child who demanded nothing less than to be left alone (little has changed in that respect). I remember on more than one occasion either a cousin or my sister would intrude on my “alone time” and bear the brunt of an almost cat-like attack, all claws and screams of rage followed by no less than 15 minutes of bawling my eyes out. These types of meltdowns early in life resulted in my exasperated mother silencing me often with the phrase, “Dry it up!” Nevertheless, by at least mid-way through kindergarten I had learned to control these fits of rage through self-soothing or completely dissociating from my emotions.

Dissociation, of course, is a less than ideal way to handle emotions; however, for the immature mind of a child, it allowed me to cope with emotions and situations that felt completely overwhelming and out of control. To this day, I couldn’t tell you why I so often felt overwhelmed or out of control, just that I did. In most cases, my emotional outbursts as a child were simply too difficult for anyone in my family to process or manage much of the time which left me feeling ignored — abandoned — and fueled resentment that I had no idea how to process myself — a vicious cycle.

The rejection of my pleas for help in 2005 triggered these same feelings and a response that I recognize now as all too familiar, reciprocating rejection. It resulted in me staying out of my mother’s and sister’s lives for the majority of 4 years, only speaking to Mom occasionally by phone. Emails between my sister and me in 2007 were harsh and bitter which strengthened the divide between us. She expressed her own resentment in emails, stating that I was never around when she needed help with either our mother or our father before he died and how stressed she had been that she had to do everything herself while caring for her own family and working a full-time job.

I understood that my sister was stressed and feeling overwhelmed with everything. I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed as that feeling has been a constant throughout my life. It’s most certainly not pleasant. She at the very least had most of Mom’s brothers and sisters there to help out and all of her friends to help her cope, as well as her husband and his family. For much of my adult life, I felt completely alone in my struggle to survive; but at the time of these emails, I had one person, KR, who I felt I could trust, count on — and no one else. When you’ve been kicked enough times by people you care about, trust in people no longer comes naturally. I needed her to understand that I had my own stuff to deal with and take care of. I felt like she completely disregarded anything that was going on in my life, considered my struggles insignificant and trivial to her own.

My sister once told me, “I feel like you feel like everyone owes you for something.” At the time I told her that no one owed me a god damned thing and that I didn’t expect anything from anyone else. I didn’t. I knew I was on my own and had been for more quite some time. Maybe I was wrong, though. Now, I feel like I am “owed” certain things. I deserve validation for my emotions. I’m justified in the expectation of compassion and understanding for my experiences. I’m entitled to respect for my boundaries. And I have the right of dignity to live my life any way I see fit without the added pressure of being someone I’m not. These concepts are hard for me to grasp, but I want to have enough self-respect to know when not to sacrifice my own well being for that of others. (Let me clarify here by saying: I don’t expect these things; but I feel I and every other living creature on this planet deserve these things in order to transcend spiritually and live in a civilized society.)

After those emails, we didn’t speak at all until around mid-July 2009 when, out of the blue, my sister called to tell me our mother was in the hospital. A week after that phone call, she called again demanding that I come home to take care of Mom while she recuperated (by this point, I no longer saw East Tennessee as my home; it hadn’t been “home” for more than 17 years).

My best guess is that agoraphobia began taking control of my life as early as May or June 2008. I rarely if ever left our apartment at all, sometimes for a couple of months at a time.

My mother has a lot of health issues from heart problems to Type II diabetes; but this hospitalization was due to bacteria in her stomach causing problems. Since I didn’t own a car at the time, I had to take a bus from Nashville to Knoxville where my sister picked me up. I stayed with Mom after she was released from the hospital for 2 weeks. Traveling in this way as well as the visit itself was stressful; but I felt that I handled it well despite the severe anxiety I felt.

It was a challenge to push the thoughts and memories out of my mind of comments family members said to me during my divorce and after the rapes and throughout my pregnancy with the child I gave up for adoption, let alone the hurt from 2005. Many of these comments made by family members were some of the worst I heard and only confirmed my childhood beliefs that I was worthless and bad. During that visit in 2009, both Mom and my sister simply ignored that they rejected my calls for help in 2005. Typical.

After Mom said she was feeling better, I became antsy to return home, back to Nashville. I stayed as long as I felt I could. The weekend that I decided to come home she was doing well or so I thought. The following Monday she had a doctor’s appointment to have blood work done. Apparently, she took all of her medications on an empty stomach and became violently ill as a result. One of the nurses fussed at her about driving in that condition; so my mother took it to mean that she could no longer drive.

Prior to me leaving from that visit with Mom, my sister began pressuring me to drop my life in Nashville with KR to move in with Mom permanently. I refused. My sister blatantly came out and said that Mom wanted me to move in with her to take care of her. I couldn’t even begin to express how badly this terrified me. I wasn’t even able to take care of myself. I would have NEVER given up my children had I thought I was emotionally stable enough and capable of caring for another person in the way she was asking of me. It made me angry that they would even ask this of me considering they had very little to no involvement in my adult life.

What about KR and my life with him? The fact that KR was unemployed at the time and we were under a great amount of financial stress as a result didn’t help matters any, either. My mother can be horribly judgmental when it comes to whomever I’m dating (or married to as in the case of my ex-husband); so it felt like she was trying to manipulate me into doing what she wanted by insulting not only KR, but me as well. I’m pretty sure KR was struggling with depression during the time he was out of work (though, I doubt he would admit it). I wanted to be there to emotionally support this man, who I loved with all my heart, who supported me emotionally when I needed it most — when NO ONE else would give me that emotional support that I so desperately needed.

But another part of me felt guilty because I felt like I was being selfish and unreasonable for even considering my own life. I felt even more guilt when Mom had a mild stroke a month later in September 2009. I couldn’t have prevented that from happening even had I been there, but the shame I felt was intense. Every time I talked to my mother for the next couple of months, the pressure built as she continued to use guilt in an attempt to manipulate me. She expressed animosity which led me to believe that she felt that if I hadn’t left when I did, she would have never had the stroke.

This was one of those situations where I totally don’t get how psychologists say, “No one can make you feel a certain way. You choose to feel that way.” If I had any choice in whether or not to feel guilty about these events, I wouldn’t have because I knew the stroke wasn’t my fault; but, nevertheless, I still felt guilty. Maybe this was just an example of cognitive dissonance. Whatever it was, it was crazy-making!

A couple of weeks after Mom’s stroke, my sister called to give me an update. Again, the hospital was preparing to release Mom, and my sister was demanding that I be there by Friday or Saturday to stay with Mom for at least the next two or three weeks. I flew into a panic trying to explain to her our situation and how I was feeling about everything. I don’t do well with short-notice. I need time to mentally prepare for a trip. The previous trip pushed my limits way too hard. Financially, my life was a mess at the time; and emotionally, I was a wreck.

My sister said, “I don’t want to hear your sob story!” She ranted on about how stressed she was dealing with Mom’s care, working full-time, caring for her kids and husband. Too late. I was already triggered. I didn’t hear much after that because I pretty much lost it and hung up on her before I screamed every obscenity I could possibly think of at the defenseless phone. I’m sure my upstairs neighbors must have wondered if I had lost my mind or something. My heart was racing. I could literally hear my heart beating in my head, and I was shaking all over. It took me the better part of an hour to calm down with KR’s help.

It was at that point in October 2009 that I decided I’d had enough. Once again, I stopped speaking to my sister after that volatile conversation over the phone; and I began limiting my phone conversations with my mother as well. I chose not to go to Mom’s at that time. I didn’t return there for about a year, not until October 2010 when I finally decided to introduce my mother and son to KR for the first time. We drove to East Tennessee for that day only, had an early dinner with them, and drove back home that night.

Since October 2010, I’ve made it back to Mom’s house a total of 8 times. That’s not a lot considering I live less than 3 hours away. I haven’t been to my sister’s house in many years, probably not since Daddy died in 2004. The issues with my mother’s health are of great concern to me. I worry about her living alone, especially with her being on dialysis now. The worst part is that my mother expressed concerns that she is a “burden.” I don’t EVER want my mother to feel that way. I dearly love Mom, and only want what’s best for her.

I realized quite some time ago that I cannot expect my family of origin to completely understand me, my thoughts, my life, or a lot of what I’ve experienced since I left home at 19. They don’t even know the half of it. I would be too ashamed to tell them much of what I’ve experienced or even thought about (part of the reason for anonymity here on this blog). Maybe it’s too much to expect my family to be emotionally supportive. After all, expectations lead to disappointment; and as my dad so wisely once told me as a little girl — my expectations were always so high that it’s no wonder disappointment followed me wherever I went.

Above all else, I remind myself daily that each and every person on this planet — my family members included — are simply trying to survive in the best ways they know how. It’s not my place to judge or criticize anyone else, just as it’s no one else’s place to judge or criticize me.

Everyone struggles in this life. No one is more worthy or less honorable than another. There’s no reward or punishment in the end other than what we create for ourselves.

To be continued….

My Story – Part 8 (The Relationship with My Son)

Continued from My Story – Part 7 (Chaos Relived)

For the past 8 (close to 9) months, present life has interfered with my ability to accomplish my goal of finishing My Story. Rather than attempting to process past problems, “present-day” struggles have consumed my thoughts and energy. These may or may not be an “echo” of past issues, but they’ve certainly triggered a lot of the same emotions and difficulties remaining present. I’m feeling compelled now to finish what I started here and hopefully move past this “need” to tell my story. 

I left off with the relationship break-up between PI and me after our move to Lebanon, TN, and my subsequent move to Nashville, TN, when KR took me in….

At the end of 2006, I received a letter from the Department of Safety telling me that my driver’s license had been suspended due to failure to pay child support. I rarely drove anyway because I found driving in Nashville to be very stressful; and my car was on its last leg, overheating any time I got stuck in traffic. I ended up selling the car for $40 (yes, I said forty dollars) just to get rid of it and chose to ride the bus instead. (I could, seriously, write an entire post on nothing but my experiences riding the bus in Nashville!) Still, I was stressed a great deal by this letter revoking my driving privileges. In January 2007, I received another letter in the mail, this time from the Social Security Administration. Finally, after 3 very long, stressful years of barely surviving while trying to get on Social Security Disability, I was approved. It was just enough to cover my student loan payments and child support; but at least, it was something. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I could finally breathe.

For quite a while, I had completely lost contact with my ex-husband, CF, and our son. This happened several times over the years from the time I left. On a few occasions, cards, letters, and gifts were returned to me through the mail when they couldn’t reach my son at the given address (I held onto all of these things as proof of my devotion until I lost everything in my storage unit in 2005). Eventually, I gave up on communication through the postal service because I had no idea where my son was. The last time I had been allowed to even speak to him on the phone was in the summer of 2006. Often times, I had no financial means to make long-distance phone calls, which were pretty expensive back then with or without an “unlimited” calling feature. Other times, the number I was given by my ex-husband was “out of service,” probably for the same reason. By February 2007, the stress of not knowing was killing me.

By this point, I had accepted the fact that everyone saw me as an unfit parent. That realization is a humbling experience. The shame I felt (still feel to this day) led me to believe that my son was better off without me being directly involved in his life. However, I had the right, according to the divorce decree, to supervised visitation and updates on my son’s well-being and school progress. Enforcing these provisions of the divorce decree proved to be financially impossible and caused both me and my son an incredible amount of emotional anguish.

I began calling the last number I had for them. At first, I got the all too familiar operator on the other end telling me, “Your call cannot be completed as dialed.” Later, trying the same number again, it went directly to voice mail. I tried sending CF emails to the last known email address I had for him. As always, these went unanswered. It was at this time that I had also asked my mom for information about my son’s whereabouts. At first, Mom kept telling me to let it go and give up. My mind reeled at the notion of a mother telling her daughter to “give up” on anything related to her child. This didn’t sit well with me at all and strained our relationship further. Finally, she told me that my sister had CF’s current address. After a particularly disturbing and bitter email conversation between the two of us, my sister sent me the address.

At the same time that I was trying to get information from my family, the thought occurred to me to search the internet for CF. I tracked down his new wife on MySpace. I contacted her first, before finally finding CF elsewhere online shortly thereafter. It was at this point that CF finally answered one of my emails with an incredibly hateful, derogatory response. His wife and I had exchanged phone numbers; and I called numerous times to try to speak to my son, unsuccessfully. Finally, she called me back one day and told me that my son did not want to speak to me. I was crushed, but I didn’t blame him for this at all. She told me that he might email me at a later date. She also said that CF was very angry with her (and me) for the emails we had exchanged. I realized at that moment that CF was controlling her in the same way as he had me. At that point, for her safety and the safety of my son, I decided to break off contact — again.

April 11, 2007, was my final court appearance over the child support. A couple of years prior, I had obtained an attorney who took my case pro bono.  She never even showed up to this court date! However, because I showed proof that I had finally gotten Social Security Disability and sent in a large payment towards the arrears, the case was finally suspended due to “the obligations of the non-custodial parent being met.” CF finally showed up for the first time in the almost 6 years that I was being dragged through the court system. The district attorney told CF to go to the Social Security office to fill out the necessary paperwork so that my son would receive a portion of my Social Security check because the SSA told me that they had been unsuccessful in attempts to contact him through mail and phone calls. I honestly thought he had taken care of this; yet later in the year around the end of August 2007, I received another certified letter from the district attorney’s office stating that my driver’s license may be revoked again. I went by the Social Security office to see if CF did as the district attorney instructed him to and whether or not my son was getting a check every month. They told me he had not. This was also when I found out that I had to send the child support check out of the $475 SSD check that I received each month because I did not qualify for SSI. I never missed a payment again.

Eventually my son and I finally began exchanging emails; but I was cautious due to concerns that my ex-husband might be messing with my head since I couldn’t be sure who exactly was sending them. This may sound a little paranoid to most people; but given what I had been through with my ex-husband over the years, my caution was warranted. Honestly, I think the earliest emails in 2007 may have been my ex-husband; but by 2009, I was fairly certain that I was actually speaking to my son. In July 2009 I was able to see and speak to my son face-to-face for the first time in years. It was awkward at first; but I think we were both surprised by how much we had in common — from his love of art to his enjoyment of gaming. Even some of his mannerisms reminded me of me.

In February 2010 after CF and his wife divorced, she contacted me again through Facebook, confirming that she had gone through a lot of the same control, anger, and violence issues with CF that I had experienced. He even threatened to have her arrested because she took my son to church one day after they separated. My son was 15 or 16 years old at the time! She and I exchanged several emails, “comparing notes,” so to speak. My quest of writing down my entire life story in the way that I am sharing here on my blog began as a result of these correspondences. After I shared my side of the story with her, she wrote in an email to me:

“The story that I, and I believe [your son] has always heard, is very different from that story. We were told that you left the bar with them and then claimed rape. [CF] got flown back home because of it and then you changed your story. He went home to find out that [your son] had been home alone the entire time. I hate to tell you this but [your son] believes that he remembers being home alone all night. I never thought he could truly remember something like that at a young age, but he is determined that he does remember it. That is part of his anger towards you. I have no doubt that [CF] made up enough detail that over the years [your son] believes these are his genuine memories.”

Let me reiterate here: The vile things those men did to me and made me do to them was NOT consensual. I felt I had no choice but to comply. It was rape.

And secondly, my son was at home, safe, with a sitter that night — the entire night. Needless to say, this conversation with CF’s newest ex-wife intensified my concerns about my son and the amount of control my ex-husband had over him. I emailed my son after this conversation and spoke to him briefly about what CF’s ex-wife told me; but at the time, I didn’t want to overload him with too much information or any of the specifics because he was only 16 years old.

In the years since that time, my son graduated from high school with honors, joined the Navy, and most recently, married. He is now an adult, and we’re able to speak much more freely with one another than we could throughout his childhood. This past summer, my son and I were able to finally have that much-needed long conversation about everything that happened when I left him with his father. I felt that this was a discussion that we needed to have face-to-face. It was a difficult conversation, to say the least, but a necessary one for him to understand my life and the distance I kept for so many years. From my post, Tech Free = Less Stress, where I briefly discussed this conversation:

That was the first time I have spent that type of quality time with my child in many, many years. We had the opportunity to have a long, in-depth discussion about my past and the break-up with his dad, something we never had the chance to discuss prior to his visit. It was discouraging to hear the things CF told my son about me (mostly false), but not surprising. I’m happy that I can speak so openly around my son and his wife. That visit meant the world to me, and provided a small amount of closure that I’ve never felt.

It’s that closure that I so desperately needed. His (and his wife’s) compassion and acceptance were an added bonus, a seed of hope. I am so, so proud of my son and the man he turned out to be. He’s an intelligent, creative, kindhearted man with a bright future ahead of him. My son truly holds my heart and my soul. In a previous post, I said:

In moments of complete despair, thoughts of [my son] kept me alive. One day, I must thank my child for saving my life on so many occasions. Something, I’m certain, he’s completely unaware of.

I’m thankful that we were finally able to have that heart-to-heart conversation because more than anything in the world, all I’ve ever wanted, was to be a part of his life and to show him the love that he deserves. I love my son dearly and look forward to a future with him in my life.

To be continued….

Doggone It!

I have to admit, I’ve never been much of a “dog person.” The sound of a barking dog grates on my nerves as badly, if not worse, than a crying baby or a siren or an alarm clock — pain at the deepest level of my inner ear. For this reason and the fact that dogs are so “needy,” my allegiance lies with cats primarily. Dogs require far more interaction than cats. If I have issues interacting with my own species most of the time, I most certainly am not going to keep a pet that demands as much (or more) interaction as (than) humans.

I love the fact that my cats are aloof to my presence. They’re like me. Cats can only handle so much attention before they’re all teeth and claws, hissing “Leave me the fuck alone, already!”

I can relate.

My neighbors have a German Shepherd-mix puppy (albeit a very large puppy, she can stand with her paws on my shoulders, now!); and she’s somewhat vicious in her play. Biting hard enough to break the skin and leaving bruises all over my arms, practically knocking me down as she runs up on me, jumping on me, grabbing at my clothes, literally pulling my hair with her teeth — almost every time I come into contact with her.

I’ve taken to hiding from this dog anytime I go outdoors to smoke a cigarette; but this doesn’t always work. Dogs have a keen sense of smell, so she always knows when I’m outside smoking. If she’s not chained up or indoors, she comes running. I enjoy smoking outdoors because I smoke far less. Plus, my cigarette breaks have become like “Zen” moments throughout the day, a pause for a few minutes to enjoy the weather, no matter what the weather’s doing, and to enjoy the natural beauty of my surroundings — at least, usually, whenever no one’s around, including the dog.

I’m not really sure if there’s anything I can do as far as correcting this dog’s behavior because she’s pretty hard-headed and stubborn, not to mention the fact that she’s not even my dog. I’ve tried ignoring her completely, turning my back on her whenever she behaves this way, not speaking to her. That usually ends up with my hair getting pulled — HARD! Yes, she’s even ripped it out before. My hair is down to my waist, so it’s pretty easy for her to grab hold.

I’ve tried using Cesar Millan’s technique, using my fingertips to tap her hard on the shoulder while saying “tsst.” This makes her even more aggressive, resulting in the bites and bruises on my arms and hands. I’ve tried blocking her jumps with a knee to the chest. Again, she becomes more aggressive, biting and grabbing at me and my clothes. During the summer she left several bad scratches on me from her claws. More often than not, my contact with her feels like hand-to-hand combat. And I don’t like it, not one bit!

It’s a struggle to even get in and out of my car if I leave the house, not to mention she chases my car all the way down the driveway to the main road (about 200 yards). I don’t want to hit her with my car or for her to get hit on the main road. I dislike the dog’s behavior, not the dog. I definitely don’t want to get on the wrong side of our new neighbors because of everything that happened at our last place, so I’ve mostly been keeping to myself. In any case, it seems wrong to ask the neighbors to keep their dog chained up all of the time because this is a very rural setting with plenty of space for her to run free.

Any suggestions for how to deal with this type of dog behavior would be greatly appreciated. I’m kind of at a loss here.

Think Happy Thoughts 0.o

Life is generally less dramatic than I imagine it to be. My mother’s latest hospitalization resulted in my returning to her home to stay with her for a few days. I ended up taking back roads to get there and back safely, so that I wouldn’t have to drive 70 mph on the interstate. The drive was scenic and beautiful. I think I’ve found my favorite route to East TN, a nice curvy road that takes me through gorgeous back country. The drive was half the adventure, the enjoyable part.

The other half was contemplating the same life and death questions that I’ve obsessed over for the past 28 years and fully acknowledging the fact that we all end up dead in the end — a lesson on Impermanence. I suppose the challenge with Impermanence is deciding how much crap we put up with before we die.

My mother finally began dialysis for her failing kidneys. I’m worried about her living alone; but apparently, not worried enough to warrant changing my own life to suit her needs. That sounds harsh, uncaring. I wish I wasn’t so selfish. There’s a lot of shame in the realization that I’m too weak to cope with the challenges life places in my path and weaker still in practicing the compassion that I feel is so necessary to change this insane world we live in. After all, the lunatics are running the asylum.

And speaking of weaknesses, I experienced one of the worst anxiety attacks I’ve ever had in public on the day that I had to take my mother to Fort Sanders Hospital for the procedure to place the catheter for dialysis. Seriously, it’s like I have Tourette syndrome or something when I have anxiety attacks like these, swearing like a drunken sailor (I mean no offense to anyone diagnosed with this illness. This is a matter of expressing exactly how I feel during an attack and the swearing obscenities seems par for the course.) My heart was racing. I felt like I was hyperventilating, everything around me spinning like a top, like seeing stars as depicted on cartoons yet really seeing them. And the noticeable stares from strangers, gazing at me as if to say, “What’s her problem?”

The anxiety attack/complete meltdown was the result of my mind going blank, not knowing where to take my mother after I got her to the hospital. Perhaps, it was also the realization that my mother is currently going through the exact same thing my father went through more than 10 years ago before he died. Déjà vu. Long story short, thankfully (and mercifully), an orderly happened across us who realized I needed help. He took us exactly where we needed to be and managed to calm my nerves. I probably looked like a lunatic, sounded like a maniac, and felt more worthless than I ever have. My sister ended up taking the rest of the day off work and met us there as a result. The procedure went well, and Mom was able to begin dialysis the next day.

I cried myself to sleep that night, out of sheer helpless despair for her condition and guilt.

Fast forward to returning home and finding the house in a disastrous state. I spent 4 hours upon returning — cleaning! That was after only having about 6 hours sleep the night before, and taking close to 6 hours to drive home because I felt I needed that alone time to recuperate from the trip. I’m a woman obsessed. A clean house means serenity, calm, sanity for me. It’s something I need. KR added insult to injury with the comment, “It wasn’t that bad!” when he returned home from work later that night. Yes, yes, it was; but I chose not to argue about it.

Fast forward again to therapy this past Tuesday. I’m going to throw out a hypothetical scenario here to hopefully make a point: Imagine for a moment that you are sitting outside with a temperature of 26°F (-3°C). It feels so cold, and you are shivering in the freezing breeze as you think to yourself, “I’m freezing! It’s so cold out here!” and say as much out loud. Someone sitting beside you tells you, “Change your thoughts. Change your perception of the weather, and you won’t feel so cold.” Yeah, sure, it’s laughable, absurd even. If the temperature is 26°, the temperature is 26°. That’s freakin’ cold! You’re shivering for good reason. Shivering is your body’s natural, autonomic response to frigid temperatures.

Why are emotions and any thought or feeling that follows (not precedes) an emotion any different? Emotions are as much an autonomic response to external stimuli as the shivering on a cold day. Most often, the thoughts and feelings that follow this emotional response are equally autonomic. Emotions can trigger certain thoughts and feelings which in turn trigger our behavior. Further reflection and introspection afterward only serves to “change our thoughts” in theory, not practice. When the same emotion resurfaces again and elicits the same thoughts over and over again, as in the case with people who ruminate obsessively as I do, telling us to “change your thoughts to change your life” is not only dismissive and invalidating but also this psychobabble reiterates the worthlessness clients feel when they find they cannot accomplish such a seemingly simple task.

Please, reread that last paragraph again!

Emotions feel real — even irrational thoughts feel rational while the person is experiencing them — whether or not any other person perceives this reality and acknowledges it. All that really matters is that the person feeling these things, perceives their reality. Dismissing an individual’s thoughts or emotions because you feel uncomfortable discussing them or lack the presence of mind to offer valuable insight only serves to invalidate the experience for that individual, creating more distress. Don’t preach to me that “changing my thoughts” will somehow, magically make life better. I struggle every single day to coax my thoughts away from my usual cynical, pessimistic views. It’s not an easy task. Some days are more of a struggle than others. That fact doesn’t negate my effort, which is obviously more than what other people see or give me credit for.

I could write more, but I’m choosing to stop before I say something I regret. I’ve already redacted a few hundred words from this final post, none of which would change anything for the better anyway. Rage is on my heels and ready to scream. I’ll comfort the Monster with tonight’s music choice: