Sunday, September 18, 2011

Finding My "Me"

I came across a couple stories at work today that dealt with domestic abuse and self confidence. I swear, some days I think there really is a collective consciousness and the world's journalists tapped into my mind and all decided to make me confront one of the last steps I need to face.

There are a lot of people (especially guys) who have said to me lately, "I wish you would just let it go / get over it." I don't talk about "it" a whole lot these days, but I've realized just how little people understand of the effects of emotional abuse. When someone beats you, you have a bruise. Everyone can see it. It's easy to point out and identify.  When someone tells you you are worthless, or that no one likes you, or that you are stupid, or useless, or a slew of other things over and over and over again, you can't just point your finger and say, "Ah ha! That's abuse!"

Though I've been able to let go and move on from the person who did this to me, I cannot simply let go of what was done to me. It doesn't go away with a magic word. I wish it did.

People who have not suffered from emotional abuse don't understand how hard it is to just pick yourself back up again and be "normal." I think it's something we all wish for, because I can't imagine anyone wanting to live with so much fear and doubt in their lives. I also don't believe people understand what emotional abuse really is.

Before all of this, I may have not been the best or kindest person. I was selfish and acted impulsively at times, but I believed in myself. I had a sustained ego that allowed me to go forward and never doubt myself. I was strong. And before "it," I was working towards being a better person to my friends and being more understanding of others, while blossoming with self esteem and wanting to share the things I loved with the world.

Now? I am constantly needing reassurances that my friends, are in fact, there for me. When I get angry and defensive, or find myself speaking poorly about people, or some other negative trait; I obsess over it for days and constantly call into question my worth of a human being. The idea of dating terrifies me, not because I'm afraid I will find myself in a similar situation, but because I don't think I have anything to offer a partner who will want to put up with me. I doubt my value at my job, or if I should pursue the dreams I have, because I haven't achieved them yet, so therefore I must not be good enough. I just don't believe in myself anymore.

I'm also deathly afraid of hanging out with people outside of my "Iiiiinnnneeeer Ciiiiirrrcllleeee." I worry because I feel I now have to hide myself from those around me. No one wants to see a broken and beaten woman, no one wants to hear the woes and sorrows of a person in my position. I'm afraid to be myself and open up about what I am going through with new friends. I worry if I let slip my fears and paranoia about my feelings of self value, who will want to deal with me? As I've been told enough lately by newer people, "Just get over it."

I wish people would understand what I went through. I wish the world would grow a little and take a serious look at what abuse does to a person, and this isn't one of those things that you can expect a person to recover from in a handful of months.

On the other side, I am really thankful to the friends who have stuck by me this entire time. I know I say it all the time, but really, I am blessed. The people who know the full extent of what I went through, and are still having to deal with my anger and sadness, well... they are amazing. I feel like a worse friend (for not just dumping my issues on them!) when I do start doubting their friendship. See the vicious circle the mind plays?

I chose to make this post public because I want people to understand. I hope if you read this you will do some research on the subject and be a little more sympathetic to the those around you. I'm lucky, I will recover from what I went through, in my own time. But there are people who have been through much worse, or at least it affected them a lot more, and they may not have the strength to speak up about it.

I also wanted to let my friends know that I am in this place of recovery. I want to find my self confidence again, and I want to be a better person than I was before. I am just not really sure how to get there, and maybe someone out there has been where I am and can offer a helping hand.

Friday, September 9, 2011

When the law works, it's a lovely thing.

It's been a few months since I've been here. I haven't been avoiding this blog, just my life has been so non-stop that it hasn't been in the forefront of my mind to come here and dish out my scars to the world. Somewhere along the way they not only healed, but some magical Mederma erased them completely. It almost feels like what happened to me was to a completely different person, because who I was even two months ago is nothing like the person I am today.

It's good to grow.

Unfortunately, my life hasn't been all roses and cupcakes. Back in late July I had to make a decision, a very difficult one that I knew would alter many people's view of me and put a lot of people at odds with one another. But in the end, I'm glad I stood up for what was right and tried to fight my abuser through the court of law.

As my loyal readers know, I had cut all contact with him back in April. Removed him from all social media networks, had my phone company block his number, put in place (what I thought) were fail safes to keep him from not only contacting me, but finding out about my day to day life. Apparently it wasn't enough. Some people when you ignore them, just grow all the more impatient to dig into your life. I found out that my personal email was being hacked and real and fake Gmail chat conversations and emails were being sent to professional and personal contacts alike.

The worse of it, how I discovered any of this was happening, is a (doctored) chat conversation that was sent to a person who had caused much grief in my life in the past... A person who had threatened to kill me on multiple occasions, harassed and stalked me, and made my life a living hell until I first moved out of my previous state of residence. It was during all this that the ex and I became friends, and he was the only person I opened up to about all of it, how it made me feel, and all the dark thoughts I had at the time. So of course, to receive a threatening email from said person's new wife, brought back a flood of memories that paralyzed me for a day. Until I realized that there is nothing these people could truly do to me. If they tried, I had an army of people by my side who would protect me, vouch for me, and otherwise stand up for me. The worse they managed to do was leak some semi-nude photos on a website, which I was able to obtain the IP addresses of those who posted them, and have them on file in case I need to use them in court again (see, always document everything. It helps your case!) And it also helps to have friends in powerful, internet places ;D.

Readers, you might remember me saying before that my email had been compromised back in April, and my friends and I suspected the ex had something to do with it, so I knew what measures to take to find out who had been in my email. Also, it doesn't hurt having a very tech savvy mother who's whole job details working in Internet security. I was able to obtain his IP address in my email and had two people independently verify it as the one from his house.

I was left with only one real option. Since ignoring him had done no good, I hired a lawyer. Within the day she had a Temporary Restraining Order in place, and I was shipped out of town until the trial date to get the full restraining order in effect. I would like to say everything worked in my favor and I am now free of that cancer, but the problem with abuse law, cyber crimes, and what I went through is there isn't a whole lot of precedent for it (especially in the county we took him to court in) and it's a very difficult thing to get to stick.

I had some pretty solid evidence. Screen captures with time and date stamps of his IP in my email, witnesses who could attest to him hacking previous exes emails and the horrors they saw of how he mentally abused them or the claims he would make as to what he would do to his exes if they crossed him, my own testimony which was compelling and not over the top.

He brought a circus. And the judge knew it. Unfortunately, at the end, she told me she could not grant me the restraining order, as much as she wanted to. But what I did get was just as good as any piece of paper (that probably still wouldn't keep him out of my life) - the judge warned him, in front of the entire court and both our accompanying circles, that if I brought another piece of evidence against him not only would I get my restraining order, but he would go to jail. She made it very clear that the evidence I had was criminal in nature, and if it was a criminal trial, I would have won.

It was a very difficult decision on my part. I knew I would lose friends over it, but more so, I knew the potential I had to ruin his life if things shook out in my favor - and even after everything, the idea of completely taking something away from a person was a hard idea to wrestle with. But in the end, I knew I had to protect myself and the people I love. And the strength my friends brought me helped me stand tall that day.

I wasn't surprised by the accusations he tried to make in court, what shocked me were the people he brought with him to try to testify against my character. People who willingly lied for him, despite swearing to do other wise. People I had barely known for a handful of months, but were the ones who I had first opened up to about the abuse. People, who for the most part are seen as respected in their circle, but to me, are now lower than dirt. I am sorry, but if you want to stand up for someone you know is abusive, lying, manipulative and otherwise a terrible person, when you ignore the words of  not just me, but a total of three ex-girlfriends, who are well respected and known in the community stand up with the same accusations and you dismiss them all as being crazy and liars, you don't deserve my time of day. And you need to take a serious look at your priorities in life if you would turn out an abuse victim and take the confidence she trusted in you and then stand against her when she is trying to stand up for herself.

These people might be able to fool the average person who wants to get in on whatever new project they are trying to sell, but more and more people have come to me and told me that what was done to me, not just by the ex, but by supposed friends, is shit. And I finally believe it. I have nothing to do with these people, or the people who want to ride the fence on this issue.

This wasn't a typical bad breakup. I understand not wanting to get involved. But when you cross a certain line, when you break into someone's personal, private world and disseminate it for all to see, when you support said person, stand up for them even when you have been shown evidence to the contrary, and when you choose to look the other way when abuse is happening - you are not a person. You are a shadow. You don't exist in this world, you exist only to serve yourself. And people know it.

So I may not have won my restraining order, but I won a bigger fight. I have myself, growing stronger every day. I have my amazing friends, and other people who continually come to me and say they are sorry for what I went through and that they will no longer have him in their lives. Because that's the thing, if you even continue a casual relationship with such a person, in a way you are supporting it. You are saying, "I'm looking the other way, because I don't want to get involved or create waves." Well how is change ever supposed to happen if you don't stick up for what is right?

So to the people who have heard my story, and the story of his other exes, and our friends who he has abused just as much, and have made a decision to cut him from your life - I love you and thank you.

To the people still on the fence about this, who want to play some game of placating us both, you can kindly pack up and get out of my life. I have no use for you anymore. I am tired of people causing needless drama, who tell me things I don't want to hear. I have cut him out of my life, he would be better off if he did the same, and I don't need monkeys in the middle trying to stir up things to make life more difficult for me.

This weekend proved something huge to me. I am strong. I have moved on. And that I have some amazing friends who will stand up for what is right and keep me safe and happy. It's a pretty good day when you feel like this.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Every picture tells a story" (CBS 48 Hours)

"It also doesn't answer one lingering question. How did a woman like Cathy - a strong woman with friends, family and money - end up a victim of domestic violence?"

While at work today, I came across this story on CBS 48 Hours. While it had such a tragic ending for the woman involved, it is a good piece of journalism that profiles the crime and speaks to the man who reportedly abused and ultimately was found guilty of killing his own wife.

There are some things to note, such as when his ex comes forward with her own story of abuse, and how the family finally came to admit how afraid of this man they were.

Sadly, it cannot answer the question stated above. I don't ever think there is one single, simple answer for this.;contentBody

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Date, Heat Rash, and Insomnia

It's 6 am, I think I slept for an hour and a half, and now I'm wide awake and my mind is thinking too much. Ah, the wonders of steroid pills. Luckily this time around I'm on them for a heat rash that decided to creep up my neck, but even on day two they are taking a toll on my system, and my insomnia is out of control.

Or maybe something has to do with having a stupid, shit eating grin on my face for the past two nights.

I went on a date. Well, two dates now, same person. They were... nice. Not to make it sound like the dates were bad in any way, because they weren't. In fact, they were super fun, amazingly fun really, and instantly involved him hanging out with my friends, which could be a good or bad thing depending on what they think of him. Quite honestly, I needed that litmus test, because it seems all of them were aware of what an unhealthy relationship I was in. So, you know, I guess if anyone can weather through that, it may be worth even going on a third date!

It's just different. He is someone I met at an art event, no prior history or friendship. Someone fresh and new. He doesn't know me, my baggage, what I was, what I did, and there isn't any prior notion of who I am and what I'm expected to be. It's refreshing and liberating. I can be *me*.

And while there isn't any notion of a Facebook status change in my relationship, I've pretty much made up my mind to see this person again, once my schedule eases up a bit. And more than likely again after that.

And so, in my giddiness and stupid girlishness, and my insomnia, it started creeping in. The baggage I feared that would inevitably be held over from my last relationship. Or I guess, what I mean to say is, my fear of that baggage. Wondering when it will start to affect my mindset, because let's be honest, you don't go through something like that and expect to have any shred of trust in the next person you meet.

It did come up tonight, the inevitable references to past relationships. I was hoping to hold it off, but I felt honesty is my best policy. And I came out and said, "Listen, I was in a very emotionally abusive relationship before this. Honestly, I probably shouldn't even be dating now, because it's only been a hand full of months since I kicked him completely out of my life. But here I am, I enjoy your company, and I don't want to stop a potentially good thing because of my issues. But I thought you should know so you can make the decision going forward."

He took it well. He took it beyond well. I mean, I often do say things to scare away guys, to see just how much they can take before they think, oh no, this one is damaged goods, let's walk away now. But this was different, I didn't want to scare him off, I wanted him to understand that when it comes to certain things, it's going to take time with me. And a lot of it.

And truthfully, I don't even know if I want a relationship out of this. Not just because of the ex, but I'm at a point in my life where a lot of things are being built up, put into place, and I am focusing 100% on me and my career. But, at the same time, I really don't want to piss away something else that could possibly be good for me.

I've learned something very important, something I think I always knew but never really practiced. I don't need to be with anyone. I'm actually very happy with myself and on my own. Other guys may have tried to tell me otherwise, say how I cannot cope with being alone, but the truth is I think they didn't want to admit to themselves that I really didn't need them. So they crafted environments that made me reliable on them, in one way or another, and couldn't take it when I felt suffocated and lashed out.

When I first moved to Atlanta, I did cling to my ex. I was alone in a new city with no real friends. It wasn't just that he was my boyfriend, but he was one of my best friends. I don't think he ever understood that. I was afraid. I was alone. And I wanted a friend.

All that is different now, coming on nearly 2 years of living here and I have amazing friends. Some of them I had even in the beginning, but I just didn't realize it and clung to the familiar.

So even with my insomnia, which usually brings the worse of thoughts to my head, I can't seem to find them. I think about how there should be things holding me back, other than the, "I want to take my time with this one, get to know him and keep the fun, exploring and learning about one another phase going as long as I can." Because, as I'm learning, that's a pretty fun place to be in.

Cheers to moving forward!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Letting Go

I know I haven't been very dedicated about keeping this blog up to date. I still feel very strongly about wanting to help other people in this situation, but as far as my own goes, somewhere along the road I just left that bag on the side and never looked back.

Unfortunately the same can't be said about other people. I added a stat counter to this awhile back and have been tracking and logging IPs for about a month and a half now. It's interesting to see who reads this page, how often, and where they come from.

I will continue to keep this blog up for future readers, and to link to stories and articles that will further growth and moving forward. This blog has allowed me to move on. By letting out all of my feelings and frustrations, I found they didn't have to dwell inside of me all the time. Am I 100% perfect and over things? No. But I have moved forward. And it's nice. There was a time when I never thought I would be able to smile, or not have a day without crying. The last time I cried was when I saw my mom last week because I was so happy to see her! I think that is a pretty good reason to cry. ;D

Thank you everyone who's followed my journey and have been a part of my growth and moving forward. It's nice to look forward to tomorrow, excited about what new adventure awaits!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cold War

(Janelle Monae)

So you think I'm alone?
But being alone's the only way to be
When you step outside
You spend life fighting for your sanity

This is a cold war

You better know what you're fighting for
This is a cold war
Do you know what you're fighting for?

If you wanna be free?

Below the ground's the only place to be
Cause in this life
You spend time running from depravity

This is a cold war

Do you know what you're fighting for?
This is a cold war
You better know what you're fighting for
This is a cold war
You better know what you're fighting for
This is a cold war
Do you know what you're fighting for?

Bring wings to the weak and bring grace to the strong

May all evil stumble as it flies in the world
All the tribes comes and the mighty will crumble
We must brave this night and have faith in love

I'm trying to find my peace

I was made to believe there's something wrong with me
And it hurts my heart
Lord have mercy, ain't it plain to see?

This is a cold war

You better know what you're fighting for
This is a cold war
Do you know what you're fighting for?

Bye, bye, bye, bye

Don't you cry when I say goodbye

Bye, bye, bye, bye
Don't you cry when I say goodbye

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Homefront

The other day I was asked to participate in a very amazing fundraiser that focuses on domestic abuse. In addition to just telling my own story and recovery, I've also offered to write some articles and get my stagnating journalist muscle flexing. In doing so, I've done a lot of research on the subject and am just shocked at some of the things I didn't know!

Some of the things just seem so... simple in a way, but it strikes home. If I had to do a piece on abuse while I was in the relationship, and furthermore read some of these things, would it have alerted me to my own situation sooner?

From the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence on signs of emotional abuse: Putting her down.Making her feel bad about herself. Calling her names. Making her think she is crazy. Playing mind games. Humiliating her. Making her feel guilty.

I could have bolded every thing in that list. I know it seems almost common sense, but just seeing the stark numbers of it, next to charts against physical and sexual abuse makes me realize how prominent emotional abuse is in our society.

One of the things I hope to focus on is how society can take action against this. Like I have mentioned many times over, I have encountered a disturbing amount of resistance to mt situation, up to having people ask for proof on the situation. I have offered up names and contact info of people who would gladly speak of things they witnessed, but none have made the effort to get in touch them. It's alarming to me that we would bury our heads in the sand about this issue so much, because we don't want it affecting our little view of the world.

To an extent I can understand and forgive people who would call me a liar and believe what he says over me. As a friend put it, "[he] does a good job of destroying someone's reputation and character before they even get a chance to tell their side of things." It's true, I saw that enough.

I don't really stand to gain anything by going public about this. As I've stated before, I am not looking for retribution or punishment for my ex. If I did, I'd be a lot more public about who it is and a lot more forceful in having my story heard in places it would matter to him. No, what I want is a social revolution, of sorts, and for people to wake up and realize this does happen. Yeah, the guy you know may be funny, happy-go-lucky and "not capable of these things." But how well do you really know him? For four years of friendship I thought I did. I hate to be cliche, but how many murderers and sexual predators do you hear their friends and family say in news bites, "I never suspected that of him."

A sign of a good abuser, liar, and sociopath is they can hide these things even from their best friends and family. In my case, a lot of people were aware of this man's behaviour, but though that with me he was either better, or felt the need to not get involved because they didn't know me. And it is tough to get involved and speak out to someone who sees the good in this person and chooses to not believe the negative things they have been told before.

I will say the things I have learned about my ex since becoming public about this are disgusting. I knew he had some obscure tastes and bad judgment calls when it came to associating with women online, but the tales of underage solicitation for webcam pics and the level he weeds his way into women's lives makes me wonder how much he was hiding from me during our time together.

Some people would say that it is my job to make sure he gets what he deserves. But in all honesty, until every person who has told me what they know in private makes the choice to open up and speak about it, I am just one person with one story, and apparently in some circles, my word isn't worth much.

So until the time that other people feel they can stand up with me, and those around the world will stand with their friends who have gone through or are going through this, I will plug away here, and do what I can to encourage the world that we need to stand together and fight this.

Here are a couple of sites I was researching today: