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Archive for the ‘Abuse’ Category

December

(This is a bit of a departure from the norm, I know, and I’ll be back to my regularly Xander-heavy and pregnancy neurotic postings ASAP. I promise. I mean, I have the material. We took him to see SANTA today.)

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Oh, December! The excitement of snow. The hot chocolate so rich it tastes like a melted candy bar. Festive music. Colored lights. Birthday. Christmas. Tree decorating. Santa. So much fun, so much joy. So. Much.

I love the holiday season. I love it all. I love the food. I love the cheesy TV Specials. I love the red sprinkles on my Starbucks drinks. I love the gift wrapping, giving, and getting.

I’m also always so much more contemplative in December, as many of us are. The long hours of darkness, maybe, prompt deeper introspection than usual. Or maybe the symbolism of the approaching new beginning makes us reflect on things past.

One December, fourteen years ago, I tried to kill myself. Dramatic, yes, isn’t it? It feels very dramatic just to type it. And it’s not even like it’s a new story. I’ve told it and written it a few times before. But, every year at this time, I think about that….period…a bit. Not obsessively, and not with melancholy or, I don’t know, regret, even. I just think about it. I reflect on it. I remember. It doesn’t bother me, maybe because it was so very long ago, and I am such a different person now. It’s almost like telling the story of a scar you got falling out of a tree in second grade. It happened. The end. Sometimes it even feels like a memory of a movie or a book – something that happened to someone else completely.

I had just withdrawn from my first year at Wheaton College (I would later return and graduate from there, which is a decision I still wonder about sometimes) with a severe case of PTSD, stemming from undealt with childhood abuse (not anyone in my immediate family). I was a complete and utter mess. I had horrible nightmares, and had no idea where dreams ended and reality/actual memories began. I blacked out for long periods of time. I couldn’t focus and had no appetite. I was so scared, all the time. Scared that I’d be found out. That my piers would realize I wasn’t as Christian as they were, that I was broken. Scared that God had given up on me. Scared that there was no God to do any giving up on in the first place.

So I left that environment and came home, well, to Alabama, which had only been home for about 8 months or so, but it was where my family was, and where I needed to be.

In what little part of my brain that was still thinking before I took all those pills, I did not think of the suicide attempt as an attempt to die. I just wanted quiet. I wanted calm. Peace. I wanted to not be so damn scared. I had this tiny little idea, somewhere, that if I was successful, the bad part of me would die and the good part of me could come back and be the person I was supposed to be.  Years and years later, I had a therapist who listened to my account of this night and told me quite certainly that I’d had a psychotic break. You might think I’d find this scary; I mean, who wants to be told that they were psychotic at any point in their life? But I always found this to be a comforting thought. It wasn’t just that I’d made a really horrible decision – my brain was broken.

I look back at the girl that I used to be and I’m torn between wanting to slap her upside the head and wanting to give her a big hug. I want to tell her to just wait. Just wait and see what’s coming. You’re going to meet this amazing man who makes the world a magical place just by loving you. You’re going to have a job that makes you feel smart and important. You’re going to get a puppy who is the craziest ball of fur on the planet. You’re going to visit some beautiful places. You’re going to have the most mind blowingly awesome child who will change your world in ways you never thought possible.

The truth is, sometimes life really, really sucks, for whatever reasons (or for no reason).

It’s okay to want a break. It’s okay to hit pause, to ask for a time out and demand a rest. But don’t toss it all in now. Give it some time. Things get better.

More than that.

Things get really, really good.

 

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So I went and read 50 Shades of Grey.

I had no intention of doing so, quite honestly. At all. I’m more of a YA, chick-lit, non-sexual-fantasy sort of reader. (SPOILER ALERT: if squeamish, stop reading.) But everyone was reading it, and then there was controversy over it and the way it was marketed to moms, and I’m not one to back down from poorly written popular fiction (hello, Twilight) NOR a fight that lets me unleash my inner feminist.

But.

Oh. Em. Gee.

One, these books make Twilight look like high literature. I mean, that’s impressive.

Two, I am a wimp, and the hot and steamy scenes I scanned/didn’t read because I was blushing. BY MYSELF. I mean, it’s totally fine, in a way. The books are marketed for adults and are about consenting adults and whatever works is none of my business closed doors we’re all grown ups but LA LA LA LA HAPPY PLACE.

(Am a prude.)

But the real problem is here, with Issue Number Three: these books romanticize violence against women. No, really. They do. I’m not talking about the In The Bedroom Naughty Stuff They Do For Fun. That’s something else all together. I’m talking about the She’s Afraid He Will Physically Punish Her For….fill in the blank. For wearing a sleeveless dress, for taking a call from a male friend, for getting drinks with her girlfriend, for not replying to his email, for….whatever, does it matter?

I know it’s fiction, and I know that it’s written by a mostly inexperienced writer. But there is a HUGE difference between what happens between consenting adults and what happens when one person in a relationship extends physical/emotional control over another person against her (or his!) wishes.

This does not make Christian mysterious, sexy, romantic, tortured, jealous, insecure, insert-placeholder-euphanism-here.

It makes him abusive.

Abusive is not hot. Is not sexy. Is not okay. And I hate that a work of popular fiction is making it seem okay and normal and something to desire and fantasize about.

I have no idea if this is the norm for this genre. I have honestly never read any erotic fiction before (see above: am prude).  I may not be the one to come to on analysis of erotic fiction. But gah – for the love of Pete. Stop making it normal for a man to hurt a woman against her wishes, OK? Can we at least agree to that?

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This Penn State thing is like a giant wormhole. Every article links to another article, with more horrifying information, new terrible rumors, and I get to this point where I think it’s never going to stop. More and more horrible acts are going to be discovered and it’s just going to keep getting bigger and bigger. I wasn’t even going to write about this, because what is there to say? It seems pretty obvious: raping children = bad. Not doing anything about it once you find out (or doing the very minimum you can while covering your own ass) = bad. Pretty self explanatory, right? It’s so gut-wrenching to think about how how many different ways the world failed those kids, and for what? To win? For fucking football? Give me a break.

I think about Xander, and how I don’t want to create this image of the world for him that’s full of fear, and being afraid of everyone who’s not Mom or Dad, but then, what? You can trust your teacher. You can trust your coach. Only, sometimes you can’t. So I just have to trust that I’ll be able to protect him, somehow, ask the right questions, be present. I don’t know. It’s not enough. But how can we do any more? Lock him up? Don’t let him play sports or go to camp or school or spend the night at a friend’s house?

In college I had a summer job as a lifeguard/swim instructor at a day camp, and one of the kids came in with a black eye and said her uncle hit her. I, of course, went and told my supervisors and waited to hear what they were going to do about it, which turned out to be nothing. I was young, and dumb, but I was so not OK with that. I went back to my boss and said that if they didn’t call someone, I would, even if they fired me. Only then did she explain that the girl’s mom had already told them the story of what happened and that her uncle was a 10 year old kid. Would have been nice to know BEFORE I started making crazy threats, but hey, I knew what was right, even if I didn’t know much of anything else at the time.

ANYWAY. There’s a whole bunch of words that were not at all what I was going to write about. Blogging, amiright?

What I wanted to write about was food, and cooking! FUN!

I don’t know how I ended up thinking about it, probably sometime during the crazy dinner hour where I’m trying to make a meal and Xander is tugging on my leg whining to be picked up and the dog is barking periodically wanting HER dinner and John asks if I don’t want to maybe make something easier since it’s such a crazy night and….well, that’s the normal seen around here at dinnertime. But while in SOME ways the idea of an easy meal, pre-prepared, or store bought bread instead of homemade bread, is appealing in terms of time management, but nothing else. I really enjoy cooking. I like making stuff from scratch, even if it takes a long time. I don’t love the constant interruptions, but that’s just life with a toddler.

I like making good things for my family and it’s not just about the food itself. It’s being able to give them something that comes from me. Cheesy, yes, I know. But true. Ravioli from a can is not child abuse, but it’s not the same. For me. And, of course, I know not everyone has the luxury of being home and having the time (or desire) to make all these meals and snacks every day.  And so even when it makes me nuts to have to deglaze a pan while carrying Xander on one hip and trying to keep his hands away from the steam, I love being able to do something that comes completely from me and that they enjoy. Well, mostly. I mean, sometimes I do give Xander a PPJ for dinner because everything else gets tossed to the dog. And sometimes I spend a lot of time making something and it turns out horribly and we have to pick up Thai food instead.

Now, if only I could muster the same passion about keeping the house clean and the laundry done.

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UnSilenced

So, I know I mentioned this on Facebook and Twitter, but October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (I know, “Awareness Month,” like, whatever. But unlike SOME things, domestic violence IS an issue that can be helped with “mere” awareness. Cancer? Yes, awareness is great. So is money and research and science). Also,  Violence UnSilenced (an anonymous blog for women/men to tell their survival stories) made some great announcements and changes and I recommitted to be UnSilenced and support those who tell their stories in whatever way I can.

Those of you who know me In Real Life probably already know why this issue is so personally important to me. I’ve told my story(s), privately and (somewhat) publicly, on occasion.  I was sexually abused by a family member as a child. As an adult, my home was broken into and I was attacked. These were definitely bad things. Very bad and terrible things. Before I was able to articulate what had happened and how I was feeling, especially about the childhood abuse, keeping it quiet almost killed me . I developed a bad case of PTSD and tried to kill myself.

Sometimes I feel that talking about these things invites sympathy and attention that, quite frankly, I don’t really need. I mean, it’s NICE and all. It’s much better to get sympathy than negativity, and I can understand hearing a story like this and feeling the need to say SOMETHING to this person in front of you. But a reaction is not always the point of sharing, you know? For me, at least, I’ve done a lot of counseling and a lot of healing and it’s not exactly brave of me to share any more. It’s just part of my story, like when I fell off the monkey bars and broke my arm in 2nd grade.

It’s not that it never bothers me. As part of the PTSD, I still have a crazy startle reflex – loud and unexpected noises make me jump out of my skin; abuse story-lines on TV can give me bad dreams; while training for the half marathon this summer I had a hard time on one of the runs that was geographically close to one of the incidents.

But….I’m OK. I’m not keeping secrets. I have so many people in my life I can rely on. JS, my parents, friends, and I’ll never be afraid to find a medical professional if I find that I need more help.

I’m one of the lucky ones.

And a huge part of WHY I’m lucky is that I was able to talk about it. I was able to purge the ugliness and fear and reach out and get better. Not everyone can do this. Not everyone has friends or family who will believe them. Not everyone is in a safe enough place to share. Not everyone knows that they even NEED help.

THIS is why awareness is important. This is how sites like Violence UnSilenced can help.  Head on over and pledge your support.

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