Domestic Violence

Write about a time when…

Still feeling blocked. My soul is aching from all the hate and the suffering it’s inflicting on various people groups in my country. I’ve been housebound with a sick child this week and I’m dealing with some mental health stuff triggered by stress and worry about a family situation I have no control over or say in, but impacts me and my youngest child.

I’m determined to follow through with this session of The Ultimate Blog Challenge and write a blog post everyday. I just want whatever I post to be interesting, if not entertaining.

So, I searched for a prompt I could write about substantively. Here’s what I found: Writing Prompts: 60 Ideas You Can Use Today

I chose prompt 21: Write about a time when you or someone you love was scammed.


In some ways, this is my origin story…or one of them.

It was the beginning of my junior year of high school. My life had been upended…again. I was 16.

My uncle, who had been my guardian since just prior to my mother’s suicide four years earlier, had gone through a divorce and a custody battle over my baby cousin. He’d moved me in with my grandmother while he moved forward into a toxic and destructive new relationship.

Meanwhile, my grandmother and I were taking care of my cousin a lot of the time. She was with me so often that, when I was 15, I was often mistaken for her mom.

For whatever reason, I never knew, he moved my grandmother and me back to the place we’d lived when my mom and I had first landed in Portland. It was just down the hill from where his ex-wife was staying and back into the school district I’d been unenrolled from following the breakdown of our not-so-happy little family.

It was homecoming week and I was sneaking into school while other kids were sneaking out.

My uncle was MIA and had failed to do what was necessary to reenroll me in school and, because I was under a guardianship instead of living with my biological parents, I wasn’t allowed to enroll myself.

Contrary to everything pop culture indicates about the adolescent desire to avoid the confines of educational institutions, I WANTED to be in school…desperately. You see, I believed that the only way out of poverty and away from the kind of life I’d lived was my intellect and education.

I’d taken the PSAT (Pre Scholastic Aptitude Test) the previous year, as a sophomore. My scores were high enough that I received interest letters from Harvard & Radcliffe and Whitman College. I was also offered my choice of ROTC scholarships…all contingent upon my graduation from high school.

I was missing half of my first term as a junior and was anxious, angry, and feeling abandoned, again.

That’s when I met him.

At first, I shied away from him. We were living in the place where respectable morphs into disreputable and he was an unknown entity. Strange men were suspect and not to be trusted.

Then, when I was at loose ends one day, I ran into him again. This time, he was with a girl my age. I thought she was his girlfriend. It turned out that they’d moved in right next door. Within a short period of time, they became my port in the storm.

It turned out that she wasn’t his girlfriend, but someone he was helping to get her life back on track. Or that was the story…and I believed it.

He was 30, passably attractive, and treated me like I was an adult. He listened and talked with me as if what I had to say mattered. He was my safe haven from the drama and paid attention to me when no one else, my uncle, could be bothered. I fell in love.

Within a couple of weeks, I was finally enrolled in school, but I’d missed almost two months of the beginning of the school year and was struggling to catch up. I spent every moment I could next door, getting homework help, friendship, and feeling as normal as I had ever felt.

Things got physical. I initiated. In hindsight, I know I was manipulated to that point. But, I thought it was my idea. He pretended to dissuade me, but, took what I offered anyway.

Then, my uncle decided to show up and assert his authority. Probably because my grandmother had been trying to get me to stop going where I was headed and had reached out to him.

There was a scene right out of an angsty teen drama, where my uncle and I were yelling at each other (cue Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It). “We love each other!” I loudly declared. I don’t remember what was said next, but I got my face slapped. I almost hit back, but, my uncle was holding my 2 yr. old cousin in his arms. He saw the look in my eyes and taunted me, “Go ahead. Hit a man with a baby in his arms.”

Next thing I knew, I was out the door and locked in the bathroom next door. Shortly thereafter, the two men were squared off, outside, and I was on the door stoop, screaming for them to stop.

I went into my appointment. Things calmed down and my uncle eventually left. I snuck back out and went next door. We knew we wouldn’t be able to be together if things stayed as they were. The next day, we left.

Three months after we left, he got picked up on a parole violation. A month later I found out I was pregnant. A few months after lat, I turned 17. He was released, then, we were on the run, again. Almost a year after we’d first run away, our son was born.

We spent a little over three years hitchhiking across the country and living out of cars. We put notes up in rest areas and told people stories about our circumstances designed to manipulate them into giving us money, food, and shelter. He was a low level scam artist and I became his apprentice.

Two weeks before Christmas of 1988, a little over a month after our son turned two, I’d had enough. I was 19 and over it all. I was done and he knew it. He disappeared for a week with that month’s welfare allotment. The shelter we’d been staying in either needed the monthly “rent” – money they set aside to save enough for move in expenses – or we had to go. They gave me our “deposit” back so I could try to find someplace for us to go.

Somehow, he knew to come back that night. We fought. He wanted the money and I wasn’t going to give it to him. He almost killed me in front of our son, but, stopped short for some reason. Then, he left. I never saw him again.

His love was a scam that changed my life forever.

Writing Prompt: Skylark Challenge 151, 2nd Entry


Poison, Scent, Fluid, Shattered, Pale


The fluid had a pleasant scent, obfuscating the poison. He turned pale, as it went to work. The cup shattered as it hit the floor.

She came into the room, horror evident in her eyes. Right then she knew. He had framed her for his murder which was a suicide.

Cold fear gripped her heart. Squeezing her chest, it made her forget to breathe. Pain shooting up her arm, she collapsed to the floor, beside the one who had made her life misery. She gave up on her life, knowing he’d achieved his goal.

“Mom! Dad! I’m home and I’ve got a surprise,” their son announced later that day, as he unlocked the front door and entered with his fiancé…never imagining their life together was over before it had begun.

They could never get past the vision of a marriage of such hidden unhappiness, ending in in such horrific and tragic darkness.

His death certificate read: Death by poison, suspicious circumstances. Hers: Death by heart attack, natural. The headline read: Wife poisons husband, dies of a broken heart.

Eating Myself Sick (pt. 2)

Yesterday, I started writing about my most recent downward spiral into a binge eating episode. Now, for the rest of the story.

Two days ago was “Family Fun Friday” at my daughter’s school. Her dad decided he wanted to go and would pick us up, to go as a family, at 7:30 am. Every night my daughter doesn’t go to sleep before 10 pm, no matter how hard I try. Every morning, it’s a fight to get her awake, dressed, and out the door by 8:30 in time to catch her bus. It was very stressful knowing I not only had to have her up and ready an hour earlier, but, that I would also be in his presence, with his moodiness and anger over his current circumstances and belief that I’m to blame for the situation he’s in because I left the relationship nearly two years ago.

There was no time for a healthy or filling breakfast. So, I wound up eating two half pieces of pastry and half a muffin, along with a large cup of coffee with several creamers, while we were at the school. After we left and were on our way to where I volunteer weekly, less than two miles from his place, the arguing and criticism started. Then, he expected me to use his truck to go do my volunteering at the church. That way, I would go back with him when he picked our daughter up from school. No, thank you.

I wound up at his place, but, I didn’t take his truck. So, the angry texts started coming. Emotional manipulation and empty threats of a non-violent, but psychologically traumatizing nature started coming. Intellectually, I knew that the threats were empty, that his beliefs weren’t my truths, and that I’m not responsible for making him feel better. However, it didn’t stop the PTSD sensations of severe anxiety and overwhelm from taking over. I was jittery. My emotions were in turmoil. I couldn’t stop thinking of the “what if’s” and trying to formulate plans against them.

Anxiety at that level completely shuts down my ability and desire to eat anything. This effect results in a binge later. When I left the building and took the hour long transit trip home, I was okay. As I got off the bus and started approaching my home, I could feel the tension and anxiety rising. So, I decided that I was going to go do something else with safe people for the night, and left almost as soon as I got home. Then, something happened that triggered my sense of obligation, and my fatigue was so extreme, I just went back home.

I made a healthy-ish choice for eating, which sort of satisfied the nutritional hunger. Time to relax and self-soothe. Catch up on recorded shows and try to knit a scarf for my son’s birthday, three days away.

However, as the evening went on, both a physical and mental/emotional hunger grew. Unfortunately, I happend to have a little bit of cash. I checked the balance of my SNAP benefits. I could go get something to eat at the grocery store and make a healthier choice between Popeye’s and Safeway. I got dressed and went out the door. As I got closer to the bus stop to go to the grocery store, the aching in my thighs from all the walking I’d done this week and the overwhelming fatigue washed through me. Then I saw the bus go by.

I checked to see when the next one would come. Nine minutes. Not much time at all, but too long to sit and wait in the chilly night at the bus stop. Okay. Keep moving and walk to the next bus stop. Check the time. Five more minutes. Look up. A yellow, orange, and red beacon in the night – Popeye’s. It’s just a minute’s walk, then I can sit down. When I leave, I’ll still be close enough to walk home.

$6.99 special: Two tenders and four shrimp, a side, and a drink. Sounds good. Coke, please. Yes, honey for the biscuit! Do you have butter? Oh, it’s REAL? Even better. Cajun fries for the side. Thank you for the coupons.

Sit by myself, put my headphones on, and start watching a recorded show on my phone. A text from the ex. An update on our daughter and her complaining of a headache and upset tummy. More criticism for not updating him during the week or having her call him.

Mmmm. That honey and butter on that biscuit sure is good. The rest though, meh, but I eat it anyway.

In comes a group of women. Loud laughter and conversation. Friends having a night in on a food run. On the outside, looking in. Thoughts and emotions swirling on the inside. Calm and still on the outside. I look down and see the coupons I’ll never use.

“Do you guys eat here a lot?”

“Mmmhmm,” head nods.

“Do you want my coupons? I’ll never use them. Oh, sorry, they’re sticky from the honey.”

Home again. Anxious again. Minor relationonal skirmish. Isolation. Knit and watch t.v.

Knock, knock, knock. “Come in.”

“Here. I ordered late night pizza,” two slices of pizza and a hunk of cheese filled bread in a small, long Domino’s box.

Gone.

5:00 a.m. nausea.

When self-soothing turns into self-abuse, it’s time to admit there’s a problem…again.

“Hi. My name is Lillian. I’m a food addict.”

Now, to figure out how to unravel and disconnect the eating from the PTSD and my relationships before I kill myself with food.

Eating myself sick (pt. 1)

I guess it’s time to get back to recovery basics, when it comes to my eating.

Yesterday was hard. It was the perfect storm of hormonal cycles, PTSD triggers, and physical exhaustion. Truthfully, the eating spiral started while I was working on my food plan and trying to figure out how to make it work.

The rationalizations and justifications of, “I’m starting tomorrow, so I’ll enjoy this bacon, egg, potato burrito with country gravy and a Coke for breakfast, now,” and, “After all, you’re not supposed to go shopping on an empty stomach, right?” were the first steps on the slippery slope of my binge eating disorder.

Eating has been my consistent “go to” for self-soothing/self-medicating ever since I was a pre-adolescent. It started after I told my mom about my step-dad having molested me for the previous two years and we wound up going and living with my grandmother.

Dolly Madison Donut Gems in the morning for breakfast before school. Extra chocolate milk at school for lunch. Burger King on the way home from school with my mom. Snack or dinner while visiting grandma at the cafeteria she worked evenings at, during her lunch break. KFC when grandma got home after 9 p.m. from her job. Neither mom or grandma knew how much or how often I was eating. It was offered and I accepted. It replaced the “love and affection” I’d lost when my step-dad stopped paying attention to me  – which was the whole, warped reason I told my mom in the first place.

Getting fed was the way I felt like I was cared about and mattered…at home. At school, it was definitely self-soothing to drink that second chocolate milk. We’d moved several times during that year and I wound up in an inner city school in Houston. There was a large Latino population, a slightly smaller Black population, and a small White population. I didn’t fit into any of them. I talked White, was obviously a “half-breed” Latina, and obviously not Black. it was 1980, in Texas. Mixing races was very much frowned upon. Add into it that I was the “new kid” in sixth grade. I was either ignored or shunned, depending on which group of students I tried to interact with. So, I ate alone. That second chocolate milk and seconds on food, if it was available, filled in the interminable time between the end of one class and the beginning of the next, otherwise known as lunch and recess.

If I focused on how good the food tasted and how it filled me up, then I didn’t have to pay attention to the taunting or the isolation.

After school, mom would meet me in front and we would walk home, just talking about our days. These are vague memories, at best. However, I know that I enjoyed that time with her. Whenever, she could, she’d take me to the Burger King that was between the school and the apartment we shared with my grandma. Sitting there and eating my Whopper Jr. with fries and soda, extended my time with her. Time that was easy and uncomplicated. Time when I felt like she saw me and that I was loved.

Snack/dinner at Picadilly Cafeteria, where grandma worked, was usually an obligation kind of thing. Mom didn’t want grandma to know she’d fed me at BK. So, on those days, I’d have a snack – usally fried okra. I love the taste and texture of fried okra done right. Other days, when we hadn’t stopped at BK, I’d get a full meal. Mom and grandma, sitting with me while I ate, having quiet and easy conversation. Those were our family time meals.

Grandma LOVED Kentucky Fried Chicken, Original Recipe! My memory tells me she came home with a bucket nearly every night. My adult reasoning says it couldn’t have been nearly that often. Anyway, I was usually still awake, despite it being close to 10 p.m. If I was awake, the smell of the chicken was so good and grandma was so sure I hadn’t had enough to eat. So, I would eat…again.

So, food was how I knew I was loved. Food was how I received comfort and suffered through rejection and isolation. Eating was a deception and obligation for emotional safety. It was never about nourishment or health. It was always about emotion and relationships.

I suppose not much has changed on that front. On Thursday night, despite having eaten two very healthy and sustaining meals, one of which I stopped eating when I was satiated, that good ‘ole Southern comfort food got brought into my Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model group and I filled my plate. I overfilled it! Homemade mac ‘n cheese, homemade potato salad, greens & ham, and fried fish were irristable.

This was the fourth time I’d been in this room with these women, many of whom are African American, all of whom have experienced significant DV trauma. Some are recovering from substance addictions. None of whom did I feel a connection to. I was always uncomfortable in this room, with these women. All I could see was why I didn’t fit with them and the reasons why they wouldn’t feel like I should be there with them. I guess I was mentally back in that sixth-grade school yard in Houston.

But, that food! It was common ground. I was sitting at a table with a Latina and a White girl, surrounded by Black women. All of these women are so strong and so inspiring and I’d been so intimidated and unsure that I could be accepted by them. I ate, everything, after stating I’d gotten way too much and that I probably couldn’t finish it all.

Well, I finished it after a particular topic came up while we were eating and I got triggered into sharing a very painful memory of loss from five and a half years ago. Then, I ate a piece of homemade apple pie for desert.

Sorry this is so long. If you’re still reading, thanks for hanging in there. To be continued tomorrow.

Self-directed, Independent Study, Coursework in Recovery and Developing a Stronger Sense of Self

That is what this first quarter of 2014 is all about.

I once read a book called Life 101. One of the opening paragraphs alluded to the fact that many of us graduate from the School of Hard Knocks to immediately enroll in the University of Adversity. I kind of took that statement to heart and have been matriculating through that institution of life ever since. Now it’s time for me to move into the next level of earning my Master’s of Fine Arts in Living Life to the Fullest.

In order to do this, I am now committed to facing and processing the things which have kept me stuck walking the same halls of adversity, repeating the same life lessons, while hoping to learn something different.

I am immersing myself in the following coursework:
Daily online Twelve Step meetings through an Overeaters Anonymous based organization, The Recovery Group. Through these meetings I am practicing the principles of honesty, accountability, service to others, and being mentally immersed in recovery-based thinking, processing, and decision-making.  Within the context of TRG I have developed a relationship with someone who has agreed to be my sponsor as I work through the Twelve Steps. So far I’ve read through and responded to what I’ve read from the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book online. Finally, I am also going through the process to serve as a meeting leader. There are eight meetings each day, every day, which are held on the threes, am and pm, Eastern Time: 3, 6, 9, and 12, for a total of 56 online meetings each week. Moderating and leading a meeting is a valuable service and an opportunity to give back to others what has been freely given to me.

In addition to the Twelve Step portion of my coursework, I am participating in a weekly, faith-based, class and support group for women who are recovering from abuse. You can read more about it in the write-up I did for it on PDX Social Safety Net, Abuse Recovery Ministries and Services. Complementary to that, I am regularly attending and viewing the teaching messages from my friend and teacher, Marc Alan Schelske, and other speakers, teachers, and ministry leaders affiliated with Bridge City Community Church. We are currently in a teaching series with significant life application teaching about living a life of transformation that is based on emotionally healthy spirituality, which impacts the world around us in positive and constructive ways without it becoming about performance and self-serving attitudes and behaviors. If you’re interested in seeing and learning about the things I am experiencing in this faith community, you can view past and current teachings on the Bridge City Media YouTube Channel.

On the mental/emotional health side of things, I have an intake appointment today to start therapeutic counseling services. My goal in doing this is to get the focused and structured help in identifying and processing the issues from my history of childhood sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, and early domestic violence relationship with a man who trained me in being a con artist and the fine art of verbal manipulation for the three and a half years when I was 16 – 19 years of age, during my pregnancy and the first two years of mothering my son. Based on conversations with other service providers and professionals in the realm of domestic violence and child & family services, it is likely that in addition to my known mental health issues of depression and my suspected hypomania, that there is likely PTSD or complex-PTSD which has been unidentified and has been contributing to and impacting my life and relationships over the past 20+ years. I am not seeking a cure. I doubt there is such a thing. I am seeking understanding of myself and my triggers, guidance in continuing to identify and process triggers, develop tools and plans of action for dealing with triggers. I want to be able to, eventually and sooner rather than later, be able to do some kind of income generating work, either as an employee or as an entrepreneur. However, I am coming to realize and understand that if I do not honestly and conscientiously address these other issues, I will continue in my cycles of depression, chaos, and conflict which have prevented me from achieving my dreams and potential. I’m tired of the self-sabotage and making choices in relationships and life matters which keep me stuck.

Concurrent with the counseling and other things there is another domestic violence support and discussion group which is “a model of counseling to help improve coping skills. It was originally developed for trauma, substance abuse, and/or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is also applied broadly to increase coping and stabilization.” Since I have experience trauma, have developed eating behaviors and patterns where food is used similarly to other substances like alcohol and drugs, and have exhibited symptoms of PTSD, attendance and participation in this group, makes sense for me, at this time, as I am attempting not only to learn about being safe, but learning how to apply and utilize the knowledge in effective and tangible ways.

Finally, I am also receiving parenting support and Luna is receiving child advocacy services in learning how to cope emotionally with the things we have experienced and the feelings she has regarding the transitions in our lives and relationships with her father. They love each other dearly. He wants to and has the right to be present in her life. He is taking steps to work on his side of the street in these things. In the meantime, it’s a huge transition for her and, ultimately, teaching her and equipping her to be healthy, constructive, and functional in her life is one of the major outcomes I’m working for in doing all the things that I am doing.

It feels like a lot. It is a lot. But, it is all necessary and critical to moving forward instead of slipping back.

Life comes at you fast: Days 6 -10 of exchanging complaint for gratitude

Yesterday morning I called someone from my church community and met her at her work because I’d finally reached a point where I felt safe in opening up and talking about the things which I have been living with in my life with Keith, in terms of the emotional and psychological issues he has and how they have affected me and are affecting our daughter, Luna.

The precipitating event happened last Friday night, on Luna’s fifth birthday.

There has been ongoing conflict between LaLa, her SpiritLove, Keith, and myself. Tensions stemming from too many adults in too small of a space. LaLa being more than midway through a pregnancy – did I mention I’m going to be a grandma? – and their ongoing choices which were not in alignment with Keith’s or my stated expectations, which indicated a lack of respect and consideration at best and an attitude that he (and possibly I) is ignorant and unaware of certain realities.

It’s been simmering and boiling over ever since Keith got off the truck, when he left his long-haul trucking job back in August.

I won’t go into the gory details of the explosion. I will say that there were three adults, eventually four once I decided none of the three of them were going to choose to walk away, who were being verbally abusive with each other, either with how loud they were being, the words they were using, or the messages they were sending. There was physical intimidation and aggression inferred and implied, creating a threatening atmosphere by the two men.

Luna was closest to what was happening and I was across the room on the other side of the wall of agression the three of them had created. I intervened, physically pushing one, then the other back and away. At which point, I saw my youngest child, hiding under her brand new blankie.

I uncovered her

The tears around and in her eyes, the confusion and fear on her face and in her eyes pierced my soul.

I reached out, opening my arms to her in her prone position and gathered her into my arms. She buried her face into my neck and shoulder. I kept myy back to all of them, moving away and out of the room all the conflict had been taking place in.

LaLa and her SpiritLove moved out that night, leaving at 1:30 in the morning.

I followed through on original plans and went to church service, leaving Keith and Luna home to watch her birthday movie, The Little Mermaid, and spend some snuggle, cuddle time with daddy while I went to the service and attended a Children’s Ministry meeting afterward.

When I arrived at church, the first person I saw was the Elder who had invited me to this special meeting. A meeting to check in and help those of us who’d been present at a previous meeting where some significant conflict had occurred to process and be part of the resolution of the conflict which had occurred.

I was a bit of an emotional basket case and I’ve not tried to reach out to anyone at church to this degree and this level in a very long time, for a lot of reasons. However, I knew I had to take the risk and reach out.

Regardless of my committment and belief that Luna should have and needs her father in her life. I knew that there was no way I could raise a third child in this emotional environment and that I couldn’t get myself out. I also knew that I didn’t want to have to destroy and do character assassination on Keith in order to make the move.

I believed that I first needed to reach out to this Elder and through him, to the other members of our community. After the meeting, where I revealed a little bit about the difficulties I’ve been experiencing, one of the women there approched me with love, care, compassion, and no sense of judgment toward either me or Keith. She offered for me to call her and asked if she could support me and walk with me through this transition, whatever it was going to look like.

I didn’t know or realize that she works with families of domestic violence. So, when I called her yesterday morning, after getting Luna to school, Keith to work, and his mother’s car back to her, I did so without knowing anything other than I HAD to talk to her.

Last night, Luna and I slept in the home of another family in a situation that was tailor made for Luna’s comfort, well-being, and sense of normalcy, safety, and care.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. For today, I’m trusting that we are loved, cared for, and provided for – All of us.

I have assurance that someone is available to walk Keith through whatever it is he will have to do in order to ensure that he is an emotionally safe father to Luna. I am accepting that. I have blocked his number from contacting mine. I’ve severed fb ties to all relatives of his and him via unfriending and blocking. I have in place a person I can and will communicate to, who has agreed to act as a buffer and go-between so that I can focus on me and Luna.

We are safe. We are loved.

A handout received from Bridge City Community Church's Marc Schelske on 11/30/13

A handout received from Bridge City Community Church’s Marc Schelske on 11/30/13

~ What I have is enough. For this I am grateful.

~ The time I have is enough. For this moment I am grateful.

~ The people around me are enough. For them I am grateful.

~ I am enough. For me I am grateful.

~ Above everything, God is enough. For this I am grateful.

Like attracts like and water seeks its own level

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For those who have been following this blog for a while, you are familiar with some of the relational difficulties Keith and I have had and you may have seen previous postings where I’ve stated I believe we all experience difficulty with an undiagnosed mental health issue of his that I’ve identified as probably being Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

I’m bringing this subject up again, because of two reasons: One, understanding that behavior which is typically identified as stalking and domestic violence may not necessarily be something that is consciously chosen by the individual and is frequently dismissed and doesn’t stem from a need to dominate, control, and hold power over others. Two, people exhibiting these signs and symptoms need compassion, empathy, and understanding as much as their “victims.”

The following information comes from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness):

Individuals with BPD usually have several of the following symptoms, many of which are detailed in the DSM-IV-TR:

• Marked mood swings with periods of intense depressed mood, irritability and/or anxiety lasting a few hours to a few days (but not in the context of a full-blown episode of major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder).

• Inappropriate, intense or uncontrollable anger.

• Impulsive behaviors that result in adverse outcomes and psychological distress, such as excessive spending, sexual encounters, substance use, shoplifting, reckless driving or binge eating

• Recurring suicidal threats or non-suicidal self-injurious behavior, such as cutting or burning one’s self.

• Unstable, intense personal relationships, sometimes alternating between “all good,” idealization, and “all bad,” devaluation.

• Persistent uncertainty about self-image, long-term goals, friendships and values.

• Chronic boredom or feelings of emptiness.

• Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment.

Borderline personality disorder is relatively common—about 1 in 20 or 25 individuals will live with this condition. Historically, BPD has been thought to be significantly more common in females, however recent research suggests that males may be almost as frequently affected by BPD. Borderline personality disorder is diagnosed in people from each race, ethnicity and economic status.

In the past, I have characterized my relationship with Keith as toxically codependent. It was. It has improved quite a bit in the past eight or nine months as I have done a few things:

1) I made the conscious decision to start finding out how to communicate in ways that a person with BPD can receive and process information. Then began acting on that information.

2) Work on acceptance and forgiveness while also working on letting go of criticism and judgment. However difficult and personally painful it is dealing with him when he acts out on his impulses, intense & irrational anger, and unstable moods, I now know and understand that he is no more the cause of what I believe to be his illness/issues than I am the cause of my depression, hypomania, and attachment disorder. No one consciously chooses to be this miserable and unstable.

3) Seek support from my peers. Since the average, “healthy” person has no context to understand my decision to stay in relationship with him and I have been subjected to harsh judgments and criticisms regarding that choice, however justified the people passing judgment and offering criticism may be, I have stopped trying to get others to understand or condone my decision. Instead, I now participate in a closed, private, online support group with other people who are or have been in relationship with someone who experiences and exhibits symptomology consistent with BPD. It is a safe place to vent, receive, and give supportive encouragement.

4) Focus more on myself and my own growth and healing. As I have looked at my own attitudes, history and patterns I am learning how I have played into our relational difficulties and am learning to choose different ways of responding to his behaviors and words instead of staying other focused on what I want him to change and do different. Doing that has not eradicated the “problems” but it has gone a long way toward improving our relationship

5) I am making conscious efforts to get out of my situational and self-imposed isolation and have committed to doing things I need to do to take care of myself and seek after ways of achieving my dreams and goals, instead of simmering in bitterness and resentment that he is limited in his ability and capacity to encourage and support me in those things.

I know that by choosing to stay in relationship with him, I am choosing a more difficult path. However, the things that I value and believe inform and dictate this choice. He is committed to me and our family. He is working to provide for and support our family. He WANTS to be a father to our daughter and is doing the best he can to be the dad and husband he wants to be.

A member of my support group shared an image from the Facebook Page, The BPD Monster and Me. I want to share it with you.

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One of the things I have learned and come to understand as part of the healing and recovery process is that the people and relationships I wind up engaging with and having in my life are a reflection of my inner being. What this means is that however dysfunctional and damaged I believe them to be generally indicates that I have the same level of dysfuntionality and damage. The less I focus on their dysfunction and damage and the more I take my cues from their issues and am willing to see and address my own, the healthier I become. As a result, I am encountering new people and building new relationships where I am finding new and different reflections of myself.

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Things aren’t always how they seem

Let me begin by clearly stating Domestic Violence is real, does exist, and affects far too many people’s lives. This is not an attempt to minimize or detract from the efforts to address the many issues and concerns of those who have been affected by this problem in our world.

Now, onto my story.

I ran away with and married a man who was 14 years older than me for three and a half years. Because I had experienced inconsistent nurture, care, and discipline; sexual abuse; the emotional and physical loss of my mother before her suicide; and been exposed to drug culture and a sexually “swinging” lifestyle by my subsequent caregivers, I ran away with a man who seemed to see, appreciate, and accept me for me. At 16 years old, I thought he was the only one in my life who cared about me.

Under his tutelage and guidance I learned how to get what I needed and wanted from others. I learned how to tell my story in a way to incite total strangers to offer their resources to help take care of my needs. I learned how to blend truth with fiction in such a way as to be believable and to tell plausible tales.

I was separated and isolated from my family, but they didn’t seem to care all that much about me anyway. I already knew about the skeletons in their closets and judged them harshly for them. So that task was an easy one for him to accomplish. We hitchhiked and lived out of cars, traveling throughout the country.

Occasionally we picked up followers. He could probably have become a Jim Jones or a Charles Manson under different conditions and circumstances. I stayed enthralled by him and influenced by him until I was 19 and our son was two.

I had become disillusioned during my pregnancy, but stuck with him because I didn’t want to be a single, teen mom and raise my son without his father. At that point there had been a reconciliation of sorts with my family and we might have been able to settle down and be a family, except for the legal entanglements that seemed to put him in a position to fail. That’s when we ran again and my disillusionment really began.

I don’t remember the things he would say to me. I don’t think he was overtly insulting or abusive. I suspect I gave him all the power in my own mind and just assumed he was in the right, even when it felt wrong.

We would roughhouse and wrestle around. I used to be quite physically strong and it was a fun thing to challenge my strength against his. Any pain or injury I experienced wasn’t as a result of abuse, per se, but I would always be the one who ended our little play wrestling sessions in pain.

I caught him cheating on me with my best friend nine months before our relationship ended. Because we were “on the road” and I didn’t know anyone or have my own way home or even believe I had a home to go to, I stayed and lived with a hyper vigilance against further betrayal by both of them.

She and I were a lot alike and had been friends before he and I had met. I had facilitated her joining us as a way for her to escape her life and for me to not feel so isolated. Essentially, I had recruited her to travel and con with us.

By the time came that our son was two and I was 19, I was exhausted, emotionally and physically. I hated myself and what we were doing to survive. I hated and loved both of them. I recognized that he was not my rescuer or my savior but that he was my captor.

I started resisting and sabotaging the con. I began demanding we change our lives and find a way to settle down. I argued and stood up for myself.

Things seemed to start stabilizing. We got into a transitional housing program, got public assistance, and started saving toward a place to live. They got accepted into a vocational skills training program and I got enrolled in a high school completion program.

First his training fell through, then hers did. I increased my efforts in my program. They took our son for trips to the nearest rest area, almost 80 miles away, to work the con and bring in some money. I got scared and angry and issued an ultimatum.

Next he talked our public assistance worker to give him the full month’s allotment of cash assistance and disappeared for several days before we had to deposit money with the housing program or move out. Since I thought he was gone and our money was too, I made plans to move.

I withdrew the money we had deposited, minus the cleaning deposit, and went to meet up with a prospective roommate at the bar across from where we were staying. I heard our car and ran out to make sure I’d heard right. I saw him driving around the corner. So, I ran back to the building we’d been living in.

He showed up shortly after I did and in front of our son and my friend we argued and fought. I pushed and shoved and got pushed, shoved and slapped in return. I was overpowered and intimidated. Our son cried and asked in bewilderment why daddy was doing this. My reply was that he was an effing a**hole. I was on the floor with his dad on top of me at the time. I got hit in the face and asked what I had said. I repeated myself, only addressing him directly. Another blow to the face.

I twisted and wriggled around until I was on my stomach and he was on my back. I had this irrational thought that if I could keep him from my face, I would be okay. He grabbed my head and began wrenching and turning until my chin was going over my right shoulder. I thought my neck was going to snap.

Suddenly, he was off my back and I was free. I flew out of the apartment and down two flights of stairs, pounded on the manager’s door and called for her to call the police. I was then overcome with panic and guilt because I had left my son behind. Terrified they would be gone, I rushed back up the stairs, only to discover that my husband and my friend were leaving. I tried to stop him, thinking I could somehow hold him there until the police arrived. I was thrown, spine first, into an external corner and watched them leave as my son stood crying in the background.

I never saw my husband again.

However, those experiences and the remnant emotional, psychological, and physical damage and scars affected every other relationship I have had. Every conflict Jerry and I ever had or got into with each other while my two older children were growing up was colored by the real abuse I had previously experienced.

In my determination to not be in that situation again, I unconsciously chose a man who was my intellectual inferior and who could be easily manipulated. I chose someone who devoted himself to me and wanted to do for me and for my kids. I say chose, but it really was less of a choice and more of a drive to feel in control, loved, and secure.

What I went through with my husband was domestic violence: Isolation, imbalance of power, manipulation, intimidation, economic dependence, and physical violence.

What Jerry and I have had, the things we’ve said and done to each other, what we put my children through have definitely included aspects and symptoms of domestic violence. Many of the effects on my children are the same as that of children exposed to domestic violence. However, ours has been more complex that what domestic violence is assumed to be.

A lot of our conflict was driven by my broken and wounded psyche. Many misunderstandings and altercations happened because each of us had distorted self-images and were fighting our own internal certainties that the other was diminishing or disempowering the other. Each of us had experienced emotional and psychological abuse and neglect in our families of origin and in prior relationships. Neither of us were able to see, admit, or take responsibility for our own contributions to our mutual destruction and it’s impact on my children.

At the same time, it seemed that whenever we hit our bottoms in individual crises in each of our lives, when we were apart, we were the only ones there to offer care, support or nurture of the other.

Because things like domestic violence and abuse are perceived to be one thing, abusers are identified and classified as perpetrators and monsters while often their partners, the victims, are treated with an underlying attitude of contempt for allowing themselves to be in the situation. There is a tendency to not look past a checklist of behaviors and symptoms and try to diagnose every situation and person involved the same.

I was ignored and basically told I was in codependent denial when I tried to explain and identify the things that were not characteristic of domestic violence and those who perpetrate it. Whenever my depression and anxiety symptoms manifested, they were incorrectly identified as being a result of the domestic violence in my relationship with Jerry instead of being recognized as pre-existing conditions and possible factors in our relationship conflicts.

Instead of being examined and evaluated to determine if there was a mental health issue at play, Jerry has been accused, convicted, and looked down on as an abuser, end of story. Whenever I try to explain and identify the things that point to undiagnosed mental health or personality disorder issues, I am dismissed and belittled as being too much of a codependent who is willing to rationalize, justify, and excuse his inexcusable behavior.

Domestic Violence is real and something that men, women and children need to be protected against and rescued from. However, it is not the only thing happening in the lives of people who are in conflicted, unstable and sometimes violent relationships.

Sometimes things and people aren’t always how they seem.

Isn’t it ironic?

I find it very ironic that there are so many people talking about how there is a huge need for accessible mental health services and a need to provide nurture and care for the folks at risk of marginalization due to mental illness and personality disorders, when many of these same people forward memes with quotes suggesting that removing people from one’s life who bring pain and discomfort is what needs to be done on a personal level.

Another irony is how many people I know or suspect who are dealing with a mental illness or personality disorders, diagnosed or not, who all but demand that others around them accommodate and accept them, as they are, yet turn around and treat others with criticism, rejection, and judgment.

I find it ironic that in a country where we hold such contempt for politicians and the modern mockery of the legislative process, our cry is to the politicians to enact more legislation as the solution to senseless tragedy.

Certainly we need better access to healthcare in all it’s forms, especially mental health. Yes, we need to figure out better ways of preventing gun violence.

However, I fully believe that ignorance and faulty understandings about both mental illness and guns have played much bigger roles than we understand or realize in the stigma and marginalization surrounding mental health issues, as well as the sensationalization of gun violence.

Education is a critical component. I think that there are many, many early warning signs that someone could be at risk of developing a personality disorder or is manifesting symptoms of a mental illness which makes them a risk to themselves and others. I suspect, much of the time, these signs and symptoms may be unrecognized, ignored, or rationalized away by teachers, parents and others because most people don’t have an accurate understanding and perception of what’s going on.

I think that, in American society, we (and I include myself in this) have a tendency to blame and criticize others and hold them accountable to a standard of behavior and attitudes we assume should be universal which are anything other than standard or common.

There is a young man I know who is very intelligent and has developed a strong faith and belief in the God of love, forgiveness, and redemption – he has experienced personal transformation and had his life turn 180 degrees as a result of personal changes that came about in conjunction with his surrendering to faith. He attributes the unconditional love, belonging, and acceptance he experienced from a surrogate father figure as the turning point and key to letting go of who he used to be and becoming the person he is today.

Prior to his reconversion experience this young man exhibited sociopathic tendencies, had abused drugs, and was a master manipulator. These were survival and coping mechanisms he developed while growing up in a chaotic and unstable environment filled with anger and permeated with anxiety and despair. Sadly, not an uncommon experience.

The statistics for one growing up within the conditions he grew up are not pretty or good and he fell into them in expected ways. He grew up affected by mental illness, continual conflict, and occasional physical violence. The one who may have been the author of much of the destruction in his childhood, his mother, recognized the harm she had done and continued to do, despite her best efforts, and reached out at every opportunity to connect him with those better able to help him and show him what healthy love looks like.

His life is different now. He is different now. All because there were people who cared about him, who did not write him off.

On a personal level, this young man knows and acknowledges that people not giving up on him, people capable of showing him unconditional love, people able to let go of judgement from his past mistakes, and people able to differentiate him from his behavior and attitudes are what has had the most impact in his recovery and growth.

Yet, despite his personal experiences of redemption, healing, growth and change he exhibits many of the same attitudes, assumptions, and intolerance or judgement toward others which he experienced from members of our society who treated him with the prejudices and ignorance fostered by what is projected regarding people like him. This is partly due to the fact he still has more healing and growth to experience. He did not come to be the person he was in a year. He still has a lifetime of healing, growth, and learning.

I am not criticizing him. I admire him and I have hope that his future path will continue and he will become a powerful force for love and change.

I am just making the observation that even one who knows on a personal level how things like mental illness and violence impact and affect the personal, emotional, and psychological development, still treats some people exhibiting affected characteristics with negative assumptions and intolerance.

I believe if we, as a society, would care as much about educating our children in how to think as much as we care about training them on what to think, we could change the world we live in for the better. I think if we were more concerned with teaching our children how to handle trauma, disappointment, and painful feelings than we are with training them to succeed, regardless of the cost, the disparity between the haves and have nots would diminish.

I wonder if focusing on training our children how to get along and interact positively with others instead of instilling them with the competitive need to be right would create the atmosphere of cooperation and tolerance we say we want but seem unable to bring into being?

I wonder if teaching our children the principles of things from the Twelve Steps, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy before mental illness, personality disorders, and compulsive/addictive behaviors manifest might result in less to heal and recover from?