Tuesday, June 19, 2007

You've Got To Have....

Yes, friends.

And the one I've had the longest is Anne. The attached picture was taken probably around 1962. Anne is still a cute, little cherub and I'm still a....witch. What is most notable in this picture is that not only is Anne still in my life, but so is that piano we are sitting on. It was the first piece of furniture my parents brought new in 1951 and it is still in my living room, below the same picture that adorns the wall behind us. There is something soothing in the constancy, especially when a good part of my adult life was filled with abuse.

For those of you in abusive relationships, although I've gone through it, I simply can not tell you what to do. You need to figure that out on our own, through your own power. Those steps you take to free yourself, whether it's working things out with your mate or divorcing, will give you ultimate strength to deal with what is meeting you down the road. The main thing is to GET HELP and GET IT FAST.

I don't really have bad feelings for my ex, WAM (as he is nicknamed) any longer. After 6 years of being free from him, I traveled to find myself again for my own benefit, as well as my children. But it was a long, hard, tearful road. I consistently took 2 steps forward and 4 backwards, but I slowly made progress. I was lucky to have a close knit group of friends, including Anne, who were there for me all the way. I learned something very, very important from all of them who patiently listened, who comforted, who prayed for me and also who slapped me upside the head when I needed it. I learned from them by example what a truly wonderful and devoted friend is. There is no way I could thank them enough.

I was also lucky to find wonderful, supportive counselors who helped me. To all of them, friends, my cousins, counselors, physicians, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude.

At this point, it might seem strange that as I look back, I feel like a schizophrenic. I laugh at the situations as I feel sorry for who I was then. Here, for example, was normal dinnertime conversation with WAM:

“Are you going to eat that? Why did you make that? You know it’s really not healthy. And why aren’t the kids eating that? You should not let them eat peanut butter sandwiches at dinner. That’s not a meal. It’s unhealthy. They should be made to eat what we are eating. You let them get away with murder. If they turn out undisciplined, that’s gonna be on your head, not mine. I’d make them eat the stuff on the table. (Breath) Didn’t you kind of take a big serving of that stuff? Are you going to exercise to work that off? It’s probably got a lot of calories and god knows how much fat. You should eat off a smaller plate. You know they say if you eat off a smaller plate you get full faster. We should eat more healthy. Fish is good, but I don’t like fish. And I don’t like salads or vegetables, but let's try to eat more healthy. (Breath) Didn’t you say something was wrong with your mother's liver or something before she died? Is that why she got a big belly? You know, your belly is getting big like hers. Did you ever have a blood test to check your liver?”

You think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. I saw Dustin Hoffman in that movie, and I realized I had the perfect name for Mason: Rain-WAM.

I know what you're thinking: why didn't you tell him to shut the f*** up? Because he controlled by threats, by the daily diminishing of my self esteem and confidence, by creating fear, by a horrid and vile temper. It was my job to quiet the waters, shut up, and keep the playing field as clear as possible. Anything could turn him nasty. Baseball team losing. Cut off in traffic. Revisiting some memory from his childhood. Didn't matter. I was the closest thing in his vicinity (because most people -- friends and family included -- had deserted the playing field long ago), and someone had to pay for his misery. That was me.

Now trust me here: all men are NOT like this. My father wasn't. Sam, my significant other, isn't like this. My son is not like this. What makes a man a mean, cruel, vindictive person? I'm not sure. He was just damaged in some way and was totally unable or unwilling to ask for help or accept the help he was offered. Accepting help was a sign of weakness....and weakness just wasn't allowed.

Alcohol was a crutch. Medication was a crutch. Religion was a crutch. Cigarettes were a crutch. Should you use any of these for relief, you were subject to ridicule and berating. As a "man", I guess you were supposed to take "everything" and then go home and beat your wife and scream at your kids. If you were a woman under stress, well, too bad. Life sucks.

I'm not a doctor, only a victim. You need to protect yourself and your children. The problem with victimization is that depression goes along with it and makes you utterly powerless to make any decision in your own behalf. Break the cycle...and get help. Use every resource at your disposal -- friends, family, counselors, physicians.

I can't tell you it'll be easy....but I realized I was worth it with a little help from my friends....and so are you.


Anonymous said...

As the little cherub in the photo, and as one who endured an abusive relationship as well, I have this to add to my friend's important, honest and passionate post. Once you get out, you are NO LONGER A VICTIM. Erase that word from your vocabulary of self-definition. When you get out, when you start over, you cross the bridge from "victim" to proud "survivor." Just as words can hurt, words can heal. And ol' Lara Angelina here is a survivor. She had the courage to see what was going on through her own eyes, not his, to reclaim her life and to save her family. That takes strength. That, ladies and gentleman, is not the behavior of a "victim."

redcat said...

You know, Lara....I admire you. You have strength, you have wisdom, you have character, you have understandy, you have empathy for others. When I get there, we'll compare war stories, although I think your war is far worse than mine was/will be.

Love ya lots.