“It was time to teach them a lesson. Time to show them a thing or two.” ~ Stephen King (Carrie)

list25
Image from list25.com

So, I was watching “Gypsy’s Revenge” the other day, and if you aren’t familiar with this case, it’s about a girl (Gypsy Rose Blanchard) who grew up with her mom who had Munchausens by Proxy syndrome and convinced everyone in their lives that Gypsy had cancer, muscular dystrophy (requiring a wheelchair), epilepsy, eating problems (a feeding tube had to be used), eye and ear problems, asthma, a limited mental capacity, etc.  The list is LONG and the mom, DeeDee, was provided with tons of stuff:  money, a house, services, vacations (Disney land for one), and experiences because of her ‘sick’ daughter and the weight on her shoulders because of the care she required.  Now, here’s the thing:  Gypsy was fine.  Her mom made up these ailments for the attention and perks, and forced Gypsy, from a very young age, to go along with them.  There were threats, isolation (no friends, school, limited contact with neighbors, no unsupervised computer use), and tons of manipulation that made this ‘scheme’ work for a couple of decades.  Anyhoot, Gypsy had her boyfriend (a real winner 🙄) stab DeeDee so she could be away from her mom’s abuse, and to make a long story short, she was sentenced to 10 years because of the role she played in planning and then being present for the murder.

gypsy-rose-blanchard-and-mother--courtesy-investigation-discovery

OK.  I understand why Gypsy did what she did, and I don’t think she should have been sentenced to prison.  She was robbed of 20 years of her life and this abuse was physically horrible with surgeries not needed, meds that could have effects on her later in life, etc.  Yes, I understand that having her boyfriend kill her mom was wrong…but I can also sympathize with her situation.  Because of how sheltered she was, the amount of supervision DeeDee provided, and a lack of resources, she didn’t see any other way to escape.

But, I also believe that revenge figured into this as well.  See, she could have called social services and shown them how she could walk and was actually quite smart despite her lack of schooling.  Or, she could have told doctors when she was alone with them (which was rarely but did happen) or spoken to her bestie (an older neighbor girl who was permitted to talk to her).

So, here’s my question:  is it  OK to exact revenge on those who wronged you?  And if so, how much and in what circumstances?   Hmmmmm.

As I’ve written about before, I was sexually abused by a psychologist for 2 years.  I wanted revenge so badly after getting out of that situation and had fantasies about what I would do!  After all, an eye for an eye, right?  I wanted him to feel as demeaned as I did…as broken…as ashamed.  But how would I have done that?  I couldn’t give him a dose of his own medicine (or arsenic per se 😲) so him ever feeling close what I did became a moot point.  I guess I could have destroyed some of his property, and I’m sure that would have felt pretty good at the time; however, with my luck (and lack of any criminal know how, except underage drinking a few decades ago…sorry ma) I would have been caught and may not have been able to get a position as an educator.  OK…despite all of that though, would it have helped me to do something to pay him back for what was done to me?  Would it have lessened all of the pain I was feeling?  Make up for what I went through with him?  No.  It wouldn’t have.  Period.

b2ap3_thumbnail_honest-notes-from-children-22

Take ma’s ex who was physically abusive so long.  I think I speak for my sissy as well when I say I wanted someone to beat the shit out of him so he could get a taste of what he did to ma so many times.  I wanted him to cry.  Beg.  Suffer.  Understand what it’s like to be the victim for once, and not the perpetrator.  Part of me thinks it would feel so fucking good to see this happen, and then part of me wonders if I’d be able to stand watching something so violent.  Wouldn’t me having that done (Lord knows, I couldn’t do it with my scrawny muscles and being a shorty) put me on the same level as him?  Or, is it justified?

When J cheated on me, I wanted to ‘cheat back’ just to show him how horrible it feels to have a partner do that.  However, I came to understand that his ‘love’ for me wasn’t really there or he wouldn’t have felt a need to emotionally/sexually bond with another.  I’m a big believer you can only truly love one person at a time, and if there’s another person in the mix, you might just be an infatuation, need, or outlet for narcissism, etc.  He obviously truly loved this other woman, so I had to have been something else to him.  Why didn’t I revenge cheat despite the fact it wouldn’t have hurt him?  Because I would have felt degraded…humiliated…ashamed.  Look, I’m one of these old-fashioned gals (yes, I’m old, and I will never ever say something like “I’m 53 years young”…that bugs me to no end 🙄) who will not ever be with someone I’m not in love with.  Period.  To revenge cheat destroys that ‘value’ if you will, and the consequences to myself would have been just as horrible as J’s cheating in the first place.

1e68f4b1ece2000e9772bce254b63929--heartache-quotes-lets-go

Now, what about so-called little things?  Yes, I have sought revenge.  I have wanted to pay people back for hurt, embarrassment,  rejection, what have you.  So, in the case of J, I took my anger of his cheating out on him for a couple of years.  I know I was nasty at times…shrewish.  I know I said things that were completely inappropriate to the situation we were in at any given moment, and I’m ashamed of so many of them.  I also know that what I preach about forgiveness isn’t always what I practice.  He did apologize numerous times, but I had to have a release for my justified emotions…and that’s the way I chose to do it.  The thing was that every time I was horrible to him, I would say to myself:  “For fuck sakes, he deserves it!  He hurt you worse!”  And yes, he did.  But did that really justify my behavior continuing for so long…or even starting in the first place?  Hmmmmm.  And then the consequence?  We never moved forward in the healthy way we said we would since I simply couldn’t get all of my anger out despite his much better behavior.  Or to be more honest with myself, I didn’t choose to quit feeding my anger.

Sometimes, I take revenge out on myself, and I think so many of us do that, particularly those of us who are mentally ill and have skewed emotional reactions anyway.  After J broke up with me, I punished myself for a long while.  I blamed myself.  I put myself through a lot of personal torment since I knew what I had done was unnecessary.  I kept asking myself:  “If I wouldn’t have been so angry and revengeful, would we have stayed together and built something healthy?”  I don’t know the answer to that.  How about this one:  would he still have cheated?  Hmmm.  Maybe…maybe not.  After all, he cheated after I had treated him like gold the first time around.  So really, I was punishing myself for everything that happened, even the things that weren’t singularly my fault.

19260422_10158839556105082_6437091440112659084_n

I’m ruthless when it comes to my own behavior and words.  I ruminate over things I say and do, and punish myself much more harshly than I would punish another who did the same to me.  Why is that?  Why are our own expectations of behavior so much more stringent than what we expect from others?  Why do so many of us hold ourselves to higher standards?  Why do we settle for ‘less’ when we are telling ourselves to do ‘more’?

Having bipolar makes all of this even more difficult for me.  One of the effects of cycle changes, mixed mood episodes or being manic is irritability; it’s just one more of the wonderful symptoms I experience.  This irritability can quickly escalate into anger (or for some, even rage) and since those of us who are bipolar have issues with impulsivity and a greater lack of control over emotional expression, this escalation can be very difficult to contain.  There’s also side-effects from some mood stabilizers, like anger, anxiety and impulsiveness that can contribute even more to this.  😬

original-3972115-1
The Anger Iceberg was developed by John and Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute.

And here’s the thing with anger…often times when you express an emotion (anger is considered a secondary emotion since there’s usually another emotional catalyst beneath it such as frustration) it amplifies the emotion.  So, once anger is being ‘let out’, it can intensify quickly.  I think everyone has experienced that in their life at one time or another:  what starts out as a molehill quickly becomes a mountain.

You know, I’ve done really shitty things in my life and have hurt a lot of people.  Do I want those people to exact revenge on me?  Would that help me feel less guilty because I’d feel like I paid the price for my sins?  Or would it increase my feelings of remorse and shame and cause me to ruminate even more?  Would this revenge ensure I would take away lessons from the mistakes I’ve made…or have I already done that by changing my ‘bad’ behavior and moving forward the best I can?  Do those I hurt have a right to punish me?  Hmmmmm…

No matter what the answers are to these questions, I believe wanting revenge is a pretty natural part of being human.  None of us want to feel like we were used or betrayed, and matters like domestic violence can never be justified.  No wonder we want to take all the negatives that are a consequence of these things and put them on the one who caused them in the first place.  But really, who would it help in the long run?  Beating ma’s ex wouldn’t lessen the pain she endured for so long.  It would only keep R in the forefront of our lives (since no revenge against him could ever be enough) and that’s something ma doesn’t need.  I think that really, the best revenge comes in moving forward, being happy, learning a lesson, and letting go of the hurt.  That’s what helps us, grasshoppers…and it’s something we should all try to do more.

Kristi xoxo

 

“…But I Grew Strong, and I Learned How to Get Along.” ~ Gloria Gaynor

382

So, something happened last night and when it did, I was quite gobsmacked.  A friend and I were chatting about relationships, and she said, “You know the saying… no one wants a woman who has ever been abused.”

What?  I guess when she said that, 2 things quickly ran through my mind:  first, that a relationship with me is probably not advisable, and second, I am ‘dirty’ or ‘shameful’ for having been in abusive situations.

I guess I can understand the idea of a relationship not being the easiest thing with someone who has been abused…whether man or woman.  There is a lot of baggage we carry and although time can soften those memories or even push them down so far you aren’t really conscious of them, I know how easy it is for those to affect others.  My friend and I have been discussing trust lately and both of us have struggled with situations that have broken it, and let me tell you peeps, nothing breaks trust more than abuse.  Once that happens, and although you tell yourself again and again the next relationship is a new playing field, it’s easy to be wary of how the game is going to be played.

Take cheating.  Please.  Before J cheated on me the first time, I would ask him if he was talking to his ex.  He would look me in the eye, tell me a firm no, and also made me feel that questioning him was wrong because I had nothing to worry about.  And?  Those words meant nothing, because all along he was planning for the moment.  After, when we got back together, he said the same.  He had learned his lesson…saw how much it hurt me…and vowed, eye to eye and holding hands, it would never happen again.  The next day, it did.  Of course, through this all he was emotionally and verbally abusive to me.  In retrospect, which truly is so much clearer than when you are in the midst of something, I could see the purpose in that:  the worse I felt about myself, the more likely he could proverbially have his cake and eat it too.

The-shame-no-one-talks-about-in-sexual-abuse-1

How do you get past that?  How do you allow yourself, in a new relationship, to believe the person when they say the same?  Once you’ve been burned, how do you not assume that all stoves are hot?  It’s almost reflexive…an ‘instinctual’ reaction that has been created to protect you from this happening again.  It’s not that you are ‘blaming’ the new guy/gal for something they haven’t done.  It’s not that you don’t want to believe what they are reassuring you of.  It’s not that they have hurt you.  But unfortunately, our past experiences dictate so many of our future ones, and when something has made such a lasting impact on you, it’s hard to brush it aside.

Now, the idea you should never be with someone who’s been abused?  Hmmmm…gonna narrow your playing field, that’s for sure:  1:3 girls and 1:5 boys will be sexually abused by 18 (scary as fuck, isn’t it?), and about 3 million cases of child abuse are reported each year…and these are only the ones recognized and turned in for help.  So there are an awful lot of victims out there walking around as adults.

What upset me the most about the comment of never being an a relationship with someone who was abused made me feel disgraced.  Embarrassed.  As if I was at fault for what happened.  As if I could have stopped it anytime.

With J, it seems I should have been easily able too.  But like anyone who has been abused by a partner, once you have been manipulated, broken down emotionally, made to feel less than in every situation, it’s tougher than it sounds.  You see, I liken an abusers tactics to fishing (something I actually love to do):  the victim needs to be hooked and then played with so they don’t fight what’s happening.  That’s what abusers do.  They bait their hook based on what they see in you (vulnerability, sadness, loneliness) and use that to catch you and reel you in, all the while making you think you are in a better place.  But it’s not, because it’s a net where everything you wanted was just an illusion.  Then, abusers break down their victim.  It’s not as dramatic as cutting off your head and scaling you, but it’s damaging none the less.  Once you’ve been broken down to the very bottom of who you are, it’s very very tough to pull yourself up…or even believe you should try.  This is so hard for people who haven’t experienced abusive partner relationships to understand.

And then with the psychologist.  I was a teenager when he started sexually abusing me.  I had come to depend on him to where I trusted him with my life.  The power dynamic between a psychologist and client is very one sided, with the professional having all of the influence and advantage.  People seek out help because they are dealing with something that is insurmountable to face alone, and the person they seek help from becomes something of a guru.  A savior.  And once that’s been established, especially in a 15 year old and for 2 years, being able to see it any other way is almost impossible to do.  Then, to be told you owe them…that’s it’s going to be healing for both of you…that it puts you on a higher level than his other patients, is something I needed to hear at that point in my life.  It made me feel like I must be special, and that I must have some power over him too.  I mistakenly believed I was so much better than I had thought for him to see me in a sexual way.  That was a heady thing to someone who desperately needed that validation.

EDPgkS4XUAEdIYY
Britain’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

But it leaves a mark.  A scar.  Like a smudge across your face that everyone can see.  You perceive yourself as being different, because you are.  You’ve been through something that was dirty.  Wrong.  Degrading.  Humiliating.  Hurtful.  The feeling of powerlessness that goes along with such abuse stays with you, whether it’s been 5 or 35 years.  And since having a mental illness feels the same way in terms of feeling different (for lack of a better word), it’s a double whammy.  Having bipolar makes me more sensitive, emotional, more likely to ruminate, etc. so processing the abuse, and then putting it in a compartment to try to ensure it’s effects on new situations are minimal, is tough to do.

When ma was going through her divorce with R who had abused her, she would say how she never addressed it because of the shame it wrought inside of her.  I told her, time and time again, that the shame was on R, not her.  She was the victim.  Not the perpetrator.  I wish I could listen to my own words.

Those of us who have been abused already feel guilt, a sense of betrayal by those who have hurt us, feelings of stigmatization, and damage to our perceptions of our self-worth.   We don’t want to be seen different or damaged.  We want to be seen as survivors who have come through abusive situations with strength.  With lessons to share.  With an experience that allows for empathy.  With more compassion for all who have faced such dark periods in their lives.  Maybe others will never ultimately see it the way I do, but I think it’s admirable.

Kristi xoxo

P.S.  Wanna show me some love, peeps?  Just click on the FOLLOW button on the right! 🙂 xoxo

Oz the Gweat and Tewwible. (Stephen King)

So, in my sociology classes, we talk a lot about power and we define it as this:  getting your way despite resistance.  That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?  YOUR way DESPITE resistance.  Like when my son was a little guy and I’d tell him to clean his room.  He’d say NO or hem-haw (is this really a word?) around, and that’s when I’d say, “O, do it NOW.”  And, he’d do it.  My way…not his.  I had all the power (muahahaha)!

I don’t think I ever abused my power with O, although he might beg to differ.  Unfortunately, so many in power do abuse it.  I’m going to talk about something I never have before, when power was used against me in a way that damaged a piece of me.

When I was a freshman in high school, I was a bit chubby.  Puberty, fast food at lunch, lots of pop…and a few people made fun of me for this.  I wanted to fit in, so I started to diet.  Harmless, right?  Except, as we now know, eating disorders are often comorbid with bipolar and it wasn’t long until I wasn’t controlling the diet, the diet was controlling me.  At the same time, I started exercising incessantly:  running up to 8 miles or so a day, doing aerobics (very popular in the 80’s…thank you Richard Simmons), walking home from school at the fastest pace I could, taking PE seriously for once in my life, and before I knew it, I had lost all the weight I was hiding under my bib overalls, and then some.  I went from about 130 (I’m 5’4″) to about 105 pounds in a couple of months.  The lowest I got was around 97, and that’s when mom noticed something was wrong.  She would try to get me to eat at home, but believed the stories I told her about how much I was eating at school and my friends house.  This went on for some time, and by my Jr. year, I was seriously starting to cycle through periods of depression and mania as well. Ma knew I needed help,so I started seeing Dr. G.

During the first few appointments, I wouldn’t even talk.  I didn’t want his help because I knew that meant him making me eat, and since anorexia had taken hold, I sure as hell didn’t want that.  His office was nice and cozy…a bit dim.  He filled my silences with stories, advice, and something else:  the promise that his office was my safe place…where I could share anything and everything and he would be OK with that.  With me.  That ‘unconditional regard’ if you will.

1677e11b644204f5d851e435d9aeac4f
Sigmund Freud Museum, London

So, as I started seeing him less as an enemy, and more of an ally, I started to open up.  Little by little I let him into my life.  At the same time, my boyfriend of 2 years broke up with me (who could blame him since I was such a hot mess) and I was so overwhelmed by my emotions, I ran my car into a tree.  I was trying to kill myself.

When I was able to get to my grandparents and tell them what I did, they called my mom who called Dr. G.  He wanted to see me ASAP, even though it was nighttime, and I quickly went to his office.  I was able to pour out all of what was inside, and he talked to me for hours.  He saved my life.  And he didn’t just save my life in terms of wanting to die, he also saved me from the worst of anorexia.  He became the most important person in my life, bar none.

During the end of my Jr. year, mom’s insurance ran out and it would no longer pay for psychological care, and mom couldn’t afford the price on her own.  I was devastated.  I truly had no idea how I would be able to function without Dr. G.  At what was to be our last appointment, I tearfully told him of my predicament.  He thought for a second, patted my leg, and told me not to worry about it, we’d figure something out.

WOW!  This guru…my savior…my friend…my ‘love’ in so many ways…wanted to keep seeing me!  I was important enough that he would make that happen!  My world suddenly brightened.

When I went back the next week, Dr. G. started rubbing my legs as I sat by him…started hugging me…started touching my shoulders.  Part of me was scared.  I was 17 and very unsure how to handle what was happening by this 56 year old man.  But, he was the doc…the head of a Behavioral Sciences department at a well respected university…the one who knew everything.  So, I didn’t say a word and allowed him to continue.

By our 3rd ‘unpaid’ appointment, the touching started to include my breasts and my bottom, with a lot of kissing too.  Omg.  Was this man falling in love with me?  ME?  Skinny, mentally ill, homely on the cusp of ugly, bullied, acne riddled me?

Finally one evening (all of my appointments were now at night since I ‘wasn’t paying’), he told me he had needs and he just knew, because of how wonderful I am, that I could fulfill them.  That way, he said, we’d both be helping each other, like a team.  And, like he also pointed out, he was still helping me.  He was right about this; when he wasn’t pawing at me, his advice and acceptance still held true.  So, that was the first night he had sex with me.  It was horrible.  There I was, on his 20 year old carpet with no one in the building, crying the entire time because I was so confused.  To deal with that confusion, I started to delude myself into thinking he was in love with me.  That we would be married someday (after he divorced his wife) and would live happily ever after in our perfect little house.

Deep down I knew how wrong this was.  I felt so dirty…so ‘shamed’ in a way.  After he’d have sex with me every week, he’d immediately clean up in his private bathroom (connected to his office) but wouldn’t allow me too.  It was ‘just for him.’  Our talks became less and less, and the sex became more and more.  Not just in terms of occurrances, but in terms of what he expected from me too.  This dynamic lasted for 2 entire years, until I met Hubby 1.  Once this happened, I stopped seeing Dr. G all together.

Long story short, after Hubby and I got married after a couple years of dating, we got divorced 4 years later.  I knew I was very much to blame since I had a LOT of baggage from Dr. G that Hubby just couldn’t handle.  When we were in the process of the divorce, I went to see a counselor.  We started talking about why I was there, and when I told him about this sexual relationship, he stopped me and said:  “I know who it was.  It was Dr. G.”  I was gobsmacked.  How would he know that?  “Look,” he said, “I’ve had around 7 women in here over the last few years with the same story.”  What?  NO!  That couldn’t be!  I was stunned.

I told my mom the whole story, as well as a couple of other people who encouraged me to take him to court since this was not only a case of sexual abuse, but it was highly unethical for a psychologist to do with a patient!  I went back and talked to that counselor and he said this:  “Who would believe you?  You were a teenager and now you’re a divorced woman with a documented mental illness (anorexia) and he’s a doctor and well respected man.”  ‘Nuff said.  (This counselor was an asshole too.)

angry animal big carnivore
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

He was right.  I couldn’t go up against him.  None of his victims could.  And I knew he understood that.  With the power he had had over us, we were easy prey.  And, with the help and attention he had given us, there was a feeling of culpability, at least with me, since I believed he loved me in some way.  I never wanted the sexual relationship.  It disgusted me every time it happened.  It made me feel used and dirty, but I owed him.  Or so I believed at that time.

Dr. G died a year after my son was born.  It brought me closure knowing he couldn’t hurt anyone else, but I still think about him every once in a while.  Having such sexual power used against me at a ripe age when I’m trying to figure out sexual relationships anyway was so damaging…so confusing.  I’m wary of power now.  It’s hard for me to trust those above me.  It’s hard for me to sometimes understand that not everyone in power is going to use it against me.  Hurt me with it.

On the other hand, he reinforced in me to be a pleaser.  Someone to just acquiesce to what’s being asked of me, because in some way I must owe it to them.  I must deserve it.  I think that’s why I’m always so quick to take the blame when someone hurts me.  Why I’m so quick to apologize.  So quick to feel bad.  Saying “I’m sorry” is almost a mantra to me.

Looking back, I now understand that Dr. G was more sick than I have ever been.  He was a sociopath.  A user.  A narcissist.  He did what he did because he could.  He used his power as a predatory trap.  He knew how to bait that trap, and he knew how to kill his prey once they were caught.  I was very easy prey.

Power is a heady thing.  It can be used for so much good, and it can be used to destroy.  Isn’t it scary that one thing can have such different consequences depending upon who holds it in their hands?  And isn’t it sad that this one man used it in both ways.  This man, who more anyone, should have known better.

Kristi xoxo