Reflections of Abuse

On June 7, 2010…

…my day began with an explosive argument about my (then) boyfriend turning off my alarm, making me late for work. It grew when I needed him to move his car so I could leave, and began running when I habitually locked the apartment door behind me so that he would have to use his key to get back inside. I was a quarter-mile up the road when he texted me that our almost two-year relationship was over because I was so inconsiderate. I was counting out the service desk tray in the cash office while I left him a voicemail telling him that I didn’t care what he did – that I didn’t care about him – that I just couldn’t move out the day after my mail finally showed up to the right place. I was setting up the Lotto drawer when he texted me he had changed the locks and I was working on the media bags when he texted me a picture of his application for a restraining order to have me removed from the apartment – without any of my belongings. At approximately 1 p.m., I attempted to break into my own apartment with help from a friend. My cat was inside. My wallet, my identification, everything I owned of value; I had been running late for work and walked out of the house without anything but my car keys and my cell phone. I desperately banged on our neighbors’ door, begging them for our landlord’s phone number. He couldn’t possibly be aware of what was happening, I’d lived there for more than two months, I had rights. My landlord informed me that the apartment was my boyfriend’s and he could do as he wished; my landlord was an officer with the local police, so I had no one else to call. Frantically, I decided to go to family court and request an emergency order to get my belongings from the apartment.

When I arrived at family court, it was a very different experience than when I had been there previously. It’s an emotionally charged building where very little positive happens. The darkest moments in people’s lives happen in that building. The summer before, during my paralegal internship, I had watched a woman sign off on her parental rights. Watched as the bailiffs yelled at her to stand when she physically couldn’t hold herself up anymore outside the courtroom. So, when I arrived there, dressed in dirty jeans and a tank top, I had only been there before as a clean, hopeful paralegal intern. The difference that made was incredible. People I remembered talking to during my internship, briefly asking them for directions, had been nice, helpful, kind. As a manic, dirty, overtired and inappropriately dressed 21-year-old, their responses were short, angry, inconvenienced. It all seemed to punctuate the opinion that people whose lives are in shambles obviously have done something very wrong and don’t deserve to be treated humanely in their moments of greatest need. I was told that there was no such order that might allow me access to my belongings without police escort and a fifteen minute time limit, but if I wanted, I could file for my own restraining order, and request that the court include an order regarding my property. So, I did it.

Mutual restraining orders and three hours later, I was literally crying in front of the parking attendant because I had no way to pay him. I didn’t even have my driver’s license. Three years later, I’m still grateful for the small kindness that person showed me by letting me leave without paying for parking.

 

On March 28, 2013…

…I received a checklist of the behaviors associated with different kinds of abuse. Those mutual restraining orders came at the end of a twenty-one month relationship which embodied a lot of that checklist. I wanted to save this entry for the three year anniversary of the beginning of my recovery, I want to share this now – yesterday, even. I spend a lot of time trying not to think about that relationship or who I let myself become while I was participating in it. I spend almost as much time wondering how I let myself fall into that situation at all. I spend a lot of my days blaming my father, even more blaming myself. What’s really warped is how little time I spend blaming my abuser. From the moment we started dating, my job performance suffered. Everything snowballed. One moment he was bringing me flowers while I was at work, I offered to help him buy a new computer and then before I knew what was happening, we’d had to give away a puppy because he was beating it, I’d been involved in a fight that resulted in me being forcibly pushed from an apartment in the cold at 4 am in early March cold without a jacket after kicking someone across a room in self-defense, and everyone who had been my support system had essentially disappeared.

Why I stayed for as long as I did probably sounds ridiculous to anyone who knows what a stable, loving relationship looks like: I thought that was how it worked. I thought that if I could stay with him throw the time it took for us to become invested with each other’s lives, through all of the ups and downs, then we would just be okay and happy. I had this bizarre vision of myself when I was in my seventies, glowingly happy, reminiscing about what a headache he was when we started dating.

He left me several times, that was part of the abuse. He would create an excuse, something I supposedly did wrong, and leave me. He’d then tell me that if I did X to make it all better, we’d be okay. And we usually were, until the next incident. Every time it escalated. The cycle just kept repeating: Good Dan, Crazy Irrational Mean Dan, Abandonment, Atonement, Honeymoon. It didn’t even occur to me that there was a problem until he left a hand print on my arm after almost two years of this insanity. Crazy was normal. I didn’t really even get it after we had mutual restraining orders. The clarity came about a week later when he tried to make up with me, but refused to drop the restraining order. He was intentionally trying to lure me into committing a felony. It clicked. And I’d like to say I never looked back.

The injuries inflicted from this period in my life are deeper than I think I even know. I tolerated abuse at work because of the abuse I suffered in private. I sacrificed friendships which were immensely important to me. I shot, buried, and built a concrete slab over top of my self respect. Trust is difficult. Love is terrifying. Separation is torture as a result. When anyone says they’ll call or be somewhere at a certain time and I don’t hear from them, I usually believe that I’m honestly never going to hear from them again. That was always the threat. There are days when I’m not sure every person in my life isn’t going to wake up and decide I’m not worth their time. I didn’t cry for a year and now I cry if I remind myself that I’m in an actually loving relationship.

The best and worst of it is that there are days when I feel so strong I could fix the entire world, but there are other days when I feel so broken that I’m sure everyone can tell without even looking at me.

Parenting Resources are Dumb

Disclaimer: I am currently quite sick, so this post is probably going to be a little ranty and fever-dream-esque. I apologize. Also, I am not a parent, although I do work as a substitute teacher for grades k-12 so I deal with the nuclear fallout of the worst behaviors a child can exhibit on a daily basis (which I really like to blame on parents, sorry – not sorry).

Source: blogs.babble.com

Wrong kind of fever

This morning I saw an article in which a woman talks about how she (proudly) doesn’t make her son share. Immediately, I was intrigued. I read the article thinking maybe she would have some legitimate argument for refusing to encourage a behavior that (despite being completely neglected by our society at large: “No, it’s my giant pile of money you can’t take it away, what if I need a fifth private jet?!”) is one of the most important for creating a considerate human being. Since I’m in my mid twenties, I know a lot of new parents and I know that they’re new parents because they inundate my Facebook feed with pictures of their spawn on an obnoxiously regular basis. I’m honestly not sure whether their accounts are even theirs anymore or if they’re morphing into their children’s. Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. So, this woman, who seems to be one of those “parental resource” parents who seems to think that parenting is rocket science, explains that she doesn’t make her child share because that’s not how the world works. Because, that’s the way you really want to be raising your kids. If some of the slimiest people in the world behave this way, I’m going to teach my son to do it, too. She may as well just sit the kid in front of a T.V. and play Wall Street on loop. I mean, fuck it, GREED IS GOOD, right?

Fuck yeah, baby.

This brilliant woman explains her point with two examples: one where the child owned the toy and one where the child was using a toy at a play-place-thing. In the first case, alright. You buy your kid a toy, take him to the park, and some kid he doesn’t know walks (toddles? crawls?) over and starts demanding to play with it, tell that kid to bugger off. I mean, it might make more sense to assist your toddler in the process of turning that particular situation into a way to meet that other child and play together “Oh, hi. What’s your name? Tommy? That’s a great name, this is Timmy. Timmy say hi. Now, Tommy, this is Timmy’s toy and I don’t think he really wants to share right now, but if you want, you can bring your toy over here and maybe you can play together.” Instead, this woman, apparently, just decided to sit there and watch her kid ignore the other kid, opting to let her child only really learn how to be antisocial in a social setting, because, again, fuck other people. We want our kids to be a little more like Patrick Bateman.

Source: www.badbabyinc.com

That’s one tough baby.

The second example, which I would consider rude behavior from anyone of any age, presents a scenario in which her son was in a setting where the toys were communal, i.e. shared and  not owned by anyone who was using them. It sounded like the toddler equivalent of a library (if libraries were full of toys and you were allowed to jump on things). Anyway, her son was playing with a red car (I think it was like one of those cars you move with your feet, Flintstone’s style?) for an hour and a half, during which time another child really wanted to play with that same toy. Apparently this other child was being rather pushy about also being able to use the toy and, again, this woman proudly watched from the sidelines as her son just kept playing with that toy, that he didn’t own, for as long as he wanted even though everyone else in the room had just as much claim to it as he did. Since children learn through play, I’m going to go ahead and say that her son just learned that if he’s in a public situation where everyone has equal claim, he has every right to hog something for as long as he wants, regardless of who else wants or needs to use it. If we return to the library comparison, this basically explains those people who sit on Facebook for a few hours when every library computer is full and you really need to print something for your class which starts in ten minutes, but can’t. And I think we can all agree that those people are dicks.

 

Source: www.fanpop.com

Sharing your smile means you’re giving away your soul.

Based upon another article I read, and some discussion with a parent whose “parenting resources” encourage this method of raising children, not forcing children to share is supposed to encourage some development of an intrinsic desire to share things. Again, I’m going to emphasize that I’m not a parent, but it seems like parenting is mostly common sense and the crap talked about in this article explaining this method parenting assumes that the parents reading it are robots who have no idea what a human parent does:

“But in order to relax and thrive, children need a few more vital things. Blue shovels and green balloons aren’t on this list. My list of what a child needs to thrive goes something like this:

  • The daily opportunity to connect and be relaxed with someone who cares
  • Emotional warmth and welcome
  • Respect for his intelligence
  • Time for play
  • Lots of affection
  • Frequent opportunities to laugh together with others
  • Frequent opportunity to cry, in the shelter of someone’s arms, when hurt feelings arise
  • Information about what is happening and why
  • Limits—enforced without violence—that promote safety and respect”

To summarize, be nice to your kids, respect and empathize with them appropriately, and consistently set limits. Oh, and don’t hit. I’m pretty sure this whole article is based loosely upon the idea that empathy is necessary to create a functional adult who is able to create and maintain healthy relationships. What I think this article fails to understand is that empathy is learned from the moment a child is born and it is primarily learned by mimicking the actions of the child’s primary caregiver. You know how when you talk to a baby you make all kinds of exaggerated faces? Yeah, that’s your instincts kicking in helping you teach the kid emotions and how to exhibit them properly. Everyone does it, unless they had parents who were robots or missing or completely incapable, but we all have the intrinsic memory of how our parents taught us. This applies to all parenting, by the way, (and how we choose our partners, but that’s a totally different rant), so as long as you mean well, show consistency, and have the goal of teaching your child to be nice, the rest is probably going to fall into place.

Source: www.weakstream.us

It’s okay, they’re empathy bots.

However, there are behaviors we all exhibit simply because it’s polite – they’re called manners – and sharing has a lot to do with being polite. Sure, there are situations where you want to share things because you genuinely care about the people you’re sharing with because they matter to your life and it would ruin your day if they were unhappy. There are also situations where it’s just plain rude not to consider the needs of the complete strangers around you (like giving up your seat on the subway for the old dude with the walker or the woman who’s nine months pregnant and looks like she’s about to pass out). Hopefully, you have the empathy to know that it might suck for them to be standing, but if no one ever taught you that sometimes you need to put other people’s needs above your own minor convenience, you’re probably not going to act on it.

Healthcare and Invincible Twenty-somethings

I know that nationalized health care is an issue of serious contention. People who are lucky enough to have health care provided by their employers without Obamacare seem to live in this bubble which makes them think that anyone who holds a job without that particular benefit is doing something wrong with his or her life. It usually sounds something like, “Maybe they should get a real job.” Perhaps if you’re lucky enough to finish college before the age of 23 (which is when pre-Obamacare you were thrown off of your parents’ insurance) and you were lucky enough to get a full-time job that includes benefits as soon as you graduated, you think that people who didn’t manage accomplish those things did so intentionally. So, I’m going to tell everyone a little secret: No one I know has ever turned down a job that offered benefits to work a job that didn’t. There are some fields (free-lance musicians, substitute teachers, mechanics, half of the people who work in hospitals, cashiers) which involve working 40 or more hours a week, pay minimum or barely above minimum wage, and offer no medical benefits. So, if we’re going to argue that small businesses can’t afford to provide benefits, so we can’t require them to, what are these people supposed to do when they get sick? Stand on a street corner and beg for money? Mortgage their houses into default and then live on the street? (Ironically, I’m pretty sure the only people who make enough to pay for private health insurance already receive it as benefits through their employers).

When my best friend graduated from college in 2010, she was staring down the barrel of a very large health insurance coverage bill. It was the program available through New York State and I don’t remember the exact figure, but I remember thinking it was a pretty unreasonable number for something intended to be purchased by people whose jobs were somewhere between the poverty level and a job that would just provide complementary health care. (I think it was about what my car insurance bill is, and that’s about $4,000.00 per year). This particular friend happened to be dating someone who landed a particularly good job as soon as he graduated at a chain store and managed to set up an interview for her to be an assistant manager (even though she had no real experience in that field and her degree was completely unrelated), so she got that job and subsequently never had to figure out how to pay the absurd amount of money required to keep health insurance.

At the time, when I was comparing the cost to my car insurance bill, all I could think was: owning a car is a voluntary expense, public transportation exists, there are other options; the only situation in which health insurance is completely unnecessary is if you’re dead – life isn’t optional otherwise.

About a year later, I spent six months without health coverage. I suffer from hypothyroidism (which, untreated, can result in me slipping into a coma), as well as bilateral cubital tunnel syndrome. These are both chronic conditions and due to ongoing issues with my health coverage (for reasons completely unrelated to politics), they continue to be poorly managed, but for six months, I had no choice other than to just pray I would be okay – I didn’t have 2 grand laying around to just hand to the state. I consider myself lucky to have a father who works for a union which provides health insurance, even if I don’t have complete access to the information I need to properly use that insurance.

Tonight, a friend of mine posted this status on Facebook: Officially can’t hear a thing out of my right ear. This may be an annoyance to anyone but to a musician, this is NOT OK. Health pros on my fb feed please help 😦 visit to the doctor or just decongestants?

It’s a pretty typical display of invincible twenty-something behavior. We’re a demographic notorious for analyzing whether or not something is serious enough to seek legitimate medical attention. We share prescriptions and diagnose ourselves. It’s considered something of a normalcy, but if we think about the reason what it is and why this has become so normalized, it’s really disturbing. If your child were suddenly complaining she couldn’t hear out of her right ear, you’d rush her to the emergency room, right? It could be a symptom of anything ranging from an ear infection to a brain tumor. There would be no question that this is a serious problem. For someone who has been without health insurance or who has no idea whether medical bills will be affordable, suddenly, your bank account is more important than your health. Being alive and fully functioning is fine and dandy, but it’s a trade-off. You sacrifice quality of life in one way to achieve a satisfactory quality of life in another.

I’m not saying that it’s necessarily fair to require people to pay other people’s medical bills (if that’s even how truly nationalized health care would work), but I am saying that it’s even more unfair for people to literally have to choose between their health and having a roof over their heads. What’s the point of being able to hear if you’re just going to starve to death after you pay your medical bills?

 

If you can forgive me…

…a little literary self-indulgence:

I find myself tripping over the female writers of the past. The immense weight of their skill and talent, too powerful to be ignored by a readily dismissive society – how can I ever hope to make even a fraction of the mark they did? I am altogether inspired and discouraged by those who precede me.

And in case anyone has been wondering, regular posting will resume next week. It’s midterm week and I’m so overwhelmed, there is no cliche sufficient to describe it.

Milestones and Achievement Whores

During the past week, this blog has hit a few milestones: 10 likes, 250 views (there’s no meta achievement for 250 views, so does it actually count?!), and even though it doesn’t actually tell me unique visitors, I’m going to pretend this blog has been viewed by one hundred unique and special people.

Now, it’s time for a confession. I am, unforgivably, inexorably, uncomprehendingly, eternally, now, and forevermore an achievement whore. I will play games for no other reason than because they have achievement points. I like having a score system. I like to know who is winning, and if it’s a game which has no score, obviously that’s what the achievement points are actually supposed to be. For this reason, steam games, xbox games, and similar systems which award you achievement points outside of the game and are quite difficult to track in-game are unspeakably frustrating to me. Translation? I’m a really, really lazy achievement whore. I want all of the achievements, but I want a convenient handy-dandy way to track which ones I still need, a complete guide for how to do them, and someone to hold my hand and spoon feed them to me. This is probably why I enjoy Blizzard games as much as I do. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating.

Logo of Blizzard Entertainment

Fellow Achievement Whores, bow to your master.

Sure, there are some achievements which are really self-explanatory (like the ones for Triple Town, which is a game I picked up during one of those Steam sales for $4.00 or something and is surprisingly – okay, not at all surprising – addicting for something intended to be an iOS game). The self-explanatory achievements are, however, usually also extremely easy to get, so everyone has them and freebies don’t count when you’re trying to WIN. This is the part of the blog where my boyfriend runs screaming from the room and thanks his lucky stars he figured out I’m too irrationally competitive for any sane person to cope with. So, I don’t want achievements which are easy, I want a challenge. Confusing since I just said I want them spoon-fed by angels while I have my feet massaged and a robot plays my game for me, right? Yeah, I know, I make absolutely no sense.

Young person playing with a GameCube

In place of a robot, I suppose my hypothetical future offspring will suffice.

If it isn’t challenging, we both know I’m going to be bored in about 5 minutes and find something else to do because I have the attention span of a toddler. (Relax, guys, there’s enough of me for everyone. I know I sound like one hell of a catch. Come on, who doesn’t want an attention deficit irrationally competitive obsessive gamer in his life?) I digress. Wait, where were we?

Oh, that’s right. I want achievements which are easy to understand, but difficult to execute, require no outside involvement from someone else (but with the option to have help if I want it), and which will allow me to easily track which I still need to complete. In other words, I like a meta system in which you get points which are completely arbitrary based upon completing objectives which have absolutely nothing to do with the actual game play and which no one else in their right mind would waste their time doing because I really believe that arbitrarily awarded points are a way to score yourself against other gamers because I have a compulsive need to simultaneously HAVE THEM ALL and WIN.

Screenshot of Pokemon Destiny

I played Pokemon as a kid. I know how this works.

No, seriously, someone actually likes having me around all the time. Weird, right?

But suddenly it would come to her, If he were with me now what would he say?-some days, some sights bringing him back to her calmly, without the old bitterness; which perhaps was the reward of having cared for people; they came back in the middle of St. James’s Park on a fine morning

– Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway

Homework

I find that my desire to write for my blog skyrockets when I’m supposed to be writing a paper. Perhaps, I need to find something else which requires my writing prowess so that I may enjoy writing term papers. Anyone want me to draft a lease for them?