Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 13: Courage and Determination

A flood of emotions are overwhelming me as I write this. Today I attended what I thought was going to be a simple school outing, little did I know today I was going to be taught the lesson.
The district in which I work holds a track and field event for the 5th graders as a way to round out the year and give them the opportunity to see friends and show off all the hard work they have been doing over the school year. I attended in hopes of cheering on some of my co-worker's children and getting a chance to get out of the stuffy office for a little while, no real intention of enjoying anything other than the sun and cool breeze.

Little did I know some real life inspiration was happening right in front of me! I watched student after student= take their place at the starting line, the sound of the gun signaled the start of the race...suddenly a flood of cheers overcame the bleachers. 300 students began to cheer on one another even if they didn't know that student personally. "Come on you can do it, you got this, you're doing awesome" reigned over the crowd. In this moment it made no difference if they were friend or foe, they were a team! Every kid that ran had a cheerleader, even the ones who lagged behind had another student cheering them on to success. The amount of love and respect for one another was amazing!

I happen to love photography so I decided to take a few snap shots and offer them to the parents in case they were too preoccupied to focus on the camera. I will admit, I was only haphazardly taking photos myself due to the fact that I was consumed by the cheering and electricity happening around me. So as I got back to my office I sat down to my computer to edit the photos to be sent out in emails. Scanning the photos one stood out immediately. It was a photo of one little girl. As I zoomed in on the photo I could see the agony in her face as she was trying so hard to continue on the long, demanding race she was chosen to run. Her eyes were red as if she were fighting back tears, sweat ran down her forehead, her posture was hunched forward in utter fatigue...she was in last place. I saw the pain in that photo and thought "I just wanted to get out there and save her". I wanted to climb that fence and take all that pain away. I wanted to run next to her and cheer her on so she knew, although at the end of the pack she was not alone. I saw her struggle and fight her way through the last quarter of the race never giving up, crossing the finish line to a crowd of encouragement.

So why would this bring tears rather than pride for her? I draws out the sadness in me when I see her pain, I can relate. Not that I run marathons, but that I have been physically to the edge and felt like I couldn't go any further. Like I wanted to just collapse right there and never get back up. I have felt alone, at the back of the pack. As if I was forgotten cause everyone was to busy to wait or too occupied to notice. I have felt alone, struggling to keep myself upright and push through with no one there to cheer me on. It is lonely, frightening, and the hardest place to dig down deep and capture all that you are and push on.
This photo...this little girl...she gives me the encouragement to do just that; push on and over come. This little girl was the frightened little girl inside of me, and she made it! She concurred, beaten and alone but she did it! And so can I! At the end loving arms were there to embrace her and welcome her back. When I finish this journey of recapturing my strength I know there will be many loving arms to welcome me back too!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Day 12: A day panic free!

Yesterday was day 1 of panic free! Over the past few weeks I have been exhausting every possible reason for the way I feel. Everything other than panic/anxiety. I have seen neurologists, dietitians, general practitioners, cardiologists and chiropractors. Sounds like a severe case of hypochondria right?...

Well yes and no. I was asked a few weeks ago what I needed to be able to surrender to the anxiety. After pausing a moment I responded by saying "I need to know these physical symptoms are not something bigger, more devastating". You see, for years I have been told I suffer from PTSD. Well not one clinician bothered to tell me why and how they came to that conclusion. No extensive testing had been done, no real investigation other than me sharing my assault and them drawing a conclusion. For four years I walked around feeling like these clinicians have just swept all my concerns under a blanket diagnosis with out bothering to research it or rule out other possibilities. I walked around with a feeling of mistrust in those doctors and a disbelief that something that could never be proven with black and white conclusions could be so powerful.

PTSD or panic/anxiety seems to me to be a ghost. Doctors can't find it in a lab result, neurologists can't find it in brain activity or sleep patterns, dietitians can't pinpoint is due to a lack of nutrients. No one seems to be able to explain where they come from, what trips the anxiety/panic switch. There is no explanation as to why I begin shaking while putting laundry away or singing along with the radio in my car. "It just does" is the only explanation. Well let me tell you, when you are going about your daily life attempting to enjoy it and all of a sudden you are overcome with tremors and a racing heart and cold sweats "it just does" does not help you!

What I think most people do not understand is that PTSD after an assault does not happen only when you are remembering that specific moment. You don't have to be back in the exact location of the beating to feel the effects of it. It can and does happen anywhere, any time, without warning! It rears its ugly head into my work day, it screams out when trying to treat myself to a day at the mall, it paralyzes me from traveling to far off destinations. Even though I am not directly thinking about the moment I was attacked the effects of it haunts me every day.

With all that said my next adventure is to choose to medicate or go the "natural" route...will keep you updated.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Day 11: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Disorder may refer to :
* Chaos, unpredictability and in the metaphysical sense, it is the opposite of law and order.

Chaos, that is exactly what my body and spirit is experiencing lately. Insomnia, but then exhausted, loss of appetite then starving, happy then crying. Uggggghhhhh! All of these are "expected" according to all of my practitioners. Turns out opening Pandora's emotional box reaps havoc on the body and spirit.

So far I have seen a cardiologist for palpitations, a neurologist for tremors and lack of sleep, a physical therapist for chronic headaches, and a therapist for mental stability (if there is such a thing). Guess what everyone's conclusions are....... Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am told I should be thankful that there is nothing "major" wrong with me. Major?...PTSD feels major! I admit I am thankful and counting my blessings, but some days I wish it had a diagnosis that could be "cured". Today I feel PTSD is incurable. I feel as though it is going to overpower me for another 4 years. Some days I think it would be easier if I had MS or anemia; something that a prescription or a multivitamin could cure. Today I feel as though I am cursed with PTSD for life and there is not resolution.

A light has appeared on the horizon...After a therapy session and sharing my current perspective on PTSD my therapist kindly reminded me that PTSD and anxiety is curable and has resolution. It is chaos today, but it is a chaos that can be organized and overpowered! I admit I am still extremely skeptical, but am holding out hope for gaining the skills to regain power over the PTSD and take back control over my life. The first step is allowing myself to experience the PTSD and panic attacks when they happen rather than fighting them. Whoa...just sit there and let it happen? Surrender? That sounds like the hardest, most frightening first step I have ever needed to take. But, I take a deep breath and think "bring it on, I can and will do this"!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day 10: Insomnia

Had a sleep study performed this weekend and ironically I couldn't sleep. Go figure! My doctors are hoping to find a reasoning for the tremors that seem to come and go for no apparent reason (and sometimes with reason). Hypothesizing that it is the sleep pattern or lack there of that is creating this form of exhaustion.
Trouble is what do you do when the sleep study recreates some of your PTSD? Being hooked up to dozens of electrodes, beeps and alarms going off randomly, not being able to roll from side to side in search of comfort. The room is pitch black and disorientating, my only light coming from a red lazer beam shooting down from the ceiling. I hate the dark. It sends all my senses into overdrive. While I know there is no one else in the room with me something inside me is on high alert. I react to every sound, sensing every smell,as if someone is sneaking up on me. And I am supposed to relax and fall asleep?

When you have walk in fear, afraid that your attacker was looming in the darkness for years it is virtually impossible to find relaxation and comfort in the silence of darkness. While still in the violent relationship I would find myself in places like the local coffee shop, mall, movie theater, or my own home and suddenly he would appear. One afternoon I had been in my home with my father and a guest enjoying a baseball game on the television. It was a hot summer afternoon and the front door and windows were open letting in the sunshine. Suddenly, I received a text message from my assailant. "Go look outside" it read. I walked out my front door, just feet from where I had been sitting with my family enjoying the baseball game and what did I car was covered in thorn covered roses. How did he do that when we all were just inside with the screen door and windows open? Surely I would have heard his car pull up or the activity outside...We all were oblivious to it all. Mixed in the roses was a not that read "each thorn pricked me and created pain just like the pain of you leaving me but I withstood the pain to be near you again". This was just the beginning of his stalking behaviors. Even at my most alert and surrounded by others I was vulnerable to him.

Needless to say I don't think my sleep study went to well. Rather than the clinic getting an accurate sleep study I am pretty sure they got a better account of a panic study. Waking and wanting to roll over only reminded me that I was hooked up to all these machines and I was stuck. My senses heightened again and again each time I woke. When I finally woke up for the day I was beyond exhausted, emotionally and physically. Now all I can do is wait and continue moving forward. As one of my favorite professors would write on all of my paper "onward and upward".

Friday, April 29, 2011

Domestic Violence: A Story of Survival: Day 9: 4 years later and I am still frightened!

Domestic Violence: A Story of Survival: Day 9: 4 years later and I am still frightened!: "I am so frightened, the tremors continue to creep up on me, my legs shake, my heart feels like it is pounding, my stomach is churning and my..."

Day 9: 4 years later and I am still frightened!

I am so frightened, the tremors continue to creep up on me, my legs shake, my heart feels like it is pounding, my stomach is churning and my hands are barley able to type these words. What is it I have pent up inside me that needs to come out?....anger, sadness, fear, embarrassment....EVERY THING AROUND ME ANNOYS ME! My friend's cell phone ringing and his lackadaisical manner of answering it, the way he wiggles his feet all the time as a nervous, unconscious habit, the fact that my dishes still sit in the sink because I am to tired to do them...all of this chips away at my patience.

I AM SCARED OF THE PHYSICAL SHIT THAT COMES OUT WITH OUT ME BEING ABLE TO STOP IT, I AM TIRED OF THE TREMORS AND PALPITATIONS BECOMING ALL I THINK ABOUT RATHER THAN THE LIFE HAPPENING AROUND ME! I AM TIRED OF SITTING ON THIS DAMN COUCH AFRAID OF DYING! Isn't that what I am doing? Letting my spirit die but not celebrating it, not living in the moment and being thankful for what I have? Not laughing when a joke is funny because I am so stuck inside my fears, not getting a good nights sleep because I am so afraid of not waking up to see another sunrise.

I am so angry that my sense of safety has been taken away from me! I walked around for a year afraid of a man who deep down I knew was going to hurt me. I walked on pins and needles afraid to wake the sleeping bear. I put on a smile big enough that no one questioned. I pretended to be supportive and become agreeable to everything. All of this because I am afraid. Afraid that one day he will snap! One day he will actually begin poison me little by little. One day he will take me on that Sunday afternoon drive down some remote road and leave me there bloody and beaten. I walked around for a year fearing what he was capable of.

I used to find books on the female psyche tucked in far corners of the closet or basement. One time I got caught looking at such a book (titled the psychology of women) and was told he reads books like this one because he wanted to know what makes us women tick, so he could better deal with out PMS or depression issues. Played it off as a caring, loving gesture rather than the sociopolitical behavior I later began to realize. I would find needles in the bathroom drawers. He would tell me they were left over from when his cat had needed injections for an illness and he found them useful for extracting zits. I found random vials of prescription drugs belonging to other people, Ambian, Xanex, and chemo drugs from a relative. His clever answer to justify these were...why waste them, doctors wouldn't prescribe them if they were harmful. He would tell me he never took them, or that he only tried them once. I walked around wondering if the food he was pushing on me was tainted with these medications to harm me. Seems totally irrational right? Some say it does, to that I tell them this...

He was obsessed with convincing me that he was someone that could be trusted! He told me over and over again that if anything ever happened to me he would be the one to rescue me. He would drive with me various routes to the local hospital to show me he knew the fastest route and I had nothing to worry about. Thing is...why or what did I have to worry about in the first place?...Why would he think I had no trust in him, I basically was a yes girl. I am not a psychologist so I couldn't even begin to speculate, but my intuition was telling me that NOTHING about any of this was safe! Yet I stayed.

Perhaps part of me wanted to rehabilitate him. Perhaps part of me wanted to be the one to get through to him and get him to be a better person...Mostly I was just afraid. Frightened because every time I tried to leave the attacks got worse. Every time the urge to flee arose I convinced myself that it was safer to just ride that moment out and the next time would be a better opportunity. I wanted to run every moment but felt paralyzed. Instead I sat there, heart pounding, hands sweating, stomach in knots, feeling totally disconnected from my body day after day.

So why do I still feel this way? four years later and I am still afraid something in going to kill me. A heart palpitation, the tremors, food, medications, you name it. Why am I still walking around afraid if he is no longer in my life? Is it because he is still apart of my memories or deeper...Oh that frightens me to even contemplate such a disgusting thing. It absolutely appalls me to think of him still apart of me! yet, every time I walk in the footsteps of fear that is exactly what is happening. I am allowing this emotion he instilled in me to take control. I am giving the fear he created the power, and I MUST find a ways to stop the fear. Take away its power and control. I need to harness the power to control my own emotions and take charge of my life. I need to empower myself to take back my life, rediscover my laugh, polish up my smile, and paint my life colorful!

Taking check on my body as I end this blog I notice: I am not shaking anymore, I am not focusing on every single breath I take, I am not listening to my heart pound in fear. When I take a deep breath I can feel my body slowly letting go of the tension. Slowly, I am gaining on this fear, preparing to attack and dismantle it.

Day 9: FairyTail Wedding

So like many of you around the world I tuned in this morning to watch Prince William marry Kate. I loved everything about the wedding. Watching the guests arrive with excitement, their parents beam with pride, and Williams look of adornment as he first caught a glimpse of Kate for the first time. The way the two of them gazed into one another's eyes was magical. The way William continued to glimpse at Kate and give her a wink letting her know everything was going to be OK made me long for a moment like that.

I have been married once before. When I was 19 I married a man I knew as a kid growing up, but never as a man/woman. I was in love with the idea of love. I was in love with the ideas of a family, a home, a man who adored me beyond words, a man who would protect me from all things wrong in this world. I wanted a sense of belonging, safety and security. What I got was all but those things. I married a man that was emotionally, financially, and eventually physically abusive.
I struggled to make sense of it all for 5 years. I thought this was what a marriage was, the man controls everything and the woman stays home and bears children. My family was aware of the stress I was under, aware of his behavior, yet no one said "get out now!" It wasn't until I was in the Emergency Room (for other reasons) that I realized what I was participating in was not OK. Up on a wall of pamphlets I noticed the Violence wheel. It depicted all the ways a person could be abused: financially, emotionally, physically, sexually... I was flabbergasted at what I read. I had always thought abuse was purely physical or sexual. I was in the midst of something more traumatizing; emotional abuse. For 5 years I was bullied, controlled, and criticized by the one person who swore in front of 200 guests to protect me from all things hurtful.

I had lied to family and friends about holes in the wall from punches that thankfully missed me. I covered up the insults and verbal attacks with a smile. I hid the financial control by making excuses. I pretended I was happy for 5 years so well that I eventually believed it myself.
Thankfully I was able to see that the way I was being treated was never acceptable for any person, and I left the relationship. I taunting, harassment, verbal abuse, and threats lasted for 8 years after that. The only times I got relief was when he would push too far and an Order for Protection could be put back into place. Currently I have a permanent order in place making things much quieter and giving more room for recovery.

Since the divorce 11 years ago I have been engaged twice. Once to to my attacker and once to a man who loved me, but I never loved back. I agreed to both of them out of a yearning for that "Whit Picket Fence" dream. I wanted to be like everyone else, a home, a dog, and 2 kids playing in the yard. I wanted the fancy wedding with all the pomp and circumstance a princess deserves. Honestly, I was never in love with either men. I wanted the idea of them. Instead of accepting either of them for who they are I struggled to make them into what I needed. Being alone was far more frightening than being married to an abuser. Thankfully for myself and both those men I did not follow through, although it caused an attack from one and heartache for the other.

Still single I morn for the adoring glance from across the room, the kind-gentle-loving touch, wink letting me know everything was going to be OK. I cry because I don't know if I will ever find that person who loves me unconditionally and I love them back. I am sad because I fear I will not be able to shop for a wedding gown and daydream about the man standing at the end of the aisle. I desperately work on saving myself so that one day I can be with a loving man and love him not because I need him, but need him because I love him.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A friend comes when you least expect it!

Amazing! My blog has generated over 340 viewers in the week and half it has been posted. I have become international! I wanted to thank all my readers from the UK, UAE, Iran, Montenegro, US, and Costa Rica. I creates such inspiration to know that we can all share a similar connection (all be it resulting from a tragic experience) and draw strength from one another.
Please continue to check back, there is more to come in our journey!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 8: Fearing the loss of control

I am still going through the process of attempting to make sense of all these physical symptoms I am having. Yesterday I saw the neurologist and was ordered a few tests to make sure there is nothing with the nerve interventions or muscles that are causing the muscle tremors as well as a sleep study to determine why I am not sleeping through the night. Finally I feel heard! I have met a doctor who was not quick to see the diagnosis of PTSD and blanket all my symptoms under it with little investigation. Don't get me wrong, I would be more than happy to have it all ruled as PTSD, that would mean I was not dying or had a tragic disease. But, reassured only after a complete panel of testing was done to rule out all causes. Some would say I am a total hypochondriac, to those I would say "so what". So what if I am, that is what this fear of eminent danger has created. I don't see any harm in having everything ruled out so I can more calmly move forward with regaining my life and have that reassurance that everything IS going to be alright.

So now today...I started my morning off sitting in traffic on my way to the cardiologist in hopes of making sense of these flutters I am feeling from time to time. Oh traffic.....a person with anxiety or PTSD's favorite place to be stuck. (severe sarcasm) To someone who struggles with anxiety or PTSD traffic means you are stuck! You can't go anywhere no matter the symptoms you are having. That urge to flee and get to a safe place is literally being withheld. You have no choice, you have no control! I try to listed to the radio, but the pounding of my heard is too distracting. I try to call a friend to talk about my fears, but they are all at work and can't be bothered. I am left with nothing to distract me, just my thoughts and fears overwhelming me. What if I pass out right here on the freeway, can the ambulance get through the cars to get to me? Who would call 911, what if I throw up, what if I can't catch my breath...these are just a few of the thoughts that take over. My heart starts pounding harder and harder and I try just as hard to stay calm. I take deep breaths and exhale to the count of 5 like I have been taught. I try to distract myself with my surroundings such as the river I am crossing or the fresh green grass beginning to grow. All of these are just a temporary solution, and don't take the fears away completely.

I can see the Heart Clinic on the horizon. The reminder that I am going to a heart clinic...there could be something wrong with my heart! It's the "could be's or the what if's" that are the worst! What if my doctor hears something and is alarmed, what if they hook me up to a machine and alarms begin to go off, what if I pass out right there, WHAT IF I AM DYING? This is my greatest fear. One that has been literally beat into me. The fear of loosing control of what is happening to me.
When I was attacked I had no control over where the next blow was going to hit. No control over loosing consciousness, no control over laying the the hospital bed with alarms going off and doctors standing over me. I felt helpless.
All these fears are flooding back as they hook me up to a halter monitor and perform an EKG.

The only solace I can muster is I have been having these symptoms for 5 years now and even at their worst I have still overcome them! Even at their strongest, I have been stronger! Today I am going to muster the strength to be stronger than the fear!~

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 7: Attempting Positive Thinking

Tomorrow I have an appointment to see a neurologist for these weird, and frightening muscle spasms I have been experiencing. I get these moments when it feels like my esophagus twitches or some times if I roll to one side the muscles on that side twitch. Not to mention the constant twitching in my legs and the occasional eye lid spasm. Grrrrrrrrr.....all of it is so frightening..the unknown. Of course my imagination goes immediately to the worst! Oh my gosh I have Aortic spasms, Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson's or worse a brain tumor. These thoughts become so over powering some days that it makes EVERYTHING worse. I spend hours and hours surfing the web for diagnosis or clues as to what is happening. None of this does me any good, it only leads to more fear and more irrational thoughts.

A new skill I am attempting to grasp is logical thinking. Seems logical doesn't it? Thinking things through rationally and using common sense. Yeah well...not so easy to do when fear consumes you.

While working with all my wonderful clinicians I have begun to look at things a bit differently. Together they have all begun to teach me that our bodies have a memory and whether we are consciously thinking about the attack in the moment our bodies are. They claim that our bodies hold these memories and let them ruminate in all kinds of nasty ways. It isn't until we deal with these emotions that we can then free ourselves from the physical manifestations. This means opening Pandora's emotional box.
My "box" looks like this:
Crying for no apparent reason, lashing out in a rage unprovoked, wanting to be alone and then wanting to be surrounded by everyone, hot flashes then chills, exhaustion and then insomnia...Up and down! (Disclaimer: yes all my clinicians are aware of all of this and yes they all agree it comes with the territory of PTSD and a part of the healing process) Still doesn't make it feel any better. Some days I only experience one or two from the list and on a good day they are quiet and pass quickly. But on the day that I get broadsided they can all happen multiple times throughout a 24 our period. It is those days I rely on my friends, family, and clinicians to keep me grounded by reminding me it is all a part of the process and one day these emotions will themselves be only a memory.

So tomorrow I set out to quiet the irrational thoughts and prove there is nothing harmful happening in my body. I am not dying from MS or Parkinson's, and my heart is strong. I am setting out to settle this matter for once and for all so I can rationally tell myself it is just the healing process taking place and it doesn't always look or feel pretty. So here is wishing me positive thoughts and healing!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 6: My body's chaos

My heart is pounding so fast and so loud I am sure everyone around me can hear it. I can't breathe, it feels as though an elephant is sitting on my chest. My body is convulsing uncontrollably and I feel freezing cold. Suddenly a flushing feeling sweeps over my body causing my hands and feet to go cold. This is it, I am going to die!

I run to my car, without any shoes on, grabbing nothing but my cell phone. Get to the hospital NOW is all I can think about. Get there as fast as I can so I don't die here all alone in my house. I drive through the neighborhood at top speed, honking obnoxiously at every car I approach. I scream at every red light to turn green as I gasp for air. My feet can barely hold off the tremors to push down on the accelerator. Just 5 miles, and then I will be saved. Sobs of fear overpower the radio I turned on in hopes of distracting me.I plead with God to get me there before this "heart attack" kills me. I arrive to the E.R alive but in absolute emotional shambles. The idea that if "something" were to happen I am surrounded by all the people and technology I would ever need to save me provides me comfort and a sense of safety. I sit there trembling, sobbing, and rocking back and forth terrified for hours.

This replays at any given moment day after day-night after night-month after month. I did this "routine" for a year and a half. Now, I still shake uncontrollably; my heart still races for no apparent reason, and I still feel disconnected from my body. Only now...I experience it while remaining on my couch or at my desk at work. A huge step my doctors say...being able to stay in one place and accept it. Accept it? What is that?!

Doctors, Therapists, Neurologist, Cardiologist have all ruled out major causes and have told me I am healthier than the majority of their clientele. If that is the case then what the hell is happening?! PTSD...Post traumatic stress disorder. I had never heard the term used for anyone other than a soldier returning from war. In a sense I guess that is what I was. A soldier returning from my own personal battle.

Apparently our bodies have a memory of their own, separate from what we consciously recognize on a daily basis. It is this memory that is triggered when something similar to the trauma occurs. This triggers all kinds of technical responses in our bodies to react in chaos. great, now that I have Dorland's Dictionary entry and acknowledged that I am NOT going to die, how do I get them to stop!

These PTSD attacks have completely taken over my life. I have dropped from 145lbs to a frail 103lbs. I have stopped going out in public in fear of having one in a public place and drawing attention to myself or worse, being trapped and not being able to get somewhere safe. I have created a bubble of safety in my neighborhood, fearing if I go outside of that 5 mile radius I would be too far to get to a hospital in time. I have cut out my friends and family because I am so tired of them saying "just do it, who cares if it makes you scared." I'm tired of having to explain over and over again...I can't just stop it. It is not that simple. I am too frightened to do anything other than hide.

Day 5: What does justice look like to me?

I was ruminating over the douche-bag (for the lack of a better term) lawyer I met with in a week of the final assault, and how he told me any civil legal action was pointless unless there was substantial funds to be had. Oooooo makes me furious just typing it! Seeking what is right an just is pointless unless thousands are to be made? Is that what our legal system has been reduced to? Absolutely.

So a friend posed a question to me that in four years NOBODY had ever asked. "What do you feel should have happened?" Wha?...I have never logically thought about that. Oh sure for quite some time I thought he should have the shit kicked out of him so he was beyond recognition like I was. I thought he should sit in a jail cell with the darkest criminals and feel the fear looming in anticipation of the attack beginning. I thought he should never be allowed entitled to a career, social life, family, or friends. I wanted him to live in the dark shame I was buried so deep in.

I soon realized none of that would have made any difference. He would never grasp the devastation his actions had on my life. We returned to a courtroom 2 years after the assault to re-new the Order for Protection. During the hearing I had to testify as to why I felt the order should remain in effect. Why? Simple...people don't change, this was not the first time and whether is be me or another soul, it will not be the last time! I had to re-live the year of abuse and his sociopathic tenancies for over a half hour. Telling accounts of the verbal attacks, manipulation, stalking, and physical attacks seemed to just breeze past him. He sat stoic next to his attorney, never once flinching or hanging his head in shame.

Now it was his turn to take the stand in defense and request the Order to be lifted. He approached the bench with a strut and a smirk on his face, as if he was reenacting a mock trial back in college again. (He went to law school,and possibly now a defense attorney himself) When the presiding judge asked why should he ever revoke the Order my attacker began to depict himself as the victim. His defense began with "your honor, she obviously wants me in jail by what she shared with the police that night." "She is out to get me". ARE YOU KIDDING ME?...I had to do everything in my power mentally and physically to restrain myself from shouting DAMN RIGHT ASSHOLE! He continued to paint a picture of him living in fear, in fear of me! He said he was afraid I would violate the restraining order just to send him to jail. He claimed to have purchased a new vehicle so as that I would not stalk him and he claimed to have transferred Universities so that I would not have come onto the campus in order to report him in violation and have him arrested.

I could not believe it! He as doing just as every advocate and psychologist warned me he would do. He was making himself look like the victim and me look like the unstable one! He took every violation he ever committed towards me: the stalking, lurking in bushes, tampering with email accounts,recording of phone calls, tampering with food, threats on my family's safety,and physical attacks; and made them all seem as though I was the one who had committed them all! It was in those moments I knew....he would NEVER feel regret for what he did.

So what did I want, what do I want to see happen as his punishment?...Accountability.
I want him to be held accountable for the financial responsibilities my insurance company and I have had to take on for my years of physical and emotional healing.
I want him to have to be accountable to his family, friends, co-workers, employers, future significant others. I want this man to have to register the same as a sex offender would, mark it for the world to see, send it out as a warning signal to every woman and child! I want to take away the cloak of deception he gets to wear in public.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 4: The cost of Domestic Violence

Day 4: I was so sure he was going to have to dig deep into the wallet and sacrifice weeks/months/ years of his life to pay for the spirit he took from me. Turns out if you want to beat someone, threaten their life, and take every once of security they ever possessed it's only going to cost you $800.00.

That is all he was fined, $800.00. That was to cover the ambulance, the police, and the country attorney's fees and misc filing fees. What about my fee?!
What compensation was I going to get for my time, my bills, my loss of freedom and sense of self?. I couldn't believe that our American court system placed a value on a person's life for less than the average monthly rent.

Oh sure he also had to do 30 days of anger management classes and his jail time was set at "time served" which was 3 days, and that was only because he chose to beat me on a Friday night and a judge was not available until Monday. Later he was ordered to serve 10 days of "house arrest". Really?....10 days in an environment where you have access to televisions, computers, all the snacks you desire, your friends/family are free to visit and you can sleep all day for a week if you so desire. That's punishment? Sounds like a vacation to me.

I was on house arrest too. Once discharged from the hospital I couldn't leave my home, no because some judge ordered me to stay, but because my injuries prevented me from driving for over 35 days. My face was so badly bruised and battered that I wouldn't dare show it in public. Fear of him lurking around every corner paralyzed me from ever giving him the chance to strike again. My jaw was broken, eating snacks was out of the question. Soup and mushy foods were all I tolerated before the pain got to be unbearable. The only social interaction I had was police officers coming and going, taking photographs daily of the cuts and bruises. Life went on around me as if nothing had happened and I was missing out on all of it.

His $800 fine was change in comparison to the the thousands of dollars that have been spent by myself and the insurance companies. To fix my jaw cost me over $500 in out of pocket expenses. co-pays added up month after month until deductibles were met, and what wasn't covered well... being a college student and unemployed I had to apply for a high interest credit card and put the charges on it, only to accrue 28% interest. I had to pay hand over fist in gasoline to get me all over the cities from clinic to clinic for all the services I needed; dental surgery, psychotherapy, physical therapy, lawyers, and doctors. My time was being robbed from me! I had no time for school and studies or taking care of my family I was too busy cleaning up the path of destruction he left behind.

For 4 years this cycle has continued. Doctors, Therapists, Physical Therapy, Oral Surgeons...meanwhile he continues on as if it had never happened, never missing a beat. When do I get time for a vacation, or a simple picnic in the park? Perhaps I could schedule it in between a therapy session so that I am not afraid he or anyone else will lunge at me from behind a tree. Or perhaps I can schedule it after my physical therapy session so I can have the mobility to actually eat that Jimmy John's sandwich while on a picnic; with out dislocating my jaw another time. When do I get a moment to enjoy life with out the pain, with out the fear, with out the anticipation of it happening again?...I'd gladly pay $800 for that!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 3: Returning to the scene of the crime

Returning to the scene of the crime:
For the lucky ones they never need to go back to the physical place where they were assaulted, for me, it was my home, I couldn't escape the memory being played over and over again each morning when I came down into the living room.

I was sitting on the couch, he was sitting to my right in a chair that squeaked this high pitched shrill, almost as a warning, each time he leaned in towards me. I had mustered up the courage to tell him I was no longer going to be a part of this relationship and hoping that since we were in my home, with my father sleeping one floor above us that it was as safe of an environment as I was ever going to get.
Apparently my reasoning of his mother's drug use and his involvement in being the purchaser of those drugs was not enough reason in his mind for a relationship to come to an end. I elaborated further by stating I was unhappy with the way I had been treated in various situations and was missing my friends and family and desperately wanted to reconnect to them. At this point in the conversation he excused himself to the kitchen which was just in eye shot of me. I heard him reach into the cupboard and pull down a glass. Then the faucet began to run for what seemed like minutes. He returned with a full glass of water, never taking a sip. I knew what was coming next...

This had happened before. We were out of the state visiting his dying father and extended family. One night we returned to the hotel after a long, stressful, emotional day, exhausted. I quickly went to bed, not even putting on my pajamas hoping to avoid the emotional tornado I felt building inside him. He begged and pleaded for me to stay awake, I couldn't I was physically wore down and emotionally tapped out. His pleads turned into demands, his demands turned into rage finally erupting into a bottle of water being poured all over me while I lay in bed.

I froze. I had never been so frightened in my life. What do I do, try to make a run for it? If so where do I go, the hotel lobby? What if he chased me, what if he beat me before I could get out the door? All of these seemed like a worse fate than just giving in to his rage. So instead I put my arms around him and said "ok, fine...what is it you need" I laid there soaking wet and shivering from the cold air all night counting the minutes on the clock until the alarm went off.

The next morning I had planned to take a shower first in hopes of being able to sneak out while he was in the shower. Didn't work. After my shower he became distracted by a phone call from his family with an update on his father. They alerted us that we needed to be there soon, and everything else could wait. My plan was in need of fast revisions! I thought about offering to get the daily paper in the lobby or getting us a glass of orange juice; anything to get me close to the front desk staff and a way out. I made it out of the room after screaming and pushing and pleading to just get a drink. I remember getting off the elevator thinking all I need is 3 minutes to explain to the front desk staff and a call to the local police. Little did I know that he was coming down the stairs as I took the elevator. he greeted me with a smile on his face and said "thought I'd help you carry the glasses back to the room babe". I knew better.

The rest of the trip was somber in the wake of his father's eventual passing and I stayed in the background as much as possible in hopes of his family not seeing what was really happening. His aunt was all to wise to not suspect something. through the emotions and chaos that was occupying most of anyone's free time she managed to corner me and ask if I was OK. from the stories I had heard about his late father I suspected she recognized the look of fear on another face. I burst, letting out all the details of the night before and pleaded for help. All I received were excuses, justifications, and denial. I was in a lose lose situation. All I could do was play nice until the plane landed safely back home.

So this night, when I was refusing to stay in anymore abuse I knew that glass was for me. He calmly sat the glass down on the table beside me and look me in the eyes and offered me another chance to change my mind. I boldly refused to give in one more time and before I knew it I and the couch were soaked in ice cold water. When the glass was empty he threw it at me, bouncing off of me it landed on the floor. Still paralyzed with fear I began to shake and knew I needed to get upstairs to safety. He had picked the glass up off the floor and returned it to the kitchen just as boldly as he had brought it out. This was my chance to run!

I mustered up what strength I had and headed for the hallway leading to the stairs. I took 4 steps before he came bolting out of the kitchen and towards me. Grabbing my arms and holding them at my side he whispered closely into my ear "you want to be a victim, I'll make you a victim". He pulled my arms behind my back and with one blow knocked me to my knees. My ears were ringing and I couldn't focus on anything. I remember pleading to stop, saying "that hurts, why are you doing this?" He picked me up and began whaling across my jaw and head. Everything went black. When I woke I was curled up on the couch with my arm over my head. Unable to lift my head all I saw were his shoes still standing there. Head pounding and my skin burning, somewhere, some how I found the strength to begin to cry for help as he began to start to beat me again. First the cries came out as what felt like whispers, then got louder and louder until finally the pounding stopped and he began to run.

I crawled my way across the living room floor into the dining room and reached for the phone to call 911. "Hello 911 is this an emergency?" a message I had heard twice before. "yes, please come quick, I have just been attacked!" My father had been awoken and had come downstairs in a daze to see me sitting there bleeding on the ground. The rest is such a blur and I floated in and out of reality. Police and EMT's coming and going, information being asked of me such as what is his name, address license plates, date of birth. As if I could think of any of that! Once the EMT's had me stabilized the police began the questioning of all the details surrounding the attack. All I could say was "he knows where I live, he knows where I go to school, he is coming back for me!" I could now feel my face beginning to burn and my speech was becoming increasingly slurred due to all the swelling.
In those moments I felt so frightened, if the police where here photographing me and questioning me who was out there finding him? Would they find him, would he be able to talk his way out of this one, would the cops believe him over me and justify his behavior like so many others did before?

So now after hours in an Emergency Room I was cleared to return to the scene of the crime. I had to go home. How was I going to feel safe in the one place I was supposed to be the safest? How was I ever going to sit on the couch in my own living room; the room where all social gatherings take place...How was I going to find peace in a war zone again...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 2: Flashbacks

Flashbacks come one when least expected like a tornado creating havoc on your sanity!
I'm finding that flashback can happen wherever-whenever and can consume your emotions in a second. Today I had a dental appointment, stressful already for most people, I know. After going to the same dentist since I was 4 I was now having to go to a new provider (thank you dental insurance...sigh) Sitting in the lobby filling out a ridiculous amount of paper work I reached the patient history section. I dreaded this part, the part where I had to explain my broken jaw and splints I needed to wear in prevention of further damage. Quickly I put the most general explanation I could get the pen to write. "Broken Jaw-TMJ with splints" I thought, if this dentist was anyone good they would know what happenedand I would not have to explain.

The hygienist escorted me to a back room for the cleaning and x-rays. I began to feel increasingly nervous as I took in the room's sterile appearance. My hands started to sweat, my heart began to pound harder and my throat began to quiver. the hygienist babbled on and on as I sat there quiet and trying to loose myself in a "happy place". She began shoving these sharp plastic do-hickys into my mouth for the x-rays and my heart pounded faster as my jaw ached from being stretched repeatedly.

Then it started! As I lay there being poked and prodded bright lights shoved in my face, the sound of buzzing and beeping from the x-ray machine and the hygienist lurking over me breathing heavy through her face mask I lost it! I was back in the Emergency room 4 years ago. While logically I knew I was in the dentist chair my body thought I was back laying on the gurney with the ER room lights all shoved in my face, doctors and nurses hoovering over me but not saying much other than try to focus and don't fall asleep. I was being wheeled into another sterile room with machines larger than life. I was told I needed to under go a CT scan to determine the severity of my head injury.

Even though I was so disorientated I knew what a CT scan was and that it meant I was going to be put into a small tunnel and not allowed to move. Claustrophobia set in. Now I was not only trying to stay awake and focus on the directions that the nurse was telling me over the microphone I was having to remain calm and still in the tube of darkness. The CT machine banged as if it were about to come crashing down on me and beeped a high pitch squeel over and over again while I laid on a cold, hard metal table, much like the dentist chair. When forever had passed I was wheeled in to the cold, sterile exam room again. I begged the nurse to tell me if I was going to be OK and all I was told was "I'm sorry, I'm not able to tell you anything, you'll have to wait for the doctor". I swear those are the most horrifying words to hear! You know darn well they know what the scan showed, they do those tests many times a day! All I was asking for was a moment to breathe and know I was going to be OK.

Back in the exam room I lay on the bed alone, occasionally kept company by a police officer coming in to gather more information and give me a status update as to his apprehension. Minutes felt like hours and then became hours. Finally the doctor came in and did a more thorough exam of my wounds. At this point my face was burning and ached to move. I was told I had a "good" concussion and would feel a bit "loopy" for a few days. "Follow up with your doctor in a few days" was the doctor's final parting words. That's it?...that is all you have to say? I going to live? Would I have permanent damage, will I need plastic surgery for the cuts and bruises?...

Going home was a quiet ride. My father stared over the steering wheel and I stared out the window trying to visually focus through the concussion. When I got home I refused to return to the site of the assault (our living room). I slowly climbed the stairs to my room, slid into the blankets and did the one thing I was not to do...I went to sleep in hopes that when I woke in the morning it would all have been a bad dream.

So now here I am-reliving this all in the dentist chair. was I going to explain this one. I wanted with all of my being to get out of that chair and run! I explained to the hygienist that I was feeling a bit nervous and thought I should reschedule. She began to babble some crap about everyone having dental anxiety and it would pass blah blah blah...This was more and I was the only one who knew it!
She called the dentist in to do a quick exam before I was on my way. As he was peering at me through the surgical mask he noted the dreaded Patient History form. "Broken Jaw-TMJ?" he asked. I began the explanation and as I did the tears began to flow. I was trying as hard as I could to choke them back realizing that these were strangers and that I was actually crying for the first time EVER in regards to the assault I excused myself and rescheduled.

In my car I tried to stop the tears, but they just kept coming faster and heavier. My throat was still twitching, my hands still sweating, my heart leaping out of my chest. Deep breaths and distractions were no use in stopping the flood of emotions I was experiencing. Where would I go? Who could I talk to? What was all of this shit I was being consumed by? Walking around for 4 years shoving the memories and emotions down had made this sensation of release foreign to me and frightened me! For 3 hours I ran the gamete of emotions while talking it through with friends, family and my therapist. This was it, this was the breakthrough they had all been anticipating and I had been avoiding for the past 4 years.

Day 1: Introduction:

As I regained consciousness all I could think of was gathering the strength to take one more breath, to make just one shout loud enough to distract him, a sound loud enough for my sleeping father to hear, a shout for help.
Four years ago I was the victim of domestic violence in the worst way a person could imagine. I want to share my story over the next few weeks, months, years…not in need of sympathy or pity, but for healing, giving a voice to survivors, and a human aspect to violence. My greatest hope on this journey is to give just one person the courage to recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship, struggles a person faces when involved or attempting to leave an abusive relationship, actions any one can take to seek help, and most importantly how a victim can be a survivor!
I look forward to sharing this journey, although frightening. It is going to challenge me to be real about what happened, the acknowledgment that I was not the cause of another’s actions, my responsibility in the events that occurred, the effect it had on everyone around me, and re-trace those moments in vivid detail all in order to move forward in regaining/redefining my identity.
Day 1
As I was seeking answers to the “why me’s” that haunt me daily I came across this quote “Just when a caterpillar thinks its life is over God goes and turns it into a beautiful butterfly. “ At first I just copy and pasted it to a folder I kept with inspirational quotes simply because I like butterflies; not really taking the depth of its message into consideration.
It wasn’t until tonight; after one of my “panic attacks” did I take a closer look into this quote. What do panic attacks and quotes have to do with anything?...You see, when I have a panic attack I begin to shake uncontrollably, my palms sweat, I get chills, I feel as though I can’t breathe, and I begin to feel unbelievably overwhelmed. I feel as though doom is awaiting me, I feel as though my physical symptoms have completely spun out of control and there is nothing in that moment I can do to regain it. I feel helpless. Positive I have a severe neurological disease or tumor that creates all of this I begin to let the fear take over. Doctor after doctor have reassured me that physically I am in tip top shape and these “panic attacks” are anxiety and fear taking hold. However, while in the midst of this torture a doctor’s reassurance offers little sense of relief. Logically 3 years of therapy and many meditations have shown me I am always in control. Yet, for an hour and a half I struggle to stop shaking, regain my breath, and find comfort and safety in my surroundings.
Distractions have always been the best “cure” for my panic attacks. So tonight I search for some inspiration rather than a diagnosis. This brings me to the Caterpillar and Butterfly. As I embarked on my healing I am beginning to see the significance of this message. I am the caterpillar…or at least on my way out of this cocoon of fear and shame in hopes of gaining my wings. So tonight as I fall asleep I plan to design my wings…what colors are they going to be, what vibrant pattern can I bring out, how graceful they will glide through the air as they decorate the blue horizon.