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What Happens When You Don’t Know

I guess I’ll start with the things that bother me the most: I am an ex-crack addict, I was homeless, I have a panic disorder, I talk to people who don’t exist, my brother hanged himself, and I was nearly killed by an abusive ex-boyfriend.

I know I have a better life than a lot of people, and I try to be grateful for it.

I feel guilty when I dwell on my problems: other people have it so much worse: how can I complain? How can I mope around or be depressed?!

Oh how I wish I could talk to someone, to sit in a group and swap stories about burning the inside of our mouths, or panic attacks, or how much it sucks to have to lug all your belongings around in a garbage bag.

But I just can’t.

I have walked past the building where NA meetings are held probably a hundred times, looked at their website again and again, memorizing their schedule, but I can’t bring myself to go.

I’m afraid that people won’t like me because I’ve been clean now for four years, that because now I have a car and an apartment in a slightly decent area of the city, I’ll be told to get over it, to stop whining.

On the other hand, I think, what if I go to a regular counselor and I scare them? What if, when I admit to the time I smoked crack with my pregnant best friend, it’s too much and they kick me out?

What if I get the cops called on me when I admit to all the illegal things I’ve done?

Either way, I’ve never felt more isolated and alone then I do now.

I desperately want to be an addict again. When I was addicted, we had our own world; it was nothing good, but everyone was on the same level.

Now I’m surrounded by people that, if they knew what I used to be and what I still am, would go running in the other direction.

I even tried to become an alcoholic for a few months; I drank myself into a stupor everyday, forced it into me until my brain chemistry was so out of whack and my kidneys hurt right through my back.

I still drink – get drunk – by myself, but I have to be careful because it makes my panic disorder worse. I drink just until I feel myself going crazy, stop for a few days, then back at it.

It’s funny, when my brother hanged himself, I was kind of mad that he took that option away from me: you can’t have two kids from the same family both kill themselves!

I’m okay with his suicide, though. I understand it was a planned out thing, so things were obviously pretty bad to get to that point. My brother didn’t speak, though; I was the only one he spoke to until he was about 17, and then he even shut me out.

After a while, I started getting paranoid that he was going to kill me, so I distanced myself from him even further.

I’m pretty alone now.

I lost most of my friends when I got clean, and I’ve moved to a different city since. I hate it here a lot, and most people here are way out of my league education and status wise. I have a few friends from work that I go for drinks with on the weekends, but I can’t really connect or open up with anyone.

I’m afraid to date again; my ex is still too fresh in my mind, and the thought of having to have sex again makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like being touched sexually.

It’s a shame because I would love to have children – they would give me something to focus on, to love and be loved back, without having to be in a relationship.

But I guess as of right now, it’s me, alcohol, and my two darling cats.

How sad.

My Person

Recently, someone came back into my life.

This person was my whole entire world for three years. This was My Person, the love of my life.

They loved me.

Completely.

All my flaws.

My Person made me feel whole.

my person

My Person calmed the negativity I had in my life.

My Person held me when I needed to cry. They listened when I needed to yell. This person sat behind me and picked head lice out of my hair for 8 hours when I cried because no one else in my life would help me. My Person was so beyond good for me.

Then, slowly I started letting the negative creep back in, I let the people that were supposed to care talk me into believing them instead of this amazing person I had in my life.   

You see, I always knew I was a failure. 

I always knew I would never amount to anything.

My Person believed in me and my worth and well… I really don’t know.

I have no excuses except I was young and dumb and influenced easily by people that should have been supporting me.  I longed for THEIR approval and love and if I didn’t have that, why should I deserve anything else.

I left this amazing person with a heavy heart but headed in a direction I was being basically shoved into for many years.

I married, had kids, was verbally and emotionally abused before I finally left.

Even after I left I tried to make it work. I mean, no one else would ever want me.

During this time I searched out My Person.

They’d moved far away to another land.

They seemed happy and from what I could see from my computer screen didn’t want me anymore.

I did reach out, I called, I emailed, I basically stalked this person.

But they had moved on. I was just a memory to them; that was okay. After all, I didn’t deserve them.

Fast forward a few more years.

I still watched My Person from afar. I was friends with their family but still had not contact with My Person.

That was okay. I was happy knowing they were happy.

I met someone, dated for a few years, got married again. And I am finally HAPPY!  Well, at least most of the time. My old negative thoughts are all still there but I’m mildly successful at pushing them down.

A couple weeks ago, My Person showed up in my life again like a whirlwind.

They have never been far from my thoughts; I still watched.

But here they were in my inbox and we’ve been talking and it’s like the last twenty years disappeared and I am right back where I was, where we were; My Person and I.

And I am so so so in love. I always was.

And I’m torn: how can I love two people this much?  What do I do?

I need this person in my life, they are a part of me has been missing for so long.

It’s like I got my right hand back.  I need them to know I love them. Because I do…

…but we can’t be together.

I love where I am now, I love the person I’ve married. I love my home and my job. Right now? There’s half a century and twenty years between us, but I still need them in my life.

I find my mind wandering a lot lately.

The what if’s. 

I find myself wanting to wake up in one of those stupid romcoms where everything is different but it just seems right and you don’t want to wake up.

I want to find a damn DeLorean and make different choices.

Don’t Ask Anymore

We are enjoying a day off. It’s Easter weekend. Reflecting Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He is cutting up vegetables. He cuts himself and is bleeding everywhere.

He can’t even let Jesus Christ take center stage.

He needs all the damn attention!

Why does he think his needs are more important than mine?

Now, I need to help him feel more comfortable.

Constantly complying. I am not a part of the equation. I have been SPEAKING for years, repeating myself constantly. I don’t ask anymore. I don’t ask for things. I don’t ask for affection. I am living in limbo. Boundless. Floating.

I am invisible.

don't ask abuse marriage

I need to be released from this responsibility that I’ve been carrying for too long.

For the last eight years we’ve drifted apart, each of our roles were extremely different from the others.

I was primary care taker of the baby, he just worked to not be in pain. He was in and out of doctor’s offices, and in bed most of the time he was home.

He was cold to me. He couldn’t help it. I know.

To me, he had it easy: just relax, lay in bed, watch TV, take medicine, have another useless steroid injection.

Umm… when do I get the debilitating disease so I can sit on my ass all fucking day?  I feel trapped, imprisoned.

I had grand expectations that he would complete me, complete my life and it would be this grand ball with dances and tea parties. Our roles are still tragically different, neither supporting one another, neither of us need each other. We are in different places, both have different goals.

We are in the same room, breathe the same air but we’re worlds apart.

The lack of trust and respect – it’s killing us. I cannot trust that he’ll be there. That he’s ALL IN. We’ve been having some good months lately… but soon, that chronic pain will take him and paralyze him again.

That anxiety keeps me in the crazy.

And… so here’s the state of our union. I’ve become accustomed to not including him in my day. He’s had so many limitations, so many special needs. He’s never been able to engage, so I forget that he’s there sometimes.

Somewhere between the chronic pain, taking days off for doctor appointments, disappointments, missed opportunities, we disappeared. I stopped trying to make the structure we live in a home. He was too busy or too sick to care. He didn’t want me. I got used to that.

I became hard, and cold. I worked so hard to leave my father’s house only to end up exactly where I started. I try. He tries. We both feel the unbecoming of us though. It was a slow fade to black.

I’ve veered on a divergent path and, if I’m being honest, I don’t care if he follows or goes in the opposite direction.

How the fuck did I get here?!

I didn’t say no when I was victimized as a child. It happened on more than one occasion. He made me feel special and important.

Years later, I realized I was just his prey among many.

My brain started to split. There was the good me and the bad me.

Then I started cutting to feel something. ANYTHING. Then I would only feel anger, resentment, bitterness, shame.

Then I would drink myself to oblivion to be numb again.

And round and round we go….

I watched my father beat up my mother countless times. I was powerless. The only thing I could do was disconnect. Detach from the situation, go off in my imaginary world.

These days, the only real way I can relate to men is if they are anonymous, objectified, and made common.

Maybe if (they or) I become more anonymous, objectified, common, I don’t have to engage. I can pay to play. I can pay to heal in a way. I can acquit myself of the emotional debt.

I would have room for… selfishness.

The Squirt Bottle

Unable to have children of our own, my then-husband and I had the opportunity to have a foster-to-adopt situation with a precious little girl.

Just before her adoption, we were asked to also foster her little sister, who was about to be born.

I was hesitant. I didn’t want to take on a child who had a high chance of returning to her birth parents. But I couldn’t let my little girl’s sister go to strangers, so we said yes.

As time passed, the birth parents weren’t doing their part, and I felt more and more like she was my baby, and I would have her forever.

I should have been happy. I had everything I’d ever wanted!

The money the state paid us to take care of foster children made it possible for me to be home with those two pretty little girls all day. I had always wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom. And now I had not one, but two children to take care of! The girls were happy, and the best sound in the world was their laughter as they played together.

glitter on woman eye mommy wants vodka

I wish I could say my husband felt the same way.

He was resentful of that baby as soon as she entered our home.

He hated all the time I was spending with her, instead of him.

He was jealous.

Of an infant.

This one particular night breaks my heart. I wish I could go back and change things, but he had trained me for years not to question him. Fear of his anger kept me frozen.

The baby had learned to stand. She was so proud of herself! There was no stopping her now!

From the time she was a newborn, she had always hated going to sleep, and getting her to settle down for bed was a long, drawn-out process. But with her newly developed skill of standing, it became much worse. I would lay her down, she would stand up. I would put her down again, she would stand right back up.

One night, he had enough. “I”ll make her learn she has to lay down when it’s bedtime,” he said.

He came into the girls’ bedroom with me when I put her to bed.

I laid her down in her crib, telling her goodnight, same as I always did. She stood up, and he sprayed her right in the face with the water bottle we used on the cats when they were doing something wrong. I was horrified!

But what was I supposed to do? He was my husband, and I was afraid to question him.

The battle of wills between a man in his 40’s and a less-than-year-old baby went on for a while. I would lay her down, she would stand up, he would spray her in the face.

Finally, he pushed me too far. She was soaking wet, dripping on her sheets. I knew even if she did go to sleep, she would end up getting sick from trying to sleep in her wet clothes and bed. I took a chance and said, “That’s enough!”

Amazingly, he walked out the door without saying a word.

I took her out of her bed, pulled her wet clothes off of her, dried her with her little hooded towel, then put clean, dry pajamas on her. Then I changed the bedding in her crib and started the bedtime process again.

When I walked out of the bedroom, she was back to standing in the crib. I walked out to the living room where he was watching TV. I looked him dead in the eye and said, “Your way didn’t work, and you’re never doing that again.”

He didn’t argue, and he never tried that stunt again.

I think he figured out that there was only so far he could push me when it came to the children.

He could belittle me and mistreat me all he wanted, but don’t mess with the Mama Grizzly Bear.

Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me

So here I am, not yet 35, and wading into the nastiness of my second marriage falling apart.

I guess I could say that I got married the second time because it seemed worth betting that the first time was due to *him…” so a different guy could fix that, right?

But the problem – if you want to call it a problem – is almost certainly me.

My mom said it brilliantly in her recent email to me:

I guess it’s truth out time, and I’m about to be a bad mom.

Truth – Dad wanted to hogtie you and send you to Tijuana before you married Steve*, but I talked him out of it. He was really upset, but I thought he had Steve pegged wrong.

Truth – after living with Steve for two months, I agreed with your father. I wanted to bitch-slap Steve so hard his head would fall off.

Or worse.

Truth – he lied to you about stuff (mostly little things), but I never said a word because I felt it wasn’t my place. But one of those lies cost you 5,000 dollars. You have no idea how furious I was or how much I kicked myself.

I’m sorry.

This really isn’t the time to be landing this stuff on you, but Dad and I both are feeling very responsible for our little girl getting hurt (again) when maybe if we had just opened our mouths, we could have prevented all this. Of course, to be realistic, it may not have made any difference, but these thoughts cross your mind when you’re a parent.

We both agreed when you were little that whoever married you would have to be one hell of a special kind of guy. (In Dad’s words, “God help him”). But I always pictured you either a) single, and blazing through the world in a cloud of glory or, b) married to a guy who was your equal – smart, confident, strong-willed, motivated and out to make his mark on the universe, but at home would have to know just when to push and when not. NOT easy to find!

However this turns out, we’ll always be here – doors and arms open. Remember that. And don’t worry, next time, we’ll speak our piece – welcome or not – and hogtie if necessary!

By the way, your brother wants to kick Steve’s butt for hurting his sister. That’s his way of saying he’s there for you, too. And if you want me there, just call. I can grab a flight and work be hanged! I love you very much – we all do.

Mom

The beautiful part is that they said almost the same thing after my first divorce, although she left out the part about how she always pictured me single.

fool me twice

That would have given me a lot of strength, I think.

I spent my whole life thinking that I was a failure if I wasn’t married – or conversely, that being able to “get guys” to want to commit to me was some kind of major success. I think having a best friend for most of my life who was openly jealous of my relationships probably didn’t help.

But, hey Mom – THIS time I was obviously very hesitant about getting married, and I ASKED you all to tell me if you had any hesitations!

And good grief, Dad, why couldn’t you grow a pair? You knew Steve best, and if you’d said it was a bad idea, wild horses couldn’t have gotten me down that aisle.

Something tells me, though, that I’m not the only person here who bought into this assumption that women simply “should” get married; that getting married is always a victory, even if your (first) husband is half-jokingly gloating that “someone needs to get [you] under control”.

(He did, and so I compensated for that the next time by marrying someone who wanted ME to be responsible for everything. And I was, but it cost me everything I wanted to do for myself!)

I feel like I’m waking up.

Men attacked me when I was a child, so I spent all of my teens obsessed with them, but avoiding any actual contact with them; then I got married as soon as I could; then, divorced and terrified of single motherhood, I got married again as soon as I could; and now here I am fighting my way free again.

It’s been a day and a half since he moved out (temporarily, because things turned violent, though that wasn’t the pattern or anything – but can I add that having the ability to leave immediately if someone breaks that rule with me is something it turns out I REALLY value?), and I’m not in any way looking forward to the next steps, but I do feel like I can see a clear path for the first time in a long while.

Thanks, Mom.

You may have been a little (lot) late, but that helped a lot!

(And you can bet your hiney that when MY little girl wants to get married, I’m making her a laundry list of every reason in the world I can think of not to – if she still does, great, I’ll support her; but she deserves to know what I really think. I guess sometimes the hardest lessons you teach your kids are the ones where you show them how not to do things!)

Ask The Band: Help With Bullying

Every Friday, we at Band Back Together run questions from our readers hoping that you can help them answer. All are welcome.

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Please, join us and help this gentleman with his child’s school bullying.

bullying child advice

The new school year has recently started and already, my six year old son has had some kid at his school bully him.

My wife had to coax it out of my son – he didn’t want to share She immediately messaged his teacher and let her know what was going on.

I feel so sad for him because I myself was bulled as a kid at school I became a teenager andI don’t want him to have to go through what I went through.

His teacher was proactive – she moved his seat to a different group and talked to both the boy and his mother. While I hope it never happens again, I don’t know quite how to manage his feelings and my feelings.

Any advice, The Band?