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Ask The Band: Getting Lost is Easy, But How Do You Get Back?

I spent the last many years married to a woman with fairly severe (clinically diagnosed) Borderline Personality Disorder. I could very easily fill an entire book writing about what that experience was like, so it’s hard to know how to distill it. Here are some things I know-

-Years of being subjected to masterfully performed gaslighting has left me very unsure of all my own judgements and perceptions of reality.
-Years of being degraded and emasculated when I wanted to discuss my thoughts/feelings, being told that it is unattractive for a man to show “weakness” to his wife, has left me uncertain of when its ok to be vulnerable with other people.
-Years of walking on eggshells, trying so hard to do and say everything just right, but knowing that no matter how well I did, the next blow-up/emotional attack was always coming.. has left me perpetually anxious, and steeped so heavily in learned helplessness that I often struggle to even feel that I have any control over what happens in my life. I never used to be that way at all.
-Years of having all my contributions and accomplishments minimized or forgotten, and all my imperfections magnified and carefully score-carded, has left me with close to zero sense of self-efficacy.
-Years of living with someone who is intimacy avoidant and uninterested in sex, but being told the whole time that her disinterest is caused by my shortcomings—because I didn’t last long enough in bed, or because I lasted too long in bed (yes, both of those), or because of the stress I was causing her by me not making us enough money (even when I was bringing in over six figures a year), or because I was paying too much attention to (suffocating) her, or because I was not paying enough attention to (neglecting) her—has left my self confidence so damaged that I almost fear being intimate with someone again.
Probably the worst part, though? During the early “idealization” phase of the relationship, she was incredibly jealous and protective of my attention (which, at the time, I foolishly believed was just because she loved me so much) that, focusing all of my time and attention on her needs, I greatly distanced myself from any male friends I was close to, and completely cut off contact with all of my female friends. So once she flipped me into the devaluation phase, I was left with a partner who had zero interest in me, other than what I could fix or provide for her, and only weak remnants of friendships remained. I was effectively isolated to the point that I spent most of my free time just sitting alone in my basement, wishing things were different.
Isolation is definitely one of my biggest hurdles right now. I’d really like to make some new friends, particularly some female friends since I lost all but one or two, but no clue where to even start. I just really miss having more meaningful conversations and connections with people.
Another hurdle is figuring out how to integrate “what I know to be true” with “what I feel to be true.” For example, I can write down a list of all of my business/financial accomplishments and objectively say I’ve been successful in that area. I know this to be true. But I do not feel that this is true. I can find endless examples of things I’ve done or experiences I’ve had that show most of the negative feelings that I mentioned above are illogical or don’t line up with reality. But again, I still don’t feel that.
I would love any thoughts or advice from anyone who has gone through something similar. What worked? What DIDN’T work? How did you re-connect with yourself? How did you re-connect with other people and build some new meaningful friendships/relationships?

I Am Completely Broken

I am completely broken.

Bold statement, I know, but hear my story and you will understand. I don’t want pity, nor do I want to be saved. Understanding, though, never hurts.

I’ve always taken a liking to academia; I was a natural scholar who skipped the first grade. I had art published in the local newspaper when I was, say, five years old. It was a serviceman in rainbow camo gear holding the American flag, if anyone was curious.

I’d say that was my peak.

I was in third grade when the bullying started – the other kids even dedicated a song to me on the playground! How lucky, right? I was pudgy, I suppose; the fattest kid in the class, fat enough to be the ‘chosen one.’ I cried every single time I went shopping with my mom and sister. I begged that I’d cease to exist, ‘so no one has to worry about me’ –direct quote. This continued for years – seven to be exact.

At least you’re noticed in elementary and middle school. Maybe I wasn’t noticed for a good reason, but I was noticed. I played sports throughout junior high, always had a perfect GPA, I had plenty of friends, and a decent social life. But I was The Friend, not The Girlfriend. I remember during a Halloween dance, I literally begged a boy to tell me why he didn’t like me. He simply walked away and asked my best friend to be his girlfriend. I wasn’t mad; I accepted it.

High school was when the shit hit the fan.

My first two years of high school, I was really involved in class office, never running for a position because I knew the prettier and thinner girls would win. It’s high school, ya know?

I accepted squeezing in wherever I was allowed to. I wasn’t bullied much, but I was ignored. Sometimes, I preferred it. Don’t get me wrong, I had great friends but I was always chasing the fun, chasing the social scene.
Sophomore year I had my first taste of alcohol and weed. I loved it. It felt great to have a secret, something behind the backs of my straight-laced, God-fearing friends. Soon, though, my friends didn’t like me. I remember sitting alone at a table in the library, my old friends at the table next to me, ignoring me. I begged them to tell me why they didn’t like me anymore; they shrugged and walked off.

I transferred schools to a dual enrollment program.

Oh, did I mention I had ballooned up to 250 pounds? Yep. My weight was largely ignored, not discussed, and accepted. But I got sick of it, so I lost the weight – worked out constantly and methodically, eating like a champion.

By the time I got to my new school, I was thirty pounds lighter and thought I was hot shit. I smoked a lot of weed, drove around in my new car with my hip friends, and smoked cigarettes. I even got my first kiss—so what if it was my best friend’s boyfriend? I got it, and I liked it.

I craved male attention and I entered into this ‘I deserve it’ mode. I thought I owed myself a treat, and boy did I get it.

December 8, 2007. Fall semester, senior year, I was golden. There was a new guy every day that wanted me; I dangled myself in front of them like a piece of meat, but I never gave an inch. Not because I didn’t want to, but I was too nervous. With about three kisses under my belt, I was CLUELESS.

But yes, back to that date. That’s when it all went to shit.

I went to the beach with a few people where we drank a lot of whiskey or rum. I remember the initial vomit hump—you know when you gotta puke once to get the ball rolling? I remember looking up to see his face, and I know, looking back, what he was doing. I hear the brain blocks on memories you can’t handle, and thank goodness for that.

I lost my cell phone and my virginity that night. I didn’t even realize it until I went back the next day, saw the condom wrapper, and pieced it together. I quickly covered it with sand so my mom wouldn’t be upset.
Oh, fun fact: in my attempt to go home, I went to a ‘friend’s’ house to ask for help—in the weeks following, I asked him about it, and he said I wanted it just as badly as he did – that I came on to him.

I figured it wasn’t worth it – that I, for some reason, didn’t deserve normalcy. So I went with it, like I went with everything. I made it out to be funny, I buried it deep and far away. I joked about myself – called myself every name in the book. I don’t even know how many people I’ve slept with since that time.

Since then, I’ve had someone attempt to rape me. Since then, I’ve been molested. Since then, I’ve done shameful things I don’t even want to type, but I will. I’ve done MDMA, cocaine, crack, heroin, acid, prescription drugs, and more cocaine. I’ve slept with people – multiple at one time. I’ve stolen money, stolen from stores, stolen from people I love. Since then, I have hated myself and everything, masking it with humor and cool clothes.

Then I met Zach.

Junior year of college, my first year in the dorms, I was nineteen years old. I always had a blast in college – my philosophy was “why think about bad stuff when you can think about the good?”

Zach was special – still is in my book. He had a long-term girlfriend and he hooked up with my roommate, while seeing me in between. I felt special, for no reason. Through “healing” from my rape, I learned that I could have anyone I wanted. I knew how to talk and look and walk to get what I wanted. All I needed was a kiss: one kiss in the elevator of my dormitory sealed the deal. I was in love. He made me feel pure and real; like I deserved more.
It was the first time I realized how important and delicate sex was. I learned what making love was. I no longer made fun of romantic movies or songs; I felt the scenes and I listened to the lyrics and understood. We made love and cried, and it wasn’t corny or cheesy, it was real. And it was amazing. It was the first time I ever said ‘I love you’ to someone. When you experience that for the first time, it’s amazing. You feel important, you know someone is important to you.

I didn’t care about anything but playing “house” with him in my dorm. His dad hated me, my mom hated him, but it didn’t matter; we were in love and it was amazing. I’ll always miss that blissful month. I felt real for the first time in my life.

We moved in together when school let out in the spring. It got bad – screaming, crying, and covering it up with sex. I’ll leave out these details, but it was a textbook abusive relationship, on both our ends. We broke up the day before my fourth year of university started.

I’ve been numb since.

I’ve fucked many, kissed more, and drank a lot of alcohol. I feel empty. I quit going to class, and sat in my apartment for days in the dark, just smoking pot and sitting there. Sometimes, I’d sit for a few hours in complete silence, staring at nothing. I had no motivation – I couldn’t get up out of bed, I didn’t want to shower or brush my teeth or hair. I didn’t want anything in life. I didn’t want life. Every time I drove over a bridge, I struggled not to jerk my wheel just so I could breathe again.

Like I said, I am completely broken. I’m a cliché. Fat kid in desperate need of love and acceptance. Rape victim throwing caution to the wind and delving into a world of drugs and promiscuity. ‘That girl’ who can’t get over her ex. The typical depressed person who lives through every symptom you read on the internet. Smart kid desiring acceptance ends up failing classes due to active social life.

I am completely broken.

I Am Completely Broken

91% of victims of rape and sexual assault are female, and nine percent are male.

Sexual assault can utterly change everything about who you are.

This is her story:

I am completely broken.

Bold statement, I know, but hear my story and you will understand. (to be clear) I don’t need pity, nor do I want to be saved. Understanding, though, never hurts.

I’ve always taken a liking to academia; I was a natural scholar who skipped the first grade. I had art published in the local newspaper when I was, say, five years old. It was a serviceman in rainbow camo gear holding the American flag, if anyone was curious.

I’d say that was my peak.

I was in third grade when the bullying started – the other kids even dedicated a song to me on the playground! How lucky, right? I was pudgy, I suppose; the fattest kid in the class, fat enough to be the ‘chosen one.’ I cried every single time I went shopping with my mom and sister. I begged that I’d cease to exist, ‘so no one has to worry about me’ –direct quote. This continued for years – seven to be exact.

At least you’re noticed in elementary and middle school. Maybe I wasn’t noticed for a good reason, but I was noticed. I played sports throughout junior high, always had a perfect GPA, I had plenty of friends, and a decent social life. But I was The Friend, not The Girlfriend. I remember during a Halloween dance, I literally begged a boy to tell me why he didn’t like me. He simply walked away and asked my best friend to be his girlfriend. I wasn’t mad; I accepted it.

High school was when the shit hit the fan.

My first two years of high school, I was really involved in class office, never running for a position because I knew the prettier and thinner girls would win. It’s high school, ya know?

I accepted squeezing in wherever I was allowed to. I wasn’t bullied much, but I was ignored. Sometimes, I preferred it. Don’t get me wrong, I had great friends but I was always chasing the fun, chasing the social scene.
Sophomore year I had my first taste of alcohol and weed. I loved it. It felt great to have a secret, something behind the backs of my straight-laced, God-fearing friends. Soon, though, my friends didn’t like me. I remember sitting alone at a table in the library, my old friends at the table next to me, ignoring me. I begged them to tell me why they didn’t like me anymore; they shrugged and walked off.

I transferred schools to a dual enrollment program.

Oh, did I mention I had ballooned up to 250 pounds? Yep. My weight was largely ignored, not discussed, and accepted. But I got sick of it, so I lost the weight – worked out constantly and methodically, eating like a champion.

By the time I got to my new school, I was thirty pounds lighter and thought I was hot shit. I smoked a lot of weed, drove around in my new car with my hip friends, and smoked cigarettes. I even got my first kiss—so what if it was my best friend’s boyfriend? I got it, and I liked it.

I craved male attention and I entered into this ‘I deserve it’ mode. I thought I owed myself a treat, and boy did I get it.

December 8, 2007. Fall semester, senior year, I was golden. There was a new guy every day that wanted me; I dangled myself in front of them like a piece of meat, but I never gave an inch. Not because I didn’t want to, but I was too nervous. With about three kisses under my belt, I was CLUELESS.

But yes, back to that date. That’s when it all went to shit.

I went to the beach with a few people where we drank a lot of whiskey or rum. I remember the initial vomit hump—you know when you gotta puke once to get the ball rolling? I remember looking up to see his face, and I know, looking back, what he was doing. I hear the brain blocks on memories you can’t handle, and thank goodness for that.

I lost my cell phone and my virginity that night. I didn’t even realize it until I went back the next day, saw the condom wrapper, and pieced it together. I quickly covered it with sand so my mom wouldn’t be upset.
Oh, fun fact: in my attempt to go home, I went to a ‘friend’s’ house to ask for help—in the weeks following, I asked him about it, and he said I wanted it just as badly as he did – that I came on to him.

I figured it wasn’t worth it – that I, for some reason, didn’t deserve normalcy. So I went with it, like I went with everything. I made it out to be funny, I buried it deep and far away. I joked about myself – called myself every name in the book. I don’t even know how many people I’ve slept with since that time.

Since then, I’ve had someone attempt to rape me. Since then, I’ve been molested. Since then, I’ve done shameful things I don’t even want to type, but I will. I’ve done MDMA, cocaine, crack, heroin, acid, prescription drugs, and more cocaine. I’ve slept with people – multiple at one time. I’ve stolen money, stolen from stores, stolen from people I love. Since then, I have hated myself and everything, masking it with humor and cool clothes.

Then I met Zach.

Junior year of college, my first year in the dorms, I was nineteen years old. I always had a blast in college – my philosophy was “why think about bad stuff when you can think about the good?”

Zach was special – still is in my book. He had a long-term girlfriend and he hooked up with my roommate, while seeing me in between. I felt special for no reason. Through “healing” from my rape, I learned that I could have anyone I wanted. I knew how to talk and look and walk to get what I wanted. All I needed was a kiss: one kiss in the elevator of my dormitory sealed the deal. I was in love. He made me feel pure and real; like I deserved more.

This was the first time I realized how important and delicate sex was. I learned what making love was. I no longer made fun of romantic movies or songs; I felt the scenes and I listened to the lyrics and understood. We made love and cried, and it wasn’t corny or cheesy, it was real. And it was amazing. It was the first time I ever said ‘I love you’ to someone. When you experience that for the first time, it’s amazing. You feel important, you know someone is important to you.

I didn’t care about anything but playing “house” with him in my dorm. His dad hated me, my mom hated him, but it didn’t matter; we were in love and it was amazing. I’ll always miss that blissful month. I felt real for the first time in my life.

We moved in together when school let out in the spring. It got bad – screaming, crying, and covering it up with sex. I’ll leave out these details, but it was a textbook abusive relationship, on both our ends. We broke up the day before my fourth year of university started.

I’ve been numb since.

I’ve fucked many, kissed more, and drank a lot of alcohol. I feel empty. I quit going to class, and sat in my apartment for days in the dark, just smoking pot and sitting there. Sometimes, I’d sit for a few hours in complete silence, staring at nothing. I had no motivation – I couldn’t get up out of bed, I didn’t want to shower or brush my teeth or hair. I didn’t want anything in life. I didn’t want life. Every time I drove over a bridge, I struggled not to jerk my wheel just so I could breathe again.

Like I said, I am completely broken. I’m a cliché. Fat kid in desperate need of love and acceptance. Rape victim throwing caution to the wind and delving into a world of drugs and promiscuity. ‘That girl’ who can’t get over her ex. The typical depressed person who lives through every symptom you read on the internet. Smart kid desiring acceptance ends up failing classes due to active social life.

I am completely broken.

This Father’s Day*

Welcome to Father’s Day 2019, here at The Band Back Together. Today, we celebrate fathers-to-be, fathers whose treasures who are in heaven, fathers who don’t deserve the title, fathers who have shaped who we are for good, for bad, for life.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, Happy Father’s Day.

The Band.

To The Man Who “Raised” Me-

You married my mother when I was barely three-years-old.

I don’t have any memories of that day, but the pictures show a happy little girl. I don’t know what was going on in your mind as you allowed me to grow up believing you were my father.

I’ve seen all the pictures. I know they portray the quintessential American family.

I have memories that tell me those pictures were lies.

On the surface, I never wanted for anything. I had clothes that fit me, food in my belly and most of the coolest toys. What I didn’t have, was you.

Even at a young age, I remember feeling that I was somehow less than my sisters, somehow different in your eyes. As I got older, I picked up that it had something to do with having a different last name.

But I never got any explanation as to why.

I was only nine when you brought your daughter from a previous marriage to live with us. I was NINE YEARS OLD when you and Mom sat us down and explained that you weren’t really my father.

You asked for my permission to adopt me.

A chance to finally be YOURS?! Who could turn that down? Did you realize that I didn’t have the cognitive ability to understand what was happening? Did you know how desperately I wanted to have your last name? To be a part of the family, to no longer be different?

Why you and Mom went through with the adoption, I’ll never know. You were already fighting so much. A mere six months later, you were divorced.

Do you know what it cost me to tell my mother that I wanted to live with you instead of her? Do you realize that my desire to please you, to matter to you, caused a chasm between Mom and me that can never be repaired?
And what did I gain? A step-mother who made sure I continued to feel like less, separate from her family. The privilege of being your built-in-baby-sitter and maid. And constantly being bullied by my step-sisters every day of my teenage years. All while you turned a blind eye.

Somewhere along the line, I stopped trying to win your love and started to seek what I was missing from boys.
Even the negative attention I received when I acted out was better than feeling invisible.

For years I called you “Dad.” I bought you cards on Father’s Day every year, signing them, “with all my love.” For most of my life, I’ve tried to please you. I stood by you when others wouldn’t, and made excuses for you when you hurt others. Or me.

I can’t do it anymore.

I have a son now and while I may not get along with his father, I see what a strong relationship they have. I have removed the blinders – I see that we’ve never had a relationship. It’s not really a relationship if one person doesn’t even acknowledge the other.

So this Father’s Day, there won’t be a card from me in the mailbox. You won’t get a phone call or a text.

For once, I’ll be just as invisible as you always made me feel.

Love,
Me

Getting Lost is Easy, But How Do You Get Back?

I spent the last many years married to a woman with fairly severe (clinically diagnosed) Borderline Personality Disorder. I could very easily fill an entire book writing about what that experience was like, so it’s hard to know how to distill it. Here are some things I know-
-Years of being subjected to masterfully performed gaslighting has left me very unsure of all my own judgements and perceptions of reality.
-Years of being degraded and emasculated when I wanted to discuss my thoughts/feelings, being told that it is unattractive for a man to show “weakness” to his wife, has left me uncertain of when it’s ok to be vulnerable with other people.
-Years of walking on eggshells, trying so hard to do and say everything just right, but knowing that no matter how well I did, the next blow-up/emotional attack was always coming, has left me perpetually anxious, and steeped so heavily in learned helplessness that I often struggle to even feel that I have any control over what happens in my life. I never used to be that way at all.
-Years of having all my contributions and accomplishments minimized or forgotten, and all my imperfections magnified and carefully score-carded, has left me with close to zero sense of self-efficacy.
-Years of living with someone who is intimacy avoidant and uninterested in sex, but being told the whole time that her disinterest is caused by my shortcomings–because I didn’t last long enough in bed, or because I lasted too long in bed (yes, both of those), or because of the stress I was causing her by me not making us enough money (even when I was bringing in over six figures a year), or because I was paying too much attention to (suffocating) her, or because I was not paying enough attention to (neglecting) her– has left my self confidence so damaged that I almost fear being intimate with someone again.
Probably the worst part, though? During the early “idealization” phase of the relationship, she was incredibly jealous and protective of my attention (which at the time I foolishly believed was just because she loved me so much).  So, focusing all of my time and attention on her needs, I greatly distanced myself from any male friends I was close to, and completely cut off contact with all of my female friends. Once she flipped me into the devaluation phase, I was left with a partner who had zero interest in me, other than what I could fix or provide for her, and only weak remnants of friendships remained. I was effectively isolated to the point that I spent most of my free time just sitting alone in my basement, wishing things were different.
Isolation is definitely one of my biggest hurdles right now. I’d really like to make some new friends, particularly some female friends since I lost all but one or two, but no clue where to even start. I just really miss having more meaningful conversations and connections with people.
Another hurdle is figuring out how to integrate “what I know to be true” with “what I feel to be true.” For example, I can write down a list of all of my business/financial accomplishments, and objectively say I’ve been successful in that area. I know this to be true. But I do not feel that this is true. I can find endless examples of things I’ve done or experiences I’ve had that show most of the negative feelings I mentioned above are illogical or don’t line up with reality. But again, I still don’t feel that.
I would love any thoughts or advice from anyone who has gone through something similar. What worked? What DIDN’T work? How did you reconnect with yourself? How did you reconnect with other people and build some new meaningful friendships/relationships?

My Thoughts on Learned Hate

Just a warning, this is stream of consciousness writing about events that happened over a quarter century ago, triggered by current events. Please have patience with the time jumps. I’m trying not to tell all the details that are huge, but not important to this part of the story, and to try to be as anonymous as possible.

You see the pictures, the young people, basically still children, with hate and contempt in their eyes. Hate is taught at home, that’s what we say. We post the pictures of toddlers hugging, one pink, one brown. The idea is clear; we can solve racism in just one generation if we stop teaching our children to hate.

If only it were that easy. In high school I fell for the stereotypical bad boy. He had a car, a leather jacket and a terrible grade average. When you are living in a rural area, a car is essential when it comes to dating, and who can resist a leather jacket? He was tall, blonde and never smiled. He wore button-down shirts in an era of pop-collared Polo shirts. He was older, but was in a couple of my classes anyway (I mentioned the terrible grades). I am an empath, so I gravitated to him.

Maybe I could help? Here, I can explain the math. I tell a joke, he cracks a smile. What charming crooked teeth! Oh, that’s why you don’t smile, just a little self conscious, not such a bad guy!

I eventually met his mom, the woman who would become my mother-in-law. I loved her instantly. She was so sweet, not a mean bone in her body. She had a rough life. Her father’s violence ended in the death of both of her parents, in a murder-suicide that scandalized the town, leaving her and her siblings behind to face the judgement of small town gossip. She fell for a boy and his promises of freedom, only to have him disappear when they found out she was pregnant. It was hard, but she did it. She was a single mother at time when that was a huge stigma, working hard and struggling with a young son.

I don’t remember much about the man who was technically my father-in-law. I may have met him once. That was another thing that drew me in: a broken relationship with a step-father. “This poor bird has a broken wing!” My empathic brain was in overdrive! I. Must. Fix. This!

Anyway, that’s a long story, and I’ve set the scene. How romantic! High school sweethearts get married! That’s what the world sees. Behind closed doors, hatred grows.

For my bad boy, who needed to graduate? Not him! He was so smart, his teachers just hated him. Trouble getting and keeping a job? Those stupid bosses didn’t know how good they had it. As time went on, the need for a scapegoat grew. His problem must be his teeth. His stupid mother was too damn cheap to get him braces. Our money problems were my fault, for not being ambitious enough. But I couldn’t socialize to network because then I was being a slut. Rather than looking at his behavior, he looked for someone to blame. And he found them everywhere! He couldn’t do what he wanted to do because he was a straight, white man of course! Stupid Equal Rights! And then he found a new hero who would always tell him the truth, Rush Limbaugh.

I don’t know exactly what went wrong. I don’t know when the wheels came off. I was suddenly in a marriage with a Nazi. Hate ruled my home. My mother-in-law did not teach this. People like Limbaugh, (and now Alex Jones and the like) didn’t start this. They fan the flames, turn a spark into a brushfire, but where did the spark come from? Mental illness in an era where it wasn’t talked about certainly ran in the family. Remember his grandparents? I eventually admitted to myself that murder-suicide would probably be the end of me as well. But even in an era where mental health is widely talked about, hate still happens. Hate is easy. Mental health is hard work. I’ve been working on it. He did not. His mother even warned him that he was pushing too hard, and our marriage broke under the strain.

I am one of the lucky ones who escaped the hate. Too many don’t survive. After all that rambling, all I can say is, I don’t know. I use words as I learn them. Malignant Narcissist? Incel? I was that frog in a pot of water, unaware I was boiling to death. It happened under my watch, was it my fault? Of course not. Neither was it my mother-in-law’s fault. Yes, there are many generations of racists being born and taught to hate. Some even gather in enough members to teach it in schools, perverting religion to suit their needs. But sometimes it seems to just…happen. Nature versus nurture? I wish I had the answers. Even having lived through it, I don’t know what I would do differently. I have to release myself from the “should haves,” but could have I done something? If not, does that mean we are all powerless? I hope not. For all our sakes, I hope not.