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I Wear The Mask

How can you explain the unexplainable?

The intangible that lives within and is expressed without but not with words…thoughts, deeds, drinks, and pills. Words seldom give justice to the turmoil within. And even when blurted out in a moment of weakness or vulnerability…if expressed to the wrong person they are still and float on the air like flotsam…better left wherever the journey began.

One might say “get a therapist” or “join a group.” Some psychobabble will surely help things along. Turn lemons into lemonade, bump inertia into movement. But, what to do without that ever-expensive, mostly elusive thing called health insurance?

Out of pocket expenses for mental health care are damaging.

So the cycle continues. The mood swings, the doubting, the bursts of mania. The decision to do one thing and suddenly another road is taken. All the while keeping things together. Feeling very little, looking very ill and fooling no one. Or maybe, just maybe, fooling everyone and that is the very problem that needs to be addressed.

The adjectives used to describe this current state are self-actualized and negative. But what is the alternative?

“Take these broken wings and learn to fly…”

No, these wings aren’t broken, my cape is not torn, I can handle everything that is happening. In the midst of accolades for “making it,” the pieces of my heart slowly tumble and quietly hit the ground while barely making a whisper.

And yet the pain is still devastating, immobilizing and nobody knows.

Admittedly this is my fault. Perhaps wiping away the facade will release magical healing powers, somehow I find that doubtful. So what if the alternative means holding it all in, weight creeping up and face looking as if I’m aging in reverse – teen years I’m back! Acne and all.

Sadly I don’t know how to remedy this. And so I sit. Waiting for the next thing in the pipeline and inevitably it comes and keeps me focused.

For a moment.

But in the quiet times (which are rare) my truth must be faced. I’m inert. Immobile. Dysfunctional and pray that someone will swoop in and take it all away. The likelihood of that happening? Nil.

And so I wake to face another day, I wear the mask and hope that no one notices.

Dragon Slaying 101

As a child of a covert narcissist, who spent every day breaking down any self-esteem I might accidentally grow, I was a prime target for my malignant narcissist of an ex-husband.

Keep in mind that there never has been and never will be an actual diagnosis for either my mother or my ex. Both fought like hell against any hint of therapy because there was nothing wrong with them, everything was my fault.

There are many stories, some I have already told, and this one, which I never thought would see the light of day.

Marital rape.

I don’t even want to think about it, never mind discuss it with anyone. But people need to know that it exists, that it happens, and that it’s not OK.

I married my “high school sweetheart” AKA, a predator who targeted someone vulnerable 3 years his junior. Now, the age difference wouldn’t matter if we had been grown, mature adults. As a matter of fact, my current wonderful husband is 7 years older than me. But then, my ex was my first real boyfriend, and as I said earlier, I was raised in a dysfunctional family in which the normal was not normal.

I was taught to serve, to ignore my own needs in favour of other’s wants. I learned that I didn’t matter. I had no choices, no opinions of my own. I was a mirror.

And that continued throughout my marriage. I was perfectly broken and ready to be used.

From the beginning, he taught me that it was my fault if he was in pain. Physical, mental, financial, it was all my responsibility.

That continued into the bedroom.

Sex was not a loving act between two cherished partners, it was a power play. If he had a need, I was to fulfill it. If he had a desire, I was to play the part. Women were his enemies and only to be used. His porn addiction was out of control, and this was before the internet, so our bedroom was filled with falling down piles of the most degrading magazines he could get his hands on. I was only the receptacle, not the object of desire. I was too fat, too ugly and nothing about me was good enough.

He groomed me to be meek and accepting that he was the only one in the world who would ever put up with me and I needed to be grateful that I had him, because otherwise I would die alone. I was only acceptable as long as I did what I was told.

I was expected to be “ready and willing” at any time, any place, because you see, blue balls are fatal.

I bet you didn’t know that.

My sex education was brief at best, back in 1980ish and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t covered. As the years dragged on, I was barely even worth being a receptacle.

The worst part was when he…couldn’t.

That would bring the rage. That was when the worst times happened. If he couldn’t do it himself, he used whatever was at hand, including a police issued nightstick. He bought this illegally, as normal citizens aren’t allowed to have these in my country. This added to the thrill, I guess.

What it has done to me over the years has led to a deep fear of police. It’s not a straight line, there are many other stories involved, but that’s a biggie.

As a boring, law abiding middle-aged white woman, I actually have very few encounters with police officers. (Yeah, white privilege at work, sigh).

In the past few years, my PTSD has made me absolutely terrified of even the briefest encounter. Why it waited 20 years to fuck with my head like this, I have no idea, but my therapist does. I’ve been working on my fragile mental health for about 10 years now, one thing at a time, and she tells me that my brain will withhold things that I am not prepared to deal with yet. As I have gotten other things somewhat under control, my suicidal thoughts, my OCD, my anxiety, and depression have a little less hold on me. And then, slowly, over a few years, I found myself avoiding anyone in a uniform that might remind me. Whether a soldier, a police officer, or even a security guard if he has a nightstick or a gun, I will freeze and go into a panic attack.

This is interfering with my life dammit!

I am so angry at my stupid brain. I am absolutely terrified of getting stopped by the police, even for something benign.

What would I do?

My big fear is that I will bolt and not be able to communicate why I am acting erratically and get arrested. I fear my heart would stop, like a terrified rabbit caught in a trap. I

fear that I will have another nervous breakdown. I fear I would never recover.

But I’m working on it. I am going to beat it, I swear.

This particular mind-dragon is a powerful one, but not invincible. I have proven that over and over again in my recovery. I am worth the work, I deserve peace.

Session by session with my trauma therapist, day by day with my husband, we are all fighting for me. If you are reading this and you have experienced marital rape, you are worth it too! It’s not right, it’s not OK and it’s not your fault. Please use the resources here at The Band, and know that there are people who care and who can help.

A Letter I Cannot Send: Dear Satan

An intro: Judgmental people are my pet peeve. The event that precipitated this Letter happened 5 years ago, and as badly as I would like to let the entire world know about these people, I have changed all names to protect the guilty.

Dear Ex Sister-In-Law:

You don’t know me and we’ve never met. I’m Evil Stepmother #3. For the past 10 years, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing your sister and her son, Lucifer. Thank you so much for not only the note you sent acknowledging the flowers we sent for your mother’s funeral, but also the note addressed to Forever Man laying out your concern for our family’s spiritual health.

It was so kind of you to let us know how evil we are. We had no idea! I’ll bet the dictionary has a picture of you next to the definition for “thoughtful.”

We really didn’t mean to ruin your mother’s funeral. My sympathy for your loss was very real, believe it or not. I did meet your mother on several occasions when we picked up or dropped off Lucifer for visitation. She treated Lucifer’s younger half-brother like a blood grandson. I don’t know whether you, as a mother yourself, can begin to imagine what that small act of kindness meant to me.

Having lost my dad and grandmother during the holiday season, I understand more than you might think. But, given your little note, I’m now left wondering how such a kind, caring woman could possibly have raised such assholes for daughters.

You said in your note that you “feel sorry for my children?”

Maybe you should focus more on your own children.

I totally understand your normal, human reaction to need to blame someone for the chaos that surrounded your mother’s visitation. But you know, my normal human reaction is: who the fuck do you think you are telling my family that we need to get right with God?

Who died and made you the Judge of the Entire Fucking Universe? You don’t know the half of what you think you know. If your opinion was even partially based on facts, we might agree on a few areas in need of improvement. But it’s obvious that you are judging from a position of ignorance. Remember that Bible verse about how knowing the truth shall set you free?

Here’s some truth for you: your sister Saint D and Lucifer are assholes.

You don’t owe me anything, and I don’t need your forgiveness. But if you really feel like you need to blame someone or judge intentions, you should blame me, not Forever Man. Why?

Because I exist.

Because I am the latest Evil Stepmother. Because Saint D never expected a sibling to take the focus off of Lucifer. Because I agreed with FM, Saint D and Evil Stepfather #2 (her live-in boyfriend) that it was unacceptable behavior to flunk out of school and live in an online fantasy world. That it was unacceptable behavior to disregard personal hygiene. To be disrespectful. To not apologize when you’re wrong. To not help fix things you broke. To not right wrongs. To lie when it suited your purpose. To be ungrateful for the opportunities and help you’ve received, all freely given even when you didn’t deserve it.

In a nutshell, there must be someone to blame always when something goes awry with the Upbringing of the Crotch Parasite (love you AB!). That someone is always either the ex or the stepparent. Another truth for you: Lucifer is a parasite and so is his mother.

This is, incidentally, an insult to ticks, maggots and tapeworms.

What the hell ever happened to “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?”

Did it never occur to you that there is something inherently unfair about judging someone without first asking for their side of the story?

Yes, life is not fair and the benefit of the doubt does not apply to divorce. If there are children involved, you are doubly screwed, no matter how good your intentions are, how hard you try, or how much you love them. You accused FM of treating Saint D “disgustingly” after the divorce. We should all be so lucky to live in a world where “disgusting” means loving your child so much that you would willing stick yourself with paying all the bills on two houses, alimony, college tuition for two (ultimately useless) degrees, child support (even when it should have been reduced or stopped), extra cash beyond that, legal bills to defend a constant stream of court actions, and personal attacks directed at FM’s employers and siblings.

You’d be quick to condemn anyone else who used their child for money and sympathy.

To be honest, I’m tired of hearing the stories. It’s not a fucking competition to see who had it worst.

If only my ex had treated me so badly!

When Preacher B divorced me, I was supposed to feel privileged that I was “allowed” my freedom. I got no child support, even though Preacher was the only father Number One Son had ever known. There was no settlement or alimony. I got no share of all the property gained – cars, land, home, camping trailers, royalties – because I willingly worked my ass off as a helpmeet, while being spiritually and sexually abused in the special hell known as fundamentalist Christian patriarchy.

I was shunned by my church family.

I got nothing because I believed in educating my God-given brain. That divorce was the best Christmas present I ever received, even though it meant starting from nothing (for a second time) as a single parent. I tried to fit into, to trust new church families – Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, unaffiliated, you name it . When I was brave enough to tell my story, I can’t count the number of fine moral upstanding Christian eyes which glazed over and I became invisible again.

They have to answer for it, not me. I am not ashamed of being a survivor. I kicked stigma in the crotch.

Me! Fuck you.

All these years, FM has held his tongue, because it wasn’t anyone else’s business. Problem is, Saint D has been sharing her opinion loudly, indiscriminately and constantly for the twenty-five-plus years since the divorce. We’ve all heard her side of it.

But consider this: we have a big-ass storage bin full of court papers and check registers – it weighs about 75 pounds – to prove that the story Saint D has been feeding you all these years is a veritable cornucopia of bullshit. All for sympathy. If it weren’t for Saint D’s lawyer getting his license revoked for soliciting a prostitute, we’d probably still be tied up in a court action for something.

Forever Man is also a survivor.

I think Saint D and Lucifer have had a pretty privileged existence. Saint D’s repeated financial and emotional vengeance for the privilege of being divorced from her, even now twenty. five. fucking. years. later, is what is disgusting here. Saint D has elevated martyrdom to both a science and an art form, and passed it along to Lucifer, who has internalized the constant stream of complaints, lies, and dad-bashing since he was a toddler. This is what you’re calling values?

Rational people would call it child abuse. It is a travesty of justice that the family court consistently sided with her simply because she bears a c-section scar. Unfortunately for FM, having possession of a big-ass Bin-O-Facts does not mean justice. Joint custody and the privilege of being bankrupted maybe, but not justice.

So, let’s change gears and talk about what happened on visitation day, shall we? For the record, FM made travel arrangements with Lucifer two days before the visitation. Given the weather forecast (winter storm watch), we offered to bring Lucifer with us, mostly because we thought it would be helpful to Saint D. Because, you know, compassion. When someone dies, that’s what you’re supposed to do. We thought of her, even with the hell we’ve been through with her. Offering to help someone who’s brought FM nothing but misery for nearly forty years, since he was 18 years old?

Yeah, FM and I are the dictionary definition of assholes.

Just so we’re clear here: the ensuing crisis wasn’t because FM made any rash, selfish, last-minute decisions. Lucifer was the one with anger issues; he couldn’t handle the thought of two specific riders occupying space in the same car with him and FM. The crisis was caused because Lucifer has the social and reasoning skills of a two year old parasite. Oops, I forgot. It’s my fault because I should have known how inappropriate it was for me and Little Brother to offer FM moral support, since it was also his loss. Lucifer’s full transformation into Satan couldn’t have happened at a better time.

Last we knew, Satan had a car and a job. He could have driven himself, if he’d wanted to. Surely you could come up with a better excuse than we ruined the funeral because Satan’s mother had to drive over and pick him up!

Here’s another truth for you: Satan is an equal-opportunity hater; he hates all of you, just like he hates us. He was looking for an excuse not to attend, but one that wouldn’t look like he was deliberately trying to avoid seeing his family. You’d have thought he would have covered his ass better. I mean, come on now, most rational adult humans would have the presence of mind to reschedule a doctor appointment on the day of a close relative’s funeral. Especially since it took four days to make funeral arrangements.

It sure was awfully convenient to manufacture a crisis, blame the whole mess on FM and get out of attending a funeral. Unfortunately for Satan’s sake, we got the EOB for the doctor’s visit a few weeks later. Yes, Satan’s still on our insurance, which is by the way, just another of those nice things we do for him even though he wishes we were all dead.

We’re going to hell for sure.

When I emailed Saint D to let her know that we wouldn’t be able to come, she said that Satan had been expecting time alone with his dad.

See, another truth you need to know is that Satan has not once, in the twenty. five. fucking. years. since the divorce, asked his dad for “alone time.” “Alone time” is Saint D’s code for marginalizing Evil Stepmothers. Satan has our phone number and emails. He could get “alone time” anytime. We haven’t heard a word from Satan since that cold, snowy December day five years ago.

Yeah, we’re awful, valueless, evil personified. We’ve invited Satan over every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, anytime just because, since he moved out of our house ten years ago. Well, not for the last three years because we moved to another state and since he doesn’t speak to us, we didn’t tell him we were moving. When FM handed him the check containing his college fund and helped him move into the dorms at Big State University nine years ago, Satan’s last words to him were, “Well, be sure to let me know when this one ends in divorce, like all the others.”

As long as there was money flowing from the First Bank of Dad no questions asked, everything was fine. Until there were questions, like why he flunked out of BSU, which required thousands of dollars more to settle the final bill, which resulted in Satan’s faking a crisis to get everyone off his case. I know. See, awful nasty jerk that I am, I sat there in the ER waiting room, trying to keep everyone calm. I provided the insurance information. I made sure his prescriptions were filled. I brought clothes and other stuff to the mental ward for him. I offered to let Satan come back to our home until his apartment was ready, because he didn’t have anywhere else to go.

He didn’t seem to have a problem choosing a comfy warm bed and home-cooked meals over sleeping under a bridge. I figured out before the doctors did that it was a giant snow job. But I let it go. Yeah, more reason to hate me, since I’m a terrible, evil, valueless person for caring. He didn’t say “thank you” when he left.

He didn’t say “good bye” to his little brother. Fucking parasite.

You spoke of values. Little Brother certainly learned some important lessons about values, courtesy of your family, for which we cannot thank you enough. Like being born is the only qualification necessary for hating someone. How do you explain that to an eight-year-old child? That compassion, honesty, forgiveness and reconciliation are not in every family’s vocabulary. That families define “family” differently; no one considered it inappropriate for Saint D’s boyfriend to attend the visitation. That it’s acceptable to talk out of both sides of your mouth if it suits your purpose. Which is it: “inappropriate” or “alone time”? I would suggest neither, but who am I to judge if being petty, vindictive and immature makes someone feel better? We heard over and over, “it’s not fair!”

Little Brother understands the concept of fairness, you know. You made him cry. You people are despicable.

I’ve been calling bullshit on Satan for the 14 years I’ve known him, but telling a parent he has to choose between his children? Him or me? A child is not a paint color, a new car or a bag of potatoes. This was cruel, monstrous, despicable, evil beyond reason. I would say I hope Saint D and Satan both burn in hell, but I’m not sure I believe in hell anymore. Why do we need “Hell” when we have family? It seems to accomplish the same purpose.

So, in closing and just in case I wasn’t clear, it’s a really good thing that I’m not God, because if judgment and justice were left up to me, the Plagues of Egypt, the Crucifixion, the Inquisition, would be too lenient for your whole fucking family. You say you “don’t pretend to know [our] beliefs.” Then please do yourself a favor and save the lecture about getting “right with your Maker” because you might end up next to me in the hellhole you mentioned in your note and that would be even worse karma than occupying it with FM.

Until then, I wish you a lovely bouquet of Mushroom Prints. Asshole.

The Evil Stepmother #3

Ask The Band: Are My Parents Bullying Me?

Every Friday, Band Back Together runs an advice column, in which our (wise) readers help you answer the questions you need answered.

You can even do this anonymously. 

Now let’s get our advice on:

I know this may seem weird or stupid, but I think my parents are bullying me.

Let me explain why I believe they are bulling me.

The whole situation began about two years ago.

(Background: I am a 23 year old who loves technology.)

To attempt to cut a long story short, our house used to be filthy; and I mean filthy. How filthy? Well, there was actual black mold growing on walls. And with that mold, came mold mites, tiny white mites feeding on my technology.

So I went in to a panic and cleaned, sanitised, and vacuumed my stuff and desk. I wrapped anything that I wasn’t using into sealed bags: I did NOT want these buggers on feeding on my things.

Since that incident I think that I’ve developed OCD, although I’ve not been medically diagnosed, but now I clean my stuff everyday, in perpetual fear of mites.

I explained this to my family and they know why I’ve developed OCD. They have witnessed the mites. And I’ve asked that they do not let anyone near my room or stuff.

But for the past two years, they keep saying I am unwell, or I need to see a doctor. Like this is my fault.

My parents also put filthy items on my desk despite that I’ve asked them not to. They’ll also move my stuff around or put it on the dirty carpet

My OCD has gotten worse due to my parents interfering and I think they’re doing it just to get a reaction from me. Once I blow up, they blame me and call me “crazy.”

I just don’t know what to do anymore: I feel depressed and alone. I’ve really starting to think they are right. Maybe I am crazy.

I should also note: my fiancee says it’s my family that’s causing me to clean more due to their interference.

Help!

I Give Up

This shell of mine is cracking.
I try to hide it under duct tape
But that’s no longer working.
I can’t take another setback,
Another failure,
Another rejection.

I think I have suffered enough.
I deserve to be happy
To be loved
To be surrounded by people who cheer me on
Not tear me down.

Yet life does not agree with me.
It says that I don’t matter
Unless someone needs something:
A Worker
A detective/private investigator
A babysitter
A human punching bag.

Life says that I am not good enough.
That I will never be anything more than what I am.
That I am beating my head into a brick wall.
That I should wake up and see that the shitty life I live–
Is all I’m worth.

Life says that my lot in life is to be alone
To watch others have all the fun, joy peace, happiness.
To hide away from the world–ignored and unaccepted.

Sadly, I’ve grown tired of fighting life.
My head is pretty battered from the beating it has taken.
I have chosen to give up,
To silently and quickly murder my dreams
And play alone with the dark shadows of my mind.

Life After Death

I come from a large blended family.

I have six siblings- four brothers and two sisters. I’m especially close to two brothers.

November 19, 2017 will always be the hardest day of my entire life. You see, early that morning, I got a text from my mom asking me to call her; it was very important. I called her immediately, expecting that my grandfather, who is already in terrible shape, had fallen again or had another stroke.

When I called, the first words out of my mouth were, “Is it Pappaw?”

It wasn’t. It was Eli, my youngest brother, just 25.

He had committed suicide in the middle of the night.

I screamed for hours it seemed. I couldn’t stop screaming.

My baby brother, and one of my biggest supporters, had chosen to end his life with no signs of depression or struggle beforehand. I cried myself into one of the worst migraines of my life.

I was in the ER that evening seeking treatment.

As if that earth-shattering day wasn’t enough, the next day was just as bad.

My dad, 66 years old, had gone to the ER complaining of back pain and unable to walk. I mean, his legs wouldn’t support him or move, not that it hurt to walk. After scans and exams, we found out that he had stage four cancer. His bones were riddled with cancer.

He went straight from the ER to radiation.

Now, this is a double whammy. Not only am I reeling and numb from Eli’s loss, but now I have to hold myself together to support Dad. He’d always been my greatest supporter, it was my turn to help him.

I immediately began packing bags to go to his side. After a cluster of idiotic errors and misjudgments by the doctors, he was finally given an accurate diagnosis regarding the type of cancer and I stayed with him as much as I could during the next two months.

Dad died January 30, 2018.

Since losing these men that helped shape who I am, I’m barely breathing some days.

There are times when it all seems like a nightmare. There are times when I’m drowning in tears. I’ll never be the same. I don’t know how to live in a world without them. As crazy as it sounds, I’m reluctant to seek grief counseling. I’m worried I’ll hurt more if I’m forced to talk about it. I am on an antidepressant that takes the edge off this utter depression.

I distract myself with movies and books to get through the day.