10 comments on “Confronting the Things I Cannot Escape

  1. I moved back to the town where it all started, it just turned out that way (like I had to make the full circle) I swore when I left I would never come back. Never say never. It was extremely hard at first and still there are certain places that will trigger a reaction but over time it has gotten fewer and less intense. Every where I go in this town holds some memory and none of them good. The Walmart parking lot we lived in for a few months, the Tim Horton’s with the big tree I parked behind when my dog and I were living in my truck, The gravel pit we lived in and he hit me in the head with a glass and it broke and i got class in my feet. I am in the gated community we lived in when we started out and I was so in love and so excited to be starting our life together. One of the guys who lived here then still lives here and he was one of the ones standing outside the house while I was curled up in a corner protecting my head and screaming for help and my friend jumped through the door and yelled “what’s going on in here?” and my ex threw something across the room and said, “That’s it! you’ve done it now. It’s over, get out! You couldn’t keep your mouth shut,”
    It’s hard, but with time I don’t get the panicky feeling any more except if I have to go through the area he lived after we split, I still have a hard time with that area but I think it is because i have no reason to go there very often.
    I wanted to ask you about being homeless. I hadn’t realized you spent that much time homeless. Whenever I left James I always had a place to live, worked and paid my bills etc but we would get back together, he would have a new job and things would look so bright and within a few months we would be homeless again. I never knew where all the money went and either we wouldn’t make rent or he would get us kicked out for making too much noise or having crap every where. i started to think he did it on purpose because it kept me reliant on him. Do you think your ex did it as a form of control or what was the problem? just wondering, I don’t mean to get too personal if you don’t want to answer I understand.
    Good post btw, good luck with your quest to rid yourself of the demons.

    • I never left the area. It probably wasn’t particularly smart of me, but I wanted him to have to see me and know that I was never coming back. The first six months or so were really rough, because everything has a horrible memory attached to it. People don’t always seem to understand that when you have been hurt or traumatized so brutally that things stay with you, you react to them, and you have no control over it for so long. And here I was subjecting myself to it on purpose. I was never really stuck here. I have family in Washington State and in Virginia and Minnesota and Florida and who knows where else. Any of them would have let me come and stay as long as I needed to if I just asked. I didn’t ask, because Kevin intruded on MY neighborhood, and I wasn’t running. Not in the sense that I wasn’t going to let him run me out of town, but more because it was just one more thing he said I wouldn’t do.

      We were evicted from four apartments and on the way out of the fifth when I fled the last apartment. I am sure that part of his willingness to get repetitively evicted and show no concern was punishment for the fact that I dug in my heels and refused to move out of state. He wanted to take me away from my family.. where he still knew people, but I had no one. I always knew in my gut if he was successful in this, I’d die. He would get infuriated with me, because he would be telling me about how “Sometimes you just gotta pick and leave and start over.” “Sometimes you have no choice.” He said so many times that being homeless is not that big of a deal.

      He had experience in that, as I discovered soon enough, he was quite the active addict. I know where all the money he was beating me and stealing from me was going. He finally told me the third time we were about to be evicted that he was homeless more than once. I believe that none of it was accidental, but the period of time we were actually homeless was probably a little over a month. We stayed with someone he knew a few weeks, but he of course derailed that as well. We slept in the car for about three weeks, usually parking at a truck stop. Sometimes we slept in one of the two parks or had to waste an entire day there because we had nowhere to go. I detested it. I loathed him. And when we finally got an apartment (the last one – because of MY income and looking for a place, because he was content with the truck stop), he had finished meeting with the landlord after filling out the rental app, and he looked the landlord in the eye, and he said, “We aren’t one of those domestic violence couples making noise all hours of the day and night.” And I swear I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and let the entire neighborhood know everything, and the only thing that stopped me was the thought of spending any more time with him in that stinking cramped disgusting piece of garbage car. Because I wanted to have a roof over my head. When we walked away from the landlord, I felt in my gut we were not going to get the apartment, and when we got in the car and started off down the street, I let into him like I never did before. This was the only time he didn’t punish me. I will never know why I escaped reprisal for that, because I said every nasty thing I had been thinking about him for the past two years, and I was mean. I was hurtful. I didn’t care. I started to say, “If we don’t get that apartment because you opened your mouth……” and I stopped. He drove back to the truck stop and parked. Neither of us spoke the rest of the night, except when he was falling asleep I looked at him and told him I hated him. He didn’t answer. The next morning on the way to work, the landlord called, and I was so excited he said we had the apartment I couldn’t think about anything else. And then he ruined it by opening his mouth. I knew the violence would follow. I knew the money would run out. I just wanted out of that car, and I wanted him to just go away.

      No one in my family knew I was sleeping in the car. No one at work knew. It was always something I kept to myself for the longest time, because along with all the disgusting places I was dragged against my will, I was humiliated. But I’m not anymore. It’s his shame and he can carry it on his back like the rest of it. I think there is not anything I would refuse to answer if I was talking a woman. Because some of them really were meant to humiliate me as a woman, it would have to be something I talked about in private. When it comes to abuse, for me there is no such thing as too personal when you are talking to another survivor. You never know when you reveal that extremely embarrassing thing if it might give them some relief to know they aren’t the only one who had been shamed that way.

  2. I think that desensitization is a great idea.
    I still can’t go anywhere near the neighborhood I lived in for 19 years with the ex.
    My thoughts are with you.

    • I’m pretty sure that I am going to save the most traumatic one for last. I actually wrote a post about it almost exactly a year ago, and it’s the only time I made any extended mention about it. It’s still something I have great difficulty with, including nightmares. I’m not looking forward to that one, so I’ll fold it up, put it in my back pocket, and hoard it away for later.

  3. Fantastic bravery. Good for you! I cannot get back to where I was and it might not be safe for me to do so. I have been picturing the neighborhood in my head, because I realized I had been blocking it out. My next step is talk therapy. I spent the first few years talking about cultural acclimation rather than abuse issues. This fall I am going to tackle it. If it was hard, please share what techniques helped you, if any. I have learned a breathing trick, and not much else.

    • I think prior to sitting down and talking directly about the abuse, think about certain things you struggle with that may keep you from feeling completely comfortable or willing to talk. Then have a conversation with the therapist and let them know that you having a hard time with certain issues. Do you feel comfortable looking at them when you talk? How difficult is it to trust? How easily do you get overwhelmed when talking about something so personal?

      For me, because I was punished so often for making eye contact with others, I was not immediately able to look my counselor in the eye when I first had my appointments and found that I had to look at something on the other side of the room or at the floor while I talked. I also struggled with not being able to trust, and building trust with your counselor is a must if you are to benefit from it. So what I requested was that I talked about one thing that I chose to talk about for as long as I felt comfortable, and then when I felt it becoming too much, I would change the subject for a little bit. I also came up with a password to use to let her know if I felt a panic attack coming on and I needed to stop or if her questions went further than I was comfortable with. Sometimes if the appointment felt emotionally heavy, at the end we’d talk about a few things I was thankful for so I wouldn’t be focused on the bad when I left. When the order against my ex expired January of this year, I went through a rough couple of months, and I was being triggered like no one’s business. I ended up even buying magnetic bulletin boards and magnets so I could pin things I was thankful for… in an area where I would easily see it, because when you are discouraged, forgetting the blessings, even small things, is all too easy. The breathing techniques will come in handy. Trust me.

      I am still unsure whether my being so insistent on staying in the area was bravery or foolishness. Most likely it would have been easier to get focused if I wasn’t in a place where I’d run the risk of running into my ex or having to constantly be surrounded by the bad memories attached to all these places. But I think for me and the way I have reacted to it, it’s helped me because I have to confront my fears for them to go away. I definitely would not recommend it, because we all respond to trauma differently, and I believe that if you do not think you’d be safe going back, there is no reason on this earth why you should try to force yourself to. Perhaps for you, tackling that demon will have to be a long time down the road… and I am sure even then once you have had some time behind you, there would still be doubt and insecurity and maybe fear inside. Memories are powerful things, and when they are attached to trauma, they are really difficult to overcome. Don’t rush it. Even if you are not able to feel safe going back.. you can always move forward.

      • The structure of your sessions actually is very helpful- I think I will use that positive note at the end, for certain.
        I also had trouble with eye contact, but that is cultural on my end. I don’t know if it will go away, but I can look most women in the eye without an issue. Menfolk I have to know first.
        I had to reacclimate to the culture to get to the point of trusting again.
        I have started with visualizations until I get back to my therapist (she switched clinics and etc) and instead am learning (trying to) practical techniques from a psychologist to reduce stress reactions and identify stressers. The PTSD gets to be a habit, just avoiding everything. But ignoring it just made it worse.
        I hope your exposure to the neighborhood goes well. I suspect it will.
        Thank you so much for sharing openly. How hopeful for the rest of us!

        • I saw this come up in one of my feeds…. If I remember correctly you are going through divorce? Maybe there are a few reminds there that can help you out. I was not actually married to my ex, and thankfully we did not have children so I do not have to worry about custody issues. I can tell you from several single mother / survivors I have befriended through my blog, the abusive party often tries to use them to continue hurting and emotionally abusing you, so it might be a good idea if you specifically look for them in the blogs I follow. They can give you advice in things I cannot. If you can’t find many, let me know I will email you some links (if you don’t mind the email). Here is the link to the article I saw: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tina-swithin/8-tips-for-dealing-with-a_b_2799069.html

          PTSD and triggers are a nuisance to my life! I didn’t reach the point where I was able to actually begin to control my response to them until a few months ago. When they were at there worst, it was almost like there were two of me trapped in one body, and the more normal, calmer Amy was at war with the out-of-control, nonsensical Amy and had to battle with her non-stop to subdue the reaction to the trigger, and it was so tiring. I had a list of things I used to distract myself … music, repeating silly things in my head like “Kevin is gone, he can’t hurt you” until it subsided, I prayed, I would force my attention onto a difficult crossword puzzle, I would play a game on my tablet.. anything to divert my attention. Now when I feel them coming on, I know what’s happening, so I’ve learned to ride it out and I always have music with me everywhere. Music flips my happy switch πŸ™‚ Also so does taking pictures, because I get so caught up in that I completely forget the trigger.

          • I was actually one of the very lucky ones who experienced a good result with the system. I got a conviction, and with no priors I never dreamed I would. I have full custody, and visitation unfortunately would be allowed, but the hoops are in place to guarantee the children’s safety and so their father has not bothered to jump through them. The state I was in relocated us to another under their victim’s rights laws. I have some nice pieces of paper to keep us safe. Like little flimsy shields. So far they have actually worked and the surprise is turning to acceptance.

            I know exactly how it feels with the PTSD triggers. I had to really argue with myself. It throws a wrench into parenting, and I have to get it under control. I have had some success lately, though. Because my kids have issues and they need me to function rationally on demand and be social, too. The betablocker I am taking helps immensely with the stress reactions. I have been on it for about six months, and have been actively working on stress control with this knowledgeable doctor for three months.

            At the worst, I had to carry little pieces of paper in my pocket listing the crimes involved in my case and how the children showed evidence of trauma. As motivations so that I would keep pushing forward. Two years later, I would say our lives are very stable. So I want to wade through the mess in my head and move on mentally, now that my children have their supports in place and our physical needs are met.

            I also want to get back into some sort of hobby, something sensory, that I can feel and see. Like knitting. I dropped all my hobbies while I was coping with the insanity, and I want to have that space back again. I am sure if I get started before the therapy, it will help in some way. It’s just instinctive.

            And I will check out all recommendations, thank you!

            • I am so glad to hear that went right for you… it’s no small feat for a survivor to end up in the right court with the right judge on the right day. It so often does not work out that way. Several of the single mothers I follow have not been having even remotely positive experiences with the courts and it’s so hard to watch them… They can’t really heal with the abuser still in the picture manipulating them with the children. I am so relieved you didn’t go through that, but I know you still have so much to work through.

              Not that I wouldn’t love and care for children had I had any with my ex, but I am relieved that I did not. Your emotional state after enduring trauma like that is so shaky. I can’t imagine how difficult some days must be for all of you. So please know that I have so much respect for those of you either struggling with the courts and custody or having to navigate single parenthood AND somehow find some stability so you can start to heal and rebuild your lives. It’s so encouraging to see examples of others working through the trauma… so many examples of hope to help others.

              A hobby would be a wonderful idea. When I first left, I was so numb from the abuse I endured, I no longer had any idea of who I was or what I liked. Everything that was programmed into my head that I supposedly liked was really what I was told I liked. It made me so angry at first but in time I learned to appreciate that so many people go through their lives and just float…. and often not really accomplish anything, and even worse, not know who they are. I have had to two turns at it. In some ways, it’s almost like being reborn, and learning who I was and rediscovering things about me that I thought were lost became something I looked forward to. I still found old hobbies crept back but news ones like becoming a photo bug have taught me even more about my perspective on the world around and how much better life is with appreciation of even the tiniest of things. Hobbies not only let you have some “you time,” they help keep you focused and in the present. I believe they are therapeutic, so if you want to knit again, pick it back up. Try some new things as well. You’ll never know what you will learn about yourself. πŸ™‚

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