One day, several years ago, I crawled on my hands and knees out of a situation that was nothing short of my worst nightmare. I had been living with a man whom I had married five years prior. I left with more than I had when I entered that home. I left with the knowledge that I, and I alone, am completely responsible for the conditions of my life and my perception of them. The action I took that day set in motion a journey through unchartered territory. The excitement of that prospect still inspires me now. Although I had many scars, less teeth, a permanently injured back and a big fat dose of PTSD, I still had more. Much more.
I remember moving into that house with high hopes for an exciting future. I had a decent job and was attending college. I was ambitious in both keeping myself on the dean’s list while maintaining a supervisory position at work. I truly believed that I was on the right track. I insisted on projecting a positive attitude even when things started to change. I really never saw it coming. And that’s what gaslighting is all about. One piece of me at a time was being chiseled away and I didn’t see it until I was almost gone. And no, faith didn’t save me. As a matter of fact it seemed to have abandoned me. Of course that’s inaccurate because how could something that does not provide any tangibles abandon anything? At that point I didn’t have the luxury of time for contemplation. I was surviving one moment at a time. I was forced into isolation by the threat of serious physical harm. Isolation is something I’m quite capable of enduring. As a matter of fact I prefer it. The problem with this isolation is that it was actually solitary confinement. My options were removed. There were days, sometimes weeks on end, that using the bathroom was prohibited. When I was permitted to use the facilities, he came along to supervise. Needless to say my organs were not capable of normal function. That in itself was a deliberate method of dehumanizing me. If I was sent to the store alone for groceries I was expected to return immediately. He would be waiting by the door or even in the driveway to check the mileage and the time stamp on the receipt from the market. If anything was off, even by one second, there would be hell to pay.
There was a time I attempted to escape. It ended with him finding me and beating me brutally. Choking, punching and ultimately kicking the shit out of me with his steel-tipped boots while I curled up in fetal position trying desperately to protect my head with my hands and arms. That left my back exposed and he certainly took full advantage of it. When it was finally over, as he stepped back with a sense of pridefulness. I raised my head cautiously to access the situation. In that moment the blood gushing from a cut above my eye flowed and continuously obstructed my vision. I decided to stay down until I knew he had left the room. I recovered eventually and almost completely. Without the help of medical professionals naturally. Rarely do victims of domestic violence ever see the inside of an emergency room.
This is as much as I’m willing to reveal at this time. There are more instances and varieties of the violence and methodical torture I endured during those years but I have learned that even the most seasoned psychiatric, legal, and law enforcement professionals can cry or become sick when exposed to this horrific reality. Many think they want to know the details. They are almost always wrong. I am quite willing to accept that the images in my head and the torment they periodically provoke are mine alone to experience. I’ve worked for years with therapists who knew I craved the closest thing to recovery I could get. They knew I was willing to do whatever work would be necessary to understand what happened, why it happened (his psychosis) and ultimately to harvest every fucking benefit I could from those years. I deserved that. And I got it. Later in this post I describe how these professionals and I began our work together.
I laugh to myself now when I read a statement by someone or actually hear them say how they would handle it if they were to find themselves as the target of a series of barbaric, violent beatings and rapes. How they would fight back and surely get away even if there was more than one perpetrator or a firearm to their head as there was in many of my experiences. It’s a whole different ball game when you come face to face with a violent, calculating and determined psychotic individual. Add to that, this disturbed person is your spouse, your partner. His predatory nature was operating the moment he met me. He chose me as the object of his desire in ways only someone who has experienced this specific kind of hell can comprehend. That word, object, is the most telling part of the whole experience for me. The objectification itself cleared the path to understanding what had really happened there. It’s that concept that allowed me to realize that my personality, my attitude, my IQ, the way I look, my background – everything about me that makes me Jen – was inconsequential. I was meaningless in this situation. I was a body and that is all. I went on for a couple of years seeing this shit-storm through the lens of emotion. I negotiated, pleaded, and begged for each incident to end. All to no avail. I finally was able to see that my emotions, although a natural reaction to such events, were not serving me in any way. And if I myself didn’t truly factor into this equation, what did? I had to get out of my own way. I needed to remove the subjective me-ness and look at this situation from intellect alone. This revelation changed my life completely. To this day it’s the thought process I function within. So there I was. Armed with the facts. I don’t factor in here. No attempt at emotional manipulation will save me. Also, this mother fucker is nuts. No reasoning with him, no offers of logical alternatives would even have anywhere to land. It was up to me to find my way out. My family by this point had been completely cut off as were my very few close friends. It was time to stand the fuck up and walk.
I somehow was able to convince Nutjob that I should see a doctor to help me become more compliant and that it would really assist him in keeping me under control. This worked like a charm. I know, I can’t believe it either but I’m certainly grateful that it did. Off to a team of outstanding professionals I went. Right down the street from our home. Crazypants had a good job with amazing medical benefits so I waved that around in the doctor’s office to insure I had their attention. On my first visit I laid out precisely what I wanted to achieve. The rebuilding of my self-worth and my personality. I wanted to take advantage of the fact that my original foundation was obliterated. I was keenly aware that I could start from the bottom and by my own specifications, reparenting myself with the goal of fearless badass being my final result. I had one doctor for psychiatric supervision and another for cognitive behavioral therapy. They chose to accept the challenge. The one condition I lay bare before them was that I expected complete and utter confidentiality no matter how enraged they may become by what I was about to expose them to. If they chose to intervene I’d be thwarted. With each of us signing on the proverbial dotted line I began my climb toward freedom.
In a little under a year I had managed to keep my growing awareness under wraps at home. I guarded my hand with great determination. The details of this process will be coming in a future post. For now just know I succeeded. Since then I have offered my experience to anyone who feels they can gain anything from it. My manner of seeing my situation from a more clinical perspective is at times off-putting to some. I understand that intellectually but I have no interest in nor could I change a function that is an organic part of me and the way my brain works. It’s that function that served me best then and continues to do so today.
One final note. In reading the blog entries posted by @JoshuaDamnIt I felt like I may just be understood after all. I strongly suggest you follow him on Twitter and follow his blog.
As for me? To be continued.