How to cope and recover after domestic abuse

Nov. 16, 2013 _ Domestic violence reeked havoc in my life, my children’s and to this day, eight years after the last physical assault, still weighs on my heart. It doesn’t help that I must, by court order, have limited contact with my abuser, the father of my children. Imagine being forced to communicate with someone who beat you up, assaulted you, called you every name in the book, betrayed you and repeatedly used you _ it sucks.

But, today, I’m healthier emotionally than I have ever been and it is in large part due to great counseling from a very well trained domestic abuse counselor at my local DV agency. With therapy, I am processing the trauma of abuse and healing from PTSD, a condition I never through applied to me.

If you are involved in some way with a domestic abuser, my prayers are with you. I know that your life is harder than most realize. I hope that you will seek help from a very good therapist who understands domestic abuse.

Here are my tips to learning to cope and recover:

1. If you are still living with your abuser, please make a plan to leave as soon as you can. If you have children together, it is very important to meet with an attorney first, before leaving. Many states have antiquated family law that doesn’t yet recognize the facts and dangers about DV. You need to get as much custody of your children as you can and have as much in writing as possible. Please don’t live in the fantasy that you will be able to work together post divorce as parents. Sadly, your abuser is more likely to use your children as a way to continue to control and get power.

2. Get help from your local domestic abuse service. Google domestic abuse and your city to find out who and where you can get help. You need help from people who understand the difficulties you face. Domestic abuse is a crime and like most crimes, it results in a traumatized victim and a demented criminal, and that is hard enough of course. But, with domestic abuse, the victim is often falsely accused of causing the abuse and held at least partly responsible for the dynamic. The legal system, friends and family can cause further trauma, as a result. A good therapist can help you process all of those feelings in a way that can help your recovery. Please don’t try to go it alone. I think it is impossible to recover without the help of good people in your corner.

3. Grieve the loss of your “traditional” life. This means, you must walk through the pain of grief, which is not easy to do after going through the pain of abuse. But, grieving is a healthy step, one that we often gloss over. It is Ok to cry about your disappointment, fear and pain. No one gets married believing that they are going to end up in a mess. It sucks and you deserve to have a bunch of days in tears over it. The best thing about grieving is that when its over, days, weeks, months later, you will feel so much better and the clouds will begin to clear.

4. If you have children together, spend a lot of time working through every parenting issue you think you might face in the future and get it in writing now. The more you have on paper, the less chance your abuser will have to continue to abuse. Get as much spelled out as possible about the kids’ schedules, schooling, medical decisions, activities, church, vacations, drop offs and pick ups, and so on. Don’t spend too much time trying to control how your ex cares for your children, no matter how worried you are about his judgment. Judges don’t like parents who try to control what an ex does with the children. But, when it comes to how you two work together, get it in writing. Abusers love gray areas, because it gives them a way to fight. Abusers really enjoy fighting.

5. Build a new life in ways that make you happy and brings joy. Go back to school. Get a new job. Move. Take care of yourself. This is one of the hardest goals to achieve because it takes two things most victims don’t have, money and time. But, it is so important. Do your best to find ways to take care of yourself and don’t judge yourself too harshly. You have been through hell and you need to understand you aren’t perfect.

6. Cut people out of your life that judge your marriage with the abuser. You do not need anyone in your life who wants to “stay neutral” or think that have a ligitimate opinion on your life together. They don’t.   You need to surround yourself with people who love you, support you and have only the best comments to say to you. If someone wants to tell you how to get over it, get along with your ex or how to feel, you need to find a new friend. Victims are often co-dependents, and really bad at recognizing a good friend vs. a bad one. Tell yourself over and over that you need supportive friends and family only at this time. It is no time to give your time to the wrong people.

7. Work hard to keep distance between you and your abuser. For safety reasons, you need to distance. No contract or limited contact is advised for emotional and physical safety. Work hard at breaking the ties that bind you with your abuser. It takes time, but keep at it. You will be thankful when you finally realize your abuser is completely out of your life.

 

October is a time to remember

Sept. 28, 2013 _ As Domestic Abuse awareness comes on us again, I pray for those victims still entangled with their abuser. They need my prayers and those of everyone else.

Living with an abuser is horrible and traumatic and it doesn’t really matter if the abuse is physical, emotional or all the other ways abusers work. Victims are trying to survive mental anguish caused by the fact that their partners, who are suppose to love them, are exploiting them on a daily basis.

I was talking to my sister yesterday about the dynamic. Abusers will do anything in the moment to get the momentary high of power and control. They fear what will happen to them if they loose control for even a second and will do anything to maintain what they believe is dominance over anything that could disrupt their world.

Most people can relate even a little bit to those feelings, so when we see it in others, we assume that it is normal and the abuser is managing it like the rest of us. However, the abuser is not. Instead, the abuser is hypersensitive to those feelings and work every second of their day to stamp down the insecurity and fear by creating a belief that they are in control of everything.

That makes it hard to be a partner with anyone. And it is exactly the reason why spouses are targets.

Because the abuser is so consumed with internal struggles and “voices”, he or she has no real ability to have compassion or empathy for others, even those closest to them. Or the patience to let someone else be in control of anything, like a good partner would.

I used to spend hours and hours trying to reach the empathy in my then husband whenever I was the direct target of his abuse. I didn’t know what I was doing, because I had very little understanding of the dynamic. I still thought our marriage was sort of normal, albeit in trouble.

Sometimes I would stay up with him until the wee hours of the morning trying to “get through” the wall he built around himself. He acted as though it would kill him to care about me or anyone else. He was like a little child refusing to open his mouth to his vegetables. Sometimes, i would break through and he would finally seem to let his guard down and we would hug and he would tell me he was sorry and I would be relieved. I had hoped that now that we understood each other, we were healed.

Finally, I was just worn out and didn’t want to work that hard to get to some emotional place with my husband that still included violence.

But, when I think back on it now, I know that understanding why I put up with 10 years of abuse is very important to my recovery.

My recovery has taken years. Therapy. Friends. This blog. And time.

It has also included something fundamental. The end of physical abuse and a respite from abuse and trauma.

It is impossible to heal from trauma while it is still going on. While trauma is happening, survival is the only goal and doing whatever is necessary to do it.

And part of recovery is the sad truth that an abuser can’t be changed by anyone.

My abuser will always see me as a source, called narcissistic supply. A well where he can find the sense of dominance or adulation. As long as we have children together, he will always have a way to dominate me.

My abuser will always need to seek a feeling that is only generated when he is either dominating another human being or is worshipped by them. Of course, he doesn’t always get this, but it is what he seeks. Like any addict, the feeling he gets is more important than anything else.

And it is vital that I understand that and accept it. I can’t change him. Sure, he can change if he wants to. But, like all addicts, it is solely up to him. So, until I see that happen, I accept that I have an abuser in my, and my children’s lives and we will always be in danger of his actions.

I haven’t been physically abused for years by him, but he has lashed out at him using our kids again and again and I still have cause for concern whenever my kids are with him. The simple truth that most people just can’t believe, is that an abuser can do permanent damage to others, even cause death.

Most of us belief, completely, that THAT kind of danger and destruction is only in the movies, or would some how be controlled or unveiled by the authorities. And that though we see horrible events on the news, that kind of thing doesn’t happen to people we know. I belief, that is why people have the hardest time accepting that an abuser is dangerous.

It certainly is the reason why I believed, despite event after event of physical and emotional abuse by my husband, wasn’t domestic violence. And that my husband was basically a good guy who was in a bad way.

But, the reality was and is, that my ex-husband is very dangerous and is capable of anything. It is the grace of God that I was not killed while married to him. He attacked me so many times, I can’t count. Life is fragile and precious. Any one of those times could have resulted in my death. He certainly wasn’t concerned with to what degree he was hurting me at the time.

I don’t accept anyone’s impression that my ex is a good father because he gets involved in their lives, or drove them to school or made their lunch. A good father doesn’t choke their pregnant wife. A good father doesn’t use other people ever. A good father is honest. A good father has character. Integrity. And lives by the law.

A good father would never put another human beings’ live in danger willingly.

That is the truth of an abuser. There is no other way to look at it that makes sense.

Trying to give the abuser the free pass that he can treat one person one way and another person another way and call him healthy or a good parent, is what endangers so many victims to this day.

I pray that during this coming month of Domestic Abuse awareness that we all think about what we are allowing to happen, because we don’t want to get involved or believe that abuse is in fact, domestic. It is not.

Abuse is abuse and it is wrong no matter whether it is in a home or not.

Reach out this month to someone who is a victim and let him or her know you care.

 

Victims can learn to understand the play field

Aug. 12, 2013 _ I spent some time this weekend with a friend who is divorcing an emotional abuser and she wanted some advice in putting in writing their parenting plan for their 5-year-old daughter.

As I helped her navigate this complicated form, I was able to relive my journey through family court and the fear and ignorance I had back when I believed the court system would protect myself and my children from an abuser.

Standing in the shower this morning, I realized there was something here worth sharing with all those other women trying to move through family court with an abuser.

(Just a quick disclaimer: I know that don’t all abusers are men, some are women. And I know that all state courts are not the same. My journey was in Florida and it is important to understand your own state laws.)

The first thing to know is that despite any police report or other evidence of abuse, family court will begin the case and hope to stay in a place that believes that both parents are equally entitled to raise the children and that both parents have the same rights to decide how the children are raise.

That is very important to understand. No matter how much you were abused, the family court in Florida wants to believe a falsehood: That a wife abuser can be a good father.

Take a minute to yell about how stupid that sounds and sucks, and then move on. Because, you can’t change that premise, no matter how wrong you believe it to be.

The next part of that premise, is that the family court doesn’t believe that a child should spend more time with the mother than the abusive father. In fact, the family court sort of believes that the fathers in this state have been unfairly treated by mothers and their attorney’s, so they might be bias to cutting them some slack and giving them more importance.

The family court also assumes that mothers are more likely to fight irrationally for control of their babies, like a mother bear who protects her cubs, and that is not necessarily a good thing for the kids. In other words, the court is likely to assume that you are crazy, hypersensitive and unreasonable in protecting your children. They are going to assume that you think your kids are in danger being with your ex because you are an over zealous mother rather than a victim of unthinkable trauma.

And these are the reasons why you need to get it together and in an hurry for court. Because we know that those assumptions are not correct here. Just read through my blog to find one story about just how an abusive man can hurt his kids.

Nevertheless, you have two choices here:

1. Accept this and learn to work within the system or

2. Fight very hard to prove that your ex is dangerous (and by the way, courts, judges, parent coordinators, mediators and even your own attorney do not want you to do this.)

If you choice number 2, you better have a boatload of proof and lots and lots of evidence that your ex has hurt your child in the past. You will also need a lot of money to pay a willing attorney. If you don’t, and really even if you do, the courts aren’t going to like it at all and that means that they are going to question your parenting for having done it.

Courts want to believe that you are willing to finally work with the father of the child now that you are out of the trauma of the marriage.

I know, it is ass-backwards and doesn’t make any sense to a good mother, nor is it easy. And, choice 1 is completely different than choice 2. If you try to go down the choice 1 route, and then switch to choice 2, you look like a liar. If you stay in choice 2, you look crazy.

The only good news is that if you start down choice 2, let’s say with your attorney, switching to choice 1 makes you look like someone who has learned and is willing to accept her situation in the eyes of the court.

Please don’t misunderstand me … this pisses me off to no end. I think the legal system is very flawed and rewards lying and manipulations and doesn’t really deal with what is best for the children, but I learned to accept this and that helped me heal from the trauma and do my best in court.

Abused mothers have a very narrow road to walk through family court and so much is at stake. And my biggest problem with this system is that it further traumatized an abuse victims. Victims have been through hell and are not given a chance to heal and process what has happened to them at the hands of their loved one.

And then, they are thrown into an arena that completely dismisses the abuse, not because they don’t believe them or want to be fair, but because they don’t care. How depressing is that.

Instead abused mothers have to enter court with their abusers and have to wipe away the trauma without help and suddenly pretend that the co-parent on the other side of the room isn’t the guy that beat them senseless. Now that is crazy-making.

And if the mom tries to protect herself from that ass who beat her by keeping distance, she is treated as through she is putting her needs over her child’s.

So, what to do. Learn as quickly as you can to accept it so you can protect your child. It took me therapy, friends and a good lawyer to do get centered enough to handle the court process.

I will write later about how I handled the court system. But, the best thing to do is to find someone who can help you process the unfairness of all of this, because you need to be at your emotional best when facing this process. Good luck and bless you in your efforts.

 

 

Are all domestic abusers NPD?

March 17, 2013 _ I have been asking myself this questions for sometime now. Read about abuse and narcissist personality disorder and the two conditions look very similar.

As I recover from abuse and the trauma that it has caused me, I want my story to be useful to others. As I write and read and learn, I see that my abuser is very likely suffering from NPD and that explains a whole lot about our story together and the mess that it was.

Living with someone who has NPD means never being able to get balanced. I lived for years completely unbalanced and off centered. It sucked.

I thought for a long time that it was because I didn’t know when the next physical blow was coming for next. But I realized years later, that the lies he told me were just has off-putting as the hits he landed on my body.

He made and still makes a career of trying to keep others off balance so that he can keep the upper hand.

That does a number on anyone around him.

Learning about NPD enabled me to finally find a path around his craziness and to bring my sanity back. Like before, I am still vulnerable to attacks by anyone. Everyone is. But, today, I can process them much quicker and avoid long periods of confusion and self-blame. I can get my balance back a lot quicker.

Writing helps me find my center.

What do you do? Let me know and help others in the process.

How Lance Armstrong is just like any other narcissist, including my ex

Jan. 19, 2013 _ Lance Armstrong’s public apology for lying and bullying for many, many years doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. I’ve seen how narcissism works up close and stepping up to the mic and declaring “I did it” isn’t that big a deal for people with that condition.

My ex has made repeated apologies to me throughout our relationship about how bad he felt for hitting me, lying to me, leaving me, and so on. He has written me letters confessing these sins to me. He has declared in a deposition that he hit me and generally mistreated me.

The trouble is, that my ex’s apologies don’t mean that his mistreatment is over. Nope, not at all. Every single time that my ex hit me or physically abused me, he would apologize from “deep within his heart.” However, he never cried while owning up to slamming me against a wall, choking me while I was 9 months pregnant, disappearing for 3 weeks leaving me with two young children. You would think that after committing those horrendous acts against his wife and the mother of his children, he would have some sign of remorse emotionally. But, he never did.

He could create the sentences that flowed through his mouth that sounded sincere, but like a person with a false smile, you can see the lack of real emotion in his eyes. During the clips of Lance Armstrong’s interview, you could see the stone within in his gaze, too.

It’s not that a narcissist isn’t sorry, though they aren’t, its that they don’t understand the emotion in the first place. They have learned that when their lies are exposed, a certain behavior is required in order to spin the turn of events into something they can use to put them back on top.

Narcissist are very talented and fight nearly to the death to maintain their position of power, image and control, and when it looks like they have been exposed and knocked down to the dirt (where some belong), they don’t slither off to a place never to be seen again. They come back.

Narcissist don’t learn or never feel contrite. They feel temporarily offset and they go off to recalculate their actions to find their way back into the game.

An apology is just empty words spit out like an actor on the stage reciting Shakespeare. Wonderfully written with the emotion of a man dead 400 years ago, but not the sentiments of the speaker.

I expect Armstrong to find a way to earn public attention again after this. Maybe he will be allowed back into sport. Maybe he will become a TV personality. A reality TV show, perhaps. Maybe he will become a commentator on some Xtreme sport show or the E! channel. I’m sure he will be writing a book about it all.

My ex had apologies down to a science. I believed them for nearly 20 years! And I have a very high IQ. But, funny how the apologies never, never ever lead to a change in behavior. He always abused again. Still does in fact, just not physically.

Apologies are a necessary tool, equal to violence, lies, anything that helps the abuser maintain his dominance. And afterall, narcissist’s apologies are a twisted form of victimizing themselves. Remember Lance’s words “I have to live with that for the rest of my life.” he told Oprah…. Big freakin deal. Try living with what his victims have to live with. Victims of real trauma caused by Lance Armstrong.

Lance is like two personalities, one who did it and one who has to live with the consequences of it. Neither is sorry for what he did. He is sorry that he got caught. Sorry that he has to admit a mistake. But, now that the spinning is underway in Lance’s head, you can bet that he is eating up the attention.

My ex told me once, while fighting with me about our kids, that he told his new wife “through tears” that he beat me and that she was oh so understanding as he cried to her one night at their kitchen table about what he has to live with. Wow. He never cried with me about what he did TO ME by CHOICE year after year. And of course, after that tearful confession to his wife, he then sued me for custody of our teenagers. Um, how sorry are you if you are willing to put me and our children through the trauma of a custody suit. (Which he lost, by the way.)

Oh, I’m not angry about it despite how it sounds and frankly I feel very sorry for his wife. She has got to be struggling with his crazy-making behavior. But, narcissist can always find a way out of their consequences and can con very smart people into believing their bull shit.

If Lance is really sorry for his actions and lies and bullying, then he should fade into the woodwork and let those people he tried so hard to destroy heal. Instead, he grabs the limelight we all so willing shine his way and does yet another dance. Rest assured, Lance will not fade away yet. He is still to interesting to the voyeurs in us.

Me too. I watched all of 3 minutes of his interview with Oprah before I thought, “what the hell am I giving this asshole my precious time” and turned it off.

I know that doesn’t make me an expert on his interview. But the truth is, I’ve heard his apology a hundred times before. I could quote it word by word.

Narcissist will stay around trying to suck the air out of the room as long as we give them the venue to do so and as long as we fantasize that they will change. Few do. Instead they go down fighting to stay on top anyway they can with no shame.

Narcissists put people in two piles

Nov. 10, 2012 _ I have been writing this blog for more than two years as I try to friggin’ understand my head, heart and actions in the wake of my abuser’s abuse. And it sucks!

I’m so sick of needing to write about the way my abuser treats me and my children and I’m so tired of trying to figure it out. When will it every end!

But, this spot in cyper space has helped me in so many ways. I wake up early most mornings and most mornings since my ex-husband sued me for custody of our two wonderful, teenage children, I replay the events surrounding his actions toward me.

That would make him very happy.

Because as I’m learning, narcissists put people in two groups … those who shower the narcissist with admiration and those who the narcissist can dominate.

There are no other people in their world. If someone doesn’t fit in those two piles, he or she doesn’t exist in the narcissist’s world.

My ex has spent the last two years feeding off dominating me.

I know how that sounds. Like I’m the center of his world. I’m not. I am just the dumb schmuck who happened to provide him with the opportunity to put someone down. Narcissists need to put someone down in order to combat their deep down sense of insecurity. Narcissists need to dominate or be admired in order to feel good about who they think they are.

My ex spent the last two weeks fighting for extra time with our kids that he was not entitled to by our written court order and was ultimately enforced again by our judge. He didn’t ask for extra time. He demanded it as if he was suppose to have it all along. He didn’t have a specific reason. He just wanted it because he said he was owed it.

My ex wrote denigrating emails about my “typical lack of cooperation” and assign motives that were ridiculous when I simply asked him when he wanted our children for his weekend visits. He used that question as an opportunity to launch into a trumped-up argument that involved the judge, our attorneys and parent coordinator. He wrote 20 emails to all involved arguing that he was being slighted and I was a poison in the process just out to get him.

Until suddenly, he reversed course, and changed his mind with no apologies or personal responsibility.

Even after 20 years of my relationship with this man, I am still shocked by his behavior.

And all of this drama and unnecessary use of the legal system, time and cyperspace makes him very happy. He is grand in his own mind and he is proud of himself for having pulled so many people into his orbit. Like any fully developed narcissist.

And as Carly Simon knows, he probably thinks this blog is about him and he is smiling.

My sleepless early mornings are just the icing on the cake for him.

Narcissist need people only as reflectors of their own made up vision of themselves. Causing other’s pain, happiness, whatever, gives the Narcissist the validation that they have power over others. And that is what they seek.

I don’t know what the percentage of abusers are narcissist, but my guess is that it’s got to be high. Narcissist are perfect abusers, because they have no connection to people that is real. They think of people as pawns in their game, moons in their orbit. And who would regret banging around inanimate objects?

According to the trained psychology world, Narcissist are a group of people who are the least likely to be healed. It is an unfixable personality disorder and as they age they only get worse. Because as they age, the reflection they seek isn’t as powerful or relevant.

So, even though I’m tired of this blog. Tired of this constant abuse. Tired of this relationship. Tired of anything to do with my ex-husband. As long as we have children together, I’m stuck with it. And frankly, it could be worse.

So folks, I’m here, writing early in the morning, trying to find my way through this BS obstacle course hoping that one day I will process all of this, heal and move on.

Thanks for reading and thanks to all who have offered me support. Here’s praying for the day that I no longer need to be here.

Acceptance, please

Father, dear Lord

Quiet my mind, give me Peace

Stop the review of things unsaid,

thoughts kept within my head.

End the visions of angry eyes,

and a darken face out to hurt

anyone who doesn’t fit his narrative.

Let me face the reality.

Let me know the truth,

no matter how hard it is to believe.

He is bad and mean

and will hurt me in a minute

if it furthers his cause even a bit.

Let me accept the truth about him

and not give him more credit.

Let me accept my reality

and let me live without fear.

I hope we learn the lesson of Penn State

I woke up this morning to the news that Penn State removed the statue of its famous and beloved coach Joe Paterno because of his decade-long cover-up of child rape at the university.

As I listen to a few pundits debate the situation and report about people upset with the removal, I am glad to hear a voice of reason …. “Paterno did a lot of great things at Penn State but nothing good he did supersedes the cover-up of child rape.”

Amen.

Most people have both good and bad in them. Most people do both in their lifetime. Most people struggle with personal actions that are suspect.

However, erecting a statue in honoring a man whose bad actions destroyed the lives of many people and dismissing those bad actions as something worth forgiving because he helped a team of athletes win on the football field is horrible and a sign of our times.

Our moral compass as a society wants to believe in our heros so much that we are willing to ignore the chilling horror that can be causes.

I’ve seen this in my own life over and over. I believed that my abusive ex husband who nearly killed me more than once with his physical abuse was somehow OK and kind. I have seen a handful of people accept his choice to beat me when he was upset as something unreal and out of character …. an anomaly … so therefore should be forgiven.

Abusers and the like should only be held accountable. Abusers should not be in charge of young men and women’s lives. Abusers should not be allowed to explain their behavior and more than we would allow a thief to explain his need to steal from a home. Abusers are criminals who largely don’t accept responsibility for what they do.

My ex says “I have to live with what I did.”…. Really? Just how are you living with it? Do you feel guilty? Do you feel sorry? Well, I bet its better than feeling terrorize or having flashback of being choked, kicked, hit, spit on.

My ex has never, ever said to me, “You must have felt so scared.” or anything like that. My ex doesn’t feel empathy, so why should he receive empathy for others?

I know that it hurts to give up a fantasy about someone beloved. I know because I have lived it. But, come to acceptance as quickly as possible and let go is the best medicine. I am sorry for all the Penn State students who are sorry to see their hero go, but he was not a hero. He missed that opportunity.