A Letter To My Abuser

Ben:

There was a point when I loved you. I remember it so clearly, it cuts like a razor through the pain of what became of our marriage. I didn’t love you the day we married, I didn’t love you the day our second son was born. I didn’t love you at the Rhode Island apartment, in Los Lunas, Peralta, or Tome.

I stopped loving you the day I came home to Joshua crying and you ignoring it because you couldn’t be bothered to take care of your two month old baby. I realized that day you would never put us first, or even second. This was before the violence, before the assaults. I stopped loving you because I love my son more.

I remember the first time you hit me.

I was so shocked, despite my confusing feelings for you, I didn’t deserve it. And then it happened again, and again. Over and over. Broken nose, broken orbital socket, fractured skull, bruises, scratches, and that was just the surface. Inside I was broken, and you knew it. You took advantage of my brokenness, kept me afraid and so cut down that I couldn’t even fathom leaving.

I remember the day you ran away so clearly. You threw me down and hit me over and over, I was screaming for help, screaming in pain. You realized what you’d done and ran like a coward. And you stayed hidden for a year, running from the consequences of what you did.

And now you’re in jail.

I’m afraid. I won’t lie, I’m afraid of you. I have nightmares, I jump at noises, if someone moves to fast I flinch. You wrecked me. I’m a shadow of the person I used to be, you killed that person. I have to rebuild from the ground up, I have to find some sort of self out the abuse you put me through. It’s hard, it’s so fucking hard. But it’s worth it to have a self that has nothing to do with you.

I’ll face you. I’ll look dead in your eyes and tell the court what you did. I’ll be afraid the whole time, but I’ll do it anyway because I’m not broken the way I used to be. I’ve had a whole year and a half free from you, free to rebuild myself. This self won’t let you hurt me again. Won’t let you hurt my children ever again. We’ll stand together and put you where you belong.


Hurt

Pain.

It’s complicated and exhausting. What do you do when pain is caused by someone else? By their actions or choices? how can you say to someone a choice they made and continue to make hurts deeply. How do you not create resentment and more problems?

Most of my life I’ve just silently stayed in pain. It’s what I’ve been conditioned to do, so it comes easily. But I’m tired of being silent, of just accepting pain as part of my existence. At the same time my history with telling someone they hurt me isn’t really great. With Ben, telling him he hurt me usually meant being hurt more. So, despite being tired of silence I often just choose to do it anyway because I can’t stand being hurt more.

My silence isn’t fair to me and it isn’t fair to anyone else. So, how do you overcome the fear and anxiety of being honest about your feelings to the person who caused it?

I wish I had an answer.


Thinking, Dreaming.

The things I’d do with you

Make me blush to think

About.

Your hands on me,

Touching, grabbing.

Push me, hold me

Down.

Writhing, moaning,

I could belong to

You.

It’s in your eyes

Your glances at me.

Thinking, dreaming

About me

Beneath you.

Watch my body

Move with

Yours.

The things I’d do with

You…


The Wave

In the 20 years since she died, I’ve written a lot about my mom. How much I miss her, how much I wish she was still here, but I don’t think I’ve had an episode of grief so profound as I’ve had tonight. I sort of disconnected myself from the loss because I had to, it was eating me alive. But for about ten minutes tonight, I was 12 years old again and it was fresh. Grief as I haven’t felt in years. I didn’t feel it the day I got married because I think deep down I knew she would have known something was wrong and I never would have married him. I felt it the days Joshua and Lucas were born, to be a mother is to fully understand what she felt. To be a mother with health problems is to understand what she felt when she faced her health betray her. But grieving as a daughter, I haven’t done that in a long time and it’s heavy.

My mom was special, she was the neighborhood mom, all my friends loved her, I can’t think of anyone I knew who didn’t love her. Her death left a hole in a lot of lives, but none bigger than in mine. There aren’t words to describe how viscerally I want her back, and knowing that’ll never happen is the kind of the gut-wrenching grief there isn’t enough time to heal fully from. If grief is a wave, I’m drowning tonight, taken down and completely underwater.

There’s a song by Hole called Nobody’s Daughter and it’s always resonated with me, how do you process losing someone you’ll never not need? How do you not have moments of grief so real they feel like they’re physical? I’ve tried to have mother-like relationships with friend’s moms, my stepmom, my aunt, partners moms, and I love those relationships, they’re good relationships, I’m happy to have them.

But it’s not my mom.

It’s not the familiar and comfortable hug from the woman who gave me life. It’s not MY mom. The line from The Crow has always been true for me, “mother is the name for god on the lips and hearts of all children.” I had a special mother, one I was nowhere near ready to lose; if you’re ever really ready. I can’t imagine anyone is ever ready to lose something like that unless their mother is awful, and for them grief is even more complicated and I don’t envy that kind of confusing pain.

I don’t think a time will come when I don’t write about her, when I don’t think about her and miss her. I want her to know me as an adult, not the child I was when she died. I want her to see me as a mother, an artist, a partner. I want to show her the things she taught me stuck, the way she parented me gave me the blueprints for how I parent my own children. I want her to see that I overcame and survived, and am starting to thrive. I want to know if she was here she’d be proud of me.

20 years is a long time to grieve, and I’ve had so many people tell me it’s too long, that I need to “let it go.” I’ve come to realize I can’t because the pain of losing her has never let me go. Motherless daughters are a different breed, it’s a club you can’t possibly understand until you’re part of it, and I wish no one ever had to be part of it, but that’s unrealistic. Loss happens, it ebbs and flows and sometimes it overtakes you.

Tonight it’s overtaken me.

I miss her, as her daughter. As the 12-year-old kid who believed it was impossible for someone’s mother to really die. But she did. And I’m still here missing her every day.


The Rebellion

This weekend I had to go to the hospital to get a spinal tap. I have a brain disease called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, basically, my body does properly drain my spinal fluid and it puts pressure on my optic nerves; which can cause pain, blurry and blacked-out vision and eventually vision loss entirely. The ER doctor put me back on a medication that will help my body drain the fluid. I was on this medication (it’s called Diamox) for several months and was taken off of it because my doctor at the time believed it was causing me to throw up. Turns out that wasn’t the case, what was causing that illness was mold in our old house. We moved and I’ve been perfectly fine as far as throwing up goes.

This disease scares me, my vision is such a huge part of me, and I assume most people would feel the same way. I’m an artist and a writer, I need to see to do those things. Besides that, I can’t stand the thought that someday I might not be able to see my kids.

Chronic illness causes me to think about a lot of things I’d rather not think about, like the fact that lupus can and often does kill people. Here I am with a plethora of illnesses that often take the lives of people who have them. I don’t want to die, I want to be able to watch my kids grow and be with my partners as we age, grow, and change together. This fear is likely irrational and I know my fear gets in the way of my actual life, but I don’t know how to let it go and just live. I know that’s what I need to do in order to properly deal with this. The best thing I can do is take each day and cherish it, make it the best it can be and focus on the good things in my life.

Positivity is hard for me, and it’s even harder because the cult of toxic positive makes it hard to distinguish what’s being positive for my mental and physical health and what’s contributing to this idea that being positive cures everything.  I tend towards pessimism, I tend to see the worst possible outcome and focus on it, so trying to live each day as it is and focus on the little joys I encounter is hard.

I did it today, I snuggled my kids and played with them, we watched something together and I talked with them. I lived in those moments and gave myself to them entirely. I didn’t sit back and think of the what-ifs. Having those moments to hold onto is what I need, it’s what I need to focus on the life I have and not the prison I lived in. It’s what I need to not let being sick control every part of my life. Little moments, little joys, they’re what makes life worth living. Laughing with my kiddos, watching a movie with Mike, talking about dreams and ideas with Leah, those things are my life, those are what is important.

So, back on the meds, I go, hopefully they’ll have the desired effect and I can focus on my life in a way I never have before. I think of this as a rebellion. It’s a rebellion against my negative mindset and the things my body does to itself. I can still find joy, I can still have hope. Every rebellion is built on hope and today I found mine.


Things I Didn’t Want to Accept

Trigger Warning: Discussion of spousal rape

 

One of the biggest ways Ben abused me was by using his religious beliefs to vilify me. He is a fundamentalist Christian and constantly put me down for being bisexual, he also fetishized me and assumed that because I was bisexual that meant he could coerce me into sexual situations I wasn’t comfortable with. He frequently told me I was going to hell because I wasn’t straight and because I didn’t share his religious beliefs. Even though I didn’t share his beliefs it still hurt to hear the man I married say things like that to me.

Despite his religious beliefs he still fetishized my bisexuality and coerced me into threesomes I didn’t want to do, he often told me if I didn’t give him what he wanted he’d go find it elsewhere and that as his wife it was my job to do whatever he wanted. I already had a complicated relationship with sex from the relationship I’d been in before I met him, and he knew that. He used my issues with sex to bully me and force me to do what he wanted while ignoring things that I wanted.

After I had our first child he spent weeks looking at porn and ignoring both me and our son, he told me he couldn’t be involved with me because I couldn’t have sex with him while I was healing from having a baby. As soon as I was able to have sex he again coerced me into doing it, even though I wasn’t ready. I became pregnant again when my oldest son was two months old. The birth of my first child had been extremely traumatic and scary, we both almost died and I had an emergency c-section. I wasn’t ready to be pregnant again. But that didn’t matter.

My second pregnancy was very complicated, and again both my son and I almost died. After I had my second baby I got on depo to prevent any further pregnancies because I couldn’t handle it. I had so much medical trauma from both pregnancies and births, he blamed me for both pregnancies being complicated and told me it was my fault our oldest child has a heart condition.

Ben and I were together for a total of 7 years, at about year five any sex we had was coerced and completely unwanted by me. It’s taken me a lot of time to quantify that as rape, like so many people my concept of rape included violence, it never occurred to me that being coerced and forced into doing something I didn’t want to do was rape or sexual assault. Realizing that and understanding that much of the sex we had was rape is hard to deal with and process. This was a man I loved and married, I was supposed to trust him, supposed to be able to feel safe with him and I never did.

The last year we were together I managed to keep him away from me by being open and proud about my bisexuality, while that increased the verbal and emotional abuse, it did keep him away from me sexually. He told me I was dirty and unclean because I was open about my sexuality. While those things hurt, it also meant he slept on the couch and left me alone when it came to sex. I didn’t care if he pursued someone else for that and honestly, I hoped he would and then leave me.

When he finally was gone I was left with this mountain of trauma and no way to really process any of it. I couldn’t even begin to accept that the majority of our relationship was abusive and coercive. I focused on the physical abuse because it was the easiest to process when people think of abuse they think of one person physically assaulting another. The emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse were things I couldn’t deal with and shoved down into a little box that eventually exploded out of me in the form of rage and grief.

It’s been almost two years that I’ve been free of him, but the trauma he inflicted on me is still running rampant through my mind, it’s present every day of my life. I know it takes time to work through it, to make his voice in my mind smaller and smaller until it disappears entirely. I know it takes time to feel like my body is mine again. Time and processing, it’s what I have left to do and it’s hard, it’s so hard. I have to talk about it in therapy, to go over all the things he did to break me so I can put the pieces back together. So far, I feel like a puzzle that’s been scattered to the four winds, I feel like I’m on a quest to find those pieces and it’s being run by the cruelest Dungeon Master there has ever been. But, slowly I’m finding those pieces and slowly his voice is getting smaller. Soon it’ll be gone forever.


The Monster

Chronic illness is a monster.

I did squats the other day, about 30 of them and I can’t walk now. I’ve hobbled around my house with excruciating pain in my legs. It’s not muscle pain from working out, it feels like my muscles are torn and bruised, my legs feel like they should be black and blue. Pain meds and muscle relaxers have barely touched the pain.

I used to be a very active person, I worked an active job, I worked out, hiked, did yoga, chased my kids around, and now? I can’t do any of that. I left the job, eventually, I became more and more housebound and bedbound (or chairbound as is most often the case). It took about a year for me to get to this point. I’ve been trying to be as active as I’m able, I thought I’d be able to do 30 squats, I used to do 100 and then go to work and be on my feet for 6-8 hours. Now I do 30 and I’m incapacitated.

I hate it.

I miss the me who existed before. I miss being able to be active and it not costing me so much. I miss the person who could walk 5 miles and then go to work. I miss the person who could carry my kids and run after them.

Having a chronic illness isn’t just being sick, it’s losing every part of who you are to an illness that never stops and never gives in. I have Lupus, it’s a progressive disease, it causes my immune system to attack itself, it attacks my organs as well. Beyond that, Lupus causes massive pain and serious fatigue. I’m constantly hurting and constantly tired. I’m also an insomniac and struggled with sleeping before I was sick, now it’s a battle to get a few hours of sleep. Without good sleep I feel worse, it’s like the world’s shittiest merry go round.

I try really hard not to complain about how awful I feel on a regular basis, I try to focus on the good in my life (of which there is plenty), but there are sometimes when the pain, fatigue, and isolation get to me and I just need to get it out. Sometimes I just need to say how badly this sucks and let me tell you, It. Sucks. Losing who I was to abuse was hard enough to deal with, losing the rest to chronic illness has been almost too much.

I’ve had to redefine who I am in every way, that alone is exhausting. Add in having a body that attacks itself and a brain that doesn’t properly drain cerebrospinal fluid, putting pressure on my optic nerves, and the struggle is real.

I’m finding those little pieces of myself that haven’t been tarnished by abuse or illness, it takes a lot of sifting and searching, but they’re there. I’m struggling today, the pain is intense and exhausting, but I can only hope it’ll be better tomorrow.