Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Recognizing patterns of abuse - they're everywhere

Now, just by reading the title to this posting I am going to place a bet that you are assuming I am talking about the pattern of abuse in an intimate relationship. While those patterns can be found there this post is dedicated to the patterns that are all around us, in our everyday lives - anywhere there is power and control, there is the possibility of it being abused - creating abusers and their victims.

If we do not start recognizing those patterns in other areas of our lives, how then can we expect someone in an intimate relationship to see the pattern slowly sucking them into the cycle to the point they cannot leave before too much harm is done?

Abuse - there are many forms -we know this; physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, and financial.

Whenever there is power and control, there is the possibility of abuse -abusive relationships (or coercive control or controlling behavior) is the way that abusers exert physical, sexual and other forms of abuse to gain and maintain control over a victim.

Now don't fall into the trap of thinking of relationships as just being intimate or familial - this is important in learning and seeing the patterns for what they are and being able to teach children what is and what is not acceptable.

What spurred me to write this post is the tone in our country right now. We've been through one Hell of an election campaign season only now to crash into a political battlefield.  Sitting back watching this unfold I saw the cycle of abuse take center stage throughout the entire ordeal.

Remember that our candidates have teams behind them crafting their messages and getting it out to the public to garner votes. No doubt manipulation tactics are being utilized. This election cycle we've seen some incredibly bad behaviors and manipulations - to the point where just about everything being said had to be researched to the tenth degree.

There has been name calling, lies, and threats. All forms of emotional and verbal abuse. All of which are coming from people in power and who have been seeking the most powerful position in the world.

I find it truly troubling that our children are watching this unfold and growing up where these behaviors are starting to be normalized and ignored. Yes, I hate to say this, we can blame our mainstream media for not standing up to it and for fueling the fodder.

Others have touched on these concerns of mine this election cycle and hopefully more will - the American public is being abused by the system and our politicians.  The cycle is clear.
It starts with the tension building - getting us to take sides - playing on our fears. 
Explosion - once we take sides-we battle it out protecting our votes - our candidates
Honeymoon period -when things get out of control, those who started the cycle try downplay the damage that has been done and pat us on the head. 

It is being played out daily on our television screens and on our social media accounts.  It is damaging.  This doesn't mean we stop using our voices to issue support and or dissent -but we need to be responsible in how we do it or else we get sucked into that cycle. 

Free From Abuse- a blog site wrote about this in a posting called Abuse and Politicians.
In their posting they wrote:
I understand that we need to hold our politicians to a high standard. After all, they are representing the public’s voice. My issue is HOW the candidates so easily sling mud at each other and think that’s perfectly acceptable behavior. It’s almost a game to determine who can find the most dirt on any given candidate. In my book, that’s verbal and emotional abuse. Now, calling this type of behavior for what it actually is (verbal and emotional abuse), it’s as though we are glorifying abusive behaviors between politicians. In other words, we’ve become desensitized to it. When we become desensitized to something, we don’t recognize it for what it is. It then becomes a part of our regular cycle of life where it no longer alarms us.
If we don't start demanding better from the most powerful on how they treat one another and us, the voting public, then how can we respect them? They are supposed to be our leaders - and there are many of them partaking in the rhetoric and abuse of power

We need to teach our children the difference between assertive vs aggressive. 
Using your voice for good vs using your voice to abuse. 

We need to teach them how to recognize the patterns of abuse - all abuse - in all areas of their lives and how to call it what it is. 

Now I wrote about this earlier tonight on my own Facebook account. I posted the picture above with the intent to save it for this posting - in the status I wrote "aka....American Politics" 

I was chastised by one person for doing so - she said I stepped over a line. Maybe I have in that it is a line that needs to be stepped over- recognizing abuse patterns wherever they may enter our lives. 


Monday, October 17, 2016

Life as a survivor - PTSD and the elections

Well, yes, it happened. This damn presidential election and the news tied to the campaigns triggered something in me that has not happened in a very long time; POST TRAUMATIC EFFING STRESS DISORDER. 

Do I sound bitter? Maybe I am and that is because when you experience an episode of PTSD after many years of not having to deal with the symptoms, it is a slap in the face on just how human and flawed even the strongest of survivors are - a little wake up call. 

One positive in all of this is I knew what was happening to me as it was happening, unlike how I spent most of my life when the flashbacks would immobilize me with fear.

I knew I needed to just let the memories play out and I would be back to myself again. They needed an outlet as the triggers were too many and everywhere I turned.  Knowing this kept me from having a full-fledged panic/anxiety attack. Something I haven't experienced in a very long time now.

Yesterday the PTSD punched me in the gut. I cannot even remember what the specific trigger was, but I am sure it had to deal with the controversy over the sexual assault allegations taking up space everywhere you turn. The other day I was at a local restaurant with my son, and even there one was unable to escape the coverage - it played out on the television above the bar, directly in my line of sight. So, yes, I am sure it has to deal with all of that - the controversy, that and also in about a week I will be facing one of my fears through a project called "Believe in Yourself" - I will write about that in another post. 

I was getting ready to go out with my son and hit up some of the local resale shops in our area. As I was putting on my make-up I felt my breath catch and in my mind I saw the long hallway of the apartment I grew up at in Evanston, IL. Midway down that hallway on one side was a door that opened to a walk-in closet. A closet where my mother kept linens and cleaning supplies, plus whatever else she could pile in there. It was the very closet I would crawl down the hallway to and hide from our neighbor next door when he would appear at our back door by the kitchen. He always knew when I was home alone. Considering back in those days I was often home alone because I was an ill child, in and out of hospitals, he would show up quite a bit. 

The apartment building I grew up in at the time this happened. Upper left apt. on the top floor.
I was nine years old at the time and he was the neighbor I first met through his dog, Kelly - a beautiful German Shepherd. He also had a Great Dane named Duke. He lived with a friend, another male, they were roommates. He was a veteran of the Vietnam War. Looking back I can now see how skilled of a groomer he was of his victims. Many children lived in our building and I know others met the same fate as I, some of them with deeper scars. 

I don't need to go into the details of the abuse brought upon us children. Those details are not important - it is the aftermath of the crime that is and why I had that flashback. 

When the PTSD hit in my mind's eye all of a sudden I saw that hallway - that kitchen. My body tensed up with fear. I relived that trek to the closet, closing the door behind me..sitting in the dark and waiting until I felt safe to exit my prison. That scene played out over and over. I knew what was happening while it did. My son came into my room, rushing me to get ready - I snapped at him to leave me alone and give me privacy. 

The next thing I knew I was searching out the pictures I found on the internet a while back. They were of the very apartment I had once lived. It is now a condominium and the current owner had it up for sale -the listing had pictures. For some reason, I needed to see those pictures once again. 

"Yup, there's that hallway- just like I remember. There's that closet handle, I can see it. And that kitchen, that old galley style kitchen in the Victorian era apartment building. I remember that built in - and yes, that pantry but I can't see the pantry. It was just off where the sink is. Across from that closet was my bedroom. I remember. I've always remembered this - and it is still all there. I loved that old building. I hate some of the memories I have." - Those were the thoughts playing over and over in my head as I examined the pictures. 

"PTSD. This is PTSD. Yes, this all happened to me and I am okay now. I am fine. The memories are just memories." - I told myself. 

As I talked my way through the flashback and memories my body relaxed and I was no longer frozen in place. I could breathe again. 

The incidents with this pedophile happened nearly 40 years ago. This is what PTSD does to sexual assault survivors, even those of us who have been on the path of healing for decades. The difference today from say even 20 years ago is I know what is happening should a flashback occur. I can work through it without beating myself up and walk away a bit stronger knowing that I no longer carry their guilt-their shame. But, unfortunately, the memories will always be in me. And while that is unfortunate, I have come to terms that this has been part of my path. I know my life has been filled with many experiences, some of them truly amazing - those amazing ones, and the ones yet to come take up more space in my mind than the ones I would rather not remember. At one time in my life, when I was much younger and hurting so terribly from multiple assaults, I was unable to see the good in my life -now I can. 

I finished getting ready and met my son out by the van. He was waiting for me. "I am sorry for snapping at you," I said. "For some reason I had a flashback to my childhood - PTSD, and I needed to work through it." 

"That's okay Mom, I understand - you good now? "

"Yeah, I am  - let's go find some sales!" I replied. 

And that my friends, was the truth! I was good- I was fine.  Too bad we couldn't find any good sales. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

My son said I need to go out and speak out - use my voice.

Kyle Roberts-my Baby Boy
This year I am experiencing many changes in my life.
My youngest has graduated from high school and is about to head off out into the world for a career in music.
With him will go his best friend Gabe and also my eldest son Justin. The trio will travel down to Memphis and Kyle will do what he does best.
He will perform the music of his soul...Blues, Jazz and  some Folk music. There will also be some Adult Contemporary. With Kyle, it is wherever his emotions take him.
It is music that will give the listener a glimpse into who he is and the life he has walked these past 18 years.

Justin Roberts- my 1st Baby Boy
I am an extremely proud mother.
I am also a little apprehensive as this is the first time ever I will be separated from my children.
Both at the same time. An empty nester, literally, overnight.

All of this is hitting as some other stressors pile on. God is testing my strength this coming winter and on just about every front.
I feel a little lost. Or, I should say, I've been feeling a little lost.
Our little team is moving on to new endeavors.
Kyle with his music.
Justin with finally being able to live somewhere there's a community of others living freely out at a member of the LGBT community.
He will have a shot at life and love.
And Gabe, he's been part-time member of our team pretty steady now for the past 3 years. He will be testing out his wings.

Being there for them and working as best as I could to keep all fed with a roof over our heads has been my main role in life since August of 2007.
I am not even sure where the time has gone. We've been treading water so hard and long that I am only now starting to realize how tired I am.
What will I do?
Sure I have my job at the paper and yes, that does fill up a lot my time.
However, there is a part of me that feels like there is so much more I need to do.

My boys and I talk just about everything. We have very open and honest communication.
The other day as Kyle and I were driving this topic came up.
First, he made sure to tell me that once he can he would bring me down to them and I would never have to work again.
I love my sons. Hopefully, his path does take off to greatness, but as I told him, I would still need my own purpose.

"Mom, you need to tell your story. You need to become a speaker. Go out and tell it."

My story is also their story, at least it contains their childhood and all the things that happened to us after domestic violence entered our lives on top of all the things that happened to me growing up way too early for any child to experience.

"You sure you want me out there talking about what happened? Everything with your father? Kyle, are you sure? You're going to be out in the public eye now more than ever. Do you want that all connected to you?" I asked.

Kyle responded with, "Mom, it's the truth. It is what happened. It is why we have the lives we do."

"I do dream about completing my #WhenIBecameFree project. But, it's not like I can hop in my car. The damn thing just went to toast."

Yes, once again I have car issues. That has been one of the main barriers I keep running into to complete my project. Kinda hard to leave the county when the car keeps breaking down every month - and now it's for good. The burial at the salvage yard is on the slate for next week.

"I'm leaving you the van. We've discussed it and we decided we can't leave you like this. We're not leaving you without a vehicle. It is decided."

The van is a 1996 Dodge something or other conversion van he recieved in a trade with another musician who has a band. Believe me when I tell you that the van has a story of its own. When he took possession  of the thing it was probably 2 weeks before the odor dissipated and I felt safe using it and not worrying about running into the K9 Unit when I was out and about covering stories for the paper.

Tears welled up in my eyes. It hit me that all these years of work and raising the boys we've been just skirting by.  I felt like we should not have been even having this conversation. That I should have been able to accomplish so much more than I had. There should have been savings, a college fund, and emergency money but there wasn't. Not a penny. I felt guilty that I couldn't write a check out for them to secure a place in Memphis to start out at. I felt like a failure. Mother's guilt but then I turned and looked at Kyle and saw the man my baby boy grew into. He is not only tall and handsome filled with talent but he is also a compassionate human being who in his 18 years has accomplished more than most.  I thought about Justin and all the hurdles he faces every day with not only having special needs but also being openly gay in a rural conservative area. I realized how brave he is. Their childhood and their outcome as young adult men is something to be proud of and it is a story that should be told.

I've told it here and there in the pages of my blog. This journal I've kept since 2008 and allowed strangers to read. I realized it is a compelling story worthy to be told in the entirety. There's a reason we've been given the task to overcome so much. Our little team is quite the spectacle once you get a glimpse into our lives. If you add to the story my friend Steve and how he entered our lives, well, you'd be amazed how surreal and quite frankly amusing it all is.

Kyle and I reminisced about some of those stories, the memories. It wasn't long before we were cracking up. "No one would believe all of this, Kyle." I said.

"Go tell them, Mom."

I've noticed that since we've had that conversation I am finding my voice once again. Each time I use it I do find I come alive and this life I've walked seems to have a meaning and purpose of it's own. Almost like every time Kyle picks up that guitar of his and just plays out the emotions he is feeling, people are drawn to him and the music he creates - There is a reason he is able to do that without being able to read music, no formal lessons, but still can pick up an instrument and play it like he had been trained to do so.

Perhaps this time the timing is right. Maybe this time if I go with the natural flow it all will fall into place.

Maybe my son is right, I need to go out and speak out - use my voice.

Did I mention how proud I am of my sons?

For my sons....

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