How to be a friend to someone who might be in an abusive relationship.

October is #domesticviolenceawareness month. Chances are, you know more people in situations like this than you think. If you want to be a friend to someone you think may be smiling only on the outside, here are some insights:
*If you are in an abusive situation yourself, and reading this, send it to someone you trust.
  1. Don’t expect 20/20 vision from the victim, they are way more used to hiding it than talking about it. Way more used to denying it and brushing it under the rug than facing it for what it is. They will blame themselves, deny, minimize, and become completely desensitized to it from doing it so often. They may not even be willing to or want to see it.
  2. Tap experts –  There are some great and experienced resources to access by phone, for advice and support: national abuse hotline will always take your call and they have loads of valuable training and experience – TOLL-FREE 1.866.863.0511
  3. Go beyond the stereotypes – Physical violence is usually the exception or the late-coming form of abuse, but is also the most socially agreed upon form of abuse. No bruises means some people won’t consider it ‘real abuse’. Verbal and psychological abuse are harder to identify, start earlier in the relationship, and tend to be misunderstood because they don’t leave a mark. But they do cause psychological impairment and physiological distress.
  4. Be open and honest, but don’t expect them to be open and honest Abusive situations put victims in “Fight or flight” – making survivors oversensitive and likely to withdraw. It actually makes it harder for these women to LEAN on friends, EXPRESS what’s going on, or SEEK out people to trust for support. This self-perpetuating cycle leaves them alone and desperate more often than they’ll ever admit.
  5. Be Patient Separation/exit from these situations is extremely difficult. Heightened emotions, raised stakes, and losing love, stability, and family are all a part of what will be lost along with the abuse. It’s worth it, but it’s needs to get to a breaking point. 
  6. Counter-act the blame game – Victims will almost always believe the abuse or the situation is somewhat or fully their fault. Most are made to feel that way. Tell them it’s not. See it clearly for them. After my situation I made a list of 10 things that were the opposite of what he told me I was. I still look at that list. 
  7. Understand that it’s not black and white. Victims often still love their abuser and will hope beyond hope that it ‘goes away.’ They hope this last time was the very last time. Leaving, and the fight ahead, takes a degree of inner strength and resolve that abuse victims gave up a long time ago. They need to regain that strength before making a change. 
  8. Throw logic out, work on building back their reality, confidence, and inner strength – Abuse isn’t rational. It’s explosive, disproportionate, and non-sensical. Verbal abuse and harassment is confusing and embarrassing. You can’t use logic to fix it or to fight it. Yet most victims and ‘normal people’ will naturally try to rationalize either the behavior or what to do about it. It won’t work. 
  9. Expect problematic behaviors, from here on in – Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common side effect of battered woman syndrome, meaning that the relationship causes shock and trauma to the brain enough to impair or reduce cognitive function. This is why recovery may include: relapse, paralysis, poor judgement, difficulty making decisions – ongoing.
  10. Trust your instincts, and be clear about right from wrong  – Women in this situation are TRAINED to smile through it, brush it off, minimize it. If you see clearly that someone you love (or yourself) is being abused, mistreated, repeatedly disrespected – and that person is suffering – the best thing you can do is be a supportive, forgiving, understanding, and well-informed ally. 
 
This list was compiled from research and experience. Yes, I am a survivor.
What I wish for others in situations this is that they not be judged, that they have friends to lean on even when they are weak and useless and messy and confused and acting oddly and not making sense. 
Being aware of all of the above can help you be a source of strength. 
 
An abusive relationship chips away at your heart and soul. You feel empty, desperate, confused, and alone. 
Help her heal and rebuild on the inside – and possibly, find the strength to leave.
 
Help her combat and cut off from the abuse mentally first, by learning that real love shouldn’t hurt.
Help her build back the resources she’ll need for the difficult road ahead of creating a new life. 
Help her by not turning away. 
Advertisements

Loss sucks. Dreams count. (but my mind didn’t get the memo)

I find myself thinking of it first thing in the morning, like my mind, half-asleep, has found this pain and needs to pick at it obsessively.

The dear friends I lost in the divorce. And the worst part – I lost them because they didn’t believe me or even want to hear my side of it.

The massive financial hit we took for selling the house too soon.

The massive costs – physically and mentally – of court.

I know that every one of us has regrets. It just seems that the bigger regrets – the ones that I incurred over the past 10 years – the regrets that seem to be life-changing events.

Do you find yourself in the same boat? Going over losses and hurts like a cat obsessively licking its fur??? Ouch, ouch, ouch, fuck, fuck, fuck….. it’s a terrible feeling, and I wish I could get past it. Isn’t it key that we focus on the present and future? Everybody has regrets. But who among us still has vibrant, exciting, scintillating, life-affirming…. D R E A M S……..that could still become realities.

What’s your dream? I have given up on so many of mine… but how about if I lay them out here and you’ll tell me yours? Might as well get it down on paper.

Dream one: publish my novel. Or a screenplay. Or at least an article or story every now and then!

Dream two: Cooking classes in Italy.  (a little pricey! But possible.)

Dream three: Scuba Dive (completed in-pool portion already, halfway there)

Dream four: A home that’s all set for hosting. And charcuterie platters at the ready. (almost there).

Dream five: I’d like a promotion.

Maybe these are all attainable……. funny, I thought I wanted to buy another house, but it didn’t actually make the list.

Tell me your dreams, friends… it feels so much better than regrets and feeling like your whole life went down the tubes.

We. Are. Alive. Anything is possible.

XO

Boy Crazy

I went for a bike ride tonight. A mountain ride through the forest, on dirt trails. It was two hours of pure bliss. Challenge, and exhaustion, but I love to ride. Tonight I rode with a group of nine women. Strong, somewhat butchy women. And I started thinking to myself how I’ve never really embraced my tomboy side, even though I have always been a bit of a tomboy.

In my mind I always remind myself of my father and grandfather – both strong silent types. Both good at showing their love in how they look at you.

I’m not always that way – but it’s a core part of me.

Anyway, the thing is – even though I’m a bit of a tomboy inside, and more keen to get out and do something than gossip or shop, I do love boys. And I always have. I was called boy crazy all through grade school. Grade school! That’s like – pre-teenage years!

I love their hair. Their smell. Their mouths and the way they talk.

I love kissing them. Holding hands with them. Chatting about stupid stuff.

My first boyfriend was Peter.

We were 4 years old when we met.

He always held a spot for me on the big chair. We had sleepovers. I was his and he was mine and we both knew it.

But then he moved away. And I remember crying so hard on my mom’s bed. It was my first heartbreak. It was my first relationship. We were just the most sympatico little pair of people. I don’t think that I had a relationship like that until B. Post-marriage. Post everything.

B and I have been together 2 years and he makes me swoon. He gets me and I get him. He’s not easy by any means, but neither am I. We’re all a pain in the ass. We humans.

Between Peter and B there have been many boys though. One or two “men” I guess. But I prefer boyish charm. Hoodies over suits.

After Peter there was Alex, then Jesse. Adam. Ed. Jake, Jeremy, Joe. Zack. Daniel. Scott  the first. Adam the second. Adrian. Scott the second. Then my husband. Then B.

I guess it’s not a long list. Or not too long. I could probably think of a whole lot more if I thought about it. ; )

Memories of an unconventional childhood

The people who lived in our house

From the start, Meir was louder and made me smile more often than the previous two borders had. Edmund, the first tenant we ever had, was an young (barely 20) asian student. Quiet as a mouse, memorable mostly for his small, tight baby blue shorts.

Dahlia was our second. A thin black woman with slicked back hair, somewhere in her 30s, with a stellar arsenal of nail care products. It was Dahlia who introduced me to quick-dry aerosol spray for nails. I got my first manicure in her room, and the accompanying feeling of pampered womanly bliss, all while the wheel of fortune spun on her TV in the corner.

I was about 15.

It was Meir though who put his own phone line in the living room. And proceeded to have high-pitch, high-voltage Hebrew conversations daily. Not angry or anything, he just talked like that, like a screeching car.

And it was Meir who invited his whole Israeli family to visit right out of the gate, first one sister then the other, then mom and sisters. Cooking, taking up residence for a while, getting the Canadian experience from our little government-subsidized neighborhood in the rich suburb of Thornhill.

It was Meir who was willful and bull-headed enough for my mother. The rest of her boyfriends – before and since – were pretty lame.

Living with Meir was like breathing enriched hyper-Israeli-Jewish air vs the lazy North American just-born-that-way Jewish air that we’d always breathed. Their traditions were cooler and more colourful than ours, their Jewishness far Jewier than ours, with their late-night dinners, honey-drenched desserts, and a language that lived in the back of the throat and sounded better in every register.

Meir was a skinny man, with sparse black hair. Attractive and charming, often laughing. I don’t often admit it, but I’m pretty sure my love of Al Pacino was a direct result of his influence.

His renovation business probably started around the time he moved in with us, which wasn’t long after he’d arrived in Canada. And it must have been not long after that that my mom, who at that time was a legal secretary for real estate lawyers, got Meir a job renovating foreclosed houses. Actually, as I recall it, it was less renovating and more just cleaning them out.

So some time after that – I got offered $100 every now and then, to help him out on a Saturday.  That was a pleasant sum of money for a day’s work, when minimum wage was about $6.00.

We’d drive to the house in his burgundy Honda. A cigarette infused, paint-fumed, wreck of a vehicle, but still a relief from my mom’s car’s steady stream of Emmylou Harris and Dan Folgelberg. I shudder to think of it.

Drinking Irish Cream at the Madison Centre

My mom had big hair back then. My childish memory of her was as a powerful power woman with an power job. In actuality, she was a secretary. But she was an eighties secretary. The kind with brightly coloured dresses and shoulder pads, and bangles and turquoise pumps. Her friend Roz worked with her but wasn’t quite as flamboyant. It was through Roz that my mom had met Howie, her boyfriend before this one.

I can still remember the wonder I felt when she picked me up from school. She was just as pretty and colourful as could be. It wasn’t a feeling of pride as much as astonishment. Perhaps because I always identified more as a tomboy, and to me this looked like something of an intricate costume. Complete with the dangly earrings. Maybe I did feel proud as well.

She worked at The Madison Centre. It always had an impressive ring to me, still does. A fancy high rise with lots of law offices, and the very place where I, helping out at the office at sixteen, started drinking Irish Cream like the other secretaries. With lots of milk and sugar. I remember one of the lawyers in her office once said I was precocious – or promiscuous? I remember not knowing what it meant, or if it was good or bad. I did wear a lot of short shorts to the office though.

When I helped my mom with administration, I made $10 an hour. But I was a horrible, horrible administrative assistant. I remember it taking me hours to file a handful of things. So that’s probably why I ended up getting the offer to clean houses.

Our first gig together was a bungalow in North York. I remember the drive at the crack of dawn, about 7 am that Saturday. We picked up Tim Hortons. When we got to the house it looked like a normal brown brick house, but on the inside – but when we actually went into it, it was dirty. Really dirty. There were flies on the carpet. There was inch thick grease in the oven. The bathrooms were stained with rust and dust and dirt. The basement was nasty. And we had to clean it. I was about to earn every dollar of that 100.

Meir put the ghetto blaster on and we each took a floor. I didn’t mind it actually – it was mindless.

We did about six houses that summer. As long as the music was playing, I liked cleaning a lot better than filing papers in the office. I probably thought about boys a lot.

I don’t remember them falling in love or kissing or flirting. But I don’t remember that about any of my mom’s boyfriends. They would always just show up and then suddenly we lived with them. Or, in Meir’s case, we lived with him already. Her second-to-last last boyfriend (2 prior) had had two kids, and I was really close with them. But they moved out. Probably the reason why we started having borders again was that they had moved out.

News of the wedding came as a surprise. It was one-part business decision for him to get his papers, I knew that much. I wasn’t too sure about the rest of it. My mom was not the type to sit me down for a talk about two people falling in love. Maybe that wasn’t in fashion.

I wasn’t pleased about the wedding and I wasn’t impressed by mom’s socially unacceptable decisions. Meir was 24. She was 40. But I was too young to put up much of a fight, and by then the circumstances of my life had dampened my emotions to such an extent that I barely knew how to really feel anything at all, let alone stand up for myself or voice an opinion. I had two modes: dreamy idealism (boys fit in this category) and flat-lined withdrawal.

My best friend Angel came to the wedding.

I picked out a short, fitted leopard-print dress that buttoned all the way up to the neck. Describing it, it sounds beyond trashy, but somehow in pictures the dress appears demure and appropriate. I remember it being a difficult day and in the photographs I look sullen. Maybe confused. I was partaking in a factual ceremony as if it had no bearing on my life. When it fact it very much did.

Angel had worn a white sweater and a skirt. She always looked pretty.

My mom had braces then. (She was like that – she also took dance classes at my dance studio, which irked me to no end.) For some reason that made the whole thing even more embarrassing. The marrying-for-papers also bothered me a lot. Even though they were a couple, they were not a proper adult couple that had fallen in love the right way. He was young and illegal. She was old and should have known better. I think it further destroyed my belief in redemptive romantic love.

I judged them silently, and the judgement was nothing to do with Meir really. I liked him a lot. I was used to being embarrassed by my jazz-dancing, braces wearing mother. In my mind, this would be no different. An antic, showing poor judgement.

As it turned out, Meir’s best friend, another Israeli bachelor, would also marry an ‘older lady’. It was like a fad. His friend’s wife was a smoker. Tanned, tight-panted, and ready to party.

I always wanted a sister – suddenly I had two. Sort of. For now. 

With the adoption of Meir into our family, suddenly, I had older sisters, but not sisters, actually very young aunts.

Yael came first, and she was a female version of Meir. Just as a boisterous, smiling, and jovial, direct as a hammer, but with wild curly hair. Yael and I quickly developed the “older sister that went off to college while I was still a kid” relationship. She was not quite a compatible personality with me, but she was great.

Every Israeli-born child enters the army at 18, so Yael, in her early twenties had already served her time. Her role had not been combative – I don’t know if she had even carried a gun – but she had a huge indented scar on her leg that looked about the size of a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup. It was deep, and wide.

She seemed tougher to me than any female I had ever known.

Yael stayed for a few months. Then left.

Sigal came second. She was younger than Yael by a few years, and seemed – but was closer to me in both age and spirit. Quick to shrug of what didn’t matter, quick to crack a smile. Pretty, and feminine, but not girly. Not a gossip or a flake. She liked to rock the boat for fun. She stood up for herself. She had long, straight black hair, a feisty mouth and the same no-nonsense attitude as her siblings.

We shared quickly started sharing everything – stories, clothing, perfume.

I never wanted her to leave.

Since Meir and his sister were both in their twenties, and I was still in my teens, there was a whole adult night life world that they were in and I was not.

I remember when the night life came home, once. Meir’s friend, Simon, I learned, was a heroin addict, but was quitting heroin. And for this quitting process, he took up residence in our middle bedroom. My first glimpses were of him writhing and sweating. I just walked by in horror and said nothing. Similar to when I went with my mom to a home birth and watched the baby come out, placenta guts and all. Just more disturbing things that I could never unsee. Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore. Maybe it didn’t effect me. My lingering wish is that I had been sheltered just a little bit more from the grittier aspects of life. I was not doted on, or very protected. I think I still kind of like the little feelings of that when it happens.

But that’s a different story.

So gentle Simon did his detox. The event came and went like any other in our house – no story came with it, no specific meaning was applied to it, it was just something that was happening. Most of Meir’s friends were good guys, and not druggies. It wasn’t like this was normal. Or maybe it was – how would I ever know? By the end of the week, I had walked by his room enough times that my heart hurt, knowing that someone was in so much pain but that there was nothing I could say or do. I could only witness. A lot of the time I felt like I was the border renting a room.

I never called Meir Dad or thought of him as any sort of father figure, but he did come to be known by my friends as my stepdad. Kids like to label things.

But he never ever tried to parent me. Why would he, at 24? Maybe his role was more of the protective big brother; he was always encouraging my mom to give me spending money for the mall. And he didn’t like when boys screwed with me.

Meir was solace for me. Maybe because I was a bit of a tomboy – I just liked hanging out with him. It was simple, and pleasant.

In him I had found a loyal, adult friend. Someone who had my back.

And at a time in my life when I generally lacked in confidence, Meir made me feel like I was ok just as me, myself.

When boys came around the house, he was protective. The story of legend was the time when two of my male friends had come over when I was alone at home, and decided to take my mom’s car for a joyride. I’m still not sure how they got the keys and made their escape without me seeing – and I’m still not sure what made them do it, besides the seventeen year old hunger for mischief that all of us neglected, under-performing teenagers had. But somewhere in the 10 minutes that they had left our house, and driven down York Hill Boulevard, Meir found them on the road. And he gave them hell. Enough that they were scared of him for the remainder of my high school years. Legend has it that he threatened to cut of their hands if they ever tried it again.

Unfortunately, the relationship between him and my mom seemed to decline pretty quickly. It had either deteriorated or not flourished, such a short time after I had made peace with the idea of having a big Israeli family to go through life with.

I’m not sure how much time passed, maybe a year, but Meir announced that he would be moving out.

I never saw them kiss, aside from the wedding. I guess I kind of wish, also, that my mom was more affectionate in general.

There was a twist though. Sigal wanted to stay with us. “You go” she said to her brother, stubborn as ever “I’m not going anywhere.” So Meir moved out, and we got to keep his sister.

Perhaps this was the exact moment where she steered her fate in the wrong direction.

Perhaps this is the exact moment where we ask what would have happened if Meir had not left or if Sigal had not stayed. Would it have made a difference?

Divorce is a kick in the lady parts. But this cloud has a BIG silver lining.

Divorce sucks. Cotton Candy Milkshakes dont.

hello.

I remember a few years ago that this blog was a real lifeline for me. The friends, the community – and the writing itself.

It’s nice to think of that, and be here for a moment. I’m working from home. The sun is shining in through the living room window. And my house is pretty. Despite the little spots that show signs of life (active 5 year old, tired mum).

In less than a month it’ll be two years since I lived with my ex, and the anniversary coming up resonates so deeply with me, as a sort of “birthday” of my new life, and a reclaiming of my purpose, heart, and soul.

I must say, I feel like I’ve harped on the past a lot, inside my own head and with friends and family. And a two year court battle has me feeling like I was hit by a train… so I hope that now I can move away from the victim mentality, the needing validation and proof, the dwelling on the abuses… yes, it was horrible. But I have moved on. And I must stop licking that old wound.

I’m writing today because – although I am leaving him behind – I live the reality of being a single mum, and that comes with it’s challenges. I have shame. It’s not easy showing up to school events  – J at one end of the gymnasium, me at the other.

But I’m ready to laugh about it. So I am thinking to change the name of this blog to

*THE SILLY DIVORCEE*

And keep writing, but some of the ridiculously horrible *and* hilarious things that are the realities of my life.

Things like…….

  • the time I dreamed of my ex husband’s penis ?!?!
  • The things I used to think were love that I know now were next level psycho !?!
  • The moment when you see that your ex was actually JUST LIKE his mom?!?
  • The “man’s” jobs that I do now that are both gross and wonderfully empowering!
  • My COMPLETE mother’s day meltdown….. with my awesome boyfriend?!?!

So I have no idea if anyone will check this post out, but if you do, I’m looking for ANY encouragement to make this switch and start writing again about my new… flawed…hilarious…..wonderful ….. Life : )

Should I do it?

 

signs of an emotionally abusive relationship

  1. You’re googling Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship and all of it’s variations. Because you’re lost and confused and don’t really know where to turn next.
  2. You’re constantly hoping it’s the last time. It never is.
  3. Everything is your fault. You’ve caused this state of affairs.
  4. Unpredictable anger – unpredictable expressions of big emotions altogether.
  5. Name calling
  6. Intention to hurt, with little or no remorse
  7. “I hate you, don’t leave me” attitude that makes no sense
  8. A desire in yourself to moderate your own behavior in the hopes of moderating theirs
  9. Denial. Of your reality. Constant confusion.
  10. Still wanting to hold on to the good parts. Hoping it will change. Losing hope.

As I write this, I am approaching the two year mark since separating from an abusive ex. The road is complicated, but worth every second, every step, every battle, every breath. I have never felt more happy or more alive in my life.

Life, Part 2 – After the marriage

Hello, old friends. Long time! I’ve missed you… while I’ve been busy finding me ; )

As I write this, I’m sitting in the most beautiful room that ever was, feeling the most peaceful I have ever felt, because it is mine – As Virginia Woolf famously called it, ‘A Room of One’s Own,’ – I have my own place, with my daughter. We’ve settled it, and it is absolutely amazing….

J and I separated 8 months ago. It’s strange to think there was a time when I couldn’t imagine life without him, when now all I remember is the abuse.

In June it will be official – and I am so very ok with June coming.

Sometimes I think I’ve found a nice memory – like the special tea he used to make me when I was sick, or the amazing vacations we took to Cuba, Paris, Mexico. But no sooner have I thought about the nice thing and the bad part comes rushing in with it. The way he yelled at me for not appreciating the tea, or the way he treated me during his fits on every one of those vacations….. Horribly. Even on the Honeymoon and ‘babymoon.’

I’ve thought about the many women (and men) who suffer verbal abuse for years and years with no escape and no name for it. I want to do something about it, but not sure what I could do. It’s such a slippery little topic. So hard to define. And the attitudes you face: Did he hit you though? No… So it’s not ‘actual’ abuse then….

Ok.

Patricia Evans’ definition set me free last summer, while I was recovering: Verbal abuse is a lie told to you about you.

Yep. You are not any of those horrible names/descriptors. And how liberating to be free of those lies.

Back then, and for many months before that, I was blogging pretty regularly. I was going through a huge change from not drinking alcohol and kind of rediscovering myself.  But for the past 8 months – barely a word huh?! I hope you are all doing well on your amazing journeys.

I’m quite happy to report that I am dating an old friend turned new flame… somebody who always liked me and I always liked but we were never single at the same time. It’s a total breath of fresh air… and while I am not moving fast I am enjoying it so incredibly much. This delicious new love.

I know that many of the bloggers I read are quite religious. I am not, but am spiritual… and I just have to say… I am so positively sure that God has been watching over me, and I am so grateful for the guiding light that has led me through all this insanity, into the beauty of a healthy new life.

XOX