Dear Abuser

Dear Abuser,

I don’t think you understand the pain and suffering you’ve caused your victim. I’m the one they tell about your hurtful ways with tears in their eyes. I’m the one they turn to for support and affirmation that they aren’t the one to blame. I’m the one that tells them it was your choice and not theirs.

Dear Abuser,

I don’t think you know how scared they are of you. You don’t see them trembling on the stand when they testify. I’m the one that’s there to support them. You don’t see them unable to sleep or eat because they are fearful for their safety. I’m the one they call in the middle of the night in panic. You don’t know the extra measures they take to keep themself and their children safe. You don’t know how many locks it takes to allow them to feel safe.

Dear Abuser,

You don’t understand all the changes your victim has made to move on. I’m the one who helps pack up their belongings and move to a different house or a different town. You don’t have to change your phone number 5 times ion 6 months because you’re being stalked and harassed. You don’t have to stay with a friend because you’re scared to be home alone. I’m the one they call when they need to go to a shelter to protect themself. I’m the one that safety plans with them. You don’t have to calculate the risk in a trip to the grocery store or to drive farther to another one just to keep safe.

Dear Abuser,

You can’t imagine loving someone but being scared of them at the same time. It’s a conflicting feeling that causes so much guilt. I’m the one that helps them process these feelings. I’m the one that they share that they want to go back because I’m the only person who understands. You don’t understand how much it hurts and the anguish it causes to feel this way.

Dear Abuser,

Your victim can’t fix you. You might think that they can help you change. You might think they can help you stay sober, or keep your job, or keep your housing, but you’re wrong. They can’t stop your actions. They can’t change who you are as much as they try or fix the trauma you’ve endured. They can’t cure your mental health issues. I’m the one that talks about making changes for their own benefit or focusing on themself.

Dear Abuser,

I don’t think you know what it’s like to live in poverty because of the loss of your partner. You don’t have to reach out to agencies for help only to be turned down. You don’t have to tell your landlord that you aren’t going to be able to pay the full amount and pray that he will accept a partial payment. I’m the one that helps them make a script for what to say. You won’t live in a house without electricity because the bill was too high. I’m the one that calls the power company with them. You don’t have to consider sleeping in your car, but worrying it won’t protect you from your hurtful partner. I’m the one that helps them access shelter. You don’t have to hear the frustration, fear and anxiety when they realize there’s no one else they can call. I’m the one that has to talk them through this tough time.

 

Dear Abuser,

It’s not fair that you don’t have to move back in with your parents or in with a friend. You don’t have to keep 3 kids plus yourself in one room. You don’t have to share a bed with your children. You don’t have to hear about how you “should have left earlier” or what kind of person you are for staying, or shames you for going back. I’m the one who tells them it’s not their fault. You don’t have to face this judgement.

Dear Abuser,

You don’t have to see them cry. You don’t have to feel the intense emotions of loving your partner who has hurt you and still wanting to be with them regardless of how bad things were. I’m the one that supports them and helps them weigh their options. I’m the one that hands them tissues when the tears fall. I’m the one that’s there when they go back, even when their own family abandons them because of you. You don’t have to feel ashamed of your relationship or the feelings you now feel. You don’t hold the guilt from the assaults.

Dear Abuser,

I don’t think you will ever take accountability for your actions and that’s what will hurt your victim the most. They will try to rationalize your behavior, but it will be confusing and frustrating that you told them you loved them and then hurt them. I’m the one that talks with them about what your motivation may have been or talks about reframing the blame. You aren’t required to admit you’ve done anything wrong. You don’t feel the weight of those actions.

Dear Abuser,

I don’t think you understand that the pain you caused can hurt your victim for years. The cut that you made on the soul of your victim may take years to heal or may never fully heal. I don’t think you understand how hard it is when a victim asks how long it will be before they are healed and I don’t have an answer. I’m the one that connects them to other victims to share their story which can help their healing. I don’t think you comprehend how you’ve hurt them or what the long lasting effects are. I don’t think you understand that it’s not just the victim who needs healing, but their children, friends and family.

Dear Abuser,

STOP. I don’t know if you can, but stop hurting your partners. Stop treating victims the way that you do. Stop minimizing your involvement, denying that you hurt your partner and blaming your victim. Stop making them feel crazy. Stop calling them names. Stop putting your children in the middle of this. Stop stalking, harassing and bothering them. Just stop. I would love for my job to not be necessary. I would love to have no clients. The world will be a better place if you stop.

But until you stop, I will be there. I will work as hard as I can with as many victims as I can until this ends.

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Addicts are People

Addicts are people. They are not trash to be thrown away. Please don’t talk about them like they are human refuse. There are plenty of people who use substances who are good, kind and decent people. There are many people who use due to the trauma they have experienced or because of their circumstances. Some are born into a life where drugs or alcohol is a part of their culture, where using is normalized. Maybe a person uses drugs to treat their mental health condition, or maybe just to escape from the reality of their life. Drug addiction happens to all ages, genders, colors, socioeconomic statuses, it can happen to literally anyone. There are many ways in which people start down the path of addiction, no two are the same, so don’t assume that because you know “one worthless drug addict” that everyone struggling with addiction is the same. That’s called overgeneralization and it’s not fair to do to any group of people.

Some addicts commit crimes. So do normal people. When you are someone with an addiction, some of your time is spent feeding that addiction. Many of your behaviors are focused on satisfying your need for the substance of your addiction. The normal cycle is use, come down, buy more. Sometimes in trying to get drugs, a person becomes desperate and uses whatever means they are able to in order to get what they want. Sometimes this results in crimes like robbery, check fraud, panhandling, prostitution, and, in extreme cases, murder. While I am not justifying any of these crimes, I’m telling you that there’s a reason these crimes are being committed and why someone fighting an addiction might see it as a means to an end. Once again, these can be desperate people. This is also why some people choose to make or sell drugs. It means that their own use costs less and they are able to even have an income on which to base their lifestyle if they sell enough. I once had someone tell me “I can make $3,000 cash in two days selling meth. Why should I ever work 40 hours a week to make $400 at the end of it and then wait another week or two to be paid?!”

Some addicts struggle with completing drug treatment, and some normal folks struggle with finishing EVERYTHING. Where there are drugs, there’s demand. Where there’s demand, there’s drugs. It’s an unending cycle. You can’t incarcerate people fast enough to stop it, and you can’t treat addicts quick enough to stop it. There’s no good cure for the drug addiction plaguing our country. Incarceration of addicts doesn’t cure them of their addiction, but then again, sometimes neither does treatment. There are some really good treatment centers out there, but they don’t have a 100% success rate. There are people who go to all the meetings they possibly can, have a sponsor, have a good social support system and who still relapse. Recovery isn’t perfect. There are really two ways out from addiction: death or successful treatment. One of those options doesn’t have a 100% success rate, the other does.

Some addicts have priorities which are not the same as yours (so you refer to them as “the wrong priorities”). Picture yourself living the life of an addict. You need to choose whether to buy food or drugs. To me this is probably one of the most difficult choices a person could possibly make, but many people think it’s easy. Most people don’t understand why addicts would choose drugs over food, rent, medical care or their children. Drug addiction is a sick and twisted thing and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s hard for someone struggling with addiction to hold down a job, especially if using leaves them unable to function properly. “Desperate times call for desperate measures”… as the saying goes, once an addict loses their job, the result is desperation to meet EVERY need, not just addiction.

Let’s not pretend for a minute that all addicts are breaking the law. Alcohol is legal. A person can drink themselves stupid as long as they don’t drive, be drunk in public, etc. There are very few laws related to drinking at home. Alcoholics are probably the most common addicts, and yet they are somehow viewed as “better” than people who use meth or heroin, probably mostly because they are not breaking the law. But alcoholics break the law all the time. There’s many people with violations due to drinking and driving. There’s many assaults, including domestic violence and sexual assault, which were escalated due to alcohol. So how is this type of addict somehow “less bad” as compared to a hard drug user?

Addicts are people.

They love, they live, they contribute to society. They play music. They create art. They work. They play. They have families. They have spouses and significant others. They own property. They rent. They care for others. They teach. They learn. They have skills. They are kind. They can sometimes see the best in others. They are smart, sometimes bordering on brilliant! They are resourceful, much more resourceful than I will ever be. But most of all they are someone’s family member or friend. They have people who care about them and love them.

So before you say something unkind about someone struggling with addiction, think about how you’d treat someone you love who was facing this struggle. Each of us contributes to this world, and there’s enough negativity in it already. Be kind.

 

Thirteen Reasons Why and One Reason I Won’t

I just finished the show Thirteen Reasons Why on Netflix. First let me tell you there are spoilers included in this post, so you’ve been warned.

I read some articles discussing the good and bad points of it, but I wanted to give some additional feedback about the show from my experience and also share my personal experiences with mental illness, bullying, sexual assault and suicide.

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker from “Thirteen Reasons Why” as played by Katherine Langford

Let me begin by saying that yes, some of what Hannah Baker experienced can be attributed to “normal high school experiences”. Yes, feeling outcast as the new girl, feeling alone sometimes, gaining and losing friendships, etc. are all normal. But there are other parts of Hannah’s story that are far from normal.

 

Overall I felt that the show was more focused on the trauma Hannah experiences than a mental health condition or a clinical definition of depression. Given all the trauma Hannah experiences during a short amount of time, it’s a normal thing to feel sad, depressed and low. Never once does the show reveal that Hannah is affected by any kind of mental health diagnosis or undiagnosed illness. No one ever says anything about mental health at all other than the scene where Clay’s mother suggests he try medication. Therefore, the hopelessness and loneliness that Hannah experiences, in my opinion, is not a byproduct of a mental health condition; it’s a reaction to trauma. She’s bullied, sexually assaulted and abandoned. She’s experiencing everything from guilt and shame, to flashbacks and triggering and the people she does turn to for help don’t recognize the signs or do nothing and her normal coping skills aren’t working. Maybe they just didn’t ask the right questions.

Hannah Baker experienced trauma.

It’s not her fault. She’s a victim in all of her trauma. To blame Hannah for what led to her suicide is ignorant. In the long run, Hannah did have other choices, but the choice she decided was best for her was taking her own life. Yes, it’s always sad when a preventable tragedy like this happens, and it’s a senseless loss of life. I’m not making judgments on Hannah for this choice, nor am I saying “she shouldn’t have done it”. I’m only saying that it was Hannah that made that choice, and it was hers to make.

I don’t get to decide what is best for Hannah’s life, only Hannah does.

While watching the show I identified with Hannah. I know what it’s like to feel alone, bullied, assaulted and hopeless. I know what it feels like to experience trauma and the lasting effects of trauma. I know what it feels like to think the only option is suicide. Even as I watched and knew what would happen eventually, I found myself screaming at the TV at the people who could have helped Hannah. I yelled at them about what else they could have done or resources she could have accessed. As I was sobbing and watching helplessly as Hannah slit her wrists, in what was the most heart wrenching scene of the show, I thought about all the ways her story had gone sideways, and all the ways it could have gone differently. I was thinking about why she felt suicide was an option for her, and why it isn’t an option for me.

I’ve been where Hannah Baker was. I’ve reached out to people to get help only to have them tell me to “move on” or “cheer up”. I’ve felt like I wanted to disappear, like my life was too hard. I’ve had people say I was a “drama queen,” a “slut,” and that I was making things up or making them “all about me”. Even this blog will be misconstrued by some as all about me. (It is, but it’s also about trauma reactions and mental health and it’s my blog.)

I’ve sat with that razor blade at my wrist willing myself to cut. I’ve had two failed suicide attempts. I’ve used cutting as a form of coping. I’ve had many more times when I contemplated suicide or even had a plan but didn’t carry it out. I’ve wished that I didn’t exist or wished I could disappear. And still I say that suicide is not an option for me.

Here’s why:

Suicide isn’t the end of my pain, it’s the transference of my pain to those I care about.

Think about it for a minute.

I love those who are in my life. I want the very best for them. I have family, friends and coworkers who care about me as well. If I were to take my own life, they would be the ones to feel the fallout just as the friends and family of Hannah Baker did. They would be left with the questions, the guilt, the shame and sorrow of what I had done. They would stay up late at night, unable to sleep because they were thinking about something they could have done differently to help me or stop me. They would cry at my funeral and every time afterwards when my name came up or they were reminded of me. They would be embarrassed when someone talked about the stigma of suicide and what it meant about me as a person, when they implied that I was selfish, weak, or unable to cope or when they blamed my bipolar.

Suicide isn’t an option for me because I can’t bear the thought of leaving them my pain. I want to leave a legacy of my accomplishments, my victories, my happy memories. I want people to cry because they miss me, and because it’s a shame that I am no longer alive, but know that I had a good life. I want people to talk about how I tried to dispel the stigma of mental illness and was open and honest about my symptoms and mental health. I want people to know that I lived with passion, I loved as much as I could, I lived my life to the best of my abilities regardless of my bipolar and the challenges it posed.

I want people to know that there’s no shame in asking for help, and if you can’t ask on your own, have someone help you or let someone know you need help. They don’t have to hide it. Just tell them “I need help” or “I’m suicidal. Can you help me please?”.  I want people to know they can offer help even when it’s not asked for. Like this “You seem pretty down. Are you feeling like hurting yourself?” or “Do you ever feel like hurting yourself?”

Let’s talk about mental health and suicide!!!

Suicidal thoughts are not shameful, I think everyone has them at one point in their life. So let’s talk about what is a shared experience for all of us regardless of the cause or reason we feel/felt that way. We can say “We can rely on each other and be honest about our feelings.” or “I’ve had suicidal thoughts. Have you?” or even “I’m a safe person to share suicidal thoughts with.” I guess it’s been my experience that offering help and having someone say “No, I just need to talk.” is much better than not offering. Discussing things makes it so that having future conversations isn’t awkward or difficult. If someone had cancer, they could talk about it openly. If someone had a broken leg and needed to go to the emergency room, they’d ask for help. Why should mental health be any different?!

I want people to know that medication can be a helpful tool for some people, and there’s no shame in that either. No, medication (or therapy, or anything else) cures mental illness-at least not yet. And finding the right meds, or combination of meds, or combination of therapies is BEYOND CHALLENGING and can be so frustrating! But it’s important that you do what works for you. Don’t judge yourself based on the meds you take. Don’t let others judge you based on your meds either. Everyone takes some kind of medication in their life because they need it. So if you need it, and that’s what you want, then there’s no shame in it. And if you don’t want meds, that’s ok too because it’s YOUR choice.

Lastly, I want every single person on this planet know that you are cared about, you matter and if you were gone this world wouldn’t be the same. This is true for every single person alive. Sometimes your brain will try to tell you this is a lie, but it’s not. So think about what will happen when you’re gone before you go. We all will die someday, that’s the nature of this fleeting journey we call life, so just be sure you really lived. And above all, be kind to yourself and to others. You never know what is going on with them.

Choose your words with love

As I preach over and over and over again, the world does not have enough love in it anymore. People don’t truly care for one another. There’s too much entitlement, instant gratification and apathy. People just don’t give two shits about others unless it directly benefits them.

Case in point: businesses which “go green” for the marketing value. People who perform random acts of kindness only to publicize it on social media…those are supposed to benefit the person receiving the act of kindness, not the person doing it. By publishing it, it’s selfish. (Yes, I’ve listed what I do for random acts of kindness before. That wasn’t to gain publicity, it was to give others ideas. There’s a difference.) People who donate to a charity to have their name on a plaque. Puke.

There are certain words which no longer belong in modern society, and tonight someone used one with me. The end result was a rather large argument in which the person actually thought I may disown them. Yes, it was that bad. I take this seriously.

It was “The N Word”.

There are very few words in the world which I have issues with, but racial slurs are the absolute worst words a person can use. When someone uses a racial slur, it’s not “just a word”. It’s insulting, disgusting and rude. This word is not separate from the hundreds of years of oppressing people based on their race by use of this word to mean that they were less of a person. It’s not just a word rappers use in reference to their friends regardless of the spelling. It’s a degrading insult which I will not stand for. It’s disgusting.

There’s others.

Retarded. Retarded is a word I wish would just disappear. It’s almost worse than a racial slur in that it insults people who are mentally challenged. Really?! I’ve known many people with lower cognitive function and the people I know are beautiful, wonderful, intelligent and kind people. They know facts you never knew you needed to know, but they just told you just now. They are some of the most loving people I have ever met. They do not deserve to be insulted by your ignorant words. People are not retarded. People can have cognitive problems, downs syndrome, or a disability, but they are not retarded.

“That’s gay” is another phrase I will not stand for. By using someone’s sexuality in place of the word “dumb” or “stupid” (which are also words I very rarely say because they are also cruel) it’s insulting to every person of that sexuality. You’re saying that gay is synonymous for stupid. If that isn’t what you mean, then don’t say it! There was a recent media focus on this phrase, and I think it has finally been eliminated for the most part.

I’d love to see a world in which people are respected, loved and treated as equals. We’re all members of the human race. Who gives a fuck what factors divide us?! We have skin, it doesn’t matter what color. We have thoughts, it doesn’t matter how many. We have feelings, it doesn’t mater what kind, they are acceptable. No person on this planet is more deserving than another. Not everyone gets what they want nor do they always get it in the timing they want.

I’m all for celebrating diversity, but in the belief that we’re all special and unique. No one is the same as anyone else. This isn’t to emphasize matters which divide us, but to splendor in the fact that although we are all human, we are all individuals and should be treated as such and not by some blanket policy or practice.

It’s time we set aside these thoughts and think more clearly about where our planet is going. We need to stop dividing this planet based on national origin, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation or any other factors. Let’s band together and spread more love. Let’s take care of those less fortunate who need help. Let’s give aid to those who need it whether that’s financial, physical, mental or emotional not because they “earned” it but because it’s the right thing to do. Let’s be kind and generous to one another not because of religious doctrine, but because it’s what decent human beings would do.

Let’s spread more love in this world and think about our words. Let’s eliminate hateful words with no purpose but to wound others and cause division. So I challenge you, if you’re using any of these words, stop. There’s so much hate already in this world, please don’t perpetuate it further.

Moving on… literally

It’s day 14 after my big breakup and things are slowly getting back to ok. My ex and I are now able to talk without me bursting into tears. I’m able to eat and function normally for the most part. We’re able to see one another without awkwardness too much. Tomorrow I’m moving into a new apartment.

Now I’ve lived in this apartment for 2 years, 8 months and 26 days. That’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere since before I left home. This apartment was the first apartment which was MINE and mine alone. I learned how to be single in this apartment. It was my rock for the past few years.

I’ve loved here. I’ve cried here. I’ve heard good news, great news and bad news. I’ve been angry here and I’ve yelled here. I’ve cried tears of joy. I’ve made new friends and lost old ones here. I’ve made love here. I’ve fought here. I’ve studied my ass off the night before an exam here. I’ve graduated here. I’ve created beautiful works of art here. I’ve lost dreams here. I’ve made dreams here. I’ve made dreams come true here. I’ve aged here from my youthful twenties to my wisdom-filled thirties. I’ve made mistakes here and I’ve accomplished goals.

A lot has happened in the past 2 years, 8 months and 26 days and there’s no good way to sum up everything other than I’ve made memories here. This apartment has been the one stable thing in my life despite all the ups and downs I’ve had in the past 2 years, 8 months and 26 days; and now I’m moving out tomorrow.

I’m terrified.

I’m moving to a new town where new neighbors live. I’m moving farther away from my friends, my family and my support system. I’m moving to a town where the only person I really give two shakes about is now my ex, and we’re no longer together. This move is suddenly terrifying.

Up to this point I’ve been excited. As I boxed things up I anticipated leaving this place with joy, excitement, happiness. I lovingly packed my things in paper and in boxes and I thought about my new apartment and all the memories I’d make there, but now I don’t want to leave the memories I already have.

I’m terrified to be alone…really alone. I’m scared to move away because I’m worried that my bipolar will make me sick… again, like the last time I lived away from my support system. I’m scared that I won’t like the landlord there. I’m scared that I’ll lose my job in that town and be stuck commuting to a job in a different town again; wasting my time, energy and money on the drive every damn day.

This feeling came over me as I was driving home from work today. I realized that it was the last time I’d drive “home” to this town, at least for a while. Next time I drove “home” it would be to my new apartment in my new town. I’m realizing that the reason I took the job I have now was to be closer to him, to be with him, to rationalize moving closer to him and eventually moving in with him; and now I want to be farther away from him, but I can’t run away. Even “home” will only be a few blocks away from him starting tomorrow and it breaks my heart that I’ll be so close and yet unable to have him.

And so here I sit surrounded by my life packed in boxes. All my memories packed up in neat little cubes waiting to move to a new place. Waiting to be unpacked in their new place in my new apartment.

And I’m terrified.

But sometimes you need to pack up your life, your doodads and your clothes and your knickknacks and move on…literally. Sometimes you need that push in order to do something great. So that’s what I plan to do; do something great in this next chapter of my life.

It’s been 2 years, 8 months and 26 days… it’s time to move on.

Look at me

I want to address a serious problem in our society: ignoring one another! I went on a walk tonight in my neighborhood and I was shocked and appalled by how many of my neighbors avoided eye contact as I walked by! I’m a lady walking all by myself in a neighborhood at night.

What happened to the sense of community?

What happened to knowing and watching out for your neighbors?

I’ve lived in this neighborhood for about 2 1/2 years. In those years I have made many walks through my neighborhood. I know that I’ve talked to some of them. I know that they have seen me around, yet they turn away!

Now I’m the kind of person that will go above and beyond to be friendly with others, so here I am staring down my neighbor with a big smile on my face… I surely look like a serial killer out to stab them with their own arm at this point. But I want nothing more but to connect with the people who live around me!

50 years ago communities joined together to raise their families. People weren’t afraid to let their children play outside by themselves because they knew that their neighbors were also looking out for their kids. People knew their neighbors by first name and were friendly. They helped one another. They had dinner and spent time together.

Now people are downright scared of their neighbors! People think that their neighbors are the bad guy. There’s fear about kidnapping, child molestation, gang violence and many other issues. Is there a real fear of this happening in most communities? I’m not sure that it is, but then again, I’m under the impression that most people are good.

Maybe I’m naive.

Maybe I’m gullible.

But I’d like to still think that there are people out there who would watch out for a child if they saw him fall and he needed help.

Smile 1

Tonight I helped a dog find his way home. He ran out to greet me, no tags and no leash attached with an owner. He wasn’t afraid of me. He was young and energetic and he just wanted to run along side me. I knocked on a few doors nearby and found the owner pretty easily. I can’t imagine many people doing that. Such a small effort to make such a big difference for the dog.

Smile 2

But then again, other people are worried that there are rapists and murderers living in the houses near them.

So the next time you see someone walking in your neighborhood, make a conscious effort to smile at them.

Smile

It’s a small effort on your part, but it can make a huge difference in your community.

Imagine if everyone in your neighborhood did this. Imagine the kind of friendly communities we’d enjoy living in.

Imagine the love that would be spread.