The effects of…

So, I was in a car accident yesterday; rear-ended while stopped for a red light.  I don’t think she even started to hit her brakes until right before she hit the back of my car, and hit hard enough to shove my Subaru into the car in front of me.  We all walked away and were able to drive the cars away; we were all insured, so I’m sure that will eventually work itself out.

What I find interesting is I’m a bit stiff today: neck, shoulders, back, and the ankle that I broke years back while biking with Sam hurts.  Achy would be the word.  I was getting ready for work this morning and found myself thinking “this feels familiar…  Why?”  I’ve never been in a car accident before, and breaking my ankle was the only major injury above a turned ankle or shin splints from trail running, so where did feeling so familiar with this type of low-grade ache come from?

And then it hit me.  I felt like this almost constantly the year before I left Sam.  My ankle often ached like it was still healing.  My back and neck constantly felt like I’d tweaked them somehow.  I remembered that there were days where my back hurt so bad I couldn’t even turn over to get out of bed.  I’d even gone to my doctor once because my ankle hurt so bad I couldn’t put any weight on it and had to pull out my crutches in order to get around.  (This was probably about 5 years after the biking incident.)

The pain wasn’t directly caused by Sam: he wasn’t kicking my ankle; he wasn’t punching me or getting rough every day.  But I was dealing with aches and pains without visible cause on an almost daily basis.  It was, I am sure, caused by the stress of dealing with him and the abuse.  The reason I’m sure it was due to the stress of living with Sam’s abuse was because it pretty much disappeared after I left him.  Not immediately, but pretty darn quickly.  Oh, my ankle lets me know when the weather turns icy, but it no longer aches for no apparent reason.  And until today, I hadn’t had a dull pain in my back and neck like this since I left Sam.

Not much of a reason behind this post other than to just put it out there that the stress of dealing with Sam’s emotional, psychological and financial abuse or the promise of it on a daily basis left me feeling pretty much like I’d been hit by a car.

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Summer Time

It’s summer and it’s a beautiful one at that.  It’s nothing at all like the summer where we got fresh snow in June.  Max and I have been doing swimmingly.  A few hiccups, but generally, it’s just life.  We don’t have any vacations planned, but he’s gotten to go to summer camp / classes to learn how to create mobile apps and one for designing in Minecraft, which he’s completely enjoying.  Despite the title, I’m not really feeling like writing about summer…

Well, Sam is now living about 3,000+ miles away with the girlfriend that accompanied him to Sam Sr.’s funeral.  I don’t know how they met when she lives that far away and I don’t care.  I’m just happy I don’t have to worry about running into him as Max and I run around town.  He’s been there just over a year now.  I’ll admit to checking their FaceBook pages every once in a while.  I’m not sure why, because all it usually does is tick me off.  For example:  She wished him a long, gushy, “Happy Father’s day to the best dad ever”. And all I could see was red.  HOW?!  How does he deserve to be wished a happy father’s day?  Her kids have kids of their own, so surely he’s not playing dad to them.  Other than Sam Sr.’s funeral a year ago, he hasn’t seen our son in 4 years.  4 YEARS.  The photos he shares of Max on his Facebook page are from 6 years ago. How is that an any kind of dad to wish a happy father’s day to?

Anyway.

The fact that she’s made it a year with him and has reached out to Max on her own via holiday cards from just her twice has lead me to 2 things.  1.  Perhaps I should give her name in my story now. OK…. Mary (not her real name), and 2. I’ve started wondering why. My thought process has been going back and forth along the following lines:

Why would a woman get involved with and move an abusive alcoholic 3,000 miles to live in her home?   A man who had been bouncing through jobs, had been living with his father, and the only major item he owned was POSSIBLY a car that didn’t run and the clothes on his back.  Doesn’t pay child support and is barred by the courts from being in contact with his own child.

Well… why did I let him move in with me – and for that matter why did I stay with him for so long?

And I sputter.  But it was different.  We were young.  I was just out of college, so it makes sense that he came into our relationship with only a dufflebag of rugby gear, 2 antique milk crates with his small collection of clothes, a lamp and a director’s style chair.  He didn’t have a bed, any other furniture.  He didn’t have any dishes, or pots and pans.  Heck, he didn’t even have any tools.

I’m years younger than him and I had all of that.  Maybe it wasn’t the finest quality, but I had made a home right after college.

Forget when we first moved in together. Now.  Now he’s an almost 50 year old man.  Shouldn’t some one that age have something?  Wouldn’t – or shouldn’t – a woman be at least a little leery of starting a relationship with an almost-50 year old man who doesn’t own ANYTHING?

Maybe she didn’t know.  After all, she lived 3,000 miles away.  Maybe he told her he’d just sell his furniture and car and move down to her.  Or (I’m leaning towards this one) maybe he’s telling her that his ex-wife and then his next girlfriend took EVERYTHING he had.  They were so mean and treated him so bad.  Maybe with a little bit of “I moved in my elderly father to take care of him” thrown in.

I guess I really can’t fault her for falling for it when I did.  I made excuses for him, too.  Different ones, but they weren’t any truer than whatever it is that she might be  believing.  It’s a habit of his, apparently.  He owns nothing.  And pretty much never has.  He relies on the women he dates to give him everything: a roof over his head, a couch under his backside, cable TV to watch and bed to crash in.  Throw in some clothes and a mode of transportation and he’s got it made without putting too much work into it.

OK.  No fault on the has-nothing-to-his-name front.  But he’s an abusive alcoholic.  Why would a woman move that into her life, especially when she has kids and grandkids?

It’s true that he’s an abusive alcoholic.  But he can be so charming.  He didn’t start out our relationship with threats and intimidation.  I wouldn’t have stayed if he had.  But… there was drama.  Quite naively, I chalked that up to passion.  Love.

OK.  Naive.  Young.  Passion.  But she’s almost as old as Mom.  OK… not really, but she is quite a bit older than me and she’s a grandmother.  At her age, shouldn’t she know better than to move a strange man 3000 miles into her home?

Maybe.  Maybe she should know better, but Ingrid didn’t.  She moved Sam in with her AND her two kids the same month she met him.  Sam can be quite charming, remember?

And maybe Mary just really likes taking care of some one.  Sam loves the idea of his significant other devoting all her attention and energy on him.  In fact, he kind of expects it.  Maybe she’s one who can do that.  It doesn’t mean he’s any less controlling.  It doesn’t mean you have to like her.  It doesn’t mean you have to put up with her trying to ‘fix’ the relationship between Sam and Max.  It doesn’t have to mean anything to you.  It certainly doesn’t change the fact that he hurt you and Max.

So I’ll try to drop the “Why?” for now.  I get that him being nice to her and playing the poor-me-I-can’t-see-my-son card doesn’t change the fact that he’s an abusive alcoholic.  I don’t know why she does the stuff she does, just like I don’t know why he does what he does.  I just have to protect Max.  And it’s easier with 3000 miles between us.

Update

It’s been a long spring and summer so far and I haven’t kept up on this…

Sam Sr. passed away this spring. Sam sent an e-mail telling me to tell Max that his grandfather died. Nothing else: nothing about if it was peacefully in his sleep, if he’d been ill, when the services were; he didn’t include a “Tell Max I love him” or words of sympathy for our son.

I felt it was important for Max to go to his Grandfather’s funeral, but I also didn’t want to run the risk of taking the focus off of Sam Sr. by attending myself. I was worried that if I went, Sam and Francine might start in on why Max hadn’t seen their family in years. I also didn’t want to have to defend myself and the court’s decision to pull Sam’s visitation rights or explain that just because Sam couldn’t see Max, it didn’t mean Sam Sr. couldn’t. My sister and I talked about the situation and possible complications, and she and her husband agreed to take Max to the funeral.

Max got new slacks, and he got to pick out a new dress shirt and a new tie along with a tie bar. We researched tie knots and how to tie them so we’d get it right. It was the first time he’s pulled together a more formal outfit on his own and he was nervous about making sure he looked nice enough to make Grandpa Sam proud. He did. He would have no matter what, but he did a good job.

The day of the funeral, my sister and her husband arrived and accompanied Max to the funeral and they walked back afterwards so they could talk about anything Max wanted to talk about. Max kept talking about his Grandpa Sam and the funeral when they got back to our apartment. Max found new connections with his Grandpa: “He was a trickster, just like me, Mom.” “You know that one song I like, about the ring of fire? Well, that singer, Johnny Cash, was Grandpa Sam’s favorite.” He also found out new things about his Dad. “He has a new girlfriend. She was more upset about Grandpa being dead that Dad was, or at least, she looked sadder. She cried more.” “She looks like Grandma S,” (my mom). “He looks different and I must look different, Mom.” And then he stopped talking.

I spoke with my sister about a week later while Max was at a friend’s house. It turns out she had to introduce Max to Sam three times before Sam realized Max was his son. That broke my heart more than a lot of the other things Sam has done. I know he hadn’t seen Max in years; I know that Sam’s addictions have probably hurt his memory retention, but I can’t even imagine how much this hurt Max. Three years. Max hasn’t changed THAT much. He generally looks the same at 10 as he did at 7, a little taller, his hair is longer, but he’s still Max. The same coloring, same facial structure, same eyes, same walk. Max.

I guess to be fair, I should also mention that Sam then introduced Max to his aunt, uncle and cousin as if they’d never met before (even though they have and each of them recognized Max right away). He also repeatedly made the mistake of telling Max that his cousin was his Aunt. I don’t know if Sam’s cognitive abilities have declined that much, or if he was on something to get through the funeral, but I’m finding it really hard to forgive Sam for hurting our son this way. I know it’s not rational, my anger and hurt on Max’s behalf, but it’s there.

I think one of the other hard things for me about losing Sam Sr. has been letting go of the guilt over Max not seeing him. When Sam lost visitation rights because of his relapse and events with Ingrid, both Sam Sr. and Francine stopped seeing Max also. I felt like in trying to protect Max from Sam’s addictions and abusive behavior, that I had also robbed Sam Sr. of time with Max, and Max time with his grandfather. I did try: invitations were sent to Sam Sr. for birthdays, Grandparent’s Day’s at Max’s school. Offers that we could arrange time for him to do stuff with Max were extended. Only one offer was accepted: a Grandparent’s Day tea right after Sam lost visitation. I recognize that it wasn’t my choice to keep Max away from Sam Sr., but it’s still easy, sometimes, to forget and let the guilt sneak back in.

Max still doesn’t want to talk about his father, but he will talk about his grandpa. I hope he knows he can talk to me about anything.

It’s been a while

It’s been a while, both since I posted here and since I last heard from Sam…  But it’s almost Max’s birthday, so an e-mail from Sam popped up asking how he could deliver a present to Max.

Is it progress that while the first thought that entered my mind as I read the e-mail from Sam is “I hate you,” it’s not a blinding pain? It’s just a quiet little statement.  Not the “I HATE YOU FOR HURTING US!!!!” that was showing up in my journal years ago.  Yesterday’s “I hate you,” was more like a reflex, and not a vocalization of raw pain.

It didn’t feel; it was just a statement.  I want to believe that it means I’m that much closer to my goal of not caring about Sam, about anything he is or does.  I think right now it’s a calculated indifference (or why else would that statement be the first thing that I think when reading his e-mail?). But maybe I am closer to a lack of concern for him.

And here’s my thought process for hoping for indifference towards Sam:

  • Love and hate are really just two sides of the same coin.
  • So, hatred is just love flipped around.
  • Continuing to hate Sam for the things he did to me and to Max is still giving Sam so much power.
  • I’m tired of how holding onto that hatred, anger and hurt towards Sam drains me.  He is not worth it.
  • If hatred is not the opposite of love, apathy / indifference must be.  Apathy is a lack of feeling or emotion.  That is what I want thoughts of Sam to engender: nothing.

So.  Progress?  I hope so.  And now, I’ll get back to trying to figure out an awesome way to celebrate Max’s 10th birthday.  (10 Years Old already! a Decade! Double Digits!  Woo hoo!)

Ask 10,000 Men….

It seems to be a matter of semantics, sometimes…. Unless you’re one of the survivors. Still, this article on Smithsonian about a study where men in six countries were asked if they had forced advances, without using the word “rape,” revealed affirmative responses from a quarter of the respondents. For only 1 in 10 of the respondents, the woman wasn’t their partner or acquaintance.

Ask 10,000 men

Following the link to the AP article outlines further information collected in the study:

• most respondents (70%) noted that they felt entitled to sex
• only 1/2 reported feeling guilty about what they’d done

While it is important to note that this particular study did not include the US, it did outline the problem with the general perception that rape is only committed by strangers – a criminal – jumping out of the shadows. And this is from the guys perpetrating the crimes, whether or not they realize or consider what they did a crime.

According to the National
Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010 Summary Report, by the CDC, National Center of Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention, 1 in 5 women in the US have been raped sometime in their lives. More than 1/2 were raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance.

The link for this report is here

So, even in the US, rape is not the sole domain of the criminal stranger. Though, really, I’m thinking more about that 70% of respondents in the first study saying they felt entitled to sex. That seems to me to be a main contributor to the problem. Is that belief because of what I went through with Sam? Because I know he felt he was allowed to force sex with me because I was his wife? I don’t know. It most certainly plays a part in my response in reading the reports….

Providing help and support for survivors is important. However, in order to get those numbers and statistics to drop, we need to work towards countering the sense that one is entitled to sex. That idea seems pretty clear to me, even if the how-we-get-there part is not.

It’s late…

and I can’t sleep.  That’s not really anything new.  I’m sitting here listening to the wind rattle my home, shaking it… Up to 50 mph tonight. Windy nights are my favorite.  If it was just me, I’d be walking in it, along paths through the woods, just to feel it rush along, to hear it push through the trees… But it’s not just me and Max is sick. Just a cold, but he’s mumbling and tossing in his sleep. So I sit here, not asleep, and just listen.

I find it amazing that being this long away from Sam I still wait. When will the other shoe drop? What will he do next that will have ramifications for Max and I? Is that why I’m up tonight? Habit? It winter, cold and dark this far north. This time of year life with Sam became more unpredictable. I remember lying awake at night listening for him walking back and forth to the fridge for another beer or glass of vodka, or listening for him to stumble back to the bedroom late, late at night. I remember that if i did doze off, waking up in a panic because I heard him stumbling his way back to the bedroom. Would he be coming back to pass out? Or to pick a fight over something I’d done, or not done, during the day, the week, the year? Did I put away his clean clothes or had I forgotten them in the dryer? Was I about to be harassed for ‘being frigid’ or for the affairs he imagined I was having? If I pretended to be asleep, would he decide the discussion could wait or would it make him madder?

It’s taking a lot of conscious thought to remember that I’m not back in that apartment, in that room tonight.

We, Max and I, haven’t heard from Sam since the end of July when he called Max. Max hasn’t seen Sam since the middle of April when he (Max) called me crying and in a panic saying he didnt feel good, please come get him, NOW, get him now. It’s not fair to Max that that’s the memory he has of his most recent visit with his father….

I filed a motion with the court in June. Asking that Sam’s visits be changed to a supervised dinner every other week, because of the last visit and because he was back to his pattern of no-showing for his visits with Max. After I filed, Ingrid kicked him out, again, and secured a protective order against Sam. Sam didn’t show for that hearing, or for the hearing on the custody modification. The court approved my proposed change and further ordered that Sam not see Max at all until he talks to the court to explain what steps he’s taken to address his addiction and compliance with the order to attend counseling for his abusive behaviors.

I don’t think we’ll hear from him. Not for a long time. And I think that when we do, it won’t be in compliance with the court’s orders. Because I don’t see him ever admitting his behavior towards me was wrong or agreeing to counseling, and he’d have to do that before filing anything with the court.

In October, the state sent a notice to Sam requesting the status of health care coverage for Max through his work. At the beginning of November, I received confirmation from Sam’s employer that Max is covered. At the end of November I received notice that Max is no longer covered. So Sam’s annual job shuffle has begun. One year, it was 3 jobs between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (The year I filed for divorce, it was 8 jobs in… 7 (?) months. And according to Ingrid at our divorce hearing, that was my fault.)

I have no idea where Sam is living. I’m not sure I care. I hope we’re too far from town for Sam to bother driving out to our home. I hope that it’s been too long since he knew he could take out his…. disappointments, anger, frustrations, on me, that he forgets that he can try to do so.

Have we been gone long enough to be safe? I want to believe so. I really do. I’m waiting to see if it’s true.

Today I came across an article telling part of a young man’s (Trey Malone) story. Not all of it, by any means; there is always so much more to a person than can fit into an article, or even a series of articles. What it details are after-effects of an unthinkable act committed against him and provided a link to his heart-wrenching and very eloquent suicide note.

I’m struck by several things as I read the story (here’s the link) and Trey Malone’s note, published in full at The Good Men Project site (link here) with his family’s permission.

The Huff Post story, while it outlined sexual assault as a contributing factor to Trey Malone’s decision to end his life and cited allegations that the college has failed to adequately respond to and address sexual assaults on their campus, and failed to provide adequate support to victims, provided only a single support resource link at the end of the article: to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. It did not provide any phone numbers or links to support resources for rape and sexual assault survivors. I do hope the oversight will be corrected.

The Malone family, in allowing the note to be published, shows incredible courage in the face of heartbreak. I would like to thank them for allowing the publication and offer my sincere condolences for their loss.

To fellow survivors trying to deal with victim blame, depression, feelings of isolation and / or shame, myself included, I would like to offer the following:

NOTHING you did, or did not do, justified having your will, your sense of safety, your sense of self, shattered and ripped away like it was. You did not “allow” it. You did not “ask for it.” The fault lies not with you. No matter what you may have been told, or how you yourself might feel, you are not weak. Having survived the physical, emotional and psychological effects so far is a sign of strength.

May we find peace, healing and continued strength.

R* and Attachment Parenting

It’s scary sometimes where searches for information on current political events can lead a person. I certainly didn’t expect to find the following link to two topics I never expected to see together in the same post. hisveganmama didn’t even go into the level of detail that other bloggers went into in response to Mr. Akin’s ignorant (to put it politely) statement back in August 2012, but it certainly triggered a strong response in me. I wasn’t looking for information on his statement, and I’m not certain I can re-create the path that got me from the 2012 presidential campaign to hisveganmama‘s post…

Here’s where I ended my search earlier in my lunch hour:

R* and Attachment Parenting

It caught my eye, because, well, because of what I went through with Sam and because I am strongly drawn to the parenting philosophy of attachment parenting. I don’t know why I was so surprised to see the two topics together, because my belief in attachment parenting and desire to raise Max under that philosophy was one of many topics that would result in an hours-long diatribe about my intelligence, suitability as a wife and/or mother, or other unacceptable behavior by Sam towards me.

Her description of what she struggled with as being a rape survivor and a mama is shedding light on issues that I have struggled with, but which I wasn’t even aware enough of to have attributed to being a survivor.

It seems my list of stuff I need to work through keeps growing, but I’m not really sure that I’ve truly addressed any of them, much less healed. I’m not sure that feeling will ever go away, either.

Alcohol Abuse – Alcoholism – Parenting.com

Sam’s alcoholism is such a huge part of…. the problem, the relationship, him (?)…. that I have a hard time separating it from the abuse that he subjected me, and Max, to. Support group friends that I talk to about this – regardless of which support group it is, Alanon or the group for DV survivors – usually respond with “Does it matter if his abusive behavior was because of his drinking or if it’s just the way he is?” They tend to lean towards the it-doesn’t-matter side.

I’m torn. Part of me believes that it doesn’t matter. He was abusive. That’s all that matters and all I need to know. I don’t know why, but there is another part of me that really wants to know: would he have started treating his family the way he did if he didn’t drink? Are they two completely separate issues or two closely entwined issues or part of the same one? I don’t know. I don’t know why I feel I need to understand.

I came across this article today. I’m still amazed how reading accounts like those in the article can bring me right back to those dark little apartments, hiding in the back room, trying to keep Max safe. I have to remind myself as I read: we’re gone from that last apartment; we live in a cozy little home of our own; we are safe from Sam.

Alcohol Abuse – Alcoholism – Parenting.com.

Insomnia

I’m having trouble sleeping again. I’m so tired, but I can’t find the off switch for my mind. I’d have thought that with the recent court hearing on the visitation issue (I probably need to write that out – maybe in the next couple days), that I’d be doing better.

I think it’s a plus that I’m not constantly getting up and checking all the locks and windows, but I’m so tired. And I’m finding it hard to follow my ‘get to sleep routines’. What’s going on? I’m not sure…