Josh and I are no longer in a “partnering relationship”. We’ve been together (off and on) for 8+ years and really, have been like each other’s skin. Recently, he underwent a horrible ordeal which ultimately changed his personality. I thought it was only temporary, but it’s proving to be permanent. He’s become so aggressive and has resorted to screaming and raving every day- all day- it’s as though he has acute brain damage or something. I honestly don’t know how much more I can take. I’ve lost the man and best friend that I loved so much. That man died. It’s as though my son and I are living with a total stranger. My son jumped up and scared him earlier in the kitchen- just playing around as he likes to do. Rather than be surprised or even annoyed, Josh threatened to punch my son in the mouth.
I couldn’t believe it. Not long afterwards, I exited the kitchen to go to my room- away from Josh- and he followed me. For the next 10 to 15 minutes, he raged and yelled and beat on my door, demanding that I not walk away when he’s talking. He’s become so abusive, my son and I both now have high(er) blood pressure as a direct result from the daily stress.
He owes me $350- the cell phone he’s using, I payed for. The blanket he’s sleeping with- I payed for. The medicine he’s now taking- I payed for. (Nice.) Rather than pay me what he owes, he abuses me. So, I’ll be looking for a new place to live for my son and I. My kids will always be a priority over any man.
In all the years I’ve known Josh, he’s still a taker. And I’m still a giver, apparently.
Update and to his credit: he’s payed me what he owes.
But no more. When a person threatens my kid- it’s over. Plain and simple. I’ve seen many women in life stay with abusive men- all because they think they “need” them. That’s where they and I differ! I don’t need any man. Certainly not an abusive one.
After weeks of enduring Josh’s (escalating) abuse, I decided to give him a dose of his own medicine. More times than I can even count, I’ve gone to my room to get away from his screaming/raging, and he follows me. All of my pleading for “peace” and calm and quiet fall on deaf ears. He just doesn’t go away! Not at first, anyway. I’ve literally begged him to get away from my door and to simply “choose peace” but to no avail. He refuses to go away and chooses rather to rage at me. Sadly, much of the time it’s over nothing at all. Yesterday’s eruption was caused because he came in raging against his boss, and I told him that he should have a smidgeon of gratitude, because his boss pays his salary and is kind enough to give him a job. It behooves an employee to recognize that if nothing else, their boss has chosen to hire him/her and he should acknowledge that he owes the man a debt of gratitude. It’s not a corporation; it’s a small 3 (and sometimes 4) person crew.
His lack of grace just floored me. So I told him that perhaps if he were to shift his focus from his anger at his boss to the fact that he even has a job, maybe it would help him. I also told him that he is hyper-focused (again) on himself and is internalizing again. It’s as if he’s got a large lazer beam pointed at himself and can only see HIM right now. As awful as it sounds and as awful as it makes me feel to say it- he’s an extremely selfish person.
I wasn’t expecting him to thank me for pointing that out, but I wasn’t expecting the war that ensued either. Everything offends him and if he’s not getting his ego stroked, he gets lost in whatever topic is being discussed, and always, always- he’ll make it about him- no matter what.
But back to my revenge.
I wanted to shake him up a bit because I think that 2 straight weeks of taking a person’s verbal abuse is two weeks too long. I realized that all of my “asking nicely” for peace was getting me nowhere, so I decided to give him an interactive demonstration; one that he could (inadvertently) participate in.
I waited until 4 in the morning (keeping in mind he had to work the next day), and I took two glass teacups and dropped them on the coffee table together. The sound of glass breaking shook him awake and startled him. (Mission accomplished.) He became irate immediately- but you see- he’s usually irate anyway, and so when he calmed down some time later, I explained that from now on, every time he “took” my peace from me- especially when I was asking to be left alone- I was going to take some from him.
It really pains me that I had to resort to such drastic measures, but hey- whatever works!
And it worked like a charm.
In other parts of the world, I’m doing phenomenally well in my two courses: Behavioral Neuroscience and Cognitive Psychology. I absolutely love being a student again. Above all else, It’s a wonderful and necessary distraction that is highly welcome in my life at the moment.
I don’t want to spend one more day with Mr. Raging Preachy-Pants. But until we get a new place, chances are I’ll have to.
These past few days have been nothing short of incredible. Some things have happened here at home that have caused both Josh and I to be soft-hearted, more so than usual. Take for example, his wallet, that was stolen from a department store. His birth certificate, ID, more than $100, my credit card too- and lots of other goodies were inside of it.
Interestingly enough, rather than being angry much, we’ve been teary-eyed and hyper-emotional. But that’s to be expected under the circumstances. As for me, I’ve been pondering my life (imagine that!) and contemplating my absolute direction in which I’ll go. I was in Business Administration five years ago when my Pastor suggested I switch majors to something that might better utilize my talents. I considered what she said and decided to go into Human Services/Behavioral Sciences. Generally, I wanted to work with homeless people and troubled juveniles, etc. From there, I considered Criminal Justice and probation/parole, and up until yesterday, I was alright with that.
But I’ve been praying and asking God to guide me to the place that He wants me to go. His answer: Psychology- specializing in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/OCD behaviors- but most importantly- child sexual abuse and trauma. He’s really been digging around in my heart these past few months, stirring up some things I’d rather not acknowledge.
I was sexually abused by a relative when I was nine years old. Up until a year ago, I couldn’t even string those words together in the same sentence. I haven’t been in denial- but so very apprehensive to even look in that direction. It means pain. Heaps and heaps of pain. At some point, we sexual abuse survivors really do just get tired of this old monster that eats away at our heads and hearts. It’s emotionally and psychologically draining. Well, perhaps that is a form of denial. But as long as I don’t want to see it, it’s still buried. I couldn’t speak about this issue while my Dad was alive. This type of thing destroys lives- it’s like a locomotive with razor-sharp teeth- eating souls along the way. It devastates families. So for many years, I’ve stayed silent. I’ve taken my lashes privately to spare my siblings what would have been much ruin, both privately and publicly. Not surprisingly, my family has preferred that as well. Nobody ever talks about it. It “doesn’t exist” in their worlds.
I was told (when I was a child) that if I ever told anybody, my brothers and sister would be taken away and we would all be put in foster homes and that I would have been the cause. I was only 9! What a terrific and horrendous burden to place upon a child so young. So I kept my mouth shut. And suffered alone. And suffered. And suffered. And suffered.
My siblings got to keep each other and nobody went to a foster home. Hooray.
But I can’t stay silent any more. God has been walking through my heart. He’s telling me that I have a story to tell and it’s ok to tell it! I’ve suffered enough. I can hardly believe the number of women I’ve met online who are my age that have been sexually abused. A good many of them are taking multiple medications and cannot even leave their houses without another family member. That was me a handful of years ago too.
For four years now I’ve studied psychology and such in college. I used to slag on therapists, thinking they were goofy- spitting out “mumbo jumbo Freudian crap”. How ignorant! Naturally, I’ve come to understand just how hard psychology really is; all of the various sections of the brain and their functions that pertain to specific disorders and so on. And that’s just the physiological aspect- there’s the sociological aspect too; perspectives and theories and research methods. The field is so extensive, it really does command respect.
I’m 44 years old and I’ve never been treated for being molested as a child. The shame and pain that goes along with it keep women like me silent. And so we suffer silently. Year after year. But God has touched my heart today with His finger. It burns with a super fire! I’ve decided for the first time in my life to seek treatment for my childhood trauma. The silence must be broken if the remedy is to be successful. Besides, this is the area I want to study and specialize in in my studies. How can I possibly be of any help or use to other women who’ve suffered from this if I don’t become the client and receive professional help too?
And so I shall. I’ve called my local Behavioral Health facility and have scheduled an appointment for June. The first step really is the hardest. I know that the road won’t be particularly easy, but I know that I’m making a good emotional and psychological investment for my future. I’ve been so encouraged by the many (many many) brave women who have shared their similar stories through their blogs.
Some people think that such things shouldn’t be aired in public, but every one who has and continues to do so is my hero. We never know just who we’re going to touch in this world, or who may be reading our posts that have no idea what to do, where to go, who to talk to, etc.
I have a great, new outlook on life and I’m excited at the prospect of finally getting professional help for such an ugly disease: child sexual abuse.
Today is my mother’s birthday. She doesn’t know it yet but I’m going to give her my (college) diplomas as one of her gifts. I’ve fought so hard to finish my degree- for myself, yes, but especially for her. And she’s so proud of me. :0)
Happy birthday, Mom. ♥
My Mom’s one and only sunflower
Somewhere in a Dream /Available for purchase here
I’ve decided to write this post about a sensitive subject matter that is both confusing and often misunderstood. While I’m not a doctor, I do have my degree in Behavioral Sciences (yea! I can say that now!) as well as my bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and, I’m currently working on my Masters’s in Psychology of Addiction and Counseling and have spent a great deal of time studying OCD and other psychological and emotional disorders. I’m not merely spouting theoretical book noise, however, I’ve been an OCD sufferer from the time I was a young girl. These days, my symptoms are almost always dormant, due to aggressive home therapy (and homeopathic medicine which is somewhat controversial) but it works for me, and that’s what’s most important at the end of the day. I do what works for me.
Ten years ago, I couldn’t find any posts about tongue or cheek biting. Nor could I find any five years ago. Only recently, I’ve seen more and more posts about people who bite their tongues until they bleed, etc., most are asking questions and wonder if it’s a form of OCD or other psychological disorder. I can answer that.
Yes. It is.
When I was a young girl, maybe 7 or so, I developed a horrific habit of chewing the flesh on the insides of my cheeks- ripping off the cheek flesh and spitting it out. It’s really quite a disgusting habit! My habit was still in its infancy, unfortunately, and gradually, I began to chew on the sides of my tongue- often not satisfied until it bled and my tongue would swell. I didn’t dare speak to a therapist about it. I knew she would think of it as a psychological disorder and the next step would be medicine from a shrink. No thanks! I don’t think the solution for every problem that manifests is pharmaceutical medicine. There must be other ways.
Taking medicine for an uncontrollable habit is merely putting a band aid on an amputated limb. It does nothing to get to the root of the problem. Oftentimes, a psychiatrist will prescribe a medicine for OCD or other tricky disorders all too quickly, without really breaking down the matter and getting to the roots of what is really going on. It should be understood that tongue-biting isn’t a “cause” but a result of a cause. It’s the effect.
I needed to get to the root of why I was ripping at my tongue, and why I was causing my own muscle to bleed. When the pain would begin to set in, I’d gently scrape my teeth over my tongue, causing a “sweet” kind of pain. It was like pain on pain, and it brought about a euphoric feeling. It was only when I began studying Substance Abuse at my university that I realized what was really going on.
Children spin around as toddlers to get dizzy. The child is literally trying to get high! It’s a human curiosity and it’s in every one of us. Do we all act upon it? No. But we all have the built-in curiosity and capability to settle that curiosity by trial and error. I experienced heightened trauma and abuse as a child. I never really made a connection between the trauma that was inflicted upon me involuntarily, and the trauma that I voluntarily inflicted upon myself thereafter.
Somehow, in my mind, I felt that I needed to punish myself. I’m not talking about consciously, but subconsciously. And also, the physical pain distracted me from the emotional pain. Again, much of this was taking place on a subconscious level, which is why I would find myself doing it over and over, absentmindedly.
Eventually, after much introspection, I came to realize that biting my tongue in such a way, put me in the same category of self-mutilators. I didn’t want to accept it for many years, but it is the exact same thing. Cutting one’s arm with a razor or cutting one’s tongue (or cheek) with the teeth is still cutting just the same.
I used to think it was self pity. And then I believed it was guilt. From there, I made connections psychologically. Over the years I’ve discovered that it’s a multi-tiered disorder. It’s not just one thing that is causing a person to self-mutilate, but a combination of physiological, socioeconomical, biochemical, psychosocial (the list goes on) factors that when combined- cause an explosive reaction that results in pain, and the desire for pain.
To better understand the depth of this disorder, one should consider what’s going on in the brain every time a biter rips off the flesh, or, a cutter cuts him or herself. Our brain releases neurotransmitters called endorphins. These are the feely-good chemicals that act as natural painkillers. They actually mimic opiates such as morphine and codeine. Stress and pain are the two most common reasons that these endorphins are released into the bloodstream. Once the endorphins are kicked out, a series of natural biological responses occur immediately following: feelings of euphoria, a regularity in appetite, enhanced immune responses, and a release of sex hormones. Who would have thought pain could do all of that?
Upon learning this, I have a new theory as to why cutters cut and biters rip off their tongue and cheek flesh: it’s not simply OCD, or self pity, or guilt (or anger, etc.), it’s much deeper than those things: It’s a drug addiction. Inflicting pain triggers the exact same endorphins that morphine, codeine, and other narcotics/opiates do! Once these chemicals learn their neural pathways repetitiously, they take on a life of their own and without the consent of the host, they begin to call the shots.
There is a difference, however in degrees of this “drug abuse”, between cutters and biters.
Cutters are ritualistic. They prepare for their cutting and even just the very thought of their utensils and other preparatory goods will trigger the release of those euphoria-inducing endorphins. The adrenaline kicks off a bit, and the sympathetic nervous system goes into fight-or-flight mode. The heart beat speeds up, breathing becomes quicker, the pupils can either dilate or shrink, depending on the level of adrenaline, the palms may get sweaty- there are very physical changes that take place in cutters. Secrecy is a large part of their preparatory ritual. Contrary to what many people think about cutters trying to “get attention”, it’s quite the opposite. It’s not a “cry for help”; they’re often very secretive about their cutting.
Biters (of the tongue and cheeks) however are not ritualistic in their behaviors. I am a biter. (I would know.) Cutters have times throughout the day and night that they prefer to cut. Sometimes, it’s because of environmental factors, such as people being home or not, etc. Usually, they’re more systematic and methodical though. Biters don’t have to “plan” for biting. If the stress level rises, the tool is right there! The teeth get to work at once, nibbling first- scoping out the territory to find a good soft, painful, “raw” area to traumatize. And so it begins. The teeth start to dance in a bit of a frenzy, darting here and there, finding more flesh to attack- taste buds are mercilessly ripped off in pieces, or in whole- and then the host realizes what’s happening and the guilt comes in. The biter stops, and swears to try and stop for good. But by now, the endorphins have already been sent out and the mission has (temporarily) been accomplished. The “drug” has been partaken and the person has gotten his or her “fix”. Literally. Just like a junkie.
And so it must be treated like a substance abuse issue also. It’s not merely a “psychological disorder”, like OCD. It’s very much a biological/physiological disorder and should be handled as such. There absolutely will be withdrawals if a person tries to stop “cold turkey”. Perhaps not seizures or other dramatic withdrawal symptoms, but changes in appetite, sleep, stress levels, hormone levels, attention and focus, irritability, and other areas will absolutely be affected.
I wouldn’t recommend prescription medication in treating this type of disorder. Why treat a “neurochemical drug disorder” with drugs? I would recommend replacing the cutting/biting activity with other activities that release the same endorphins: laughter, sex, exercise, ginseng, vanilla scented aromatics, dark chocolate, a firm massage, and music- to name a few.
What’s helped me tremendously is pausing for a moment, when I realize my thoughts are going in that direction, and cleaning out my mind- immediately- taking a few deep breaths- calming myself, and I’ll “regroup” my thought processes. Usually, the # 1 trigger of biting/cutting is stress. I can’t really speak for cutters, as I’ve never really been a “cutter”, but the cutting/biting process is the same, so I would assume that cutters are triggered by stress as well. Even if it’s not an overt and obvious stress, stress is most likely the culprit.
There’s truth in the adage “mind over matter”. I was able to give birth to four children calmly through my determination and solid mindset. I had very little pain medication (I chose to have my 3 girls “all natural” so that I could be bonded with them in the pain process) and didn’t scream at all. I controlled my mind and told myself that the pain was “nothing at all”. And, through deep meditation and control, I was able to give birth without screaming and wailing. So, I do believe the same can be achieved by simply taking a moment, pausing- and telling myself that “biting isn’t the answer”.
At that moment, I can redirect my “biting thoughts” to the source of my stress. After locating the source of my stress, I can then reroute my energy to do what I can to eliminate the stress, rather than cut my flesh with my teeth. In this way, I’m laying the axe to the root and over time and with practice, will become more successful and efficient at eliminating the biting(/cutting) altogether.
It has to be a conscious effort. And it has to be a cold, hard choice.
But these simple “mental exercises” shine the light on the problem area, allowing the person to see what is truly going on (and where), so that he or she does not continue to drone on in the same methodical disease-driven behavior, and to proactively and consciously choose a healthier path- one step at a time.
Footnote: Just as there are various degrees and types of substance abuse, there are various degrees and types of cutting/biting. One person’s combining factors may not be another’s. Each person must identify his or her own stressor/s and work to eliminate the source or sources of those stressors. If the person feels that he or she is the source of his or her own stress, then rather than eliminate the source- try and peacefully merge to coexist harmoniously with oneself.
I hope this was of some help to some of you biters and cutters out there. Your mind is a very powerful machine. You absolutely have the goods to turn this thing around, and I wish you all the best. x
There are two words that bother me greatly when I see, hear, or read them. They are: “Mental Illness”. Why does this wildly popular and acceptable term bother me so much? I’ll elaborate.
Quite a few of my friends are “mentally ill” at their own admittance, and those that aren’t, continue to use the phrase easily and without conviction. It’s just what people are known to be that have “mental problems”, right?
But who doesn’t have “mental problems”? Who hasn’t at some point broken down and cried? Who hasn’t felt afflicted spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, financially, health-wise or otherwise? How did it affect you as person? Did you feel defeated? Did you feel like giving up? Did you fret? Worry? Call people? Overeat? Not leave your house for the day? The week? Pace your floors? Cuss? Scream? Throw something? Drink? Drink more? (See where this is going?)
How do we differentiate between a person who is exhibiting (fatigue, duress, insomnia, depression and other) physiological manifestations; very natural responses to his or her sexual abuse or other traumas- combined with their chaotic environments, and a person who is exhibiting these signs when everything is hunky-dory?
One would be classified as appropriate behaviors given the circumstances, and the other would be classified as exhibiting psychological disorders. Both examples describe the same behaviors! But the environmental norms surrounding them separate the two.
If a person has been sexually abused and placed in a normal environment with siblings and other happy folks who have a swell life, there is no way the sexually abused person is going to behave in an expected manner. Who would behave at optimal performance in school, church, family gatherings, etc. after being sexually abused and having to “guard it” like Fort Knox gold? A person who tries to keep it together year after year will eventually break down while trying to process massive amounts of: guilt, anxiety, shame, anger, rage, confusion, blame, self-loathing, envy- the list is very long.
Given the circumstances, it’s actually very normal behavior to exhibit signs of distress, anxiety, anger, OCD-like tendencies, insomnia, night terrors, and other maladaptive behaviors that are associated with trauma. People who have not suffered these traumas do not understand and it is extremely unsettling for them that they do not have answers that they can file away, shelve, and dress things up with a tidy bow so that it’s sorted out in their heads.
But there needs to be an understanding in this area that these odd behaviors are very normal for sexual abuse survivors. What wouldn’t be normal is having suffered sexual abuse (especially as a child) and then sailing through life with little or no behavioral quirks. I dislike the word disorder because I challenge anybody to say that surviving sexual abuse is a disorder.
It is a triumph. Sexual abuse is a violation like no other and people give medals to those in wars who have been violated less and call them heroes. Sexual abuse survivors fight in the battlefields of life, and there’s no hero’s welcome. There’s no parade. No medals. We have to be our own heroes and rescue ourselves from the collective trenches of societal stigma and hate bombs that others throw at us and that we throw at ourselves.
Being a sexual abuse survivor is like being locked in a dark, dirty cell and given 5,000 keys: only one will unlock the door, and you have one hour to find the right one, or you could die! Doom. Doom doom doom! And lots of crying, worry, and fears that you will never find the right key in time.
But again, I reiterate that these horrible feelings are absolutely normal “given the circumstances”. We need to carefully select the words and labels we assign to people who have suffered such traumas. What if they believe you?!
God forbid I ever believe any labels that have been placed upon me in life. I would be the biggest mess in the world. But I have assigned healthier labels for myself: loving, compassionate, real, honest, valuable, happy. After all, I am the one who has to live with myself and why would I want to live with a pessimist?
The term “mental illness” came about in the 1800’s after various psychological perspectives disagreed on what actually defined a person to be mentally ill. Some believed that it was evil spirits. Some believed it was “psychogenic”, or psychologically induced, and others believed that it was somatogenic, or “of a biophysiological nature” (that’s a fancy way of saying “relating to your body” rather than your mental processes).
They locked “mentally ill” people up on psych wards and in chains where they were beaten and starved, or placed in a metal contraption that rendered them motionless for hours and days at a time. When the patients in these asylums exhibited paranoia, fear, depression, sleeplessness, excessive anxiety and other abuse-related behaviors (as a direct result of the abuse), their friends and families sadly accepted what the doctor had prescribed them all: mental illness.
Many of these patients were exhibiting very normal responses to being held against their wills and physically and psychologically abused. People were quick to swallow the ideology of “mental illness” because it satisfied their need to classify and understand what was happening to their family member.
In other words, people created the term “mental illness” to be able to better control individuals, societies, groups, and religious wars were often the fuel that kept this controversial fire burning. With the classification of mental illness: the acts of physical and emotional abuse on those who “broke society’s norms” were not only unpunishable, but sanctioned, approved, and rewarded!
Just as toxic as any sexual abuse is the belief by the victim that he or she is mentally ill, because somebody said so. This is such a powerful weapon of self-destruction, and only the act of sexual abuse itself is stronger.
We need to start tossing out terms like “mental illness”: those two words alone are TOXIC.
I will never accept terms like “mental illness” and “disorder”. Those are conceptual words made up by people who do not understand what it is like to live in a world with wild, technicolor vision. How about that?
How about, “I have a family member or friend who
is mentally ill has really been through it, but they have still been able to [insert accomplishments here] despite their obstacles.”
It’s all about perception and presentation, and I think we owe one another a sum of decency in how we present each other.
I wrote this post so that other sexual abuse survivors might gather strength and comfort; know that there are others who have suffered the same things in life, but refuse to be labeled! You are what you believe you are.
You have to believe yourself into something positive, constructive, hopeful, and be fearless in your conquests! Be bold in who you are, and acknowledge that you are a survivor rather than a victim. And when you learn that, teach others that too. Choose positivity rather than negativity.
Those 5,000 keys?
They all open the door.
[based on a true story]
For Sean, because I know you understand. xo
We March Like Soldiers
We march like soldiers
Invisible chains rattling
That only we can hear
All crammed together
In that box
We jiggle a little
I keep my eyes on the numbers
In that crammed elevator and imagine
That death awaits me at the bottom
Like a gas chamber
Waiting to spit out its last breath
Down we go
To meet a collection of many tables
And glue and sparkly things
I don’t die
There is an exercise bike
And a fat woman rides
The piano makes me sad
I remember other things
And better days
Before I flew
Out of my mind
But down I sit
My fingers stumble like a bad lover
And I play the song of my life
Wanting only to cry
The crazy people look at me
They are smiling
I smile too- at what
I do not know
But on with the show!
I do not understand
How I got here
I march outside and watch the worker
Water the flowers
In the burning heat
A man walks in circles
And circles and circles
He is pleased to be talking
Round and round he goes
A curious machine
A heavy verdict
Heaven and hell
Another jumps up and kicks the wall
Is he real?
Is he an angel? A devil?
Did he come up from a pit?
Did I see bats?
Are they birds?
I watch them fly away
Up and out of the high walls that surround
All of us here on lock down
The sunny workers in the flowered pajamas
Are careful to say lovely things
So we know
I swing and swing
On that damn bench
That never goes anywhere
Up we go
Back to the halls and walls that are plastered with rules
That we’re supposed to understand
There are smiley faces
That tell us
We are people too
Here on this safe floor with no lighters or sharp metal things
And we wait
Watching the new ones march in
I am uncertain
If I am dead or alive
I go to the bathroom
Shut the door
And try to cry
The night brings another solemn gathering
Of people standing in line
For the third time
And snacks too
I am a wild animal in these glass-windowed walls
I do not know how to get out
My eyes are black as mud inside
And my tears have been taken
By terror (the mirror does not lie)
Out I shuffle
With bare feet and no socks
In my spotted gown
And we all
March like soldiers
And stand in a sad line
To get our pills
Which make us feel
At least for a little while
Like we are sleeping
As we lie awake in this place
Flying out of our minds
– B. Lindsey
Written on 10/28/13