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Scars, bared v.6: The anatomy of an abuser

15 May

John was a woman hater. I don’t know exactly what spurred this, but he definitely never viewed women as anything valuable. I say this because everything that went wrong in his life, he found some way to blame on a woman. When we first started dating, John had nothing good to say about any other girl. I thought this was a good sign, because it meant I was the only one he cared about. But if a guy can’t hold together a friendship with a girl, it’s probably not the best sign that he will be very competent at holding a relationship with one either. He told me horror stories about his last ex, how she cheated on him and treated him terribly. I didn’t know any better but to believe him, and I grew to hate this girl with a passion. She would text him from time to time, and he would lash out at her, calling her names and telling her that no one wanted her around. Before we even started dating, she messaged me on Myspace to ask me if we were together. I went off on her and accused her of being jealous and obsessed with him, and that she needed to get over him. I was heartless towards her, because I was so convinced that she had mistreated my boyfriend. He told me that the trust and jealousy issues he had were because of her, and I hated her for that. I hated her because I felt that she was responsible for all of the emotional issues that he took out on me. Like usual, he effectively shifted the responsibility of his actions off of his own shoulders, and onto someone else.

I could not have been more wrong. To this day, I consider this ex-girlfriend of his to be one of my closest friends. Somewhere along the line, when I began to see John for who he truly was, I suspected that there was more to his description of her than met the eye. Sure enough, there wasn’t an ounce of truth to anything he had accused her of, and it turned out that he had abused her as well. The two of them were only together about a quarter of the time that I had been with him, so thankfully she hadn’t seen a side of him quite as ugly as I had, but she definitely took a lot of mistreatment that she didn’t deserve. One day we decided to have lunch, and it was so comforting to be able to talk about my relationship with someone who understood. And I mean really understood. To talk with someone who has also been in an abusive relationship makes you feel like you are not alone, but to talk with someone who was abused by the exact same person who abused you? It’s like finding your long-lost twin sister. We talked for hours about all the things he did and said to us both, and found that while on slightly different scales, our stories mirrored one another. We found relief in confiding in each other, and realizing that he was the problem in the relationship, not she or I. I can look at her and tell her that she is a beautiful, smart, kind, and amazing lady, who didn’t deserve anything that he made her feel like she deserved. It’s easy for me to see that about her, but not so easy for her to see for herself. In the same sense that I can tell her that what John did was not her fault, it’s hard for me to apply that same train of thought when I look in the mirror. Which is where she helps me. Together we have helped each other come to terms with the fact that the only flaw that we both possess is caring too much. Feeling bad for his pity stories, wanting to be the one to fix up his life, believing him when he played out the victim role. Letting him talk us back into his arms whenever we tried to leave.

Not only did he devalue the girls he spent time with, he cycled through them as if they were nothing. None really had any lasting value in his eyes, and I think the only reason that I wasn’t kicked to the curb as quickly as the rest of them was because I held on to him for dear life. I’m determined to a fault when it comes to things like this, and I will hold on through whatever it takes just to prove a point to myself and everyone else. It’s like when I was a kid and my dad would take us tubing behind the boat, we’d have a playful bet going that he wouldn’t be able to throw me off the tube. He whip a corner and I’d go flying, but I’d still have that one hand gripping the handle. Not even on the tube anymore, I’d be skipping on top of the water (which felt like concrete, by the way), choking on the fountain spray that was blinding me at the same time, feeling like the waves were going to rip my arm off but there was no way I would admit defeat by voluntarily dropping my grip. I was determined to see it through to the end of the ride, and prove that I wasn’t all talk. This is exactly the kind of subconscious I had while dating John. If I was easily shaken, I would have thrown my hands in the air and walked away from him only months after I met him. But I held on for two long years, captured his heart, and became the girl he was hopelessly devoted to loving and destroying at the same time.

Every failure in his life that he couldn’t blame on a girlfriend, he blamed on his mother. She left his family when he was little, and the story I got from him was that she walked out with no explanation and no reason in the middle of the night and no one has seen her since. She left his family stranded, broke his dad’s heart, and ruined everyone for life. He said his dad had cancer, which is why he didn’t go to driver’s ed. He never got a job because he was too busy taking care of his dad. And he didn’t trust girls because he will never be able to forgive his mom for what she did. It was a really sad story, and like I said, it broke my heart. But the longer we dated and the more I got to know him, the less his story seemed to fit together. His mom was actually still in town, but refused be around his dad because of the scene he would cause. Bits and pieces that I had picked up from family members over the years lead me to wonder if John may treat women the way he does because he grew up watching his dad treat his mom the same way. I can’t know for sure, but having been there, it would make a lot of sense. I also eventually came to terms with the fact that his missing out on driver’s education may have had more to do with a lack of commitment to his classes in school, let alone sticking around extra hours in the evening, than it did his caring for his father. And the fact that he didn’t have a job pointed more towards his utter lack of motivation and inability to acknowledge authority.

It was a manipulative cycle of his but in the end it simply came down to him wanting to gain everything but work for nothing. He expected everything to be handed to him, and somewhere along the road he found out that pity was a great way to accomplish that. Throughout our relationship I tried so hard to push him to be self-sufficient. With no driving permit, car, job, or high school degree, John wasn’t exactly in a spot to move up in the world. Over the course of two years I helped him get his GED, pass his learner’s permit test, teach him to drive, get his driver’s license, find a job, and get enrolled in a local community college. This took hours on end of encouragement, driving him around, and working in the background to get all the details sorted out. It was somewhat tiring but to see him gain some independence made it completely worth it for me. I just wanted to see him succeed in life, I wanted him to be happy. And I thought that he was finally getting there.

Unfortunately, he soon decided to quit showing up for work which ultimately got him fired, and lost his source of income, thus preventing him from buying gas to do any driving. He even dropped out of college only a couple weeks into the semester, following our break-up. It was disappointing to see all the progress I had made be tossed aside, but if he doesn’t want to provide for himself, no one can force him. I hope that he one days discovers the satisfaction of earning your own way in life, and quits riding off the pity of those who care (and brute force for those who do not).

At this point, two years later, I truly do wish for happiness for him. I hope that he can start pulling his own weight in the world, and I hope that he can drop these manipulative games he plays with women. I know that he’s been dating another girl over the last couple of years, and I think about her on a regular basis, praying that he doesn’t hurt her the way he hurt me. I may still be broken, but I’m not bitter. I may have legally prevented him from contacting me, but only for the sake of my sanity. I want him to be successful, and go on to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. But like I said, that’s not something that I can force him to accept. That’s not something that any woman can provide to him. He’s going to have to want it himself, and he’s going to have to work for it. If there’s one thing I learned about John, it’s that he’s determined as hell. I have no doubt that he could do whatever he set his mind to. More than anything, I just want that determination to be focused on positive things. He can do it. I know he can. The sad part is, I just don’t think he ever will.

The unfortunate follow up to this is that it’s now been almost TEN years since our relationship, and he has continued to leave a trail of destruction everywhere he goes. He’s dated quite a few girls since me, and I am not exaggerating when I say that every. single. one of them. has contacted me at some point asking for help on how to either get away from him or keep him away. And, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, only a matter of months ago he was arrested for domestic assault. Which breaks my heart. Yes, it’s comforting to see him finally get caught and hopefully see some consequences for his actions, but it just means that he is still out there abusing people. And I hate that.

~~~

Week one: Introduction
Week two: Where it all began
Week three: Summertime sadness
Week four: The concussion
Week five: The break-up
Week six: The anatomy of an abuser

scar [skahr]
noun
1. a mark left by a healed wound, sore, or burn.
2. a lasting aftereffect of trouble, especially a lasting psychological injury resulting from suffering or trauma.

bare [bair]
verb
1. to open to view; reveal or divulge.
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Scars, bared v.5: The break-up

1 May

In the midst of all the manipulation and the push and pull and the addictive cycles of the relationship, where exactly did all of this end?

There wasn’t really a definitive point where I said “That’s it, I need to break up with him.” They day I ended the relationship wasn’t during a fight, it wasn’t after he beat me up, and it wasn’t any time one would think to be a rational point to end the relationship. In fact, when I broke it off, things were actually going really well. And for the first time, our relationship felt almost… normal.

It was the summer before my sophomore year of college, and things had been going surprisingly great. It had been a couple months since John had an abusive episode, and aside from the ever-present nit-picking, he wasn’t being too incredibly different from an average boyfriend. He was starting to hang out with my family, we were going out more instead of always staying home alone, he had gotten his driver’s license, and had plans to start college in the fall. All in all, I was really proud of him. He seemed to be changing for the better, and finally becoming what I’d hoped he’d be all along. The unsettling part of it was, even with him finally starting to treat me with a little respect, things still weren’t quite right between us. See, without the rage and the anger driving us apart, there was no need for the passionate phases to pull us back together. We became rather mundane, and now that I had time to breathe rather than constantly fighting to keep him around, I began to wonder if I truly wanted him around at all. About a month earlier, we had gotten into an argument and agreed that it might be good to take a break from each other. We were still technically together, but we spent a we.ek without any contact. What worried me was the fact that honestly, the week felt no different to me. Sure I missed having someone to talk to all the time, but I really wasn’t sad over it. At the end of the week he was saying how he’d missed me so terribly and never wants to have to do that again, and I started to realize that maybe I wasn’t as committed to the relationship as I originally thought.

It was about the third week of August when John had his first day of college class. As a celebration, I took him down to Duluth for a day by a swimming hole, equipped with barbecuing supplies, brats, chips, soda, and the like. It was so much fun. We grilled together, we swam, we walked around the harbor downtown, we had dinner, and we drove home and took a nap. The day was literally perfect. No fighting, nothing. Yet for some reason, everything he said was bothering me. I still had that level of resentment against him that I naturally picked up when he was abusing me. I didn’t want to mention this to him, because I felt guilty. I felt like the problem was with me, for being the one to not be thankful for how much he had changed. Like usual, I labeled myself as being the issue in the relationship. I felt like I needed to once again try to fix myself, but I didn’t know what to do differently. I couldn’t shake the feeling that our relationship just wasn’t right. He had finally done all the things I was wishing for so long that he’d do, but I still wasn’t happy. I pushed the thought out of my mind and tried to be thankful for the difference.

Eventually, the inevitable happened. To be honest, when I went to his house on September 11, 2010, I had no idea we were about to break up. We were just hanging out, and got into a conversation about our relationship. I felt like my lack of enthusiasm for our newly functional relationship was stemming from the fact that I still couldn’t lose the old memories. I had always told myself that as soon as he changed, I could feel better about myself, and more secure in the relationship. The problem was that even though he had been treating me so well, I couldn’t drop the memories. I still looked at him, and saw the face that screamed in mine for saying the wrong word.

I looked at him, and saw the hands that put me in the hospital. I looked around his apartment and couldn’t avoid noticing the holes in the walls, left from various thrown items, sometimes even from my own body being shoved against it. I saw broken furniture, and cracked mirrors, I saw everything that screamed “abuse”. I broke down in tears, and before I could really even realize what was coming out of my mouth, I was breaking up with him. It just felt like the only honest thing to do at the time. He kept trying to get me to change my mind, but I was so tired of playing the fake break-up game,  the emotional whiplash, I felt like I needed to stick to my guns. I don’t know what kept me so strong that night over any other time I tried leaving him, but we said our goodbyes and I went home. Of course, I’m still a girl, and the break up was hard on me. What was even harder was that I knew we ended on good terms, and I knew he was more sad than he was mad. The next month was probably the hardest to get through, I felt so alone, and I knew that all I needed was one phone call and I could have him back. But I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do.

When he realized that trying to get me back wouldn’t work, John start going after other girls. Even though I deleted him from Facebook, he was always commenting on other girls photos that he knew I was friends with, calling them beautiful and shamelessly flirting with him. Naturally it got under my skin, and I really started second-guessing myself. I tried to ignore it, because I knew that was his goal all along, but it was really hard. I stood my ground, but the true test came when the holiday season rolled around.

A mutual friend of ours was throwing an Ugly Sweater Christmas party, and invited me. Several of my friends were going, and I had heard that John would be there too. I was so torn, I didn’t know if I should go or not. Part of me knew that it would be a bad idea to be in the same room as him again, and part of me wanted to go just to show that he didn’t have the power to scare me out of having fun with my friends anymore. In the end, I went. And of course, John pulled his sweet charm act, and by the end of the night we were inseperable. We made plans to spend New Years Eve together, having a smaller party with only a few other friends there. When the New Years Eve party came, John told me that he still loved me. I couldn’t lie and say that my feelings weren’t starting to come back, and hell, I’d been lonely for those last couple months! He told me about a concert coming up of one of my favorite bands, and promised me that he would take me. Over the next month or so, until that concert, we were really keeping in touch. I had pretty much already accepted the fact that he and I were going to get back together. I figured it would be different this time, that with that four-month break, I would be able to disconnect the old John in my mind from the new John. I was feeling surprisingly optimistic.

About a week before the concert, John stopped calling. I couldn’t get ahold of him, and was trying frantically to nail down plans for the following weekend. He finally answered my calls, and yelled at me for god knows what. Something he had heard, or something I had said wrong. It was the old John coming back all over again. He yelled at me and he told me that now, because of my actions, he wasn’t going to take me to the concert. He would be taking Sarah, the girl who had spent two years doing everything in her power to break up the relationship we had. I was devastated. Even more, I was furious. Furious with him for pulling this same bullshit all over again, furious with myself for being so stupid as to let it happen. I was really hurt, and felt like I was going through the break up all over again. About a month later, I found out that he had been dating Sarah long before the concert date even came up, he just didn’t tell me. Basically, I don’t think that he ever had any intention of bringing me to that concert. He wanted to build me up and break me down, like he thrived on in the past. Why now? I wasn’t really sure. Maybe revenge for breaking up with him, maybe not. Maybe just for the hell of it. Either way, it hurt, but the good thing was that I finally felt convicted that the decision to break up was a good one. I no longer wondered if it was the right thing to do, or if I was missing out on a better him. I wasn’t. He was still the same. He always would be.

~~~

 

Week one: Introduction
Week two: Where it all began
Week three: Summertime sadness
Week four: The concussion
Week five: The break-up
Week six: The anatomy of an abuser

Welcome to week five of Scars, bared. The content that you will be reading over the next few weeks was of pivotal value to my journey in recovering from and moving past the trauma of this relationship. As I worked through the pain via my keyboard, I couldn’t help but consider how helpful this kind of perspective would have been when I was in the throes of the relationship. From then on, I decided that I was going to get my story in the open, in the hopes that it would help others from getting stuck where I did, for as long as I did. If I could spare even one soul a fraction of the horror that I experienced, then it would all be worth it. I set out to write a book, and to be honest, I actually finished it. But even though I technically wrote to conclusion, I never felt that I was really in a satisfying “book ending” place in my life. So I saved it away to a hard drive and kind of forgot about it.  And while authoring a neatly wrapped book may no longer be in my future, I have decided to post the most important chapters as a series of essays–Scars, bared— in hopes to make a difference in at least one person’s life. So stay tuned, I truly believe that throughout the course of the next several weeks there will be something of value for everyone. Names have been changed. All other details are entirely true.

scar [skahr]
noun
1. a mark left by a healed wound, sore, or burn.
2. a lasting aftereffect of trouble, especially a lasting psychological injury resulting from suffering or trauma.

bare [bair]
verb
1. to open to view; reveal or divulge.

Scars, bared v.4: The concussion

24 Apr

It’s mid-October, 2009.

Wednesday.

My freshman year of college. John came down to stay the night with me, and we had a great afternoon. We spent the day bumming around town, shopping, going out to eat. Now we were winding down, and getting ready for bed. My phone buzzes. One new message, from a number I didn’t have saved in my phone book. My stomach flipped over, because I knew this was never good. Regardless of who was on the other side of the message, there was only one way this was going to end.

“Who is that?” John asked.

“Hmm, I’m not really sure,” I tried to answer as light-heartedly and nonchalantly as possible. I opened the message and my heart sank as I immediately knew who it was from. Mike Johnson, a boy I had graduated from high school with. He was a star athlete, popular, and good looking. Everything John hated in another person. To make matters worse, I used to have a crush on this guy, and John knew it. Never mind the fact that it was at least three years ago, it was still asking for trouble.

“Laura. Who is it?”

He was more stern this time, and I could hear the anger starting to build up. I couldn’t tell him that it was Mike. It didn’t even matter what the text was about. In fact, the text was only asking me what general education credits were covered by a class that we ended up in together. Honestly, I think he had a girlfriend at the time anyways. But none of that would matter to John, all that would matter is that Mike texted me.

I told John that I didn’t know who it was. He made me show him the text, and he wrote down the number that it was from. I didn’t want to hand my phone to him, but I knew that ultimately I had no choice in the matter. He would get that number either way, I might as well take the easy route and just hand it over. When he gave me my phone back, I replied to the message, and acted like none of this was bothering me. John wouldn’t accept that, and his fury was building by the second. He kept threatening to text the number to find out who it was, so I finally told him.

“Mike Johnson? Are you kidding me? You’re cheating on me with him, aren’t you?!”
“John, no, I promise. Shhh, please, my roommates are sleeping..”
“No. I always knew you were just a stupid whore. This is fucked up.”

I tried to calm him down and keep him quiet so my roommates wouldn’t hear the things he was saying to me, but it didn’t work. I reassured him that I would never cheat on him, and that Mike and I hadn’t even been talking previously, it was just a class question. Of course, he didn’t believe me. One thing led to another, and he stormed out of my dorm. I wasn’t sure what he was going to do, it was cold outside, and I didn’t want him out running around alone. I knew that I would end up having to take responsibility for whatever he did out there, so I followed him to try to convince him to come back inside. This point of the night is where things get fuzzy, where I’m not exactly sure what happened and when. I remember being in the stairwell, as he told me that our relationship was over. I was crying, and begging him not to leave. He told me that if I didn’t let him go, that he would do something horrible. I told him that I didn’t think that he could, and he got in my face and told me that he and his brother once killed someone together. Of course it wasn’t true–as far as I know–but he was trying to scare me, and I wouldn’t have any of that. Under the surface it was working, but I wanted so desperately for him to believe that I wasn’t intimidated, hoping he’d stop trying. I stared him back dead in the eyes and said to him, “That’s bullshit. You would never. Stop trying to act tough because it’s not working, you can’t scare me.”

That was the last thing I remember before everything went black.

The only memories I have after that conversation are in fragmented clips. I remember him lunging for me, grabbing me by the shoulders. Then darkness. I remember him shaking me. I remember the point of impact where my head slammed against the brick wall, and then falling to the ground. Black. I don’t remember screaming, but I remember hearing myself scream. I remember him lifting me up off the ground, trying to calm me down. More darkness. Again, I remember hearing my own wailing, but I don’t remember actually having the energy to cry. At this point, John helped me until I could stand by myself again, and then he tried to run. He said, “Now I’m going to go to jail. I have to run now, or you’ll never see me again.”

And there I was, in this horribly twisted situation. I’m standing at the top of the stairs, holding my head as it throbbed, my vision blurring as I, once again, was the one begging him to stay. I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t want him to leave and end up getting a phone call in a couple hours that he had done something even worse. I wanted someone to comfort me, and like all too often, I was forced to turn back to the one who hurt me in the first place. I had other friends who might help, sure, but how could I possibly explain this, without having to explain mine and John’s history. Without having them look down on me for allowing him to treat me like this. I could call my parents, but I knew they would be upset if they heard that John was sleeping over with me. I felt like I had no other choice but to do whatever I could to keep him around.

I promised him I would never talk to Mike again. I promised him I would be a better person. I begged him to please, just come upstairs, don’t make me sleep alone. If he wanted to leave tomorrow then so be it, but I just couldn’t handle it tonight. Finally, he relented. He brought me upstairs and helped me into bed. The entire room was spinning, and I had never had a worse headache in my life. I could feel a huge egg forming on the back of my head, and all I could do was cry. I laid in bed and cried but I couldn’t sleep. My eyes were burning, my mind so desperately wanting to shut down, but the pain was keeping me awake. John was indifferent. Sure he laid next to me, but he put in a movie to watch instead of making sure I was alright. I don’t know how I ended up falling asleep, but eventually I did. In the morning I woke up in a haze, got dressed, and went to class. I was walking down the hallway and I realized I couldn’t keep my balance. I kept falling to one side or the other, and when I looked down at the floor it was morphing back and forth as if I were in a funhouse. I knew something wasn’t right, so I went down to Health Services to have the bump on my head looked at. The nurse asked me how it happened. I knew I couldn’t tell her the truth, so I told her I slipped and fell in the parking lot. She told me I needed to see a doctor right away. I asked her if she thought I could drive myself, and she said no. I called my dad and told him that I had fallen the night before, and that the nurse thinks I need to go to the doctor. He said he was on his way. Obviously John couldn’t be around when my dad showed up, so I asked him if he could just hang out in my dorm until my dad brought me back home (John didn’t drive, so he had to wait for his dad to come and pick him up that night). Crazy part? He said no. That he would be too bored. He wanted to go to the mall. I asked if he could take the bus over, but he said no, he wanted me to drive him. So here I am, barely able to walk in a straight line, head still pounding, and John is asking me to get behind the wheel so he can hang out at the mall.

Naturally I did it, and got back to school just in time for my dad to pick me up. By then, the pain in my head was making me so sick I was afraid I would throw up. When the doctor finally saw me, he said that I definitely had a concussion, but because it appeared to be such a hard impact, that he wanted to do a CT scan to make sure I didn’t have any bleeding in my brain. Do you want to know what the sick part was? I almost wished I did. I wanted something horrible to happen, something that would finally make John realize what he’d done. A concussion was serious, but still not uncommon. After hours of waiting in the emergency room, the results came back. There was no bleeding, nothing life-threatening, just a bad concussion. No one seemed to be completely convinced by my parking lot story, but I stuck to my guns.

I was so angry with John inside, so horrified that I had just spent all evening in the hospital by his hand, so hurt that he didn’t seem to care. And yet, I was stuck defending him. Keeping him safe, lying to everyone around me about what truly happened the night before. It’s a twisted feeling to contradict yourself in such a way; everything I was feeling inside was the complete opposite of everything coming out of my mouth. I trusted nobody, at this point it was evident that even I could not be trusted. Who do you turn to when you can’t even rely on yourself? You turn to what’s familiar, what’s constant, what’s strong. John was familiar, he was constant, and he was strong. I had been with him for so long, and became so entwined in his mind games, I didn’t know anything different. If we weren’t together in person, he constantly had to be in contact with me. And although it was in the worst way possibly, he was strong. John became my rock. When I sank so low that nothing around me made any sense, I always understood him. It may have been wrong, and completely destroying me, but it made sense. I knew how to make him happy, I knew how to upset him. I could see his mood patterns a mile away, and I swear I could feel an assault coming a week before it actually happened. It hurt, but as any victim of trauma, I came up with coping mechanisms. I learned to deal with it. It became my reality and the idea of leaving it for something completely different scared me to death. As self-contradictory as it felt, I was determined to defend him, keeping his name as clean as possible even while simultaneously destroying my own.

~~~

Week one: Introduction
Week two: Where it all began
Week three: Summertime sadness
Week four: The concussion
Week five: The break-up
Week six: The anatomy of an abuser

Welcome to week four of Scars, bared. The content that you will be reading over the next few weeks was of pivotal value to my journey in recovering from and moving past the trauma of this relationship. As I worked through the pain via my keyboard, I couldn’t help but consider how helpful this kind of perspective would have been when I was in the throes of the relationship. From then on, I decided that I was going to get my story in the open, in the hopes that it would help others from getting stuck where I did, for as long as I did. If I could spare even one soul a fraction of the horror that I experienced, then it would all be worth it. I set out to write a book, and to be honest, I actually finished it. But even though I technically wrote to conclusion, I never felt that I was really in a satisfying “book ending” place in my life. So I saved it away to a hard drive and kind of forgot about it.  And while authoring a neatly wrapped book may no longer be in my future, I have decided to post the most important chapters as a series of essays–Scars, bared— in hopes to make a difference in at least one person’s life. So stay tuned, I truly believe that throughout the course of the next several weeks there will be something of value for everyone. Names have been changed. All other details are entirely true.

scar [skahr]
noun
1. a mark left by a healed wound, sore, or burn.
2. a lasting aftereffect of trouble, especially a lasting psychological injury resulting from suffering or trauma.

bare [bair]
verb
1. to open to view; reveal or divulge.

Scars, bared v.3: Summertime sadness

16 Apr

The first summer of our relationship was extremely rocky. I had been looking forward to it all spring, excited for the chance to spend so much more time together, going out to the beach, going for walks, all of the fun things you get to do in the summer. Unfortunately, the summer didn’t exactly start on the best foot. A week before graduation, I was in a bad car accident leaving his house one night. The accident wasn’t my fault, one of the other people were badly injured, to the point of ending up face down on the ground, bleeding from the head. I was horrified, and the experience was extremely traumatic. I didn’t sleep that night, I thought about that woman constantly, worrying about her condition. In the end she was alright, obviously in rough shape, but no permanent damage. Regardless, I couldn’t get behind the wheel for weeks. Even riding as a passenger in a car was really nerve-wracking for me, I was so jumpy and on edge about every sudden movement.

Because John didn’t have his license at the time, me not driving meant that we weren’t seeing each other. Considering that this is the guy who would get pissed at me for not coming to see him two days in a row, he was definitely not happy with me. I tried so many times to explain to him that I just wasn’t ready to drive again, but he chalked it up as me not loving him. I was complaining to my parents about it, and I remember my dad coming into my room to talk to me. He told me that when he was dating my mom, that if he had no other way to see her, he would have walked to her from another town if that’s what it took, because he loved her that much. That really made me think, and it hurt that John really didn’t care about me as much as I had hoped.  Because of course by then, the entire point of the conversation which was “John doesn’t act like he loves me, because he’s kind of a dick” didn’t exactly connect–instead the lesson I took from it was “John doesn’t act like he loves me, because I am unlovable.” It was really hard on me, and was causing me to beat myself up. I kept thinking that maybe he was right, I was just being a baby, I should really just suck it up and drive again. One night he was in town at a friend’s house, which was a much shorter distance from my house than John’s was, and I gave in. I drove over there, very cautiously, but it was still a pretty high-stress drive. We hung out all evening, and then it was time for me to head back home. I was feeling pretty good, so I hopped behind the wheel and gave myself a pep talk. The difference now was that it was dark out, like it was when the accident happened. I started driving, and I didn’t make it four blocks before I was pulled over on the side of the road, shaking and sobbing hysterically. I had to be picked up, and I was furious with John for forcing me to do this when I wasn’t ready yet.

The summer continued with one incident after another. He didn’t come to my graduation, or my grad party, both of which he had promised to attend. We were getting along alright through June, until I had to go to orientation for the college I was enrolled in for the fall. It was only an hour from home, but John was really upset about the fact I would be leaving in a couple months. While I was in Duluth, he randomly texted me and told me that he didn’t want to be with me anymore, and not to contact him. It came out of nowhere, and I was devastated. I was nervous enough about college, and our orientation was overnight. I didn’t know anyone there, and I spent the night crying in the dorm room, trying to talk to my Dad on the phone before my phone died. I kept telling myself that everything would be alright, and that this was just another one of John’s episodes and that when I came home everything would be fine again. Well, it wasn’t, and he ignored me for two weeks. Just like that. No fight, no warning, just a complete cold shoulder. I was crushed, because these things never lasted longer than about twenty-four hours. I literally stayed in bed crying all day every day for a week. When I finally started to accept that it was over, I called John to ask for my stuff back, and surprisingly he picked up. I asked him if I could come and pick it up and his response was “No, you can’t, I’m with my girlfriend.” and then he hung up. Needless to say, this sent me back into hysterics for at least another couple of days. Eventually I found out from one of his friends that it wasn’t even true, he just said it to upset me. Of course. A couple weeks later, he texted me saying that he missed me. And naturally, being the dependent girl I was, I jumped at the chance to take him back.

I wish I could say that the rest of the summer went smoothly, but it didn’t. We got in many more fights, and he was always making me feel like I wasn’t good enough for him. Every time he told me he was dumping me, I never knew what to believe. I would always tell myself just to stick it out because he would come back, but I was also scared of hanging on like that in case he actually meant it this time. I wish I would have taken that horrible summer as a sign that John and I were just not meant to be together, but the thought never even crossed my mind. Every time we would fight, he found some way to place the blame on me, so I continually had it in my head that the secret to our relationship finally getting better was in my own improvement as a girlfriend. I tried and tried to be the best I could be, yet always seemed to fall short. In turn, I felt like I deserved all of the disrespect from him, but nothing had prepared me for what I was about to experience at the end of the summer.

It was sometime in August, a few weeks before I was supposed to move off to college. Because of this, the tension level was high between us. I was excited for such a big change in my life, yet felt guilty about it because John was so upset with me for it. One evening I was at his house, and we started arguing about something in his room, I don’t even remember what it was. He was in my face, which was nothing new, but this time something different happened. He slammed the bottom half of his palms against my collarbones, knocking me to the floor. I was in shock, I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I sat there for a moment, stunned, before I started crying. Instantly he began apologizing, hugging me, telling me he had no idea why he did what he just did. He promised me it would never happen again, and not wanting to even think about the reality of the situation, I tried to immediately wipe it from my memory. I denied to myself that it even happened, tried to convince myself that I just stumbled and lost my balance, tried to morph my own memory into something less hurtful than what I was feeling.

Unfortunately, over the course of the next few months, the physical attacks became more frequent, and incidentally more severe. Every time it was the same thing: we would be arguing, and he would snap. He’d hit me, push me down, throw me against the wall. Afterwards, he would be the one in tears, begging me to forgive him, telling me he had no idea what he was doing, blaming his past, the way he was raised, or the way his mom treated him. There were times that he’d even claimed to have blacked out while it was happening, and that he didn’t remember what he had done. I didn’t know whether that was believable or not, but there were times when I could tell, it wasn’t even John anymore who was beating on me. It was a stranger, someone I had never known. I also think that sometimes he didn’t even understand the severity of what he was doing to me. There were days that he would see bruises on me, bruises that he had inflicted, and get very concerned, asking me what had happened. I would look at him and remind him, “John… You did that…” and he would be appalled, you could see it in his eyes. Overall it was just the most twisted situation I had ever been in in my life, and I didn’t know what to do, so by default I did nothing.

~~~

Week one: Introduction
Week two: Where it all began
Week three: Summertime sadness
Week four: The concussion
Week five: The break-up
Week six: The anatomy of an abuser

Welcome to week three of Scars, bared. One thing I want to mention in commentary before going any further, is a reminder that I am sharing a series of my writing from when I was freshly out of the relationship. The content you are reading is at least 7-8 years old. I want to assure anyone and everyone that I have recovered well from the trauma that I suffered, in part due to the process of writing through my experience. Over the past decade, I have found solace in friends and family, in church, in bars, in rehab, in counseling, within myself, and outside of myself. It has definitely been a long journey but I feel very good about where I am at. Yes, I have struggled with the roller coaster of depression over the last couple of years, but I do not feel that it is directly related to this relationship. In fact, my ability to even share these details with you is a testament to the level of healing I have experienced and my desire to let others know that it’s possible to get out, to heal, and to live a fulfilled life again. Of course my past will always be a part of who I am, and some pain will never truly be forgotten. But like I’ve said, if sharing my story saves even one person out there from going through the same thing, then it has all been worth it.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. – Genesis 50:20

The content that you will be reading over the next few weeks was of pivotal value to my journey in recovering from and moving past the trauma of this relationship. As I worked through the pain via my keyboard, I couldn’t help but consider how helpful this kind of perspective would have been when I was in the throes of the relationship. From then on, I decided that I was going to get my story in the open, in the hopes that it would help others from getting stuck where I did, for as long as I did. If I could spare even one soul a fraction of the horror that I experienced, then it would all be worth it. I set out to write a book, and to be honest, I actually finished it. But even though I technically wrote to conclusion, I never felt that I was really in a satisfying “book ending” place in my life. So I saved it away to a hard drive and kind of forgot about it.  And while authoring a neatly wrapped book may no longer be in my future, I have decided to post the most important chapters as a series of essays–Scars, bared— in hopes to make a difference in at least one person’s life. So stay tuned, I truly believe that throughout the course of the next several weeks there will be something of value for everyone. Names have been changed. All other details are entirely true. 

scar [skahr]
noun
1. a mark left by a healed wound, sore, or burn.
2. a lasting aftereffect of trouble, especially a lasting psychological injury resulting from suffering or trauma.

bare [bair]
verb
1. to open to view; reveal or divulge.

Scars, bared v.2: Where it all began

9 Apr

One new message.

“Hey, do I know you? You look familiar. You’re amazingly beautiful by the way! We should totally chat! :)”

Eighteen words. It was a simple Myspace message. I had no idea that this single message was about to send my entire life into a tail-spin.

It wasn’t that my life was so different than any other high school senior, but it was a pretty pivotal time for me. Almost eighteen years old, getting stir-crazy at home, applying for college, and finally feeling like an adult. My life thus far had been on the sheltered side, but there was nothing wrong with that. My parents raised me well; a relatively respectful young lady, member of the National Honor Society, attended youth group regularly at a modest little baptist church, a clarinet player in band and captain of the Rifle Corp. I had seen my rebellious years of high school, probably experimented a few too many times with “recreational” substances–but I like to believe I emerged a strong, independent, put-together girl. Speaking honestly, my heart had already been claimed by this point. I met a boy on a mission trip in Pine Ridge, SD several years prior. He was from Colorado, but we stayed in touch through letters, then by email, and soon enough were spending hours on the phone together every night of the week. His name was Drew, and he was the best friend I’ve ever had. I knew our friendship had the potential to grow into a really great relationship, and he felt it too. Deep down, I wanted nothing more than to get through my last year high school so I could pursue a college in Colorado and he and I could be closer together. I had the rest of my life all figured out, it was going to be perfect.

Until September 15, 2008; when everything changed.

His name was John. John Doe. He was charming and a smooth-talker, and damn was he cute. I had a thing for those skater-boys, you know, the ones with the skinny jeans, who listen to metal and headbang at shows. He had the most kissable lips I had ever seen and this gorgeous hair that had the perfect flip from under the yellow bandana he would always wear. I had seen him around town before, actually in the restaurant where I worked. Ironically, I had seen him there with his last girlfriend. She was beautiful, she looked so kind, and real. Not like the dramatic, resting-bitch-faced overly made-up rocker chicks I would expect him to be into. I remember thinking to myself how he must be a really good guy because she looked like such a nice person (SPOILER ALERT: abusers intentionally prey on “nice people”! We tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, and give too many “second chances” to improve bad behavior. But at least my judgement of HER was right, because to this day she is one of my best friends and what we like to refer to as the only good thing either of us ever got out of dating him lol).

My friend Emma knew who he was, and we had talked about him a few times. Eventually, his older brother happened to add me on Myspace. I recognized the name instantly, and found John in his friends. “Are you sure you’d like to send this friend request?” Hell yeah I’m sure! Later that same night, I received a message from him.

“Hey, do I know you? You look familiar. You’re amazingly beautiful by the way! We should totally chat! :)”

Amazingly beautiful? I was flattered already. We messaged back and forth a few times before exchanging phone numbers, and began texting. This went on for a couple weeks, he was a total sweetheart. He showered me in compliments, and texted me constantly. I fell fast, and hard. The only problem was, any of my friends that knew him seemed to be leery of the whole thing. Emma warned me that he was a player, and a jerk. How could that be? Clearly she wasn’t thinking of the same guy as me– the one who only ever had kind things to say. When I thought about it, I remembered him telling me that Emma used to like him, but he didn’t like her back. I told myself, obviously she’s jealous that he is giving me the attention that she never could get from him herself. That’s why she’s saying these things.

Days later, an old friend of mine sent me a message on Myspace. “John?” she said, “good luck with that one.” I didn’t know what to make of these warnings, but I credited them to jealousy. After all, I already felt like I knew John. He told me all about his life, and how much he had been through. He told me that his mom walked out on his family with no explanation when he was only eleven years old, and that dad was dying of cancer. He didn’t drive because he was too busy taking care of his dad to ever attend driver’s ed. He told me that he was picked on in school, and got played by girls. It broke my heart, and I had no idea how these other people could be so cruel. Instantly, he had me at his mercy. I decided that I would be the girl to show him what he deserved, to treat him well when no one else would. I told myself that I would not be just another person to come into his life and hurt him. I wouldn’t leave him hanging, no matter what. Subconsciously, I made this promise to myself that I would be the one to turn his life around, and I had no intentions of walking away from him until I fulfilled that. Little did I know that such a mental commitment would tie me down to this horrible, heavy anchor that was dead set on dragging me to depths deeper and darker than I had ever imagined.

~~~

The months leading up to my actual relationship with John could be described as bipolar at best. Within about two weeks of meeting him, I experienced his true colors for the first time. He was an extremely jealous person, always looking to stir up trouble. However, he was also incredibly crafty. His favorite trick was to intentionally instigate fights, but do it in such a way that he would leave the other person convinced that he or she had started it. He would set me up with loaded questions, seemingly harmless at first as we were in the process of getting to know each other. Later down the line, one by one the answers I had given would come back to bite me. For example, he asked me if I liked getting attention. This almost seemed like a given, I assumed he had meant attention from himself, and what girl would tell a guy that she doesn’t want his attention? So I answered yes, of course. I had no idea that that simple answer would give him the ammunition to call me an “attention whore” for the next two years (because, after all, I said so myself). Another thing John would do is get me to talk down on myself in moments of vulnerability, and then he would play up those insecurities down the line. For example, in the very beginning, during that flirty puppy-love stage, he told me that he really liked me. I answered that I liked him too, but then he told me that he would never ask me to be his girlfriend. That crushed me a little bit, so I asked him why. His reasoning was that I was too good to be his girlfriend. He was too shy, too poor, too broken, and I was too outgoing, too successful, too happy. He made me feel guilty for everything I was proud of. From day one, he took the bare bones of my identity and twisted them into something I didn’t like. He used my positive characteristics against me, putting me on the defense and causing me to subconsciously begin to smother everything I had ever loved about myself.

The first time John and I had ever met up in person was about a week after our initial contact online. He was going to a local rock show, and asked me to meet him there. I went with a couple friends who frequented these shows, and I was absolutely giddy with excitement. I saw him hanging out with a group of friends, and I approached him. To my surprise, he was extremely cold, blew me off, and walked away without ever looking me in the eyes. I was crushed. What did I do wrong? I spent that entire concert questioning myself on every level possible as I watched him pretend I didn’t exist from only a few feet away. He flirted with girls in front of me, smiled at each of my friends, and generally made me feel invisible. Eventually I’d had enough, and just wanted to go home. I left the building to walk to my car. I had almost reached the edge of the property, when I heard someone call out to me.

“Hey, you! With the purse!”

He was talking to me. Just as I was on the edge of breaking, John swooped in and pulled the Prince Charming act. He walked me to my car, and we talked and flirted and he gave me a hug before I left. Positively smitten, I drove home with a grin on my face and butterflies in my stomach. The complaints of the night faded from my mind, and to say I was hooked would have been an understatement.

Over the next couple months, our first meeting continued to repeat itself. He would never commit to making plans with me alone, but when we hung out in a group he would always follow the same pattern: ignoring me for every other girl in the building until I was so hurt and so furious I was ready to storm out, and then pulling me back in with attention and affection and kind words. He would tell me that I was so much more to him than these other girls who would come and go. I held onto those words, but this continued for so long that I began to revisit those feelings that there had to be something wrong with me, that he must be embarrassed to tell the world that he felt the way he described to me in private.

About a month later, he and I and a few friends were hanging out and the moment I had been waiting months for finally happened: he kissed me. It was like fireworks; thank goodness we were sitting down because I was so weak in the knees I probably would have fallen over. From then on the chemistry between us was off the charts, and he didn’t pay attention to anyone other than me. And, like any hopelessly romantic seventeen year old, I was convinced that because everything “felt so right”, it had to be. We continued to grow closer, and I convinced myself to oversee the character flaws that I was noticing in him more and more each day.

~~~

Making excuses for the way he acted was a huge mistake. At the time they seemed minor in the face of our blossoming relationship, but in reality they were blatant red flags. For example, you may be wondering what happened to Drew, the friend I was convinced would be my husband one day. Well, John had jealousy issues with him. Although Drew and I spoke on the phone nightly, John started to make me feel guilty about it. He ridiculed the fact that I cared so much about someone so far away, and led me to withdraw from a friendship that to this day I have been unable to replicate. I told John from the start that Drew was my best friend, and that even if he and I dated, I wouldn’t give up that friendship. At first John acted like that was okay with him, but as the weeks passed he eventually told me that he wouldn’t ever date a girl with a guy best friend. Honestly, I think I grew tired of waiting for the day when I could be with Drew. I was lonely, and I wanted a tangible relationship, someone I could touch and hug and spend time with. This underlying desire fueled my feelings for John, and probably had something to do with all of the warning signs I chose to ignore. Like any true friend, Drew worried about what I was getting into with John. From over a thousand miles away, even he could see the danger that was right in front of my nose. Once again I credited his wariness of the situation to jealousy, and became even more stubborn. This caused tension in our friendship, and we began to talk less and less. Secretly, I was okay with that, because I knew it pleased John to see our communication dwindling.

On December 13th, John’s band was playing a show, and we were hanging out together between sets. He told me that he was thinking about asking me to be his girlfriend, but he wasn’t sure if he actually wanted to. That increasingly familiar pang of confusion hit me once again. I didn’t know how to take that: whether I should be happy that he was even considering asking me out, or offended that he had reason to doubt me. The way he said it insinuated that I hadn’t given him good enough reason to want to be my boyfriend, and made me feel as though I had to prove myself. This began two years of a twisted struggle that consisted of him being a terrible boyfriend, but me being the one constantly feeling the need to prove my worth. He indirectly devalued me in ways I could never have controlled, and if I didn’t immediately try to talk myself back up he took my lack of effort as a sign of not caring about him. At this point, I was so sure that if he were to ever ask me to be his girlfriend, these problems would dissipate. The back and forth, the uncertainty, his hot and cold feelings for me, just wouldn’t exist in a committed relationship. If he asked me out, all of those questions would be answered, and we could move on together.

Four days later, John asked me out. We were hanging out at his house, it was the first time he’d ever invited me over. We were watching movies and joking around and when I was walking of the door to leave he grabbed my hand, pulled me back in, grinned at me and said, “So, are you gonna be my girlfriend?” Of course I said yes without hesitating for a second; I was so happy to finally hear him make a commitment to me. On the way home I had already texted everyone I knew to let them know the news. But by the time I arrived home, it’s not surprising that John had already changed his mind. He texted me, “Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. I just don’t think we would make a very good couple.” I’m pretty sure I burst into tears. How would I explain this to all the people I just told that we were together? I begged him to give our relationship a chance, to give me a chance. Finally, he agreed that we would try it out, and that he wanted me as his girlfriend.

Those first couple weeks were great. We got along well, loved being around each other, and never fought. On New Year’s Eve his band was playing a show in town, and I ended up getting there late because I had some things to do first. I remember showing up at the doors, and before I could get two steps into the building, someone yelled, “Hey! It’s Doe’s girlfriend!” and I was greeted by a group of people who seemed so happy to see me just because of who I was dating. It was such an amazing feeling. I had never experienced it before, and truly felt like I was someone. When John’s band finally got on stage, there was a group of younger girls all screaming over John and the other band members. It didn’t bother me, because the girls always loved them. But halfway through the set, John called for me to come to the stage, took off the zip-up he was wearing, and put it on me in front of everyone. I was absolutely beaming. I had never had a guy so extremely proud of me before. To want to show everyone in the entire room that I was his girlfriend. It was one of the best nights ever.

The sad part is, as great as the night truly was, I look back on it now and see it completely differently. All these years later, I don’t see it as my boyfriend being proud of me, I see it as a public expression of possession. There were obviously a lot of other guys there, and while John was on stage he had no way of keeping me from talking to any of them. So he put his hoodie on me in front of everyone as a way of marking his territory. Like a selfish child writing his name on all of his toys. It’s really kind of heartbreaking to remember little moments like that, and how naive I was at the time. His jealous tendencies, always wanting me to spend time with him, being in constant communication… I thought that it was cute, and showed how much he cared about me. Now when I think about it, I feel so disgustingly disrespected. I feel like I was such an object to him. Something to own and be possessive of and use when you needed but stash when you’re bored. But you know what they say: Love is blind. It’s hard to see these things when you are so infatuated with a new relationship.

~~~

We would get along for about a month before the fights began. I still remember our very first fight. I skipped school one day so that we could spend the entire day together. But when I went to pick him up, right away he wanted to go to his friend Dave’s house. We went to hang out with Dave, and eventually it became evident that John planned on spending the entire day there. I asked him quietly if we were going to have any time alone, to which he replied in rage.

“You are so selfish, all you think about is yourself. Why do you have to be so needy?!”

This caught me completely off guard, and I ran downstairs alone where I burst into tears. After giving us both enough time to cool off, I went back upstairs. (This would also be the day that I found out that “cooling off” is not a concept that exist in John’s world. Giving him time and space would only cause his anger to stew.) I tried to go up to John and give him a kiss, but he pushed me away. Naturally this caused another argument, and he ended up telling me that this relationship wasn’t working out. He dumped me, and I stormed out, crying. I didn’t know where to go. I couldn’t go home, because my mom was home and I was supposed to be at school. I drove around and cried and cried, and eventually ended up back at Dave’s. John refused to speak to me, and I begged him to give me another chance. Finally, he agreed that he didn’t want to break up for real. He kissed me, told me everything was alright, and went back to talking to Dave. Business as usual, as if nothing had even happened.

Over the course of our relationship, our fights would follow in this pattern. Every time there was even the slightest trigger, he was trying to completely end the relationship. Yet he always ended up deciding he wanted to stay together. It was so exhausting for me. Every time it would happen (at least once a week) I would be devastated, convinced that I was being dumped for real. My friends got tired of it, and eventually quit responding to my “OMG I need help John and I just broke up! :( :(“ texts because they always knew we’d get back together. I tried to take that same confidence, days when he would “break up” with me I would stay calm and tell myself “just let it blow over, you two are still together, it’s going to be fine”, but the less upset I seemed, the longer he would keep the fight going. Eventually, I’d end up believing that we were over for real. Each time it happened I had to question if THIS would finally be the time he meant it, but it never happened. Even on my first birthday of our relationship he pulled the same bullshit. A friend of mine had dissed on his band and made it sound like I agreed with her, which I definitely didn’t. Of course John freaked out over this, wouldn’t believe me when I told him I wasn’t ragging on the band, got all of the other members to get mad at me, and then “dumped” me. I spent my entire birthday in tears until finally around midnight he said that he wanted to “give me a second chance.”

It was the most twisted and emotionally draining experience to have to deal with on such a regular basis. I know that this is the point in which most people want to shake their heads and say that it’s my fault for not leaving at this point. But by the time it became so frequent, John had already done a really good job of convincing me that I couldn’t live without him. And honestly, knowing in the back of my mind that I had totally thrown away everything I had with Drew to pursue John, I was too stubborn to just walk away this soon. In only a matter of months, he had isolated me from all my friends, broken down my self-esteem, and led me to completely rely upon him. When we weren’t together, he was always texting me about all of the girls that were hitting on him, but he would do it like he was just trying to show he cared by telling me what was going on. In reality, it made me feel like dirt, and I was constantly worried about not measuring up to my competition. He never wanted to spend time with my family, which was also hard on me because my family was really close. I didn’t want to tell my parents that he never came over because he simply didn’t want to, because I knew they would instantly dislike him. So instead, I was constantly making excuses for him to them, too. We always had to be together, and if he didn’t get to see me on almost a daily basis, he would get really upset with me, and accuse me of not caring about him. The fact that he never wanted to be around my friends or family, but always wanted to be around me, obviously meant that I would never get to see anyone else in my life except for him. I spent my senior year of high school withdrawn from the classmates I had grown up with, burning bridges that had been built for years, and spending time uncharacteristically quiet and alone. Unfortunately, with everyone going their separate ways after graduation some valuable ties with old friends have been severed indefinitely. I lost one hundred percent of my male friendships, and have only been able to repair a few of those. It kills me to think of all of the bonds I broke, but it’s just another one of those regrettable outcomes of the relationship that I’ve learned to accept, and move on.

~~~

Week one: Introduction
Week two: Where it all began
Week three: Summertime sadness
Week four: The concussion
Week five: The break-up
Week six: The anatomy of an abuser

Welcome to week two of Scars, bared. The content that you will be reading over the next few weeks was of pivotal value to my journey in recovering from and moving past the trauma of this relationship. As I worked through the pain via my keyboard, I couldn’t help but consider how helpful this kind of perspective would have been when I was in the throes of the relationship. From then on, I decided that I was going to get my story in the open, in the hopes that it would help others from getting stuck where I did, for as long as I did. If I could spare even one soul a fraction of the horror that I experienced, then it would all be worth it. I set out to write a book, and to be honest, I actually finished it. But even though I technically wrote to conclusion, I never felt that I was really in a satisfying “book ending” place in my life. So I saved it away to a hard drive and kind of forgot about it.  And while authoring a neatly wrapped book may no longer be in my future, I have decided to post the most important chapters as a series of essays–Scars, bared— in hopes to make a difference in at least one person’s life. So stay tuned, I truly believe that throughout the course of the next several weeks there will be something of value for everyone. Names have been changed. All other details are entirely true.

 

scar [skahr]
noun
1. a mark left by a healed wound, sore, or burn.
2. a lasting aftereffect of trouble, especially a lasting psychological injury resulting from suffering or trauma.

bare [bair]
verb
1. to open to view; reveal or divulge.

Scars, bared v.1: Introduction

2 Apr

I’m lying in the middle of a field. Staring up at the clouds with the sun beating down on me, listening to the birds sing and the grass rustle in the wind around me. Everything is so calm, so peaceful. Well, except for my cell phone buzzing incessantly where I dropped it a few feet away. I ignore it. I shut my eyes and allow myself to drift in and out of reality as I wonder to myself: when did life get so difficult? I wish this was all there was– just me, the field, the open sky. And the woods, providing a safety net between the world and me. No, between him and me.

I check my phone. Nine missed calls. Thirteen new messages.

“Where are you.”
“I’m going to find you.”
“If you don’t answer me I’m going to call the cops.”
“Laura, I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m not, this is your fault. Where are you stupid bitch?”
“Answer me now or you’ll pay.”
“That’s it. The cops are looking for you, and if they don’t find you they’re calling your dad, and then he’ll know you lied to him about where you are today.”
“I fucking hate you.”
“I swear to god you will regret this day forever.”

I don’t have the heart to read the rest. To be honest, I don’t even care. I feel safe out here. Detached from the nightmare that I live on a daily basis. Out here, I feel like even if it is just for a few minutes, I can pretend my life is perfect again. I want to stay out here forever.

My life wasn’t always like this. At one point I was a normal teenager, with normal worries. But now, things are different. While every other girl in my class is complaining about boyfriend problems– you know, the kind where he didn’t call her back, or he didn’t buy her the right kind of flowers– I join in and I laugh along, silently longing for problems as trivial as theirs. My boyfriend problems were not so easy. I had to keep myself constantly under check. Every word, every move, every thought; because absolutely anything could set him off. Sometimes it would be at no fault of my own, sometimes he would just have a bad day and need someone to take it out on. I became very aware of his moods, of every word he said or face he made, every loving gesture I did or didn’t get, there was always a reason. I had to stay on top of it. And when I let myself slip? You better believe that I would pay for it.

Suddenly, I snap back to reality. I hear rustling. I make out a figure on the edge of the clearing. I think to myself, “It’s got to be over by now. He found me, and he’s coming to apologize.” His footsteps become more defined. He’s stomping. Cussing. He’s still angry. I’m just lying there on the ground, frozen. Do I get up? Do I run? Do I stand up to him? Do I apologize? I never can tell. I never know what is going to be the magic response that will simmer down his anger, or what will set him off on an even worse rampage. So I lay. He picks up a stick, and by stick, I mean it could have been a small tree in and of itself. He growls, “I’m going to fucking kill you.” And you know what? I believe him. I think to myself, this is it. This is the end. There’s no one out here, no one even knows that I’m not sitting in class at my school an hour away right now. These woods are abandoned, and even if he left my body in plain sight it probably wouldn’t be found for weeks.

I don’t realize it, but I’m crying now. I’m shaking. He comes closer and closer and, like usual, I shut my eyes and brace myself for what is about to come. But, oddly it doesn’t. He stands over me and just looks at me. Holding my breath, I know that I’m not in the clear just yet. His eyes have iced over with that all-too-familiar cold, hard, stare that he gets when he’s in a rage. Those eyes see right through me, to them I am a rag doll. A punching bag. I’m anything but his girlfriend–I am something to destroy rather than someone to love and protect. He tosses the stick aside. I exhale a sigh of relief until he bends over, grabs me by the hair, and yanks me up off the ground. He hisses into my ear “You better watch it, the cops are looking for you. Someone saw you run out of the building, and they reported you. This is all your fault.”

As he continues to drag me along by the hair, I’ve already mentally distanced myself from the situation. A skill I’ve picked up over the last few months, it’s a rare form of sanity for me. I don’t cry, I don’t fight: my body is on autopilot. I wonder to myself, are my eyes as empty as his right now? It’s like I’m watching a bad movie where two robotic shells of people are caught in a horrible game. I feel sick to my stomach with empathy for that poor girl, but the girl’s identity isn’t my own anymore. We tromp through the woods, and when we finally get back to his apartment complex, he lets go of my hair and threatens that I had better act like nothing is wrong, so I don’t get in trouble. We climb the stairs to apartment 223, and he turns on the TV like nothing ever happened. I almost chuckle in irony as I realize, there was no sign of any cops. The cops were never called, they were all part of his game to scare me back to the house. I wander into his bedroom. Slowly, the events of the morning begin to come back to me. I see the shattered glass all over the room, from the photo box that I had just made for him. When he had gotten mad at me, he tore it off the wall, smashed it, and ripped up the photos of us. I begged for him to stop, not to break it, I had worked so hard on it. He didn’t appreciate that, and he shoved me to the floor. His rage not satisfied, he had then grabbed me by the shoulders, picked me back up, and threw me against the wall.

The wall. There’s a hole in it. Was that there before today? No, it wasn’t, because I see my hairbrush lying on the floor next to it, broken in half from the impact causing the hole. I’m sobbing uncontrollably now. It’s then that I realize my leg is throbbing. I pull up my pant leg to find a horrid dark purple and yellow bruise on the inside of my calf. How did that happen? I think he threw something at me, but what? I look around the room, when I see it: the bottle of pills. The painkillers of which he told me that I should take the entire bottle, and do the world a favor. When I yelled back, he threw them at me, and that’s when I took off running for the woods.

My head is spinning, and I can’t see straight. My heart is racing and I begin to look at that bottle of pills with a whole new level of appreciation. Maybe he’s right, maybe I should just swallow them. How else do I get out of this hell? I walk over, pick up the bottle, and dump it into my hands. But I can’t do it, so I pop one or two to help with this splitting headache and toss the rest. As I collapse on his bed and shut my eyes, finally surrendering to the dark peace of sleep, I can almost hear his voice in my ear, “You stupid coward. I knew you could never follow through.”

~~~

I sleep for hours. By the time I wake up, it’s dark outside. I panic, because I know that he hates when I waste our time together sleeping. I roll over, and find an envelope on the pillow next to me. Opening it, I find an apology letter. It tells me how much he needs me, how perfect I am, how ashamed he is by what he’s done to me, and how it will never happen again. Because he loves me. As I finished reading, he comes into the room with a home cooked dinner for me to eat in bed. He apologizes again. When I finish eating, he crawls into bed just to cuddle with me. He treats me like a princess, and he seems so genuine, I know that he has to mean it.

I let myself drift back to sleep again, this time in his arms. I tell myself that this is the last time he’ll ever hurt me. Sure I thought about wanting to get away from him earlier, but how can I now? He is being such a sweetheart. And he feels so horrible about what happened, it would be cruel for me to just break up with him like this. No, I’m going to give him another chance. I know he can be better, and I’m helping him be the best person he can be. What kind of girlfriend would just abandon him while he’s hurting? Wait, but I’m the one hurting. Or, I was. No, now I’m confused. He’s the one crying. I truly feel bad for him, and my heart is so tired. I won’t leave, not today, I just don’t have the energy to handle another heavy moment. If he hurts me again, then I’ll leave him. And I mean it this time. Just not tonight.

~~~

Welcome to scars, bared. The content that you will be reading over the next few weeks was of pivotal value to my journey in recovering from and moving past the trauma of this relationship. As I worked through the pain via my keyboard, I couldn’t help but consider how helpful this kind of perspective would have been when I was in the throes of the relationship. From then on, I decided that I was going to get my story in the open, in the hopes that it would help others from getting stuck where I did, for as long as I did. If I could spare even one soul a fraction of the horror that I experienced, then it would all be worth it. I set out to write a book, and to be honest, I actually finished it. But even though I technically wrote to conclusion, I never felt that I was really in a satisfying “book ending” place in my life. So I saved it away to a hard drive and kind of forgot about it. But as you may have seen, a few weeks ago my ex was arrested on domestic assault charges. As satisfying as it was to know he was finally seeing consequences to his actions, it also broke me inside to know that nine years later he was still hurting other people, still ruining lives. I guess I had convinced myself that one day he would just grow up and find a girl he could love without destroying. So I found myself between the same rock and same hard place that I’ve been in ever since the relationship ended: wanting to move on and never give him another thought in my life, but also feeling like choosing to look the other way while innocent girl after innocent girl blindly walked into his life was essentially leaving myself responsible for anything that happened to them. Then, I remembered this writing. And I feel that now is the time to share this part of my life with the world, even if the personal details sometimes suck. It is the least I can do. So, while authoring a neatly wrapped book may no longer be in my future, I have decided to post the most important chapters as a series of essays–Scars, bared— in hopes to make a difference in at least one person’s life. So stay tuned, I truly believe that throughout the course of the next several weeks there will be something of value for everyone. Names have been changed. All other details are entirely true.
Week one: Introduction
Week two: Where it all began
Week three: Summertime sadness
Week four: The concussion
Week five: The break-up
Week six: The anatomy of an abuser

scar [skahr]
noun
1. a mark left by a healed wound, sore, or burn.
2. a lasting aftereffect of trouble, especially a lasting psychological injury resulting from suffering or trauma.

bare [bair]
verb
1. to open to view; reveal or divulge.

I Can’t Stop With a Love Like Mine

16 Oct

Alright yall… this is about to be a weird post. I’m here to talk about Prof but I’m also here to get emotional. Let me take you on a little journey…

Several years ago, I stumbled across the great MN hip-hop hidden gem that is PROF. I had heard his name around before and never took much interest, but once I pressed play on that first song I found (Animal!) I was hooked. He had a handlebar mustache and a music video filled with sock puppets, but there was something undeniably captivating about his energy, and I instantly began scouring YouTube for more. Completely obsessed from the jump, it wasn’t more than a month or so after discovering him that I set out to attend my first Prof show. At that time the shows were still pretty small, I packed up and drove from Duluth to a little bar in St. Cloud to check out the scene.

LIFE. CHANGED.

A surprisingly charismatic party boy not afraid to take himself too seriously, from the moment Prof took the stage it was nothing but love and good times. I’m a frequent concert-goer, and as a 5 foot nothing ball of energy who needs to fight her way to the front row in order to see the stage, I was used to having to knock elbows and cop an attitude to get to where I needed to be. I will never forget my surprise when my friend and I came up behind a group of college-aged guys all standing right against the stage who overheard my excitement about seeing Prof for the first time, and one turned around and exclaimed, “Wait – this is your first Prof show?! Oh man you’re in for a treat — here, you guys need to stand in front of us!” and made room for my friend and I to get prime front-and-center viewing. I present to you: the Gampo family. Throughout my years of superfanning over Prof, you have probably heard me say time and time again that there is no fan base like Prof’s. Because he’s been flying under the media’s radar for almost a decade, his promotion has been mostly word-of-mouth. This has created an extended network of loyal Gampos, a web weaved through passion and dedication and a little bit of party, and that family mentality is undeniable at any event. Not only is there tons of love between fans, but the way we are treated by Prof himself and his management team is completely unmatched in the industry. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

First Prof Show :)

Very first Prof show – St. Cloud, MN

Back to my own ride.

That night in St. Cloud my world was rocked and my expectations for live music would never again be the same. Caught up in the energy, the passion, and the pure love of the art– I was hooked. Prof said he came to party with us- and he meant it. The show was completely interactive, fans were getting pulled up on stage and sang to, pointed out and recognized in the crowd, shots were poured, it was like a huge dysfunctional family reunion. We got our picture taken with Prof after the show, and I was completely starstruck. Instantly I became “that fan”… tweeting at him nonstop (and to my surprise and excitement, discovering that he actually makes a point to talk back to his fans), bumping his music, ordering merch, making all my friends listen to his albums, and constantly waiting for that next concert. Luckily with Prof being a Minneapolis native, I never had to go longer than a few months without finding a show within a couple hours driving distance. And it was always the same: go to shows, buck out, jump around, scream the words, learn some new ones, make friends in the crowd, wait for Prof after the show to get a picture taken, and giddily yell in his face “OMG THAT WAS AMAZING I LOVE YOU SO MUCH” before scampering off to wherever the rest of the night would take me.

As time went on and I began travelling further to get to more and more shows, he started tweeting me back more often, chatting with me comfortably in person, liking the pictures I posted on Instagram. Like I said before, Prof is crazy charismatic and treats his fans like gold, so I knew it was just what he did and still assumed I was another blank face in the crowd. Until Soundset 2014 which was probably the day I have fangirled the hardest of my entire life. I went up for my turn in the meet & greet line, and when I walked up Prof yells “HEYYYYY!” as if he recognized me, and then he actually told me that he did. “Whatever, you probably say that everyone!” I said back to him, and when he responded by knowing my name before I had to say it– I was completely floored. I literally almost started crying. “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT MEANS TO ME!” I blubbered at him like a psycho. And he got serious for a minute and said, “Nah for real, I know who the real fans are, who keep coming around and talking to us and reaching out. You think I don’t see you, but I see you!” and I can’t even describe to you the feeling of being validated like that by someone that you look up to and respect (and fangirl over!) so much. That was when it really hit home. This dude is legit. This movement is for real.

Soundset 2014

Soundset 2014 Meet & Greet

So, I could write for hours about everything that has happened since then, the memories made and bonds created. In the fall of 2014, Prof went on the North of Hell Tour with Atmosphere and Dem Atlas, and I followed them around the country wherever I could. Driving, flying, staying up all night to get home in time for work, it was incredible. And in every city, every state, I was shown nothing but love. At a show in San Diego, CA I had one of Prof’s managers come up to me for the first time. We were sitting and waiting to get a picture with Prof after the show, when this guy comes up to me and goes – “Omg! You’re Laura, aren’t you!? You’re from Minnesota! We all know you, we see you everywhere!” and that was when I met Mike. One of the guys on Prof’s original team, and one of the coolest, kindest, and hardest working guys I know. The family keeps growing.

Over the past year and a half I’ve met more and more of the crazy back-busting team who run around behind the scenes making this whole movement possible, I finally officially joined the street team, and oh- I spent my birthday at a Prof show in Jacksonville, FL, where I had my birthday announced from the stage. I’ve been to upwards of twenty PROF shows, seen him live in seven different states, and am gearing up to hit multiple stops on the Liability Tour that’s about to kick off. I’ve got PROF tattoos, a voicemail from Prof himself on my phone, and photos of him holding my dog. In making all of these points I’m not trying to brag up myself, I’m bragging up an artist who has the genuine love for his fans to make a point of doing all of this stuff. There’s nothing special about me, I’m just one of many who take their passion and loyalty for this team to the next level. There are tons of other fans who are well known by Prof, his team, recognized at shows, called out on social media, and generally treated like gold. That’s the craziness of it all. It never ceases to amaze me, but like I mentioned before, it’s why Prof’s fan base is MASSIVE even with little-to-no media coverage.

And now, we come to the present. To today. It’s 10/16/15. Prof recently signed on with Rhymesayers Entertainment, and today marks his first national album release. He’s been putting out albums for almost a decade, dropping them for free simply for the love of the art. Today, shit gets real. I can’t think of any artist that deserves this more. To finally get the real recognition, and the platform to get noticed by the media and sell some albums. I’ve been listening to this record nonstop since it started streaming yesterday, and it is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. If you think you know Prof – think again. His styles are all over the board and the emotions are everywhere while still hanging on to that classic PROF party clown theme. I was so excited for this release, but wasn’t expecting to get legit emotional like I have been. I’m so proud not only of Prof, but of everyone behind the scenes putting their blood, sweat, and tears into this record over the past three years. They deserve this more than anyone.

If you like good music, good people, good beats, good vibes, and aren’t easily offended – you need this record. You can find it on iTunes at: http://bit.ly/ProfLiability. Gampo life!

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Zombie Pub Crawl 2014

Zombie Pub Crawl 2014