Category Archives: emotional abuse

I Was the Victim of Bullying

The year was 1972 and my parents had just moved our family back to Arizona from Ohio. My school-aged siblings and I were enrolled in a religious school – grades K-8. I remember that every morning, all the children in the school would file out of our classrooms, stand in two lines, face the flagpole and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the Hail Mary. I was in 5th grade.

Fifth grade wasn’t too bad for me. The trouble started in 6th grade. Joey Polanski and his cohorts decided it was a good idea to relentlessly harass me. They would call me names, steal a basketball I had brought to school for recess, and in general, make life miserable for me. I told my parents, but was told, “Just tell them, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.'” Really??!! That was the solution? The teasing continued in 7th grade with Mike Hayes and his buddies joining in on ‘the fun’. Eighth grade was a blur because my mom had my little sister halfway through the school year.

I homeschooled my children for seven years. When they finally went to public school, I told them that if they were ever bullied, to let me know and I would be down at the school office in a heartbeat. I wanted to let my children know I would defend them because my parents never defended me.

My parents knew about the bullying, my teachers knew about the bullying, the school principal knew about the bullying, and yet, nothing was ever done. I was deemed “too sensitive” and it was thought that I should grow a backbone, or a pair of balls, or learn character from the relentless bullying. Instead, it brought thoughts of suicide, running away and abandonment. I guess in a way, the years of shame at the hands of those boys did make me a little stronger. In those days, nearly 45 years ago, bullying was seen as something that built character in the bullied. I disagree. It builds fear, anxiety and low self esteem.

Nothing was done to Joey and his Band of Brothers because he was from one of the most prominent families in the church community. At that time, I was sacrificed on the altar of  “Don’t make waves”. To this day, nothing makes me more angry than to hear about bullying, or to hear my mom talk about the friendship she has with Joey’s mom (I believe his dad has since passed on). Yes, I guess I need to “get over it” and yes, that experience did shape who I am today. However, I will never just stand by and let someone be bullied. Stay tuned. . . .

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You Are NOT Damaged Goods

My hat is off to those women who have escaped an abusive relationship. Some have walked away (barely) and some have been pushed away. No matter how you left that relationship, you are free. You may not feel the exhilaration that comes with freedom, but in time, you will.

I experienced emotional abuse. It took a while to untangle the tentacles that accompany that type of abuse – co-dependency. But I did find freedom. Please know that in no way do I want to downplay the pain of physical abuse. I know it takes a great deal of courage to walk away from that.

For several months, I felt like I was damaged – could I trust my emotions? Could I trust that I wouldn’t get angry with Cycle Dude? Could I trust that he was where he told me he was? Could I trust that those texts were only from his children and not from another woman? Could I trust that he was not going to bad places on the computer? I had to make a decision – and I had to get help.

I had to make a decision to trust Cycle Dude. I had to make a decision to trust myself with him. I had to talk to someone about my battered emotions. I had to get help for PTSD. I am so glad I had friends to help me along the way. Encouraging Friend prayed with me, she cried with me and she sent me notes of encouragement. Practical Friend dug deep into my wounded soul and spread the balm of authentic friendship and love over the pain she found there. I am forever in these two ladies’ debt – they saved my life.

Dear one, know that you are NOT damaged goods. With time and help, you will be free again, you will be whole again and you will be able to love again. Give yourself the grace and time to heal. Hugs!! Stay tuned. . . .

(The photo at the top of this post is a white trillium – a wildflower common in the mountains of this part of the country. It is beautiful and, to me, it represents the purity of hope.)

Everyone is Different

After ex’s initial foray into adultery, I began seeing a counselor. I saw her on and off for the next 10 years plus and into my divorce. When I finally divorced, she told me that on average it takes women two-and-a-half to three years to get over a divorce. It took me the better part of five years before I was finally able to let go of the pain of the divorce. It wasn’t until I saw another counselor for help with PTSD that I finally felt free of ex.

I remembered what the first counselor told me and I kept thinking, “Why can’t I get over this? Why is it taking me so long? She said between two and three years!” Sometimes, I felt hopeless. Then I realized that everyone is different.

For some women it may take less time to get over a divorce. For others, it will take longer. Why? I think your healing time depends on the size of your wound. One is able to recover from a paper cut much quicker than one is able to recover from a broken leg or major surgery. What happened in your marriage determines the amount of time it will take to heal from the divorce. If you experienced any kind of abuse – physical, mental, emotional, financial, verbal – it will take you longer to heal because abuse not only hurts your body, it hurts your soul. If you were in a co-dependent relationship, as I was, it will take a while to heal because you have to cut the chords that bind you to ex. You have to figure out a new ‘normal’. If you were betrayed through infidelity, it will take you some time to learn to trust again.

How long it takes you to heal from your divorce is up to you – no one else. There are three ways that I experienced (and continue to experience) healing from my divorce:

1. Support: I had two amazing friends who walked with me through the yucky years after my divorce. Cycle Dude was also there, but I kept as much of the yuck from him as I could. I did not burden him with how I was feeling. That was my baggage to get rid of before we got serious. I encourage you to find a support group or a couple of close friends who will be encouragers, accountability partners, and prayer warriors for you and with you.

2. Professional Help: Sometimes I just needed someone to tell me I was not crazy and would not run off the edge of the world. Sometimes I just needed someone to be objective, someone who didn’t really know me, to let me know it would be okay. Divorced women do indeed fight PTSD. Get help to heal.

3. An outlet: I journaled, I wrote poetry, I walked my dogs, I listened to music. If you keep everything that you are feeling bottled up inside of you, you will make yourself sick. He is not worth the price of your health. Physical activity is a good way to work off stress and anger. Getting your thoughts down on paper is a good way to decrease their negative power over you. Find something constructive to do with all that negative energy bound up inside of you. Let it out – but in good ways. You don’t want to hurt yourself (drugs, alcohol, overeating, not eating, etc.) or someone else because of those negative emotions. (Blogging in one of my outlets!) However, if you do find yourself in destructive behavior, please seek professional help immediately!

Remember that your healing journey is very personal – don’t let anyone put a timeline on your recovery. YOU are the one who is walking through this dark time. Dear one, know that you will come out on the other side of this a changed women (and hopefully for the better!). Hugs! Stay tuned. . . .

 

I Know What You’re Feeling

How often do people tell us that or do we tell others that when in reality, we don’t know what they are feeling? I was never physically abused in my marriage, but I was emotionally abused, mentally abused, financially abused. According to Dictionary.com, abuse, as a verb, is defined as:

1. to use wrongly or improperly; misuse:

2. to treat in a harmful, injurious, or offensive way:

3.  to speak insultingly, harshly, and unjustly to or about; revile; malign.

4. to commit sexual assault upon.
(I used boldface and italics in the first two definitions because that is how I experienced abuse in my marriage.)
I know what it feels like when you’re knee-deep in the divorce. You have to see your lawyer which means you have to face ex yet again. He’s stalling or making excuses or not showing up to court at all. You don’t have time for this. You’ve had to take time off work to be in court and ex is being a real jerk. On top of that, his new girlfriend has accompanied him to court. Really?! Or maybe, you’ve been waiting around for him to sign more documents or show up to a court date, but neither his lawyer nor your lawyer can get a hold of him.
I know the frustration of dealing with an ex who is a world-class jerk. I know the humiliation of having him thumb his nose at the court and laugh in your face. I know the desperation of having to find money to pay the bills he refuses to pay or having to scrape by because he refuses to pay court-ordered alimony. I know the feeling when he won’t talk to you, but lets his new girlfriend blast you, call you names, disrespect you because you’re the “psycho-bitch ex-wife”.
I recently told my therapist that I feel better about my life now than I have a long time. For several years, I obsessed over ex – did my children love him and his girlfriend more than they loved me? Would I ever be able to collect the more than $21K he still owes me in alimony? Ex is still out there, but he left the state, so I no longer have to worry about running into him in public. I don’t have to worry about scheduling time with my children so they can see me and their dad in the same day. Six years post-divorce and the bag of cement around my neck labeled, “Mike”, is gone!
You may not feel like it now, but you will get through this time. You will come out on the other side stronger and freer than you have ever been. You will find a better life and a better you. Many women have trudged down this dark, narrow, rocky path. Many women have fallen over unseen obstacles. Many women have picked themselves up and have kept on going. Know that you will survive this time. Take heart, be encouraged and know that things will get better. Stay tuned . . .

Keep Calm and Carry On

According to Wikipedia, “Keep calm and carry on” was a motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939 in order to boost the morale of the British people as they prepared to enter WWII. These days, “Keep calm” posters (mugs, memes, etc.) can be seen all over the place. I have a poster in my office that says, “Keep calm and sing Rocky Top”. One can insert other phrases after “Keep calm and . . . ” – pet your dog, drink tequila, just dance, etc.

I saw another addition to “Keep calm and . . .” that read, “. . . just be you.” You’ve just come out of a divorce, or maybe you’re several years post divorce, and you’re not sure what to do. The years with your ex were painful, but at least they were predictable – you knew he was going to do something. Yet now that you are divorced and alone, your days are anything but predictable. You may be depressed, or suffering from PTSD, or not sure what your next step is. Don’t panic! Keep calm.

Living post divorce is like moving, but you haven’t labeled all the boxes, so you’re not quite sure where everything is. You may feel like you’re sitting in the living room, surrounded by nameless boxes, wondering where the coffee maker and your favorite mug are. Don’t panic, keep calm. In time, this will all make sense. In time, you’ll figure out where everything is, where you are or where you need to be, and how to arrange your life as a single person once again. It will take some time and maybe even some professional help. The new “normal” will take a while to work itself out, but you will get there.

Finding the new normal isn’t always easy. A few things that may help:

1. Let the dust settle from your divorce before making any major decisions: You’ve just been through the wringer emotionally, mentally, physically and financially. It may feel great to finally be rid of ex and all his crap, but you need some time to process this new place in your life. Give yourself the time and the grace to begin healing without putting any added pressure on yourself by making a big decision (like buying another house, car, dating, etc.).

2. Allow yourself some alone time – and be okay with it! Chances are, you’ve been to court several times, seen your lawyer several times, had to take time off work for court, had to spend money you didn’t want to spend, and had to see ex. You’re worn out, especially emotionally. Give yourself some healing time. You just survived a train wreck! If you don’t want to go out with friends right away, that’s okay. If you need some quiet time to yourself, take it.

3. Take stock: You may or may not have lost your house in the divorce battle. You may be living in an apartment after years of living in a house. You may have had to sell some of your possessions to cover the lawyer’s fees. What do you have now? Take stock of your life – physically and emotionally. What do you have right now that you can move forward with? Possessions don’t mean as much as emotional strength does. Stuff is just stuff, but your emotional well-being is crucial. Begin your divorce healing journey with emotional healing. Please don’t hesitate to seek professional help during this time.

4. Take as long as you need to heal: I was told that the average woman takes 2-12 to 3 years to heal after a divorce. I believe that the amount of healing time depends on the length of the marriage and the kind of abuse endured during the marriage. I was married for almost 25 years and my ex was emotionally abusive. I am currently in therapy even though I am 6 years post divorce. Give yourself the grace and the resources to heal.

5. Adventure out only when you’re ready: Several months after my divorce, my oldest son told me, “Mom, just get over it!” It’s not that easy. I would “get over it” on my timetable. It’s been a long six years, but there have been people to help walk through my healing journey. I spent several years in a church doing nothing. I was broken and needed to heal. I did not want to minister out of my brokenness, I just wanted to sit and let the Lord heal me.  Now I am at a place where I feel I am ready to interact in and among others. It has taken me a while to get here, but it did not happen until I felt ready. I did not allow others to force me into doing something I was not ready to do.

“Keep calm and carry on” encourages us to keep going. Yes, bad things can happen, but we need to stay calm and encouraged and move forward. The British people were told, “Yes, all hell is going to break loose, but keep moving forward. Life your life courageously.” Today, keep calm and just be you, move forward and life your life courageously. Stay tuned . . .

PTSD Post-Divorce

I recently came across an article on Huffington Post –  Divorce entitled, “What It’s Like to Suffer PTSD Post-Divorce” by Cathy Meyer (DivorcedMoms.com). I have blogged before about suffering from PTSD after my divorce. I was never diagnosed, but I had all the symptoms. I didn’t recognize what it was, so I never sought treatment. I saw my doctor for depression and was prescribed some antidepressants. Even though the antidepressants helped, I still suffered through PTSD.

Diane, the woman in Cathy’s piece, says:

“I feel as if I’ve been in the middle of a war zone for an extended period of time. I’ve lived with daily fear for years; there has been no relief because some sort of conflict with my ex was always lurking around the corner,” Dana says. “I didn’t have time to process one event before I was dealing with another one.”

I told a friend that I felt battle weary, that I was tired of fighting. Ex was never honest with me. I’d find out what he was up to by getting bills for porn movies on our cable, dirty magazine notices in the mail, adult club charges on our credit card statement. He always denied everything, constantly telling me it was all my fault. I lived like that for close to 25 years.

Diane advises to “know when to give up the fight”. Ex still owes me over $21K in alimony. He defied a court order, fled the state several years later and remarried. Will I ever see a dime of that $21K? Absolutely not! He is not worth the finances nor heartache of pursuing that money. Why? I know when to give up the fight. I have come too far in my divorce healing to let arsehole ex derail it. Diane also states:

“You can’t look to the legal system to protect you and the only way to win over someone who wants you to suffer is to give up the fight. Let it go, your health is more important.”

I am happier now than I’ve ever been. I am gradually working through the PTSD, though it has taken time, journaling, counseling, prayer, and trusting myself. One thing about going through this – the PTSD – is that on the other side, I will be, I am, stronger.

If you are going through, or have recently been through, a divorce and feel you are suffering the symptoms of PTSD (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20022540), I urge you to get help. Go see someone who is trained to help others walk through PTSD. Most employers have a benefit that will allow their employees to see a mental health professional for a certain number of visits for free. Take advantage of that benefit if your employer has it. Join a support group. Speak to your pastor or other clergy member. Like Diane said, “Your health is . . . important.” Stay tuned. . . .

 

Emotional Abuse in the Workplace

I had lunch recently with a former co-worker. He lamented how things are the same as they were when I left the company – he does all the work on a project, then gets it “yanked” for his superior to finish the easy stuff and take credit for the project’s success; he is the first one to get blamed when something goes wrong on a project he is working on even though it isn’t his fault; he gets ‘called into the office’ and yelled at. He does not get any encouragement, any accolades, any positive feedback – everything is negative.

He cannot sleep at night, he is irritable with his family and he wants to leave the company. I don’t blame him. I remember working there. I would get stomach cramps and diarrhea on my way in to work in the morning. I never got any positive feedback. I got ‘put in my place’ several times by another co-worker who wasn’t even my boss.

Emotional abuse happens in the workplace and it is very rarely addressed. Some managers believe that managing with an iron fist or micromanaging are good ways to manage. Wrong. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Managing in a heavy-handed manner, not encouraging or respecting your subordinates, giving only negative feedback – these are ways emotional abuse is occurring all throughout the workplace. No wonder places like Google have thousands of applicants for only a few open positions!

If you are facing emotional abuse at work, then go home to face it from your spouse, you have a double-whammy! One way to get away from the emotional abuse at work is to quit your job and find another. However, that’s not always a choice. Another way management emotionally abuses the workers is to make life difficult for them knowing they cannot quit the job (they are the only person in the household working,or are a single parent supporting children, or a worker lacking skills to get better job, etc.). Management sometimes has the attitude of, “Fine. Go ahead and quit. There’s someone else right behind you, ready to take your job, who won’t say a thing.”

My friend said that he has begun to speak up, to challenge his boss’s boss and he has begun to document everything.I told him to continue speaking up and to hold his own. The abuse will continue until he does something about it. He said he may get fired one of these days for speaking up. No job is worth losing your physical or mental health for.

What do you do if you are in a job like this, but quitting is not an option? File a grievance according to company policy. If that doesn’t work, go over your boss’s head to his boss. If that is not an option or if that does not work, talk to someone in your HR department. If you still do not get any satisfaction, talk to the Legal Aid in your city. Most of all document, document, document! Write down or record the times of abuse.Emotional abuse in the workplace is still abuse. It is something we should not tolerate! Do we tolerate drugs in the workplace? Workplace violence? Absolutely not! Emotional abuse is just as destructive!

I hope my friend will find another job soon. His life is so much more valuable than his job. Stay tuned . . .