Yep, Abuse Is Depressing!

21, May 2011 at 4:09 PM (this is madness, trapped) (, , , , , , , , )

This is not the most focused thing I could have written on the subject. I still find it difficult to describe or impress upon people what a horror show so much of this was, and to some degree I am still experiencing cognitive disassociation, which I was deeply in the habit of exercising during my relationship in an effort to survive it day-to-day. The really important thing I’m trying to get at is that chronic abuse results inevitably in anxiety, depression and stress disorders, and that an abuser only heaps abuse upon abuse when they fault their victim for responding like any person would under such pressure and duress, and worse still justify it by claiming to be the victim of the abused partner’s reactions to being abused. It’s so sick, it’s so frustrating, I still can’t really wrap my mind around how such people can believe their behaviour is acceptable, within the realm of normal treatment of another. I still can’t really wrap my mind around how such people live with themselves. My conscience compels me to act, change, fix if I’ve done something wrong. If an abuser has a conscience, it seems the only thing it does is cause them to do everything in their power to ignore, deceive, and deny– to themselves and everyone around them, including the victim– so they will never have to face their guilt or shame at what they have done.

From Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft, “Is the Way He’s Treating Me Abuse?” (italics in the original, I have bolded and underlined the parts which speak to me especially):

“An abuse counselor says of an abusive client: ‘When he looks at himself in the morning and sees a dirty face, he sets about washing the mirror.’ In other words, he becomes upset and accusatory when his partner exhibits the predictable effects of chronic mistreatment, and then he adds insult to injury by ridiculing her for feeling hurt by him. He even uses her emotional injuries as excuses to mistreat her further. […] If she is increasingly mistrustful of him because of his mistreatment of her, he says that her lack of trust is causing her to perceive him as abusive, reversing cause and effect in a mind-twisting way. If she is depressed or weepy one morning because he tore her apart the night before, he says, ‘If you’re going to be such a drag today, why don’t you just go back to bed so I won’t have to look at you?’

If your partner criticises or puts you down for being badly affected by his mistreatment, that’s abuse. Similarly, it’s abuse when he uses the effects of his cruelty as an excuse, like a client I had who drove his partner away with verbal assaults and then told her that her emotional distancing was causing his abuse, thus reversing cause and effect. He is kicking you when you’re already down, and he knows it. Seek help for yourself quickly, as this kind of psychological assault can cause your emotional state to rapidly decline.”

I remember one morning shortly after waking up, my partner asked me what I was thinking about. Well, I made the mistake of telling him (please note in a relationship with a normal person who is kind and loving, this would never be a mistake). Because of the hours- and hours-long argument the night before about his expressed lack of desire and attraction for me, during which he described parts of my body as “flawed”, “strange”, “weird”, “not like anyone he’s ever seen before” (and he has seen an excessive lot!) and as “having an unattractive quality”, I said, simply, “I’m thinking of how unattractive I am.” I said nothing more, and nothing less.

Instantly, he sat up and he was MAD. And this set off eight hours of non-stop arguing, me trying to defend myself the entire time for simply answering his question, and for why I was thinking about that because of what he said the night before (and for what he showed me our whole relationship, really). For eight hours he sat on or stood next to the bed verbally berating me without pause and punching the bed, himself, and the wall. It was horrifying. By 5.30pm I was curled in a ball on the bed, bawling my eyes out and begging desperately, “Please stop, please! You win, ok? Please stop now!” and still he would not. I couldn’t take it anymore. In addition to feeling indescribably confused, constantly scared and frequently depressed by this relationship, I was mourning from the recent deaths of two feline family members I’d had for almost twenty years since birth, neither of whom I was allowed to grieve because my attention had to be always and only on my partner; the loss of a friendship I had since childhood and other isolations (all due to my partner’s direct interference and manipulation of these relationships); and his non-stop assaults on my ego and personhood. I suggested out loud maybe I should just die. I did not say I wanted to kill myself, I did not say I was going to kill myself, I said, “Well I guess I just have to die.” I guess those were the magic words to make him stop, for instantly he ran from the room, made a phone call, and disappeared out of the house. I later found out he went to a walk-in counseling center, as well as called my childhood friend and another mutual friend of ours. To all of these people he pretended to be concerned about my well-being, and claimed to be the victim of my suicidal threats. He left out the parts about him treating me our entire first year together with neglect, disgust and disdain. He left out the part about how he lied to me and my friends and our mutual friends about how I was supposedly treating him, and what we all “really” think of each other, so that I would have no one to turn to for help or support and was thus left totally isolated and dependent on him and our relationship. And he left out the parts about tearing me apart until 4am all the night before and for eight hours that day literally trapping me in bed with non-stop verbal and physical threats and assaults.

What he left out was that my desperate emotional state was the direct and predictable result his chronic mistreatment. I’ve tried to see this with his eyes, and I just can’t comprehend the cruelty one must have in their heart to look at someone they claim to love, curled up in a fetal position and crying for hours because of the things he was saying to me non-stop all morning, afternoon and into the evening, and keep going, keep ranting, keep blaming, keep yelling, keep leaping up aggressively and punching things, keep digging and digging into her, on, and on, and on, and when she naturally supposes there is no way out except to die, instantly run away from her, lie to others about the whole thing and blame her for all of it in order to solicit sympathy for himself. I can’t see it with his eyes, because I could never that severely lack compassion that I would emotionally and physically torture someone until they were so beaten down and desperate that they didn’t know what else to say except that if they couldn’t get out of the relationship, they feel they have to get out of life. I just can’t fathom the inhumanity, and frankly, I don’t want to.

He rang up a $500 phone bill that month talking to everyone who would listen to him and give him sympathy and advice on how to “deal with me”. To my knowledge– which shocks and disappoints me, actually– not a single person asked, “What’s going on, what is making her feel so upset?” Certainly after talking to him, no one thought perhaps they should call me and ask me directly what was going on with me. Everyone relied entirely on his word, and so no one heard about his abuse. Because no one knew about it, no one told him that he must deal with and change his abusive behaviour, because, as abusive partners typically do, he portrayed himself as the victim of me and “our unhealthy dynamic”. In this way, he ruined friendships I had with people (though my partner insists he portrayed the situation to others accurately, one person was yet influenced to say about me– the one curled up and crying as a result of my partner’s constant barrage of verbal and physical violence– “what a bitch!”), he further isolated me, strained our financial situation, and gained support for his damaging behaviour which, as a result, continually increased in severity and frequency after every contact with his “support” network (see: Abusive Men and Their Allies)– little do they know what they were really supporting. To this day, he claims that he would not have “had to” do those things if I wouldn’t have been depressed and argumentative (abusive partners always say their mistreatment was justified, that if the victim had not done XYZ, he would not have “had to” behave abusively: if I was not depressed, he would not have “had to” ruin my friendships, isolate me, strain our finances, and seek support for his behaviour; notice that what caused me to become depressed– chronic mistreatment and abuse– is totally erased, “reversing cause and effect in a mind-twisting way”). To this day he claims he had no other choice in his course of action. I maintain he had a choice: he could have chosen not to abuse me.

For eight months I continued to make payments on this bill. Every month I still felt angry, frustrated and resentful about it because the issues that led up to and surrounded it never got resolved (and in fact only got worse the more enabled, entitled, and justified he felt he was). He never acknowledged he was treating me in any way abusively, or even poorly; he wouldn’t even acknowledge that I felt mistreated. He continues to the present day to use my normal responses to being treated abusively as leverage in turning or keeping people away from me and focused on his experience and needs. To show just how incapable he is of having even the slightest understanding of how traumatised I was/am by his behaviour and actions throughout our relationship, to this day he claims he is damaged by the phrase, “You spent $500 to talk shit behind my back”–  this was my phrase (and it’s plenty of other people’s too) for someone who calls other people and misrepresents, lies about or discredits someone else, in order to seek attention and sympathy from others while turning them against the person they’re badmouthing. He complains and provides as evidence of my “damaging mistreatment” of him that this phrase about a phone bill will be “forever burned into his brain” (one should note that he does not accuse T-Mobile of damaging him for saying he made these calls, nor does he accuse T-Mobile of abusing him by expecting him to pay for it)– I envy his complaint. What is forever burned into my brain is his abuse and emotional cruelty, being kicked while I was already down, being blamed for his behaviour and choices, the reality-twisting (he did ring up a $500 phone bill, there is no way of denying that!), the neglect, the violence, the untold hours spent defending myself, sticking up for myself, and trying and failing to get him to see me as a human being who does not deserve to be treated with abuse. I would like it very much if all that was burned into my brain was a factual statement about something I did indeed do.

But he wants to compare his experience with mine, compete about who had it worse, whose emotions are most negatively affected by which of us said what. I admit I said “he spent $500 to talk shit behind my back”, I have never denied that. I said it in anger, I said it in frustration and resentment. The statement does not attack his character nor does it threaten his emotional or bodily safety, or even our relationship. The statement does not make him feel like he has to die to escape hearing it. He admits nothing: he does not admit he said things about how I look to him which impact my confidence and self-esteem; he does not admit physically threatening me; he does not admit trapping me, verbally berating me and wearing me down; he does not admit withholding support or comfort for the deaths of my two cats; he does not admit interfering with my relationships with friends or isolating me; he does not even admit that $500 to T-Mobile was a waste of money. He admits nothing. He looked at me begging for relief from his attacks and kept on and on with them until I felt like the only escape was to die, and sees nothing whatever wrong with having pushed me there. He firmly believes my anxiety, depression and desperation were the result of my personal flaws and weaknesses and since there was nothing in the world he did wrong, there’s nothing in the world he need have done differently (I have a letter which says so). I believe this extreme inability to empathise with or have compassion for another person is called “psychopathic”, but it is little comfort to me to understand this relationship in terms of the possibility that there might be in him a serious mental illness at play.

One of the last times we were in bed together, after yet another several weeks like the day I describe above, he asked me to put my arms around him. I hesitated. I said I wanted to, but I don’t trust him, I don’t know what he’s going to “do” with a gesture of affection from me. He said I should not think about later, I should just think about the present moment. I felt so weak, I felt so lonely and hurt, so I did as he asked. He was happy and he said, “I need this.” I asked him what “this” meant and what he needed it for. He needs my affection, he said, “in order to feel connected” to me. That scared me. I thought back to all the days like the one I described above. It sounded like he was hinting: if I don’t give him affection, he’ll disconnect– and I already know, if he disconnects, he will cease to see me or treat me like a human being with feelings; so if I don’t give him affection, he’ll abusively dehumanise me to the point where I’d rather be dead than be treated that way another minute. Perhaps when I was feeling unattractive because he told me I was, treated me like I was, perhaps the instant he got mad, I should have turned and given him my affection? So he could feel “connected to me”? Is that what it would have taken for him to see me as a real, live, and suffering human being, and not continue to abuse me? I don’t function that way, I’m not going to hug someone who spent all night telling me how unattractive and undesirable I am, and certainly I cannot hug someone who is abusing me, even if it would stop them– nor should I have to.

And all the hours and all the days and all the nights and months I saw nothing but the back of his head because without my affection he “couldn’t connect to” me… since I found it impossible to be affectionate with someone who was abusing me, he punished me with total withdrawal, always threatening our relationship (and therefore my and my son’s food and shelter since I was by that time so wrecked with anxiety and depression that I had become financially dependent on him) by living with one foot out the door, in his mind it’s all my fault because I didn’t hug him enough, really? I will never get over his sense of entitlement (cuz hey, why wouldn’t a woman shower him with affection, for no apparent reason, regardless of his treatment of her?). When he said, “I need this… in order to feel connected to you” it sounded like a threat: “Hug me or else I’ll ignore you in every conceivable way”, “Agree with me or else I’ll throw things and punch everything around you”, “Praise me or else I’ll verbally attack everything you believe in and like about yourself”, “Love me without question or hesitation or else I’ll destroy everything you have until you have nothing and no one and nowhere to go except to me.”

What a nightmare it was living with him.

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On Trial – Verdict

7, April 2011 at 6:43 PM (conflicted, this is madness, trapped) (, , , , , )

Ok, I know it makes little sense for me to “put myself on trial” and think I can come up with an objective “verdict”. But we’re not actually dealing here with written laws and courts of justice. We’re dealing with just one presumably confused, angry, defensive man making a strong accusation against the partner who terminated the relationship. I cannot, of course, totally know if I’ve asked myself every question possible, or in the exact right way; I too am confused and feeling (self-)defensive (after all, I am the accused). For days I have been looking over what I wrote, and it’s clear that for a while anyways it is going to be a living document, something I keep wordsmithing, adding to, and considering, never quite reaching a state of being completely finished. I can only try to be fair to myself and to him, but that does not mean I have accomplished that perfectly or even well. Even so, I declare myself not guilty of the charge that I coerced him into feeling vulnerable/talking to me.

I’ve read every word of it ten-hundred times. When my mind becomes overfull or over-familiar with the details, or when trying to consider the issues from every possible perspective results in befuddlement, a generality about this thing or that thing starts to emerge. I think of what could have been done instead. I think I see where he or I went wrong. It’s true, I have not captured every single argument, every single response, every single thing that I ever said or did in the last two years. I don’t think that would even be possible. So maybe I did at times at my absolute limit of panic or frustration say something like he has to leave, I can’t take it or deal with him anymore, get out get out get out! So while looking over all these questions and answers, I just know that if he were reading them he’d think of the one time I said X and the one time I did Y. Imagining his objections doesn’t so much keep my attempt to represent the truth of the matter in check as it does cause me to feel paranoid that if I haven’t perfectly remembered or represented everything, then I leave myself vulnerable to being judged a hypocrite. Ugh, his arguments arguments arguments, they’re like all the little bumpers in a pinball machine shooting every thought I try to have in other directions– and I have multiple balls going at once. I can’t get his arguments and objections out of my head. I can’t think. Slow down.

So what was I trying to say above… before I started to “hear” him object to where I was going, I was going to say the exception does not prove the rule. So I admit I may have forgotten to ask myself about something in particular, or I may not have included the times I did not selflessly hand the choice to leave the house or relationship over to him, but still it is true that I never used violence or threats to make him talk to me against his will. And for the record, on the occasions I needed him to leave the house, he just looked at me without expression, told me nothing but to give him a few minutes to get his stuff together, and he’d be gone. I had and I have no impression that he felt anything more than inconvenienced by my request or command to leave. Like it says in the “transcript”, only once did he object to being asked to leave; the reasons he gave were he had a right to stay because he was paying rent, and his parents were going to get sick of him going over there. I couldn’t argue with the first reason, so he stayed. But what I’m trying to get at is, I could not have known or even been so bold as to presume that he would have minded leaving our relationship at all, and so I could not have known or even been so bold as to presume that being asked or told to leave the house and/or relationship caused him to feel in any way pressured to talk to me. Certainly asking or even telling him to leave never resulted in him talking to me, so I still think his accusation is unfounded.

But that wasn’t what I was trying to say above, either. Oh how eagerly I await the day his incessant arguing fades from my mind and I am able to complete a thought without having to stop mid-stream to defend myself for having a thought (and without having to stop mid-stream to defend why I stopped mid-stream, and so on ad infinitum).

I had wanted to say something about emerging generalities or things which could have been done differently.

The first thing I thought of after reviewing the part about having an image of him which he didn’t agree with or have of himself was this looks like a guy who needed reassurance. Most of what we were discussing here were his, erm, extreme lot and variety of experiences with, erm, the sexual objectification of women. This is a subject which has made him have to re-evaluate how he sees himself, what kind of guy he is, what kind of person he is, what his beliefs and ethics are, what kinds of choices he makes, and what effect it has all had on him and/or his relationships and/or ability to create intimacy in a relationship and/or how he expresses himself sexually. Big stuff, no doubt about that. For me, this subject has made me have to think about the same things about him, whether I can or should remain involved with someone who has done what he has done, what it means to or about me and my ethics and beliefs to do so, how it makes me feel about myself as a female PERSON, how it feels to be looked at by him, whether he can be attracted to me, in what ways/why he is attracted to me, how it all just makes me feel to be with him sexually. Just a bunch of scary stuff. So I began by saying this looks like a guy who needed reassurance, and the thought occurred to me last night while reviewing that section, maybe I should have just said “I still love you” at the end of those conversations. But I have to be honest. I could not have done that. Certain things I heard caused me to feel all kinds of unpleasant things: fear, disgust, insecurity, anger, LOSS, etc. I could not pretend to have not heard what I heard, or stack it neatly on some other shelf for later consideration so I could whip up the necessary altruism to say, it’s ok, I still love you. I’d be reeling, sometimes I was shocked, my mind was racing around what it MEANS and if he can POSSIBLY be in any way attracted to me or even thinking of me (and just me) during private moments, us together or him alone. Obviously, I needed reassurance too! So some other jury can decide who needed it more or more immediately or who needed to be the big person and offer it first. All I can say is, I could not have spoken the words, “I still love you” in the middle of or after talking about these subjects. And let us not forget, getting to talk about those subjects was already a struggle for me, so I was starting from an already shut-out place. 😦 I guess I hoped making him a nice dinner the next day or trying to engage him in a conversation about other things (movies or books or whatever) showed I still loved him and wanted to be with him, but the only thing which could have reassured me is an overwhelming display of his sexual attraction to and desire for ME. And I can’t say I ever saw that but maybe once. And I’m still being generous, because never could the display be described as overwhelming. 😳

The other general thing that emerges concerns boundaries. If my former partner were not so hell-bent on vilifying me, perhaps he could have taken responsibility for himself enough to own what the problem really was: his lack of or inability to create boundaries and/or communicate them effectively and/or to enforce or adjust their borders when and if necessary/possible/desireable. I “hear” him here in my mind protesting that I couldn’t possibly know anything at all about him (yeah well it’s not like I didn’t try), or how I don’t get to “decide” for him what he’s really saying (even despite that the demand he made of me most often was to ignore what he said and imagine what he meant?), but the coercion accusation is so blaming/blame-shifting and so aggressive and so unfounded that there has to be something else behind it. So here I am once again, taking on the tremendously difficult and thankless job of going beyond the pain to see what is really at issue.

According to his own “testimony”– things he told me while we were together– he has never been a person with boundaries. He describes “losing himself” in other people. Is this my fault? No. In contrast, I was a person who knew just where my fixed ones were, where my flexible ones were, and where I didn’t have any at all– and I was able to talk about them up and down: where they came from, how they developed or changed, why some will never move and how I know that, what it would take for me to feel comfortable adjusting others, etc. As far as I understood, I was being very healthy and a good communicator. Except what happened was that over and over again my boundaries were disrespected and/or outright violated, sometimes in pretty extreme and unacceptable ways. He always had some reason, some explanation, and those reasons and explanations were always couched in how much he loved me and how hard he’s trying to be good to me. Well, that was confusing. So it was that slowly, slowly, my boundaries just started falling apart or disappearing altogether. Especially the one that says there can be no violence– physical, verbal, or psychological– in my life. Eventually I became just some bowl of mush who was putting up with all kinds of things I never put up with before in my life, nor ever would have predicted I’d put up with, because I was afraid. No, I didn’t run around a quiet, helpless little mouse, I did my damnedest to be heard. I am not proud at all of having become loud, desperate, or angry. I couldn’t get anything out of him, so I couldn’t tell where my boundaries were anymore, or where he stood in relation to them, well, I guess I just feel like I didn’t know what I even was anymore. Obviously, this is not good. I was lost as fuck, I don’t know what else to say? And the more walls and boundaries he put up, and the less I knew why or what it meant, I just got more and more and more scared. He is going to leave me, he doesn’t love me, he is hardening himself to me so that it will be easier to bail. The person I used to be, the person who would tell that guy, hey man, this is going nowhere and I’m not getting anything out of it so let’s just call it quits— I don’t know where she went. Having lost all my boundaries, I was suddenly in a schism with someone who had just developed tons of them, all over, most of which were invisible (not communicated) to me. This is not good either. I guess all that can be said at the end of the day was we both had some boundaries problems going on.

I am having a really hard time with this particular entry in trying to make sense of things, trying to give it some sort of structure or focus, trying to come to some sort of conclusion I can wrap up with a neat little bow. But some things just don’t lend themselves well to tidy conclusions… well, what more can be said than that. Maybe only that when I look at these three “trial” posts, I can see how crazy-defensive I’ve become during this relationship. 😦 I suppose this is where I’m expected to say it will be alright. He’s gone. He can’t hurt me anymore. But that isn’t helping right this second, I just feel lost.

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