Learning to Breathe Again…

Breathing. taking air in and expelling it.  An involuntary action that sustains life.

Sometimes this process, in the figurative sense, gets suppressed. And it kills you on the inside.  For me, this time, it wasn’t until I felt I was breathing again, that I noticed I had been being suffocated for some time.

From an outsider’s point of view, my just under two year relationship seemed fairytale-like.  And it was in some form.  I was swept off my feet.  I was grieving and had no intention of sugar-coating that when it started.  I fully intended to keep my grieving process going…both with Matt passing 4 months before…and Mike 3 years prior.  He seemed to respect that and allowed me to weep, reminisce and pay tribute to them when I needed.  He anticipated every need I had…even before I recognized my own needs.

I was greeted, after work surprisingly in my car, with photos of my grandbaby that I had taken that he had printed and framed…because I mentioned when I took it that it was worthy of framing.  My hair dryer broke just before work one day and I found a brand new one in my vehicle after my shift.  It seemed every time I turned around, a want or need was fulfilled.  I can honestly say that it stayed that way until almost nearly the end…at some point he checked out the last few months and I felt myself starting to have needs that were unfulfilled and slowly started to stand on my own two feet.  I hadn’t had to do that in a while.

It happened so gradually and subtly that I did not notice…I no longer had to worry about things.  Rides for kids…trips to the grocery store……laundry…keeping the pool clean. You name it.  If I mentioned it, he made it his job to do it.  I found I had to be careful of thinking out loud of a want because it became a mission for him to fulfill it.

Sounds like a dream come true, right?  I thought so, too.

You feel what you focus on.

This came at a price, though.  There was an anger there.  Not all the time.  And there was no telling when it would surface.  The in-between times were fun, adventurous, romantic, sexy. Nothing is perfect, right?  No one is perfect.  He loses his temper sometimes.  He gets jealous.  He looks through my phone.  He spies on my facebook messenger…at communications long before him.  He hurt me.  Physically.  But I was assertive about these things…I addressed what I felt was wrong and forgave. I demanded resolutions.  Counseling, etc. I focused on the positive and let the shortcomings go.  I was strong, spoke my mind and carried on.  He was to fix what was broken.  And all along there was a plan of action to take care of that.

What I didn’t realize, until removing myself from the situation (at the demand of the local police…which is still in effect) was that I was being controlled by a person that never told me to “Do this” or “You cannot do that”.  I was controlled due to my empathy.  I could see reactions to certain situations.  Going out with friends, talking or texting on the phone…sometimes weren’t met with favorable behaviors.  So, I learned to act in ways that had more favorable outcomes.  Like staying home.  Which was not a punishment for me…I LOVE being home with my family, playing games and such.  It wasn’t a sacrifice to do this.  It’s not until now I realize how isolated I became.  I wasn’t even going to the grocery store anymore…I would start my list and he would insist on getting everything for me.  I could do something for me…nap if I wanted.

The first bit of anger scared me.  It was out of jealousy.  Of a dead person.  It confused me because the reason I opened him into my life was due to his understanding of this part of me.  Slowly, I was stifled of my openness with my grieving.  Pictures even eventually became a problem and I dealt with it the best way I could.  I have picked up where I was in that grieving process and am continuing my journey.

The next bit of anger scared me more…and left me bruised.  This was not my first rodeo with this type of behavior.  I explained I knew how these types of situations escalate.  It’s like building blocks.  Stacking one situation on top of another and it always gets a little more extreme each time.  This relationship was no exception.

I did not just lay down and take it. Well, in the heat of the moment…I did whatever I could to de-escalate the situation. But when heads were clear, I made it known it was unacceptable…demanding he get help…and now I see I tried to see what behaviors I contributed to and tried to not duplicate it.  Even innocent and unassuming actions.  I became hyper-aware of every step I took to not aggravate any situation.  Not fun.  Not easy.  I wasn’t breathing.

I became stifled.  I was walking on eggshells.  I was me and enjoying what I chose to focus on…my beautiful family and the positive sides of a dysfunctional romance.  But, I was left broken on many occasions…physically a few times.  I was left shattered, eventually.  And so remorseful that I subjected my children to another loss.

It’s hindsight that has me shaking my head that even though I was trying to be strong and fix problems when I saw them arise, that I still let the abuse and control continue.

I am beginning to breathe again.  I am no longer having to pull into the drive way not sure what mood I am about to encounter.  I am taking care of me and the children and not worrying about being scrutinized.  I am emerging from my home and meeting with friends and am communicating, innocently, with people I had cut-off, so to make life easier.  I am self reflecting as to how I let myself get to where I was…and how to never return.

I am breathing.  I am healing.  And every day it’s feeling better and better.

 

 

 

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IMO

As I close my bowser’s window on an article highlighting Matt Lauer and the scandal surrounding him, I find myself getting pissed off again.  I know, I know…there are actual individuals here in this sexual harassment/misconduct movement that were very wrongly treated.  The people who wronged them should be reprimanded and removed from their positions if they took advantage of their power.  I get that and I am not unsympathetic to that.  I just find myself shaking my head with a look of disgust… not at the alleged perpetrators, but the society we live in that views the so-called victims…well…as victims.

I feel people are likening and confusing harassment with abuse.  There are two totally different worlds here, kids.  There are many unfair situations we all encounter…it’s called life.  “I felt I was under his spell”. Are you flipping kidding me??!!  You are damning a person because they were cunning and you were smitten by them?  Take some responsibility for your actions that you slept with a married man…consensually!!! As a twenty-something!  Not a child.  For the love of…

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So, I sit here self reflecting…as anyone knows me knows that’s where I spend a good chunk of my time.  Why is this hitting a nerve?  Why do I repeatedly find myself so agitated at the situation.  I am usually able to see both sides of an argument, regardless of where I stand…and not get mad about the other side’s views, we are all entitled to them.  I have tried to find what’s relatable to me in these stories and allegations.

The only thing I can come to is that I, myself, have been wrongly treated.  Not in the ways that that are being highlighted…well, I mean yes.  I have been inappropriately addressed.  I have had comments about my boobs, butt…sexual advances.  So what? I ignored, rolled my eyes, sometimes uncomfortably laughed…and walked away and moved on with my day.  Life isn’t always comfortable. When I say that I have been wrongly treated, I am talking about wrongly treated in the way that you can’t just move on with your day.

Now, we all have different levels of tolerance to what we accept, so there really is a gray area as to when someone is crossing the line.  It’s up to us, as adults, to create the line for those around us. And let it be known, one way or another, that it has been crossed.  Like, at the time it happens, not a decade down the road.

Where there is no gray and no expectance of parameters being stated, is when you are dealing with a child.  I was a child once, that you could say was harassed. I was not abused. There was a sexual advance.  My family, for the most part, does not know this (and don’t even try fam, I won’t say more than I am saying here), but I was targeted  by a trusted adult before I was even in my teens…to have sex with them.  I don’t remember the exact words, I remember exactly how I felt though.  I remember exactly where and when.  There was no physical force, the words, though, were very manipulative and were meant to make me trust them more.  That it was the right thing to do.  I was ready, they were sure of it.  And they tried to convince me of it.  And, if not at that moment, they were to be my first…I deserved that, they said.  For it to be with someone that loved me, them.

Well, they weren’t my first, second or anywhere on my list, but they shaped who was.  They shaped how I viewed sex, what it meant, when it should happen.  They, without touching me, took away the innocence of a little girl.  I couldn’t be more proud of my pre-teen self to know better at that point.  She had a moral compass right then, even if it got altered along the way after that…because of that.

I am left reflecting how else I was wronged.  Not harassed, but really wronged.  In my opinion, anyway. Oh, I have a million examples of how people have been rude, said nasty things, people stealing my parking spots when I CLEARLY had my directional on that I was turning there…

But really wronged. So that it still hurts to the core when I think about it. Not just annoyed or verbally violated by a co-worker.  Pain.  My oldest, James, was with me.  We were at Dana Farber in Boston.

Earlier on that day, I received the call.  I had gone to the White Mountains by myself.  That’s where I go to find peace. My youngest child’s father, Mike, had passed away a few years prior and I spread his ashes along the Kancamagus.  I went there to be close to him and to “talk” to him.  I had out loud asked Mike if he would take care of Matt up there in Heaven…show him around….if that ended up being Matt’s fate to join him.

Matt was my boyfriend of just over a year who was battling leukemia.  He  had been through hell with the disease.  I stood by as his cheerleader, and he knocked the sucker into remission, for a time.  The relapse was brutal, emotionally and physically. As was the stem cell transplant he had endured months prior.  I was there for nearly all doctor’s appointments.  And stays he had in Boston, I was back and forth religiously.  Any infusions or transfusions locally, I kept him company.  I wanted to be there, and he wanted me there.  Things went downhill pretty fast over the course of a couple weeks, landing him in the ICU in Dover for a few days.  I arrived first thing in the morning there on the last day, so I could be there for rounds with the doctors.  I was the only one there and when I walked in, I immediately knew things were different.  There was some red medical bag on the couch.  His breathing was more labored.  All the chairs were moved away from him.  I kept looking for the doctors though the glass wall of his room.  Finally, the female doctor came in and ultimately told me that they didn’t feel comfortable caring for him any more in Dover and they were med-flighting him to Boston, but first they were going to intubate him.  Life support.  The room spun.  I was just a few doors down from the room Mike was in, almost exactly three years prior, that I held him as he took his last breaths being taken off of life support. I asked the doctor if she had called his parents, and she said she hadn’t.  I told her I would go call his mother.  I recall sitting on the floor of the ICU bathroom because I didn’t have the legs to stand when I told her.  The family came in the waiting room one by one.  And most came in not warm to me.  I don’t know, to this day, why there was such iciness.  I don’t know if they thought I had told them to intubate, or…I don’t even know.

Matt was flown, I went home and got the kids situated and drove down and spent the rest of the day.  When there, the family decided I wasn’t welcome in the room to talk with the doctors anymore.  I was at nearly EVERY doctors appointment, usually just me and Matt…and there were tons, but suddenly, I was not involved.  It was explained to me that they didn’t want Matt’s ex, the mom of his two kids, in the room because she was too unstable, so this was the only way it was fair.  I didn’t agree, but didn’t argue, I went in the room with him when I could and returned home that night.  A good friend sensed me not able to sleep and greeted me with a coffee in my driveway in the wee hours and chauffeured me back to Matt before it was even light.  The doctors said that it would be that way, unconscious and intubated for days before we knew anything.  So, the next day I took myself for a breather to the Kancamagus.

Then the call.

They were taking Matt off life support.  I don’t know what the doctors actually said, so I don’t know about the decision and if I agree it was the right time. I said I was on my way.  His Mom told me not to hurry, that it would be a while.  I made my way back through Rochester and my eldest greeted me and took the wheel to accompany me the rest of the way to Boston (Thank you, kiddo!).

Then the final slap in the face.  We walked into the waiting room and the Mom explained to me that only immediate family was welcomed in with Matt.  I, who took every chance I could to be there for him, more than anyone else there (his Dad excluded), was not allowed in to even say goodbye.  Not even for 5 seconds to give him a kiss on the forehead.  I just traveled from the mountains to the city to get lumped in the waiting room of everyone who dearly loved him, yet wasn’t close enough to see him.  My every good morning and goodnight was going to die, and I couldn’t say goodbye.  That right there…is being wronged.

(I am clearly still working through this.  That went on far longer than I expected. My blog, my therapy.  Thank you for coming along with me.)

So, we’ve hit on the indecent sexual advances, being wronged, now abuse.

This both brings me way back and also brings me to today.  As much as it would be therapeutic to go into detail with circumstances, there are still children intertwined with my experience with this topic, so I will keep the details light.  My first marriage ended horribly.  I was young and thought things would eventually even out after time…but, the fact is that we were married just under a year.  The last night we were together had me running out of the house in just a t-shirt and panties in the middle of the night in fear for my life.  I was left bruised, not for the first time, and heartbroken.   And my most recent relationship didn’t end much differently.

Now, I know it’s not all about me.  But my life and my experiences are what I have to draw from.  In my opinion, and you are allowed to have yours, is that inappropriate advances, looks, slaps on the ass are wrong, but they are not abuse.  They are not even close to being on the same playing level of being wronged.

I think I have processed my anger with this situation splashed all over the media.  There are people out there that have had horrible things happen to them, much worse than myself.  It frustrates me that people are boo-hooing over what is actually, sad but true, just a part of life.  Toughen up, set your boundaries, and hold people accountable WHEN they are being an ass or making bad decisions…including yourself.