A Re-emergence

Five months is a long time to disappear and I must apologize. Not that anyone really missed me, as evidenced by the visits but I don’t blame you. I changed my email address and believe it or not forgot all about my blog. That and life just got in the way, albeit with my permission. So here I am, re-emerging once again. And as a stronger, more confident version of myself. Much has changed in the last five months.

First and foremost, I underwent therapy from February until July twice a week for an hour each session. That’s 48 sessions and 96 hours of therapy. I rarely missed a session if I could help it, even going so far as to do a couple appointments over the phone. We made some great progress and I dealt with some really important issues.

In May our lease was up and we had to move. At the same time, school ended for our two kids, my real estate business was in full swing, and my stepdaughter decided to move back home with her mother (and back into an abusive situation). At 19 that was her choice and to be honest, we were relieved to see her go. We were relieved to be free of the drama, and her verbal abuse of us and the kids.

We moved into a hotel for two months while our rental town home was being renovated and then in mid-June, an uninsured driver rear-ended me on the highway. To say life came to a grinding halt would be an understatement. I was so injured that I couldn’t function for the first week after the accident. My fledgling real estate business fell apart and then was put sort of on hold. I entered physical therapy for neck, back, and shoulder injuries. Two bulged disks, a spine twisted in three placed and a messed up hip kept me very occupied.

Due to pressing financial concerns from the car accident and being unable to work combined with an opportunity so good I would be stupid to turn it down, I started a new job on July 20. That’s restored a lot of balance and stability to life and is part of why I’m able to write at all. I don’t write well under stress and financial worries will kill that in a heartbeat. Now, thirty days into my new job, two real estate closings under my belt, and physical therapy progressing, I’m ready to dive back into all things writing related. I will soon start working with a writing coach on my novel and can’t wait to get started.

So that’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll pick this back up again on a regular basis. Right now though I’m off to pick up hubby-to-be from work. And eat. And go to bed to get up at 6 a.m. for work tomorrow.

Living Life Fully

Not too long ago I received a beautiful comment from one of my readers who was struggling with some family issues surrounding abuse. It made me realize what a long way I have come in my life, in only 35 years total. My journey toward living life fully started when I was freed at eighteen by my father who kicked me out on my 18th birthday. And I am going to share some of the pivotal moments as well as a nostalgic look back from where I am now. The journey has been long, but it has been so worth it.

Yes, it was the cruelest thing in the world to be kicked out at 18. I was a junior in high school, with no job and only a $1,000 CD as my savings. I became homeless and overnight had to begin taking care of myself in a way that I wasn’t ready to do. But looking back, 17 years later, it was the first of many steps toward breaking free of the abuse cycle. It called upon an inner core of strength that had been tested my whole life and was strong enough to handle it. Today, I look around me and I see many other young people today who are completely unprepared for life, let alone the many trials you will face along the way. My eighteen year old stepdaughter is in almost the same exact situation I was at her age yet she is completely incapable of figuring things out for herself. I realized recently that I have more than just a core of strength, but resilience and a willingness to just get it done. It’s a unique combination that includes a bullheaded refusal to be beaten by life or by anyone else.

Another pivotal moment happened shortly after that, when I realized I was not learning anything from high school. Up until that point, I had just done what I was told, and breezing through high school. It wasn’t that I was a genius but I am definitely smarter than the average. I could pass almost all my classes without studying – everything just came easily to me, with the exception of math. I was, quite frankly, bored. Fortunately my guidance counselor at my new school recognized that intelligence and encouraged me to enroll in a co-op program and computer classes. I was instantly fascinated. By the time I dropped out of high school my first week of my senior year, I had marketable skills that were heavily in demand. I took and passed my GED without even studying (I was naive enough at that time to not realize I needed to).

This set the stage for me to pursue education and learn new skills in unconventional ways.  As a result I self studied for my securities licenses and developed even more life skills in addition to a new career. My unconventional career has given me the courage to pursue an entrepreneurial career, affording significant freedom. Where my peers agonize over whether to leave their comfy desk jobs and stable pay checks, I manage to combine both which has the added benefit of giving me the variety and challenge I thrive on.

The one area I have struggled with until recently is relationships. Of all the the areas of my life, relationships have confused me the most. I have spent countless hours in therapy trying to understand people. In that process I have learned some really 

An Update

Boy, life sure can be busy sometimes. The last two months have been hectic and filled with milestones and setbacks. I have returned to therapy in an effort to untangle some of the issues from my ex husband. Valentine’s Day I finally replaced my car with a 2011 Toyota Camry that I just love. Having a vehicle again has really helped to restore my confidence.

I’m trying desperately once again to get into some kind of routine. Somehow, managing 3 kids plus trying to have multiple careers is really hard. I have a great partner but at the same time, he’s not here a lot of the time which means just about everything falls on me: bills, groceries, child care, medical, financial. And lately, the stress has been overwhelming me to the point that I spent five days with a migraine and ended up in the ER. Fortunately, they gave me a nice “headache cocktail” and I was back on my feet the next day. Turns out, they’ve made a lot of progress with understanding migraines in the last ten years.

Everyone in the ER was very considerate – they made sure the lights were dimmed, tried to keep things quiet for me and most of all, got me meds just as soon as possible. They also gave me a CT scan to make sure nothing was wrong and thankfully that was clear. The migraine was severe enough at one point we thought I might have had a stroke. Turns out it was just the pain muddling my brain a little. I was having trouble remembering things, concentrating, and even got lost several times trying to get home.

At this point I’m under instructions from my doctors that when a headache starts, no matter how mild, I’m to immediately take pain medication. Once the pain reaches a certain level, it will require hospital intervention but if I can get to it fast enough, I can avoid another trip to the ER. So I start with a mild drug and work my way up from there. If still no relief then I call 911 again but after what happened last week, I’d really rather avoid that.

It really was a cluster. I was at home alone with the kids, who were outside playing. I reached the point that I was almost incoherent with the 911 operator (although I do remember calling), and by the time the ambulance and EMS arrived I was completely incoherent, unable to stand unassisted and had to be wheeled down the stairs. Talk about an embarrassing drama! They even had to call the police department to come watch my kids for a little while.

I am thankful that it wasn’t too serious, although at the time it felt like my head was going to split apart. In terms of pain, the first migraine was a 20 on a scale of ten. In comparison, the second migraine was a 10/10. Still bad but not nearly as scary. At this point we’ve attributed the migraines to a combination of severe stress, too much driving, and dehydration. So I’m working hard to take better care of myself in all ways physical, mental and emotional.

That starts with having a semblance of a schedule that I can stick to. And it includes writing for at least 15 minutes a day, even if it’s just doing a blog entry. So today I am starting simply with a blog post. I might try to do a little fiction writing in a bit once the kids are asleep. I have a fantasy short story I want to write for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction or Asimov’s Science Fiction. If it’s published then I hope to submit it to my favorite podcast, PodCastle. It would be my first submission under my new pen name. Hopefully the writing will go well.

I am still working on getting my real estate license and hope to take the text in the next 30 days. The sooner I can get that particular career off the ground, the better. Although I fear it may bring about its own set of problems and stresses. Like having an appropriate wardrobe. But I’ll deal with that when it gets here.

In any case, off to try and write and then maybe play a little Guild Wars 2.

Lessons I Learned (or Remembered) in 2014

Today is my 35th birthday and for the first time in a long time, I’m both humbled and grateful for my life. Nine months ago I made the difficult decision to tear my life apart, which is by far one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do. In the last nine months, as I’ve worked to rebuild my life from the ground up, I’ve had moments of doubt, fear and pain that brought me to my knees. But it has also helped me to learn and remember some wisdom, which I’m going to share with you now.

Fight with All Your Might For What You Believe In

In this difficult world, it can be hard to know what to believe in. I have learned to believe in myself, to believe in love and friendship, the innocence of children, and the future. Why? Because I will never let myself down, love and friendship heals all hurts in the most miraculous ways, children have a way of looking at the world with fresh eyes, and the future is always unknown and full of hope, even if the present and the past are dreary and filled with pain.

You May Have to Give up What You Thought You Believed In

We all make mistakes. We fall in love for the wrong reasons, trust when we shouldn’t, make mistakes and poor choices. It’s part of being human. And sometimes we have to step back and realize that in order to move forward.

Pain of Growing and Overcoming Is Always Worth it

I have worked so hard in the last nine months. There were times where the pain seemed overwhelming and insurmountable but everyday I grow stronger and better as a result. If you’re faced with making a truly difficult, life-altering change, know that it will be worth it in the end.

Angry at Perpetrators, Enablers, and Ignorance in General

I’ve had trouble logging into my WordPress site lately. I have a couple different sites and this seems to create a conflict with multiple logins. I almost published a post on my writer blog via my iPad that was meant for this blog (eek!) and that would not have been good. Fortunately, I realized my mistake before I published it. I’ll migrate it over once I can get the logins straightened out a little more clearly. It doesn’t help that I’m in the midst of my annual password change.

Anyway, I’m really angry at perpetrators lately. One perpetrator in particular, as well as the many enablers in our society, that are allowing his behavior to continue in the public eye without repercussions. When they should be boycotting and booing him from the stage, they are giving him standing ovations. All in the name of “innocent until proven guilty”. When did we abandon ALL common sense in this country? Did I miss the memo?

Can you guess who I’m referring to? If you immediately thought of Bill Cosby, give yourself a pat on the back. This man is a real piece of work, let me tell you. And it’s starting to get my goat. Because people are supporting him! It’s unbelievable.

For those who may not be aware or don’t have all the latest information, almost 30 women have publicly proclaimed that he assaulted them in one way or another. Many have done so anonymously and with really good damn reason. Those who have publicly revealed themselves as victims in an effort to bring some kind of justice or consequences against this man have faced a public backlash not seen since the Monica Lewinsky debacle played out on the global stage.

There are some differences, don’t get me wrong (Monica was certainly no victim but a willing participant, who was nonetheless crucified by the media instead of the responsible party, Bill Clinton, but that’s a topic for another day). Even so, the same media circus is in full display right now, with people castrating these women for waiting so long, for doing so anonymously, for having no evidence.

Have we forgotten what it means to be the victim of a crime? The perpetrator does their utmost NOT TO GET CAUGHT. This means covering up evidence, destroying evidence, manipulating the victim if necessary, and even intimidating or harassing the victim into submission.

That doesn’t even begin to deal with the emotional, physical, and mental toll being sexual assaulted takes on a woman in the first place. It’s a trauma! It’s a violation! It’s a shock! It doesn’t matter who you are, how strong you are or how well prepared you might be. It doesn’t even matter if you’ve been a victim previously. NOTHING can ever prepare you for being assaulted.

Women respond in different ways, some better than others. Some never recover, some are incapable of even acknowledging they were assaulted because it’s too horrific for them to mentally accept.

It took me 25 years to admit that I was sexually molested by my father. 25 years! When I finally acknowledged the possibility, the blow to my self-confidence and self-esteem had me in therapy multiple times that week. It wrecked my entire perspective of myself internally. I called friends and family in tears, asking them if they could still love me as the same person if they knew that my father had done that to me. I was so ashamed I called them begging for them to accept what had be done to me!

My father was already someone I believed to be a monster, who had physically and emotionally abused and neglected me my whole life. Now imagine for a moment what it would be like to be molested by someone you respect, admire and look up to? Many of these women idolized Bill Cosby, just as much as all of America did. He was the perfect gentleman, and a role model for America.

What our country and the world has forgotten is that Bill Cosby played a role in a television show, and did so admirably, but that is NOT who he really is. It’s a character he pretended to be. He played the part so very well and was so relatable, that the world began to mistakenly assume Huxtable was who Cosby really was and Cosby was Huxtable. It’s not. In fact, the reality might just be much more sinister and dark than the world can possibly accept.

So what have we done as a collective and as individuals? We denied, rejected, and placed blame on these poor women who were and are, first and foremost, victims of a terrible crime! It makes me so angry I could just gnash my teeth and scream! As a survivor, of multiple abuses and assaults, it’s what I’ve dealt with my whole life and it shows, unequivocally, just how far we have to go toward being able to understand and empathize with victims of abuse. We don’t want to admit that we could be fooled so thoroughly or that such horrible darkness can exist within those we consider to be infallible heroes.

My heart breaks for those poor women. I cannot imagine how hard this must be for them. The powerlessness, the hopelessness, and the pure injustice of it all. Some of these women are married, with children and rightfully don’t want to subject their families to this pain. What a heavy burden to bear! These women aren’t getting rewarded, they’re suffering. Many of them are just trying to do the right thing, and prevent more victims.

I, for one, applaud their courage. I’m not sure I would be able to have the strength to do it myself. Even now, almost twenty years later, I still generally use euphemisms and vague terms to describe my abuse. I prefer the term survivor rather than victim as it puts the power in my hands, instead of the perpetrator’s. But as a society, we have got to stop blaming the victims and starting putting the blame where it belongs! And if Cosby is a criminal, then that’s where the blame belongs.

Married to a Narcissist: Prologue (Draft)

So I wrote the prologue to Married to a Narcissist the other day and thought I’d share the first draft with you, dear reader. It’s likely to change in the future but I’d love to know what you think. Would you want to read more? If so, why? If not, why not?

Married to a Narcissist

Prologue

Getting started is always the hardest part of any project. The truth is, I’ve probably started this project half a dozen times in my lifetime. It’s taken the form of a memoir so many times I’ve lost count. I wrote over 180 pages when I was in my early twenties and then set it aside as being too melodramatic. I was still working to develop my writing voice.

Now, over fifteen years later, I’m still working on my voice but I seem to have found it for the most part. While my voice is still evolving, it’s pure and honest and clear. It’s free and unflinching. And in this book, my goal is to share that voice with you as clearly and as unadulterated as I can. Most importantly, this book is to share hope.

“It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.” ~ Paul Gallico, Confessions of a Story Writer

I’m thirty four years old as I write this. I am not sure where this journey will take me. I’m not sure how long it will take me. All I know is I want to lay my soul out on the page for all the victims out there in the world, so they may experience peace, love and freedom from the shackles of abuse. I’ve endured far more than my fair share of abuse in my lifetime. I don’t say that out of self-pity but to be quite frank, because it’s true. My life has been full of pain, tragedy, sorrow, and heartache. It’s taken me almost my whole life to this point to understand and accept the truth of that statement. It’s taken years and hundreds of hours of therapy and self-analysis. If I can save even one person from that, lessen it in some way, or give someone the strength to start their own journey, then my suffering will have all been worth it.

I have overcome over thirty years of abuse. And you can too. The power is within each of us. And maybe sharing my story will help someone else find the strength to take that first step toward finding themselves. I was fortunate to have a lot of help along the way. This isn’t a book about using God or faith or spirituality to give you purpose. This is about looking within, doing the hard work to overcome what’s keeping you from being who you truly can be. This isn’t about religion or twelve steps. This is about my journey to find myself. It’s about doing the hard work, the sweat and the tears that go along with tearing yourself down and starting over.

For me, I suppose it started simply enough. But first, you have to know where I’ve been before you can understand how I got through and how I’ve gotten where I am now, which is happy and healthy for the first time in my life.

November 20, 2014, Euless, Texas

It’s been eight months and two days since I sat down at our dining room table and told my husband that we were separating. I said it matter-of-factly but in a gentle soft voice. In fact, my husband didn’t react at all, probably because I was so tightly in control. It had taken a year and a half to reach that point and the gravity of the situation was not lost on me, even then. Now, I look back at the scared, timid, frightened woman I was and I smile. How courageous she was! How courageous she still is!

Inside, I was shaking and terrified. I was a complete, utter wreck. I had spent weeks visualizing what I would be doing to my family, this family I valued more than life itself but was coming to realize was all an illusion. I had sought counsel from a few select, trusted advisors: a Christian and fellow writer, my surrogate father, and my husband’s former best friend. To say I was on a slippery slope would be an understatement.

I was going to singlehandedly dismantle everything I’d built over the last four years and it would require some impossibly painful choices. I was filled with dread, grief, panic, and a sense of impending loss, yet on the surface, all was calm. I knew I faced the very real risk of losing my thirteen-year-old stepdaughter who I loved as though she were my own.

For months I considered staying in the relationship until she was eighteen, in the hopes I might keep my relationship with her. I realized how selfish it would be to do so and that in the long run, I would be modeling the wrong behavior for her. I knew I could lose my home, my car and a significant amount of my possessions, not to mention current and possibly future income. I would once again be a single parent, this time of a seven-year-old first grader.

My future was completely uncertain. I had no job, no financial resources, and no family. My car was repossessed five months earlier and my husband had borrowed money from a family friend to get it back. I had spent the last seven years as a stay at home mom and part-time self-employed for whatever work I could find. I had gone from a self-sufficient confident single mother to a burned out, exhausted shell of my former self. I had completely invested 100% of myself into this life.

All I knew was I desperately needed out of the relationship I was in. We would have celebrated our second wedding anniversary in a month but I knew that if I didn’t end the relationship and soon, I might not even be alive that long.

I was suffering a slow, horrible, internal death. My strength, which had seen me through countless tragedies, was gone. My will to live was a small flickering flame, dangerously on the brink of being extinguished. The emotional vampire sitting across the table from me was slowly consuming all the things that made me who I am – my very identity and soul. I contemplated suicide on a daily basis. I fought to find my will to live. It was a gargantuan effort to get out of bed every day. I spent most of my days doing everything I could to find an answer to the problems of my life. I was taking 200 mg of Zoloft every day just to get through it.

Why was my marriage falling apart? Why was I so miserable? Why did I feel so lost? What was the point of life? What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be happy for once in my life? I had everything I thought wanted but suddenly it wasn’t good enough anymore. These questions plagued me every moment of every day. I stopped functioning entirely. My business began to falter and then outright fail. My depression grew worse with every passing day.

At the time, I was a somewhat successful fiction and nonfiction writer who had just won a major fiction award the previous September. I’d finished my second book tour and done pretty well for a new independent author. On the surface, I had the perfect life with a husband who, by all outward appearances, adored me and who I adored, and a blended family that seemed to have nothing but bliss. Under the surface, was an insidious darkness that I had never even considered. Moreover, it was slowly but surely destroying my spirit in ways nothing else could have. I had been abused almost my whole life, raped, beaten, molested, mugged and more but this man, who I had married and trusted with my whole heart, and who had never lifted a hand against me physically, was almost my complete undoing.

I married a narcissist. And I had no idea he was one.

I was completely fooled, caught unaware and flat-footed, despite over three years of intensive cognitive behavioral therapy before meeting him. I didn’t even know what a true narcissist was, other than my mother was one. But on that fateful day of March 18, 2014, I demanded more for myself and my daughter. My life would never be the same again.

Afraid of Marriage

My fiancé has been talking lately about our wedding and for some reason it has just made me really weird. I get nervous and discombobulated. It started innocently enough, with him mentioning possibly getting married this summer. Everything seems so wonderful as is, I am loathe to change it. I tell myself that being married would only make our relationship deepen, that it’s a level of commitment that we both deserve but in the back of my head is the thought, what if he changes? What if HE becomes the monster under the bed?

Logically I don’t think that will be the case but the reptilian part of me, the instinctive part of me just wants to run and hide. The fear is very real and I don’t know how to deal with it. He has asked me hundreds of times if I would marry him and I know in my heart I want to but a part of me is still scared of it.

This divorce has really cost me a lot, mentally, emotionally and financially. I don’t know how to move past that. It isn’t marriage that’s the problem – it’s the people involved. People are what makes a marriage succeed or fail and I believe that my fiancé and I have what it takes. We are both people who have been deeply wounded and yet care a great deal for each other. We are the best of friends and there is no one I would rather spend the rest of my life with. Even during all the crazy stuff we have had to deal with, he has stayed strong and steady. He is helping me to be a better person and to become the person I have always dreamed of being.

I know marriage is a leap of faith. You sign on the dotted line and promise to do your best, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. You will never really know until you try. And what an opportunity you will miss if you don’t try.

So I talked to our oldest daughter about doing an emotional wedding ceremony and dedicating ourselves to each other before doing a legal marriage. Kind of like a trial marriage to see if it will work.

I just spent the last few hours talking to my daughter and am exhausted so I’m going to bed and hopefully will have time to post more tomorrow. One topic I really want to write about is sexual abuse in Hollywood, especially as it relates to the Bill Cosby mess.

Til tomorrow,

The Rambler