It’s Not Just in My Head

This was originally going to be an episode for Professional Bitching, but seeing as Santa hasn’t brought my new microphone yet, and this is bound to be incredibly painful emotionally, I’ve opted to scribble until my fingers cramp. Because, maybe then I’ll feel vindicated in some tiny, insignificant way.

Something’s gotta give before I check myself into a mental care facility, and it’s getting to that point.

First, a little history. When I was 20, I met this guy who seemed weird, but he paid attention to me and I’d been antsy as a single gal since being unceremoniously dumped by a guy who was also strange yet attentive enough to pander to my overwhelming personal image issues. We met because he really enjoyed a torture-porn story I’d written for shits-n-giggles, and he asked me to a poetry reading. Yes, his interest in the story threw up red flags. No, I didn’t heed them. That one decision cost me dearly. I’ve never been completely happy since this guy, we’ll call him JA, came into my life.

For six years, JA controlled my life. He picked what we ate, where we lived, how I dressed, who I associated with, he even went so far as to constantly deprive me of sleep by playing video games at full volume from 9 PM until 9AM—while I had a toddler to care for. JA was physically abusive to my child. He manipulated my mother to get money and whatever items he wanted without ever stepping outside to find a job once he lived under my roof—while at his home, I paid for half the groceries, held a job as best as possible, and dealt with the Hoarders-like nightmare his family seemed content to wallow in.

But that wasn’t even the worst of it. No, every time he opened his mouth, that was the real nightmare. JA couldn’t stand that I have strong notions about sexual consent and activities. He relished in telling me daily about his ex girlfriend who was into public sex, graphically laying out his exploits like I should be impressed instead of mortified. It took me years to realize the repetitive stories were training me to give in when he wanted to finger me at the dinner table or make a scene at a party which ended with him loudly fucking me in the guest room for everyone to enjoy. But I didn’t enjoy it.

Whenever I fought his manipulation games, JA brought in his wingmen. These mutual friends were molded for once specific purpose: To embarrass me as often as possible, and to ensure my humility around JA’s obvious sexual prowess. There was a routine to every gathering of friends. We’d sit down, grab a drink, and off JA would go, making some off-hand comment about anal sex—or whatever sexual favor I denied him most recently. The guys joined in, after all everyone loves pounding Brownietown, right? Then they’d turn on me, the person dumb enough to not like anal sex, and spend an hour or more convincing me to perform a sexual act I don’t enjoy in any way, shape, or form. I always said no. But after each night spent with the guys, JA would try to force the issue in bed. Often, it resulted in a physical altercation, ending only when I gave him at least a blowjob in order to escape him forcefully fucking my asshole.

But it was just jokes with friends hours before, how can that turn into rape? Because that’s what abusers do. Why didn’t my friends stop it when they saw how uncomfortable I was? Because they didn’t care. Not really. It took him less than a year to win over all of my friends. After I finally kicked him out, JA clung to my friends for support. I clung to my cats because my friends had spent so long enabling my abuser, I didn’t know who to trust.

I still don’t know who to trust.

This week, I was determined to get my shit together. Being mentally ill in the current political climate in the USA has been awful, leaving me too anxious to do more than furiously clean and reorganize the house—like a sparkling toilet will banish the Orange Overlord. I wasn’t thinking of past trauma. Didn’t even occur to me to be mindful of my current friends and what they post online because I’ve spent years culling those most entwined with JA’s life. Then someone who has also suffered serious domestic abuse posts an obscene video featuring JA in the nude. It’s like she wasn’t there for the last ten-plus years of bullshit I’ve dealt with—which she was, often in the room to see it first-hand. Or she didn’t know he’s still gaslighting me by sending junk magazines to my house—I get at least five a week—though I made it very public that I needed a middle man to tell him to knock it the fuck off. Why would anyone go into a room as an abuse survivor with a known abuser? Why when they’re nude? It’s JA’s game starting anew. He posts that he wants to do a weird, vaguely sexual thing (it’s the torture-porn story thing all over again, really) and out comes a woman he knows he can manipulate because she’s already “broken.”

The minute I realized he’d found a new victim, I was in her shoes. The panic attacks started again. I can’t focus long enough to remember something in the living room, walk twenty feet, and write it down at my desk. Every time my mind vomits up footage from the video, I shake and cannot get warm. I haven’t done paying work in a week. Sitting at my desk is a test of will. I never stay still long enough to think of what to write and instead zip off to fix something, anything, because I can’t clean the past out of my head but I can sure make the stove top shine.

Bottling up the reaction to my abuser being flung in my face wasn’t working. I tried to talk to a friend, but this is such an overwhelming issue for one person to deal with unless they’re a professional. I’m known for being outspoken about a few things. It’s about time I did the same for my abuse. I’ve held it in for so long, downplaying the damage done by one pathetic man who feels so insignificant, he has to lord over a woman, embarrass her into submission in order to get an erection.

Let’s be honest, he’s earned my ire. I’ll never have a functional relationship again. I can’t stand being touched in public unless I am in complete control. If someone grabs me, I come unhinged and flight-or-fight turns into a sobbing mess—I fought every day for six years, I’m done fighting for autonomy of my own body. Thanks to the job he’s done on my head, I cut off three feet of hair so I wouldn’t be terrified of someone coming up from behind and touching it without permission—that was a daily anxiety-maker. I literally cannot tell anyone no in the bedroom for fear they’ll hit me and do it anyway. I perform sexual acts I still don’t totally enjoy, just because someone asked. And when I do want to say something about what’s happening in bed, I choke on the words and continue on not having fun. I can’t even masturbate without his bullshit abuse wriggling its way into my fantasies half the time. I’ve tried to move on, only to realize I’m subconsciously seeking another JA. No more. I can’t do it.

This isn’t JA winning because he broke me. This is me saying I want full control of my body, no matter what that entails. If that means flicking my bean solo until I die, so be it. I cannot become a victim again. No one should go through life in an endless cycle of abusive relationships. JA wasn’t the only bad seed, just the worst, and I wish more people would see his schemes for what they are instead of helping him entrap more victims.

This was a rambling mess that doesn’t make sense, but I had to say it. Do with the information what you will. I just can’t keep it in my head anymore.

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