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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Well, That Wasn’t Fun

Self awareness is never a comfortable path. Matter of fact, it’s downright painful during days when the world around you forces you to dig deep and Fix The Gods Damned Problem inside yourself before you self-destruct. Moments of awareness tend to arrive around the time you think you’ve gotten your shit together just enough to be completely heartbroken the instant you realize you’ve been stuck in an unhealthy decision pattern affecting half your life, that you’ve slapped a Barbie Band-aid over the problem, preventing you from finding happiness in any truly meaningful way.

I had a moment of stark clarity this weekend. I did not like what I saw in the soul mirror.

Every decision I’ve made regarding love came while cowering under fear’s vast shadow. Fear I’d die alone. Fearful of the day I reached the point where my stubborn determination to keep my head screwed on tight enough isn’t enough and I have no help. Most shamefully, I let fear reinforce the notion that I am not good enough.

I honestly thought I’d worked through this. The core of my self care has always been to keep fear from pushing me to poor romantic choices. Man, understanding how far I had to go sucked on a level I cannot fully convey in words. My heart hit my combat boots. I found what privacy I could and had an hour-long cry. The next morning, it was wash, rinse, repeat on the self pity front until I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and stubbornly moved through the day. The talk I had with myself while I cried never fully left my mind. It dogged me as the day progressed, haunting conversations with friends I see too rarely.

Warning: The following is adult in nature. Younger readers, please do not read on.

Continue reading “Well, That Wasn’t Fun”

Well, Then . . . Do YOU Want to Raise My Kid?

This rant is inspired by an anonymous post on an Indie Author/Blogger Facebook page.

It’s the same ol’ song and dance. A group of women, in this instance authors like myself, called on the carpet for not being “helicopter parents” and *gasp* attending signing events or conventions–where they hope to make enough money to pay their electric/gas bill that particular month.

Guys, we’re trying to do what’s right by our children. Honestly. If that means missing a school event, so be it. Will we be late for that birthday party someone invited us to two days ago because we have a signing gig? You bet your ass. Nothing and no one will come between myself and the financial goals I’ve set in order to ensure my child wants for nothing. This is the general consensus I’ve seen from everyone fielding this flavor of criticism.

How do these trips impact my kid?

He loves it.

I’m a stay-at-home mom. Have been since we took custody of my nephew (Kiddo) nine years ago. Since I don’t drive, we’re often stuck at home with each other a lot with little to no options within walking distance to entertain ourselves. The nearest park is essentially a motel for the homeless and drug users. The school’s play yard isn’t really entertaining enough for my geekling; he’s too big for the meager play equipment. It’s an hour bus ride to reach safer, more engaging places for us to romp in town. That’s an hour plus of editing work I’m not doing for the sake of a little playtime. He and I agreed a while ago, it’s usually not worth the trip unless we’re making a full family day of it–movie, frozen yogurt, dinner, etc. Plus, those are hours he’d much rather spend killing orcs or dragons. What can I say? I raised a gamer by accident. We have plenty of family time, despite. It’s just not all day, every day. We’re perfectly content in our separate corners, one writing, the other laughing at whatever oddness he’s achieved in-game.

I really don’t appreciate anonymous people assuming convention/signing trips are all fun and games–this goes for myself and other authors lumped into this, “Not momming enough,” category–or that I’m running away from parental responsibilities. Authors work insane hours. Most also have at least one or two day jobs to put food on the table. And here we are, signing up to work three/four insane days, putting our socially awkward selves on display for potential readers at signing events or *literally* walking twenty miles a day across a convention floor. What do we get out of it? Sometimes just enough to cover our costs for the weekend, with hopes that new reader outreach will boost sales down the road. Lucky few walk out with enough cash to finally pay off their overdue cable bill so the kids can binge-watch My Little Pony without Mommy having to explain why there’s no ponies until next week–or the week after, or even a month down the road if finances are that tight. Kids don’t understand balancing budgets and picking which bill is the most important.

I work this much so Kiddo will never find out just how hard it’s been the last two years to keep the family afloat. Yet some people judge women like me for it. I sacrifice time with my kid to make sure he has clothes, food, and whatever books/games make him so giddy, he begs to stay up just another fifteen minutes. But somehow I’m a bad mother for, say, missing a school carnival when I’ve volunteered for every other one in the past; critics just don’t care to find out that part.

Are there author moms running away to join the figurative circus? Totally. No one is perfect. Are all author moms guilty of this? Not at all.

Why are we still harassing women for choosing to put career and family on the same pedestal of importance? Oh, right. We’re walking baby factories without the ability to make critical life decisions without a husband’s input. Get out of the history books. Get a friggen clue. Most importantly, get your nose out of our private lives and focus on your own. Quit transferring your guilt, frustration, and envy onto a group of women simply trying their best.

Why I Sent Myself to the ER by Eating Peanut Butter

Healthcare systems are odd. Something I’ve learned rather late in life, unfortunately. See, I was one of those statistic numbers everyone loves to fling around–an American adult without health insurance. Was, being the operative word. Last year, the ACA (Affordable Care Act) allowed me to visit a doctor for the first time since I was sixteen. Good. Great. I can finally get some of these health concerns taken care of. Namely, a cranky gallbladder.

What do you mean I’m not sick enough, doc?

Turns out, my provider won’t give patients ultrasounds to confirm gallstones unless they’re actively miserable (pain, nausea, etc.). It’s bad enough I’m fighting a hard-wired fear of hospitals, but they wanted me to willingly put myself in pain in order to receive treatment.

I put it off for another year. That’s what a restricted diet is for, right? Well, not really. But I couldn’t fight my fear as well last year. Call me a coward.

Something, I’m not sure what, finally kicked my self-preservation into gear. If I didn’t take care of this now, one day I’d end up seriously sick and unable to control it. That’s actually my fear–being unable to control my body. This is what happens to children raised by a disabled parent who didn’t take care of himself. Didn’t care what happened to his body, or what extreme lengths doctors went to in order to save him from self-destruction. One of those extreme lengths–a gastric bypass–contributed to the heart attack which killed him.

So on Monday I bit the bullet . . . actually, I ate a ton of organic peanut butter and chocolate spread on graham crackers, then had a friend drive me to my healthcare provider’s emergency room.

I knew exactly how much fat to ingest in order to bring up the symptoms the doctors needed to consider it a Serious Thing and finally ultrasound my gallbladder.

Guess what? Little fucker made stone friends to keep him company. But I already knew this.

There was literally nothing else I could have done to obtain this diagnosis. The doctor and ER nurses quickly understood (and I made no point to hide it) that my condition when I walked in was intentional, I’d controlled symptoms for years through diet, and I knew full well what my body was doing, why it felt the way it did.

I knew it was a bad day for them shortly after I arrived. It wasn’t my intention to add to their workload. Two patients coded that morning. A woman with a compound fracture rolled in about the same time I walked in. An older woman with no actual medical problem yelled abuse at the nurses, cried uncontrollably, and even faked breathing troubles to avoid being discharged without what she considered adequate care and attention. “Everyone ignores me. They want me to suffer,” she bellowed constantly. At the far end of the hall, a woman too drunk to function bitched at any passing staff member about the fact that she’s drunk. In response, I was on my best behavior. Shut up. It’s possible.

But now the ball is rolling. I will finally get the surgery I’ve needed for three years next month. Yes, in a month. I have things to do, damn it, and I’m too stubborn for my own good. My body and I are on speaking terms again, and back on the diet wagon. I’m not concerned about any problems between now and then. Even if something does happen, I now know that the ER at my provider’s hospital is pretty damned good. The fear, which still gives me plenty of anxiety, isn’t enough to stop me from getting necessary aid now that I have this information.

I’m losing sleep over the surgery, though. This is something I anticipated. What I didn’t anticipate was my decision to keep it quiet compounding the anxiety. So here I am, talking through it on a blog. Publicly. Apologies to any friends who read this and want to kick my ass for not telling them privately. I do try to keep my fears from bleeding all over cyberspace and relationships, but it can’t be helped. Not if I want to sleep anytime between now and the surgery date. This is my way of holding myself accountable. Too many people know now. I can’t back out of the surgery just because I’m afraid.

Yes, there will be updates once Gallbladder Hulk is evicted. No, I’m not going to try and convince my doctor to let me keep a stone. That’s weird. I mean, I kill fictional people, dress as a zombie, and scare people professionally, but the line is drawn at including my own medical waste to my bookshelf memento collection. Unless I had a teratoma, then I’d beg to have that shit preserved.

Life Imitating Art

There are times when I sit back, consider my life, and wonder if I’ve completely snapped a cog and replaced portions of my reality with clips from TV dramas.

You tell me which scenario is reality and which is fiction:

Story one

A young woman flunks out of high school. In her desperation to make something of herself, to prove to her parents she isn’t worthless, she steals electronics from several stores in town and pawns them. Her family discovers her stash of stolen items. They disown the girl, telling her they won’t go to the police so long as she stays away from them. She has nothing to her name and is forced to live on the streets or in one of the severely underfunded homeless shelters nearby. To feed herself, she pilfers bottles and cans from the garbage.

Story two

A bright young woman graduates in the top twenty percent of her high school. She is given a full-ride scholarship to the college of her choice to study sports medicine. She does well for the first few months. One night, her mother receives a call…from the school. The girl was found in possession of drug paraphernalia, a crack pipe. She is stripped of her scholarship and kicked out of the school, but her mother lets her come back home to give her another chance to do something with her life. The girl can’t find a job. She funds her drug habit by stealing every penny she can from her mother. The drugs lead her to a series of men’s beds…and a unexpected pregnancy.

Well, which is it?

Lingering Emotions

Today is one of those days where I wake up, look at the calendar, and wish I could sleep through until tomorrow.

It is Dad’s birthday today. He’s been gone almost eleven years, but there are certain dates–today, October 16th (the day he passed), and Father’s Day–that still get to me.

The hardest part of losing Dad wasn’t so much the not seeing him part, or the hole he left in our lives. It was watching my sister fill that hole with negativity, self-abuse, and drugs. It was growing up and learning all the things my mother tried to hide from us. Mostly it was learning that the man I idolized wasn’t perfect by any means.

But he was still my father.

Over the years I’ve come to grips with the things my father did to our family. The numerous times we were forced to move because he spent the rent money on things we didn’t need. The verbal and mental abuse done to my mother. The drug use, alcoholism, lack of self-discipline that resulted in his obesity–forcing my mother and I to become his nurses.

Most of it I don’t really remember. My brain functions strangely. If something truly upsets and hurts me, I forget it. Through conversations with Mom, I’ve recovered most of my childhood. The details are hazy, like I’m seeing it all through a layer of cheesecloth. It is probably for the best. Emotions and handling them in a healthy manner are not my strong suit.

I guess I’m just…reflecting on how far I’ve come in eleven  years. Days like this don’t completely break me any more. It still sucks. But now I take a few moments to wish Dad a happy birthday, then go on with my day.

It isn’t often I talk about my past. Actually, most people have no damn clue about what’s gone on in my life to make me who I am. Growing up was rough, but I wouldn’t trade in any of the pain, bullshit, poverty, and stress.

I was forged in emotional fire, tempered in bitter cold snow, and came out sharp as a sword to cut out my chunk of this world.

A Hellish Interview

Only the truly idiotic court Lucifer to join them in their home. How does one send that invitation?

Dearest Dark Lord,

Please join me for dinner, drinks, and my soul served on a silver platter. RSVP ASAP so I may plan dinner accordingly.

Sincerely,

A Total Whackjob

Yeah, that was a ticket to disaster. Yet there I stood, waiting in the small dining room of my house. The heels of my shoes caught on the odd texture of the carpet as I paced around, double-checking that the cats hadn’t run off with one of the linen napkins or tried to steal a taste of the lemonade in the pitcher on the table. Chicken enchiladas baked in the oven. I couldn’t believe I made dinner for him. But hey, I cooked when nervous.

“You’re doing this for the readers, Renee. Play nice with Lucifer so they have something to read.”

I didn’t want to, God damnit. He’d play his games; try to get me to slip up and sound like an idiot. Lucifer and I had gone around and around with certain issues. Namely the strange plan he’d been putting into action, but wouldn’t tell me the endgame. I hoped to hell and back (no pun intended) that I didn’t factor in his endgame. Demon babies were not my thing. At all.

Time ticked by at a snail’s pace. My patience waned. I dropped into one of the dining chairs and glared at the front door.

“Where are you, Lucifer?”

Shimmering mist drifted in under the locked door. I cursed and jumped  to my feet, backing into the kitchen. The mist followed.

A strand of golden fog wrapped around my ankles. “I hate you…”

The world went Technicolor before being swallowed by darkness.

Continue reading “A Hellish Interview”

A Demon Amongst Fairies

“I like this cover.”

A table full of hopeful writers sat forward like someone goosed them with a pitchfork. Aksel shook his head and reclined in his seat tucked against the back corner of the pavilion. An hour into the event and they’d seen maybe half a dozen people that even bothered to glance their way. How degrading.

He looked at the poor saps hoping that the man on the other side of the table spoke about their cover. Yeah, he thought to himself. They’re a pretty pathetic bunch already. Don’t need much help.

“That’s the statue of Venus,” one of the writers answered. She sounded really damn proud of her book. The other writers deflated a little.

The man leaned in. A lecherous grin spread over his tanned, pockmarked face. “Yeah, it’s nice. I’ll be in the port-a-potty for a few minutes.”

With a wink, he walked off, leaving a table of utterly disgusted authors behind. Aksel barked a laugh and leaned forward to whisper in RC’s ear. “I like him. Can we invite him back for more entertainment later?”

Hazel eyes whipped around to glare at the demon. He laughed again and kicked his feet up on her portion of the table.

“You’re disgusting if you think we really need to hear more about Hair Palms over there.”

“Cool your jets, author lady. At least he’s not jerking it to your pictures.” Aksel snagged her mocha off the table and drank the last half. “Can we leave yet?”

RC shot him a look that would’ve wounded a lesser demon. “We just got here. Why are you even awake, Aksel? Go back to sleep. You aren’t needed at this event. I’m not selling one of your stories.”

“First off, we’ve been in this damn city since last night. Secondly, why the fuck are you selling that idiot Lucifer’s story, but not mine?” He kept a calm face, but it really annoyed him that when she picked through what to bring, his stories didn’t make the cut. Why not? Her readers loved him.

“Your story isn’t finished and you know it.” RC reached for her coffee and found an empty cup. A frustrated growl drowned out the sound of a nearby fairy giggling.

“That’s because you won’t listen to me.”

The author lady let out another frustrated sound. He wisely let the argument die.

A family walked past the pavilion. The little boy’s eyes lit up when he caught a glimpse of Aksel. No one—except RC—saw him unless he wanted them to. He tilted his head and prodded the kid with a thread of power. A whole lot of nothing came back at him. Rarely did he encounter a true sociopath outside of the hell realms, let alone one so young. The urge to follow the kid got him halfway out of his chair.

“If your ass leaves that seat, I will bolt you to it.” RC gave him a warning look. Others might fall for her innocent act, but Aksel knew the truth. The bitch was demented.

Continue reading “A Demon Amongst Fairies”

Let Me be Frank for a Moment…

The below rant is extremely out of character for me. However, I feel it needs to be addressed so that people can see the ramifications of the “games” they play on the internet. For some of us, this is not a game. This is our life and the games make it harder for us to live normally.

It started on a social media site. (don’t most of these things, honestly?) For two days I watched people bicker back and forth about this, today was when I finally snapped. (some of this is copied rants from my private Facebook page)

Veiled bisexual comments by heterosexuals just to get attention… method #67 to irritate Renee before she’s had breakfast. 

Ladies: if you are going to consistently admit to being attracted to other women, then come out of the closet. Otherwise, please, please stop being cock teases by saying, “If I swung that way, I’d hit it.” Men aren’t that easily impressed and the few that are, you don’t want to sleep with anyways.

“I’m doing it to show admiration for the woman in the photo.” By suggesting you’d sleep with her? That’s like a guy walking up and saying, “Nice tits, let me stick my dick between them.” Fucking lame excuse for attention whores.

Being bisexual isn’t “cool”. It isn’t a trend or fad. I’ve gotten more grief since coming out than ever before. People suddenly assume you are a whore because you have no gender preference for your partners. That’s not because of anything I did, but because of women like those mentioned above that think it’s neat to pretend to be someone they are not. THAT is where the stereotypes begin. Not with those who are actually living through the challenges of being “different”.

You want the statistics to prove that I’m not some uber slut? Fine. I wasn’t sexually active until I was 18. Since then I’ve slept with 5 men and 2 women. That’s it. Most of those encounters were with people I had a relationship with. Only one was a one-night-stand, which I do not regret.

That is my idea of normal. I don’t call myself bisexual to cover up half a dozen drunken mistakes. Bisexual women are not the girls you see at a house party downing one too many beers and then making out with their best friend. Except that one, I’ve courted the people I slept with, built some sort of connection. Like. You. Are. Supposed. To. Do.

If you can’t be mature enough to respect the people in your life who are dealing with the negativity associated with being bisexual, gay, transgendered… then maybe you should stop and take a long look in the mirror. What about yourself are YOU unhappy with that causes you to look down on the few that are doing their damndest to make a good life for themselves despite all the bullshit in society?

And if you can’t handle having the truth laid out under your nose, then maybe we shouldn’t be associated with each other. I am who I am. Take it or leave it, but never, NEVER try to shame me by playing your little social media games.

The Process of Grieving

This is a huge change from my normal work. I have felt the compulsion to explain how my father’s death tore apart my family for a while. Names have been changed, locations obscured, but for the most part this is my life as I remember it. Rough draft. And this is not finished. I have 10 more years of content to write.

It all started the day Dad left. I wish I could simply say that he’d walked out, disappearing into the ether that all estranged parents did. Sometimes I would catch myself scanning the crowds at the mall looking for his familiar face to chase back the loneliness swallowing up every inch of my being. And for a while I would see him, that warm smile pulling his beard in a funny direction, the way he always did when he saw me.

The truth, however, wasn’t as warming.

Mom was the one to tell me. The call came while I was over at a friend’s house. I remember the ride home being unusually tense. Mom’s hands stayed perfectly still on the steering wheel, like she were struggling to control a wild team of horses, not her beaten-up ’81 Firebird. The entire time I wracked my brain, trying to figure out which lie she’d caught me in. There were a lot of those. I was far from the perfect daughter.

The car eased into the carport. Mom turned off the engine, but didn’t make a move to get out. Panic hit me like a ton of bricks, I wanted out of the car, but the tension holding my mother gripped me as well. There was no escaping the conversation to come. I thought we were going to fight as usual. I wish I’d been right.

“Your dad passed away.”

Continue reading “The Process of Grieving”