Self-Defense

When I cannot sleep or too agitated to rest, I fantasize. Conjuring up scenarios in my head to cheer me up and calm me down. But most of the time I ruined my own fantasy by wanting everything to be perfect. Every move, every word has to be precise, even the lighting has to be perfect or otherwise, I cannot move from one scene to another. The keyword is feeling. If a certain setting doesn’t evoke the emotion I want to achieve, it will not do for me. When a person in my fantasy look at me across the room, I want to feel something, when someone holds my hand, whisper in my ear, sing a song, tells a joke, I want to feel it inside, I want the gesture to move me, or otherwise I will repeat the scene over and over in my head till I get it right.

I know it’s craziness but I can’t help it. If I want to escape reality, the fantasy must be damn good, or otherwise, what’s the use?

Don’t judge me for escaping the stresses and cruelty of the world 

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I owe myself the biggest apology for putting up with what I didn’t deserve.

I blame myself and no one else. I allowed it to happen therefore it is my fault. You see…

… you don’t have to wait for someone to treat you bad repeatedly. All it takes is once, and if they get away with it that once if they know they can treat you like that, then it sets the pattern for the future.

Are you familiar with the story of the frog in a pot of boiling water? That and those occasional good times that make you doubt if you are overreacting giving you the feeling that things are not so bad after all and a glimpse of hope that maybe someday it would actually get better.

But of course, it won’t!

And whose fault is that?

Mine!

One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.

Thank God for that.

I might have been abused, used, humiliated and insulted but my core is whole, undamaged and untouched. My integrity and dignity are intact. I’m still the same person I was. Only wiser, stronger, sober.

And the nightmares…

They come less and less frequent these days.

Perhaps someday it will stop altogether.

But I am not looking forward to that.

It’s okay as it is.

I know now that no one can hurt me unless I allowed it.

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Coming To Terms

“One morning she woke up different. Done with trying to figure out who was with her, against her, or walking down the middle because they didn’t have the guts to pick a side. She was done with anything that didn’t bring her peace. She realized that opinions were a dime a dozen, validation was for parking, and loyalty wasn’t a word, but a lifestyle. It was this day that her life changed. And not because of a man or a job but because she realized that life is way too short to leave the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket. It was the day life began!” ~ Sarah Krycinski

I walked too long with guilt.

Knowing that for the most part, it wasn’t my fault. That in the end, I had to choose for myself or I might as well give up altogether. I know not so many people would understand. In fact, I know no one who does. It got something to do once again with expectations and what society dictates, not what is best for all party involves.  It took me decades to forgive myself. Partially. And to resign to the fact that it is what it is and there is no damn thing I can do about it. I still feel guilty sometimes, but it doesn’t keep me awake anymore and the urge to compensate is gone. I still do my best but I don’t expect appreciation nor understanding for the choices I had made. I learned to distance myself and draw the line. I no longer hope for reconciliation or acceptance. I just want peace. Even if it means being on my own, far from what once I hold dear.

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What happens when people open their hearts?

They get hurt. They get abused. They get used. They get taken advantage of.

Best not to let people get too close. Close enough to harm you. I learned that the best way to protect yourself and your core is to not to form an attachment with anything or anyone. People come and go, they change, their priorities change. Nothing last forever. The only constant in this life is_ changes. So better be prepared. Just keep yourself intact and you will survive whatever may come. You don’t need anyone for that.

“ I’m wounded, and I’m bruised.
But I’m not ashamed of admitting it.
It is a part of my healing process. And I’ll embrace it with a head held high.
One day I’ll stop touching the thorns,
and I’ll enjoy smelling the flowers.” –Rahma Djebbari

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Putting Myself First

Perhaps the hardest lesson for me to learn was to love myself enough to not accept from myself or from anyone less than I deserve. To say no when I do not feel like doing something, to not let anyone manipulate me using guilt or sob stories and to live my life on my own terms. I do not owe anyone any explanations for how I live my life and I certainly will not put anyone’s wants, needs or desires before my own again and whoever finds this does not suit their agenda of using me, farewell. Sorry but from now on, myself first.

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Identifying Emotional Abuse before it Happens

I want to tell you an important story, and here’s why: not a lot of people will share their versions.

It’s scary. Too scary, for many.

Like for my hairdresser, whose husband was “the sweetest guy she ever met” at first, yet ended up nearly choking her to death against the kitchen wall. He didn’t spare her—she would have died if her 11-year-old son hadn’t come into the room.

Like for a friend of a friend who wasn’t able to leave her abuser until the day he popped a blood vessel in her eye.

Like for another friend of a friend whose boyfriend, for years, would threaten to kill himself with the nearby gun if she tried to leave him.

Like for my colleague whose sister died at the hand of her abuser, though he is still walking around free.

Like for the millions of women, men and children who don’t speak up every day because they are exhausted, don’t want to be reminded of the situation, or simply can’t say anything because doing so would risk their lives.

I’m doing my small part by sharing my story because violence of any kind, but especially domestic violence, is perpetuated by silence. The more we talk, the more we know, the faster we learn and demand better.

I love my bike more than almost anything in the world.

I think there’s a disease for that–object sexuality, anyone? But really, I do. There’s nothing that compares to riding, whether or not I have a destination, I’m exhausted or energized, my music’s blasting or I’m just enjoying the silence of my surroundings.

This time last year I met a boy who loved bikes, too. So we loved bikes together.

We rode our bikes everywhere and then pretty soon we did everything else together, too. All. The. Time. Every minute together.

But I was always unsettled with all this togetherness, that went from zero to 60 in just a few weeks time. I blew off the discomfort as me just learning how to be less independent and self-sufficient as if those traits could actually adversely affect my future.

So we kept riding. The boy told me some things that were massive red flags, akin to those at Running of the Bulls, waving in my face, yet I was still charging right at them.

“Don’t judge,” I said.

“He’s changing,” I convinced myself.

“I won’t be like the rest,” I lied.

Every time I said these things my standards dropped lower and lower, and I perpetuated my own lie that everything was okay. I knew that if my family even knew the half of it they would douse me in a bucket of ice water until I cycled away as fast as I could (which is pretty damn fast).

But I kept riding.

The fights got worse, the anger more explosive, the jealousy and put-downs and blatant hypocrisy so intense, only to be appeased by a shoulder shrug or guttural laughter that didn’t even sound like my own voice.

My brain felt like putty so often that all I wanted to do was sleep forever.

“It’s normal,” I assured myself, “It’s the dead of winter, who would have the energy to get out of bed?”

But I never stopped riding, and one day I rode so fast that even my bike said enough.

Though I love him to death, sometimes that carbon-fiber bastard has the weirdest ways of looking out for me.

Wake up, he said, or I’m gonna make you wake up and see it.

So he did.

My chin hit the pavement and that was it.

Well, it was more like, where the f*ck is all this blood coming from?! plus five days of hospitalization, six weeks of a wired jaw accompanied by a liquid-only diet, zero bike rides, dozens of nauseating painkillers, and two weeks of the most unimaginably inhumane response to my trauma from the “man” who was supposed to be there for me.

He took my weakened state and used it as an opportunity to yell, control, blame, punish, flees and cheats.

The cheating after my major surgery was the moment that finally allowed me to leave my abuser in the physical sense, yet it was the compounding layers of intense emotional abuse that will keep me away from him forever, along with anyone who possesses the same traits.

While I certainly don’t have everything figured out, or even know what a “perfect” relationship would look like, I have learned what relationships are most definitely not, what love is most definitely not, and that is the following abusive behaviors:

1. Frequent hanging out, right from the jump.

This intense togetherness is probably the hardest one to identify as a key sign of abuse, and I’ll tell you why.

In an age where we can deposit a check, order a burger, listen to the latest tracks and swipe through photos of potential matches all at once, it is safe to say that instant gratification has become the modus operandi. We subconsciously apply this to relationships, too, where hookup culture is expected and anything else is too old-fashioned.

Abusers, who tend to be extremely charismatic and complementary in the beginning, capitalize on this idea, convincing their partners that they need to be together all the time, and anything less is insincere. In this intense period abusers quickly establish a pattern of dependency whereby the partner begins to rely on the abuser’s opinions and habits to affirm their character and sense of worthiness as a match.

It is also common for the abuser to suggest “big steps” like moving in, taking trips alone or sharing financial resources. Because of the preexisting fast pace of everything else, at the moment it’s easy to go along with these big steps. These “suggestions” from my abuser were attempts to further control my actions, decisions, and whereabouts so that when the abuse started, my options for leaving would be more limited. Every time I voiced hesitation about moving too fast, I felt guilty.

2. Creation of isolation.

Because abusers need to maintain a strong power imbalance in the relationship in order to carry out the abuse, a prerequisite is making the partner feel isolated in every way.

Beyond physical isolation, this can manifest as threats of being alone if you ever leave him/her, verbal manipulation regarding those in your network and how they feel about you and reprimanding you for speaking to close friends and family about problems in the relationship.

“You’re missing out on a really good man,” he said one time I tried to leave. “You should be lucky to be with someone like me.”

When my family came into town after the bike crash, he got angry and resentful, calling me “spoiled” and “selfish” for being with them.

3. Extreme jealousy.

This is another hard one because I see so many people—myself included—mistake jealously for exclusivity.

When we first got together, I thought “Oh, he must be really jealous because he really likes me and wants to make sure nothing comes in the way of that.” I was unable to see the jealousy as the deep-seated insecurity that it was.

Toxic habits became the new normal. Things like looking through my phone every day, demanding that I answer if I had slept with any man we encountered who he didn’t know, and telling me not to wear certain clothing that he thought was too revealing.

He constantly fabricated stories about me cheating. He once went into a fit of rage because I didn’t introduce him to someone I had met for a few hours several years earlier, and a few weeks later did the same thing when we met someone who was an insignificant part of my past. In front of dozens of onlookers, he screamed at me, assuming I was currently sleeping with that individual.

4. Lack of respect for your property, aspirations, and values.

Because abusers see their partner merely as an extension of themselves rather than their own person with every right to their own opinions and limitations, boundaries are often blurred.

One of the first weeks I was dating this abuser, I had him drop me at a meeting on a topic that I was sure would be of no interest to him, and he immediately accused me of sneaking off to meet someone.

He often used my car and when I asked him not do things that would put me in jeopardy like smoke weed in it, suddenly I was, once again, “selfish.”

Once the relationship was over, all the money he owed me was no longer his problem.

Kind words that he had feigned regarding my job and career choices turned cold-turkey to, “You’re a f*cking lackey.”

5. Self-victimization.

Abusers very rarely see themselves as abusers, which is why they almost never stop abusing. My abuser said things like, “I only attract crazy people” or “They made me do x, y, and z,” always looking through the lens of a victim when discussing exes, family members, friends, etc.

Because of this, whenever conflict arose, I was always wrong or to blame in his eyes. He refused to utter “sorry,” claiming that using that word makes you a self-deprecating person, yet he expected it all the time from me.

6. Uninterested in self-help.

Abusers tend to find people with bleeding hearts or a savior complex, and they will allow their partner to “fix” them in order to 1) make their partner feel like she or he is different and the only one who truly understands the abuser, and 2) (usually towards the end of the relationship) use this as a threat for why the partner needs to stay (i.e. “you’re supposed to be there for me no matter what”).

At the very end of my relationship, when for the first time I saw the heightened abuse with clarity rather than just a “complicated relationship,” I suggested anger management and offered to go with him so it didn’t come across that I was singling him out. When he used a lack of funds as an excuse, I offered to pay. When he still refused, I finally saw the distinction between someone with demons who is wanting and willing to do whatever it takes to healthily work them out versus a true abuser, who would rather just find someone new who hasn’t figured out their true character yet and start the cycle of abuse over with them because it’s easier.

This list is by no means exhaustive and doesn’t even begin to get at the complexity of emotional abuse, especially when coupled with other factors like substance abuse, family history, and mental illness, all of which were present in my relationship.

But I’m not here to talk about all that, I’m sharing simply to shed a bit of light on key signs of emotional abuse, which is so damn underexposed, if for no other reason that it doesn’t bear the visible scars that physical abuse does.

I’m also not here to tell you that I’m perfect, or that I didn’t possess qualities that probably enabled the abuse at times.

There is a certain kind of gratification that comes from helping someone improve, but if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that the uplifting has to be mutual, no matter what kind of relationship it is. Anything less is a sure-fire path to the annihilation of your self-worth, and a total expending of your good energies on others, leaving nothing left for yourself.

And, please oh please oh please, don’t ask me #whyIstayed.

I did try to leave, but ended up doubting my own intuition every time.

I even called the National Domestic Abuse Hotline once after the abuse hit a verbal and somewhat physical climax. I was on hold for 45 minutes, during which my abuser insisted I was on the phone with a dude who I was making arrangements to go sleep with. But, at the time, I expected nothing else from him. It had all become normalized, you see.

I can’t reiterate enough how slowly emotional abuse can creep into your life—the first stage of complete adoration, gaslighting, and love-bombing from the abuser happens very quickly, but everything else is oftentimes so subverted you can only recognize just how bad it was once you’ve left.

Many people stay in abusive relationships far longer than they would like because they keep remembering the good times and subdue the bad. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t doing the same when it was first over. But as soon as I was able to identify the one thing we truly shared a passion for—cycling—I realized just how easy it was to replace the good feelings associated with those rides with hundreds of others in my city’s beautiful bike community, or even with the dozens of solo rides I’ve taken since getting back on my frame.

And I’ll leave you with this, only because it’s applicable to all injustices everywhere, not just the gross human rights violation that is domestic violence.

Great spirits have always encountered violent oppression from mediocre minds” ~ Albert Einstein.

If someone/thing/force is bringing you down through its weakness, flush that shit and don’t forget to wipe.

~Kendra Davisu

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6 Ways to let your Wounds Breathe after a Toxic Relationship.

By Cynthia Madison

Letting go of a toxic partner is a sign of courage and strength.

After years of emotional manipulation and suppressing your personality, you’re finally free and you’re ready to look for a meaningful relationship.

So why don’t you see the silver lining yet?

Getting out of a toxic relationship should feel empowering and liberating, but we may not feel like that right away. The first months after the breakup can be very confusing.

Our ex-partner is physically gone, but the negative energy they built around us is still there, preventing us from healing and being kind to ourselves. After being under someone else’s shadow for years, we may feel alone and vulnerable, and we may find it hard to trust ourselves. With time, this will all pass, and we can learn to value ourselves for who we are.

Be kind to yourself.

If you’ve been in a destructive relationship for years, you may not remember the last time you received a compliment. Maybe your partner told you that you’re not good enough, that you’ll never find someone else who loves you, or that you’ll never be happy on your own.

These words are not true and they have never been about you. They are the way your ex expressed their own fears and insecurities. Allow yourself to heal at your own rhythm. Don’t force yourself to start dating right away if you don’t feel ready yet, and never, ever blame yourself for how you are feeling.

Don’t replay all the hurtful words your ex has said about you. Focus on the positives instead: you had the strength to say no and break the cycle. It’s the beginning of a beautiful journey, and you shouldn’t let the past haunt you.

Surround yourself with positive energy.

After ending a toxic relationship, you may realize that all your old friends are gone and you’re not as close with your family. A toxic partner doesn’t want you to develop healthy, nurturing friendships that cherish your independence and help you grow as a person. They want you to be isolated. They want to build a wall between you and the outside world so that they can control you better.

This you versus them mindset needs to stop, and now is the best time to reconnect with people you lost contact with.

Did your ex have a problem with your best friend? Call them to meet up for a coffee. Did you stop attending family gatherings because your toxic partner didn’t like them? They’d love to have you back.

Celebrate the things you love about yourself.

Forget about the things your ex said they loved about you—if they mentioned any at all. What do you love about yourself? What do you think your strengths are?

Make a list of all the things that make you feel confident and focus on nurturing them. Try to break free from your ex’s perspective and rebuild your own image. When you know what makes you special, without comparing yourself to someone else, no one will make you doubt yourself.

Experiment and have fun.

Toxic relationships often make us suppress our feelings and prevent us from exploring. Now that you’re single, you may feel that you wasted years wearing clothes you didn’t love, you didn’t visit any exciting places, you missed out on many great parties, and, let’s face it, your sex life wasn’t amazing either.

Don’t assume that it’s too late and that you’ll just have to live with regrets for the rest of your life. It’s never too late to learn, grow, and have fun.

Go ahead and dye your hair a crazy color. Book that trip to a Bali retreat. Go clubbing, flirt, and see the sunrise. Buy that plunge-neck dress and wear it with pride. Buy your first vibrator and explore your body without feeling awkward or ashamed. Take the time to discover what you love, and later on, it will be easier for you to find someone who’s right for you.

Set boundaries and learn to say no.

One of the dangers of being in a toxic relationship is that it puts you in a destructive mindset where you’re attracted to toxic people. Ending one toxic relationship doesn’t help if it’s followed by a second one, so learn to spot the early signs of toxic behavior and say no before it’s too late.

Does spending time with this person leave you drained instead of happy? Do you feel pushed around and like you don’t have a voice? Tell them you don’t tolerate this kind of behavior.

This doesn’t apply only to romantic relationships; toxic friendships are just as harmful, and you’re likelier to accept them if you already tolerate destructive behavior from someone else.

Channel your kindness toward something or someone who deserves it.

The fact that you were in a toxic relationship doesn’t make you weak or inferior in any way. In fact, toxic partners thrive on smart, kind, caring individuals who want to help and be supportive. This is a great quality, and a bad relationship shouldn’t stop you from honing it.

What you should do is direct this kindness toward a good cause—something or someone who deserves it and appreciates it. It can be a new friend who respects you and shows genuine interest in your well-being, a charitable cause you’ve always believed in, or you can channel this energy toward your own personal growth.

Loving yourself is not a sign of narcissism or arrogance; it’s a condition of happiness and self-growth.

When you love yourself with all your strengths and flaws, this love will transfer to everything around you and will build the basis of healthy relationships.

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Living With Suicidal Feelings 

“Suicidal feelings are not the same as giving up on life. Suicidal feelings often express a powerful and overwhelming need for a different life. Suicidal feelings can mean, in a desperate and unyielding way, a demand for something new. Listen to someone who is suicidal and you often hear a need for change so important, so indispensable, that they would rather die than go on living without the change. And when the person feels powerless to make that change happen, they become suicidal.

Help comes when the person identifies the change they want and starts to believe it can actually happen. Whether it is overcoming an impossible family situation, making a career or study change, standing up to an oppressor, gaining relief from chronic physical pain, igniting creative inspiration, feeling less alone, or beginning to value their self worth, at the root of suicidal feelings is often powerlessness to change your life – not giving up on life itself.”

―Will Hall

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Measuring Our lives And Achievements Against Others In Social Media

“Long before the advent of social media psychologists knew that one of the fundamental barriers to our well-being is social comparison. It’s hard to be happy if we constantly concern ourselves with how we measure up to those around us. When we derive a sense of worth based on how we are doing relative to others, we place our happiness in a variable that is completely beyond our control.

Within moments of logging on to social media, we have instant access to others’ accomplishments, vacations, job promotions, home upgrades, and culinary creations. It’s nearly impossible not to get swept into the cycle of comparison. Scrolling through the highlight reels our friends’ posts inevitably fills us with envy because of the things we now want.” Read the whole article here.

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Rolling With The Punches

On the 15th of June while sightseeing over the border I had a bad fall and fractured my spine (L-1) An ambulance was called and I found myself immobilized in an Emergency room undergoing a series of tests which involved X-ray, CT scan, and MRI scan. The test results showed a piece of my vertebrae which looks like a wedge of a pizza cleanly separated from the main part, they called it a stable fracture. For the first time in my life I experienced how it was to have a catheter inside me which took them too long to insert because apparently, I have an almost nonexistent urethra. Which reminded me of the paramedic in the ambulance who had to administer an intranasal delivery of morphine after failing to locate any of my veins. Speaking of morphine, that was another first time for me. Never had them before. Now I have two kinds, extended-release morphine, and the usual short-acting opioid plus other things to lighten the overall burden that comes with the condition.

For someone who is as active and energetic and wanderer as me, lying in bed for weeks in one position is deadly not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. For somebody who is always been independent and proud, being totally dependent on another person for everything including personal hygiene is murder for the soul. I’m ashamed.

I am ashamed and angry with myself for allowing this to happen. A split second of stupidity and error of judgment from my part resulted in this. What I was thinking? 

If there is something positive that I would carry with me from this accident is the truth that I have to admit the fact that like it or not, I am not anymore who I used to be. A lesson learned the hard way but it had to happen or otherwise, I will be forever deluding myself that I’m still that person from years ago who knew no bounds, daring and fearless. 

Doctors said I’m lucky. It could have been worse. In any other circumstances, I could be paralyzed or dead. The way I fell they suspected a worst-case scenario. I should have not landed where I landed but with some curious twist of fate, I was saved from the life of being forever wheelchair-bound. 

But something will never change no matter what, that is my quest for independence and freedom.

I ditched the morphine in the first week and wrestle with pain. I prefer that over addiction and constipation. I was advised not to take the stairs and don’t do challenging work yet but I can’t lie there doing nothing. Besides, our home office is upstairs now since we have converted the downstairs bureau into my bedroom. And there are so many things to do in the garden. I was cooking already the first day because in order to have palatable nutrition I have to cook. I can do a lot of things standing including eradicating climbing plants totally and pruning the roses but sitting is too painful and bending is a big no-no. I cry at night from the pain and my body is in a constant battle with exhaustion but I’m still standing. I don’t dare to take a shower alone and laying in the bath is not yet for the near future but I’m still mobile and I’m glad for that. Pain or no pain.

I will be more careful in the future knowing what I know now. But I doubt what happened will change me as a person. I am who I am.

I will not be able to blog often for a month or two. Another blow to my already shaky constitution watching things that matter to me being taken away one by one but I don’t want to dwell on that for the moment. It’s not good for my healing process. I want to concentrate on getting better so I can catch up fast.

I hope to find you there when the time comes.

Take care all of you and till then.

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Mental Health VS Physical Health

“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.” ― Herophilus

In the recently concluded Miss Universe Pageant in my country of origin, a candidate who many thought would be a very strong contender for the crown and at the night of the event bagged most of the major awards struggled to answer this question from one of the judges: “Why is mental health as important as physical health?”  Not only she struggled to find the right words despite starting confidently, but she also ran out of time which many assumed cost her the coveted crown.

“Why is mental health as important as physical health?” 

I think most of us can answer why.

Without one of both life could be difficult. Though I rather lost physical than mental. I beautifully preserved healthy body is nothing but a useless shell without mental health. But vice versa is livable. Think of Stephen Hawking for instance. The mind is the matter because its the engine of our very own being, it is our command center and the editor of our deeds. Without it, we’re nothing but a living dead.

That’s why I can’t understand why in our current society they put the emphasis on beauty and less on mindful living. Outward appearance becomes our utmost priority instead of nourishing the soul.

I know why.

Because being beautiful is a privilege and pays off a great deal. Fairy tales taught us that from a very young age. Anything can happen but as long as you are beautiful you will be alright in the end. Beautiful people are being treated well, loved and adored. You can go far on beauty alone. Of course in every rule… but exception is seldom, in general, beautiful people have an advantage in every which way wherever, however.

It is sad but true. We can protest, philosophize, deny but it’s true. We can argue, hope wish but the fact will remain true. Unless we sort out our priorities. Aim and work for a healthy mind and body and concentrate less on beauty.

  Agree?

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