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The ramblings of a girl who survived an abusive relationship and went on to live a happy life. I'm glad you are here!

Types of Abusers: The Water Torturer

The Water Torturer Abuser:

•Proves that anger doesn’t cause abuse, this type of abuser can assault his partner without ever even raising his voice.
•He tends to stay cool and collected during arguments as a weapon to push his partner over the edge.
•Uses tools like sarcasm, mockery, even resorting to laughing at her or what she says or making cruel, cutting remarks
•Relentless in his quiet derision and meanness 

When dating a “Water Torturer,” you tend to do one of two things: either you become frustrated to the point of furiousness, or you begin to feel completely stupid and inferior. You might end up doing things like screaming and yelling because you become so frustrated, storming out of the room, or sinking into silence, leading your partner to make it seem like you are the abusive or crazy one. He might say things to you like “You’re the one screaming and yelling, I’m just talking calmly: you’re the one that is abusive to me. You are impossible to talk to. I didn’t even raise my voice, and look at you!”

This type of abuse can be incredibly damaging and can do serious harm to your personal mentality. You feel like you are going crazy or that you are enraged but have no idea really why. You have a hard time reaching out to other people because you don’t even know how to explain what is going on. He seems to know exactly how to get under your skin, and he can even make other people take his side in believing that you are the crazy one and that he just somehow puts up with you.

•Leads other people to believe that they are nice and even-tempered, and you are the one that is crazy, unpredictable and has a bad temper.
•Can be incredibly cruel, all the while maintaining a calm mentality. He plays up the idea that as long as he is calm, nothing he does or says can be seen as abusive.
•Knows exactly how to get under your skin.
•Leads you to believe that you fly off the handle or overreact to things that aren’t really that bad.

It can take years to figure out what is happening, if you are a victim of this type of abuse, and if you finally leave him,  you may experience intense periods of delayed rage as you realize just how abusive  and destructive he was.

** This information is an adaptation from Lundy Bancroft’sWhy Does He Do That?

Abuse Is Not Romantic!

Abusers tend to blame their abusive behavior on “love.” When I was a victim, I remember people telling me that I was “lucky to have someone who loved me so much.” Granted, the people saying this did not know the whole entire story, but as a victim this message is confusing and damaging.  Abuse is NOT Romantic. It is NOT love. It is abuse. It hurts. It destroys lives. This is why I am launching the “ABUSE IS NOT ROMANTIC!” campaign. Read what some other victims have to say. Add your own examples in the comment section, or email me (lifeafterdatingapsycho@gmail.com) send me a message on facebook or twitter to have your examples written out like the ones below.

 

Survivor Poetry: ‘Unnamed Woman’

My mother cut out clippings from the newspaper with a pair of silver scissors,
gliding them along the marble countertop with a swoosh as I cut my French toast
into trapezoids with my fork. I never drank my orange juice. It left a bad
taste in my mouth when I brushed my teeth and besides, orange juice
did not belong to me anymore. It belonged on the list, ‘no longer innocent,’
and I hardly paid attention to the articles in the newspaper anyway but there
was still no convincing him of that. There was no convincing him
of most things that I tried and there was no way I knew of to drown
out the tone of his voice over my mother’s cheerful ring. There’s a nice
picture of you. [Ugly! Stupid! Fake!] My mother said. A nice picture
of a girl that looked like me, running with one hand in the air and a white
soccer ball in the net behind her. Blurry. The article below it takes up
half a page and continues on C5 but I flip to C6 by mistake and I read
about an unnamed woman who was r       d two nights ago in her own house
by a man she (thought she) knew. And if you hold up the page, staring now
at C5 and looking at the letters of my name in the light from the kitchen window,
you’ll find the articles run together. The same black ink on the same dull
white paper and that’s as far as I’ll ever get to reading the article today.

Years later, I will flip through one of the three ring binders my grandmother
used to press each clipping into and I will notice the article I never read
and I will sit on my bedroom floor in my new house in my new city in my
new life and it would read like a fairy tale I wish could have been real.
‘Did I really do all that?’ I’ll ask my mom when she walks past my room and she
will pause in the doorway and take a minute to put it all together and she will
say ‘yes. Yes you did. Yes.’ And I will try to believe her only because my name
is written in the ink and the picture of the girl looks something like me
and I will wonder if the man was ever caught or put in jail or if he even stepped
foot into a courthouse but I will wait until my mother walks away before
slipping the paper from its plastic covering. I can feel the stabbing in my lower
back, see the world from in between a pair of fingers on my face and I wish I knew
what happened to that woman because it never says, if she survived or if she
walked around in another person’s body all these years. If she woke up
sweating at two am, if she forgot her favorite song or how to speak
out loud or how to look in to a mirror and I wish I knew what it felt like
to be the girl that was smiling, and not the one unnamed.

 

© A. Leigh

The Villains No One Prepares Us For

I Thought You Said The Bad Guys Were Strangers Dressed Up In Dark Clothes?

When I was fourteen, I knew what the bad guys looked like. They were the ones in dark clothing, hanging outside gas stations at night or waiting in the woods behind my house for me to go for a run by myself. They had tattoos. They held a cigarette between yellow, rotting teeth. And every once in a while, they cleaned themselves up, put on nice clothes, and pretended to be an overly friendly stranger that tried to tempt kids like me with candy or ice cream or a ride in their windowless van.

I knew what they looked like because I paid attention during my sixth grade safety assembly. I watched as the characters, similar to the one described above, performed a skit in the middle of a circle of desks in my classroom. I watched as the bad guys tried to capture an adult woman dressed as a little girl and convince her to do drugs. I watched her save herself by running back to her friends.

And I believed what I was told because it was the same version of the world I saw just about everywhere else. The classic villain, drawn with harsh accent and dark colors, and named things like Scar, Professor Snape, Cruela Du Vill; names that literally identified a character as evil. They were obvious, even to a four-year old, no matter how clever their disguise. They were scary, and strong, and sneaky…..but I was prepared for them.

What I was not prepared for was the transfiguration of the wonderfully loving, yet slightly wounded character that the audience immediately attached to. People warned me about walking in dark allies (a place rare in my suburban neighborhood.) My mother made me carry a cell phone when I went running in the middle of the day. My high school put locks on the door so that “bad people” could not get in. I followed the buddy system when I was hanging out with friends. And I never talked to strangers.
But no one told me that the people who would pressure me to do things I knew I “wasn’t supposed to do,” would be the same people who sat next to me in the safety assembly and signed their names on the petition right next to mine: the people who were supposed to be on my side. And no one ever warned me that the bad guy would be dressed up as my best friend, my boyfriend, instead of in a long black trench coat. That he would have the same eyes as the boy who loved me. That he would answer all of my wildest dreams before slowly and meticulously tearing them down. That Prince Charming might turn into the villain and try to kill me.
No one warned me about being in my own house, or explained to me that I had a greater chance of being hurt in my messy little bedroom, by my boyfriend, than I did of running into a bad guy stranger in the woods behind my house.
What I have realized recently is that one of the reasons the abuse that I experienced was so damaging to my life was that I was completely blindsided by it. I literally had no understanding or even hint of an idea that something like this was possible. There were no words I had to describe what I was going through. Nothing I did to try to solve things made anything better. Nothing I did to try to protect myself kept me safe. And the only thing I really felt was that somehow, everything was my fault.
After talking to other victims, I understand that I was not alone in my experience. One of the hardest lessons I have learned is that abusers aren’t always strangers. They come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, in fact many times, they are a person you know and love. The difficult part is separating the image or title of the person—attractive, loving, boyfriend—from the behavior—hitting, belittling, harassment, etc.; and understanding that “staying safe” is less about identifying only certain people and situations as dangerous and more about recognizing that no matter who the person is in relation to you, or what the situation may be that a behavior is associated with, abuse is abuse.

Survivor Poetry: ‘Cut Out My Heart’

I cut out my heart,
leave it on the shelf beside my dresser,
next to a box of necklaces and
a tipped over frame.
I don’t feel like bringing it tonight.

I cut out my heart,
leave it behind and
replace the emptiness
with a painted smile
and pretend I can’t hear it crying-
Calling all night in the breaks
between the laughter,
the moments
when words fall away
and silence seeps in
and I feel the empty hole
in the left side of my chest
and I think about
trying to forget about
missing you.

I cut out my heart,
leave it behind where no one can notice,
where no one can touch it,
where it can’t feel arms wrapped around me
or smell the hint of Old Spice against my skin.
And it can’t see
the way I look into his eyes
pretending that it’s still there, inside.
pretending that I can give it away,
pretending that it already belongs to someone else.

And at night when I go home,
and wash away my smile,
and sit in the silence of my crowded room
staring at the plastic stars stuck on to my ceiling,
It sits waiting at the foot of my bed
like an abandoned puppy
following me around with its tale between its legs
Whimpering
Until I make it leave the room
And lock my door behind it,
pulling the covers over my head
Pretending I can’t hear it scratching at the door and
pressing its nose under the crack
waiting for someone to notice.

I cut out my heart
pretend somehow that it hurts less
to have an empty space
rather than a million shattered pieces,
pretend somehow that it is easier
to feel nothing at all
rather than risking too much
again.

 


January, 2005.

How Do I Find The Person I Was Before The Abuse?

One of the saddest things about abuse is that even after you get out of the abusive situation, or away from your abuser–if you are lucky enough to do so– life doesn’t just go back to the way it was beforehand. It’s not like waiting out a thunderstorm so that you can play outside again…even when the clouds move on and the sun shines, life doesn’t continue the way it did before the storm. Instead, surviving abuse is like getting through a storm, only to find that the dark clouds move from the sky around you, to form a squall within your own head.
For me, through the worst parts of the abuse, I simply prayed to stay alive. I prayed to live through the day, through the night, through another week until I could make it to the day when I got my life back. I was one of the fortunate ones. I did get out. I got away from my abuser. And I got back to my life, only to find that when I did, I was no longer in it.
The person I had been before; the happy kid, the carefree and wild and innocent girl who wore bright orange spandex to field hockey practice the first day the temperature dropped below 30 degrees and pretended to fall flat on her face while walking in the middle of a crowded mall because her best friend bet she wouldn’t; the girl with that huge, ridiculous smile on her face that radiated from her fingers to her toes…..she was gone. Looking back, I watch the process: the slow stripping of confidence, the way my abuser etched away at the strong personality I was unaware anyone could touch, piece by piece, combined with my own desperate attempt to rid my body of any semblance of feeling, all burying me as far away as possible and leaving nothing more than an empty shell to take my place.
I’m not sure, really, where the weight of the destruction lies for each individual victim. For me it was shame. Shame; that shut me up, that kept me smiling just the way I had always smiled, and forbid me from ever trusting myself again. The type of shame that clouded me from seeing anything beyond the distorted view of what had happened. The type of shame that never let things be anyone else’s fault other than mine. The type of shame that made me hate the sound of my own voice, the glimpse of my own reflection, and made the thought of letting the girl I was close enough to see the girl I had become, unbearable.
It took me years to realize that the shame I felt, was given to me– wrapped nicely in a pretty package that looked a lot like love, and even after I broke myself from my abuser’s hold, I still held the shame he left behind and thought it was my own.
So….how do we get our lives back? How do we find our way back to the person we were before the abuse and merge the pieces of ourselves together? I’ve spent most of the past few years since becoming a victim, convinced that I am serving a life sentence while my abuser walks free; wishing for some outline of steps to follow to get back to the person I lost and to figure out who I am now, but willing to settle for knowing that any of this is even possible; all of which leaves me wanting to scream out to someone, anyone: Am I even heading in the right direction? Will I ever get to the end of all of this….will I ever be ok again???!?!

And then, ever so slowly, it begins to come back; tiny flecks of me that force their way through the numbness and the fear.  For me, this process started by chipping away at the shame the same way my abuser chipped away at me. Piece by piece. So slowly that I’m sometimes not aware that I am making any change, but as I look back I can see how far I have come. I don’t have to be the abuse. I am not the crazy jealous rage. I am not the assault. I am not a lie. 

And I realize, that although I prayed for my innocence and naivety back, I now have a deeper awareness in my own ability to make an educated decision based on what I want; although I wished to disappear from it all, I now see the strength I earn from fighting through; although I swore that no one would ever understand, I now have a better understanding for other victims; although I cursed the years I lost because of abuse, I now appreciate every moment of my life I have; although I wanted to hate a world with so much pain, I am surprised by how much love surrounds me.

I am more than what someone tried to make me. I am more than just a girl left alone on her floor. I am more than an empty shell, a sleepless night, a silenced voice. I am more than what has happened to me.

The Hidden Power That Can Be Found After Trauma

I’ve been thinking today, about the hidden power that can be found after going through a traumatic experience. As crippling and devastating as the abuse I experience was–I survived. There’s something very powerful when I recognize this. The fact that I am alive. That each day I take another step toward recovery. That I am still standing. I am still speaking. I am still fighting.
And when I think about it, I realize that if I can survive something so severe, what do I have to be afraid of now? Granted, the little girl inside of me is scared a lot. Scared of meeting new people. Scared of trying new things. Scared of starting a relationship and trusting someone else that might only lead to more pain and suffering. Scared of everything, it seems sometimes. But I remind her, she has survived worse. And if she can survive what she did, then everything else seems trivial in comparison. Why be afraid?
So today I’m choosing to find a way to hold on to that power. I picked myself up off the floor. I got myself out of an abusive relationship. I lived through the night while my psycho ex was camped outside my bedroom. Years of stalking and harassment. I survived. If I can do that, then I can definitely survive a “normal” heartbreak. I can survive a bad day. Walking a runway in front of a thousand people. Meeting someone new for dinner. Speaking to a classroom full of people. Just about…anything.

Twelve

My cousin, Ella, is twelve. She watches me as I take off my dress at the pool and comments on my striped bikini, adjusting the straps of her own bathing suit and asking me how old I was when I started texting boys. I tell her, when I was her age, I didn’t have a cell phone. We had something crazy called instant messenger to talk to our friends and read the away messages of the boys we thought were cute. Later that night, she lays with her head on my stomach and runs through another list of questions, promising that each one is the last, but then finding another moment of confusion within each of my answers.

I try to remember the things that I needed to hear when I was twelve, or that I would have liked to have known. Be patient; when you are older you will find a wonderful guy, but you’ll probably meet a lot of a-holes on the way; focus on what you want and don’t worry about what boys think of you; be a strong and independent girl…I try to think of answers that won’t scare her, but at the same time don’t give her false hope or senseless reinforcement to the idea that everything always works out in life and there is nothing to worry about. I find, it is a difficult balance. I don’t know exactly what these answers are, but I think maybe all she needs is just to have a chance to talk and to ask and to connect with someone who remembers what it feels like to be lost in a changing world and uncomfortable in a changing body.

At twelve years old, she is discovering the unfriendly nature of growing up that has her running to the bathroom in half hour increments, and glancing at every mirror we pass as we walk through stores in the mall. Aquina and I dress up in fancy hats and scarves, talking to each other in British accents as we run around the spiral racks at Claire’s, picking up anything that sparkles and trying to use it to decorate Ella. I put a silver flower clip in her hair. She takes it out. Turns it over and over in her hand. Puts it back in her hair. Takes it out. Puts it back in her hair as she walks over to the mirror. Takes it out. I tell her not to worry because she looks beautiful, but she cannot get past herself today.

When she unpacks her suitcase and shows me her new bras, I try to act excited. I try to pretend like growing up is fun and exciting, hoping I can convince her more than I am able to convince myself. I don’t tell her that when I was twelve, I cried every night for a month after learning about how my body was going to change.  Or that I wore my womanhood as if it was a deformity I was desperate to conceal, layering on five or six sports bras beneath a double set of t-shirts every day; that I prayed over and over, pleading with God to not make me get my period, writing letters to Santa asking if he could turn me into a boy in exchange for being good all year, and hiding each new hair, each new bud of growth with desperate hatred.

As I lie in bed tonight, I can’t stop thinking about twelve. As much as I hated every single moment of maturity, I loved being twelve. I was still like seven-year-old Aquina when I was twelve. I ran around and got dirty and loved loved loved beating my male classmates at every sport. I wore fluorescent knee-high socks during basketball games. I put a girl in a headlock for telling people not to talk to me because I was a really a boy. I put a boy in a headlock for calling me a girl. I succeeded in changing the dress code for band recitals, so that I could wear my brother’s suit instead of a skirt. I wrote a six-page petition to my gym teacher when he separated the boys from the girls during class, complete with a charted recording of the difference in average time allowed to play (9 minutes each round the boys played compared to only 4.5 minutes per round for the girls), as well as the signatures of every student in my grade. I refused to wear makeup. I refused to shave my legs. I refused to be like everyone else. I loved everyone and I laughed at everything and I knew that I could do anything I wanted to.

Two years later, I would begin my first relationship, and within a year after that, I would watch as my childhood was stripped away from me, stealing with it the pure innocence and naivety I was unaware anyone could touch. Fifteen doesn’t sound that young. Sixteen, seemed so old at the time. But when I look at Ella, with her baby face and training bra, still throwing tantrums when her mom makes her go to bed at 9:30, still fighting with her little sister about who gets to sit in the middle seat and who gets to push the button to call for the elevator; all I can see is beautiful baby. A little girl. A child. And I can finally recognize how young my own face looked, in the darkness of my pale pink room, lying on sheets that had pictures of troll dolls on them after picking myself up from the crumpled pile of dirty t-shirts on my floor and trying to make sense of something to which I hadn’t yet learned the word.


%

of females will be involved in an abusive relationship before graduating from college


FYI

I am not a doctor or a therapist. I am a survivor who wants to tell my story in hopes of helping others. I encourage anyone who is, or has been, involved in an abusive relationship to seek professional help. Without the help of professional therapists, counselors and social workers, I would not have survived my situation.

I tend to use feminine labels when talking about the victim and masculine labels when addressing the abuser. Both men and women can be victims, just as an abuser can be male or female. When you read, please disregard gender when necessary.


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