Good Afternoon World,
I just walked in the door from a meeting and I feel like it’s time for me to start this journey on my blog. I kept thinking that I would shoot a series of YouTube videos to follow the one that I shot last year ‘My Divorce, What Really Happened‘, but I just can’t get myself to do it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m naturally more inclined to write than to speak, or if it’s because this last couple of years has a felt a bit like the sh*t filled tube in the movie Shawshank Redemption. If you’re not familiar with the movie, watch it, it’s Amazing!
When he is finally crawling his way to freedom, his last journey is through a sewage pipe, filled with, you guessed it, sh*t. He wanted out so badly that he didn’t care. I have imagined myself crawling that disgusting journey, on my knees, hand over hand, suffering that unbearable stench to get to this place. I think I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t get me wrong, the air is still stained with the stench of a life that I am fighting to pull away from, inch by inch, but I am resolute. There is only one direction, forward.
For those of you not familiar with my family’s journey over the last few years, I will be writing a lot about that in the coming months, but for now just know that our home, our former life, was a beautiful Hallmark card, printed with disappearing ink. My ex husband, two beautiful children and I had all the trappings of a good life, but behind closed doors, we were living out a nightmare. The children and I lived in constant fear. We walked on eggshells. We were invisible cast members in the one man show ‘The Pilot’. We orbited my ex husband and his ego like confused planets in some twisted galaxy. We were extensions of his life. We were never a part of it. We were a necessary inconvenience for his career and ‘soul suckers’ as he used to put it. He wanted complete freedom, constant accolades and he was the star of our family’s story line. He was/is a narcissist and we were his supply. Then one night, one
God damn awful night, it all just exploded.
I knew it was coming. You see your marriage disintegrating in front of you. You try to slow time. You try to make family memories before they are gone forever. You grab at straws. You try to have that one last family vacation. You try to make love to your husband one final time. You hold on like someone hanging from a cliff who just wants to see the sun come up one more time. You suffer things that you would formally have scoffed at. You do anything and everything to hold it together. You think that it will come to some natural breaking point. You think that you will know when the end is near. You think that you will have time to prepare for the worst pain of your life, but then it just happens. It’s as fast as taking a picture or ordering a cup of coffee and your marriage is over, click, boom, done.
I wasn’t prepared, not even close. I don’t even remember the last words that were spoken or the last time that his hand touched mine. It was all gone, in a flash. Yes, I feared him, but I was still very much in love with him. I wasn’t ready. Time stopped. My heart didn’t break. It shattered into a million pieces, some of which must still be in the corners of that fateful room where our marriage ended. Then time just sort of stops, well, slows down like some old fashioned movie where you can see the individual stills passing by. You are a shell of your former self, a zombie (a mombie in my case, because I have children), and you just exist for a really really long time. There is no joy. There is no laughter. There is simply an emptiness, darkness, and a deafening quite that fills your life. In the words of Pink Floyd, you become ‘Comfortably Numb’.
For the last few years, I said basically nothing. I said nothing because I couldn’t bare to tell the truth. I couldn’t speak it, or write it, or quite frankly even be honest with myself about it. I
was am also afraid. I am afraid of making him angry. I am afraid of retribution for speaking the truth, but that is how they win isn’t it? Abusers abuse, they devalue, discard and replace you and then they expect you to be quiet about it to spare their name. Just like I said in my videos last year, which were met with a lot of love and a lot of hate, this isn’t about revenge. It’s about truth.
It’s about a truth that so many victims of domestic violence never get to tell, because their voices are silenced by their abusers. It’s about an insidious epidemic that happens behind closed doors in every city, in every corner of the globe. It knows no socioeconomic bracket, no race, no religion. It discriminates equally. So what should I do? Should I be silent forever? Should I never speak of the almost decade of torture that my children and I endured?
No! I reject that reality, because it is tantamount to having my voice silenced, which I can not allow because I am still here when so many others are not. It is to revictimize my own children and pretend that that chapter of their lives didn’t happen. It is to rip chapters out of my life’s story and leave the reader confused as to how I ended up here. I will not do that anymore. That ends today. It ends with every key that my fingers come into contact with on my laptop.
So where do you start? How do hand someone a book and then expect them to know the history of every chapter without filling in the blanks? You don’t. There is no good place to start. There is just a moment when your soul tells your fingers to type. There is a moment when you decide that you have once and for all had enough. That is this moment, today at 2:31 PM as I am typing this. I can’t tell the story chronologically, because it would be so long and sad that no one would be able to stomach it. I can start with today. I can start with why I decided to start blogging again and fill you in as I go.
My ex husband and I have had a few less than pleasant exchanges in the last few days. I always notice one overriding tone in his communications to me. I state the facts. I say what happened. I don’t hurl insults or call him names. I stand my ground. I repeat the reality that I know to be fact, not allegations. He minimizes my emotions. He calls me terrible names (you’re a cancer Raphaela, you never were and never will be worth my time, etc, etc). He plays the victim in a drama written and acted out by him. He never takes responsibility or even admits to his actions. He tries to make me feel like a worthless person, and it almost works. When he did this yesterday, I reached for the Power and Control Wheel (more on that in a moment) and it reminded me of the power of this piece of paper. It was just the push that the universe needed to give me to begin to write again. Thanks Universe!
There is just this burning desire inside of me to stand up and say no more. I just can’t take another minute of it. I think of all of the people who are currently sitting on the floor, face in their hands, wiping away tears, maybe blood, and wondering when it will all end. That’s who I am writing to. I am writing to those
victims survivors and anyone who loves them and wants their pain to stop. I am writing to anyone who is so lost, afraid, confused, and completely broken because someone has completely devalued you. I am writing to anyone who believes that they are worthless, because someone in your life has told you that time and time again. You are not worthless. You are valuable. Hurt people, hurt people. You have to turn their voice off and turn yours up.
When will it all end? I have a hard cold truth for you. It won’t. The truth is that the abuse hasn’t ended, even though we have been divorced for more than a year, and separated for almost three years. The truth is that when you escape that situation, you only put distance, not an end to it. The truth is that you will have to have more emotional stamina than you could possibly imagine to pick your broken self up off of the floor, day after day, year after year and fight just to keep your joy. Know these things to be true, accept them, prepare for them. Make your body strong. Make your mind strong.
It may seem like I am bouncing around a bit here today, and I am. It’s hard to begin telling this kind of a story or trying to throw a lifeline to someone who is drowning, which is how I felt just yesterday after yet another round of terrible insults courtesy of my ex husband. I literally felt as if the wind had been knocked out of my chest. I felt like the light in my heart had been put out. I felt all of those terrible emotions that I used to wake up with and go to sleep with every single day for so many damn years. I felt…..dead inside.
I dislike to even admit this on my blog, which I know that he and his lawyer read religiously. I don’t like that he may take satisfaction in knowing that he knocked me back a bit, but here is the bottom line. I care more about reaching someone who is hurting than protecting my own pride. They watch everything that I do online. They bring it up in court.
So, this line’s for you ex husband and his attorney. Know that from this day forward, I will not suffer your attacks in silence anymore. I will not allow you to attempt to destroy the life that I have rebuilt. You may not have my joy. You may not silence me with your intimidation and stalking. Read what you like and know that I will live this out for the world to see from now on. Your days of silencing me with the fear that you are watching me are over!
I have chosen to say hell with it. I am going to speak the truth. I accept that there is a level of risk in writing these things. I accept that I may make him angry. That fact alone kept me silent for a long, long time, but that’s just another form of control and abuse, isn’t it? Sometimes, you just have to roll the dice and hope for the best. He doesn’t get to control my thoughts, words, or life anymore. I have a voice and for the love of God I am going to use it. You can’t just stop living. You can’t deny your story. You shouldn’t have to. You just have to learn to blow it off and give it less importance when people stalk every move that you make even though there is a court order in place that says they can’t.
Fortunately, I have been very blessed in this chapter of my life to be surrounded by a wonderful man and solid Christian friends who help me walk out this difficult journey. They all encouraged me to be patient, to wait for when I knew it felt right to talk about these things. I did wait. I waited for almost three years. I likely would have stayed silent if it had stopped, but here we are three years later and the abuse keeps coming like a bottomless bread basket. I have realized that it no longer matters what I do. I can say everything or nothing and it is the same difference to him. He will never stop, so I can not be silent. I have to speak up. I have to stand up.
Remember a moment ago when I told you to make your mind strong? This blog post is about a tool that has really helped me to gain and maintain clarity in the midst of this storm. It is just a simple piece of paper, or a tiny image stored on your computer if you are too afraid to print it out. It is called the Power and Control Wheel and it changed, and in some ways, saved my life. A piece of paper saved your life Raphaela? Um…..yup, sure did. No, I am not being mellow dramatic, I am being authentic and transparent with you.
When he used to speak to me the way that he did yesterday, I would feel the life just leaving my body. I was at a point where I only kept going because of my children. The only thing worse than death to me during that time in my life would have been having this man raise our children. I could go on for hours about that, but I won’t because it no longer holds the same amount of power in my life. It used to make me cry, feel worthless, question myself, etc etc. Now, it makes me feel those emotions for about an hour. Then I drink some coffee, read a lot of scripture, pray with a friend, knock out a killer workout, focus on work and cuddle up on the couch with my man. Trust me when I tell you that this ability to reject my ex husband’s words was hard won. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.
This Power and Control Wheel has eight ‘pieces of pie’ and it was instrumental in helping me learn to hear, but reject his narcissistic attacks.
- Using Coercion and Threats
- Using Intimidation
- Using Emotional Abuse
- Using Isolation
- Minimizing, Denying and Blaming
- Using Children
- Using Male Privilege
- Using Economic Abuse
On the outside of the wheel, you will see physical and sexual violence in black. On the inside of the wheel, you see the eight tactics that abusers use to establish and maintain dominance over their victims.
I could write a book on these different pie pieces, giving you examples of each, but this blog post is not to detail the specifics of my story. I will get into that in other posts as time passes. This blog post is to make you AWARE that this tool exists. You see, before someone showed this to me, I really genuinely believed that I was losing my mind. I later learned that this is called gaslighting, and is a common practice used by narcissists to destabilize their victims.
His behavior was so cruel, so calculated it was almost impossible to articulate to people, which for the most part I did not even do. With the exception of a few very close friends, I endured this situation in silence. Partly out of shame and partly because I didn’t even know how to explain it, because it seemed like such unspeakable behavior.
Until I saw this Power and Control Wheel, I felt like a sick patient who continues to go to the doctor and tell them that something is wrong, only to have the doctor tell them that they could not find anything. Then one day, a doctor tells you, “Oh, you have this or that”, and you are just grateful to finally know what it is. I knew that I was being systematically torn down, broken on a cellular level, but I didn’t understand how to describe it or to convey how it made me feel.
I remember the day that I saw this wheel. I was in a coffee house in New Orleans with a very good friend who had flown in from California to see the children and I after my marriage ended. That person handed me this piece of paper and said only one thing. They said, “I want you to read this. I don’t want you to say anything for at least ten minutes. I want you to see if any of this looks familiar to you.” That very good friend walked away to get a coffee for the both of us. When that person returned to the table, I was no longer there. I was in the bathroom, with my back pressed against the cold tile, sitting on the floor after I had slid down the wall into a hysterical pool of tears.
I cried so hard that I didn’t even want to leave the restroom, because I knew that everyone would know that I had been sobbing. I tried to get myself together. I applied my signature lipgloss and headed back out to greet my friend.
My friend didn’t say anything. They didn’t have to. They knew all along what was going on. They had tried to tell me for years, but I could not hear them through the dense, confusing fog that was my life. People learn in different ways. I am a visual learner, so this hit me like a hard slap on a chilly day. In other words, it got my attention. In an instant, my life was changed. I knew what had been happening. I couldn’t deny it. I couldn’t sugar coat it. I couldn’t do anything except accept the cold hard reality that my life was staring back at me in 12 point font on a flimsy piece of black and white paper.
I don’t know how to explain it exactly, other than to say that it was one of the most powerful moments of my life. It was like I had been wondering through a cloud, unable to see, and in an instant, someone sucked away everything and you are just left standing there. Suddenly there was this perfect clarity. That was the moment that I realized that I was going to survive this awful thing that had destroyed my life, my family, my joy, my hope……me.
Seeing all of the forms of abuse that had been taking place was like having someone translate my thoughts onto paper. It was validation that these things did exist and were real, as he had told me so many times that I was ‘making something out of nothing’ and that ‘this is just marriage Raphaela’. I knew all along that it was abuse. I knew all along that I never felt loved. I knew all along that I never was loved by this person. I just simply couldn’t understand why it was happening. Most importantly, I couldn’t make it stop. I was never going to be able to make it stop. That is what I realized in that moment. I was never going to make it stop, but at least now I knew what the problem was, and in the wise words of GI Joe:
It was like when a newborn baby draws oxygen into their lungs for the first time. I could finally breathe. It was as if I had been holding my breathe for so long and someone suddenly pulled my head above the water. That was the moment that I became a survivor, not a victim!
I decided to read everything that I could get my hands on, make connections with those who had endured this terrible abuse before me, and I built a support structure so high and so wide that I knew that not only would this never happen to me again, but that I was going to one day help others claw their way out if necessary and find themselves again.
This post is my first step toward that mission. In telling you my story, I hope that you find the strength to write yours. I hope that hearing about this tool will help someone to ‘see the light’ or in some way understand that you are not crazy. Hold on to what you know is right and true. Don’t let them put your light out, silence your voice, or in any other way rob you of what is good inside of you that they want to erase from you.
Just hold on. Learn what you need to know. Make a plan. Create a safe place. Equip yourself and prepare for the fight of your life, because that’s what it’s going to require for you to get out. You can do this. I will do everything that I can to help you. There is help. There are tools. There are people that survive and live on the other side of this soul crushing abuse who go on to love again. There are people who care about your safety and emotional well being. Reach out. Call the Domestic Abuse Hotline. Get some perspective. You can do this. You can break away from this and survive it. You don’t have to stay a victim. Don’t you dare quit.
This post was not about pity, nor revenge. It was about truth, survival and hope. It will not be the last post on this, but this chapter in my life also does not define me. It is one spoke in a huge wheel that makes up my life. Thank you for spending some time with me today. Please share this information with anyone who you think needs to see it. I have a playlist on YouTube called ‘How Bare You’ that has videos that deal with domestic violence, restraining orders, etc. If you need for information, please click here to be taken to that playlist.
Please share the Power and ontrol Wheel. It really can save a life. I know that, because it gave me back mine.