Today has been one of the most difficult days in recent memory, so apologies in advance for the disconnected nature of this post.
My day didn’t start badly at all, in fact, I awoke quite jovial following an unusually pleasant dream that involved talking lizards, Stephanie Bendixsen, a giant Goomba, a couple of beautifully choreographed sword fights, Princess Zelda and a bunch of grapes.
Then, as is my usual ritual on a Sunday, walked to the local garage to collect a copy of the Sunday Age. The weather was pleasant – not too hot, not too cold – and I returned to browse the newspaper whilst nibbling on berry flavoured toast and sipping green tea.
It was around about the fourth mouthful that things began to go downhill as I read:
“The definition of domestic violence has been expanded to include emotional manipulation, withholding money and harming the family pet under controversial changes to family law.
The changes, which become law this week, for the first time broaden the definition of violence beyond physical abuse to other damaging actions to which a child may be exposed, including:
– Repeated derogatory taunts
– Intentionally damaging or destroying property
– Preventing someone from having contact with family and friends
Woman’s groups say the changes tip the balance of family law back towards putting the safety of children first, while men’s rights group say tehy will rob children of time with both parents.”
(from The Sunday Age, June 3 2012)
For it was around this time that I began to get an itch at the bottom of my stomach. As I continued to read, this itch spread, invading my spleen, kidney and lungs. The moment it reached my heart – around about the time I read “…a message to all involved in the ‘many violent family situations in Australia and who remain invisible to the legal system’ that violence has no place in society” – I was choking on my berry jam as I began to hyperventilate.
Within seconds my green tea had been inadvertently knocked to the carpet (yay, stain!) and I was struggling to breathe. Having experienced many panic attacks in my life I knew the signs were not an allergic reaction; but a triggered reaction.
My panic attack stemmed from the mention of emotional abuse. This is all that was required to send my mind hurtling back into the pain and desolation I experienced throughout that period five years ago.
Gone were the heady memories of Hex, Zelda and I duelling a giant Goomba.
In were every attack, insult and narcissistic action that I suffered through five years ago.
All because of one article in a newspaper that described changes to Australian law that I whole heartedly agree with. For years I have campaigned for greater rights and treatment in every sense to those who are the victims of emotional abuse, and these legal changes are an absolute step in the right direction. Whether they will be in any way successful and not just a token gesture remains to be seen. I mean, how can someone be prosecuted for emotional abuse when few ever bear witness to this abhorrent treatment? No-one believes what happened to me, so why should people believe someone else claiming emotional abuse?
Once the panic attack faded I gathered a pen and a piece of paper and lay on my floor to write. I had planned on writing the latest installment of ‘reflections on being homeless’ but drifting back into the territory would have been dangerous after that reaction. Instead, I wrote a list of things that trigger me (whether big or small), a list I shall share with you now:
Note: this list is in no particular order and whilst the bigger things are SHOUTED, the huge things are shouted REALLY LOUDLY!
- BRUNSWICK STREET
This is a street near where I used to live when the abuse was occuring. My favourite street in Melbourne, no less.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Once my favourite television show of all time, now, something I cannot watch at all.
- Any situation where I encounter the name (first or last) of the person whom abused me
I was recently browsing the library and saw a book written by an author who shared the first name of my abuser. Being an uncommon yet beautiful name it is not one I come across all that often, but in this and every instance, it has negative consequences.
- LYGON STREET
Another street close to where I used to live when the abuse was occurring.
- Bernadette Peters
I wrote about her here.
I didn’t state this was merely triggers of the emotional abuse.
- Toasted cheese sandwiches
One of my all-time favourite snacks. I used to make them for my abuser and received several criticisms for my efforts. Also, one night, I was attacked for one hour for eating a toasted cheese sandwich without her.
- DOING ANYTHING FOR MYSELF
- Harry Potter
She was a big Harry Potter fan. I’m not. So not an easy trigger to avoid.
- AMERICAN PIE
I received nine hours of criticism for going out for dinner with my parents instead of staying at home and watching this movie on the television. I love this series and doubt I will ever be able to watch the recent Reunion installment as a result of this.
- Forgetting someone’s birthday/Birthday Parties in general.
I received over half an hour of abuse for not wishing a friend a happy birthday. On another occasion I was told I had destroyed someone’s life for not going to their birthday party.
Difficult to explain, but badgers remind me of her.
After making her a handmade calendar of my own photographs as a New Year present I was told in no uncertain terms my photography was “boring”, “uninspired”, “pointless”, “a waste of time”, “garbage”, and that she didn’t understand “why I bothered to continue taking photographs”. On several other occasions my efforts to extend myself in this arena were criticised and attacked. Whenever I have taken photographs since I have become so paranoid about what I’m shooting I usually end up focussing only on this criticism rather than the subject I am photographing. It should be noted this boring, uninspired, pointless, hand-made piece of garbage remained on her wall for at least four months after the sexual side of the relationship ended.
- TALKING TO PEOPLE
“Your voice is so boring and monotonous it inflicts pain on everyone you talk to. You should kill yourself,” As I’ve said previously, I’m not a sadist, nor do I wish to inflict pain on anyone. This criticism is hard for my social anxiety to get past in any way, shape or form
- The Queen Victoria Market
A location for many incidents of abuse.
…and once I reached this point I stopped writing for one reason; I was triggering myself! Merely writing these words were enough to send me boomeranging back into the realm of panic attack.
As I sat on my back steps smoking a cigarette I realised – not for the first time – just how well and truly fucked up I am. How could one relationship cause so much psychological damage? How could I be so weak to allow the damage to occur? These events happened five years ago; why are they still destroying me now?
Quickly gathering my stuff I headed out for a walk. I needed to turn to the internet to take my mind off the groundswell of negative memories that were flooding my mind and with the library closed I figured a few dollars at an internet cafe would be money well spent.
It was and it wasn’t.
On the positive, as I read a few blogs and websites I got the answer to my how could I be so weak question: because I am “naive, vulnerable and easy to manipulate”. In other words, I was right, I was abused because I was/am weak and therefore deserving of it.
On the negative, yay, I’m weak, naive, vulnerable and easy to manipulate. Awesome!
On the positive, I figured out what I could do for today’s 21 Day Challenge.
On the negative, I was stupid enough to think my idea for today’s 21 Day Challenge was a good idea!
The 21 Challenge, Day 3: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This geeky admission is how ginormous a fan of Buffy I used to be!
I wasn’t one of those hipsters that tagged on in season 5 onwards just as it was becoming popular in the mainstream. Nosiree, I was a fan back when people used to cack themselves laughing at the mere mention of the show’s title. I was a fan from the very beginning!
Despite not having seen the show for half a decade I can still recall every episode title in sequence, recant dozens of monologues and air-conduct the score like a pro. I was uber-fan.
And this passion was taken away from me by one woman.
So after vacating the internet cafe I rented season 3 (my favourite season) from the local video store (not a great move considering how broke I am) and walked home locked in full stressed out “conversing with hallucinations” anxious mode.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to watch the whole season, so I selected a few episodes at random, namely the ones I used to adore: Lover’s Walk, The Wish, Doppelgangland and Graduation Day.
I managed to get through Lover’s Walk without incident, mainly because I used to do a cracking impersonation of James Marsters’ monologue:
“You’re not friends. You’ll never be friends. You’ll be
in love ‘til it kills you both. You’ll fight, and you’ll shag, and
you’ll hate each other ‘til it makes you quiver, but you’ll never be
friends. Love isn’t brains, children. It’s blood. Blood
screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch, but at
least I’m man enough to admit it.”
But The Wish was fraught with triggers as my mind reeled in the ‘what if’ scenarios of an alternate world where I hadn’t met my abuser. Not even Beck’s beautiful scoring of the final fight scene was enough to prevent this panic overtaking me.
This panic remained throughout Doppelgangland (“Can you believe the Watcher’s Council let this guy go?”) and peaked half way through Graduation Day where I had to stop watching as a full-blown panic attack raged once more.
The DVD set isn’t due back until next weekend so I may give it another go later in the week when I’m less ‘wound up’, but from the strength of today’s reaction, it does appear my ability to watch this show has been stolen from me. Although I am proud I was able to return to the town of Sunnydale, however brief the visit turned out to be.
Sitting alone in my flat afterwards I couldn’t help but despair at how difficult and frustrating my life has become. The array of things I must avoid in order to save myself the pain of panic, anxiety and depression. The dearth of anything that resembles pleasure and enjoyment. The sheer amount of hard work I must put in to achieve even the most pointless of tasks, let alone the larger dreams I hold within me.
On days like today I wonder what the point of working so hard really is. Five years of nothing but pain because I was too weak, naive and vulnerable to realise I was being used and abused by the woman I loved.
Thinking back on this weekend it is one I would rather forget.
I just hope that the changes Australia has made to its domestic violence laws will help others from suffering the losses that I have. No-one should live as I do. Not a soul amongst us deserves isolated loneliness because of the actions of an abuser so insecure they need to attack others to feel better about themselves.
Earlier in this haphazard, convoluted, unfocused post I questioned whether these changes were merely a token gesture. I sincerely hope that they are not, and over time, prove an excellent addition to combatting the grotesque pandemic that is domestic violence. But I fear, in much the same way as mental health stigma, that little will change until the general public and society at large stops advocating the abusive behaviour of others.
We shall just have to live in hope.
- Spotting the Signs of Emotional Abuse (everydayhealth.com)
- New domestic violence laws target emotional abuse (abc.net.au)
- PTSD from Emotional Abuse (omgrey.wordpress.com)
- 016. “All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” (myjourneywithdepression.wordpress.com)
- Taunts, cruelty to pets now domestic violence (theage.com.au)