I’m going to tell this story even if some of you have heard it before. Why? I recently realized that I have been looking at everything all wrong.
For most of my life I thought “Domestic Violence” was violence between a husband and wife, a boyfriend and girlfriend living together, or partners living together (same sex). I always thought my situation didn’t apply. It was no big deal. Domestic Violence was usually between two people in a “normal” relationship. Nothing about my “relationships” was normal.
I was happy to see that the Department of Justice has come a long way on the definition of Domestic Abuse. It has helped me in a profound way.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Domestic Abuse: a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. It can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure or wound someone.
I met J when I was 16/17 years old. We were friends for a period, we would have sex when he wasn’t in a relationship and I wasn’t with someone else, then we were best friends for the most part with occasional sex. I started drinking at 16/17 and was an alcoholic by 18. J was older than I was by 6 years. He had been an alcoholic since he was 16. I know at one point he had used IV drugs I’m just not sure exactly what. There had been so many odd stories about what he had shot up that I didn’t know what to believe. He would give me a different story depending on the mood he was in.
I had been bullied, humiliated, and ostracized from 1st Grade until well it never really did stop it just changed. I had extremely low self esteem, no self respect, I had no idea how to feel about my body except hatred. I always felt like I never belonged anywhere and there was a constant buzzing in my head that reinforced this feeling of dread. But I would get to J’s house, have my first few drinks and it would go away. I would feel normal for the first time in my life. (I would learn at the age of 36/37 that I was Bipolar and had probably been so since the age of 12)
I thought it was acceptable for J to make jokes about my weight. I didn’t say anything when he made elephant noises as I entered the living room of his apartment. There would be about 30 people there laughing. Once in awhile I would tell him to “F*ck Off” but that was about it. He would usually find me later on and hug me. He would say “You know I’m only joking. I love you.”
He wasn’t the only one. The other guys that hung around there felt they could do it to. I would eventually reach a point where someone was going to get hurt. I was sick of it. But I wasn’t sick of drinking and by that time years had gone by. I didn’t know anything else.
Here are some of the things I remember. Paul threw me into a dumpster. Paul shoved me quite a few times and twisted my arm behind my back. The weird thing was I wasn’t afraid of Paul. He had teardrop tattoos under one eye and looked like the actor Daniel Sunjata. I’m probably the only one who even knows who that is. Paul had also been to prison for 5 years or more I believe it was in Florida. He was attractive and I honestly thought I could change him. A guy who usually dated strippers but was now with a 220 pound bleach blond alcoholic. I admit I didn’t want to see things. If one more person told me “but you have such a pretty face” I was jumping off the nearest bridge. Paul was there for one reason. Money.
There was another guy that was always around R. One night R tried to have sex with me and I refused. He slapped me hard across the face. He was well over 300 pounds and 6′ 2″. That left a mark. Things like that happened often. I expected them to. I was usually the only woman drinking with a bunch of older men.
I didn’t expect it from J. Not to the point that it got. I don’t remember so much from that time period. It bothers me. I can’t help it. Maybe it’s part of being Bipolar. You go through all the painful events of your life like it’s a movie but I know there are parts that have been edited. I never asked to be Bipolar. I went to Doctors. Many Doctors who kept missing the diagnosis. I continued drinking until I was 36/37. Sometimes when you’re diagnosed late in the illness there isn’t much for the Doctors to do. I didn’t ask for Conversion Disorder either.
Trauma is different for everyone. My brain had enough. It wouldn’t let me remember some of the more traumatic things that had happened. Instead it would manifest in physical ways while under stress. I will start to stutter and my hands will tremor whenever I feel threatened, overwhelmed, or scared.
I’m embarrassed by this in public. If I know I am having a bad day I stay home. I stay home a lot.
The very last thing I remember at J’s is all of the usual sitting around his huge oak table with the heavy oak chairs to match. In a flash everyone was gone. I don’t know why we yelling at each other or why he was mad. I remember he was kicking me out at one point and I told him I couldn’t drive. I had my back to him when he picked up the heavy chair with the roller ball wheels on it and brought it down on the back of my head. He then picked me up by my hair and dragged me over near the stove. That’s where he sat on me. He pinned my arms down with his knees. He punched me in the face at least 4 times. What stays with me the most is the feeling of drowning. Blood going down the back of my throat, my nose itself swollen shut. I couldn’t get any air and I was panicking. I thought “This is your own fault. You deserve this.” He pulled me back up and over to the door of the apartment. He opened the door and shoved me down the flight of stairs. It was raining hard that night. He got his car and put me in it. I was in and out of consciousness. I threatened him with my brother at one point and he laughed. I remember him saying “No one is going to believe you”. He drove me to my parent’s house. When my father looked at me then at J he was speechless for a second. J was ready. He told him I had fallen down the stairs because I was too drunk. I kept trying to tell him it wasn’t true. Eventually my dad yelled at J and told him to never come back. My dad said to me “no one can believe you because you are a drunk and a liar”. He left me standing there covered in blood from head to toe. I watched it drip on the floor for what seemed like hours until my mom came down to clean me up.
About an hour later my mom received a phone call from my brother wanting to know what happened. J had called him saying he was sorry, he hadn’t meant for things to get so out of hand, he just wanted to make sure I was ok and that my brother was good with him. Pretty sure that’s an admission. I guess my brother was ok with him because he continued to buy pot off of him. Did this hurt? Yup. A few years later someone else heard him bragging about it. He said he was like “Mike Tyson”. Did that bother me? Yup. A few days ago I found out that my best friend has hung out with J and his girlfriend. Does this bother me? More than anyone will ever know.
I stutter, have nightmares, and can’t even remember huge chunks of time because I was an undiagnosed Bipolar 16 year old girl who used alcohol to numb the pain. I caused so much more pain. I have no friends, my mom has passed, and my family ignores me. Sometimes there is more to “Domestic Abuse” than you think. You can’t get past the pain or what you do remember. You’re locked in. A cruel joke. Mental Health and Addiction plays a part too. I wouldn’t wish my Bipolar Disorder on anyone or Conversion Disorder.
I really just want everyone to know that you do not have to have a conventional relationship with someone for there to be abuse. J was 11 years of my life that I’ll never get back. I never recognized it for what it was. I took everything that everyone dished out because I thought I deserved it. I’m not the only one.