Year: 2013

Phil’s Mr. Hyde comes out: controlling, manipulative, verbally and emotionally abusive–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–June 1994, Part 6

There were two distinct parts to the day: One part was my family and me, and not Phil.  The other part was Phil and me alone, because of his second-shift work schedule.  I kept going back and forth between them.  During the day, if things went wrong or were boring, I longed to be with Phil alone.

As the summer wore on, at times I preferred to be either alone or with my family, not with him.  He was just too hard to deal with after a while, and it was harder and harder to have any peace with him around.

I loved sitting in my chair, alone with All in the Family and Undine in my room upstairs, though I’d wait and often look forward to Phil coming home at 11:30.

By that time, I had spent hours translating a page of Undine.  I also spent hours writing the latest draft of Jerisland (a major rewrite, and my desert island novel which I’d worked on since high school) for my Senior Writing Project, and reading Gothic novels for my Senior Honors Project.

(The topic: how Gothic novels have changed from pre-Gothics, basically Clarissa from 1748, and Castle of Otranto, the first and supposedly a bad Gothic novel, to modern ones, such as Anne Rice’s vampire books.)

****

Some traits which came to light about Phil over that summer, though infatuation blinded me to them: stubborn, manipulative, controlling, emotionally abusive, used his acting talent to play tricks on me, picked fights.

He yelled at me and tore me down for not wanting to do things his way, then accused me of always having to get my way.

But we had made solemn promises before God to each other which I was determined to keep, so rather than telling him to go back to Wisconsin, I tried to work things out instead.

I found this book Mom had–something from the seventies about being a good Christian wife who pleases her husband so much he doesn’t want affairs or to leave.  It was written by a woman who discovered for herself what works.

It said not to nag about things like taking out the garbage, because the guy isn’t a child who won’t do these things without reminding.

But though I tried to hold to this, as the summer went on, it got harder and harder, because Phil didn’t do these things whether you nagged him or not.  I mean important, basic things which adult men should know to do on their own, without anybody’s reminder, such as:

He wouldn’t brush his teeth, wouldn’t shower.

When he worked at the factory, he set his clock for 1pm but slept until 2 or so.  I begged him to get up so he could have time to shower and eat a proper breakfast, but he yelled at me, later accused me of lowering his self esteem by “telling him when to get up” (what a load of BS) just for trying to get him up on time, rolled over, and deliberately slept so late that he could only throw on his work clothes and scarf down a Little Debbie snack.

Which meant he rarely showered.

When he came home, he didn’t wash off the soot.  Sure the full bathroom was in my parents’ bedroom, but he could at least wash his hands and arms.  The soot permanently stained the sheets, so I eventually had to throw them away.  I asked him to please clean up when he came home; he did it, but complained about it.

He neglected his worn-out brakes, until I finally had to beg him and drag him out of bed–on the last possible day before he drove me back to school–to get them fixed so we wouldn’t get killed on the long drive through Chicago and Milwaukee.

Though I asked him for reasonable things, he treated me like a nag.

(By the way, now-hubby Cugan constantly praises me to me, his father and others for not being a nag.  He says that even if I do nag occasionally, I do it nicely.  Of course, hubby is also a grown adult who knows to shower and brush his teeth daily, and get up on time to do all these things before work.  Nobody needs to remind him, which was such a relief that it was a big part of me falling for him!)

On November 13, 1998, a young woman on Montel told her ex she hated him because he physically abused her and cheated on her.  She said something chillingly familiar: that she got called many names–slut, whore, f-word, b-word, “and that was just to wake you up every day so you could go to work!”

Phil rarely used profanity, but his yelling and put-downs were just as bad when I woke him up for work.  It was another element of verbal abuse and control.

I wanted us to go to Sunday School together.  He refused–no room for discussion–because he feared they’d try to “convert” him from Catholicism.  I just wanted to go to Sunday School with my husband, and highly doubted they would try to “convert” him.  Sunday School was usually a time for studying issues and socializing.

Since I went to church with him now rather than with my parents, this meant, no Sunday School.  And I loved Sunday School.

(This was the last chance I had to go to Sunday School, because other churches I later went to when I moved to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, did not have adult Sunday School.  This was always strange to me, to have only the Sunday morning service, and no adult Sunday School, no evening service, and no Wednesday service.  Yet whatever denomination I went to in Fond du Lac, none of them had these things!  If they had more than one service, it was just a copy of the Sunday morning service, maybe changing the music to fit “contemporary” or “traditional.”)

One Sunday evening, the congregation (usually smaller for evening services) divided up into little classes in the Sunday School classrooms (I forget why–we had never done this before).

I was excited about it and wanted to go to one, but Phil refused to go with me.  I didn’t want to go alone.  He said he didn’t want to go, maybe for the same reasons he didn’t want to go to Sunday School–avoiding indoctrination or confrontation?  So paranoid!  If Catholic adults did Sunday School, I would have gone with him to his!

He said we should either leave, or he’d wait in the van for me as I went to a class.  I said people would wonder why he wasn’t with me.  He didn’t care.

I got frustrated, and really wanted to go to a class, but I refused to let him make a scene and embarrass me by sitting outside in the van, and said we might as well leave.

This was spiritual abuse, using verbal abuse and the threat of embarrassment to keep me from practicing my religion.  (Also see here, here, here and here.)

Christians believe that mixed skinny dipping is immoral, because you’re not supposed to disrobe in front of the opposite sex unless you’re married.  Yet Phil, the one who was once going to be a priest, told me that he skinny-dipped in mixed company in the campus lake once.

I think it was in the summer after his senior year of high school, which would make it the summer after my freshman year of college, when I was getting over Peter.  (He wasn’t even a student here, and neither were the people with him.)

I was not happy about this.  The thought of him skinny dipping with female classmates–seeing their naked bodies–them seeing his naked body–it horrified me, but he didn’t understand why.  He said they didn’t touch each other, didn’t do anything.

But that made no difference: It was still sinful, and he should’ve known that.  The thought of my own husband, with whom I was one flesh, thinking it was okay to skinny-dip in mixed company–I began to lose respect for him as a man and as a husband.  I thought he had more morals than that.

I told him a Roanoke student died in that lake one year.  I don’t know when it was, but it was during a picnic the college held for the students and faculty.  Counselor Dude rode in a boat, while this boy swam.

The currents took him under, and he drowned.  C.D. was distraught; this had been his favorite student.  Soon after this, the “No Lifeguard on Duty–Swim at Your Own Risk” sign was put up at the lake.  I think it was long before I came to Roanoke.  Phil said, “And I was skinny-dipping in that lake!”

He also said once that porn was not wrong/sinful.  Christians believe porn is also sinful for the same reason–disrobing in mixed company–and because it encourages lust, not love and respect for your sister in Christ or fellow human being made in God’s image.

The kind of man I had always expected to marry, wouldn’t just call himself a Christian, but actually live it, following Christian moral standards.

In September, he complained about us going to get lunch or dinner “just because you’re hungry.”  If I recall correctly, we got meals at a normal time or late.  If I don’t eat in a timely manner, I get migraines, and feel lightheaded and nauseated.  So he even wanted to control when I ate, no matter how hungry or sick I felt?

Once, when I pulled out a heating pad for menstrual cramps or a sore muscle, Phil said, “I hope you’re not going to end up like my mom, always sitting on a heating pad.”

So even using a heating pad for cramps is wrong somehow, and I have to be guilted into not doing it?  So I’m supposed to be in pain because you don’t want me using a heating pad?

By the way, his mom had health problems which caused her pain in that area, making his remarks not just knee-jerk (emphasis on the “jerk”) for me using a heating pad one night for cramps, but extremely insensitive to his mother.  Even if she didn’t have constant pain, if she wants to sit on a heating pad all the time, so what?

I eventually wondered why I kept ending up with the wrong kinds of guys, when I specifically looked for the right kinds.  I’d only date Christians, whom I expected to be godly men, but even the Christians turned away from the faith and/or mistreated me in some way.  I looked for nice, sweet, romantic guys; I ended up with guys who seemed that way at first, but turned mean.

I didn’t grow up in an abusive home, so why did I keep dating mean guys?  I thought I couldn’t trust my own judgment, that if I found another guy I wanted to get serious about, I’d have to ask my friends what they thought of him first:

Because of my nonverbal learning disorder, I was an easy target for these guys, and easily fooled with my trusting nature.  So they acted like what I wanted until I fell for them, then showed their true colors as time wore on.

My friends and family disliked the guys early on, but said nothing.  After the breakup, they gave their opinions, and I realized they were right, that I’d been blind.

 

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

Yet More Validation to Writing My Stories of Abuse

The benefits are coming in:

Not only has writing about my abuse experiences been a healthy purge, a catharsis, but I see validation in my blog stats:

People are connecting with my posts, printing them, downloading them as PDFs, e-mailing them, sharing them, subscribing.  (And not just for these posts, but for others as well, such as the ones on NVLD or introversion.)

In real life, I took two poems I wrote about my blog stalkers, this and this, to Writer’s Club in the past 6 months.  (Yes, my blog stalkers have read them.)  They were barely beyond the first draft, just something scrawled in an afternoon.

Yet people loved them, found them beautiful.  Those who have experienced abuse and narcissism, connected with my poems, said they were correct in describing it.  A few weeks later, one person even said she’d been thinking about me and the poem I brought in.  (Too bad she hasn’t been back since, because she seemed like a potential friend.)

In a recent workshop, one middle-aged man, who was abused as a child, said that he is now encouraged to be more open in his own writing about what he has been through.

Such writing really does have value!  We are not being “victims”; we are expressing ourselves, and thereby helping others as well.  This helps us all get through the pain, move past the abuse, and move on with our lives, far healthier than if we had pushed it down and ignored it, pasting on a happy face.

The very posts which inspired my stalkers to laugh and to threaten me, are bringing comfort and validation to thousands.

And that makes my stalkers’ cut-downs, threats, denials, minimization, invalidation, derision, all just a bit of meaningless fly buzzing in the background.

So what if they constantly check what I write?  Who cares what they think about any of it?

What I care about is what I see here in my stats, the evidence that my writing is indeed helping people, bringing comfort and validation to others.  It brings meaning to my writing and joy to my heart.  It is also very healing.

Because when you:

  • write in your own personal journal,
  • or write on a blog,
  • or write letters about your stressful situations to a friend,
  • or send emails to your therapist,
  • or write your own songs,
  • or write poetry,
  • or write short stories,
  • or write to your other insiders about your thoughts and feelings of today, or your memories of yesterday,
  • or write creative comforting stories for your little ones,

your writing will benefit you and your health.
–Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation, The Therapeutic Value of Writing

 

Phil cuts down whatever is special to me (Bits of Abuse Here and There)–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–June 1994, Part 5

Soon after quitting his job selling vacuum cleaners, probably late June or early July, Phil found a job at a Mishawaka factory, second shift.  Second shift in Wisconsin, he said, usually meant two to ten p.m., but in South Bend it meant three to eleven.  (I think those were the times, but my memory could be a little off.)

Since he now missed Picket Fences on Friday nights, he had me tape it for him.  Whenever he wanted to see it he said, “Ficket Pences?”

June 22, my 21st birthday.  It wasn’t celebrated some mundanely typical way, like my friends taking me out to get smashed.  No, it was quieter and what I wished.  I said if I got any special drink for my birthday, it would be sparkling grape juice.  I didn’t get that, but I don’t think I cared.

I did get a pleasant dinner at a restaurant with my parents.  To my surprise, Phil gave me nothing, despite having a job, but gave no apology or explanation.  I just let it go, but it seemed odd to just dismiss your wife’s 21st birthday.

****

I loved Q101.  U93, and every other Chicago and South Bend station which played pop, played Lisa Loeb’s “Stay (I Missed You)” every hour or two.  Even good songs can get on your nerves if they’re played too much.  But Q101 played it maybe once, if at all, each afternoon.

My favorite song that summer: “Shine” by Collective Soul.  I didn’t care how much it got overplayed on U93.  I told my parents about the line “Heaven, let your light shine down” to impress them with its spiritual content, since they hated rock music.

Other good songs from Q101: “Millennium” by Killing Joke, “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails (though I didn’t like the lyrics), “Emperor’s New Clothes” by Sinead O’Connor, “Possession” by Sarah McLachlan, “Everybody’s 1” by God’s Child, “It’s Over Now” by Cause and Effect, “Burn” by the Cure, “Insanity” by (Oingo) Boingo, “Come Out and Play” and “Self Esteem” by Offspring.

****

Once, Phil and I took an IQ test on the computer, which claimed to be the fairest and most accurate you could find.  It wasn’t: It was biased in favor of mathematical brains like Phil’s, not NVLD brains like mine.  The questions I missed were all math questions, and Phil got the same ones right.

He bragged that he scored around 140 while I scored only around 130, but I said it wasn’t a true test of my abilities.  A year or two later, Cugan and I would take another IQ test.  This time, I scored around 150, and Cugan scored around 130.

****

My old jam box’s CD player had been broken for quite some time, since just before I got the newest Alice in Chains CD, Jar of Flies, in the spring, so I hadn’t heard it yet.

I had that box with me since my junior year of high school; sophomore year I had to spend a few months without it because my dad kept it at home and had the radio and antenna fixed at Radio Shack.  (That’s when I got into MTV and a Walkman.)

I really missed playing my CD’s, since some of my best music was on them, such as my other Alice in Chains CD’s.  I’d been waiting and waiting for the new jam box my parents got me for my birthday.  It had everything I asked for: CD player, tape player and recorder, radio.

I was desperate to listen to my new CD, and I guess I didn’t get a chance until late that night or the next, when Phil was home and we were about to play D&D.  I’d waited for months and I just couldn’t wait any longer.

But Phil hated Alice in Chains and kept saying, “If you play it, I’ll go somewhere else.”

I kept trying to make him understand how important it was to me to listen to it, and I wanted him in the room because I hadn’t seen him all day and because I wanted to play D&D.  I finally did get to play it, despite what he said, and I think he gamed with me at least part of the time, though he may have left the room for part of it.

It was strangely mellow all the way through.  He protested so much and it wasn’t even the hard “made in hell” stuff he protested.

But note the way he tried to withhold from me something I very much wanted.  He also hated my music, something that was important to me, and criticized it.

He even said that, had one of his friends not introduced him to some of the harder music and gotten him used to it, like hard rock and heavy metal, he’d break up with me just because I listened to it!

He said in the spring that in time he might learn to like alternative, because of me.  But he didn’t like it much.  However, once he said it was the popular trend in music.  I smiled in surprise and said, “Really?”

He said the alternative songs crossing over into Top-40 were the best ones on the radio these days, because regular pop music had become so dull.  But as a whole, he didn’t like it.

(Note that the following spring, when I was out of the picture, and alternative was popular with everybody now, he claimed alternative was his “favorite” music.)

I told him why I liked Alice in Chains, that the music took me to another place.  He said it was a place he didn’t want to go.  But I thought/think of it as a good place, a place in the mind or another part of consciousness, which only in-the-pit music can reach.  That place was special to me, but all he did was cut it down.

He also told me that the only good Christian music was a tape he owned by Michael W. Smith.  Obviously he had never heard much of the genre.

I had been listening to Christian contemporary, rock and pop for 8 years; there was far more, and once you sifted out the wheat from the chaff, real talent began to come through:

Mastedon, Undercover, Guardian, Whiteheart, Holy Soldier, Matthew Ward, Charlie Peacock, Steve Taylor/Chagall Guevara, Mike-E, The Choir, etc. etc.–bands which I bet he never even heard of.

But of course, he had to be right–and cut down whatever meant something to me.  Just as he cut down my friends, or my religion, or my Sunday School, or the church I liked best in S–, or even said my beloved childhood diary was “boring” because it talked about 9-year-old things like spiders walking across the ground.

It wasn’t just my perception: His next girlfriend, Persephone, went through the same thing, him always cutting down her participation in the campus newspaper, which meant a lot to her.

As Dad suggested, Phil said he was going to read the Bible so we could talk about it on an even level.  But he started and didn’t follow through on that promise.

Yet he wouldn’t even let me quote verses to him or tell him anything about the Bible, because then he wouldn’t see much point in reading it if he already knew what it said.

How could that even be likely, considering how much is in there and how little of it I could/can actually quote, in comparison?

Dad told him devotions can be just prayer, but of course, Phil used that as an excuse–that, since it doesn’t matter if you don’t read as long as you still pray, he didn’t have to read the Bible.

I don’t think Dad meant it that way.  It is important to read it, and Dad did so every morning; he suggested Phil read it so he and I would be on the same level of knowledge about the faith.

Phil’s flippant disregard of this advice, while also forbidding me to talk about the Bible, showed how little he cared about resolving our religious differences in a healthy, equal manner.

Phil even took issue with my use of the word “current,” though I checked the dictionary and found nothing to say it was wrong.  Phil said you can only use the word in the present tense, and can never say a song “was current in the past.”

But when you say a song “was current in the summer of 1992,” I see nothing wrong with the usage.  Songs are current, then they’re old and not current anymore, but at one time they were current.  I’ve never seen anything that said I can’t say “current” in the past tense in this context.

Phil’s objection sounded pedantic and nitpicky.

A quick Google search shows that people use it my way all the time.  On 3/11/14, I found it used my way in Green Suede Shoes by Larry Kirwan, page 217: “To my surprise, I already knew them all, for they [19th-century songs] had still been current in the Wexford of my boyhood…”  HA!

Trivializing and undermining: abusive behavior which makes light of your work, your efforts, your interests, or your concerns. —The Verbally Abusive Relationship

 

Verbal abuse can include:

  • yelling or shouting at you
  • being sarcastic or mocking about or criticising your interests, opinions or beliefs —Emotional Abuse

****

I read The Thorn Birds that summer and found, to my surprise, that I wasn’t alone: Meggie, on page 329, had a similar experience to my own–a horrifically painful first time, plus terrible pain that she felt every time she had sex with her husband.  Mine went away eventually.

****

On the 25th, I wrote to a friend that

Phil’s been spending a lot of time at the computer, beating my brother L–‘s scores at one-player and two-player games.  My smug brother has finally met his match, and he’s not happy about it….

Phil beat him at computer Risk, so L–stayed up late one night with his friend D–, trying to win before the night was over.

…My little Hazel [cat] has been glad to have me around, but I don’t know what she thinks of Phil.  I think she likes him, but not always.

The other day Phil, who was asleep, started petting me and calling me Hazel.  I said something, which surprised him.

He talks in his sleep too, and said, “Hazel, I didn’t know you could talk!  Why do you hate me, Hazel?” and I said, “I don’t hate you.  I just don’t like it when you tease me.”

We kept trying to contact a natural family planning clinic here, but nobody ever answered.

It was beginning to look hopeless, like I’d be forced to go by that rhythm method that doesn’t have a good rep, and end up the stereotypical Catholic wife with a brood of children.  But then I found the information I needed in a book right in the house!

 

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

 

So glad the little kitty is safe and warm….

I debated posting about this for several days, because I don’t want to “do my good works before men” or be narcissistic: Oh, look how awesome I am!  I decided to go ahead because this has been on my heart since Sunday, and I want to remember and write about the little stray kitty.  And make a plea to others.

For a couple of weeks, a kitty hung around our little neighborhood, especially our condo.  My husband and I couldn’t get near it because it kept running off, so we couldn’t tell if it belonged to a neighbor.

At first we thought somebody had unwisely let their cat out on a frigidly cold almost-winter night.  I hoped it would soon go back home, and not stay out in that weather overnight.  We had occasional sightings now and then, but it wouldn’t get near us.

On Sunday, it was still around, so we really began to worry.  My husband put out some food.  As soon as he went back inside, the cat gobbled it up.  So at least we knew it had a full belly.

But it has been extremely cold around here lately, and more cold weather was expected this week (we’re talking wind chills occasionally hitting 15 or more below zero).  This could not possibly be a well-cared-for cat with a home.  My husband also saw the collar wrapped around the body.

My husband noted the cat liked to stay around our dryer vent.  After dark, we put blankets and food in a large cat carrier, and stuck it by the vent.  It could sleep there, and stay warm–and, with any luck/Providence, we could capture it in there.

Just a short time afterward, my husband went out and there was the cat, in the carrier.  He locked it in, and we brought it inside.  The poor thing kept meowing and meowing until the Humane Society girl showed up.

We would have kept it, but we already have two cats.  There are ordinances and condo rules about too many cats–and our gray cat is very territorial.

It was just a kitten!  Such a sweet and cute little thing, with big dark eyes, very scared.  But I stayed with it until we could hand it over, since we couldn’t let it out of the carrier.

(We didn’t know if it had rabies, or what our cats would do to it.  With it in the carrier, they just sat on the stairs, wondering what the heck was going on.  They probably stayed there because carrier=vet trip.)

The Humane Society girl assured us that nowadays they only euthanize for aggression or medical issues.  She also noted the cat was very thin, and when she removed the collar, the skin underneath was covered with sores.

That night was cold again.  All week has been cold.  And I’ve thought about that kitty every day, how it could have died from starvation and exposure, but instead it’s safe, getting treatment and care.  And soon, that sweet, cute little thing should be adopted out, since it’s a kitten and she said they’ve adopted out a lot of cats lately.

God even hears the plaintive prayers of a lost kitten.

PLEASE: Be careful what kind of collar you put on a cat.  Breakaway collars would prevent injury.  Keep your cat inside in this kind of weather.  Don’t be afraid to give a stray cat to a shelter.

Use microchips, since this cat had no tag on her collar.  And if you know anybody in Fond du Lac who’s missing an orange and white cat, it’s at the Humane Society.

UPDATE: See this post for picture.

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