Is this why my ex Phil was so abusive?

These have been a couple of months of revelation!  First, I learned that my abusive ex Phil was getting married again.  I wrote about it here, puzzling over the “gentle giant” his fiancee described, wondering if it’s possible for someone to change that much, wondering how long it would be before Evil Phil manifested himself to her.

Well, Evil Phil has manifested, and their engagement is at an end.

But that’s not all.  It’s more complicated than that.

Yes, she wrote about him like he was the love of her life.  He wrote about her in such glowing terms that yes, it reminded me of when he was with me, before Evil Phil took his place.

It reminds me of a tumultuous but passionate relationship that has inspired and continues to inspire me to replay it in various works of fiction and memoir ever since.  The latest form is in my latest unfinished novel, with Heinrich and Madge, forever bound together even though they betray each other over and over again.

Of course this all looks like narcissism: a playbook, being followed by the narcissist in each of his relationships, because this is what the descriptions of narcissism all tell us.  That it’s all fake, love-bombing, meant to hook us before the real him comes out, abusive and horrid.

But in this case, it’s more complicated than that.

It’s enough to make me wonder if maybe, all those years ago, those flowery words–those praises–that wonderful, glowing happiness–was the Real Phil.  If maybe he did mean it after all.

(Because admit it, after you’ve been hooked by the love-bombing of a narcissist or abuser, then find out it was all fraud, it hurts to learn that you weren’t really loved like that after all.)

Because yes, new fiancee–now ex-fiancee–insists that this is the Real Phil, that he really meant all he said to her.  But she can’t handle Evil Phil, who is dangerous, so they mutually decided to end it.  She’ll still be there to support him, but as his friend, not his wife or lover.

And now here’s why:

It seems that rather than the narcissism I suspected, Phil’s behavior has a different cause.  He was diagnosed in 2010 with bipolar disorder II.  (I never knew about this until tonight.  We were together in 1994, long before then.)  He took meds for a while, but then stopped for about five years.

This has screwed up his brain so bad that he is now hospitalized.  Current estimates are that he’ll stay there around a month.

Evil Phil manifested himself to her recently.  She talks about him like he’s two different people in the same body, a sweet normal guy, and Bipolar Guy who doesn’t like anybody.  She hinted at dealing with deceit and manipulation–which I certainly dealt with from him in spades–but said it was a manifestation of the bipolar.

She posted this video to explain what Bipolar II is.  It says that Bipolar II is also associated with personality disorder.  So–maybe narcissism or borderline did also influence his actions?

This leaves me conflicted.  One, this is proof that Phil’s treatment of me was not my fault, that he was suffering from a disease which drove him to be cruel.  There is huge healing–and forgiveness–in such knowledge.

But Two, I wonder what was the disease, and what was him.

Now I wonder if I should change anything that I wrote about Phil here on my website.  Or maybe I should just keep it all as a testament to what abuse does to its victims, and the struggle they go through to understand and heal from it, no matter what drove him to act that way.

This website describes how bipolar sufferers can become controlling–which Phil certainly was.  Overwhelming anger.  Overspending.  Yes.

This website explains why bipolar sufferers can turn into manipulative liars during mania.

This website shows how bipolar can lead to abuse.

This is an informative question-and-answer session (with transcript) answering several of my questions.

How much was normal Phil?  How much was Bipolar Phil?  I don’t know.  It’s so hard to tell for sure, because much of his abuse was covert and went on for months, and some of it started even while he was still being sweet.  Maybe this also explains why members of his family have given up on him.  Maybe they don’t know for sure, either.  Maybe they don’t trust him.

I would have a hard time trusting him, his tears and depression at being ravaged by bipolar.  This is because–after going to his friends in a fit of crying and depression in September 1994–he told me that it was all an act to manipulate them.

Maybe this is why his sister took out a restraining order on him, some action of Bipolar him.

Maybe this is why she never showed up to the hearing, so it was dismissed: because she heard he was hospitalized.

I find people on the Net saying bipolar does not cause abuse or violence, that it comes from other sources.  But yet here’s Phil’s ex saying that it IS the bipolar causing his bad behavior, that it’s actually been damaging his brain tissue.

She says normal Phil would never hurt a fly, while Bipolar Phil is different from this–

Yet the Phil I knew hurt me constantly–traumatized me with long-lasting effects–over a period of months with manipulation, chauvinism, control, verbal and emotional abuse, even sexual abuse.  It left me with the occasional thought, “Did I deserve it?  The cruel things he said about me–Were some of them true?”

He was an actor, originally wanting to do that for a living; he acted in real life, not just on stage.

He himself told me that he was so good at acting that he manipulated people, not just me.  He proudly told the story of how he manipulated his mom into buying him a book when he was little.

He even had his own flying monkey, indoctrinated with stories of my alleged abuses of him.  His next girlfriend also suffered from his abuse.  My friends witnessed him manipulating and verbally abusing the girlfriend after that, the one he legally married.

This was months, well over a year, maybe a few years, when all this played out, him abusing me, then the next, then the next, with my friends as witnesses.  Since it went on for years, was this really him?  Or was this a long-term manic episode?  Is his ex correct about him, or has he been conning her?

But maybe he’s truly sorry when he’s depressed and cries.  I suppose she would know best.  After all, now he’s under the care of doctors, not undiagnosed like he was in 1994.

Just the thought that he now RECOGNIZES his own behavior when bipolar takes over–that he does not blame the latest fiancee for it–makes me think that, hopefully, he realizes I’m not to blame for how he abused me all those years ago.

In any case, it tells me that the cause of the abuse was not me or anything I did.  It was the bipolar.  It is diagnosed by a doctor, so this can be confirmed as Truth, not just speculation.

This brings a kind of closure to the trauma.  I wonder if maybe it’ll finally heal the parts that were still sore.

It makes me wonder how far a mentally ill person is responsible for such abuse as Phil committed, when the abuse comes from the illness rather than a character defect.  It also makes me think that maybe he did actually love me, all those years ago, and wasn’t just manipulating me for whatever reason.

I wonder if, in such a case, anybody is really to “blame” for the end of a relationship.  For me–Well, it wasn’t my choice to end it, and I couldn’t change his mind, so my knowing it was mental illness, could not have made a difference.  For him–Does it absolve him of everything?  Can I say it was mental illness and he didn’t know what he was doing?

If we had known about the bipolar back then, would we still be together now?  I don’t know, but I don’t think some romantic notion of “what-if” would be realistic.

Because he almost married this woman, who still thinks the world of him, who knows all about the bipolar,

and yet they did not stay together.

Because she had to stay safe and he didn’t want to pull her down into it with him.

Also see:

So Phil, my abusive ex-husband, is back in the hospital

A couple of notes: Spanking and No, the new girlfriend did NOT change my abusive ex

Abusive Ex: Blame it on him, not mental illness

 

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Richard’s past in the Mafia–and his plot to kill the apartment manager: Repost from 2010

I knew bits and pieces of Richard’s past, which I thought were all behind him now, tamped down by religion.  But other things came out that showed his own violent streak, appalling ideas of what is “justified” behavior in certain situations, things that violated Christian principles, violent things that made my hair stand on end.

One thing was, that if his wife ever cheated on him, it was okay for him to assault the guy.  We watched The Apostle, during which Richard said that if his wife cheated on him, he’d take a baseball bat to the guy just like Sonny did.  This statement chilled me to the bone, and I told him he should never do such a horrible thing.

Another time, we were chatting on the phone and he made comments to the effect of, if he found his wife in bed with another guy it would be okay to commit murder.

I was amazed that a pious Orthodox Christian who wanted to be a priest, would say such incredibly wrong things.

According to the Annies in their March 11, 2011 column, threatening to kill guys who sleep with your wife is controlling and manipulative.

Also note what the Highlander said about this issue in the sixth-season episode “Justice”: A man (Armando) killed his wife and her lover after finding them in bed together.  The wife, Elena, was the adopted daughter of an Immortal, Katya, who now wants revenge because Armando was acquitted at his trial.

Duncan says to Katya, “Killing’s not the answer….The emptiness you feel won’t be filled by anger.  Or revenge, or hate.  Armando’s death will just leave you feeling emptier.”

In another scene, when Armando says he loved Elena, Duncan says, “So much that you killed her?”

Armando says, “You weren’t there.  You didn’t see them!  Castillo was my protege.  He was like a brother to me.  With my wife.”

Duncan says, “So they had to die because you got your feelings hurt.”

Armando: “No.  There was no thought.  No plan.  The courts understood.  It was a crime of passion.”

Duncan: “It was murder.  And you beat it.”

This episode may be fiction, but the lesson it teaches is real: Crimes of passion are still crimes, still murder.  And no one has that right, not even a wronged husband.

This is what Orthodoxy teaches.  Anyone who claims such a right has no right to be an Orthodox mentor, whether as a spiritual father, informal mentor and friend, or priest.

There were a lot of revelations the first couple of weeks of June 2009.  On June 1, I learned about the hypnotism.  A little more than a week later, we had the revealing talks that both shocked me and (I thought) fixed everything.

In the middle, on June 5, I learned that, some 20 years ago, Richard’s girlfriend and best friends were in Mafia families which smuggled jewels.  They made him their “goomba.” 

He hung around with goombas, or thugs, who witnessed and spotted while somebody retrieved stolen items or got information “in a not-so-friendly way.”

The Russian and Italian mobsters had nicknames for him, which I won’t name here for safety reasons.

Since it involved jewels, not drugs, he felt he did nothing criminal–or which should be criminal, according to the Constitution and free market principles.  He never “killed” anyone while doing this goomba stuff.  

He ran these jewels between L.A. and Las Vegas.

Not only that, but he openly and freely shared it, did not see it as a secret.  He was surprised I didn’t already know about it.

He didn’t seem at all repentant about helping the Mafia

The Mafia! 

Dangerous people, the kind who would kill a toddler!  Especially being involved with them as a Christian:

In Sicily, the birthplace of Mr. Rizzuto’s Mafia, some Church leaders have called for a tough stand. This summer, Bishop Antonino Raspanti said convicted mobsters would be refused a funeral, declaring:

“Being a Christian is incompatible with having links to Mafia organizations.” —National Post

Richard justified it by saying his mother knew about it and didn’t seem to care, he did this while at Bible college (!), and he did worse things when he worked for the government.  He said Clinton’s government did terrible things that nobody knows about (which I won’t divulge here without proof other than his word for it).

But there were these hints at illegal activities when he was a Mafia thug, and it didn’t sound so harmless to me.

All this was in an IRC conversation, most of which I printed (the first part, unfortunately, vanished before I could print it).  I like to remember what I can about my best friends, save Internet chats and e-mails, as a personal diary.  I used to print up ICQ chats with friends.

However, I did not see this as cool, like I did the hypnotism: It was startling, shocking, baffling.  How could he not see this was wrong?  Still, it was part of my BFF’s history, and worth remembering.

Now, I see it as proof that I did not imagine this conversation.  In 2012 I thought maybe Richard was pulling my leg–but then Todd spoke of Richard’s past as a “mobster” and “mook,” gave me more details.

The next day, Richard called and said they were being evicted, that he was furious with the apartment manager.

He made it into a personal offense, and had some ideas about why.  But it was probably because they trashed the place, left cigarette butts all over the yard in front of their apartment, were unreliable with the rent, and kept having domestic disputes.  

(He told me a couple of months before that they had been “at each other’s throats” for more than a month; somebody could very well have reported this to the manager or the police.)

He said he was going to kill the apartment manager while she was in her office, do it so she’d never see who it was, “And I’ll make it look like I was never there.”  Because of his past as a Mafia thug, he knew how to do this.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wha–Wha–WHAT?

This pious, righteous guy who wanted to be a priest, whom I saw as my spiritual mentor, was telling me all this???!!!

I cried, “It’s my duty as your friend to talk you out of this!”  I tried and tried, and begged, “Talk to your priest before you do this!”

He chuckled and said, “I’ll talk to my priest after I do this.”  Then the kids did something, or his wife wanted something, so he had to hang up.

While I was still reeling from this and thinking what the–

He called back again. “My wife won’t let me do it,” he said.  She told him to use his words to persuade, which he’s so good at doing.

I breathed a sigh of relief.  If he had gone through with this horrible deed, I’d have to call the police.  It was my duty to warn the police before he did it, or legally I’d be an accomplice, and that woman’s blood would be on my hands.

I thought these things were in his long-ago past, that he was sorry for his past violence, that he was now sweet and gentle and wanted to be a priest.  But this…?

It was quite baffling the things both Richard and Tracy either said to me or did in front of me, apparently confident that I wouldn’t call the police or CPS:

Richard told me things like this, and violent things his wife did.

Tracy whacked her little toddler on the back of the head right in front of me, began spanking and screaming furiously at two children who did nothing wrong, right in front of me!  Didn’t she realize I could’ve called the police on her for this?

Didn’t either of them realize that when Richard told me he put his children in the closet once, that when Tracy abused her children right in front of me, if I couldn’t convince them these things were wrong, I was honor-bound to report them to Social Services?

If they did these things in front of me, what did they do when I wasn’t around?  Since I lived behind closed doors with them for a month and a half and Tracy controlled herself well enough not to punch Richard, but he told me she whacked and punched him about a year later, this showed she could control herself around me.

Richard became so closed-off about his life, that it’s entirely possible–or probable–that things were much worse at home than he ever told me.  I’d see them once a week or so, getting cutesy with each other, being mostly controlled–though not controlled enough, because Jeff and I both noticed things that looked very wrong.

But I knew very well what I had seen and what Richard told me.  I kept hearing over time that things were hidden from me.  It makes you wonder what else was hidden.

Not only were they hiding things from me, but my own family had done this as well, hiding a huge chunk of my parents’ life from me while my brothers knew all about it.  When the truth finally came out, it was devastating, shattering the image I had always had of my father, of the values taught in my family.

Now here it was being done again, with Richard and Tracy hiding things from me.  How could anyone not turn paranoid in this situation?

(The incident involving my father was also a bonding experience for Richard and me, as far as I was concerned.  Even though I e-mailed my college friends about everything ever since I left college, instead of talking to them, I called up Richard and told him everything that was going on, all the secret things that I didn’t feel I could tell others.

(He and my priest were my two confidantes outside the family.  This was during Lent 2007, before I even met Richard in person.  That’s how close we got before we even met.)

 

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Different kinds of abuse–same feelings: How Mark Driscoll reminds me of Tracy, Phil, and others (Repost from 2014)

Originally posted March 11, 2014:

One reason why I read blogs and articles of all different kinds of abuse, is that I find the reactions of the abuse victims are the same everywhere.

Of course you’ll have differences here and there: Being molested by a parent is not the same as being psychologically manipulated by an ex-boyfriend, for example.

But everywhere you find the same common themes: loss of trust, hurt, pain, confusion, longing for the abuser to acknowledge the abuse and make up for it.

The other day, I read this account of narcissistic abuse and a smear campaign at Mars Hill Church:

My Story by Jonna Petry

Her husband was a pastor with the church for a time, until he was abandoned and smeared by Mark Driscoll.

In this and in other stories I’ve read about abuse at Mars Hill Church, I was struck all along by things that sounded very familiar, in my own experiences with narcissistic abuse, from exes (especially Phil) and from Richard and Tracy:

  • A person/place who at first seemed like God’s gift to you.
  • Pressure to conform.
  • Shunning someone you are told is bad.
  • Abuse and getting kicked out for questioning, disagreeing, speaking up about problems.
  • A person who throws tantrums and verbally abuses you for the slightest offenses, even when the offense is only in his own mind.
  • A smear campaign.
  • Others encouraged to shun you.
  • A kangaroo court in which you have no real chance to defend yourself.
  • Others put through the same abuse if they stick up for you.
  • A “conference” which is meant not to hear your side or your grievances, but to coerce you into agreeing that the abuse against you is justified.
  • A refusal of the abusers to admit they’ve done anything wrong.  As Driscoll and his henchman wrote to Jonna and her husband, “We still believe we have done nothing wrong.”
  • Begging others to help, but no one will.
  • Discovering this abuse is a pattern, that it neither began nor ended with you.

The hurt, pain and confusion as you long desperately for reconciliation:

In shock and heartbroken, Paul and I tried desperately that first half-year to bring about some level of reconciliation.

We so longed to be restored to our friends, to have our name and reputation exonerated, and to have peace in our relationships.

This had become our family that we loved and served and ministered to as our own dear children and as brothers and sisters. These were our dear friends.

How could they do this to us? Words do not adequately describe the shock, horror, betrayal, and rejection we felt. The weight of the loss was excruciating.

The PTSD and shaking of faith:

During this whole season since the firing and the months that followed, I was emotionally and spiritually devastated.

I was often tormented by fear. I had nightmares and imaginations of someone trying to physically harm Paul, me, and the children.

If Mark had had ecclesiastical power to burn Paul at the stake I believe he would have.

I literally slept in the fetal position for months. I stayed in bed a lot, bringing the children in bed with me to do their schoolwork.

I became severely depressed and could hardly bring myself to leave the house except when absolutely necessary. I cried nearly every day for well over a year thinking I must soon cry it out, right?

But, the sorrow was bottomless. My faith was gravely shaken. How could a loving God allow this?

Later it became clear that I had typical symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression and that these reactions were common in someone who has experienced spiritual abuse.

Spiritual abuse occurs when someone uses their power within a framework of spiritual belief or practice to satisfy their own needs at the expense of others. It is a breach of sacred trust.

Christians are commanded by Jesus to love one another. When that is projected, articulated, enjoyed and then treacherously betrayed, the wounded person is left with “a sense of having been raped, emotionally and spiritually” not by a stranger, but by someone who was deeply trusted. (See Recovering from Church Abuse by Len Hjalmarson)

At the beginning, Jonna wrote,

This past summer I saw the movie, “The Help,” and a seed of courage was planted in my soul. One of the last lines of the movie:

“God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do.  But it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it feel like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free.”

This story is an earnest attempt to speak the truth in love that freedom and new life may flourish.

At the end, she wrote things which encourage me to continue telling the story of Richard/Tracy–and express the same hope I hold, that one day my abusers will recognize their abuse and change:

In Acts, Chapter 20, the Apostle Paul pleaded with the Ephesian elders to pay attention and guard the flock.

This admonition, along with the mounting stories of abuse and misconduct coming out of Mars Hill Church, has added to our conviction.

We believe that to remain quiet now would be unloving and disobedient to God. As my husband stated earlier–if we fail to remember our history, we leave it for others to re-write. And, unfortunately, some of that has occurred.

And, in Mark’s own words from his book, Vintage Jesus:

“People are not perfect. As sinners we need to be gracious, patient, and merciful with one another just as God is with us or the church will spend all of its time doing nothing but having church discipline trials.

“It is worth stressing, however, that we cannot simply overlook an offense if doing so is motivated by our cowardice, fear of conflict, and/or lack of concern for someone and their sanctification.

“In the end, it is the glory of God, the reputation of Jesus, the well-being of the church, and the holiness of the individual that must outweigh any personal desires for a life of ease that avoids dealing with sin biblically.

“Sometimes God in his providential love for us allows us to be involved in dealing with another’s sin as part of our sanctification and growth. It is good for us and for the sinner, the church, and the reputation of the gospel if we respond willingly to the task God has set before us.”

What happened to us was very wrong. The way it was publicly described by Mark and the elders at the time was completely exaggerated and deceptive. The way the media and blogs have since reported on it has many holes and errors. Now it is open and plain to everyone.

If Mark and the organizations he leads do not change, I fear many more will be hurt, Mark and his family included.  To not speak is to not love or care and shows no thought or consideration for those who have been wounded and those who will be in the future.

We are witnesses. There is a pattern. There is a history. There is an ethos of authoritarianism and abuse.

Mark is the unquestioned head of Mars Hill Church and the Acts 29 Network. His elders have no way to hold him accountable. Those under him likely fear him and want to garner his favor so they don’t dare say nor do anything that might anger him. This is tragic.

Perhaps at some point, with enough outcry and exposure, Mark will come to his senses, own his harmful behavior, and get the help he needs to change. I hope so. Our common Enemy can make terrible use of our weaknesses and blind spots.

Our Lord’s harshest words were for leaders who used their status, power, the Scriptures, and God’s people for their own self-aggrandizement. Surely this is not what Mark meant to do.

We are all in this together, no matter what kind of abuse we suffered, or from whom.

We did not deserve it, and need to learn and remember this.  We need to put the responsibility for the abuse, and our subsequent hurt and pain, where it belongs–on the abuser–and take none for ourselves.

And we need to NOT look at each other and think, “I got it worse than you, so why should I bother with your story and pain?”

We also need to learn from each other, take courage from each other to speak up and tell our stories, and heal each other.

 

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