June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There

Losing my wisdom teeth

I started getting disenchanted with and disillusioned by The 700 Club, though I still watched it.

One, I never quite got over Sheila Walsh‘s sudden disappearance freshman year.  I missed her last episode because I could only watch occasionally then, and never found out what happened to her.

(Years later, I found an article in which Sheila explained why she left.  It was supposed to be an extended hiatus while she dealt with an illness.  Now, she’s a popular Christian speaker at women’s conferences.)

I had always feared her disappearing from the show and never coming back, just as a past co-host had done (Teri Meuwssen).

Besides, young Sheila was such a bright point on the show, and made it fun to watch.  If Pat was gone, they might put on this one guy who joked right along with her and made the whole show more fun and interesting.  But whenever she went on vacation, the show was mostly dull.

I didn’t know if she died or got fired or left to concentrate on her singing career or got fed up with Pat Robertson’s ideas on the equal rights movement or what.  I knew she said once, on the air, that she thought the women’s movement had done a lot of good, not just harm, that it was a good thing that women now had more career options.

After all, though I don’t think she said this at the time, she was working outside the home.  She had a singing career (I loved Shadowlands and Say So), and was, obviously, working on what she called The Club.

According to Wikipedia, she left after depression and “ideological differences” with Pat Robertson led her to change her life’s direction and get a doctorate in theology.  And eventually, even Teri came back permanently, in 1993.

Two, there was a controversy in the news and columns at this time, either spring or early summer ’94, about a southern school board or committee trying to get its school system to teach history that focused on the white contribution to history and showed the whites as always good guys.

I read an editorial in the paper about it, and I could see why this was a bad thing.  After all, white people aren’t the only ones to contribute good things, and they’ve contributed bad things as well.  If we don’t recognize the contributions (good and bad) of all cultures, we won’t be fully educated in history.

And whites are relative newcomers in history.  Until the Roman civilization reached its height, the biggest players in history were Mediterranean, Asian and North African.

But on The 700 Club, they blasted the uproar against the school board’s policy, and portrayed the curriculum as a good thing!  Pat Robertson said something like, “What’s wrong with teaching history that focuses on white contributions?”

Their news report even showed an obvious bias toward the school board, even though they said they were the fairest reporters of anyone on TV because they weren’t liberally biased like the rest of the media.

(I tried finding a story about this online, but could not.)

Three, I also knew, from an essay I read in Persuasive class, that the Andres Serrano picture of a crucifix in urine was really supposed to be a portrayal of how people treat the Gospel these days.  At least, that’s what the essay said:

[The artist] Serrano denies harboring any blasphemous intent and indeed claims–for all I know, with complete sincerity–that “P**s Christ” is a Christian commentary on the debasement of religion in modern America. –Richard A. Posner, “Art for Law’s Sake,” p. 430-1 of The Informed Argument: A Multidisciplinary Reader and Guide by Robert K. Miller

Wikipedia also supports this:

Serrano has not ascribed overtly political content to P**s Christ and related artworks, on the contrary stressing their ambiguity. He has also said that while this work is not intended to denounce religion, it alludes to a perceived commercializing or cheapening of Christian icons in contemporary culture.

Whether or not we buy that, it should’ve at least been mentioned in the reports on The 700 Club, but they never breathed a word of it.  And I watched it faithfully back then, so I would’ve known if they did say it.  That screamed “deception” to me.

And now there was the issue of the school board.  I told Phil how outraged I was over this, how I couldn’t believe The 700 Club would defend the school board on such an issue.

Plus, well, there was that thing over Pat’s predictions of who’d be elected president in 1992.  I waited and waited for the lovely day when Bush would be re-elected and I could laugh quietly over the people who supported Clinton.  I knew it would happen, and I could almost taste the feeling of victory….

But it didn’t happen.  Pat was usually right in his predictions, at least since I started watching around 1986, yet his only explanation was, “I guess I missed it.”  It made me wonder what he really listened to–Was it all God, or did he let some political desires get in the way of God’s voice?

****

Phil’s driving often got reckless.  Back in the spring, my friend Carrie said that he didn’t seem to notice her, but he once nearly ran her off the road when passing her or turning.  Oddly enough, I usually didn’t notice, but there were times when he did things that scared me–like taking both hands off the wheel and dancing around.

Phil claimed my red tabby cat Hazel didn’t like him.  I doubted this at first.  But then one day Hazel peed in a bag of mine.  It was full of important things, and some of them were ruined.

She was upstairs in my room, but the door was wide open, and she could have gone downstairs to her litter box.  I had no idea why she did this.  Nowadays, I wonder if maybe it was a protest that I was with Phil, and she didn’t like him.

****

One cause of my headaches was removed: I got a wisdom tooth pulled on June 3.  There were supposed to be two, but they could only find one.

An old high school classmate worked there; when I first went to an appointment to see what needed to be done to my teeth, he saw my Whiteheart T-shirt, and asked where I saw them.

I saw them in Whitewater; he asked if I was from Wisconsin; I said I went to college there; he may have asked how I ended up in South Bend, and I said, hey we used to be in German class together!  Then he started to recognize me.  I now discovered he was a Christian, which I had never known before.

It was awful: On the side where they did exploratory surgery and found no tooth, it hurt the most, took the longest to heal, and kept “seeping.”  I had to use Listerine, and kept waiting for the stitches to dissolve.  It felt like the doctors had opened a hole in my sinuses where none should be.

As for the surgery itself, I had been afraid of pain, but a moment or two after they pricked my arm with the anesthetic, I was out.  I didn’t dream or anything, just totally blacked out until after the surgery was already over.  Then I woke up, groggy and nauseated, cotton stuffed in my mouth.

Mom took a staggering me to the car and then home, where she put me on her bed.  I stayed there most of the day, nauseated, eating soup because I could eat no solid food yet.  Phil sometimes came in to visit me, but much of the time I slept.

The next day, I felt a little better, but still icky.  I kept hoping Phil would be like Jennifer’s Mike was when she got that bad illness the previous school year.

She was constantly drugged up and sick, and there he was, taking care of her, getting her food and making sure she took her medicine, constantly mothering her.  It was so sweet and loving, and we thought she should hold on to this guy!

I thought Phil was the type to be the same way. Instead, he barely seemed to notice I was sick after that first day, and even thought we’d make love that first or second night.  Say what?  I was disappointed, though I didn’t mention this to him.

****

I researched marriages in the encyclopedias at home, and discovered our marriage could be called common-law.  I told Phil about it, but he smiled and said, “You like thinking about this, don’t you?”

Um–Why on earth would he tease me like that?  Isn’t he the least bit curious about what our marriage is called and how common it is?

I also hate it when guys talk to me like that about one of my interests, like it’s some cute thing the little girl is doing, pat her on the head.  It’s patronizing.

****

I really didn’t know what to do sometimes.  I didn’t know if it was my problem or if Phil was the one with the problem relating.  He would go to my dad, whom he loved talking to–he said they sat at the computer once, fighting to keep the bouncing-eyeball screensaver from distracting them–and talk about me.

We had problems dealing with religion.  I had arguments with him over it that I didn’t have with my friends or other people.  As I told him, I didn’t argue with them, I was able to get along with them, and didn’t impose my beliefs on them because I didn’t believe in doing that.

But when I talked to him, I got upset whenever his ways differed from mine.  As I told him, I wanted to impress him with, not turn him away from, my denomination.

Phil talked to my dad about this, along with religion.  He noticed that he could talk to my dad without it turning into an argument.  Dad told him he should go through the Bible and see what it says before talking with me about it–get on an equal footing, know for himself what it says.

He also said that you don’t have to read your Bible for devotions, as long as you at least pray.  That fits in with the times I’d pray for devotions because I was unable to read my Bible.  Like when I’d walk home from Shawn’s room late one night, I’d usually think of a Bible verse and reflect on it.

Anyway, Phil wondered why we couldn’t talk about it so easily.  I have since been told that other people’s opinions are easier to take because I’m not marrying those people.  When you’re planning to spend the rest of your life side by side with someone, his opinions are more important to you because they affect the peace of your home life.

After all, Phil wasn’t marrying Dad, so of course they could have quieter discussions about religion.  Also, later on, Dad told me he got the impression at times, during these talks with him, that Phil was an idiot.  I’m not sure why that was–probably not what he believed, but why, or how his thought processes worked.

Phil said maybe we shouldn’t talk about religion at all.  But how could I go through life without talking with my own husband about religion?  It was one of my favorite things, starting with long talks with Dad in my teens.  (And look at where it led me.)

My dad came upstairs one day while I was working on Jerisland, but I was a bit too busy at the time, being right in the middle of writing a scene.  He wanted to talk about my religious disagreements with Phil.

But he found out we worked our problem out for the time being, an ability we (at least, during the spring) had even without reading how to resolve relationship problems.  I felt weird about talking to my dad about that.  I could see problems on both sides; it was not all me.

Phil’s crappy jobs cause depression

My dad told me, “I’m not paying for a Catholic wedding.”  I told Phil about this, since of course he needed to know, and of course it upset him that my dad would feel that way about his denomination.

But there wasn’t much I could do about it.  A Catholic wedding would be far more difficult for my parents to manage:

As members they could rent our own church at a greatly reduced price, but for a Catholic wedding, they’d have to find some church either in South Bend or in Wisconsin that they had nothing to do with at any other time.  I didn’t blame my dad for not wanting to deal with that.

Besides, I wouldn’t be able to take part in a Mass at my own wedding, and we wouldn’t be able to get married in a Catholic church anyway, because I wasn’t Catholic.

Also, Dad said, “I want to walk my daughter down the aisle.”  Mom and I had no idea before this that he felt so strongly about it.

****

I read Interview With a Vampire by Anne Rice. It’s a good, intriguing book, but gory.  I had to skim over some parts, but some others I just couldn’t stop reading.

After that, I read The Thorn Birds–which, surprisingly, was also a bit gory at times.

I kept putting Phil in the parts of the sexy main characters in my mind’s eye: He was Louis, he was Father Ralph.  Physically he seemed to fit the parts, and there was his past seven-year desire to become a priest.

****

Phil’s first summer job, selling satellite dishes for cable TV for country homes, had the potential to pay $100,000 a year.  Just a couple of promotions would do it, so he considered not going back to school in the fall if he did well at the job.

He seemed like the type of person who could be a salesman.  We thought it would be a good start for our marriage, but I still hoped that one day he’d pursue his dreams of being an actor.  If I never saw him act again in a play or anything else, it would be a huge loss.

(Fast-forward: He never did become an actor.  Instead, he became a math teacher like his father.)

****

We had a little birthday party for my dad on the 5th.  He was 56 now, and trying to tell us he was 32.

“What does that make me?” I said.

“Chopped liver,” Phil said.

Actually, I would turn 21 on the 22nd.  I didn’t intend to start drinking, though.  I wasn’t raised to drink, and the stuff was stinky and unappealing.  Besides, even if I did, Phil couldn’t join me because he would not be legal for another six months.

When I left for the summer, I thought, Next year my friends and I will say good-bye for good.  Some of our friends already had.  But as it turned out, my friends and I did not say good-bye for good.  We still keep in touch via e-mail and try to see each other whenever we can.  Facebook has made things even easier.

My Senior Writing Project was a novel (Jerisland) which I started in 1988 or 1989 and wanted to finally finish.

I told a pen pal that for romances in my stories, I liked to match the main character with another character I liked.  It’s fun to be in control of that in stories.  On TV or in the works of other writers, the matches aren’t always the ones I would make.

Phil kept coming home and saying that his name was on everybody’s lips at his job.  His superiors kept saying how well and how much Phil was doing.

Yet he had to spend a lot on his transportation and clothes, they didn’t reimburse him for this, and they only paid him if he did 20 presentations or sold to two households.

Also, despite working his butt off six days a week for nine or ten hours a day, he made few sales.  My parents kept having to give him food and gas money.

(Just like during the school year, when he had a job but half of my paycheck went to his food and gas!)

So finally, after maybe two weeks of working for them–and the day after finally getting a paycheck but for only $175–he quit on Friday, June 10.  He needed money for school and my engagement ring, not this piddly amount.  When Mom told my brother Jake about it, she said he finally came to his senses.

On the 11th, I wrote in a letter to Pearl,

My parents just love Phil.  He and my dad are always talking about stuff, and my mom told the people at work that “you just want to love him to death.” “That’s my job,” I said.

Jake hasn’t said much, and my youngest brother–who knows what he thinks.  He teases Phil so bad, just like he does everybody else, and you wonder sometimes if he’s serious.

I couldn’t believe what Phil did last night.  He’d thought up a joke to do at a drive-through while I was with him, but before he couldn’t do it because he kept laughing. This time, he did it.

We went to Dairy Queen, which has a drive-through here, and he said, “I want a Peanut Buster Parfait, and I don’t want a hot dog.”

The person taking the order said, “That’s  a Peanut Buster Parfait and a hot dog?”

“No, I don’t want a hot dog.”

“Okay, a Peanut Buster Parfait and no hot dog.”

She sounded ticked, but when we pulled up to the window she didn’t seem that way at all.  “That’s a Peanut Buster Parfait and no hot dog,” she said.

He told her it was a dare, and she said, “That’s okay.  I survived it.”

Then today we were driving along outside South Bend and in the outskirts of Mishawaka and saw a curve sign for a curve that was up ahead.  It was right next to a tree, the arrow pointing in the direction of the tree, and someone wrote “TREE” on the sign.  I just busted out laughing.

On the 12th, I wrote to Peter,

Phil’s here at my house, keeping it interesting.  I suppose we might as well see what it’s like to live in the same house, because we’ve been engaged since April.  We weren’t intending to get engaged that soon, but he just couldn’t wait any longer.

His mom calls us the perfect couple.  It does seem like we were meant to be together, even with our differences.  We do have our arguments, especially over religion–one Catholic, one Protestant, both of us bull-headed (my dad’s term)–but we always get them worked out somehow.

My youngest brother still isn’t married, but at least he’s finally out of the house.  That’s why Phil gets to stay here, because we have a spare room for him.  Not that he’s in it very often.

So this helps explain how, despite the abuse that had been going on, I stayed with him: because it was so subtle that the good times still outweighed the bad.  But things would soon change.

From what I’ve read, this is common in abusive relationships, because you have to be hooked first.  If the abuse starts too early, you’ll bail because you’re not emotionally bound to this person yet.  But if everything is perfect, you don’t want to leave when the abuse starts; you keep waiting for the perfect to return.

He found another sales job early in the week of June 12, selling Kirby vacuum cleaners.  Mom hated them, and now Phil was selling them.

This job depressed him.  One night, as he and my mom were alone in the kitchen and he ate a late dinner (as usual because of his hours), he seemed close to tears.

I think his employers treated him a little better, compensating for gas and such, but he thought none of the other sales people in his group liked him.  He quit at the end of the week.  To stay with me all summer, he had to find another job.

Phil’s fake dreams lead to a terrible fight

A letter from Pearl on the 13th spoke of an infection, and that she could have died from it.   (She has rheumatoid arthritis and kept having problems throughout college.)  But a hurting hip led her to go to her doctor, so that’s how he discovered it, and in time.

She had to deal with a tube in her neck and weeks of intravenous antibiotics, then oral antibiotics, and this meant no knee surgery that summer–so she’d still need crutches.  But at least she was alive!  (Still is, in fact.  🙂  )

Another letter I wrote to somebody said she was at Roanoke a bit during the summer, finishing up exams; this must have been why.  She was also supposed to do her writing and honors projects senior year, and wanted to work on them, just as I was.

****

Phil often acted out his dreams while sleeping, and spoke coherently, as I’ve described before.  One night while he worked at the Kirby job, he told me he wanted a little “wedded bliss” before he went to sleep.  So after he went to bed, I went over and nudged him to give him what he wanted.

I don’t want to recount this incident in full detail because it is still too disturbing; I don’t have to relive everything.  But he kept his eyes closed the whole time, which always told me he was asleep and acting out his dreams.

I kept saying I didn’t want his subconscious, but his real, awake self, yet he kept his eyes closed all the while, which showed me he was still dreaming.  His sleeping self got mean and childish, even sleepwalked.

I kept expecting him to wake up and start acting kind, except that his subconscious was forcing him to stay under, refusing to let the real, kind, awake Phil take over again.

I was frightened by and angry at his subconscious, telling him to go away so the real Phil could come back.

Then finally he opened his eyes.  In relief I said, “Oh, now you’re awake.  I thought you never would wake up!”  His rational self was back, not that jerk of a subconscious!

But then he said, “I was awake.”

Huh?

“I was awake the whole time.”

I was confused, upset.  How could he have been awake and behaved in such a fashion?  How could he be awake and keep his eyes closed the entire time, even while walking?

But he said he wanted me to come to him!

Why didn’t he open his eyes and show me he was awake?  He was always talking in his sleep and acting out his dreams–How was I to know any different?

I felt cruelly tricked, set up by this evil charade.  All he had to do was open his eyes as soon as I nudged him, to show me he was awake!

I had directly called him Phil’s subconscious repeatedly, and repeatedly said I wanted the real, conscious Phil back.

He knew very well that keeping his eyes closed had always been a signal to me that he was talking in his sleep and acting out his dreams.

He knew very well that he had trained me to disregard anything he said while asleep, as being his subconscious and not the real him.

He knew very well that opening his eyes signaled to me that the dream was over and he was awake.

Then there’s all he said and did and yet kept his eyes closed the entire time (even going downstairs and making a huge amount of racket, so I feared he’d wake my parents).

So I do still firmly believe he kept his eyes closed on purpose to keep me thinking he was asleep, talking in his sleep, walking in his sleep, and his subconscious was doing it all, an episode of crazy-making me with something he knew quite well would fool me.

Especially since, a couple of months later, he finally admitted that he was awake every single time he acted out his dreams and talked in his sleep, that it was all an act!

As I’ve described in earlier chapters, he started doing this in February, and kept doing this until August.  (I describe these “dreams” all through these chapters.)

So he had me firmly convinced these were dreams, and in June, I was still under this gaslighting illusion, because he had not yet admitted the truth.

So to not open his eyes and show me he was truly awake, was diabolical, deliberately setting me up to act crazy and give him something to constantly remind me of–ie, gaslighting me.  This is a common tactic of abusers and narcissists, so they can deflect attention off what they’re doing to you, and call you the abuser.

I didn’t know all that, but I did want to tell him to go back to Wisconsin, that I was done with him.

After much anger, we finally got to talking and decided it was a misunderstanding, with him seeing how he contributed.  He saw he’d been a jerk about the whole thing, and that it wasn’t my fault; I believe he even apologized.

But for days or weeks after, he kept bringing up that night, as if he thought it was all my fault.  I never would have said or done what I did if I knew he was awake and I was dealing with his real self, not the subconscious; I would have known he was awake if he never pretended to talk/act things out in his sleep.  The narcissist had me fully in his talons.

As for your partner’s assertion, yes – you may have sent angry emails or yelled or slammed doors or called names. So your abuser claims YOU were abusing him/her.

But it’s more likely you were REACTING to being abused by your partner. What can make it even more difficult for you to see and understand at this point is that some of their abuse may be subtle and covert rather than obvious and overt.

This causes further difficulty for you in identifying the abuse – and makes it easier for your abuser to convince you that it’s all your fault, or the problem is really with YOU – that you’re “crazy”, or “imagining things”.

They’ll abuse you, and when you react to that abuse, they accuse YOU of abusing THEM and they play the victim role. They don’t call it “crazymaking” for nothing! —Let’s Talk About Reactive Abuse

 

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse used by narcissists in order to instill in their victims an extreme sense of anxiety and confusion to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment.

The techniques used in “Gaslighting” by the narcissist are similar to those used in brainwashing, interrogation, and torture that have been used in psychological warfare by intelligence operatives, law enforcement and other forces for decades.

The intention is to, in a systematic way, target the victim’s mental equilibrium, self confidence, and self esteem so that they are no longer able to function in an independent way.

Gaslighting involves the abuser to frequently and systematically withhold factual information from the victim, and replace it with false information.

Because of its subtlety, this cunning Machiavellian behavior is a deeply insidious set of manipulations that is difficult for anybody to work out, and with time it finally undermines the mental stability of the victim. That is why it is such a dangerous form of abuse.

The emotional damage of Gaslighting is huge on the narcissistic victim. When they are exposed to it for long enough, they begin to lose their sense of their own self.

Unable to trust their own judgments, they start to question the reality of everything in their life. They begin to find themselves second-guessing themselves, and this makes them become very insecure around their decision making, even around the smallest of choices.

The victim becomes depressed and withdrawn, they become totally dependent on the abuser for their sense of reality. In effect the gaslighting turns the victim’s reality on its head. —What is gaslighting? by Christine

People talking and even walking in their sleep, or acting out dreams, is a real phenomenon.  I even witnessed it in my pets, and would influence my dog’s dreams or my cat’s dreams by petting, barking, or whatever.  Using real phenomena is the best way to fool someone.

And I was already susceptible because my ex Peter talked in his sleep and acted out his dreams, and had convinced me of various telepathic abilities.  He said we had a psychic link, and that because of his ninja training, he went on time-traveling dream trips, was telepathic, could see things happening far away, and hoped to learn telekinesis.  (See here and here, where all these things are described.)

Because I believed Peter, I also believed Phil, making me perfect to gaslight with these fake “dreams.”  Also, my NVLD made me more susceptible to this, because it’s much harder for people with NVLD to notice when someone is lying.

Using Natural Family Planning

On June 12, I wrote to Peter,

I can’t figure out [Phil’s brother] Dave.  He acts around me like he likes me just fine, but then tells Phil things about me that he thinks are right, but they’re just not true, so Phil gets mad at him and doesn’t listen.

And he told Phil we don’t get along when I only remembered meeting him once, at [my] Pearl’s a few days before (right before you called me the first time last year), and I thought we got along just fine.

And I’ve also started wondering if his fiancée Pearl likes me.  If not, it would probably be from Dave’s influence.  But then, who can figure Dave out?

But the important thing is that Phil loves me and won’t listen to things about me that aren’t true.

But anyway.  Somehow I knew I’d end up with Phil.  I had my suspicions in October and November, and in December I was almost certain that I’d end up marrying him, even though at the time I was still trying to get ahold of him and ask him out for the first time.

Things moved a little quicker than I expected once we finally started going out.

****

June 13, 1994.  The South Bend Tribune came before anyone got home from work, so I was first to see the headline: OJ Simpson’s ex-wife and “her friend” had been murdered the night before.  This shocked me, but OJ himself was not under suspicion (as of yet).  I read the article (or articles–there may have been two) all the way through.

For the next few days, I paid attention to any news I heard or read.  That was enough for me.  But soon, the news media got so enamored and saturated with this case–and the suspicion of OJ as the murderer–that I couldn’t get away from it.

It was too much, so I went into an anti-OJ news kick, which lasted until after the verdict.  I didn’t want to avoid hearing news altogether; I just didn’t want OJ to be the only news I heard.  I think I was impressed with The 700 Club at this time because they gave it only a few minutes and then went on to the next thing.

Friday, June 17, 1994.  On this night they showed cop cars chasing a white Ford Bronco with OJ Simpson and a friend in it.  It was nothing but the cars driving slowly, never speeding up to catch up, because they didn’t want OJ to shoot himself.

Cars driving…cars driving…cars driving….Very little variation on that same theme, except, of course, when a radio announcer in a helicopter tried to get a message to OJ.

What really annoyed Phil and me was we wanted to see Picket Fences on channel 28, but instead all we got was this annoyingly dull chase on every channel.  We didn’t have cable to escape to, since my parents took it out to help pay for college.  We only kept the TV on because we hoped that any moment they’d stop showing the chase and turn on Picket Fences.

We couldn’t believe the “human interest” reports the next day that said people were actually riveted to their sets watching this dull chase!  Or that they were even interested much at all anymore in the OJ situation, after the media over-saturation.  Phil would even scribble “NO” next to “OJ” on the grocery list.

****

Phil chugged Mountain Dew and Pringles so fast that there was none left for me.  My mom made him start buying them himself.

After he started at the factory, he began to put a frozen pizza in the oven every night when he came home, rather than eating what my mom saved him from dinner.

He had nothing but Little Debbie snacks for breakfast.  Instead of bringing something healthy from home for his lunch break, he got fast food.

His diet was so unbalanced and unhealthy that I think only his factory job could explain his thin, increasingly muscular physique.  He constantly got nosebleeds; Mom thought he was anemic.

Because dinner was around 6pm, I got hungry by the time he got home, after 11pm, so I asked for a piece or two of the pizza each night.  He complained at first despite how huge they were (probably large pizzas), but finally let me have some.

(You’re reluctant to share a large pizza with your own hungry wife?  How frickin’ selfish can you get?)

But it started to make my stomach hurt afterwards.  It seemed frozen pizza might not agree with me anymore.  I hoped this wasn’t the case, but it persisted.

****

On June 18, I wrote to my roommie Clarissa,

Phil has been having fun with the computer.  He keeps beating my youngest brother at Risk, and he beat him three times at chess on the computer. And L–‘s the one who would boast about beating everybody on his Marine base at chess.  No wonder L– uses his most sardonic “wit” on him.

On June 19, I wrote in a letter to Helene,

We just had a noisy storm.  And Phil’s scared of the lightning.  I found him lying on my bed with our “son” Benny (a stuffed rabbit).  You’re right, he is a sweetheart.

My dad has an old copier now, and it makes letter-writing so much quicker.  I used to write a letter, then hand-write or type up a copy for myself.  Now I just take a few minutes to copy it.

It’s so odd to not have to pay a dime a copy [like at school], and bad copies aren’t such a problem when you don’t have much money to make more.

In “Clarissa” by Samuel Richardson, Clarissa and Lovelace are always copying letters or having their servants do it.  Then they sometimes copy other people’s letters so their friends can read them.  How they would have appreciated having copiers!

I also used it one day to make a copy of a few pages I found in one of my parents’ books, ABC’s of the Human Body.

It was a Godsend: In S–, we couldn’t find any local sources of information on natural family planning, but here in South Bend we found a center or two.  Unfortunately, there was no answer when Phil called.

He also feared they, being Catholic, wouldn’t want to tell us anything about it anyway, because we weren’t officially married yet.

He feared they’d think we’d use it for “fornication,” but that’s silly because we were publicly engaged and you have to learn about this stuff before you get married (to start charting your cycles a few months ahead of time, etc.).

But because of his fear, I was forced to look in medical books for help.

I finally found most of what I needed to know in this book, which had information on natural family planning and even had three different charts: one for temperature, one for “safe” days based only on the calendar, and one for checking cervical mucus.

I found something about pH testing of the mucus in a medical book my mom picked up for me one day around that time, but it didn’t say how to test the pH, and I didn’t know what to do about it.

There was even an old parenting book at home, that described natural family planning, and said daily testers were readily available at any drugstore.

However, this book was from the ’70s, and the only testers we found were one-use, meant to be used around the time of ovulation (which my periods were too irregular to predict), and way too expensive to use every day.

I wanted to check all three ways, which was supposed to make it about as effective as the Pill.  But the information I found did not describe how to test pH–what tools to use–so I thought maybe we needed pH paper.

I didn’t know where to find it.  I’ll describe later how we went looking for it but couldn’t find it anywhere.

In 1997 or 1998, a magazine, probably Glamour or Redbook, ran an article that described just what needed to be done in natural family planning to make it effective and not a “joke.”  Unlike any other book or article I had found on the subject, it described how to check the mucus.

Here is another good source.

And my husband (Cugan now, not Phil) had finally found me some pH paper because, during our engagement, I planned to use NFP during our marriage.  However, shortly after he found the pH paper, and long before that article came out, I was diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance, and had to go on the Pill anyway!

Though you can also use test strips specifically made for the purpose.  You can also get a pH test strip dispenser on Amazon!  It was so hard for me to do this NFP, but it’s so simple for women these days!

But back to 1994 and the charts I found in the health book.  These charts said how to tell when ovulation will occur, based on these three different methods of testing.

We had to know all we could find out about natural family planning, since, though Phil said he would let me use contraception if I really felt that strongly about it, he also felt like he would be sinning and helping me to sin, and I was afraid of what the Pill would do to my body.

(I’d heard misinformation about what it actually does.)

Plus, we’d have to spend a lot of money to get the Pill.

Basically, he used religious guilt to manipulate me into not using birth control, and doing things his way, out of respect for his convictions.  But meanwhile, he made it very difficult for me to use NFP, because I did not have the information I needed, nor would he take me to look for the pH strips I needed, except after lots of nagging.

I decided to go along with NFP, and it was actually fun.  I started taking my temperature on June 21, a Tuesday.  Before that, I had been using the calendar method–which worked, despite my irregular periods, but still worried me.

Phil cuts down whatever is special to me

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!

Phil’s Mr. Hyde comes out: controlling, manipulative, verbally and emotionally abusive

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.

July and August 1994

Life at Roanoke: My College Memoirs–September 1991 through May 1995

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:

 

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