Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Feels: August


Ever since I started this segment two months ago, Friday Feels has been so fun to write up. (Read the full intro and the very first Friday Feels here; find the whole post series here.) With the depth and seriousness of most of my content and my focus on mental health and my life with PTSD, it's fun to take something as complicated as human emotion and carve it down to something as simple as this little list.

In the original Friday Feels post, the idea was to take ten feelings I'd been living with (and struggling through), list them out, and then share about what had me feeling those particular feelings. But then for the second post, I thought wanted to have a little more fun with it and also take the exploration of my own feelings into a deeper place. I didn't want to spend every month listing, "happy, sad, excited, angry, etc." - so I thought if I used totally random feelings, that would help me change things up a bit with each post.

Still, as unpredictable as I like to think I can be, I know me well enough to know that I'm not all that great with "random." I tend to stick with the tried and true, which would have made this kind of boring for all of us. To prevent that, for the last post I googled a random feeling generator, clicked on this page, refreshed it ten times, and came up with the feelings I used - which was perfectly random enough, and lots of fun. This month I repeated the process, and I came up with the following:

1. Anxious:
We've just wrapped the second week of school here, and it has been a rough time for me anxiety-wise. My van is still running but the transmission slips slightly more often than before, school supply lists were LONG and are still coming, class fees are being requested, and the specter of Christmas is looming closer again. My annual post office fee is coming due, too - and while I am managing to juggle things in a way that mostly works, that doesn't make it less stressful. One five-dollar splurge is enough to set things back in major ways for my little family, and the pressure to keep everything together and running smoothly wears on me. Worrying about failing to keep things together for my kids haunts my days and keeps me up at night - and worrying over that is hurting my ability to function in therapy, which keeps my PTSD symptoms high. I'm debating finally giving in and asking for medication after over 15 years of fighting it - despite the fact that this in itself is a source of anxiety for me because of previous experience with someone who abused medication often, and even overdosed in front of me when I was a teenager.

2. Disregarded:
Honestly, the aspect of my life that makes me feel most disregarded lately is ... motherhood. I'm a single mom, and my two daughters are 13 and 8 years old - so as you can imagine, with a pre-tween and a teenager, we have more than our fair share of estrogen flowing through the air, which often leads to waves and waves of hurt feelings and unintended insult. This flows in both directions, too; I'm a pretty human sort of mom, and I mess up a lot. Sometimes I don't see until things have already gone wrong that Eden's extra-hyper behavior is because we forgot to do morning meds or because she's anxious on the weekends when her dad is around - and then she ends up in trouble for acting-out behaviors that aren't necessarily her fault or her choice. Sometimes I don't realize Joey's extra sassy because she's feeling hormonal or because she had a spat with a friend or she's anxious on the weekends when her dad is around - and then she, too, ends up in trouble for acting-out behaviors that aren't necessarily her fault or her choice. I'm not always the best listener, because I have my own issues, too.

But like I said, it flows both ways - and when it flows my way, it's usually in the way Eden constantly interrupts me when I'm talking, or when I'll tell Joey some story or anecdote, only for her to pull an unseen earbud from her ear and hit me with the dreaded, "Huh?" Or it's in those moments when I'm saying things over and over and over and over and over and over again, with my kids totally acting like I'm not there and they can't hear me. It isn't uncommon for me to throw my hands up impatiently and ask, "Hello?? Did I go invisible again??"

To which, my children often don't reply - because the answer is yes.

3. Hostile:
One of my pet peeves is passive aggression and whatever that thing is called that makes people want to dangle things in front of others and then swoop them away again at the last second. Like, don't ask me if I want chicken or fish for dinner, and then listen attentively to my answer, only to tell me that we don't have any chicken or fish, so we're having tofurkey burgers. This is one of the fastest ways there is to piss me off - and not just in the food form either. So having to tolerate and endure frequent exposure to someone who has repeatedly done that to me definitely brings out my inner hostility. In general, I pride myself on being a nice person, on being likable and someone who can adapt to change and usually find some common ground to get along on - but I guess ... well, let's just say there are some people I'm praying extra hard for these days.

Also, I'm pretty pissed with HP right now, because the laptop I bought earlier this year keeps glitching out on me for exactly no reason at all and leaving me stuck using my old laptop - the one with the space bar that likes to do three or four or seven spaces instead of one. Today it totally crashed and HP tells me I'm going to need a hard drive replacement. Really, HP? Really? I AM NOT THRILLED, HP. NOT. THRILLED.

4. Intrigued:
The thing that has me most intrigued these days is RV's and everything about them. I've even been going out to local RV dealers and looking inside them - taking note of what I like and don't like about them. And why? Well, that's because I'm thinking once my girls are grown up and gone, that'll be the perfect time to buy one, live in it full-time, and use it to explore the U.S. Eden won't be eighteen for 10 more years, and by then we'll likely have also lost Chance ... I'll be on my own at that point (unless of course I'm not single anymore), and able to go exploring for long periods of time. And I can't wait.

5. Inquisitive:
Since the crashing of my computer was literally during the writing of this post, I guess the one thing I'm most inquisitive about at the moment is how I paid $48 for a damn 2-year service agreement which was supposed to protect me in the event that something happened to my laptop, and then when something DID happen to my laptop, HP gave me a choice between $25 and a two-week waiting/shipping time or $49 and an approximate five day turnaround for an in-home tech. So here's my inquiry - what the heck was my original $48 for?? What's it good for? What's it cover?

And how dare you ask if I want to know about all the other service plans you can offer me that'll waive all "future $25 fees," Mr. Heavily-Accented Middle Eastern Customer Shaft Rep ? I mean really, how bad DO you expect your products to suck, then? I bought an HP laptop because I needed a longstanding product with a strong name and a strong reputation. What I didn't need as a single mother was a strong company with weak ethics trying to nickel-and-dime me half to death over a product that didn't even last four months before it crashed.

6. Miserable:
Miserable. What a strong word, right? But perfect for a strong emotional state - the kind that becomes common when you live with PTSD and deal with significant depression on a daily basis. Depression isn't new to me; I've been living with it in various stages and forms for most of my life, often charged with putting aside my own issues for the sake of others close to me. Misery is so much more than sadness. It's a depth of unease, a spirit-deep sense of unbelonging, a nagging feeling of ... wrongness. I read something once that said SOMETHING ABOUT MISSING A PLACE YOU'VE NEVER BEEN TO - well for me, misery feels like not just missing that place, but having actually been there and knowing what you're missing. And maybe it's also a sense of knowing that you've been banned from that place.

7. Pleased:
Lately, the girls and I have been watching our way through Once Upon A Time together. We spent the last year or so watching through Gilmore Girls together with my kids's grandmother (their dad's mom), and after we watched the very last Gilmore Girls reboot episode, it didn't take long for us to start feeling the absence of that time we had grown to love spending together. We aren't just sit-down-and-watch-it kinds of girls - we often like to talk our way through movies and shows, pausing to explore the themes and lessons hidden within the plots, to dissect a bit of dialogue or talk through the meaning behind some pop culture joke. It's not uncommon for us to watch a scene several times just to get the depth of the nuances hidden in it. Makes us annoying for others to watch TV with, but this makes the experience richer for us in many ways, and we've had a really great time so far exploring our thoughts and feelings about life through the stories in Once Upon A Time. We've only just started the second season, and the girls both love it so far!

8. Playful:
What makes me feel playful? Music. Music is life for me; it's one of my favorite coping mechanisms when I'm stressed, one of my best friends when I'm lonely, and the place I can always go when I need to feel understood. But more than that, it's fun and freedom, it's dance and joy. It's play - and it's one of the best ways I know to turn a bad mood around. I even have a "Dance Mix" playlist that I use to get my body moving and my blood flowing when I need my spirits lifted.

9. Respected:
Lately, the place I've been feeling most respected is here. In the last few months, I've been approached by a couple of different companies interested in partnering with me, and that has been super flattering and totally validating. Working with LoveBug Probiotics has been a major thrill for me, especially because it wasn't an opportunity I hunted for - they came to me. It felt like a sign that I'm doing something right here, which was only confirmed by another offer from another company that I'm now totally thrilled to be working with. I'll be telling all about it soon ... but not quite yet. (Want a hint? Bet you can find one here.)

10. Serene:
Even with all the turmoil in my life these days, there's one thing that leaves me totally calm. Totally chill, as Josephine would call it. Totally cool, as Eden would say. So what is it?

My prayer life. Recently I watched a video a friend shared with me, and it was about trusting more completely in God, believing in His work in your life so fully that you can rest assured of His ability and willingness to give results. Not to say you should just quit working toward things or anything like that, but that when you're working, you're doing it with certainty of results to come. Like with this blog, like with accepting partnerships and publicly saying that I love being able to do that. Like writing a book, knowing that the right readers will see it at just the right time for them. Like mothering my kids and believing that I'm not the only one looking out for them, even when I feel like I am. That video changed my life, and I hadn't realized how much I needed to hear the words spoken in that video until I heard them. I sat on the front porch and listened, tears streaming down my face.

And I understand the serenity prayer a little differently now, too.



Today's "Featured Favorite Product" is Emoji Uno - because you guys for real, it's Emoji Uno! How cool is it that this is even a thing? Because regardless of what we're feeling, the girls and I are always up for a game of Uno, and we think emoji's are a really fun way to modernize such a classic card game. Check this out!



And really - Emoji Uno? Seriously, did y'all know about this?? Click the photo or the link above to check it out!

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links in this post, remember that if you choose to click product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with on a more regular basis, click here.)
I love these posts! They're truly fun to write (except for when my laptop crashes - ahem, HP), and I'm looking forward to watching the link-up grow in time too! If this post touches or helps you in any way, please feel free to tell me in the comments, or you can always hit me up on any of my social media pages. If you know someone who would benefit or learn from what I've said here, I invite you to share it with them. And of course, if you'd like to write your own "Feels" post and share it in the linkup, go ahead - just be respectful and stay on topic please!!

As always, my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." But what's an undaunted woman? Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted and how you can nominate your favorite undaunted woman to be interviewed - right here on the blog! The first interview is coming up at the end of this month, and I can't wait to introduce you to August 2017's Undaunted Woman!

In the meantime, if you'd like to follow my journey as a writer, a mom, and an abuse survivor with PTSD, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar. I'll share my pain with you, yes - and it won't always be easy to read. But I'll share my growth with you as well, and hopefully we'll inspire each other along the way. To get even more personal, come over to Patreon, where you can sign up to sponsor and support my writing. You can subscribe for as little as $1 a month, and that dollar gets you access to all sorts of content - including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life AND advance access to my fiction writings! For a little more, you'll get to read my poetry, listen to podcasts, and even get your name on my personal mailing lists.

For those who want the inspirational parts of my content without the personal aspects, connect with me on social media, where I like to share all sorts of things - from self-care tips to mental health quotes to song lyrics and more.

But however you decide to keep in touch, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Talk: Domestic Abuse Is More Than Beatings


I haven't talked about this much here - not in the way I'm about to and not nearly as much as I might have wanted to, out of a desire to protect myself and my children from the repercussions of words spoken without a great deal of thought. I've talked about the abuse I witnessed and endured as a child - but with limitations:
  • I didn't name my abusers.
  • I didn't give towns and addresses.
  • I didn't give the name of the group home I spent a year in as a child after both my mother's and my father's houses were deemed unsafe for me due to my step-parents violent mental health issues.
  • I didn't share much about the way my mind and body began to break down under the stress.
  • I didn't talk about the ways I acted out or the ways the things I was dealing with impacted my health.
But even with those limitations, I have suffered consequences of my openness. I've lost relationships with family members. I've lost friends who couldn't handle knowing what I'd been through - friends who, after knowing what I've seen, could no longer see me in the same way. And there are other aspects of all of it that I have never - and will never - speak of again outside of therapy, not after being accused of "making it up" by someone too busy protecting themselves to protect me.

Still, I've been pretty open about the violent abuse I witnessed as a child, as well as the abuse I endured personally. What I haven't been as open about is the way that abuse led me into one abusive relationship after another over the years. I don't talk much about the first serious relationship I was in as a teenager; I don't talk about how the first boy to kiss me was also the first boy to pressure me into things I didn't want to do in bed ... I don't talk about how he was also the first boy to hit me. I don't talk about how I blamed myself and let it go - because I had already been taught that abuse is the victim's fault. I don't talk about how those moments were formative for both of us, or how our friendship now is always and will always be tainted by those memories.


BUT DOMESTIC ABUSE IS MORE THAN BEATINGS
IT'S CONSTANT CRISIS & REPEATED THREATS & APOLOGIES THAT AREN'T MEANT
I don't talk much about another relationship I was in, where I found myself attached to a drug addict who lied to me constantly about his addictions - about how serious they were, about how much they changed who he was, about his intention to get them under control. He would "go" to Narcotics Anonymous meetings; he would kiss me goodbye when I dropped him off (we had one car), walk in the front door alone, and walk directly out the back door with the drug-addicted woman he was having an affair with. I suppose they had more common ground, and now, these many years later, I don't resent him finding someone he thought might be a better match for him - by that time, we both knew we weren't meant to be. But I was lucky I left him when I did - he ended up catching an STD not long after we separated, and the knowledge of what he was doing was part of what gave me strength not to take him back, especially in the moments when I was lonely and afraid of life as a single mom. I don't talk a lot about when the rage kicked in and he started threatening to kill me. I don't talk a lot about what it felt like to file for a restraining order and have it denied because "he hasn't tried anything yet." I don't talk about the nightmares and panic and what it's like to constantly be looking over your shoulder, scanning streets and stores and driveways and parking lots and even my own front yard. I don't tell a lot of people that the shower scene in Fighting For Freedom - the one where Christine was too afraid to get out of the shower - was drawn directly from that time in my life, when I had to pep talk myself into every shower, and then once I was in, pep talk myself back out. I don't talk about how that still happens sometimes.

But perhaps most importantly, I haven't talked in obvious ways about yet another relationship - the one that taught me just how dangerous charm can be, the one that opened me up to someone I will always believe was narcissistic abuser. An abuser who quietly slipped into my life and took it over so smoothly that I hardly even noticed. I haven't talked about how, before him, even I still believed that "domestic abuse" wasn't real unless your mother got hit by a truck and your brother got shot in the eye and you got stripped naked to have your bruises photographed in the guidance counselor's office at school. I didn't believe it was abuse unless it was violent - until HIM, until I had endured so many years of covert psychological abuse that it triggered my PTSD and left me with an imploded life full of broken bits I still haven't been able to sort out yet.


DOMESTIC ABUSE IS MUCH MORE THAN BEATINGS
IT'S GASLIGHTING & MANIPULATING ISOLATION. IT'S REPEATED CYCLES OF LOVE-BOMBING & GHOSTING. IT'S USING CHILDREN AS TOOLS. IT'S ECONOMIC ABUSE AND CONTROL FOR POWER. IT'S PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE FOR FUN.
Domestic abuse isn't always brutal beatings and black eyes. It isn't always bruises covered in makeup and children with mysterious injuries. It isn't always obvious violence - or the obvious fear of it. Sometimes it's the false promise of a future that doesn't exist. It's a painted dream, an illusion, a fantasy.

Sometimes:
  • It's a person creating a fictional self and passing it off as real, and then attacking others when the truth behind their persona is revealed.
  • It's a person who engages in isolating his/her significant other by humiliating and embarrassing them in front of their friends until those friends stop coming around (for example, ruining and abruptly ending every social gathering by throwing themselves to the floor and pretending to suffer from temporary paralysis until conveniently right after everyone left - and then continuing to do this until they stopped coming at all).
  • It's a one-income household where the person with the paycheck controls everyone else by using money (or the lack of it) to maintain power. It's where the person in control makes a point of pushing others around by reminding them of their lack of power, or using economic well-being as a means of dominating through sabotage, threats, and other forms of intimidation. 
  • It's imprisonment - through economic or any other means.
  • It's the psychological warfare of silent and covert abuse - the various means of victimizing through making someone else doubt their sanity.
  • It's gaslighting; it's all the times a victim hears, "that didn't happen," or "you must have imagined it," or "I didn't do that ... YOU did." 

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people give me softly spoken and slightly condescending variations of, "Well, at least he doesn't hit you." With several of my relationships, that was the excuse that kept me coming back for more. In abuse situations, "at least he doesn't hit you" often works to negate the total erasure of personal boundaries, as well as the various covert punishments victims of abuse tend to encounter when stepping out of line - many of which are not violent but are still equally damaging.

  • It's when you get used to going to bed alone - when your sex drive goes dormant from neglect because your partner won't leave porn long enough to have actual sex.
  • It's repeated cheating, and then blaming the victim for being hurt and sad and insecure.
  • It's never taking responsibility for wrongs committed, for repeated insults. It's the abuser telling the victim to "get over it" and "let it go" - while still continuing with the hurtful actions.
  • It's disregard or even mockery of the needs, feelings, and values of others.
  • It's constantly calling and talking and gift-giving, followed by complete and total silence.
  • It's the infliction of constant financial crisis and the impact of a record of unpaid bills and unmet contracts.

It's the relentless and nearly impossible burden of recovery.


  • It's using children as pawns, attempting to purchase their loyalty after abandoning them, or using physical or financial threats to guilt or force them into choosing sides.
  • It's the mind games you're forced to fight through and live with when there are children involved and everything is more complicated.

It's a book called Fighting For Freedom, a collection of memories mixed into fiction by a woman writing every word as a prayer for a freedom she can barely even imagine achieving. Yes, in it's clearest forms, it's violence and bruises and broken bones and blood. But sometimes it's quiet - sometimes it's so subtle even the victims can't see it until it's too late, so sneaky even the people who witness it can deny it's happening. Sometimes it's this:


But here's the thing - that video gives hope and hints at possibility. For some. You see, in order for the woman in the video to have filled all those tampons with cash, she would have had to have access to cash. Maybe she was allowed to have a job - or if not, maybe she was allowed an allowance.

For many victims of this kind of abuse, this is not the case. For many victims of this kind of abuse, access to money is so limited that you begin to forget little things about it.
  • You have to mentally talk yourself through the process of pumping gas because you've forgotten how to do it.
  • You always run your atm card through the reader backwards because for so long, you never got to go to the store and use one.
It's forgotten independence and learned helplessness - it's a loss of self, mourned by the victim and celebrated by the abuser. It's a breaking of the sense of autonomy that makes us feel like humans - it's a recognition, a becoming, a reverting back to the animal that lies within. It's Pavlovian training. It's Stockholm Syndrome. It's forced and/or learned co-dependence.

It's punishment, however subtle that punishment may be, for the existence of self and the establishing of boundaries. It's neglect and starvation and homelessness - or the constant threat of it. It's the idea of violence, if not the act of it - hidden in the way an abuser stands over a victim or blocks doorways on purpose or exerts physical strength and personal dominance just to show that they can.

And while the video I shared above is wildly powerful - there are victims out there for whom even that much hope seems impossible, for whom recovery looks unachievable, for whom the hits just keep on coming.

There's no featured favorite product today - just a reminder to look upon others with kindness, without judgement, without preconceived imaginings of who they are and how they got that way. We don't always know other peoples' stories. We don't see what goes on in the recesses of their lives, in the quiet behind the closed doors - and even when they choose to open those doors, we still don't see everything.

Fortunately for the girls and I, I have help - I have people who step in every day and encourage me to keep going and to keep growing, who hear me out when I need to talk or sit with me in the silence when I need to NOT talk. I have my therapist and my friends, I have this platform and the emotional freedom it gives me, and I have the complicated blessing of my friendship with my daughters' grandmother - who has gone out of her way to make space for the girls and I to rebuild, despite many reasons she might have chosen otherwise.

Many do not have even these things - and while I sometimes find myself suffering, I am grateful too, for those who stand beside me in my darkness, for those who reach out in that darkness to guide or walk beside me, those who call my name from their place in the light, reminding me that my darkness is not infinite.

NOTE: This is usually where I have my affiliate disclaimer, since I'm usually using affiliate links through which I receive a (very) small commission. Today I'm not using them because I feel that it would cheapen the depth and personal importance of this post - but if you'd like to see a list of companies I'm currently working with, you'll find them here.
Writing something as honest as this post is exhausting. It took five hours to write - with much of that time spent carefully poring over every word, desperately trying to straddle the line between my desire to be honest and open, and my desire to protect people who are not at fault and shouldn't be made to feel as if they are. I stopped to cry more often than I would have liked. I drank wine during the day. And I prayed this post would be seen by people who need it. If this post touches you in any way, please feel free to tell me in the comments - or if you need someone to talk to privately who can understand and commiserate, send me a message at authorbrandikennedy@gmail.com, or hit me up on any of my social media pages. If you know someone who would benefit or learn from what I've said here, I invite you to share it with them.

As always, my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." But what's an undaunted woman? Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted and how you can nominate your favorite undaunted woman to be interviewed - right here on the blog! The first interview is coming up at the end of this month, and I can't wait to introduce you to August 2017's Undaunted Woman!

In the meantime, if you'd like to follow my journey as a writer, a mom, and an abuse survivor with PTSD, subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar. I'll share my pain with you, yes - and it won't always be easy to read. But I'll share my growth with you as well, and hopefully we'll inspire each other along the way. To get even more personal, come over to Patreon, where you can sign up to sponsor and support my writing. You can subscribe for as little as $1 a month, and that dollar gets you access to all sorts of content - including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life AND advance access to my fiction writings! For a little more, you'll get to read my poetry, listen to podcasts, and even get your name on my personal mailing lists.

For those who want the inspirational parts of my content without as much of the personal aspects, connect with me on social media, where I like to share all sorts of things - from self-care tips to mental health quotes to song lyrics and more.

But however you decide to keep in touch, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I truly thank you for being here.