The Lemonade Stand

This Is 30

I was having a conversation with my brother Keith over Christmas, and at one point he said something rather profound.  When talking about our lives – things we’ve learned, where we find ourselves now, and so forth – he remarked: “You know, I used to think once you reach a certain age as an adult, you’ve ‘arrived’ in life.  But now that I’m getting older, I’m realizing I don’t think we ever ‘arrive’.  There is no such thing.  We just keep moving forward all the time.  We’re always moving to the next thing.  The next goal.  It never stops.”

When he said this I instantly found myself applying the sentiment to my upcoming birthday; the big one.  The third decade.  Yes…on a Friday the 13th in January I’ll be turning thirty years old.  (And I’m not sure yet if it’s a good or bad omen to start a third decade on such a notoriously superstitious day.)  marilyn-imitation-photo

I thought about where I’d once envisioned myself being when I reached this milestone.  How once upon a time I’d imagined at thirty I’d own a home, be married to my soulmate, possibly have a child or two, and starting to make all kinds of money from my various ventures that were succeeding (writing novels, singing opera, and working on business/entrepreneurial ventures).

Lofty goals, as it now turns out.  And most of them not realized.  (Then again I also once thought thirty was “old”…and I now understand that isn’t true either.  So some unmet expectations are welcome.)

Instead of owning my own home, I’m currently living with my parents as I recover from an eviction that occurred as part of the end of an abusive relationship with a man my therapist is classifying as a Cluster-B Personality (sociopaths/narcissists/psychopaths).  Instead of married to my soulmate, well…I’m single, and at the moment downright terrified at the prospect of ever opening up my heart again.  So one could say I’m in the antarctic as far as finding a life partner right now; just me and the penguins, and they’re already paired off for winter.

I don’t even own a car; having sold my adorable little blue beetle about eighteen months ago, instead driving a car that belonged to Randall’s ex-girlfriend that she’d given to him (but still owed money on, so in essence I ended up having to take over the monthly payments…one more thing as I look back that I’m embarrassed about).  He ultimately drove that car into the ground; got into a few minor incidents (including one time where he decided to go ‘gliding’ around on icy roads and ended up colliding harshly with a curb), and ultimately it was determined all the damage meant the car had to be totaled.  His ex, Blanche, got out of the car payments, so her life was pretty damn good, and also got rid of the car; while I have nothing to show for that $600 payment each month other than a whole lot of anger and shame.

Not exactly anything I’m proud of so far.

Instead of confidently striding into my future, I often find myself questioning my abilities, my intelligence, and my talents (all courtesy of Randall, the abuser who managed to tear down almost every shred of self-respect and self-love I once had).  I find myself feeling afraid a lot, chasing the feeling of being safe even as it stays maddeningly out of reach.  I wake up in the middle of the night when I hear noises, worried Randall or his minions are breaking down the door to rob and violently harm us all (something he vowed he’d do by the end of our relationship).  Lots of fear.  Lots of shame.  Lots of emotions that aren’t necessarily rational, but they are definitely powerful and difficult to control.

In short, I don’t feel anywhere close to “an adult”.  I still at times feel like a lost, confused, scared child who simply yearns to feel safe and loved.

Still, that having been said, the one thing I do have at this point is a career that is blossoming beautifully.  It’s taken many years of hard work, earning my stripes through failures as much as successes; but I’m there now.  Working with Lasting Connections is a pure joy as it expands nationally, my personal success coaching with clients of my own is extremely fulfilling for my soul, and while I’ve had many moments in recent years where I close-up-meghann-andreassenexperienced abject poverty (bank accounts being closed down due to lengthy overdraft fees, eviction for non payment of rent, bills discharged to collections, hungry a time or two because the fridge was empty, you name it I experienced it), I’m moving away from that now in rapid fashion.  Speeding away is more accurate in fact.

I knew it would be that way; I knew there would come a moment when it would all click.  That’s just how it works in this industry.  Still, I almost didn’t make it; I almost threw in the towel many, many times, particularly after I was in a relationship with Randall, seeing as how he was constantly breathing down my neck about why I wasn’t getting big results yet, and ultimately saying I needed to walk away because according to his ‘expertise’ it was a business venture that was dead in the water.  (Read: The Myth Of The Overnight Success)

Thankfully, I was able to hang in there.  And now the checking account is healthy again, the savings account is no longer dry, and I am surrounded only by people who love and support me as I move toward the future.  No more leeches making themselves fat while leaving me dry.

So……it’s true, I’m not where I once thought I’d be when I turned thirty.  I’ve had a lot of failures in my life I didn’t anticipate all those years ago when I allowed myself to fantasize about my future.  I’m a convicted felon.  I’ve spent a little bit of time in jail.  I’ve made fairly big mistakes and left a few potholes in my wake.  I’ve allowed myself at times to be completely and utterly walked over by others; standing silently to the side as boundaries that meant a lot to me were blown to bits, instead of standing up and advocating for myself the way I deserved.

img_3864And love?  I guess as the song says, love hasn’t done right by me so far.  I gave my heart, my virginity, my everything to a man who ultimately proved himself unworthy in almost every way.  Right now I feel like all innocence and light has been stripped from me, and I just count myself lucky to be alive and able to move forward.  I won’t lie, I have days where I despair that I’ll ever find love; thinking perhaps I’m branded somehow as dirty or tainted by everything that happened.  And that saddens me; because I’m still also at my heart a deeply romantic person.  (I know…figure that one out.)

But as I often say to my clients, I’m trying to just put that to one side and keep marching forward.  If you can continue to put one foot in front of the other, no matter what is happening, that’s all that matters; because it’s when we move forward that good things can come into our lives.  Standing still doesn’t invite anything in.

So I’m endeavoring to do my best.

Besides, there’s a way to flip all those negative experiences on on their heads.  Instead of being something horrible or dark or twisted or embarrassing or shameful (as it sometimes is when I reflect), it can all be seen as something empowering.  Because I’m still here, despite everything that happened.  I have managed to find incredible success for myself despite being unfairly labeled as a felon, when so many others carrying that burden are unable to for one reason or another (and I do have to thank my wonderful family and friends for helping me pull it off).  I’ve stayed clean and sober despite the difficulties presented over the years, and only tripped up with one relapse along the way right at the end of my abusive relationship; but I hopped right back on the wagon afterward.  And in spite of the abuses suffered, and the shame I felt in my heart due to Randall’s actions and words, I still ultimately left him.  There are many in abusive relationships who never quite manage to get away, so that is something to be proud of.  All kindness and humanity hasn’t been taken out of me; I still overall am who I’ve always been…albeit a little battered, bruised, and perhaps a bit more cynical than I once was.

I can relate to people in ways I never used to be able to.  I’ve always been an extremely empathic person, but now it’s grown to a place where I’m able to truly offer comfort and help to not just friends and loved ones, but also to clients through my personal success coaching.  I understand addiction, and how it can take over your whole life whether you want it to or not.  I understand what it means to be depressed, to the point where even getting out of bed feels impossible.  I understand what it is to feel hopeless.  To feel lost.  To feel completely and utterly invisible and alone in a world that seems harsh and cruel.  I understand shame; and how you can say or do things that later you would give anything to erase from your life story.  The oppressive kind shame that can make looking someone in the eye next to impossible because you literally view yourself as “less than” whoever it is you’re talking to.  I understand the cutting sting of betrayal; the kind that is traumatic in the sense that you go to bed an entirely different group-photo-meghann-andreassenperson inhabiting a whole different world than when you woke up that morning.  I understand what it means to struggle to trust others, and to be suspicious.  I understand what it is to be overweight, and feel out of place or inadequate due to my dress size.  I know what it’s like to feel ugly; to hate what I see in the mirror.  I understand trauma, and the way it can haunt you and reach out and bite you when you least expect it.

And most important of all…I understand what it takes to pull out of these low points in life.  I’m able to offer my knowledge and help to others.  And I’ve also gained a new appreciation and love for myself that I never had before; my boundaries are firmly in place at this point and no one will ever get them to budge again.  That is a gift in and of itself.

So…thirty?  You may not look like what I thought you’d be, but that’s okay.  You’re actually looking pretty damn beautiful to me precisely as you are.  A shiny new decade to play with, that is free of abusers and jail sentences and trauma and pain.  A decade that can instead be celebrated as the time when I come into my own and truly start to live life the way I was meant to: empowered, wise, and confident.

This is me at thirty.  Let’s do this!

 

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis. To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.

**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities

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The Edge Of The Universe

I remember the first time I tried to really ponder the concept of outer space. I was eight or nine years old at a summer camp, and we were all laying on our backs inside a beautiful planetarium, the ceiling illuminated with thousands of stars imitating the night sky.  The speaker was first pointing out various constellations, and then in more general terms talking about how far away everything was from Earth…and then talking about how space itself has an edge. I had no issue with how vast space was. My issue came when the speaker was asked by another camper what was beyond the edge of space. He said, quite simply: nothing, or at least nothing we know of at this time.

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My mind exploded as it attempted to process such a concept as ‘nothing’. I literally couldn’t comprehend it. Of course I understood the words that had come out of that man’s mouth; I knew what ‘nothing’ meant.  My brain just couldn’t then apply the words to a concept that made any sense, instead insisting there had to be SOMETHING beyond the edge of space. A white picket fence of sorts separating it from the next ‘thing’ that would be called something else. That’s just what my human brain needed. Barriers and fences and labels and borders. It’s all I as a human being could understand.

The more I contemplate the relationship I had with my abusive ex Randall, the more my brain hurts in the same way it does when contemplating the proverbial edge of the universe.  While I am intelligent enough to understand logically what a sociopath, a narcissist, and a psychopath is…it’s unbelievably challenging to actually comprehend what it means that the man I loved so much experiences little to no real emotion at all, and to accept the notion that any good memories or loving moments I had with him aren’t real.  That any declarations of love, or times when we were laughing, or instances where he’d snap a picture of me and then put it on his phone as the screensaver…none of it was real for him.  Not like it was for me.

It can be hard to accept that fact, particularly since the love I felt for him was so intense, passionate, and deep.  It’s painful to contemplate just how one-sided the whole thing was.  But accept it I must; andfullsizerender-copy anyone who is recovering from abuse out there, even if the abusers weren’t actually narcissists/sociopaths/psychopaths, must accept this reality as well.  It’s part of the healing process, and also, as my therapist has pointed out numerous times, one of the ways we can avoid becoming entangled with such people in the future.

Randall was that proverbial “bad boy with a heart of gold”…or at least that’s what I thought.  Someone who’d had a hard childhood, and just needed to be loved enough to be saved from all the bad habits and the emotional and mental scars he’d acquired over the years.  But that’s all a lie.  There is no saving someone like Randall, in large part because he himself doesn’t see anything wrong with his behavior.  Ultimately every bad thing he’s ever done (sans a few things here or there) he finds ways to excuse and/or justify.  I watched him do it.

I’d call it his ‘magic trick’ each time he tried to pull it off.  He’d apologize for things in the heat of the moment, particularly if he got caught, and he’d seem extremely sincere.  But if you gave it enough time (sometimes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes over a year) he’d always ultimately come around to insisting that it was understandable/justifiable to have behaved the way he did.

Even the affair he had with Blanche that ended Round 1 of our relationship…he’d always verbally said he was incredibly sorry for what happened, but at the same time, by the end of Round 2 when our relationship was rapidly deteriorating as his abuse became more and more intense, he was starting to say things like “My relationship with her was more real, like we actually had a family together, her, me, and her girls, whereas you and I were long distance, separated by hundreds of miles and only seeing each other a few times a month”.  Statements like that were intended to A) justify what he’d done, and B) wound me by saying that somehow the relationship I’d valued so much hadn’t been as real to him.

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(And it’s complete bullshit, might I add; long distance relationships are just as real and meaningful as having a relationship with someone who lives down the street.  My feelings for him were strong, and I was loyal.  He was the problem, not me; I just wish I’d been able to recognize that sooner instead of thinking the problem was with me not being good enough for so long.  Constantly trying to ‘measure up’ and gain his approval.)

Those justifications were because he didn’t feel things the way a normal person does.  All the things he did – all the affairs and the lies and the STDs he gave me and the offenses he committed and the hurtful things he said – were because he didn’t feel love like you or I do.  For me, to hurt someone I love leaves me feeling in pain too; but he didn’t seem to miss a beat.  And as I look back, it really was calculated carefully; which moments he was loving and which moments he wasn’t.  When he needed something, he turned on the charm.  When he needed others to view him in a positive light, he was over-the-top sorry, sometimes even crying he felt so bad about what he’d done.  When I wasnmeghann andreassen, girl with rose‘t measuring up to his standards in some way, he turned cruel in order to punish and whip me back into shape.  And ultimately he’d come around to insisting what he’d done was justifiable and the wounded party (in this case me) needed to just let it go and move on.

Everything was clearly planned out with a cold detachment that demonstrated while I was caught up in the throes of passion, he was carefully playing a game of chess.  I was just one more pawn in his game.  And that hurts.  That really, really hurts.

Which is why I have to just let it go.  Whether my brain can really wrap itself around such a concept or not…I have to accept it as fact.  Same as the concept of the edge of the universe.  Maybe I don’t think about it too much any more, because my brain doesn’t need to hurt any more than absolutely necessary (neither does my heart)…but that doesn’t make it any less true.  Accept, and then release.  It’s a simple concept, harder to actually pull off; but in the end it’s rewarding when you succeed.

Some days I’m there.  Other days I’m not.  Just have to keep trying until it ultimately sticks.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Sometimes that’s the most productive thing we as humans can do.

 

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis. To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.

**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities

SMEARED

I have a confession: I occasionally watch entertainment news on ‘E!’ and have been known once or twice to keep up with the Kardashian clan. (Mental Xanax without need of a prescription; because there’s nothing more hypnotic than watching a bunch of vapid, shallow individuals run around stirring up unnecessary drama in their otherwise blissfully elitist lives.)

Normally there’s no need for commentary on what I see. It’s pure fluff.  But one story about six months ago hit a little closer to home; yanking me out of the land of superficiality. Specifically I’m referring to the news of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp and the chaos that ensued when they first announced their divorce and the accusations of abuse began flying.

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I suppose the standard disclaimer is required before I proceed: I have no idea what actually happened in their relationship. I wasn’t there. Nor was the media, or anyone else who commented on what they think ‘really happened’. She could be a manipulative you-know-what making a grab for a lifetime of spousal support. Or he could be everything she says, and has simply been fortunate enough to not have a partner go public with the truth before now.

That’s what I don’t know.

But here’s what I DO know, based off of my own experiences with an abusive relationship and the nightmare of extricating myself from it:

I know that my psychopathic/narcissistic ex Randall completely destroyed my reputation with his family and any friends of his or mutual friends of ours. And when I say destroyed, I mean with a capital ‘D’. He left no stone unturned painting me as a crazy pathological liar who had set out to systematically ruin his life. And those who loved him – or should I say those who were (and probably still are) thoroughly under his manipulative spell – believed him without question and set about drawing their lines in the sand. Harassing me with messages that were anything but polite; outraged on his behalf and calling me every horrific name in the book.

I know he took every mistake I legitimately made (and yes, I made them) and twisted it and magnified it into something ugly. Where I saw HIS failings as a chance for grace, mercy, and unconditfullsizerender-copyional love…he saw MY failings as weaknesses to exploit, and he did it masterfully.

My family and friends – those who’ve known me since birth – were witness to what he did. Some of them even received calls from him or one of his cohorts, spouting off stories of my depravity; trying to convince everyone from my parents to my business associates that I was a sick, twisted individual who had ruined his life.

So I KNOW an abuser – be they psychopathic or not – is capable of doing this. Capable of looking you square in the face and lying about what they’ve done or said when confronted. Perhaps even drinking their own Kool-Aid enough to believe it themselves, which is how they can be so calm and composed about the whole thing.

I also know someone can be a saint to select family and friends, but a nightmare to their partners. I witnessed this first-hand too. I would come out of a nerve-wracking, bone-chilling conversation (if you can call it a conversation) with Randall and then watch him flip a switch, smile warmly at his friends and tell them how much he appreciated them. I’d watch him give them the shirt off his back (a shirt more often than not that was paid for with my money or the money of his ex Blanche…but that’s a story for another day), and the couch to sleep on if they needed it (ahem…my couch), and in return these people thought he walked on water. Admired him for his ‘frank honesty’ and his ‘genuine personality’. For the way he would ‘keep it real’.

So when Johnny Depp had people coming out of the woodwork praising him and expressing shock that anyone could ever think on any level he was capable of such treatment of a woman…that was cold comfort to me.  My ex had a sister who would have stood up and defended him to her last breath had she been given the opportunity. His mother was rising up in his defense, sending me messages telling me she didn’t know where I got off hurting and messing with her children, but I’d better stop or else…

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His ex-girlfriend was coming after me and probing into my life (that’s a long story in and of itself).  In short, there were a lot of people who were believing I was the worst thing since the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and all of this in spite of the fact that I had been supporting this man for almost two years, and looking the other way/offering forgiveness for all of his transgressions, his infidelities, his drug use, the STDs he gave me, the times he’d broken or damaged things of mine in anger, and the way he was alienating/isolating me more and more from my family and friends because of his unnervingly aggressive/inappropriate behavior. I was even lying for him and keeping his secrets; and let’s just say there are things I know to this day that would land him in prison for a long time if it came to light.  But I kept those secrets.  Loyally.  Faithfully.  And continued to love him and forgive him for everything he did; over and over and over again.

Didn’t matter. These people – his people – now believed I was the villain. They weren’t interested in hearing my side of the story. And he was good enough at manipulating that he was able to take grains of truth (I DID tell some lies by the end and I DID do some things I’m not proud of in the name of ‘keeping the peace’) and twist them until I was the psychotic liar, not him.  Point being: I know full well just because you have an army of people at your back vouching for your character doesn’t mean they’re right. And I also know that even if you have NO ONE vouching for you and you’re being portrayed – as in Amber’s case – as a manipulative, greedy bitch…that doesn’t mean any of it’s true.

I know it takes courage to come forward and announce that the life you’d been trying to live – and portray to the world – is false. I know if her accusations were true (again, I don’t know if they were…I’m just saying they might have been), he was also probably loading img_3864her up beforehand with promises that if she ever went public with anything he’d done, no one would believe her and he’d make sure he ruined HER life while he came out smelling like a rose. Because that’s what abusers do. It’s part of how they keep control.

People asked why did she seem so happy in photos just before filing for divorce? Why did she say nothing previously about physical abuse?  Surely that’s proof she was lying, they said, because no one could smile if they were in that kind of a relationship…

…except that’s false. I’ve been there. I’ve been the one smiling and acting like nothing is wrong, all the while feeling exhausted because I got no sleep after my partner and I had another fight that left me reduced to tears as he ripped into my character and my failings. I’ve sat in a hospital, holding his hand, and appearing for all the world like a doting, loving girlfriend…while in my mind I’m recalling how cold the ice was in that drink he threw on me, and I’m picturing the faces of all the women he’d finally admitted to sleeping with, making me physically sick to my stomach.

But I still outwardly looked ‘okay’.  Why?  Because I was processing what was happening. Because I was embarrassed. Because I didn’t even know how to start talking about it. Because he was still able to manipulate me into thinking the behavior was justifiable and okay. An ‘isolated incident’. Because I was ashamed. Because I was still buying into his bullshit that I must have done something wrong to deserve that kind of treatment; I’d not made enough money yet, or our life wasn’t exciting enough yet, or I’d promised he could do certainly things before we got together…the list of justifications was endless.  And I’d buy into it.

My point is, I’ve BEEN that woman. The one who is living in hell, but isn’t reaching out or telling anyone. There are a thousand different reasons a woman might not say anything. A thousand different reasons she might call the police in a moment of fear, but then decline to actually file a report. (I’ve been that woman too; contemplating calling police and starting to talk, but then ultimately backing off because I’m afraid of the ball I’ll set in motion. Rationalizing that surely I’m not ACTUALLY in danger, even if he’s made death threats…so I need to just let itverbal-abuse-meghann-andreassen go…it’s not worth ruining his life and mine if in fact it’s all just one big misunderstanding…)

So just because there was a photo of Amber Heard smiling with friends doesn’t mean she wasn’t still living in hell.

Long story short, the whole story that played out on television triggered me in surprising ways, partly because it was happening at the precise moment Randall had begun his own smear campaign against me.  Perhaps that left me biased.  All I know is as I watched it at the time, I was disgusted with the way so many pounced on her as a money-grubbing evil woman attacking a beloved celebrity. I understand of course that those accusations would be shocking if the man you knew as a friend/relative/ex-lover was a kind man who never before showed himself to be abusive…but that didn’t give people the right to automatically slander/discredit Amber Heard either.

I found myself wishing people would step back and let things play out in court, instead of diving in.  I wished it didn’t feel like the feeding frenzy directed at Amber Heard was unfair; like David tackling Goliath with his slingshot.  And as I said, I was probably biased at the time…but that doesn’t make my points any less valid.

The smearing did its job though, didn’t it?  Even though she won her case and had her settlement paid to a charity for battered and abused women, the public to this day questions whether or not it was all just one big ruse by her to gain atimg_3047tention and relevance in the spotlight.  Is it any wonder why abused women feel intimidated and hopeless about the notion of coming forward or speaking out?

I thought I would be embraced when I finally came forward and opened up about what I was going through…and I was, by my family and friends…but the people surrounding Randall threw me away with disgust.  (The same people who’d witnessed some of his abuses toward me, and helped him keep his lies for so long.)  It was disheartening to realize good doesn’t always triumph over evil, but at least in my case I was able to disconnect from them all and start the process of healing and moving on with my life.

If you’re at the point where you’re ready to leave your abuser, make sure you have a plan in place for support before you go.  You’ll need it.  Because mark my words, your abuser will try to slander and smear you and intimidate you, either to wrangle you back into the relationship in submission, or to save their own reputation for future relationships.  So be prepared, have your safety net of loved ones and trusted friends in place, and take a deep breath before you take the plunge.  It’s a wild ride…but the good news is, it does eventually end.

 

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis. To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.

**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities

The Last Word

When ending relationships with abusers, particularly when those abusers are suspected Psychopaths/Sociopaths/Narcissists, it’s recommended that you go No Contact as soon as humanly possible (and if No Contact isn’t possible due to shared custody of children or other reasons, then at least minimize as much as you can).  The main reason for this is because there is no such thing as ‘a casual relationship’ with these kinds of people.  So long as they are communicating with you, you are at risk of being pulled back into the spiderweb and manipulated further by their lies, their attempts at love bombing, their threats, and their intimidations.

It’s incredibly difficult.  Truly, the hardest thing for me to do after I emerged from ‘the fog’ of my relationship with Randall was cease all contact with him and his affiliates, though not for the reasons you might think.  I didn’t want to be with him at that point any more; I didn’t particularly even want to talk to him. I wasn’t missing him or craving his presence in my life, the way you might experience with a normal breakup (at least not at first, that came later). There wasn’t any crushing loneliness or aching need to hear the voice of the one I loved one more time (again, that came later).  I was too afraid and stressed by the end to feel much of anything.  I was numb.shame-meghann-andreassen

But I did wish I could defend my honor. My reputation. My good name. Because he’d thoroughly set about ruining the way others perceived me, and was succeeding spectacularly with all those who were his friends and family; even with some people who had been in our mutual circle of acquaintances.  I wanted to respond to all those who would message me (no doubt after he wound them up and encouraged them), calling me a sick, psychotic, pathological liar (their words were far more hurtful, that’s the polite version). Telling me I ‘deserved to rot in the ground’ for having ‘ruined’ Randall’s life. Insisting “all he did was love you”.

Sure; all he did was love me…and apparently in his universe, loving someone meant cheating on them during the first Round of the relationship, then maintaining contact with that woman on an almost daily basis during the second Round (including meeting up and sleeping with her at least one time, though at this point I’m sure there were other times too), pushing for an open relationship, getting his way, and then lying anyway about who he was sleeping with and disrespecting all boundaries that were set, giving his partner 3-4 STDs she didn’t deserve, lying constantly about many other things, spending money like there was no tomorrow, yelling and insulting his partner constantly about how incompetent and inept she was while she tried to make him happy and keep secret some of his more illegal activities (which led to isolation from her family and friends since she didn’t want them finding out the truth about certain things), probably carrying on affairs with 17-18 year old girls as the evidence now suggests…………yeah.  All he did was love me.

I badly wanted to respond and give everyone a piece of my mind given all that; after having been silent for so long about everything I’d been feeling and everything I knew and had been keeping secret for his sake.  And I badly wanted to respond to him when he’d send emails that sounded downright cordial, chiding me for ‘fabricating’ my stories about him threatening to do physical harm to myself or those I love.  So typical of him; acting perfectly sane and rational and in turn making me look positively batshit crazy by comparison.

meghann andreassenHe’d done that many times before, so I was familiar with the little magic trick.  Wind me up like a toy and then watch me spin while making sure the rest of the world witnessed my “unstable” or “needy” or “clingy” or “crazy” or “unreasonable” behavior.  He’d drive me crazy constantly by flirting with, lying about, and otherwise triangulating blatantly with almost every woman he came into contact with; leaving me feeling horrifically hurt and insecure…but when I’d call him out on what I suspected were lies (and in the end I was correct about it almost every time it turned out), he’d just humiliate me in front of others and ensure that I was the one who looked ‘off’.

Oh yes, I knew that magic trick well.  But I was finding my voice, and by God I wanted to use it fighting back at last to defend myself…and to my everlasting frustration, everyone was advising me not to. Advising me to just let it go.  And it felt so unfair at the time; almost felt like his final act of abuse.  (It should be noted that this isn’t unique to psychopaths…all abusers do this when the relationship ends; I’ve learned that speaking with others who’ve come out of abusive relationships. My own mother was accused by her abusive ex-husband of all kinds of things, including being unfaithful.)

It felt unjust; that after the stress of living with him for so long, walking on eggshells, enduring his moods and his temper…feeling all the insecurities and the fears he’d planted and fostered in my mind, my heart, and my soul…at the end he was able to muster an army of naysayers to come after me, while I was supposed to sit back and say nothing. Just let it happen.  It’s human nature to want to defend ourselves, even without the history I had with him. Even without the memories of his cruel words or his blustery temper or other aggressive tactics, I’d want to defend myself if someone was speaking so badly of me. Moreover, on some levels you’d almost think defending yourself would be the RIGHT thing to do; you’d think it would be cathartic to finally strike back at the one who had been doing the abusing for so long.

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BUT……to let it go was ultimately the best advice I could have received.  And if you find yourself in a similar place now all I can tell you is turn on your “Frozen” soundtrack and try to let it go like I did.  Why?

Well for one thing, anything I might have said would have fallen on deaf ears. These were not people who were open to the truth. He certainly wasn’t…he isn’t capable of being open to the truth. And all those defending him fell into one of two categories: either twisted themselves, or still under his spell. The first category of people would be like him – incapable of recognizing what he’d done as wrong – so it would be a waste of time, and the second category of people were in the position I’d been in at one point; thoroughly under a spell, not ready to hear the truth, and therefore equally a waste of time.  Which meant all it would have done was prolong a connection that I needed to just sever.  All it would have done was further prove his point that I was mentally unstable while he was a saint.

So instead I journaled. I started writing blogs. I talked to family and friends. Vented my frustrations through other outlets that didn’t require contact, and slowly felt the balm of love and support soothe my raw nerves and bandage my wounds. These people, whose opinions I respected, were there for ME. These people knew all – including all of my flaws and all of my sins – and were there for me. Not for him…for me.

img_3698He called me a coward for blocking his number. Called me a coward for blocking the numbers of his friends. A coward for blocking everyone on Facebook and any other social media platform that I could think of.  And that tactic almost worked; almost got a rise out of me.  Because I’m not a coward, and I wanted him to know that.  But the truth of the matter is there was nothing cowardly about it. I was setting a boundary and for the first time in my interactions with him, I was refusing to let him ignore or destroy the boundary the way he had destroyed every other boundary I’d set in place before.  And that infuriated him.

He was incorrect; it wasn’t cowardly to stop my harassment. It wasn’t cowardly to reclaim my right to feel safe in my own life. I was allowed to block a number if someone was calling me a c**t and a b**ch and every other name you can think of, and threatening to kill me and kill my family; promising to find everyone I loved and make them pay for MY mistakes. I was allowed to eject the person saying those things from my life with all the force of a rocket blasting off into space.

And once I was able to see it in that light, I found peace. I was able to let it go. Having the proverbial ‘last word’ no longer mattered.  All that mattered was caring for myself, and giving myself the peace and quiet I so badly needed…and deserved.

 

 

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis. To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.

**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities

The Top Five: December 2016

It’s that time again…another month has come and gone.  Crazy!

So just in case you missed them, here’s the rundown of the Top Five posts from December, based on reader responses and feedback.

As always, your feedback, likes, and comments all help me discover what content is preferred so I can continue learning and growing as a writer.  Thank you so much for that; I hope you continue to do so as I can’t learn and grow without you!

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

NUMBER ONE:
“Rebuilding My Safe Place”

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Preview: I never appreciated what a gift it is to feel safe – safe at home, safe in relationships, safe expressing my thoughts and feelings, safe in the world around me – until it was stripped from me.  I’d certainly felt unsafe before (there are more than a few dark alleys at midnight I ultimately chose to avoid over the years) but lack of safety was always a fleeting experience, directly related to something outside of myself.  Something easily removed or avoided, quickly returning to the overall certainty that I was okay… CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE


NUMBER TWO:
“Let’s Talk Triggers”

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Preview:Today I was efficiently moving through my to-do list, sitting at my desk and occasionally thinking about what I’d be making for dinner and trying to recall the last time I’d taken my dog out, when my phone started vibrating on the desk.  Barely giving it a glance to see if it was someone I needed to pick up for, something in me froze when I looked at the screen and everything about the calm, just-another-day afternoon evaporated… CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE


NUMBER THREE:
“Ahab’s White Whale”

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Preview: When I was young, I often enjoyed challenging myself with classic literature. One at a time, page after page, I started working my way through the likes of Dickens and Bronte, Hemingway, Shakespeare, and Austin all by the time I was ten years old. It was slow going in the beginning; often one of those tomes would require at least four or five months to finish in my early years.  But I loved it… CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE


NUMBER FOUR:
“Last Christmas…”

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Preview: Ever noticed how our minds are almost maddeningly good at glossing over the bad things in life?  If you haven’t, try being in an abusive relationship and then getting out of it and you’ll quickly see what I mean.  It’s a protective mechanism that is well documented in the medical community; it’s how abused children can have years of their lives repressed.  And it’s why the adage ‘time heals all wounds’ is only kind of true.  What it should really say is: ‘with enough time, your mind will dull the memories to make them less painful’… CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE


NUMBER FIVE:
“Loving A Ghost”

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Preview: Randall used to often brag to me about how he wasn’t bothered by such things as sad memories weighing him down; he was genuinely confused when I’d talk about my memories, and then insist he simply didn’t have them…not in the way I described, at any rate.  Insisting he forgot the faces of those around him within months of the last time he saw them (even his own mother), and swearing that he didn’t “miss” people because unless they were directly in front of him, he in a sense forgot they even existed… CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis.  To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.

**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities

The Audacity Of Age

“Please stop debating about whether or not I aged well. Youth and beauty are not accomplishments, they’re the temporary happy by-products of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.” — Carrie Fisher

the-naked-hour-young-and-old-women

It’s a touchy subject for women when you start talking about “aging well”. Even as I’m writing this I’m holding my breath while mentally predicting the reactions of friends and colleagues. They usually fall into one of two camps:

Camp One is comprised of the women who insist there’s nothing wrong with preserving youth and beauty as much as possible for as long as possible. This is the camp that embraces plastic surgery, lipo procedures, Botox, weekly facials, clean eating, cleanses, meditation, and anything else that might prove to fight back the ravages of time.

Camp Two is where the women gather who instead let the gray hairs and the wrinkles loose, proudly displaying their age and daring others to find them unattractive or unworthy. Regaling me with stories of long-ago cultures where the old were revered and wrinkles were a sign of godliness.

And then there’s me…rapidly approaching thirty, and for the first time starting to realize I’m no longer in the “young” category, but I’m not considered “old” either. I’m just solidly an adult, noting a few silver hairs and a few extra marks on my skin from many years of suntans, and trying to figure out which camp I want to live in.  I can feel that pressure these days…and how ridiculous is that? How silly is it that I almost preen any time a waiter asks me for my ID, as though validating I’m not “old” yet? Why does it even matter?

There’s no question women feel pressured to fight for preservation of youth and beauty for as long as possible. And I applaud Carrie Fisher (may she rest in peace) for getting out in front of the issue as best she could with her reprisal of Princess Leia in the new Star Wars. Hell, I’d say just reprisingthe-naked-hour-carrie-fisher the iconic role took a lot of guts, since comparisons to her twenty-one year old self were going to be inevitable.

She said something else I loved during Wishful Drinking, her HBO special based on her one-woman Broadway play. And while I don’t recall it verbatim, it was comedically poking fun at the very real (and unfair) reality that she’d not known when she first donned the now-infamous metal bikini from Return of the Jedi that she’d signed an invisible contract with the public to continue looking like that for the rest of her life.  Obviously an impossible task for anyone to pull off…and in Carrie’s case, even more challenging given the legitimate battles she’s fought in her personal life over the years. Everything from Bi-Polar disorder to smoking to weight fluctuations and addiction to prescription medications have left battle scars on her body.

But really…why is that a bad thing? Why is a woman judged when she has the audacity to look her age?

It all boils down to the reality that no matter how far women have come, there’s still an intrinsic pressure from a male-dominated society to look ‘sexy’ and ‘desirable’ at all times…and according to the media, young women with tight bodies are what men find most desirable.  We’re basically objectified from the day the X Chromosome is discovered on the ultrasound.

I was lucky enough to not experience it too much growing up; the men in my life treated me as an equal, and as a competitive swimmer I found validation for my accomplishments rather than what my body looked like.  But what I didn’t experience growing up, I unfortunately made up for in spades while caught up in the negativity of my abusive relationship. Randall surrounded himself with other women constantly, and never forgot to talk about how attractive he found them. Young women who were barely legal, prancing around in tight little shorts and even tighter crop tops, fully aware of all the salivating males as they shimmied and sashayed their way around the living room.img_3047

It was a sobering experience for me…because for the brief period of time where that became my reality, I felt utterly invisible.

Randall talked about other women constantly; this girl’s fat ass that he wanted to squeeze, or the fantasy of how it would feel to enjoy that girl’s tight…ahem. It never ended. And when I’d try and address the issue of how uncomfortable or undesirable it made me feel to have him do that so blatantly in front of me, instead of reassuring me or stopping the behavior, his response would simply be: “Well what do you want me to say? I’m not going to lie…I want to f*ck them. You’ll never be that young again, Meghann…you’ll only get older. You just have to get over it.”

Well, he was an asshole. We’ve established that. And I’m not saying all men are like this, because they’re not. But society as a whole seems to present variations on that message to women of all ages nonetheless. It might be presented differently; a beautifully designed magazine perhaps, or a glamorous actress on the red carpet having her body analyzed by commentators rather than analyzing the roles she’s played. But make no mistake, the message is still the same; and it’s enough to leave scars and insecurities as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon over a woman’s self-esteem.

I know my experience with it was dehumanizing; reducing everything I was down to my age, height, weight, and measurements. It also instilled in me a powerful resentment toward those younger women, even if they hadn’t done anything overtly disrespectful towards me. Instead of feeling a commonality with my fellow females, I felt nothing but mistrust and anger.

In short, it was a highly toxic, unhealthy frame of mind, and I’m grateful to be out of it. But I’ve thought about it a lot since, as I’ve recovered and picked up the pieces of my heart and soul and put it all back together. And the conclusion I’ve come to is simple.  Youth and Beauty are both just part of the genetic lottery; you are either born with the “beauty” genes, or you aren’t. Either programmed to lose your hair starting at twenty, or you’re not. Programmed to be short, or programmed to be tall. You are either predisposed to wrinkles and gray hair, or the-naked-hour-womenyou’re not. (I myself have several strands of brilliantly silver hair starting to appear on my scalp, courtesy of dad’s genes.)

And while I’ll never shame a woman for trying to ‘age gracefully’…I still wish society as a whole allowed women to feel comfortable with the aging process. Because guess what? We all do it eventually.

I wish we as women will finally rise up and take control of how we are portrayed and valued and perceived by our male counterparts. Demand better of them, instead of just giving them a “boys will be boys” pass when there are episodes of chauvinistic asshattery on full display.

Unfortunately we’re not there yet. So until we are, all I can say is try really, really hard not to judge yourself based on your looks or how much attention you get. Instead try to value yourself based on your accomplishments in life. Your education. Your career. The quality of your friends. How you treat others. Surround yourself with people who also appreciate those things in you, and find you beautiful and sexy whether you’re twenty five or fifty five, because of who you are as a person

Accept the following as reality, and get on with your life:

  1. You’re going to get older. So are we all.
  2. There will always be women who are perceived as “prettier”; I don’t care what age you are. Don’t begrudge them their genetic winning lottery ticket; they couldn’t help how they were born any more than you could. Don’t covet or resent. Just love yourself, and remember…they may be sick of being seen for only one thing too.
  3. meghann andreassenThere will always be ‘younger’ women coming up behind you with ‘fresher’ faces and ‘tighter’ bodies. This has been happening since you turned 19 and had the ‘barely legal’ crowd to compete with. So……let it go. There is nothing for you to keep up with; just appreciate yourself as you are right now, and don’t resent the younger generation for being young.  We were all young once.
  4. The majority of men will probably lust after the aforementioned women from time to time, much to your annoyance. But again…let it go. It is what it is. (And let’s not pretend you didn’t notice that cute lifeguard at the pool either…)
  5. Ultimately, a good man will lust for five seconds…and then come back to you. He will appreciate all of the qualities that make you YOU…and usually those qualities have nothing to do with your age or your measurements, and everything to do with your mind, your heart, and your personality. Find that man, and love him with all your heart.

Love yourself. That’s ultimately all you can do. And live a life that you’re proud of. If someone makes you feel less than amazing, eject them from your life. They have no place there. And then carry yourself with pride, because you are perfect exactly the way you are.

It’s as simple…and as hard…as that.

 

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis.  To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.

**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities

Hushed: The Power Of The Silent Treatment

When I first began opening up about the abusive nature of my relationship with Randall, a question often asked was: “Did he ever hit you?”

It’s not surprising. Most people’s knowledge of abuse begins and ends with movies depicting a man beating his partner into a submissive corner.  But no…he never hit me. Threw a drink on me once?  Yes.  Acted aggressively?  Yes.  Yelled and belittled and physically demonstrated violent behavior against inanimate objects or other people?  Absolutely.

The worst thing he ever did though – the thing that shook me to the core of my being – had nothing to do with clenched fists or shattered paneling or holes in walls or reckless driving; it had everything to do with silence, and his ability to render me completely obsolete and irrelevant when he wanted to.  Those were the moments that left the biggest scars over my heart.

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It was quite the power move. The man I loved would remove all love, warmth, and affection from our interactions while making it clear that he would not ‘restore’ that warmth or affection until I had adequately atoned for whatever sin I was currently in purgatory for. (And it should be noted that most often this technique was brought out when I had the audacity to push back or refuse to admit I was ‘wrong’ about whatever the talking point of the day was. When talking over me, yelling, and otherwise browbeating me didn’t work, he pulled out the big guns.)

And it worked. It was as emotionally and mentally devastating as dropping a nuclear bomb.

I can still recall the more extreme times he used this technique. I can recall times when his normally warm green eyes would go cold, and he’d refuse to touch me…while at the same time giving warmth and kindness and praise to others as I watched. Smiling and laughing. Complimenting a friend on how loyal he was. Telling another girl/woman she looked ‘pretty’ or that he liked her makeup or her hair. Talking warmly about friends, family, or hell even his ex Blanche who he ‘appreciated’ being in his life. All as though to say “They are worthy, you are not”.

I recall how he would talk to Blanche in front of me with smiles and warmth, and then turn cold the minute he hung up the phone. Or talk badly about me to others, as though I wasn’t even in the room; complaining about all my faults and griping about whatever my latest mistake was, while ensuring I heard every word.  And I vividly remember how if I tried to leave the room,shame-meghann-andreassen the response would be “You can’t leave! You fucked up, man; now don’t be a pussy about it. Take your licks and deal with it.”

It worked.  I’d stay; somehow thinking in my brain that staying was the key to making it stop. That was the key to ‘atoning’. After all, I wasn’t weak; I just had to show him that. Like he said…’take my licks’.

I remember going to sleep at night, and him rolling away from me so that not even his toes touched mine. He was a big man, and that back of his was as clear a ‘keep out’ message as The Great Wall Of China. An unmistakable physical rejection. “You are not worthy of love right now” is what his body language said. Which seemed unnecessarily cruel to me, because surely even in the worst of times your partner is worthy of your love, even if you’re angry with them; but when I’d attempt to point that out, his quick response was always that he was just being honest. And didn’t I want to be with someone who was honest about their feelings, rather than with someone who was fake?

Sure, I mean, when you put it like that………

…………no, actually, it’s still a fairly shitty thing to do to a fellow human being. I don’t care how angry you are. Because I’ve now had ample time to look back and assess, and talk to others, and feel I have a fairly thorough understanding of what falls within the spectrum of ‘normal behavior’ when angry with your partner.  That doesn’t fall anywhere on that spectrum.  But in the moment, before I’d gone on my Clarity Cleanse, I can remember how something in me would shrivel up inside in response to this treatment; thinking I must have done something truly awful to deserve it. Which meant I must be a truly awful person. Because surely only something awful would drive someone to treat a loved one this way, and surely only truly awful people do truly awful things.

……right?

Thankfully with the benefit of hindsight and clarity after the storm, I can say unabashedly that is completely, totally false. Not just false…it’s classically abusive. No fists necessary. Because it’s all about power and control. The person giving the silent treatment is declaring THEY have the power to inject and remove love from the relationship at will; therefore they control the relationship.

Power. Power, and the slow chipping away of a person’s sense of self.  That’s what it’s all about.  Moments like these would shock me to the core, and I would recoil and need days to recover from the trauma of it…withdrawn into myself to the point where I could barely speak to anyone.  It’s what trauma looks like.  And worst of all, it’s 999954_10101296211803066_1798528784_n-2an invisible trauma; unlike a physical bruise, I couldn’t see these wounds, nor could anyone else, and didn’t fully understand them as a result. I just knew I was sad. And depressed. Feeling lonely and worthless. Assuming somehow it was my fault; because again, surely I must have done something awful to drive this man – who claimed to love me more than life itself – to treat me so.

It’s powerful. Incredibly powerful. This kind of treatment can leave anyone with even a shred of sensitivity devastated to their very core; the abuser using the most beautiful of emotions – love – as a weapon. Suddenly love and affection are put on the same level as biscuits in a dog treat bag; doled out when you ‘deserve it’ or when you’ve ‘earned a reward’, and then withheld when you’ve been a ‘bad girl’ by peeing on the floor.  It’s so twisted. Love should never be a weapon. Love should just be love. And the use of it as a weapon of abuse is in my opinion one of the cruelest, coldest, most evil things a person can do to another human being.

I think about all the times I’ve been angry with others in my life. I think about all the times I’ve been hurt or betrayed or let down. And there have been some EPIC moments, let’s not kid ourselves about that. (Hell, HE did some pretty cringeworthy things to me, if you want to talk about betrayal and what falls under the umbrella of ‘truly awful’.) Yet not once did it occur to me to treat a person like they were nothing. Not once did I think it was okay to ostracize them, embarrass them in front of others, or render them voiceless and powerless in their relationship with me. No matter what, I would always try and acknowledge their voice; their right to speak, and their right to feel. Even if I disagreed wholeheartedly, or was bitterly disappointed or let down or hurt by something they had done…I still acknowledged their right to EXIST. Their right to be human. To be fallible and to make mistakes. And in the worst scenarios, when I really didn’t want to talk to them…I told them as politely and kindly as I could that I just needed some space for a little while. I didn’t just turn off my feelings or my affections like a light switch.
And that is ultimately the power of the silent treatment, when utilized by abusers; the silent treatment in essence takes away your right to be human. Your right to exist. Your right to have a voice. To have feelings. Your right to be loved. It all becomes about them. About their needs. Their wants. Their emotions. You don’t matter at all.

It says “beware…because if you make the wrong mistake, I’ll turn off my feelings for you and you’ll be left completely alone, and there won’t be anything you can do to get my love back until you please and appease ME”. It leaves you terrified to make a mistake. Walking on eggshells, and yet thoroughly convinced it’s YOUR fault life is that way.  They hold all the cards, and the only way back through the door of love and appreciation is playing by their rules and giving them what they want. Maybe you’re not letting go of that infidelity you just discovered fast enough.  Or perhaps you aren’t warming up fast enough to that new friend they brought into your home.  Or maybe you are being ‘unreasonable’ about how uncomfortably intimate they still seem to be with their ex.  The meghann andreassenscenarios are endless…and the point is they hold the key to it all.

(And it should be noted by the time the abuser starts doing this, you’re so thoroughly down the rabbit hole you probably didn’t realize you’d handed them that key in the first place.  All you know is you’re in pain, and somehow it’s all your fault, not theirs.)

To me it’s the cruelest form of abuse. The silent treatment is powerful. It’s not a joking matter. And it leaves wounds unlike anything you can comprehend, because it sends the message that you are not worthy of love. And even if it’s only ‘temporary’, that’s an unacceptable, devastating message. Your life partner should treat you with respect above all others. Should have more patience for you than for anyone else. It shouldn’t be the opposite; where they seem to give the best of themselves to everyone else, and give you the coldest, harshest treatments imaginable.

I’ve had to give myself daily affirmations since I first came out of that relationship; affirmations of self-love and self-worth. Reminding myself I’m worthy. Reminding myself I deserve to be treated with respect.

I never find jokes about giving someone ‘the silent treatment’ to be particularly amusing; because to me, it’s no laughing matter. I don’t believe in “kicking a partner to the couch” if he’s messed up, because that is using intimacy (or rather withholding it) as a form of punishment. If I have an issue or a problem, I’ll talk about it. But I don’t ever believe in the practice of withholding love or affection. If you’re truly in love with someone, and they’re truly your partner, it should never be about ‘punishment’…it should be about communicating and partnering to work through disagreements.

 

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis.  To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.

**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities

Ahab’s White Whale

When I was young, I often enjoyed challenging myself with classic literature. One at a time, page after page, I started working my way through the likes of Dickens and Bronte, Hemingway, Shakespeare, and Austin all by the time I was ten years old. It was slow going in the beginning; often one of those tomes would require at least four or five months to finish in my early years.  But I loved it.

My father had a great library of classics he’d inherited from his mother; many of them books she’d inherited from her mother, and so on. I enjoyed going through the shelves and finding books inscribed “To My Lucille — 1853” (that was the oldest one I ever found…there were many others…some bibles practically falling to pieces that were in German or Norwegian, the languages of my ancestors).

I grew up with that. Dreaming of the day when those books would be mine, while also collecting my own novels to add to my “library”.

One book I fell in love with when I was about fourteen was Melville’s “Moby Dick”. I always enjoyed it…but it was also an enigma, that novel. Usually I could relate to characters fairly easily; but I just couldn’t grasp why anyone with half a brain would happily run their beautiful ship to the bottom of the ocean in pursuit of one bloody whale. Why on earth would that be necessary?  Truth was, at the time I couldn’t understand rage on such a scale.

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But then a monster hurt me; metaphorically ripped off my leg and left me learning how to walk all over again. And while I’ve now gone quite a while since the last time I spoke with him…today I found myself boiling over with rage. Pure. Rage. Because I was reminded of MY white whale. The psychopath I fell in love with, and who then thrust me beneath the waves and beat me about with his tale and his jaws as I fought for survival, until I finally managed to swim myself ashore, broken, mangled, and nearly dead. A changed woman, just as Ahab found himself a changed man.

I thought I was coping with it…and I suppose I am, but the way rage so quickly poured in today, realized I’m not as close to being “done” as I thought I was.

I had nightmares all night.  And then today my mother accidentally found something that triggered me horribly; she stumbled across his phone records while looking through cell phone bills, unaware that his is still connected to my account (long story), so while I no longer pay the bill, I haven’t yet gotten all the proper paperwork processed to get his file completely OFF my account. I just never look at HIS bill. Because I don’t want to know what he’s doing.

She found it accidentally; and then when she asked me what she was looking at, because she didn’t understand…..I knew immediately whose call records it was. And saw he was still calling Blanche, that damnable mistress of his, 5-6 times a day, plus four or five times a week talking to her on the phone for at least 30+ minutes. He was still talking to Rebecca every day; that seventeen year old girl who lived with us. He was still talking to all the contacts – all the teenagers – from where we’d lived together.  In short…from what I saw, he was carrying on with his life as though he hadn’t even missed a beat. He just swapped me out for someone else and kept going.

meghann andreassenI knew he’d do that, but actually seeing it was almost more than I could take.

The rage poured in as I imagined the naive young woman who’d fallen in love with Randall, and then been so brutally abused and terrorized. I recalled all the times he’d made me cry. All the STDs he’d given me, one of which still has flare ups that leave me in tears. I recalled all the infidelities. All the betrayals. And I raged. My hands were shaking.

I tried to walk it off in the workout room. I tried to talk to friends. I’d feel some small relief here or there from various methods…but nothing really took the rage away completely.

And that found me this evening actually researching how to report crime tips anonymously, something I’d already done; but I was looking anyway. In case there was any new information. Imagining him being thrown into the back of a police car and finally having SOMETHING go wrong in his godforsaken life. Even though I knew that wasn’t good for MY future, I was looking anyway, because in that instance all I could think about was him being “punished”. Why?  Because I wanted him to hurt. Badly, so that for five seconds he could feel what I feel whenever I dare lift the lid and let the pain slip into my carefully controlled heart.

In short, I’d spotted the white whale; the one I tried so often to forget about. I’d found him again. Had him in my sights. And I wanted him. I wanted a harpoon through his back.

Divine providence intervened at that moment; one of my friends who hadn’t been able to answer my call earlier chose that exact moment to call me back. I answered, at first calm as I said “Hello?” But it didn’t take long. She asked me what was wrong, and before I knew it, I was sobbing. Just sobbing.

“He hurt me…” I gasped out. “He and all of them…hurt me so badly…it…it’s not….it’s NOT FAIR! It’s not right!” I wanted to throw things. Rend and tear. I wanted to break things. Hear things shatter into the floor. I imagined what it would sound like if I threw a baseball at the window. I was shaking. And my friend just listened; nothing profound that she could really say.

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The only thing she said at the end was “I know, honey…but you just…you have to find a way to let it go…he doesn’t deserve to ruin your days like this…”

My anger switched to her then. She didn’t understand! That’s all my angry inner voice was screaming. She didn’t understand just how bad the pain was! Surely if she just understood, then she’d understand why I had to strike back. Why I had to take back some sense of control…make him hurt, even just a little…

Her final advice to me was to eat something and take a hot shower. So after I hung up I numbly did just that. Ate. And showered; turning the water up so hot my skin was lobster red by the time I climbed out.

Standing there in the steam-filled bathroom wrapped in a towel, I looked at my reflection. At how big and strange my eyes seemed in that instant; so full of pain. So full of anguish. Anger. Rage.

And I also remembered what she’d said about how he didn’t deserve to take up so much of my life any more. Tears rolled down my cheeks, and I knew she was right. Of course she was right. I continued looking at my reflection through the steamy cloud, and suddenly one of the lines from “Moby Dick” popped into my mind:

“And he piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.”

For the first time in my life, I understood Ahab, and his maniacal chasing of that cursed white whale. That whale who could never possibly understandmeghann andreassen just what it had done to him the day it wounded him and caused him to lose his leg. He was driven by his rage, right to the bitter end.

I understood him…and I also knew I didn’t want to be him. I didn’t want my ship driven to the bottom of the sea, or my legacy to be that of a tragic almost-was who couldn’t quite break free of her bitterness.

I don’t necessarily have all the answers; I have no idea how to release the rage easily. The best thing I’ve come up with is to just let it run its’ course, because it does always eventually pass. Each and every time. Right now I feel better than I did two hours ago, and tomorrow morning I’ll undoubtedly feel even better yet. It’s not easy finding absolution from within; we often look to others to do that for us. But there won’t be anyone else who can give me absolution and freedom for this; only I can do that. He’ll certainly never apologize. None of his little minions will either.

No…absolution will only come from within. Survivors of abuse either have to release that rage, accept the scars, and walk on – let the great white whale go free – or we just end up hunting Moby Dick with our spears to the end of our days, unable to do anything other than throw harpoons even as the whale rips our ship to pieces and sends us to the bottom of the sea.

I have no desire to end up like Ahab. So I choose to release the rage. To let go of my need to see him “punished”. Not because I forgive him, but because I want more for my life.  I hope you do too.

 

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis.  To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.

**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities

The Sentence That Changed Everything

As cliche as it sounds, I can look back and see the precise moments when my thinking about something changed.  Evolution throughout our life journeys often feels gradual, but I find the moment of actual change seems to in fact be quite abrupt; like illuminating a once-dark room with the flip of a switch.

In reviewing my relationship with Randall (something I’ve had to do a lot, both with my therapist and on my own, in order to extrapolate important lessons and heal wounds), there is one moment that stands out to me as the instant everything in my mind shifted.  It wasn’t a particularly important moment as far as memories go; there weren’t clashes of thunder or a roaring argument to make it more memorable…and yet I can say, with absolute certainty, that it’s the moment when my heart finally had to accept what so many others had been trying to tell me about the man I loved.  I didn’t end the relationship immediately after the fact, but I know as I look back there was a distinct shift in my mind forever after; like a kaleidoscope that showed me the world through an entirely new prism of colors.

Before I proceed any further, I need to admit that I’m a little sheepish about sharing this; it involves talking about a fairly sensitive topic.  But when I first began to work with clients on their personal success, and first began writing in this space, I resolved to always be totally open and transparent.shame-meghann-andreassen  Have no secrets (Read: Free At Last).  So I have pushed through my reservations in order to keep that promise to myself.

The topic in question is STDs.  And yes, I’ve had them.

Only about six months into our relationship, Randall began to press and push me to agree to an open sexual relationship.  It’s something we’d briefly touched on before getting back together in the first place; and when we originally discussed it, I’d not immediately shut it down because I’m modern enough and progressive enough to recognize sometimes sexual monogamy isn’t possible for certain people, and I’d rather at least know what was going on than be lied to.  I loved him enough I was open to accepting it, in exchange for total honesty and transparency (since Round 1 of our relationship had ended with the revelation of a three-month long affair with Blanche, who I’ve talked about elsewhere on this blog).

But even as I said I was okay with the idea, I remember also very clearly saying I needed to establish a solid foundation for us first.  Needed to ensure that the trust and love and security between us was sufficiently solid to make such a thing possible.  At the time I said that, Randall readily agreed, even going so far as to say it wouldn’t be a problem because he wouldn’t even be interested in sex with anyone else for at least a year anyway.  But naturally, like everything else involving him, his plans changed, and instead of a solid year or more of bonding and monogamy and trust-building, after barely six months he was pressing me on an almost daily basis.  Even bringing it up in front of others, which was extra embarrassing for my extremely private personality.

I know now, thanks to research and education courtesy of my therapist, that this is quite common.  Psychopaths, Sociopaths, and the like thrive on something called “triangulating”.  This is where they dangle another person in front of you with the sole purpose of keeping you off balance and insecure.  They want to appear desirable and in high demand, and want you to understand that they’ve got lots of “options” in order to make sure you feel like you need to constantly perform to the highest level to please them and convince them to stay.  They want you uncomfortable.  They want you looking/acting like a needy, clingymeghann andreassen girlfriend, so that ultimately they can shame you for your behavior.

Of course he denied this any time I’d dare to speak up and say it was hurtful how often he talked about other women, or how openly he flirted with women in front of me; he’d insist I was just being insecure.  I was extremely angry once when a young woman openly asked why he was even with me (being slightly overweight apparently made me totally unsuitable), and instead of jumping to my defense his reaction was to laugh, and then to get angry with me (to the point of threatening to leave me standing in a grocery store parking lot and driving off) when I chided him for not speaking up in my defense.  And then he tied off that whole incident with the following statement: “Women are going to find me attractive, and you just have to accept that.  I’m more attractive than you.  Women are going to wonder why I’m with you.  You’ve gotta be bigger than that, man.  I can’t be with someone who’s needy and insecure.”

Charming, wasn’t he?

Well anyway, back to the original topic…he pushed and poked and prodded me into an open relationship at least six months earlier than I’d said I was even open to talking about it, and ultimately I gave in; mostly because I was sensing if I didn’t, he’d just start carrying on behind my back.  I wanted to not ever be kept in the dark again, so I figured it was better to know what was happening than be lied to on a daily basis the way he had during his affair with Blanche.  (No, not the best logic; what I should have thought was “Screw this, I’m breaking up with you if you can’t manage to keep it in your pants and be monogamous longer than six months”…but I wasn’t in the best frame of mind by that point.  I was thoroughly ‘hooked’ on him, madly in love, and determined to be “good enough” for him to want to stay.  So I broke all kinds of boundaries – discussed further here – in order to appease him and keep him happy.)

I’ll save all the details of how things unfolded for another day; for now let’s just say the open relationship experiment blew up spectacularly.  First, my hopes for honesty and openness were completely dashed; just like every other area of our life together, he completely disregarded Eangry-couple-meghann-andreassenvery. Single. Rule. that I had put in place, including having sex with the same girl more than once, lying to me about what he was doing, having sex with others in our home/our bed, sleeping with people who I was also interacting with, and even worse, having sex sometimes without a condom.  He even managed to break the holiest of all rules: absolutely no sex with Blanche, the original “other woman” in our relationship.  They had sex at least once, during a moment when she flew up to Oregon and rented a cabin in the woods for them to have a little honeymoon weekend together (I was told he was camping with guy friends at the time).

Well…I thought I was losing my mind for about four months; sensing something was going on, but unable to find any proof of it.  And he went out of his way to humiliate me and shame me to keep me silent and put me in my place; even going so far as to drag me down in front of other guys, making me look at them and them at me, and saying things like: “See?  Tell her!  Weren’t you all telling me just this morning how I’ve got a fucking shadow?  Weren’t you all saying how she’s needy and being stupid?  I’m not even doing anything yet, man!  What the fuck?!”

Humiliating.  Absolutely humiliating.  And of course also absolutely untrue.

In the end I was proved correct.  I still don’t know just how many young women he slept with, but so far the number is north of ten.  And the reason ultimately that it all came to light was because of a positive STD test.

I’ll just say it: ultimately because of his ‘activities’, and his inability to respect even basic safe sex rules, never mind the rules I’d set to respect our relationship, Randall gave me Chlamydia, HPV, Genital Warts and, worst of all, Herpes.  Yes, I’ve got Herpes.  For the rest of my life.  Because of a choice he made.img_3047

So fast forward to long, long after I first learned about everything (because yes, I was still trying to forgive him and move forward after he fell all over himself to apologize and swear he’d never do it again).  Fast forward to the moment I first mentioned, with the sentence that ultimately flipped the switch in my mind.

We were getting dinner; picking up Japanese take out for ourselves and a few others back at home (I was constantly feeding other people thanks to him).  One of his friends, Jimmy, was along for the ride as we waited, and Randall was in a particularly assholish mood that evening.  Going on and on about other women he wanted to fuck; talking about girls sending him messages (the phrase commonly used is “in my inbox”) on Facebook who were “thirsty” and commenting on which ones had a fat enough ass or he’d heard from others had a tight enough you-know-what to tempt him.  In public.  Right in front of me.  Waiting for food.  After everything else that had already happened.

I was fast reaching my boiling point, the look on my face turning darker by the minute, and while Randall seemed to have no sense of self preservation, Jimmy did; because there came a moment when I saw him look at me with a worried glance before whispering to Randall that I looked pretty upset.  He said it loud enough I caught the general gist of what he was saying.  And Randall’s reply was definitely loud enough for me to hear every word.  After Jimmy tried to get him to mellow out a bit for my sake, Randall fired back with: “So what?  I can say what I want.  She has Herpes, man.  She’s not going anywhere.”

That sentence was like a key, unlocking something within me even as I was flooded with a mixture of pain and shame.  I felt the embarrassment rising up into the back of my throat, nearly choking me; felt a sense of worthlessness and overall hopelessness that had become a normal part of my existence as his statement resonated within me.  Feeling dirty and ugly and useless on all levels.

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But then the switch flipped, and standing there in the middle of the restaurant I mentally gave myself a slap to get it together.  For the first time, I started doing the math.  Adding up every single thing Randall had done to me since we’d been together.  I started realizing that there wasn’t a single boundary of mine, since day one, that he hadn’t almost deliberately blown apart along the way; that in fact the more I made a big deal out of something, the more determined he seemed to shatter that boundary into a thousand pieces.

A cold ball formed in the pit of my stomach and started to spread throughout my body as the thought came unbidden to my mind: This man does not, and never will, care about you.  

He had given me Herpes.  Given me an STD that I didn’t deserve, after lying to me and sleeping with so many girls he literally hadn’t been able to keep track.  It was something that should have left him feeling desperate to make it up to me somehow, but instead there he was bragging about the fact that he’d apparently “ruined” me enough that no other man would want me.  Therefore he could treat me however he damn well pleased.

No…this man did not999954_10101296211803066_1798528784_n-2 care about me.  And never had.  The thought echoed in my mind, and I felt lost.  Adrift.  Unsure what to do with that new certainty as I collected the food and started walking back to the townhouse where we lived.  He continued bantering with Jimmy while I numbly followed, not sure if I wanted to cry or hit something at that point.  He was totally oblivious to my mood, or if he was aware he clearly didn’t care, which only emphasized the point even more.

I remember that moment clearly, not because it was an inappropriate, hurtful thing to say, but because that was the day everything started to change.  That was the sentence that unlocked the door of the mental prison I’d built for myself.  And while unfortunately it took an additional few months to actually walk through that now-open door, it at least made walking away possible.

If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, or feel ashamed of how you’ve been treated or what you’ve been through, please stop.  Please know it’s not your fault.  Please know it’s okay; just  be proud you got out of it, and if you haven’t left yet, be proud that you’re contemplating leaving and taking your power back.  That’s all you can do.  I share stories like this one so you won’t feel so alone.  I’m learning to accept the memories, rather than hiding from them out of shame.

It will be okay.  Day by day, it gets better.  That’s certainly been the case for me.

 

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis.  To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.

**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities

Loving A Ghost

Randall used to often brag to me about how he wasn’t bothered by such things as sad memories weighing him down; he was genuinely confused when I’d talk about my memories, and then insist he simply didn’t have them…not in the way I described, at any rate.  Insisting he forgot the faces of those around him within months of the last time he saw them (even his own mother), and swearing that he didn’t “miss” people because unless they were directly in front of him, he in a sense forgot they even existed.

It meant he had very few regrets, because he couldn’t really remember the most painful times in his life, and he insisted it also meant things that normally might traumatize others (an abusive childhood, six years in prison) had no affect on him because he didn’t dwell on it.  Couldn’t dwell on it even if he wanted to.

And…it meant when a relationship ended for him, there wasn’t even a pause before he bounced on to the next girl.  In fact, he usually had a new one lined up before the old one was even out the door (certainly was the case with me…he was practically living with Blanche before he even told me she existed the first time, and then during our second round together boldly admitted that he refused to completely cut her loose because he refused to not have a “backup plan”).

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I’ve thought about this a lot since I ended things with him…sometimes with a touch of envy.  Wishing I could excise certain memories pertaining to him; both the joyful and the painful ones.  The happier memories only serve to confuse my senses and create a sense of longing and heartache I don’t need, and all the painful memories manage to do is rip out my heart and stomp on it all over again.

Generally speaking I move through the day without being too haunted by things at this point; I’m able to keep unwanted thoughts to the side while I’m working on other projects.  But I’ve not yet come up with a solution for what happens at night; it seems I lose all control of what my  mind does once the sun goes down.

Many times I’ve woken suddenly from haunting, realistic dreams where I can practically touch his face; and while sometimes those dreams are filled with fear of what actually is, other times they’re filled with a longing that leaves me aching for the man I originally fell in love with…the man who doesn’t actually exist.

That’s the trouble with falling in love with an abuser of any kind, but especially those on the spectrum of Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths: you fall in love with someone who doesn’t exist.  A fantasy.  A perfect specimen who seems created just for you.  And that’s precisely what they want you to think; because that’s how they cement such an incredible bond that is then supposed to hold even as everything turns ugly.

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Here’s a technical breakdown of how it works, as explained by my therapist and the articles written by experts in the field: after identifying a target, the first thing they do is learn everything they can about you – your likes and dislikes, your fears and hopes and dreams – and then start mirroring it back to you.  Showing you what they want you to see; a perfect version of a partner who is everything you’ve ever dreamed of.  And then they follow up the mirroring with something experts call Love Bombing, and if that’s a term you chuckle at, well…don’t.  It’s effective, and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

Imagine your perfect man – your Prince Charming – waltzing into your life, and then pursuing you to the ends of the earth.  Acting like only you matter.  Saying the most romantic things.  Whispering in your ear that they’ve never loved anyone the way they love you.  Telling you they’ve waited their whole life just to meet you.  Holding you close at night and telling you how beautiful you are…how sexy…how smart…how precious…over and over again, until your heart swells nearly to bursting with love for this “miracle” you feel has walked into your life.

It seems too good to be true……and unfortunately, as it turns out that’s because it is.  And if this initial phase is done successfully, you are now madly, deeply, passionately in love with a man who doesn’t exist.  A ghost who will slowly fade, and who you’ll spend the rest of the relationship chasing and trying to find buried somewhere in the abusive monster that slowly emerges in its’ place.

Randall was that for me; my prince charming.  A brilliant intellectual who could have long discussions about my favorite subjects – science, philosophy, history, religion, politics – and actually keep up with me the way only my father could.  A man who actually said “I love you” first, and then said it often ever after, whether on the phone or in a text or as a whispered endearment in my ear.  He’d call me and text me ‘just to say hi’ all times of the day and night.  Let me know how much he missed me.  Tell me how he couldn’t wait to see me.  And then when we’d see each other, it was like an epically romantic reunion every single time.

It was pure magic.  And I was hooked.

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But that man – that Randall – wasn’t real.  And he wouldn’t last forever.  My love for him did…but the man I loved faded away, leaving me puzzled and alone and trying to decide what did wrong to cause him to change.  A thought that was helped along by his ever-increasingly vocal criticisms of me, telling me how I’d changed…that I wasn’t who he thought I was…that I was more insecure than I used to be…more needy…more clingy…less independent…less capable…less sexy…not as beautiful…not as attractive…

It went on and on.  Always about how I had changed, the implication being any shifts in his treatment of me was directly related to my changes.  Therefore it was my fault.  See how that works?  Somehow I was suddenly the one being accused of luring him in under false pretenses…being told I must have lied to him about who I was, and about what my life was like, in order to lure him away from his life with Blanche and get him to come back to me instead.

He whispered this over and over again, and because all his friends and supporters echoed the sentiment, I started to think maybe it was true.  To the point where I was even telling my parents that clearly I wasn’t as nice or as loving or as selfless or as honest as they’d always thought I was; arguing that clearly they just didn’t know me very well.  (An argument that left my father looking stunned and my mother determined to find a way to tear me out of the abusive relationship in which I was ensnared.)

And in the midst of all this turmoil and drama, I was missing the truth because he’d carefully hidden it away: I hadn’t changed, he had.  I’d fallen in love with a man who didn’t exist; a man who I’d only get glimpses of from time to time (and I suspect that was in moments when he needed to reel me back in a bit because I was starting to look for the nearest emergency exit).

So how do you reconcile that in your mind?  Very, very slowly…and with a lot of pain.  It’s a unique kind of torture, because while the man himself was never real, the love in your heart is as real and pimg_3698ure and genuine as any love ever was.  You ache for your loved one.  You pine for him.  And you also feel the hopeless realization that you’ll never again meet someone like him, or feel the way you did in the early stages of that relationship, because really it was too perfectly scripted…and no “real man” is like that.  So then you think everything is over, and you don’t even want to try…because nothing again will ever measure up.

It’s a painful process…and one that only resolves itself with time and patience.  Just this morning, I woke up to a vivid memory of Randall walking toward me during Christmas three years ago, smiling at me with his green eyes dancing as he teasingly and lovingly unwrapped me from my layers of scarves and hats and gloves and jackets to tumble me down onto the bed in his arms and feather my face with kisses.

That is the man I fell in love with.  Kind and warm and playful and generous.  And that is the man I miss.  The man I yearn for.  The man I grieve.

So I tell myself that man died.  That he’s never coming back.  That it’s okay to remember the good times, but to view it as someone who is dead and gone; no more now than a memory.  Because to do anything else cracks the door back open to grant him power over me again.

It’s a delicate dance…and a painful one.  One I wish at times I didn’t have to deal with.  One whose memories I wish I could just excise from my mind forevermore.  But that’s not how life works; and while at times I envied Randall’s ability to ‘not remember’…ultimately I also recognize that’s what made me different.  What made me human.  The memories…the real pain…and the real love.

 

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis.  To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.

**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities