Letting Go Of Who I Was

I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek recently (discovered all the various series available in their entirety on Netflix, so I’ve been doing some shameless binging each night before bed).  I only bring that up as a way of explaining the origins of the following thought process; I promise this isn’t going to be an essay attempting to convert my readers into Trekkies.

Anyway…

It was an episode of Star Trek Voyager, dealing with time travel (there’s always an episode or two for each series that deals with the concept of time travel in one way or another); specificallyimg_3864 in this instance the captain of the starship met her future self, as that woman had come back in time to warn her of certain calamities in order to save members of the crew who would otherwise die.  As I was watching this episode, and observing the way the older admiral was struggling on some levels to relate to the younger captain, I found myself wondering what my younger self would think of me if she were to meet me.

Maybe I’d just had a rough week…but the thought ultimately led to a breakdown and some serious crying ensued.

I imagined the woman I used to be; optimistic, ambitious, deeply romantic, and determined to succeed in life.  And I thought about how ashamed she’d be of me if she knew what ultimately she would become.  What mistakes she would ultimately end up making.

“I’m so sorry,” I found myself whispering aloud, rocking back and forth as I hugged my body.  “You deserved so much better.”  I was speaking to that young woman with the bright smile and the ambitious spirit, who believed in the best of everyone around her.  I felt guilty; felt like I’d let her down in the worst way.  And in the process of letting her down, I’d also lost her, never to be found again.

As I cried, I remembered how safe and secure I’d once felt; sleeping through the night with the certainty that there would be a tomorrow to wake up to.  It’s a certainty I no longer possess; now my nights are restless, with certain noise24884_709417843906_16060_ns causing me to sit up in bed, heart racing before trying to slowly calm myself down and drift back to sleep.  I miss that feeling of safety.  I really do.  But PTSD will do that to a person.

I remembered how certain I was that I’d find my soulmate and live happily ever after; how I never even doubted it would happen.  I dug out an old journal, skimming through some of the entries where I wrote about love and imagined what it would be like to be married and even having children some day.  I mourn the loss of that too, since right now I’ve lost hope that I’d be able to let anyone in enough to really experience and enjoy true intimacy.  It might not be logical, but it’s how I feel nonetheless.  [Read: Illogical Emotion]

She had so much enthusiasm for life, that woman, even on the days when she was depressed.  She believed ultimately everything would work out for the better, certain that even the worst days were merely stepping stones to greater things.  Her swim coach and mentor had called her his ‘sunshine’, because she’d always smiled no matter what life threw her way.  In her life, hardships were nothing more than material for the great American novel she’d write some day.

Where had that optimmeghann andreassenism gone?  That fighting spirit?  I found I missed her; missed her fire and her zest for life.

Unfortunately this isn’t Star Trek, and I won’t be traveling back in time to change the way things turned out.  I can’t go back to the first moment I met Randall, and prevent it from ever happening.  I can’t go back to the moment when he contacted me after we were apart for eighteen months and proposed a reconciliation, and stop her from ever responding.  I can’t help her kick him out the first time he was cruel or abusive toward her, or the second, or the third, or the fourth, or the fifth……

I can’t stop any of it.  I’m powerless.

Then again, in the moment I also had to ask myself: even if I could, would I really want to go back and change things?  Even as awful as I feel some days, even with all the sadness and the insecurities and the troubles and the mistakes and the blemishes on my life…would the benefits of changing the outcome be worth sacrificing all the knowledge and the wisdom I’ve earned through it all?

I’m not so sure.

meghann andreassenAnd that line of thought forced me to be honest about a few more things too, like: there are certain things I don’t necessarily miss about that young woman.  She was arrogant the way only young people can be; certain she had all the answers.  Mistakes and experience have given me a humility that I’m grateful for at this point.  Those same mistakes have also given me a deeper appreciation of family and true friends than I ever had before; helping me become more content with the small things in life; grateful for every good thing, instead of only spending time yearning for the things I don’t yet have.

That young woman I was didn’t always take time to slow down.  She was always looking to the future and her goals.  And while I still have ambitions for myself, I can say I’ve also begun to appreciate the passage of time a little more, and have come to understand the importance of slowing down to appreciate the moment too.  I’m thirty.  Three decades have flown by.  There’s now a voice in my mind that whispers: “Slow down and smell the roses…they and your youth won’t be here forever…”

Maybe that voice was always there.  But now…I have the wisdom to listen to it.

And then there is the most important lesson/change of all: I’ve learned that I am just fine on my own.  The virginal, never-been-kissed, eager for love young woman I used to be wanted a partner.  A s398359_10100431591304476_41197507_noulmate.  Someone to complete her, the way only Prince Charming could guide the heroine into Happily Ever After.  Now instead I’m a woman who wants to be treated well, and loved precisely for who I am without having to change to please a man…and if I can’t find that, I’m perfectly content to be alone.  That is true strength and power, let me tell you; to not be ruled by hormones or wishes or dreams, but instead to be empowered with wisdom and inner resolve.

So I suppose even as I miss that young woman, I have to acknowledge this is reality now; and while perhaps I wish I could erase a few of the scars I now carry, at the same time I’ve come to accept them as the price that must be paid for the wisdom and strength I now possess.

And anyway, she’s still there on some levels.  I have glimpses of her from time to time; hearing her laughter or feeling her playfulness or her rebellious nature in the back of my mind, urging me to take a chance or have a little fun.  I still feel the goosebumps on my skin when I hear a particularly beautiful melody, I get the itch to dance when the song calls for it, and I still feel moved by an incredible piece of poetry or a beautiful sunset.  I still love to survey the stars each night; counting the constellations and tracing the lazy, elegant paths of the satellites crisscrossing over the heavens.  Pink might not be my favorite color any more (now it’s a deep, rich sapphire blue), but I still appreciate it and wear it from time to time.

Some moments I even hear her whisper into my ear: “You know it’ll be alright.  You know we’ll be okay.”  That optimism and that drive to succeed swelling my heart from the inside out until I’m sure it might burst.198784_999750504926_1912745_n

I love that young woman, I now realize.  I wish I’d felt that love for her back then, instead of being plagued with self doubt and self loathing the way so many young women are…but I feel it now.  I love her, and want to cherish the best parts of her; because she deserves the best.  She deserves to be treated with respect and love.  She deserves to be appreciated.  And if no one else can do that, then at least I can do it for her myself.

I may not be quite what I thought I’d be at this point in my life; it’s true that I’ve had to let go of a few things I’d once thought to be true.  And I’ve had to endure a few things that have made me a little harder and a little sharper and a little more cynical.  But she’s still in there; the best parts of her.  And that’s the victory.  So I choose to embrace those parts of her that remain, and cherish her now the way I should have before.

None of us can turn back the wheels of time, it’s true.  And most of us don’t truly appreciate what that means until we’re older; youth, as they say, is always wasted on the young.  But that’s okay.  Don’t live in the past.  It’s okay to grieve for a little while, but then you have to let it go; let go of who you were, and embrace who you’ve become instead.

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, investor, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis.  All people with inquiries, questions, and feedback can reach her at meghann@meghannandreassen.com

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

Advertisements

One Year In

I’ve officially reached a benchmark that felt impossible when I first started my journey of recovery from my abusive relationship with a man likely on the narcissist/psychopath/sociopath spectrum.  I can still remember vividly the day things ended, and how I felt in the first few days and weeks that followed.  Time seemed to pass impossibly slow then, as everything caused me pain.  Triggers were everywhere.  Nothing came easily, not even breathing.  And while I felt relief on a certain level from the daily chaos, fear, and struggle of being inmeghann andreassen a relationship with him, on other levels I felt absolutely miserable.  Broken, without any hope of being repaired.

I followed the advice of those in my support group of the time; I started counting “No Contact Days” (defined as the moment you cease communicating in any way, shape, or form with your abuser) the same way I count my sobriety days in recovery from narcotics.  One day…two days…three days…and now, this week, I’ve reached the one year mark.

It felt important to recognize this.  It’s no small fete, I’ve now learned, to turn off the communication tap and never turn it on again; not when the spigot is connected to such a powerful, manipulative, toxic relationship.  In the early days he would call and text and email periodically (‘hoovering’, my support group calls it), and it took everything in me not to respond.  Some of his messages were harsh and mean.  Some were hard to decipher.  A couple times he literally just called eight or ten times in a row without any explanation via text afterward.

And I wanted to respond.  I wanted to reply to defend my honor.  I wanted to reply because a part of my heart still cried out for the man I had fallen in love with.  I wanted to reply to get the last word.

But I resisted, because I knew none of that would accomplish anything.  First off, I had to accept the man I fell in love with never existed in the first place; Randall had played a part to get my attention – to get my love – and then his true self had emerged after I was hooked.  Communicating wouldn’t soothe any nerves, and in fact would only set me up for more abuse.  Logically I knew that, the same way I logically understood that he would trash my name to those who would listen whether I engaged or not, and moreover there would never be a moment when I could get in the last word.  Randall always – always – got the last word.

climb-challenge-meghann-andreassenSo what was the point?

I clung to that logic the way I might cling furiously to the end of a rope dangling off the edge of a deep abyss.  The abyss could easily swallow me whole; it was an abyss I’d just struggled to climb out of.  The abyss of abuse.  But I refused to let go.

Once the hoovering stopped, then the challenge was filling the days with things to do that I loved and enjoyed; not having Randall monopolizing my time meant I had a far more open, free schedule.  And it wasn’t easy at first; I’d almost forgotten what it meant to be at peace with my own company, mostly because retreating to my thoughts wasn’t the safe, comfortable place it had once been.  I had work to fill many hours each day, that was true, but that didn’t give me fulfillment emotionally.  I had to relearn self love and self respect……perhaps even learn it for the first time, since I’m not sure I really possessed it in strong amounts before if I so easily got swept up in such an abusive tornado that I found so difficult to believe.

But learn it I finally did.

Slowly but surely, days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months.  Before I knew it, half a year had gone by, and I realized I had much more perspective than I had before.  Not so quick to believe his lies or his manipulations, but instead feeling stronger in my own instincts.  Business ventures started truly thriving, almost as though the Universe had simply refused to allow me to succeed so long as Randall was in my life, as he would have drained me dry of every success I ever achieved.

Most of it was good…but there were challenging moments too.  With perspective came more pain too, because it meant looking at the things I’d been avoiding before.  Cringe-worthy memories of times when I was treated like garbage and then went back begging for more.  Times when I failed to stand up for what was right, instead slinking into meghann andreassena corner for self preservation and ignoring the part of me that demands justice and fairness for everyone in the room.  Times when I felt I could have done more to ensure justice was served, but didn’t, for any number of reasons.

It’s painful; more than enough to haunt me as bad as any ghost ever could.  Especially with the PTSD triggers; those are the equivalent of the ghost shouting ‘BOO!’ at the top of its’ lungs and leaving you shrieking and diving under the covers, not knowing how to respond.  At first I tried making a list of triggers as they came up, but soon to my discouragement I realized it was in fact better to list things that weren’t triggers and go from there.  Not easy, but I coped as best as I could.

My weight has fluctuated enough I probably have a whole new batch of gallstones at this point; gaining and losing rapidly depending on my mood. (I’m one of those people who has no appetite when I’m stressed, but then when I’m feeling better I am tempted to comfort eat….yay for horrible eating habits!)  But I’m letting that one go; practicing the self love my therapist encourages.  There’s been enough to focus on without punishing myself for what the scale says.  The time will come when I can focus completely on those goals again, but for now, it’s been tabled.283186_10100103663319786_218704_n

One foot in front of the other…day by day…week by week…month by month I inched myself slowly but surely off the end of that rope and closer to the edge of the cliff; closer to being able to pull myself fully back onto safe ground.  And now here I am.  It’s been a year.  One whole year.  How about that.  One whole year where I’ve done what I never thought I could; I’ve sat with myself, and my pain, and I’ve processed it and dealt with it, instead of diving into distractions or relapsing into using opiates or anything else.  I haven’t tried to fill the emptiness with dates or sex (only been on one date, and while it was really nice and the guy wanted to see me again, I ultimately declined because I could tell I wasn’t ready).  I’ve just sat with myself.  Determined to make my own company pleasant again.  I refuse to let him steal that from me permanently.

And it’s coming back.  I can live in my mind, with my thoughts, a lot more now than I used to.  My writing is changing too, less about the pain and the negativity of my experiences and more about the hope and positivity and strength I now feel as I move into the future; never forgetting what happened, of course, and always sharing to help others in similar situations understand what’s happening and know they aren’t alone.  All of that makes me smile.  Makes me feel pride in myself.

It’s not perfect.  A year in I’d hoped my PTSD triggers would be gone, and they’re not.  I still bolt awake in the middle of the night if there’s a particularly loud noise from our neighbor below (I swear it sounds like he’s building things throughout the night), and IMG_3505there are still certain comments that will set me off, or certain situations that throw me right back to where I was.  But I’m learning to live with them, like annoying roommates.  It’s all I can do for now.  As the therapist reminds me, the triggers will go away in their own time, but I can’t force it; forcing only makes it worse.

So I’m living with it.

I’ll feel lonely some days; I’ll wonder if I’ll stay single for the rest of my life.  I’ll wonder occasionally if he was correct that I am unloveable by anyone, and that loneliness is a permanent state of being for me.  But I’m able to fight back against that ‘observation’ of his much better now, because while I haven’t found Prince Charming, I have at least rediscovered a couple of my dearest friends to reengage with, one of them I’ve gone into a new business venture with that’s panning out wonderfully well, and I’m watching my other endeavors taking off and paying off at long last.

So I’ve got two of his big three declarations that I’ve already proven wrong; I’m successful (he said I’d always be a failure because of who I inherently am), and I have friends (he said I’d never have friends because I’m too weird, awkward, etc).  And I can just give time for the third one; because truly I wasn’t ready before to jump into a relationship.  I’m getting closer now, but even today, it would have to be someone pretty special to encourage me to leave the cocoon I’ve been hibernating in while regenerating myself.

My point in describing all of that is this: I want to remind other victims of abuse that meghann andreassenrecovery really does require a lot of patience and time.  Abusers drag us down into that abyss, where it’s dark and ugly and poisonous, and climbing out is no easy fete.  You have to be gentle with yourself, the same way I’ve learned to be.  And don’t measure yourself by others either; so long as you can see progress, see that you’re better than you were yesterday or the day before, even by a little bit, then you’re doing extremely well.

I’m nowhere close to where I want to be, but I’m much closer than I was.  And really, it wasn’t that hard.  A year actually flew by in some respects.  Here I am, still standing.  So you can do it too.  My story isn’t the worst you’ve ever heard, and that’s precisely why I share it; because in fact it’s just like yours, and I hope by sharing you can see yourself in my writing and know you can succeed too, while recognizing you’re not alone on this journey.

One foot in front of the other, everyone.  We’ve got this.

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, investor, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis.  All people with inquiries, questions, and feedback can reach her at meghann@meghannandreassen.com

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

Have Courage And Be Kind

I’ve been away for a while.  Initially that was because life became overwhelming and stressful and my muse just went into hibernation for a bit out of self preservation.  But then as the days stretched into weeks, I started to consciously keep the muse there because I felt I needed to just sit with myself and my thoughts for a while rather than analyzing and processing and dissecting with my writing.

Many ideas have come to me in that time, and I have lots to share.  But for now, I figured I’d start with something easy.  meghann andreassenSomething light.  There’ll be time for the tougher topics later.

First off let me reassure you that this isn’t going to be an expose on Kenneth Branaugh’s Cinderella adaptation, I promise.  I’ve already done that.  [See: When Prince Charming Rescued Me]

No, I just found the statement fitting for a post this evening.  So now that’s out of the way let’s get on with it, shall we?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been mistaken for weak because I’m generally a kind, loving person.  More than that, I learned the hard way that often the manipulators and con artists of the world view kindness as a character flaw they can exploit to their benefit, by preying on my sympathies and innate desire to help others in bad situations.

Randall was one of those people; he would verbally accuse me of being a bad person while declaring he was practically a saint when it came to helping others, but deep down I think he knew the exact opposite to be true.  Kindness and compassion are traits that have inherently been embedded into the very marrow of my bones since the day I was born, and he exploited that to gain my forgiveness time and time again when he would betray and hurt me with his lies and his infidelities and his cruel words.

Many of the friends he surrounded himself with did the same thing, taking advantage of my kind, giving nature time and time again.  I can’t tell you how manyclose-up-meghann-andreassen times a young man or woman would look at me with big, wide eyes and talk about their hard life and how they were hungry or needed money to get home, and I’d give the money without batting an eye, even when my bank account was dwindling down to zero…and then 90% of the time I’d get laughed at later for falling for “game” that was “run on me”.

It was one more thing to be embarrassed about during my time in that relationship.  I remember starting to withdraw a lot more; offers of kindness shriveling up as I retreated further and further into myself as a means of self-preservation.  And of course that played into Randall’s hands since all of a sudden I appeared like a cold, uncaring fish while he could generously step forward and pretend to be the world’s most generous man.

Manipulation and lies…that is the nature of abusive relationships.  When you look back with the benefit of hindsight, that’s what you realize.  Everything was just one big rotten layered cake of manipulation and lies.

But ultimately I have come to realize that in fact inherent kindness isn’t a sign of weakness.  It’s actually a sign of strength.  It takes incredible amounts of courage to extend a hand of help while hoping – nay, trusting – the other person won’t bite you in return.  On the other hand, bitterness is the easy emotion to feel; tempting and ready at a moment’s notice to overwhelm you and take over your life if you find you’ve been bitten one time too many.

Randall had me ashamed of my kind, forgiving nature; wishing I was harder, sterner, more discerning……but thankfully I’ve moved away from that feeling now.  I’m not ashamed.  I’ve certainly bemeghann andreassencome more discerning, my radar for bullshit far more accurate than it used to be, but as for the rest…it’s still alive and well.  Perhaps a bit scarred and withdrawn at the moment, but any time I see someone who appears to be in need, I feel that part of me poking out of the cave where it hibernates to see if there’s anything I can do for that person.

Can’t help it.

And you know what?  That’s perfectly fine.  I’d rather be taken advantage of a few times if it means helping people who genuinely need it as well.  It’s worth it.  I feel confident enough in myself at this point – in who I am – that memories of Randall’s laughter at my “stupidity” doesn’t affect me any more.

I’m no saint; this isn’t me waxing poetic about how perfect I am.  I have my flaws.  But when it comes to kindness and compassion, that at least I know I have in spades….and I’ve finally learned to wear it with pride instead of shame.  And I hope anyone else reading this who shares those traits can too.  Be proud of yourselves; because you’re far more courageous than those in your life who appear hardened and street smart, with a touch of bitterness and cynicism.  Your heart is still open to others.  Keep it that way.  Stay courageous.  I know that’s what I intend to do.

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, investor, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis.  All people with inquiries, questions, and feedback can reach her at meghann@meghannandreassen.com

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

When Forgiveness Fails

While taking a casual scroll down my Facebook feed the other day, I came across a screenshot of a Reddit conversation where people were discussing forgiveness; more specifically they were speaking about how forgiveness isn’t always the solution to the problem.  One of the writers described how it was in fact forgiveness that had allowed her to be abused and hurt over and over and over again, because she was constantly forgiving and trying to forget what the abuser had done to her previously in favor of believing in what he could be instead.

“I’ve earned my right to be angry,” she said.  And as I was reading the conversation, I felt her words resonate on a deep level.

drowning-abuse-meghann-andreasen
I’ve always been an incredibly warm, loving person.  Empathy comes naturally to me, almost to the point where I wish I could turn it off once in a while; when I’m around others I can basically feel what they’re feeling – their struggles, their joys, their pains, their fears, their hopes – and while it makes relating to those around me easy and is beneficial for them, it can often be overwhelming and draining for me.  Moreover, it’s meant in my life I’ve often been perceived as weak or afraid of conflict, because I’m usually the one advocating forgiveness and second chances when it comes to those who have made mistakes; spouting off about redemption, and about how people can learn and grow and evolve from their mistakes.

In reality the opposite is true; I’ve always been quite a strong person at my core, that strength fueled by an innate stubbornness I inherited from both my father and my grandmother.  But when you can feel another’s pain the way I can, and sense their sincerity bleeding off them like an open wound when they are apologetic and ashamed of whatever it is they’ve done, it’s next to impossible for me to rub salt in that wound by being harsh or cruel.  Moreover, God knows I’ve taken a few twists and turns in my own life that have required forgiveness and second chances, and so I’m often looking to pay it forward myself by believing in and seeing the best in others.

Normally this would be touted as a good thing, seeing as how almost every religion on the planet tells us to forgive those around us as part of our own healing and growth process.  Unfortunately when I think about forgiveness as it relates to my abusive ex, Randall, I img_3864have to agree instead with the Reddit writer: it’s absolutely not a good thing.

Generally holding on to anger isn’t something that’s recommended, but when it comes to Randall, only anger seems to be successful at maintaining the firm walls I’ve erected to keep my heart, mind, and soul safe.  Without the anger, I become what I used to be; warm and forgiving, seeing the illusion of him rather than the reality and believing that some day the illusion will become reality if I just love him enough.  Love him enough to drive out all the scars and the wounds and the damage left by what he described as an abusive childhood and years spent caught up in the criminal justice system (including six years in prison).

Yes, surely if I just loved him enough…surely this time, I’d tell myself…this time he’ll finally make the changes he needs to make and become the man I know he is deep down.  That’s always how it would start, after every betrayal, and every cruel word, and every fight, and every uncovered lie or manipulation…he’d smile or give me a glimpse of the illusion I’d originally fallen in love with, and offer his best form of an apology, and I’d start to melt as I looked into his lovely green eyes.  Each time I did that, while I saw it as offering forgiveness and a chance for redemption, in actuality it was me giving him permission to act in an increasingly depraved and cruel manner.  And that’s precisely what he did.

Abuse is progressive, especially when it concerns Cluster-B personality types (psychopaths/sociopaths/narcissists).  It starts out with romance unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, like something out of a fairytale (mental health experts call it ‘love bombing’).  But then once you’re hooked, it slowly starts to change, degrading into abuse more and more even as the abuser starts convincing you that in fact all the negative changes are because of you somehow.  All your fault.  And you start believing it, even as you do everything you can think of to please them, to make them happy and in so doing bring back that original person you fell in love with.

Trouble is that original person isn’t real, and never was.  That person was merely an illusion.  The abusive, selfish, cruel person they become is in actuality who they really are…and that was the single hardest thing for me to grasp about Randall.  Still is on some days, when I have what experts call Cognitive Dissonance; when I remember things through the lens he would give me, instead of remembering things as they actually happened.

It’s part of why having a therapist and trusted friends and family around you as you recover is so vitally importverbal-abuse-meghann-andreassenant; they become your mirrors to reflect back to you the truth, instead of the lies and distorted version of reality you are immersed in while the abuse is occurring.  And it’s also why I have to insist that when it comes to abusers, forgiveness fails miserably every time to improve anything about your situation.

Randall often mocked me toward the latter end of our relationship for being weak or scared of conflict, making sure I understood that it wasn’t just him who thought that way, but also everyone he knew; family, friends, and colleagues.  And part of what confirmed that vision of me was my ability to forgive indiscretions over and over again.  Ultimately my ability to forgive put me in the position to be abused at ever-increasing levels.  That is why forgiveness fails; people like Randall don’t want or need forgiveness, they think they’re just fine as they are, and forgiving them simply says “I’m a pushover, so do what you want with me, I’ll allow it”.

So instead I hold onto the anger.  I force myself to review in vivid detail all the cruel things he said and did; all the lies and the manipulations and the cruel words and deeds.  I do what my therapist had to do for me in the beginning, as I was unable to do it myself: I spell out in black and white precisely what was done to me, without justifications, rationalizations, or minimization.  And any time I do that, the anger comes roaring back…and the protective boundaries and walls are reinforced.

“Why does he deserve forgiveness, Meghann?” My therapist asked me once in the early days.  “And why is it that while you give it to him, he seems to never extend the same courtesy to you?”

Because that was also true; while he’d commit absolutely atrocious sins on an almost daily basis, with the unspoken understanding that I was not to share most of it with anyone img_3952because to do so would get him into legal trouble, he had no problem taking anything I did – whether it was actually ‘wrong’ or not – and broadcasting it to the whole world.  Shaming me for it.  Throwing it in my face any chance he got; any time I ‘got out of line’.

Last time I checked, that is not what forgiveness looks like.  But it IS what manipulation looks like; by broadcasting my failures at every turn, he ensured that when I finally ended the relationship all mutual acquaintances had a horrible view of me and an almost saintly view of him.  I was thankfully surrounded by my own support group; my therapist, who my parents had initially forced me to see somewhat against my will but ultimately who became my strongest advocate, and my family and core group of friends.  They saw the truth for what it was, and had been seeing the truth long before I was ready or able to see it.

I was lucky; some people trying to escape abuse don’t have any supporters.  They are completely alone.  And I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be like.  How difficult that would be.

Point is, I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that forgiveness isn’t necessarily a blank slate that you need to offer to everyone around you.  People do in fact have to prove themselves worthy of that forgiveness, and if they don’t, well…you are not obligated to give it.  Moreover, you’re not “a bad person” for denying said forgiveness.  That was one of Randall’s little magic tricks too: if I didn’t recover or get over his latest indiscretion fast enough – if I dared to be hurt longer than he was comfortable with, or needed to talk things through a second or third time – he was quick to accuse me of being shallow or petty or unevolved and small minded.  Shaming me into silent compliance.

I know better now.  There is nothing shameful about standing up and acknowledging you’ve been hurt or victimized.  And there is nothing petty about refusing to forgive the one who did you harm; they do not deserve your forgiveness or your understanding, unless and until they take tangible steps toward earning it.

Earned forgiveness.  Not just something that’s expected.  That was another new concept for me; originally prompted by another question the therapist asked: “What has he done to deserve your forgiveness?  Has he apologized sincerely for everything he did to hurt you?  Did he stop the hurtful behavior patterns after you told him it was hurtful and he made his apologies?  Did he evboundaries-2er act in ways that were for your own good?  Or was it always all about him?”

Surprised by the questions, I was forced to sit back and give an answer that made me cringe as I thought back on everything I’d been through.  Yes, he’d apologized many times; he was always quick to offer ‘sorry’ when it was clear that I was upset and that it wasn’t easily going away.  Sometimes he’d even pull me into his arms and hold me, or do something special for me as a way to make amends.  And that’s what would always lull me and lure me back in.  But in truth, those apologies were empty…because he always ended up doing the same thing again, often in even worse ways with far worse consequences the next time.

He cheated on me with Blanche to end the first round of our relationship; and he acted genuinely remorseful, swearing it had been totally out of character for him and that he’d never do it again.  Except he did.  In the second round of our relationship, he lied and hid from me the fact that he’d slept with an almost nauseatingly high number of women; some of them without even using protection.  He lied, shamed me when I’d get suspicious, and then ultimately also gave me STDs because of that unprotected sex he was having.  He was again profoundly sorry…until the behavior patterns started up again.  The flirting with other women.  The feeling in my gut that I was being lied to; that he was keeping something from me, which as it turns out always meant he was carrying on at least one affair behind my back.

He could be incredibly mean and cruel when he was angry; and he’d always be apologetic after the fact when it was clear I had been legitimately and understandably hurt by what he said.  Except within an hour of issuing such an apology, he might be back to yelling at me or barking at me again; calling me stupid and incompetent and any other number of put downs to make himself feel better.meghann andreassen

He continued talking to Blanche, even though maintaining that contact always made me (understandably) insecure and upset.  And even though I approached him about it time and time again, he never stopped, and instead would often shame me for having what any expert says were absolutely normal and expected feelings given the history I shared with that woman.  If he backed off at all, it was always only temporary.

And the examples continued.  I listed them off for my therapist, feeling increasingly numb, and when I was finished she just gave me a sad little smile as I answered her original question: “No, he didn’t do anything to deserve forgiveness.”

Believe it or not, saying that I still felt somehow like I was a bad person.  I felt like it was small of me to not be able to forgive someone.  But I understand things differently at this point; forgiveness isn’t necessary to move on with my life.  I can put him in a box in the back of my mind and move forward into a bright future, but forgiveness isn’t required to make that possible.  Moreover, if I forgave him I’d be more vulnerable to him again in the future of he ever found a way to strike up communication with me again.  So at this point I’ve instead embraced my lack of forgiveness where he is concerned; it’s my armor should he ever try to come back.

Forgiveness, like trust, is a gift to give to those who deserve it in your life; it’s not a right for everyone you meet.  Both must be earned.  And there’s no shame in deciding certain people are in fact unworthy.

 

 



meghann andreassen
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis. For singles, visit Lasting Connections.  To work with Meghann 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

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

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.

walking-away-meghann-andreassen
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 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

meghann andreassen

Last Christmas…

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’.

meghann andreassenHolidays are often bittersweet for those who’ve recently gone through a breakup; the “first Christmas” or the “first New Years” the hardest as you’re overriding the most recent memories involving your ex.  And to make matters worse, holidays being what they are usually those memories are overall pleasant ones too…because of course people tend to be on their best, I-love-you-to-the-moon-and-back behavior at this time of year.

It’s no different for someone coming out of an abusive relationship.  I’ve discussed that before in another post; how the usual pain and suffering of a breakup is still there…it’s just buried under a ton of other layers of trauma and so doesn’t tend to take center stage in the healing process.  (And it’s also not often talked about…which is why I try and talk about it here, so that others going through the thrash this season can know they aren’t alone, and shouldn’t feel ashamed if they’re getting a case of “the wistfuls” due to the smell of pine and mistletoe.)

It sucks, doesn’t it?  Missing someone you know logically you should hate.  Yearning and pining for someone who treated you like dogshit and left you humiliated and miserable when they finally exited your life.

Well, own it…because it’s a real feeling.  And trying to hide from it honestly only makes it worse.

Own it, and then do what I do…don’t let your mind gloss over the bad memories.  Because that’s what’s happening when you have wistful moments: your brain is dulling the ‘dogshit’ moments in favor of the warm-and-fuzzies, because that’s easier to think about.  And while your dearly beloved brain thinks it’s doing you a favor, you have to learn how to say “thanks, but no thanks!” and get back on track.

I’ll show you what I mean: Just yesterday my brain was starting to skip and trot down wistful-memory-lane, filling my mind with images of a smiling, happy, loving Randall.  You know, the one who isn’t real?  The one who was just an illusion?

Well, it hurt like hell. My heart was hurting.  Yearning for the guy I loved so much.  Mr. Wonderful.  Actually having the thought “This time last year, you were so happy together…”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my cue phrase.  I hear that thoughbroken-heart-meghann-andreassent in my mind, and I know my mind is officially giving me the glossed over, trimmed up, photoshopped, Hollywood-ending version of my relationship.  The one that brings out the “oohs” and “aahs” and warm and fuzzy feelings……the version that absolutely has no resemblance to reality whatsoever.

See, when you’re in an abusive relationship, you’re basically living in a fog.  You get really, really good at not seeing the truth for what it is; and your abuser plays a big part in that.  They make sure you understand that they aren’t acting badly, you’re just being too sensitive; they don’t get along with your family because your mother is crazy and your father is passive aggressive, not because they are being abusive and your parents see it for what it is; they aren’t abusive, they just have some anger issues that they’d sure change if they could, but since they can’t you need to just accept them for who they are and deal with it……and so it goes.

But it isn’t real.  And that’s where having the right support network – and the right therapist – is so crucial when you first come out of your relationship.  They are the people who dig out that unedited, raw, real version of your relationship, dust it off, and put it in the projector for you to watch for the first time.  And yes, it’s horrifying when you first see it.  Horrifying, and embarrassing…but so important.

I don’t need a therapist to change out the versions anymore; now I can do it myself.  And that’s precisely what I did last night when it was looking like sleep was going to elude me because all my brain wanted to do was play happy-go-lucky versions of what I was doing this time last year with love-of-my-life Randall.

Here’s the Hollywood Version: Randall took a road trip to his home state 1,700 miles away to visit family and friends for Christmas, and while he was gone I had the opportunity to clean up, make some improvements to the house, relax, see family and friends, and miss him just enough to feel that sweet ache for the one we love while looking forward to a blissful reunion.  I got an unexpected draw before the holidays that meant I actually had a bit of a cushion in my checking account for the first time in a long time, and life overall felt good.  I was able to buy him the Christmas gift he’d been wanting for months, having saved $20 here and there under the mattress until I had enough, and I remember proudly going to buy it at last; taking it home and wrapping it up and leaving it for him to find on the counter.  He actually came home early, and I got to see him in the wee hours of Christmas morning; I remember him bursting into the bedroom, flipping all the lights on, a beaming smile on his face as he took me in his arms, kissed me, and spun me around before excitedly showing off the present he’d unwrapped for all the world to see.  And they all lived happily ever after.

Nice, isn’t it?

meghann-andreassen-christmas-tree

Now…excuse me while I put the real version in the projector…

Here’s what Actually Happened: Randall took a road trip to his home state 1,700 miles away, but right before leaving (literally the day before) he announced he was taking three of his little ‘minions’ (the teenagers and twenty-somethings he had following him around) with him.  He didn’t ask me, he announced.  And two of the three were young women.  He swore to me it was all harmless; the plan was to drop the twenty year old guy off in Arizona on his way, as the guy was going to stay with his father for a few months; and then one of the girls lo and behold had an aunt who lived close to his final destination, and so she and the other girl were going to spend Christmas there.  It was all arranged.  All perfectly innocent.  He was just being helpful and charitable, the way he always was.  (Yes, I’m being sarcastic.)

Anyway…I feel like something is off.  Feel like I’m being lied to.  And I should throw in a bit more context for you: I’d only just discovered approximately four weeks earlier that I had been given FOUR different STDs courtesy of a bunch of young women he’d had sex with behind my back and lied about…and one of the girls traveling with him now mysteriously had the same STDs I’d tested positive for.  He insisted it was all coincidence, but the GYN’s daughter in me was highly suspicious.  Still, it happened fast enough I didn’t have much say.

Regardless, they headed off…and before Randall even reached his final destination, he’d burned through ALL THE MONEY I’d budgeted out to last for both his trip down and his trip back home.  I was shocked.  And pissed.  He told me I should have known better; that I should have doled it out daily because he’s “not good with money”.  I fired back maybe I didn’t want to be stuck going to the bank every day with his allowance; that he should be able to be a grownup.  Regardless, he had no money and was stuck.  So I was forced to tap into that bonus draw and give him more.

driving-in-snow-meghann-andreassenIt got worse.  The guy was dropped off in Arizona successfully, but when he reached his destination he informed me the girl’s aunt was refusing to speak to them.  Refusing to give her address.  Refusing to let them come to her house for at least three more days.  I was skeptical; saying that made no sense.  No aunt would tell a niece to travel 1,700 miles and then refuse to let her show up.  I was floored that they hadn’t gotten an address for the woman’s house before leaving.  It seemed so unlike Randall to be that sloppy.  And that’s when I started getting suspicious, my mind whispering it had all been a story.  He’d just wanted the excuse to take her along.

Before I knew it, I was getting barraged with messages from his family and friends; all of them demanding to know what the hell he was doing with these teenage girls, how could I be okay with this, they wanted him gone, I needed to do something……it never ended (funny how somehow this was MY fault…his family had some interesting ideas about responsibility, and I guess it’s easy to see why his first instinct was always to blame other people).  Ultimately his sister messaged me (the same sister I was sending $1,500 a month to for her apartment and utilities), begging me to send more money so he’d have the finances to leave early, because she was uncomfortable and wanted him gone but didn’t have the heart to say that to his face.

I caved and sent the money (again tapping into the reserve instead of waiting for the draw I was scheduled to get in five days as had been originally planned), and they left immediately, back on the road.  (Oh, and I should add that while he was there, he was also often meeting up with Blanche and her children, usually missing his ‘check in’ call with me by several hours, one time his phone turned completely OFF – though he claimed the battery just died – while he was supposed to be with her.  Which was an added feeling of unease that his later apologies didn’t help one bit.)

They raced home as quickly as possible in the increasingly wintery, icy, dangerous weather.  One day they had to stop off at a cheap roadside hotel simply because not even snowmobiles were able to drive; the roads had turned into sheets of pure ice.  It was nerve wracking…and so unnecessary, since the original plans had not had him coming home for another week when the weather was supposed to be better.

meghann andreassenWhile this was happening, I started receiving text messages from an anonymous number (a texting app that was untraceable) telling me I was being played for a fool; that he was having sex with that girl all the time (the one whose aunt never allowed to come over), that they were basically carrying on a relationship and declaring themselves to be in love when I wasn’t around, and that I needed to open my eyes and see it.

Not good for my already suspicious intuition.

I sent him the screenshots and said I didn’t know what to think; he declared in a rage someone was just trying to get back at him, and that I needed to not give in to the drama of a bunch of teenagers.  That he thought I was more mature than that.  I sort of took his word……but the seeds of unease and doubt continued to grow.

By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, and I went home from dinner with my family, I didn’t feel excited to see him…I just felt empty.  Completely numb.  Not the kind of feeling you’re supposed to have when your soulmate is on his way home to see you for the holidays.  But I KNEW something was wrong…I just couldn’t quite prove anything.

Wrapping up his present, I also wrapped up the little gifts I’d bought for the two girls since I knew they’d probably stay at the house until the morning when they went home (and I was raised with manners).  Then I went to bed.  I didn’t even try to stay awake, because that’s how empty and numb I felt.  He turned on all the lights when he got home at 2am, beamed at me, smiled, took me in his arms, and kissed me…and for a few brief seconds I saw that man I originally fell in love with.  Felt the fluttering in my heart.  But it passed, because there were those girls, a reminder of what was happening, and the ill-feeling in my gut returned.

meghann andreassenThe next day, he took them home, and I thought at last we’d have our first full day alone together in our home in months.  But two hours later (barely) he received a text message from the girl who’d supposedly had the aunt she was going to visit, begging him to come pick her up.  “Oh, no, Randall…” I protested, and he initially acted just as irritated, like he was going to say no.  Seeming to tell her to suck it up.  But in the end she got her way, and even as I was furious, he went back and got her; and then he chided me publicly for not welcoming her warmly back into the house after I’d “promised” she’d always be welcome.  (What I’d said was she’d always be welcome if she needed to get away here and there…….I had not promised she could bloody well move in, which is essentially what she’d done.  And again, this is the girl everyone is saying my boyfriend is SLEEPING WITH when I’m not around…let’s not forget that.  He apparently forgot that detail constantly, but I sure as hell didn’t.)

So that was last Christmas.  Roll credits.

See what I mean?  That’s quite a different version, isn’t it?  Quite a disgusting, twisted, abusive, ugly version.  One that’s preferably disregarded.

Today I am so, so grateful to be free and safe from all that.  He never confirmed he had been sleeping with that girl; denied it right to the end.  But I know he did.  At this point, if my intuition says ‘yes’, then I’m trusting it; because it was right about everything else.  It was my heart that had shushed it, wanting desperately to believe him instead.

Now I’m free of that doubt.  Free of that crippling pain and low self esteem that came from his constant triangulating with other women.  Free of the shame that came from his constantly demeaning me in front of others.  Free of the anxiety of having strangers in my home every minute of the day.  Free of the stress of trying to provide not just for myself and for him, but for his sister, and for the others living in the house, and for Blanche who still held the car loan in her name…so on and so on.

merry-christmas-meghann-andreassen

I’m free of all that.  And it is a blessing.  I would rather be single for the rest of my life, and loved by my family and friends for precisely who I am, than ever return to such a nightmare.  He belittled me.  He used me.  He abused me.  He deceived me.  He gave me STDs and then got angry with me when I got angry with him about it (“Well how the fuck do you think I feel, man?”).

That was my reality last Christmas.  But that’s the thing about life: we are the masters of our own fate.  I don’t care what some try to tell you that is different.  We have the power to change our circumstances.  And I did.  He never thought I’d leave him…but I fucking did.  And unlike last Christmas, this year when I smile it’s genuine, and happy, and warm, because I am at peace.  It’s the greatest gift in the world.

Merry Christmas, everyone!  And to all…a good night.

 

 

 



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

meghann andreassen

The Myth Of “The Overnight Success”

Recently Top Golf opened in Hillsboro, Oregon.  If you don’t know what it is, then you haven’t been to one of the cities where it’s located yet; but you probably don’t have long to wait.  Right now it feels like every five minutes a new Top Golf is opening up in cities across the country; it’s one of the new ‘things’ everyone wants to go do with family and friends.

My first exposure to it was with Randall (of course it was…the Universe hates me sometimes), so when I first heard that Top Golf was on the agenda for my Uncle’s birthday, there was a sinking feeling in my stomach.  I was still only a few months out from going No Contact, and sensitive enough to reminders of everything that I tended to avoid them like the plague.

Ultimately though staying behind wasn’t really an option; I’d bowed out of so many family functions for years that things were moving to an awkward phase where if I didn’t start showing up more family wasmeghann andreassen, nenika marie liable to start forgetting what I look like.  So I grit my teeth, changed out of my perpetual pajamas-and-fuzzy-socks routine, and made my appearance.

Top Golf itself is a fairly basic idea…think of what you get by combining a bowling alley and a driving range.  People get ‘lanes’ of sorts, and hit balls attempting to score points by landing the balls in scattered holes of varying difficulty; stacking up their scores with the scores of friends to have an ultimate winner.  And then in the meantime you have servers coming and going and taking orders for drinks and food (yes, before you ask, it’s pretty amusing when someone drunk tries to hit golf balls).

All in all it’s a pretty civilized way to pass an afternoon…though it’s something I get tired of after a while.  Randall on the other hand absolutely loved it; constantly talking about how he wished Top Golf was in the Portland area.  Telling everyone around him at one point or another about how much fun it was, and how he wished he could take all of them.  Even saying if we made enough money, he’d try buying a franchised location and set it up in the Portland area because it was that popular and would make a lot of money.

Ironic, then, that it opened only three or four weeks after he’d left the state and gone back home.

Remarking on this to my mother, even telling her his fantasy of owning one himself, she just chuckled and informed me that Top Golf had been “coming soon” to Hillsboro for over seven years, since her days on the City Council, and that she could have told him that if he’d ever bothered to talk to her.  She’d been part of the Council that approved the request to build in the first place.

climb-challenge-meghann-andreassenSeven years seemed a bit extreme, and I asked why it had taken so long to build, but she said it wasn’t that strange.  Between permitting and land issues, and labor contracts and other red tape, these things often take many years to come into fruition even when everyone unanimously wants it to.

That prompted me to think about my own business ventures, and how many years it’s taken for everything to start finding a stride and become what I knew it would from the start.  It’s a sore subject, because it was a point of much contention between Randall and I.  The fact that my work particularly with Lasting Connections repeatedly stalled out in the first few years meant he ultimately decided I must have been lying first about the profitability and success of the business, and then eventually he even went so far as to accuse me of making up the entire company in my head.

I’d tell him as a startup venture it of course would hit roadblocks and otherwise struggle as it grew into something more, but he would argue back that it wasn’t true.  Insisting a business either turned profitable within eighteen months or it was dead in the water and should be dismissed.

Except that just isn’t true.  Not in the real world.

First, Lasting Connections was profitable within its’ first six months of existence.  Whether or not it could be successful wasn’t in question…but what we were trying to do was grow and expand to a national level, and that required a lot more work, and also meant most of our revenue got poured back into the business instead of findings its’ way into our pockets.

I made less and less for over a year, stretching every dollar while we continued to refine and change and hone our approaches and our systems.  Ensuring that the business would long term be a thriving creation…and meaning in the short term great sacrifices were required.  Day in and day out Randall would swing between supportive and agitated, one moment telling mimg_3698e how proud he was of my courage taking risks, and my business savvy, and the next moment telling me how everyone in his family and circle of friends thought I was making the whole thing up and that things would never succeed.

Ultimately everything deteriorated to the point where he declared I must have lied and made it all up in order to ‘lure him back’ and convince him to move to Oregon in the first place.

It wasn’t true, but he was convinced it was, and it caused me to start questioning my own judgment more and more.  He had all of his friends repeating his words, and because I was so rarely around people of my own circle, I started believing it all to be true; stopped defending myself as much, and even when I tried quickly finding I was tongue tied and unable to really have coherent conversations because I was constantly interrupted or talked over.

It was a nightmare.

But as with everything else, as time has gone by I’ve regained my clarity over the situation…and ironically, recently everything with Lasting Connections has at last fallen into place.  Validation is a sweet thing, but the road getting here was long and difficult…made even more so by an unsupportive and abusive partner.

Know this: if you are planning to start or are embarking on any kind of business venture, you have to be prepared to devote the next several years of your life to it.  You have to be ready for the fact that you’re going to work your ass off, and there is going to be very little reward in the beginning.  People are going to doubt you, and you’re probably going to question yourself from time to time.  Unless you are already wealthy or have a wealthy partner, you’re going to struggle financially as over and over again you must make the choice to sustain and grow your business rather than lining your own pockets (no matter how tempting it is or how much you might want to).  You’re going to have moments when you regret your choice, and wonder if maybe you should have just taken that desk job to begin with because you’d give almost anything for a steady paycheck.

This is an inevitability.  There is no such thing as “an overnight success”; that concept is a myth.  A fantasy.  A fairy tale.  It does not exist.  And if someone seems to have achieved just such a thing, I guarantee it’s a mirage; that they might have gained recognition overnight, but the work they’ve put in has taken years of their lives.

Think of the famous people you know, of their stories, and you’ll know I’m right.  Actors who are now worth tens of millions of dollars, but who started out waiting tables and sharing tiny apartments with three or four other people just to get by; taking any gig they could, no matter how degrading or embarrassing it was to them latego-pro-meghann-andreassenr.  Anything to get a foot in the door.  Or how about the gentleman who invented the GoPro camera…he originally was building something else entirely, and had raised millions of dollars of his friend’s money as investors…and then it failed fantastically and he lost everything.  Bankrupt and bereft, he ended up living out of a van on the beach as a surfing bum, and it was there that he invented the first rudimentary prototype for the GoPro camera.  He sold various versions of it out of his van for the next few years before he had enough resources to build out the sleek version we know today.  To the public, it seems like he succeeded overnight…but it actually took him one spectacular failure, desperation, and then years of developing and refining the idea before success occurred.

Point being: make sure you are devoting yourself to something you really believe in, because everyone around you will question it until you succeed (especially if you’ve tried and failed at other ventures in the past).  Surround yourself with the right support system; friends who care about you and want you to be happy, rather than people hoping to hitch a ride on an eventual gravy train.  And if you’re in a relationship, make sure it’s with someone who understands the realities of taking risks on enterprenurial pursuits.  It won’t work if you’re with someone who requires predictability, stability, and comfort in his or her life…they’ll end up miserable, not to mention the very last thing you want when battling to make your business succeed is to also be doing battle at home.  It’s not sustainable (and I say that from personal experience…I damn near lost my sanity by the end before the relationship with Randall ended).

77562_794567243826_586691_o

And most of all, stay the course.  Had I given up when Randall said I should have, simply because I didn’t have my “overnight success” story, or had I caved to the pressure of everyone else’s insults by calling me a liar or a delusional fool, I would not be where I am now.  And what I have now makes those couple of years of struggle worth every minute.

Once I let go of the idea that I was a failure because I hadn’t achieved overnight success, and instead embraced the reality that there is no such thing…I finally found peace with myself.  And shortly after the peace came, I was at last rewarded with success.

 

 



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

meghann andreassen

Rebuilding My Safe Place

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.

My abusive relationship dismantled that notion brick by brick, until ultimately I didn’t feel safe anywhere, with anyone.  It’s why I think you’ll discover abuse victims are just about the loneliest people in the world.

meghann-andreassen-scared-of-shadows

Randall sowed seeds of mistrust toward family and friends so masterfully I felt completely isolated and without allies, but at the same time by the end of our relationship I didn’t feel safe with him either.  I didn’t feel safe verbally expressing myself, because any time I did it eventually got twisted around and used against me.  Any boundary I’d try and set always ended up broken on purpose, so I learned voicing things I disliked only made the situation worse.  And I increasingly felt unsafe physically as he grew more physically aggressive – some even labeled violent – towards others.

By the end he’d threatened to harm or kill me more than once; sometimes telling me how he’d do it with bone chilling detail, sometimes screaming it at me with a cracking voice, other times speaking in calm tones normally used in casual conversations over breakfast.

I could no longer tell sarcasm from serious threats, which left me jumpy and desperate to keep the peace any way I could (including telling more and more elaborate lies to keep him happy).  He of course shamed me viciously for those lies once he discovered them, but my therapist reassures me it’s extremely normal in that position; insisting I forgive myself.  (I still struggle with shame over those lies – they were completely against my nature – but that’s what abuse does to a person: the human instinct for self preservation bending you into someone else to survive.)

It took a long time for me to identify what I was feeling as “afraid” or “unsafe”; after all, Randall was the love of my life…the one I was devoted to…the one I had stuck with through infidelities and lies and legal troubles and knock down, drag out fights and all manner of other things that in hindsight should have sent me running for the nearest exit long before I did.  He would never hurt me, I thought; not intentionally……except in the end he started doing just that, and the final illusion I was still clinging to shattered.

meghann andreassen
Ultimately it was two threats in particular that have ended up sticking with me to this day:

  1. The promise that through a connection he had, he could find my current address no matter where I moved to, along with the current addresses of everyone I cared about and loved.  One time he followed that up with the promise that instead of killing me, he’d instead kill everyone I loved because he knew I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if that happened.  (This was if I left him.)
  2. The vow that if I ended the relationship, he would send several reckless individuals who were loyal to him and had nothing to lose to break down the door of my parent’s condo, shoot all three of us, and steal everything of value.

Those two threats imprinted deep in my mind, and even now my heart starts to race thinking about them.  The first night after ending the relationship was hell.  I didn’t sleep a single second; every noise sending me ten feet in the air.  I locked my bedroom door and even barricaded it with heavy objects…but still I didn’t feel safe.  I was genuinely terrified, in a way I’d never been before.  Scared at night…scared during the day…scared any time the doorbell rang…scared when strange numbers called my phone…even scared when Randall himself reached out to me via email and accused me of being ridiculous for “fabricating crazy death threat stories”, because it was so surreal.

And in the midst of the terror I was also deeply ashamed, knowing by feeling fear he was still wielding power over me.

Even now I feel residual embarrassment when fear bubbles up; assuming if he ever reads this or hears about it999954_10101296211803066_1798528784_n-2, he’ll undoubtedly laugh at my expense and talk about what a “dumb b*tch” I am for being so melodramatic.

So why talk about it?  Why even go there?

Because by talking the fear actually becomes more manageable, not less.  Trapped in my mind the fears press up against my skull and feel larger than life…but out of my mind in the open where others can look at them, they appear much smaller.  And secondarily, I want others feeling the same things as they recover from abuse to know they’re not alone.  That it’s a normal part of things: both the fear and the embarrassment.

I still don’t always sleep through the night; bolting awake with a racing heart if I hear strange noises at 2am, picturing someone bursting into my room or into the room of my parents before I can get help.  But some things have started to pass – I’m no longer afraid to leave the condo for errands during the day – so I know eventually this will too.

As I’ve learned with therapy, it’s all part of PTSD responses that can’t be controlled, only managed.  A response to triggers, which I discuss in more detail here.  Nothing to be ashamed of.

Even so, I find myself in mourning for who I used to be; missing the days when I could walk down a street blissfully unaware of what might jump out and grab me.

I’d not appreciated how easy and free life was before the abuse and the subsequent fear, but now I do.  I long for the night when I can sleep deeply and peacefully in my own bed again without feeling an instinctive need to have one eye and ear turned toward the door.  Sometimes I doubt I’ll ever get there again, and such thoughts leave me feeling depressed.  But other times I get a glimpse of the other side of this process I’m moving through, and I feel encouraged and hopeful that eventually ‘safe’ will become ‘normal’ again.

A few weeks ago I went and stayed with my best friend and met her two little sons, and the night I spent there I was completely at peace.  Maybe it’s because I knew he wouldn’t know where to find me even if he wanted to; but it was a beautiful feelinmeghann andreasseng…one I’ll never take for granted again.

I think ultimately for survivors there has to be an acceptance that things will never be like they were before the abuse; there are scars etched permanently onto my heart and my soul at this point.  No getting rid of them.

Or to use another metaphor, I am a sheep who has seen the wolves in the surrounding forest…and now I can never again blissfully munch on my grass.  But even so, scars can fade with time, and while the sheep perhaps can’t forget about the wolves and return to blissful ignorance…it can still ultimately find safe places where it can return to feeling safe again in other parts of the herd.

So that is my goal.

And as one final thought, my therapist and those in my support networks have helped me realize something profound: while it’s true that Randall did many things to me, and said many things about me, and hurt me deeply on all levels of my heart, my mind, and my soul, ultimately the one thing he never thought I’d do was leave…but that’s precisely what I did.  So rather than feeling like the fear is one more way he’s winning, I’m starting to see it as a victory instead.  I’m afraid because I left.  Because I defied him.  And I tell you what: I’d much rather be where I am – lurching at ghosts in the night as I’m also moving in the direction of real freedom from it all – than back in that relationship and spiraling further downward as I was slowly unmade, thread by thread.

 

 



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