A Ford for All Times

They really believe I did it. The person who created a whole website and has worked so hard to stay alive, after losing her brother to suicide, would intentionally take and destroy a photo of him.

I wrote them a note this morning, after being blamed for the falsity, that they are horrible people.

And they are.

Why is my brother dead? Because of them. Why have I lived outside as a homeless person so many times? Because of them. Why has my daughter had such an unstable life? Mostly, because of my instability, caused by them.

They will never own what they have done to everyone around them, because they have been abused so many times themselves that they have victim mentality. The projection is ironic.

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This morning, after being blamed for my little brother’s photo disappearance, and being told I always have to be the victim, I pointed out how I was the one who was kicked to the curb multiple times and basically treated as garbage. Once, I was actually given a trashcan with my name on it to represent my room because that was me, garbage.

When I brought that up in response to my mother’s accusation of my “victim” mentality, she explained my stepfather’s abuse away as a joke. Yeah, just like the rest of my life, a Ford damn joke. Is a gramme really better than a damn? Not really. I’d rather be damned to misery than live in a falsehood of reality.

So, that’s it. We’re done. Sometimes, we cannot make things right with the people in our lives. “Oh, brave new world.” What shall become of us?

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A Music Lover’s Guide to Solving Relationship Problems

It is no secret that every relationship has challenges, because as we all know, no one is perfect. High rates of divorce and couples “shacking up”, are common trends in our society. People who love each other may go into a relationship without realizing how much effort it takes to remain harmonious, which often leads to fighting and sometimes even violence. So how does one achieve relationship bliss? By removing toxic behaviors and replacing them with healthier habits, you will be well on your way to becoming a happier and healthier person, which will make you a better partner.

One thing that is important to remember is that the change needs to start with you. Even if you are not the person who is to “blame” for the problem, if your partner isn’t willing to address it, you have to take the lead. This may seem unfair (it is, kind of), but it is the only way to effect change. If you won’t make an effort, why should your partner? Taking the time to remove these toxic behaviors from your life will be helpful in all of your relationships, but especially with your partner.

Communication Breakdown

People who have been together for a while can sometimes take one another for granted. Jeffery Bernstein, Ph. D, discusses a major partnership issue, Why Can’t You Read My Mind?. “#3 The ‘Should’ Bomb: One partner assumes the other will meet one or more of his or her needs—just because he or she should know that you need.” Why didn’t you _____________? is a common question for people who have this toxic tendency. Life is unpredictable. If you need something ask for it. Don’t expect your partner to cater to your every expectation, especially if you didn’t say that you need it. Sharing is caring.

You may remember the book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s all small stuff? Well, it’s true, you shouldn’t! Even if your partner is bothering you with something silly, like a spoon left in the sink after you just ran the dishwasher. Sure, it’s annoying, but is it worth getting angry and starting a fight over?

Showing compassion instead of automatic irritation (especially over little things) can help to build your relationships with other people. There is something to that old colloquialism, ‘It’s easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar.” Think about it. Choose your battles wisely.

If the problem is more severe, then it is important for the partner with the problem to approach the other partner to talk about ways to manage the situation. Shutting down and saying everything is “fine” is no way to solve a problem. If your partner doesn’t know you’re upset about something, then he will not have an opportunity to fix it.

It is important that you remain calm and use “I” statements so as to disarm your partner. You don’t want to start a fight, you want to fix a problem. By using a careful manner when dealing with big issues, you will be more likely to find a solution together. Finally, if the problem is completely unmanageable, it may be time to seek couples counseling.

 

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

You know that it’s important to let the little things go, especially when it comes to someone you care about. But what happens when the little things are not so little? Infidelity and lying are two of the biggest offenses but what about smaller stuff that still warrants discussion? All too often one person has a disproportionate amount of the housework and childcare obligations. This is okay, as long as it is agreed upon. However, sometimes it is not discussed ahead of time. Before you moved in together, did you talk about whose job it will be to take out the trash on Trash Day? Probably not.

As life changes, so do our responsibilities and we need to be dynamic and involved in the decisions we make. In other words, you need to run your life don’t let your life run you. If you believe that the housework balance needs to be reassessed, do something about it. Don’t just sit back and complain. Make the changes in your life you need to be happy. If your partner loves and cares about you, he will be supportive in helping you achieve this.

Just remember, it is not your partner’s responsibility to do it all or be everything for you. Healthy relationships need space and independence. You are well within your rights to speak up and ask for attention if you’re feeling lonely, but don’t expect your partner to listen to you talk incessantly about your knitting class or a poem you wrote (unless she’s into that stuff). That’s what friends are for. Or blogs. The point is, if you are feeling neglected, perhaps it is time to explore other options to keep you busy. Your partner is not obliged to fill your every need desire.

Another thing that can be toxic in relationships is withholding sex or not being “in the mood”…ever. Maslow’s theory of the Hierarchy of Needs states that sex is on the bottom tier of physiological needs, which is considered a deficit need. Meaning, without it, a person’s body is out of balance and will seek to fill that need.

If you are not willing to give yourself to your partner, you may want to investigate why this is. If your partner is not interested in being sexually intimate, try to talk to her. Find out what is bothering her and what you can do to help. Show interest and love, because this will increase your bond. If you are critical and judgmental, or act out in infidelity, you will only drive her away further and the cycle will continue.

 

Lack of R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Have you ever felt like someone didn’t have any regard for something you had worked really hard on? It seems to be a million times worse when that disregarding person is your partner. Loveisrespect.org says, “Mutual respect is essential in maintaining healthy relationships.”

Along with respect, comes trust. The two are connected, but not indelibly. You can respect a person and not trust him, and you can trust a person but not respect him. However, if you want to have a strong relationship, you need to have both. Respect your partner by remaining faithful, and you will be rewarded with mutual respect and trust. Lose trust, and you will likely lose respect from your partner as well.

Partners also need to be respectfully sensitive to family, health, and career matters. Mocking your partner about his/her health is inappropriate and mean; while making hurtful comments about your partner’s family is completely unacceptable. Negative remarks meant to tear down your partner’s career choice can be harmful as well. After all, many people have worked hard to get to where they are. No one wants to be told that their contribution to society is worthless. Showing positive support to your partner’s beliefs and causes will support your interpersonal connection. Respect is a two-way street. It needs to be given and reciprocated.

 

Can’t Buy Me Love

When one person has higher earning potential than another, it can create friction. The partner who earns more feels like he is having to contribute more to the relationship financially. Alternatively, the partner who is earning less probably desires to earn more and may resent her partner, often subtly, and may lash out in passive aggressive ways to express frustration. In return, the partner with the higher income may be confused or annoyed because he believes his partner should be grateful for the financial support. It is a degrading cycle for all parties involved.

Partners who are working together for a common goal should not be comparing notes about bank accounts, unless it is to check if a goal has been met or bills need to be paid. People in a loving relationship should want to build something together, not separately. This isn’t to say that individual bank accounts or money is a bad thing. It can be a good thing, so long as the couple is working together for a common purpose.

For people who try to manage their money together, it can still be a challenge. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, when couples talk about finances, they should be mindful that money holds an emotional connection for everyone, and some decisions are made as a result of “emotional baggage.” By acknowledging this first, you can try to gain some insight into your partner’s thought processes when it comes to money, so that conversations can be held in a more matter-of-fact manner.

Extreme acts of dominance when talking about money, however, is a different story. “Economic abuse occurs when one partner takes control of the other’s financial life to gain power in the relationship.” If you have heard your partner say, “I pay the bills so you have to do what I say,” you may be in an economically abusive relationship. If this is the case, the best way to manage the problem is to become financially literate, says Anne Kates Smith, Personal Finance Author for Kiplinger. The better informed you are about your finances, the more power you have to make decisions about what to do next.

 

It’s (Not) Gonna Work Out Fine

Sadly, domestic violence is all too common these days and can often be overlooked by outsiders who aren’t aware of the situation. Partner abuse can come in many forms, but all have a lasting affect which can be traumatic for survivors. Harvard Medical School states, “Intimate partner abuse can have profound effects on a woman’s health, both physical and mental.” This is also true for male victims of partner violence.

Forms of abuse include controlling behavior, emotional abuse (e.g. manipulating and berating behaviors), and physical threats. If you are a victim of partner abuse, please seek assistance through local shelters and community organizations and create a safety plan. To learn more about coping with domestic violence, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) is an excellent resource.

Sometimes, people who have been in difficult situations do not know anything other than the abuse they’ve been exposed to, and they will repeat the behavior in their romantic escapades. Lack of family support can increase the chance that a person will be exposed to an unhealthy relationship. If you have been chronically involved in bad relationships, it may be time to reassess where you are meeting these toxic partners and consider looking for alternative sources.

 

Give Peace a Chance

Always starting fights and creating drama is not healthy for anyone. If your needs aren’t being met, look within yourself to find the solution. You can start with simple mindfulness practices, like the ones taught by Thich Nhat Hanh, in Peace Is Every Step. This is good for you and your partner. Try to your partner involved if you can. “In a family, if there is one person who practices mindfulness, the entire family will be more mindful.

It’s not as important to reach a Zen meditative state as it is to be flexible and in a good mood (sometimes). In a dream world, we would all have enough time to practice meditation on a formal level (no kids interrupting, dog barking, etc.), so we could achieve transcendence and enlightenment. Alas, some of us are less advanced; we still struggle with negative feelings and can forget to be mindful.

Yet we can relax, because this is forgivable. As Toni Bernhard says in How to Wake Up, “…every moment is a fresh start. In the previous moment, we may have blamed ourselves for something, but in this moment, we can change that response to one of kindness and compassion to ourselves…Every moment holds the possibility of awakening to a feeling of peace and well-being.”

So be good to yourself and good to your partner. And if your partner isn’t being good to you, find a way to fix it or get the heck out of there, because you deserve it.

The Wrong Nick

I went back to school in August to *finally* finish my ABA online. Then I got a notice in the mail last week telling me that I have enough school credits to graduate now.  So I look into it, and it turns out all I would earn is an AGS, which is not exactly impressive on a resume. I had been depressed for weeks before this, but something about that letter got my wheels turning again. I started thinking about where I want to go next.

Since my brother died, I have been paralyzed in a lot of ways. And living with the controlling, narcissistic man I am with has really torn me down as a person. But I want that to change, so I started thinking about how I can move forward with my career and earn my own money. I want to be a person who makes a difference, not the repressed, soul-crushed housemaid who never speaks and cries every day.

I started looking into work and quickly realized I needed to display my talents in order to get anywhere online. So I created two websites; this one you are visiting right now, and a second one as a supplementary part of an assignment for my entrepreneurship class (munciecooperative.wordpress.com). Next thing I know, I am going to interviews all over town (I haven’t worked or even tried to work because of being sick for over a year) and suddenly I have phone interviews for internships for writing, and all these great things are happening. So what happened next? Well, I had a complete breakdown of course.

In case you can’t see why, let me break it down for you. This was a classic example of me ascending into a hypomanic state (which I am on the tail-end of now). Hypomania, is associated with Bipolar II, not Bipolar I or BPD. It is a mild form of mania, but even though it is on a lower scale, it can be just as scary. Fits of screaming and crying, throwing things, punching the wall, those are all things I have been guilty of doing in a heightened hypomanic state. Usually, the hypomania shows up after I have been depressed and avoiding things for so long that I suddenly discover I need a change and I need it now. Then comes the whirlwind of activity and thought, anxiety and sleeplessness take over. I barely eat for days because I have no appetite. Just a lot of coffee.

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I know this state is just part of a cycle that I can manage if I carefully weigh what I am realistically capable of doing against the bounty of options that have suddenly cropped up. I can do it a lot better, though, if I have the support of my partner. This is not an option for me personally, so the best I can hope for is that he won’t complain that I am investing so much time in my work.

Well, that’s unrealistic too, but that’s okay. As long as I can avoid him. Nope. That didn’t work either. So now what do I do? Well, that’s where the breakdown comes in. I have yet to get him to understand that to motivate a person, you must give them encouragement, make them feel important. By degrading me and telling me I’ll never amount to anything, do you think I am going to try harder? No.

I just go into work every day, punch my time card, and do as little as possible (for the boss) as I can to get by. Just like in Office Space. That’s all my life is right now, rented space in someone else’s home. This is not my home, you’ve made that very clear. But that’s alright because being with the wrong person has given me the insight to know what I do not want next time around.

Peace.

#WhyIStayed

*Side Note: In case anyone is wondering why I didn’t work to get myself out of a shelter, I did. However, I could never earn enough money to sustain myself and move forward. Additionally, with my BP and BPD, I struggle to maintain consistent work and have to take reprieves as part of my coping plan. It is only because of the path I took with my current partner that I have been able  to return to school this year to finish my ABA and have a home that sustains a virtual zoo (we have 12 pets!).

Emotional abuse is abuse. Period. For me, the thing that makes me feel the worst about emotional abuse is that I recognize now that I was abusive at times in a relationship with a man I believed I was very much in love with. He was physically violent towards me, but I was emotionally manipulative and controlling, using my mental illness as an excuse for bad behavior and alcoholism.2015-05-10--10-04-32

Now, the roles have reversed. After I left that abusive relationship, I went to live with my parents in Michigan who were then caring for my brother, who struggled with ADD, dyslexia, and Bipolar Disorder. I was trying to manage my own depression, look for work, and get along with my family in a highly volatile situation. I ended up leaving after a trip to the hospital over suicidal thoughts. Because of the difficulties my brother was facing, my parents felt it was best that my daughter and I find somewhere else to stay. I ended up returning to Indiana in May 2014 and wound up in the YWCA with my then almost six-year-old daughter. It was AWFUL.

After months of living at the Y, we ended up going to stay with the family of my daughter’s friend. That didn’t end well and we had to go to another shelter. By this point, we had moved five times in one year. It was too much. Plus I was lonely.

I kept trying to meet men who could fill some need, I wasn’t sure what exactly, but I knew I would recognize it when I saw it. At least I thought I would. After a seemingly endless parade of suitors, I gave up and found that I wasn’t getting anywhere with these guys. And I was still homeless, with a child.

Suddenly, I meet this guy who wants to help me get out of the shelter, he earns really good money. (Yes!) He started coming over every night. He was getting ready to have back surgery in February. The week before his surgery he had a huge car wreck, but he wasn’t hurt, probably because he was on heavy painkillers at the time. I had agreed to be his caretaker after surgery.

It wasn’t until I was already in the process of moving in with him that he showed his first signs of aggression. We had driven through an awful snowstorm for several hours to the Laser Spine Institute in Cincinnati, and on the return trip home, I was going to turn down the wrong freeway exit (for the 2nd time). We were arguing about which ramp to take when he grabbed the steering wheel from me and veered us back onto the highway he wanted me to go on. I was scared, shocked, speechless…Livid. I warned him never to do anything like that again.

I should have (and I kind of did know) known better than to move in with him after that incident. Yet, I wanted to let my daughter have a bedroom of her own and a dog, and all that stuff that kids want that I couldn’t provide on my own. These days, that sort of behavior is not uncommon in the home. I feel constantly worried about what is going to happen next that will set him off. It’s terrifying really, but the thought of having to return to a shelter evokes even worse feelings inside of me.

I think the worst part of this relationship has been what happened after my brother took his life this January. My boyfriend shared the same name as my brother, which makes it doubly tragic in its own way. My brother died five days after my boyfriend’s surgery, and because he was healing, he did not empathize with me at all.  In fact, he has told me many times that he does not care about my feelings nor my daughter’s feelings.

I have a long-term plan to leave this man, and no, it is not like the scene from Dolores Claiborne where she tricks her drunk husband into stumbling into a hole. My plan is to better myself and earn my BA in Journalism while I have the resources. Grow and live apart from him as much as possible until I am capable of supporting my daughter to the fullest extent. I know it is not ideal, but when considering the alternatives, I feel I am doing what I need to do to take care of my family for now. I guess it’s a sacrifice, but I’m not a martyr or anything…Thanks for reading.