Everyone focuses on the wrong word…

4:34 Surah An-Nisa
But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them.- Sahih International Version

In my opinion the key in this ayah is “fear”, and indeed I have never seen it without that word. Fear is not proof or witnesses or even any tangible thing. Fear is a man’s paranoia, his personal issues, his deep-seated insecurities, his mental illness, his worry, his stress. Fear is the justification, here. Fear alone makes it permissible to beat your wife.

Everyone looks at “strike”, which is often translated as “beat” in English versions. I have seen that word picked apart, worried over, given alternate meanings, historically analyzed, excused, justified, and explained away. Daraba, the root of it. To hit.

The ayah is not simply a license to hit, as they claim and also deny, depending on their sympathies. It is a license to use fear itself to justify physical and moral authority over an adult female.

You can reach your own conclusions. You know what mine are.

So I am out, and now you know.

Festering..

I admit to having some unhealthy unresolved resentment about my relationships.
My first husband was promoted because I did most of his homework while he was at work.
My second husband did work while we were together but I pitched in a 100% of my income to support him and his siblings while they were attending university. They never had to worry about anything. When his parents handed us money I used it on their medical bills or put it into my in-laws accounts. I never took it for myself. I tried to keep his family living at the level they were accustomed to, and it was a huge mistake on my part. I never thought he would divorce me, I thought we were in for life. So when he did divorce me, I took nothing but what I went in with, which was my possessions and his debt (he years later paid it off) and a car loan.
My children’s father I put through vocational school, and paid off the cost for eight years-three of them after I left him- because it was in my name as well as his. Letting it fall behind meant that they would look for me, to collect. Finding my information on a joint account means he can access that information. It was my responsibility, AND my safety.
It all seemed like a good idea. You invest in your family, right? My second husband and I even had a deal, and his entire family had heard me say that I would go to school when they were done, like taking turns supporting each other.
I was a skiptracer when I was younger. I spent all day, every day, finding people to collect on their debt. It’s a habit I retain, unfortunately.
Today I found my ex-sister-in-law’s new house. It is worth so much money that I could buy about six houses with it where I live. I paid for her living expenses for her first few years here. I am not jealous so much as I am angry. With a house that big, she must have children. Do her children get told no for just about everything they want, like my children do? Does she have to juggle daycare fees with swimming lessons? No.
I am the drowned fisherman they all used to get out of the water. I was so stupid. I should have secured my own fate before tying it to theirs. Now I have to watch my children being raised below the poverty level because of my own mistakes. I am enrolled in community college but I work so much I don’t know how long it will take me to finish. I haven’t even started, yet. I still have to test in.

Don’t Ask For Help

Don’t put a general plea out there for help if you don’t really want it.
This is what I do for a hobby, is help women get free.
If you really are trapped in a house etc etc I can help you. But if you are just pissed off because you want to marry some guy and your father won’t let you and the laws of the country you are in require his permission…
Don’t ask.
I won’t help a woman trade jailers.

The Empty Spaces Inside Me

I seem to have lost my online friend. He no longer talks to me and I can’t blame him. I miss him a great deal, I feel like a limb has been lost.

Sometimes it is hard to come to terms with the fact that I am older and I am alone and will remain so.

Just when you think you have accepted being alone someone makes you feel like you might have some hope of sharing a bit of your life. Not necessarily with them, but because they find you decent or attractive you think “Maybe someone out there WOULD like me and be willing to put in the work.” When they stop paying attention to you that hope seems to die as well and the grieving process begins all over again. Luckily it doesn’t happen often to me.

It makes me feel overly dramatic and self centered, both things I abhor.

Last night I attended a meetup with others who have left the faith. I didn’t hold back much, and though it makes me look crazy I just let it all out in the open, my experience, what has happened to me, the effects. I didn’t want to let it out in pieces or wait for later. I want to listen more than I talk when I go to these things. I did not name names, though. It is SO EMBARRASSING to be myself, to have made the choices I made and to have to own it. I joke around a lot but there is so much shame under there. What kind of crazy person gets involved with the people and the movements that I do- by choice rather than by birth?

I really liked these people. They are not necessarily people who have lived like I have, they seem a bit sheltered, which makes me happy for them. Probably they have nice families who have looked out for them. It was weird to greet and leave them without the customary rituals common to our former religion, I might never become accustomed to foregoing that. I missed them immediately, as I walked away. I get attached quickly, often without reason. It makes me a great wife and in-law but it’s not much use with everyone else.

I left the children with a sitter, and I think this is the first time in 14 years that I have gone to meet up with strangers. It is certainly the first time I have left them with a sitter to do something that had nothing to do with them or their issues. The first in over nine years.

I will go again. I don’t know that I will be much help. I am not skilled with small talk or conversation, I do better in emergencies, better when working. Maybe they will put up with me, if I am lucky. Perhaps I will get better at social cues. It is hard to pick up cues from sensitive, educated people after so many years spent in isolation. Five years in American culture does not prepare one.

There were four other people there. That is how hard it is to leave the faith in this area. Their membership seems to be less than ten. Other chapters in other cities always show more.

I will never again automatically be treated like family by perfect strangers and never again will I do the same with others. There is no sisterhood for me, no shared faith, no comforting words. I am an outsider and it breaks my heart. Everything was easier when I belonged. When I belonged to a family, to a culture, to a community. I am not comfortable anywhere else and it is no more.

I can’t replace any of it. I don’t think there is any substitution.

Birth Control – Published on Both Blogs

I have cysts. I have them in the usual place, the ovaries, and also I get them on my skin, where the skin is thin. Behind the ear, in front of the ear, armpits, etc. It’s more annoying than painful. Pain is something I tolerate decently, but if I can avoid the cysts I would rather.

When I was with my abuser I could not get medical care. I was covered for pregnancies only. After the pregnancies they would give me low estrogen pills which I suppose worked well enough. They gave me these because I was breastfeeding and those were supposed to be tolerated well by the baby and not interfere with breastfeeding. So I was effectively pregnant in some form or another for about five years.

I never lost pregnancy weight. I had my pregnancies pretty close together. Two of my kids are a grade apart and the baby has one grade between her and the next oldest. I got pregnant, had the baby, breastfed, got pregnant before weaning and repeat. So I was never suspicious of birth control pills playing any part in my weight gain. I couldn’t get out to exercise often. I was allowed some walks but not too many and not too far.

I was always starving. Normal for breastfeeding and malnutrition.

When we escaped I let the birth control lapse but I was still breastfeeding the baby. I fed her for about nine more months after we left and then it got too hard with working to keep it up. She was twenty months, anyway. The boys got two years and some. I felt bad but my circumstances were so different. She did not fuss much.

As soon as we escaped the weight started falling off. I was able to get outside, I was not so hungry, and I attributed all of that to our changed life.

When we were relocated by the District Attorney I kept losing weight in our new place. I lost a lot of weight, I was nearly my early twenties weight when I was able to focus on my own medical care. I got the children looked after first, and with eight appointments a week and a new job I just put myself last. Who wouldn’t? So when I went in to finally see an OB/Gyn I did mention the cysts and she put me back on birth control. She put me on them all the time. No weeks off. No periods. Yay! Ummmm, no. But I didn’t figure that out til later.

This is so boring, really, but it’s context. So after about three months I started gaining weight again. I was starving, all the time. I was stressed out, tired, short tempered. At this point I was about a year and a half free. We figured it was my PTSD. Sometimes it hits you after a delay, sometimes dissociation keeps you from remembering. Sometimes you are in survival mode and only get around to feeling your feelings after you hit real safety.

I went with it. I started on beta blockers to help me slow down and stop overreacting. That took care of half the issue and then quitting coffee helped me enough to feel nearly normal. Not so irritable and crazy.

Last holiday season my son got the flu and I couldn’t leave the house to get the birth control pills. There was a holiday, they were closed, I had to wait a week. You are supposed to wait a week if you miss a few days. That was the best week of my last few years.

The pain stopped. The intense hunger turned off like magic. I was no longer a slave to the stove. My caloric intake was reduced by a thousand per day. I was logging, and it was ONE THOUSAND less calories a day. No more obsessive cravings. And I was so chill. Kids got into a fight? Pull them apart and send them to different rooms, have a chat. No problem. Not my usual MO. I usually have a bit of yelling first. I didn’t know what it was from, it didn’t register until I started back on the pills and my pain and irritability started up again.

I threw them out. Okay so I have them in a bag in my car to go to the medicine recycling box at the local Sheriff’s. You know what I mean.

I live like a nun. I don’t need these pills for the usual reasons. I got some cysts. I can take it. I lost four pounds. I stopped being afraid of being found. It doesn’t seem possible now, for some reason. I started talking in therapy. I don’t do so much of a standup routine in there anymore, now I tell my therapist what happened. I got my knee fixed, my cabinets rearranged, my room tidied up, my closet sorted. Shit I put off for months is getting done. I am blogging more. I am feeling more. I am having symptoms of dissociation. Not sure if I like the last one, but it feels more real than not caring. I sleep a lot less. I wake before the alarm, and sometimes I have to take melatonin to fall asleep.

This is all from birth control. I wish I had figured it out years ago.

Consolidating Power

I spent my therapy session explaining political history and party loyalties and background of my ex’s country of origin to my therapist. The entire session, and still I was not done. But she did not know, you know, WHO he was. She does not take notes on our sessions, she is afraid to enter them into her database, since my identity is supposed to be concealed and her system is linked up to cloud.

Not that he is famous, outside of the borders he fled.

But today I read the news from there and his party has mended their rifts and taken up arms again.

I don’t want him to gain any power, from anywhere. I don’t want him to gain support or get organized or start to use his rank again for anything. I want him to stay penniless and addicted to his vices and far away from us-forever.

I don’t want to worry that he is coming for us.

Dissociation

So here is my theory on the past few weeks of crazy:
Hearing someone was in love with me and not confronting the issue immediately led to a loss of taste. Dissociation. Extreme stress.

This happened immediately after I was overwhelmed with emotions that did not fit the situation. PTSD emotional flashbacks caused by a trigger.

So what happened was some sort of inner tape went on replay. Emotional flashbacks that lasted days. Then I reacted to the stress of this skew in reality by dissociating (losing my taste) and that caused me to not want to eat at all. The lack of calories kept me in the stress reactions and also nixed my ability to sleep. Like: What? We are starving? Must be an emergency!! No sleep! Need to be alert! My really experienced stress hormones kicked into overdrive and would not calm down until I force fed myself a healthy amount.

The morning after I wrote a post on it, the morning after I had a conversation with him where he assured me he had zero plans to visit me, I woke up with the tape off, and my food was food again instead of tasteless cardboard.

I have dissociated before, the year after I left I did not even once recall any abuse or abusive incidents. I had a few dreams of being afraid but no recall was available to me. I was just surviving, trying to take care of the kids and starting over from nothing.

So I can’t say I don’t have dissociation any longer. I think I do. I thought one could only have dissociation from childhood. If that is true, I wonder what happened to me? The therapist calls it emotional neglect. Surely that is not enough to create dissociation.

I knew dating would be a bad idea for me. I am so glad I don’t try. Not everyone is going to wreck my life or kidnap me- but apparently my lizard brain believes the opposite.

Trust as Illusion

I don’t understand trust. Why are people suspicious of those they just met, and not those they live with?
Surely we have all had experiences where people we have known for ages and trusted became dangerous to us.
There is no guarantee someone will not attack you or betray you or steal from you.
All of us have experienced some sort of betrayal from people in our lives that we felt as close to as our jugular vein.
People change. You must constantly reassess your trust, anyway.
Trust, to me, is a decision. Not to be suspicious in that moment, not to look a gift horse in the mouth. I decide to trust. Anything else is me allowing myself to be lulled.
I don’t talk about this sort of thing much, others get uncomfortable with the concept. What do you think?

Replay: PTSD

So a few weeks ago a long time online friend messaged me that he was in love with me. I played it off and made light as I fell down the rabbit hole.

Fifteen years ago I was talking to an IRL friend I was helping with a legal case and he told me he loved me on MSN Messenger, which I was using for the first time. That relationship ended five years ago when I ran from him with our children with only hopes of staying alive long enough to see them safe.

Living with an abusive unpredictable monster for a decade has given me a lot of skills. Unfortunately it took me quite a few days to figure out what was going on, but in those days I did:
Come to a conclusion to be honest with my feelings instead of just deflecting his.
Spent an honest hour in therapy discussing my own trauma instead of telling jokes to my therapist as I have done for the past four years. She was stunned, I swear.
Treated the friend like an adult who I can trust despite wanting to protect him. Okay, so I did mention my various flaws in every casual conversation with him… some things never change.
Madly coped by listening to music, a lot of music, and I found some good new stuff out there.
Forced myself to eat a sustainable amount even though all food tasted like cardboard, and only lost five pounds.
Worked, every day.
Took perfect care of the children without them knowing I was rattled- though I was a bit lenient on the schedule.
Did all my self care, except sleeping, which the forced eating helped cure. Insomniacs, take note of the above and check your caloric intake.
Cleaned all the places I hate cleaning, like behind the stove and under the fridge.
Decided to purge. Got rid of half the contents of a closet and a couch I hated.
Debated intentionally with trolls daily and adequately defended the rights of women in a public internet environment instead of doing nothing with my insomnia.
Overcame some sort of sore throat virus with the help of turmeric heated in milk (thank you, internet friend’s mother).

I swear I was a superhero.

I finally pinned him down to a real conversation today and he did not mean it. When you are in love with someone, you plan, right? He has no plans, never had any plans, did not even consider any plans. He downgraded love to attraction, most notably. It was very sweet, I suppose. He, as always, was quite kind.

I always, always! fall in love with people who say they are in love with me- despite everything. This time I will never have to explain it, embrace it, or deal with any fallout. Some feelings I can keep to myself, right? The relationship it affects is mine, with myself. My life will be unchanged. I will be back to normal shortly, I expect. I am looking forward to my tastebuds registering again. Still have some purging to do in the house, though.

Oh, and my abuser, who messaged me his love on MSN so long ago? He didn’t mean it, either. He was lying that day, as he told me years later. He was fishing, and I got caught. Caught good.

Boundaries Between Identities

Most often when I try to explain emotional things my tongue dries up and my mind goes blank and I crack a joke instead.

I wasn’t always like this. I used to write poetry, free form stuff that drew pictures in the mind of the reader and also created emotional response. I used to be in touch with myself, I think.

I haven’t been able to write poetry for years. I think I stopped during my second marriage. I don’t know if it was about the marriage or about being happy or about embracing religion or about being so busy working that I put in fifty plus hour weeks. I just stopped and never started again.

I don’t know if I ever explained myself properly, emotionally. I just know I used to write it down pretty clearly. I could write rants, too. Those emotional rants you write while crying, the ones you never wanted anyone else to see. I don’t cry anymore, either. I stopped crying and talking about emotion while I was with their father.

I joined a PTSD forum a few years ago and was flagged as being in violation of the rules because my paragraphs were not double spaced on my intro (see how I am doing it here, remembering this). I made maybe four comments and never went back. It hurt my feelings, to not be able to follow the rules. It brought up some deep pain in me that I know has been there since childhood. I was always in trouble, socially.

I was in touch with myself when I was very young. I knew what abuse was, from outside, when it was being done to others. I had boundaries and I had terrible crying fits that could last hours when I realized someone didn’t love me or had cheated or had hurt me in some way. My boundaries eroded from constant battering, on all fronts. Abuse wasn’t abuse anymore, it was how things were. It was what was to be expected if I wanted to keep my religious beliefs, my husband, my everything. It wasn’t until the children were being battered that I woke up and I remembered where the boundaries should be.

Most of those boundaries never came back. I tell my children all the time where their boundaries should be, how to respect the boundaries of others. But I haven’t got them anymore, myself.

I think it is a good thing I don’t date. I think it is the best thing I have done for my children apart from separating them from their abuser.

I worry all the time that it is not enough. I worry every time I am angry that I am abusive, that my children are being scarred. My own mother was pretty cold. I don’t remember much anger from her, or much feeling, really. She compliments me all the time now and I have no idea where it is coming from. She was not like that when I was a child. I have always responded to very verbal and very intense people, like my father. Which is not a good thing, necessarily. Very verbal and intense people are often self absorbed or abusive. I just couldn’t feel people who were more low key. So I worry that I am setting my kids up to expect outbursts from people, or scolding, or punishment when I make them clean up their messes or go to their rooms. Am I being hard on myself? Maybe. I don’t know the proper boundaries. I feel a sense of panic if they have no consequences, too. I am terrified to go easy and frightened of coming down too hard.

I don’t know how or where being autistic plays into this. I don’t know where I and autism differ (perhaps we do not) and I often do not find the PTSD until retrospect kicks in. I hate it, I hate the PTSD. I was the most patient person in the universe until PTSD. Now I am tired and I am distracted and I am irritable often enough that I worry how it affects my children.

I was sick with food poisoning for the past few days. None of the last minute Christmas stuff got done. There is no one to do it for me. I have to get it done and I have to do it while being tired and meeting my prior commitments. I have to keep the PTSD at bay. I don’t want to spend Christmas yelling at my kids, like I did this evening. Kids will goof off and break rules and violate boundaries with each other. Why do I expect more? PTSD is always so much worse with stress or fatigue.

Maybe I should try EMDR. Maybe I should talk about what happened to me.

Happy Holidays.