Chained, the beginning of the End

update: I will soon add to this post as installments, and dedicate a separate section of my blog to my Journey out of Domestic Violence and Codependency. *note* trigger warning*

Part 1 .

Danny was bad. Seriously. But he was not bad looking. He sent me an 8 x10, taken at the state penitentiary around 1987. He looked fine in all white, his hair dark, eyes light. Standing posed in the South Carolina sun, just right to show off his biceps and tattoos. Mom even said how handsome he was, looking remarkably like an actor on Dallas. She watched that show, faithfully. I stared into that image…frequently.

I’d only been out of jail for a few weeks, feeling squirrelly, ready for some action. The dude, Eddie and I hooked up the day after I got home to my parents house, and I remember thinking ,”He’ll do for now.”. The future looked wide open, but my addiction came home from jail with me. I dutifully went to AA for months, not drinking but smoking some weed now and then. Much more ‘now’, than ‘then’.

I never forgot Danny, tho’. As that year passed I dutifully worked as a correspondence link for Danny’s girl, Sandy, and him. The State Prison system didn’t allow letters to move from one institution to another, I said I’d be their “go between”. But as her feelings for Danny cooled, mine warmed, and not wanting to break his heart I tried to fill the void with cheerful words about my life. Thinking back I gotta laugh…break his heart? Anyway, Eddie seemed to not care, I explained the set up, neglecting to mention that Sandy had moved on and married some other dude.

the artist, poet, writer, and survivor: S. T. Martin

Life and the pursuit of a geographical cure to my cocaine addiction led me across country late in 1988. Skipping on our rent in the wee hours of a Monday morning in late September, we piled into my 1970 Mustang Fastback. I had lost my license at some point that year so one drunken weekend I decided to buy red spray paint and paint the hot rod without any prep work. Runs, drips and overspray on the windows turned the nice looking sport car into an attention grabbing mess. So, after pawning some stolen electronics I put her “in the wind”, leaving family, jobs and all common sense behind.

I lost the car in Fort Deposit, Alabama, to a “nice” state trooper who pulled up minutes after the car broke down. He determined that I had no money for repair, so rather than be taken to jail I chose the other option he offered… the car being impounded and Eddie and I being given a lift…to the impound lot.

Only taking what we could carry, plus my Boxer dog, Spice, and calico cat, Binky Boots Bouncer Callahan (neice of “Dirty” Harry Callahan), we trecked a few paces away from the impound lot and rested. I was sick now, jonesing and hungover and sorely missing my car in the rapidly cooling air. Night was coming and we were all hungry, Eddie found some change in his pocket and crossed over the Interstate to scrounge us some food at a truck stop. He came back with a can of tuna, which we split 4 ways.

“Hmmmmm…this ain’t gonna be no joyride…” I mused.

“We’ll make it…” He grinned sheepishly, not exuding much confidence. In turn, I did not feel any , either. The concrete underpass we were using as shelter didn’t block much wind. It got down to 42 F. that night, my feet hurt so bad in the cold that Eddie sat on them. I cried.

Our trip across country was successful in one respect: we made it to the west coast and put a foot in the Pacific Ocean. There are so many other stories I have to tell you about the 18 months we lived in Arizona. I won’t tell them now.

I started with Danny, I will end with him. Thank God I will only end with him in this blog post, not in this life. He passed away in 2018, married to another. I can’t understand why I still think of him as “mine”. After you read this, maybe you can tell me.

Part 2.

What came first, Bipolar Disorder, Sexual Assault, Codependency, Addiction, PTSD? I am not going to answer that question, thats for the Scientists. When I write these installments about my life experiences I do not want you, gentle reader, to think this is me romanticizing the life I lived. It is by the skin of my teeth that I survived, most people do not. I grew up with my head full of movies, books and television telling little girls that the “Bad” guys were the sexy ones, that a smack was “what a girl needed” and that sexual assault and rape were justified and designed to “keep a woman in her place”. The whole “walking three steps behind” was an idea embraced by the people I was surrounded by, and degrading talk towards the women I loved and looked up to was the norm. I don’t think I am alone in saying that my family was raised with the idea of the man ruling with an iron fist, the woman being a servant rather than an equal. The harder the father was, the more “manly” a daughter may think a partner should be.

Whether or not mental illness caused me to fall into this mindset easier and deeper than my peers , I do not know. I do know that of my girlfriends growing up, many of us had violent boyfriends, but almost none ever talked about it. When a friend would sport a black eye it was either ignored, or looked at as some kind of badge of honor.

I was unfortunate in that I wanted my Peers approval more than anything else. I so lacked love and confidence that I would do anything, literally anything for their acceptance. This held true in all my “romantic” relationships as well.

Was my Ex (who I call Danny, not his real name) the only abusive person in my life? No, indeed. He was by far the most accomplished at this form of torment and, by the grace of God, the last abuser I ever dealt with. I am grateful to him for this: Being the catalyst for my transformation to a life free from drugs, alcohol, violence, crime, and abuse.

Over the past 20 years since I was his wife, I learned to understand codependency. I made the decision to join a group of fellow survivors and guided by a counselor we we taught about the cycle of abuse and how to break free. If you are in a similar situation I urge you to seek community help, society has come a million miles from the days of suffering in silence and hiding your bruises. We have many miles to go, at least we have wonderful assets and years of reforms to help reduce the of domestic abuse today.

I am including a trigger warning in these posts, and I am using caution for my own health also…if it gets to hard to talk about I will stop. I still have flashbacks, I guess I always will. But I can detach myself more now than I used to, now that my abuser is deceased.

So why talk about my past at all? I still need to. I don’t hate the person I used to be anymore, but I did. Oh, boy, did I ever. I loathed myself for the things I had done for him, and for the things he had done to me. I felt I had to cut this part of myself off, completely and most firmly, and bury her somewhere where all this hate would leave me alone. But that does not work, I found. Hate buried grew, festered and eventually began poisoning my life in sobriety. It effected my ability to care about myself in the present. The way I perceived myself suffered and my confidence did also. One day a few years ago, a very astute and kind counselor had me do something profound. He pulled an empty chair up beside mine and asked me to visualize the “past” me sitting there. He had me describe how I felt about her, what I saw. I described a horrible person deserving death, without showing a hint of mercy. Then he asked me to see how sorry she was for the things she had done, how abused she was, how truly sick and crushed. Man, it just hit me like a ton of bricks. He asked me if I would forgive someone else who had gone thru what past me had gone thru…thats when the tears came. Torrents of them, and a realization I could live free from that awful burden of hate I had been carrying. Whew… I even feel it now, still! And I have to remind myself at times to keep having that self love, self forgiveness for mistakes. I used to have an old Deep Purple album entitled, “Who do we think we are?”; I relate this to the thought that is my Creator can forgive me, them who do I think I am if I can’t!

That’s where I am today, friend. Just me. But I love my life today, even broke and wearing an old sweatshirt and sneakers… Even in my little home with my little scruffy dog! We both have the same haircut these days!

I hope you enjoy my writing and art. If you do, feel free to follow ! talk to you soon!

“FACING A HEAD”, ¬©SusanT.Martin2020

Built Up in Love

…Know that you are loved…

I just attended one of my meetings on Zoom, for Worship. It amazes me how much these 2 meetings per week have become my greatest source of comfort, by seeing all my loving friends. It’s wonderful to feel the warmth-it even comes in loud and clear thru the computer!!

Isolation can be a killer for the mentally ill. There have been times when the only thing pinning me to this fabric of life was contact with another human being. The worst part of being so deeply depressed and out of hope, for me as a Bipolar person who used to have suicidal ideations, was that all I could see, ALL I COULD SEE, was the abyss. I had absolutely no ability on my own at that point to make a decision to reach out of the blackness for help. When you are in the dark, it is difficult to see a friend. The emptyness seems to stretch endlessly away, I had no thought of how I would hurt my loved ones.

I thank my God that someone saw my despair, and made a move, even though I said I was fine. Over and over and over…I would paste on a smile, because we of the depressed masses are SO GOOD AT ACTING, and repeat the phrase, “Oh no, I’m really fine, just a little tired…”, or “Nothings wrong, seriously, I’m fine.” Especially as a teen, I knew just how to shut my Mom down with a roll of my eyes and an exaggerated sigh of frustration. A slammed door worked well too.

At the time in my life when I was suicidal, I was not yet diagnosed with any mental illness. I was a teenager, had been sexually abused routinely, had been drinking and taking drugs for years, and felt so sick inside, mainly with self-loathing. Up to that point, say around age 13, I was starving for love and attention at home. I know now that it was largely in part due to my parents’ exhaustion at working constantly. But there was more. My Dad was tired, constantly, and angry, and he was very grouchy. I was SO sensitive that every word he said was rejection. I was not at all at fault, but I was acting out my need for love in promiscuity. Of course , having been sexually abused by trusted adults beginning at age 8, I’m sure I needed serious counselling even that early, but those were the years before it was ok to talk about such things.

I had many experiences where I heard my best friend and I being blamed for causing the abuse, even at the ages of 8 and 9, by the abusers co-conspiring wife, in the courtroom!!!! Also, the old-fashioned Protestant attitudes exhibited by Grandparents and Aunts and other family members told me in no uncertain terms that these abuses were never to be mentioned again. Nice girls didn’t talk about such things! Nobody will ever want to marry you!! You are “spoiled”now!!

These lies and the ensuing actions of not being cuddled, or hugged, or even being allowed to accompany my beloved little cousin to gymnastics class seared my little heart and mind. How does a child process rejection? She doesn’t know that her family is perpetuating the trauma, or that they are sick too, or just plain mean. She believes the lie that she is unlovable . Imagine for a minute: An eight year old believing it is HER FAULT that she was violated . That Daddy and Grandma don’t love her anymore…

Sin’s Web ¬©STMartin

So clear to me now, how wrong they were. And it also so WONDERFUL THAT I understand now. I hope so much that someone out there sees this who has a loved in a similar situation, and reaches out to the child, or teenager, or adult…Tell them IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT !!! You are LOVED, AND CHERISHED, AND NOT TO BLAME!!!

The circumstances that the abuse happened under were not caused by you. You absolutely DID NOT WANT THIS TO HAPPEN, NOR DID YOU MAKE THIS HAPPEN!! Repeat these truths over and over, until you can truly believe them. You must try, even though it may seem to be the hardest thing in the world, to find someone safe to talk to. For me, this was a Doctor at the emergency room, where I wound up after jumping out of a moving car. He really cared, even though I refused to talk initially. He did not judge me, or act shocked, or even run and get my Mom. Today, after years of treating sexual assault the fault of the victim, I would hope that ALL Doctors would give help and comfort to assault victims. This most likely is not the case, so don’t give up in seeking help. There are suicide prevention hotlines you can call, also 911 and 211 in the US. In the front of the phone book, if they still make these, there are lists of helpful organization, also safe places to go.

I know how hard it is to reach out, but you can do it. If you don’t feel up to talking to a human, there is still the BEST FRIEND you will ever have, who you can talk to, Anytime, Anywhere, out loud, or silently from your hurting heart… This person is God. Jehovah is his name, and he is Jesus’ Father. He knows you are hurting, and he wants you to call on him…

I did not believe that God could love me, and I suffered on my own for 20 more years. You don’t have to suffer that long!

Psalm 34:18 says, ” Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 94:19 reads,”When anxieties overwhelmed me, you comforted and soothed me.”

Psalm 27:10 also says, “Even if my own father and mother abandon me, Jehovah himself will take me in.”

For me, praying to God has been my lifeline. Even though I live alone now, I know He hears my prayers anytime and every time. I say, “in Jesus name.”at the end of all my prayers because Jesus tells us at John 14:6 , “No one comes to the Father except thru me.” Thus is because God made Jesus High Priest and God requires that we acknowledge this when we pray! So Jesus also states this truth in the Bible at John 16:3,

” If you ask the Father for anything, he will give it to you in my name.”

One of my favorite verses in the Bible offers me so much insight into God’s love for us . It is in Isaiah 41:10, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes I will help you, I will really hold onto you with my right hand of righteousness.”

I hope this brings you comfort and hope. Know that you are loved…