Wednesday, February 27, 2008


So this is another stream of consciousness post. I thought of this while watching "Judge Mathis" from earlier in the day yesterday. Yeah, it gets taped on the DVR whenever there's a new episode. Can I help it that I'm addicted because the man often speaks the truth? Oh, and don't tell anyone else. But Doyle? Kind of hot.

The episode opened with a woman being sued by an ex. And he was abusive to her. Suddenly my mind raced back to those years I lived in Virginia. Excuse me if I've told this story before. I don't think I have though.

During my time in Virginia, I worked for a women's shelter. And during that year, I became friends with women who had a lot of drama going on in their lives. These were not women who were at the shelter. But I did recommend some of the services offered at the shelter to one. This woman is the subject of this post.

I met my former friend through another then friend. We both dumped the mutual friend during that first year of friendship because we quickly realized that she was a user. And she had a habit of surrounding herself with women who were feeling down. Mutual dislike can form a strong bond given the right circumstances.

Folks like to say that I am spoiled. I am. But not to the same extent that this woman was. But there was one big difference between us. I like to think of myself as a survivor of all of the crap in my life. She perpetually acted like a victim. Someone else had always done her wrong.

At one point in our friendship, she shared with me that her dad had been abusive -- physically and possibly sexually. I chatted with my boss, the director of the center. She explained that my friend's behavior was a result of her abuse. She could not recognize boundaries and it was important that I set them. I also told my friend about a group that met at the center for survivors of abuse. She didn't have a car at the time and the center was remote. I told her that if she wanted to go, I would drive her each week. She declined.

Then she got a new boyfriend. He had money. They always did. He also turned out to be abusive.

One night a group of us were out. He wanted to go home and she didn't. I said that if he wanted to leave that I could give her a ride home. (I should also point out that he had recently been released from the hospital from a 5150. One night while at a mutual friend's house he had attempted suicide. The doctors diagnosed him as bipolar -- but released him before getting his meds to the right level.) So his response to her wanting to stay? "If you stay here, I'm going to go home and kill myself." He left. I later gave her a ride home.

The next day I went to pick her up since we had planned a lunch of she-crab soup at a local restaurant followed by shopping. When I got to her apartment, there were large blood drops across the hardwood floors. It's an image I will never forget. I asked what had happened. True to his word, he had slashed at his legs upon returning home. Well, not so true. It's obvious that he was just attention-seeking. I think that's the first time that I mentioned therapy for her.

My friend eventually moved to another apartment -- one at which he did not live across the hall. But she was still dependent upon him. She had screwed up credit so when she moved, she had the utilities at her new place put in his name. Not a good move when you're thinking of dumping a guy. She dumped him and he had the utilities turned off. This was after he had tried to kick in her front door after she refused to see him.

One Saturday morning, I received a phone call from her mom who was out of state. Her mother had gotten my phone number from an old phone bill from when my friend had been visiting. My friend was supposed to have called her mother from a pay phone the previous evening but had not. Her mother was concerned -- as I was at that point. Her mother also asked me what I had thought of the guy. At that point, I had learned that at times when he was in a rage, he had choked her. So yes, I was deeply concerned. I wrote down her mother's phone number and said that I would make calls around town to other friends. They all told me that they had seen her on that Friday night and the last that they had heard was that she was going to call her mother. They were equally concerned. I called her mother back and then her mother put me on three-way with my friend's father. (Her parents were legally separated.) They asked if they should call the police at this point. I told them that if they didn't, I would. Her parents called the police.

My friend called me shortly thereafter. When the police arrived, they found her ex parked outside of her building. He had been there since the previous evening. She had not gone out to the phone because she was afraid for her life. (He owned a gun.) So she stayed holed up in her apartment with no contact to the outside world. After the police showed up and made him leave, she called me from a neighbor's. I had been in conversation with one of our friends -- someone whom her ex had never met, someone whom he didn't know existed. We all agreed that this other friend's house would be the safest place for her. (He knew me and knew where I lived. I gave my roommates instructions that the doors were to be locked at all times. Prior to this, we never locked the doors. This is how the frat guys who lived next door would come shopping for stuff like toilet paper when we weren't home.) I told my friend to throw enough in a suitcase for at least a week; I was on my way.

I picked her up something like 15 minutes later and then spent another 30 minutes doing evasive driving around town. I had to make sure he wasn't tailing us. Funny the things one learns when working at an anonymous shelter. (Prior to this, I had gone to court with one of the shelter residents. Her husband had cursed us all out over the phone and had threatened to bring a gun to court. He owned quite a few. There were no metal detectors in the courthouse at that time so I had had to show up early to warn the deputies. They patted him down with extra care when he showed up. And when court was dismissed for the day, I was escorted to my car by a deputy with the instruction to drive around a lot to make sure that no one was following me. I was paid $15 an hour. But I loved my job.) So eventually I got her to our other friend's house. And except for the stuff that she had put in a storage unit that he was paying for (He cleaned it out and then changed the lock.), this was the end of the really scary guy.

And I guess I thought of all of this because of current events. I've always been pretty good in a crisis. I now sometimes wonder if this is an innate trait or a product of my childhood. Because there was some drama when I was growing up. And I was always the cool, rational one. Even if that was not what was going on inside of me, my childhood taught me to be the consummate actor. By high school, I could tell someone a bold-faced lie and they wanted to believe because I was so convincing. The key was to never show people what's really going on. When your world is falling apart, smile. When I was in my 20s and landed in therapy, I learned that this was key to my self-destructive behavior. (This is the real reason why I decided to let go of my hardcore partygirl behavior. It was just another form of self-destructive behavior. And maybe that's why I come off as so grounded now. Because I had to learn how to live in the now with an eye to the future. The past was going to kill me. It's an easy thing to do when you realize that the 16-year-old you would be shocked that you're still alive now.) I smiled and held stuff in. And the only way to end the behavior was to not smile all of the time.

So for right now, this is the place where I stop smiling if only for a brief moment. I don't have a lot of these kind of places in my life. Emerald, Jade, and Kate. they are the ones who can always see through all of my bullshit. Because my former friend did actually meet Emerald and was quite honored. She told me that I have a way of compartmentalizing my life and as such the people in my life. I only let each person know so much of me. But no one has the complete picture. It is extremely rare that I let people from different parts of my life interact with one another. There is a voice in the back of my head that says that the less that someone knows about you means that there is less of a chance that this person can truly hurt you. Even though we are no longer friends, this alone was a great lesson to learn from a friendship.

If you know anything about dysfunctional families, then you know that each person has his/her role. And mine is to smile and to shoulder the brunt for everyone else. I guess I'm a lot like my mother in that way. Because that was her role in her family when she was growing up. Maybe that's why she always said, "Be strong. Don't cry." She had learned the importance of not showing any sign of what could be conceived as weakness. Over the years, I have since realized that this is a result of lack of trust. And I want to trust and to believe in the world. So every now and then, I'm just not going to smile. And heck. You may even see a tear go down my face.

And if I actually post this, then I know that I have made a huge step forward in my life.

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