Domestic Violence – It Affects So Many

****Trigger Warning: This post contains depictions of violence against women.

I’m writing about a difficult and personal subject today. Domestic Violence is rampant in North America, and around the world and while I could write a full book on the subject, I want to address it in the context of my own personal story – that of a person who also lived with Chronic Pain.

The Story

I met Dallas on Christmas Day of 1979 when I was 17 and he was 34. I was instantly smitten with him and he was a charmer who got what he wanted when he wanted it. I was delighted his attentions fell on me because I was lonely and on my own – hitchhiking my way around the US and far from any family or friends.

At first, I didn’t realize that Dallas was also a pathological liar. His natural ability to talk to anyone about anything and sound so convincing, plus his good looks had instantly blinded me to anything that could knock him off the pedestal I had placed him on. Oh sure, some things didn’t really “click” with me and he often told the same stories to people that built him up, but I didn’t really think about it.

I learned very quickly that Dallas was also a jealous man and didn’t like other men paying attention to me – especially when they talked to me. We were both traveling the country now, with no set plans in place, and of course he didn’t have a job (a very common scenario as I would soon figure out), but he was good at getting things from people and so we traipsed around, talking about “settling down” and heading to whatever destination would be best for Dallas to come up with a plan. That involved talking to people – or rather, him talking and me trying to make myself invisible.

The first time he hit me was after we had been sitting in a bar on the ground floor of the truck stop we were staying at. He had gone back to our room for something and when he came back, I was chatting to a gentleman next to me, who had literally just asked: “so how are you tonight”? Dallas grabbed me by the arm, dragged me to our room and then started screaming at me about being unfaithful. He backhanded me so hard, I fell across the bed and onto the floor. He yanked me up by my hair and hit me again and I just took it, I was so shocked. It was the first time of many this happened.

But I stayed. I had been living with Chronic Pain for a couple of years at this point in my life and when he wasn’t in a jealous mood, Dallas was so loving and considerate of me. He kept promising to find us a place and get a job and every few months that would happen. We’d settle somewhere, he’d start working and then do something stupid like write some bad checks or shoplift (or outright steal things from people), and we’d have to pack up and leave town, like regular thieves in the night.

Somehow, over time, this pattern became my fault though. If I WASN’T always in pain, we could just travel around the country – that was his theory. He wanted to be a truck driver, but had lost his license so wasn’t able to drive. He resented me for “holding him back from his dreams,” though I’m not sure how he actually reconciled those thoughts. What was apparent was that everything that went wrong was somehow my fault.

One night, while he was in a rage about life not turning out to be fair, he locked me outside of the wee trailer we staying at, in the middle of the night, while I was naked. It was pouring rain, there were no neighbours nearby (we were living out of town) and it was cold. I pounded on the door, but he wouldn’t let me in, and I finally was forced to hide out in the shed on the property, wrapped in a mouldy blanket I found.

The next morning, he acted like nothing had happened. He never apologised, not in words, but sometimes, he would treat me with kid gloves. I never knew from day to day, or even hour to hour, which version of Dallas I was going to get.

I spent 3 years with this man. At one point, he left me for another woman we had met after he completed a 3-month prison stint for a Parole Violation. I returned home to Canada, worked to save up some money and went back to the US to find him. I was that in love and desperate to be with him. So sad when I think about it now. I even ended up pregnant, until a fight with him turned physical and he beat me badly enough that I lost the baby.

We made up, again…I got pregnant for the second time and ended up giving birth to a lovely little boy on Jan. 30th. This time, we were going to do things right! We found a place in Bellingham, Washington to live, and Dallas began working as a house painter. For 6 months, he actually managed to stay at the same job…I truly thought he’d turned a new leaf, with his son being the motivating factor. We still fought viciously, but he only hit me a couple of times, so I thought we could still work things out. Then I became pregnant again when our son was only 6 months old.

This time, it was different. One day, he told me he was going to Seattle for a quote on a huge painting job that could really put us in the money. He left on a Thursday, promising he’d be back on Sunday night.

He never came back.

I sat at the window of the small room we lived in, waiting all Sunday night, not wanting to admit the truth but by end of the day Monday, I had to admit he was really gone. He abandoned his son and child to be, and me, the woman who had stood by him faithfully through all the pain and beatings and lies.

It took a long time for me to recover. I moved back home to Canada, gave birth to my daughter alone and became a single mom to two wonderful kids. I dreamed about Dallas all the time – what could I have done differently to make him happy? How could I have been a better person for him, so he wouldn’t beat me? What did I do that caused him to hate me so much and how could I track him down again?

I didn’t try to find him again. I did see him twice after he left – he contacted me and came to where I was, first when the kids were 1 and 2 and then again when they were 5 and 6. That was the last time I laid eyes on Dallas, and though I grieved for so many things, I had grown some self-esteem by that point and realized how much better I was on my own. I vowed I would never again be abused in any way.

Forms of Abuse

Physical

Physical abuse is probably what we think of first when we hear the word ‘abuse.’ There were always incidents of yelling and screaming at me, hitting me, pulling my hair, punching me in places that the bruises wouldn’t show and little shoves etc, in front of others to keep me under control. I learned quickly not to start conversations with people and to speak only when I was spoken to, so he didn’t get physical with me.

Mental

Mental abuse is almost harder to take than physical abuse. The bruises heal, but the words said cut deeply into the soul and you start to believe the things being said about you. I was repeatedly told I was a burden, stupid and incapable of doing the most basic things. He called me names on a constant basis, told me I was worthless and that I was lucky he let me stay with him.

Financial

Because Dallas often refused to settle down and work a steady job, money was always tight and we often didn’t know where we would eat on any given day. If we were somewhere settled, it was usually better for a bit, but when we were hitchhiking around, we were dependent on Soup Kitchens and Missions and Shelters for a meal. Sometimes I would have to prostitute myself in order for us to have money. I’m not proud of that, but I did what I needed to do in order to survive.

Security

Security abuse is rarely talked about, but it’s when you don’t have the stability of a secure place to be. We slept under overpasses and in the desert, at shelters and missions, at the homes of people Dallas would befriend in our travels…we just never knew where we would be at any given time.

It was especially difficult when I was pregnant the first two times. In addition to my Chronic Pain, I was dealing with morning sickness and cravings, and my body ached in ways it never had before. When you sleep on concrete under an overpass with just a mover’s blanket for covering, it does a number on your body.

So, what are the lessons I learned here?

The Lessons

First off, I learned that nothing I could have done would have changed Dallas. Change has to come from within and you have to want to change in order to make change happen. He didn’t see anything wrong with the way we were living except I was a constant burden to him with my chronic pain. When he wasn’t treating me with kid gloves, he was screaming and berating me.

Secondly, I learned that sometimes, people don’t show you exactly who they are right from the start. It took me a long time to accept that the real Dallas was the one who stole and lied and hit and screamed – not the one who could charm the pants off of you.

Thirdly, I learned that there are various forms of abuse and being beaten isn’t the only way that someone can hurt you. It’s especially hard to accept abuse in your life when you already live with chronic pain or illness of some type.

Fourthly, I learned that there are ways of getting out, but you have to find your own inner strength to do it. You have to stop believing the lies being told about you and realize you are worthy of better treatment. For a long time, I didn’t believe that, and I put up with the abuse because that was all I knew. When Dallas was actually loving me, he loved me so good that I could forget the nightmarish parts of our life.

It wasn’t until the next incident would happen that would put him over the edge before I’d be right back in the middle of the terror and despair and wonder why I was allowing this to happen. My self-esteem was being beaten out of me at every turn and it came to the point that I accepted I really was as stupid and worthless as he made me out to be.

Words of Advice

Does any of this sound familiar to you? You may be a victim of Domestic Violence without even realizing it, especially if your spouse isn’t physically abusing you. Financial abuse (withholding money from you), emotional abuse (berating you and calling you names) and mental abuse (separating you from family and friends, keeping you from working, etc.) are all ways that you can be abused without recognizing it at first.

If you realize that are in an abusive situation, you need a plan to get out. Don’t believe for an instant when the person says they’re going to change. They’re not and they never will. It took me 3 whole years to realize that, 3 years of being beaten and downtrodden. Even after I was finally on my own, it took time to accept that I was the innocent party in all of this.

I had a lot of guilt. You may be experiencing some guilt, as well. If only…if only I’d been a better partner. If only I’d kept my mouth shut. If only the house was cleaner or the kids were better behaved. If only I hadn’t asked for grocery money or needed tampons. The “if onlys” are so hard to deal with, but you need to accept that you are not the one who is at fault. The abuser chooses to abuse…it’s as simple as that. We all have a choice in how we handle situations and most of us choose not to hurt other people.

There are shelters and organizations that can help you if you are in an abusive situation and need to get out. It’s true that most shelters are overcrowded, but you still owe it to yourself to try them. Talk to people who run them to find out what all your options are. Start building a plan to get out, even if it can’t happen immediately. Start by calling the crisis lines in your area or any mental health organization. Here’s a list to help you get started: List of International Domestic Violence Hotlines and Advocacy Organizations

Document everything that’s going on including injuries and outward marks on your body. If you’re able to take pictures that you can safely keep (or send to someone and then delete), do so. If you can safely keep a journal, do so. If you can safely confide in one person…do so. All of this will become helpful if you decide to prosecute your abuser.

Above all, remember that there is always hope. Do what you can to minimize the violence in your situation while looking for ways to get out safely. It may not seem possible now, but don’t give up hope. Confide in someone, and be prepared to make a clean break, without going back to the abuser. You have a beautiful future ahead of you and you deserve every good thing in your life. Remember…

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Why I Blog (About Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain and Invisible Illness)

I have been blogging for a couple of years now and recently someone asked me “why do you blog? What do you get out of it?”

It was a good question, so I thought I’d write a post about my reasons for blogging and what I hope to achieve with this blog site

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Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

Education

When I first started to blog, I wrote about my total hip replacement because I’d had problems trying to find first-person accounts of undergoing that particular type of surgery, especially for someone who was in their 50’s. Hip replacements seem to be done on mostly older folks (in their 70’s or older) but rarely on the younger set, unless you’ve been born with a hip problem or have suffered a devastating injury. 

Because I was only 54 when I had my hip replacement done, I was considered “unusual” by my surgeon (and yes, I’m sure he meant my hip only and not me in general!) so trying to find others in the same position was difficult. I had read enough websites to understand the technical side of the surgery, but I wanted to find out what it was like to actually have the surgery and then recuperate and go on with life. 

Since I was unable to find a lot of good information, I decided to write about my own experiences, so others in my position might be able to find what I was looking for. Once I’d written about that, it seemed natural to go on and talk about other health issues I live with and how they impact my life. From there, the blog site grew organically and became what it is now – a place for articles and posts about Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illnesses, such as Lupus, MS, Arthritis, POTs, Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome and more. 

The goal has been achieved and I’m proud of what I’ve been able to create with this site. I hope others feel the same. 

Compassion

Living with a Chronic Illness is hard work. People with Chronic Pain and Invisible Illness are often left feeling isolated, and when you find someone online who speaks your language, it can be like finding an oasis in the desert. 

In addition to educating people, I wanted this blog site to be a place where comments could be left freely, allowing people the opportunity to share what’s going on in their lives in a safe way. When readers have identified with a particular post, their comments reflect their own lives and situations and I take that seriously. I often respond back, not always in the comment section, but in-person to what they’ve said.

My responsibility as a writer is to ensure that not only am I educating people but I’m giving them some hope as well. Life with Chronic Illness is painful physically and mentally and when you find a spot online that reflects your own thoughts and ideas and connects with you, there’s a genuine freeing sensation. You feel less alone in the world and you realize that other people “get it”. Being understood is an amazing feeling and us Chronic Pain Warriors don’t always feel understood. 

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Volunteering

In many ways, I see writing this blog as another form of volunteering that I do. My focus on health and wellbeing extends beyond this blog site, but I consider the site to be one of service to others. 

Like my other volunteer roles, I receive no compensation for producing this site, with the exception of any money I might make with Affiliate Marketing (more about that in a minute). I do this purely because I want to help others who are in Chronic Pain and who feel lost and alone and in need of information that might help make their lives better. 

My other volunteer roles include committee work for Surgical Quality Improvement, improving Clinical Resources for Patients such as updating Patient Information Sheets received when you are discharged from an ER and Laboratory Quality Control to ensure that Patients are receiving the best care possible when they are providing lab samples for doctor-ordered tests. I also sit on a Provincial Measurement Working Group that is creating a survey for Patients in British Columbia, Canada to ensure that their care received has been the best it can be. 

These roles, together with this blog, give me ample ways to help others, and that brings a lot of happiness to my soul. 

 

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Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Helping Myself

My final reason for blogging is purely selfish…I do this for me as well. It’s therapeutic to be able to write about what’s new in health care, or what I’ve been thinking about a certain subject. I love being able to tackle controversial subjects or bring emotional issues to light, such as intimacy when you are Chronically Ill. 

I consider myself lucky to be in a position where I can have some influence over others and perhaps introduce them to a treatment they haven’t heard of before. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as hearing back from someone who says “you changed my life” or “I really needed to read this”. It makes up for the research, the typing on days when my hands hurt and the work of coming up with new topics that will be of interest.

If you are a blogger, you understand what I’m talking about. If you are a reader, just let me say that having responsibility for you and what I’m producing for you is an honour I don’t take lightly. I want to make sure you’re getting information that benefits you and your health because I know what it’s like to live with Chronic Illness and I know the types of things that I’d like to read and learn from. 

Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts with you. I appreciate your comments below, or you can always write to me using the Contact Form. 

I do this because I love it. I love sharing and helping others and I hope I’m able to continue for a long time to come. Remember…

There Is Always Hope

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Note: This post contains Affiliate Links which pay me a small percentage of your purchase price at no cost to you.

When you live with Chronic Pain, everything you do becomes a new challenge. Working, socializing, taking care of kids and/or a home – you still need to do it all and live your life, but now you have persistant pain as your constant companion. Often, you find yourself compromising or looking for better ways of doing things, so your pain isn’t exacerbated.

One of the areas of life with Chronic Pain which is often not talked about is intimacy and your sexual well-being. These are crucial components of a good relationship, but what happens when pain causes you to withdraw from sexual relations, and intimacy begins to suffer? Let’s talk about some of the reasons this happens and what can be done.

Difficulties with intimacy may stem from various causes, including increased pain during sexual activity, a lack of arousal and accompanying vaginal dryness, the inability to reach orgasm, side effects from the use of opioids and other commonly-used medications (eg, certain antidepressants), a past history of sexual abuse, and issues with communication in general.

Because of Chronic Pain, you may find your overall relationship has begun to suffer. A partner may withdraw from you because they don’t know how to help you. This translates to the bedroom, where they may be afraid to cause you more pain or they’re dealing with their own issues regarding your health. Perhaps your partner has become resentful of the extra burden placed on them with your inability to do certain chores now.

A change in standard routines can be upsetting for everyone and this may cause extra fatigue for you both, which also causes you to withdraw from intimacy. Sleep may be what you crave the most, and when your partner wants to have sex, it’s the last thing on your mind.

So how do you overcome these issues? What do you do to make sex more enjoyable for both of you? Here is an expanded list of ideas from a previous post that might be a good starting point.

  • Talk. Make a point of talking openly and honestly about what you are feeling. If there is fear about pain, talk about it and what you can do to alleviate any extra. If you feel disconnected from your partner because it’s been a long time since you last were intimate, talk about those feelings and what you’re worrying about. Do you have scars or extra weight that is causing you concern? Be honest about how you feel. It can be very vulnerable to speak the truth, but it often brings you closer to your partner in the long run.
  • Touch. Exploring your partner’s body through touch is an exciting way to express your sexual feelings. This can include holding hands, cuddling, fondling, stroking, massaging and kissing. Touch in any form increases feelings of intimacy.
  • Self-stimulation. Masturbation is a normal and healthy way to fulfil your sexual needs. One partner may use masturbation during mutual sexual activity if the other partner is unable to be very active.
  • Oral sex. It can be an alternative or supplement to traditional intercourse.
  • Toys. Use of various sex toys can help loosen inhibitions, relax the body and make intercourse more enjoyable.
  • Different positions. Lie side by side, kneel or sit. Look in your library or bookstore for a guide that describes and illustrates different ways to have intercourse. If you’re embarrassed to get this kind of book locally, try an online book retailer.
  • Vibrators and lubricants. A vibrator can add pleasure without physical exertion. If lack of natural lubrication is a problem, over-the-counter lubricants can prevent pain from vaginal dryness.
  • Pillows and wedges. Make use of pillows and wedges to help find comfortable positions that alleviate pressure points. A good sex shop can help you find products specifically made for this purpose.
  • Change your expectations. Because reaching orgasm can be almost impossible when you are on certain medications, you may find changing your expectations for sex will help you enjoy lovemaking more. Don’t make orgasm the ultimate goal…just enjoy sex for what it is – a pleasurable experience.
  • Ask for what you need. Listen to your body and what it’s telling you during sex. If certain activities make you feel better, do more of that. Lovemaking doesn’t always have to end in intercourse. Oral sex during a lovemaking session may be all that you desire, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
  • Prepare in Advance. It’s important for people with Chronic Pain to understand that sexual activity often takes a lot of planning. There is not as much spontaneity as there used to be. You may find you need to take your pain medication, apply heat, or stretch before sexual activity. This is also a good time to try increasing your arousal by reading erotica, watching a video, or having your partner give you a massage in the area of your pain.
  • Timing. Choose a time of day when you have less pain as a time to be sexually active. For some people as the day goes on, the pain gets worse, but the opposite also may be true for others. If you have kids, you may have to sneak away for a quickie, but even that is better than no sex at all. If you can arrange for the kids to be away overnight, it gives you plenty of time to relax and set the stage for intimacy.

Sex is meant to be a natural part of a relationship. Just because you live with Chronic Pain doesn’t preclude you from being able to enjoy lovemaking with your partner. You might want to try some of these products to bring a new spark to your bed (or living room or bathroom or…)

Kiss Me Massage Oil

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Lynk Anal Lubricant

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Kegel Exercisor and App

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Female Stimulant

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Personal Wand Massager

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Personal Portable Vibrator

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Love Worth Making – an Intimacy Book

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Remember,

There Is Always Hope

I Need You To Need Me

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I’m tackling a tough topic again today – intimacy when you live with Chronic Pain. If you remember the Cheap Trick song, it’s been on my mind lately:

I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me.
I’m beggin’ you to beg me.
I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me.

How do you enjoy an active and healthy love life when you’re in pain all the time. How do you appease your partner, who may not understand what it’s like to be in pain 24/7. Even when you’ve explained it a million different ways, when it comes to talking about sex, and how painful it can be, it’s not an easy conversation, no matter how long you’ve been a couple. And your sexual orientation makes no difference either.
Intimacy is the fuel that keeps a good relationship running. It encompasses so much more than just sex. Think about the different ways it’s defined in the Thesaurus:

  1. the state of being intimate.
  2. a close, familiar and unusually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.
  3. an act or expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, or the like, to allow the intimacy of using first names.
  4. an amorously familiar act; liberty.
  5. sexual intercourse.

Intimacy is also about being close emotionally. When was the last time you went on a date? When was the last time you actually sat and talked to each other ABOUT each other? Not about work or the kids, but about the two of you and how you’re doing. What’s new, what’s real, what you love about each other? When was the last time you looked into each other’s eyes and said “I love you” and really meant it?
If you haven’t dated for a while, maybe it’s time you did. Here are 25 easy date ideas that might get you started in the right direction:

  1. Go furniture shopping at a thrift store
  2. Volunteer in your community
  3. Go Whale Watching together if you live in an ocean town
  4. Or go to the Zoo or Aquarium
  5. Go to the Library
  6. Play hide and seek in your local park
  7. Go to a Psychic together
  8. Go on a Scavenger Hunt
  9. Try Rollerskating at your local rink
  10. Host a dinner party
  11. Go to an Improv show
  12. Go Camping
  13. Host a Board Game party
  14. Have friends over and play board games
  15. Look at Adoptable Pets online. You know, for “someday”
  16. Do a classic Dinner and a Movie date
  17. Go Berry Picking or Apple Picking for whatever is in season
  18. Go to the beach if you have one
  19. Try out a local Bed & Breakfast
  20. How about Trivia Night at a local bar?
  21. Be a Tourist in your own City
  22. Check out your Local Theatre scene
  23. Work out the clues in an Escape Room
  24. Try out a Brewery Tour
  25. Go to Karaoke together and sing the cheesiest songs

So once you’ve reconnected and you’re ready for sex again, the Mayo Clinic offers these suggestions when you have a partner who lives with Chronic Pain*

Sexual intercourse is just one way to satisfy your need for human closeness. Intimacy can be expressed in many different ways.

  • Touch. Exploring your partner’s body through touch is an exciting way to express your sexual feelings. This can include holding hands, cuddling, fondling, stroking, massaging and kissing. Touch in any form increases feelings of intimacy.
  • Self-stimulation. Masturbation is a normal and healthy way to fulfil your sexual needs. One partner may use masturbation during mutual sexual activity if the other partner is unable to be very active.
  • Oral sex. It can be an alternative or supplement to traditional intercourse.
  • Different positions. Lie side by side, kneel or sit. Look in your library or bookstore for a guide that describes and illustrates different ways to have intercourse. If you’re embarrassed to get this kind of book locally, try an online book retailer.
  • Vibrators and lubricants. A vibrator can add pleasure without physical exertion. If lack of natural lubrication is a problem, over-the-counter lubricants can prevent pain from vaginal dryness.
*https://www.mayoclinic.org/chronic-pain/art-20044369

The key factors to intimacy are trust, respect and honesty. You need to be able to trust your partner won’t push you into something you’re not physically able to do and will respect your limits. There needs to be honesty between the two of you and with yourselves as well. Don’t use your Chronic Pain as an excuse to get out of sex if it really isn’t a problem…that’s not fair to your partner. If you’re avoiding sex for another reason, then be honest. If you’re mad at your partner for something they’ve done, then say so.

Tell them what and why and talk it out.

Don’t use your health to avoid other issues, because you’re simply breaking the trust and respect factors when you do that. You already have enough physical pain in your life – don’t add mental pain as well. Intimacy is too valuable a commodity to just throw away. Keep working on it and before you know it, you’ll be building and rebuilding the relationship of your dreams. And that’s no Cheap Trick!

There is always hope