Posted byFuture For Fina
Posted onDecember 6, 2013
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Most of you know I’m packing up and moving on to another location. This blog has served as such a great place for me, and I won’t ever walk away from the posts or feelings I shared because they are me.
The good news is you can find me easily.
1 – Head over to Sarafinabianco.com and follow the new blog. I promise to be just as honest.
2 – Sign up to receive emails documenting all of the hot new things happening in my life. They’ll be delivered to you privately. Try it out.
3 – Send me an email. We haven’t talked in a while and I miss the fuck out of you. Future4fina@gmail.com
Now that you know I’m available to you 24/7/365, please let me say how grateful I am to have you in my life. You’ve been with me through pain and suffering. Let me make it up to you by showing you my softer side. Don’t worry, I’m not totally gushy. I still love to say fuck and shit. See? Same Fina, different place. Come visit soon!
Things are changing for me, in the best ways possible. I hope you’ll travel this journey with me.
Try me here.
Not only am I posting here twice a week, but I’m also working on two chapters of my book every week. On top of that, I’m in three of the busiest weeks of the school year: Homecoming, the end of quarter one and Senior night (at the football game), and Parent/Teacher conferences. I’m wiped. For three weeks in a row, I’m spending over fifty hours a week at work. Then I have to find time to grade. And plan. Oh, and write. But I cannot afford to allow my chaotic schedule to hinder my writing, so I’ve been pushing through, spending hours at the computer instead of in the grade book. And even though parts of my life are suffering because of the sacrifices I’m making, I’m also learning to make the commitment to writing. It’s no longer a hobby. I have to be okay with that.
Becky told me to start checking off the completed pieces of my action plan, so I can see how much I’m accomplishing. Because, truth be told, it’s hard to see the progress without the visual verification. And Ranee gave me some much-needed words of praise this week, too. So I’m feeling pretty okay about what I finished and where I’m headed. And I need to keep moving forward. I’ve known both these women for several years, since the beginning stages of this blog. Now they help me get shit done, sometimes through non-violent slaps. I’m thankful for your help, ladies. I hope you know how much you mean to me.
There is a storm when writing about the past. For me, it’s especially difficult not to trigger my PTSD while vividly memorializing the nightmare I lived through. My time in therapy is spent moving forward, so I try to balance the amount of writing I’m doing with the progress I’m making there: any relapses set me back in my recovery. My recovery is the piece that makes me able to put pen to paper. Balancing these two pieces has been exceptionally difficult. But I’m working through it. No matter how fucking hard it is.
I often remind myself of several things:
1 – I owe it to myself to finish my book. I deserve to make this dream come true.
2 – I owe it to every woman who knows what it’s like to lose themselves in an abusive relationship but may or may not know how to cope. They are me. I am them.
3 – I am quite capable of managing my obligations, even when they’re overwhelming.
4 – I am a survivor. And I will survive this, too.
This process is bigger than me now. And it’s certainly bigger than my struggles. I’m writing through the storm, because when the sun shines over the top of all of this, I want to look back and be proud of the way I handled the rain.
I posted this two years ago. Funny how life has changed. And remained the same. So strikingly similar are the nightmares and fears, even if they aren’t as constant. There is hope in reading this (for me), because I know I will continue to grow and get stronger, if I continue to seek the help I need. I hope the women who need to see this will find their way to my blog tonight. If you’re here, gorgeous, this one is dedicated to you.
I’m not weak.
I , legitimately, walk the planet on a daily basis knowing that there is someone out there that wants to physically harm me. I live knowing that, at any minute, Scott could return. And I’m only able to do this because on a hot July afternoon I picked up my broken body from the concrete floor and limped out of the door, without looking backward. Nobody else did that for me. Nobody was there to protect me from the madness, nor did they hold me by the arm while I walked on a strained ankle and battered knee. I was in so much pain that I wanted to crawl. But I didn’t, knowing that if I took even a second longer than necessary he might kill me. Weakness wasn’t an option. Strength is what allowed me to survive. And it kept me alive every day before and every day after.
It wasn’t easy to come home to a house that didn’t have electricity or running water. It was heartbreaking to have my car repossessed two days after I made the decision to leave. Trying to find a job, without a car, was embarrassing and difficult. But I did it. And I lived in a home for the next several months knowing that, at any moment, he could walk back into my life (and my house) because he knew where I was and he knew that my back window was broken out (because he shattered it with his left fist).
Survivors of domestic abuse are strong. We fought our own disease. Don’t ever doubt that. It’s offensive. It’s appalling. It’s also the easiest way to find yourself outside of my circle of friends. I’m not asking you to understand what I’ve been through, but I am asking you to understand that my strength is there.
Abuse rearranged my beliefs. Yours are only yours. Don’t try to pawn them off on me.
Abuse changes everything. Before my abuse I searched for answers about religion. I wasn’t sure who made decisions or why they were made, but I wanted to find out. I looked for answers in churches and conversations. But when things began to become abusive and I seriously questioned whether or not I’d be given the opportunity to wake up the following morning, I became an evangelical Christian. I PRAYED and pleaded and THANKED god that he was there, looking over me and keeping me alive. I knew that he had a message for me…that I was there for a reason. I stayed, longer than I should have stayed, because my faith in the lord was strong enough that I ‘knew’ I would live.
Yet something changed inside of me during that time and now I say this almost every day: when you are slammed against a concrete wall and thrown down a flight of stairs…when YOU are YOUR ONLY HOPE for survival and no higher being is there to lift you out of an awful situation, your hope lies within your own heart. I knew I had to get out. I knew I was the only one PERSON who could save myself. And I still know that. My savior? Myself. When you tell me that god helped me get out of the situation, and to thank him for that, it takes away from the strength and courage that I had to conjure. No higher power got me out of that house. It was my feet, my heart, and my strength. It was me.
Dating isn’t the answer.
If dating were the answer, I would’ve started already. Yes, at some point, I have to start seeing other people again, but I deserve to (and will) give myself enough time to feel ready before I allow someone to buy me dinner. I already understand that I won’t ever feel fully ready to date, but respect me enough to let me make the choice for myself. When the day comes that I say, “Okay. I want to try this again,” your help will be appreciated. Until then, questioning my readiness only pushes me further away from the idea. I’m not ready because I don’t trust anyone that I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t trust a lot of people who I do know. I have to retrain my brain. I have to accept myself. I have to feel strong enough that I won’t second guess every move I make. I still do that with friends. How could I ever create a successful relationship from that? I couldn’t. So please stop trying to tell me that I should.
I won’t get over it…soon.
I can’t get over it because my life has been forever changed. Downplaying the severity isn’t helpful; it’s denial. Acknowledgement and acceptance are necessary.
Some days are easier than others; I know it’s getting better. Yet there are days that I’m crying before I get out of bed. I don’t want to leave my apartment. I’m angry and sad and scared. The world isn’t one that seems to hold opportunity on those days. It’s a place that swallows me whole. On those days I have to remind myself that I was in such a devastatingly bad place a year prior. I have to allow myself to cry in the shower, so that I can keep it together during the work day. I have to be angry on the way to work, and I have to remind myself that I wasn’t allowed to feel anything for two years of my life. I wasn’t allowed to be human, so how can I expect myself to act like I am human?
Every week I feel stronger, even though I’m digging into the issues further and further in therapy. I do feel better…but just because my recovery doesn’t fit your needs doesn’t make my small steps any less significant for me. I am moving forward. If you can’t handle the pace, then just don’t say anything at all. I will get there. Your doubt and criticism prolong the recovery process.
Never ask me why I stayed.
If an abuser was abusive from day one, there isn’t a woman in the world that would stay. Scott was charming, he was romantic and understanding. He took care of me, complimented me, and made me feel as if I was the only girl who had ever made him feel loved. He listened. Scott helped me heal a wound in my heart from my previous relationship. He was everything that was missing from every relationship I’d ever been in. What 26-year-old girl, looking for love, wouldn’t stay in a relationship like that?
I’d talked up his dedication and love to my friends and family. I’d beamed with pride when I thought about my relationship. We were in love and we were great together, so it wasn’t exactly easy to admit to anyone that things had changed.
When things began to turn, when the verbal manipulation began, I saw this as the man who I loved changing…and I needed to do whatever it took to fix the problem and make things go back to the way they once were. So I devoted my free time to ‘fixing’ the issues because then I wouldn’t have to eat my words. I bent over backwards to make sure he was happy. For awhile, it worked.
But anyone that has ever been in an abusive relationship will tell you that right when you think you’ve ‘fixed’ something, your attempts aren’t good enough anymore. More is expected of you. And, by the time you realize this is the cycle, you’ve already given up so many things in your own life that you feel like you’re trapped. If you try to leave, he’s going to come after you. If you stay, you’ll eventually get to the point where he’s happy. He can’t really expect the world from you…so you just have to reach his expectation.
Why did I stay?
I stayed because I loved him. I stayed because I thought that I could help him. I stayed because I have a heart that works the way a normal heart should work. It’s one that tries to love unconditionally and doesn’t assume others will meet their expectations. It’s one that assumed that a man who treated me so well was only suffering from something else. Maybe if his mother was nicer to him. Maybe if his dad didn’t expect so much of his time at the office. Maybe if his son’s mother wasn’t such a bitch. Maybe if he could find a medication that would actually help with his ADD. Maybe if he hadn’t taken steroids in college. Maybe.
I stayed because I was trying to solve a problem. My heart kept me there for a long time…
…and then he put a gun to my head.
He picked it up off of the top of the refrigerator and cackled his manipulative laugh. He turned around, put his hand on my shoulder, and I could feel the cold metal of the barrel on my temple. He said he loved me so much that he could kill me. He laughed again. And then the gun was placed back on top of the refrigerator, where it hung just out of reach. But it was close enough that he could grab it if he wanted. And it was close enough that I could see it while I was cleaning the kitchen. It was a constant reminder that he could kill me.
And I was never left alone anymore, so I couldn’t escape. I wasn’t allowed to be out of his eyesight. He got me a job at his office so that I could be there with him all day too. I was trapped in his life.
So I stayed because I didn’t want to die. Because somewhere inside of me I knew that if I tried to escape he’d pull down the gun again. And he’d load my head with bullets. But staying meant I’d have a chance at another day.
A list of 1,000 reasons why I stayed wouldn’t ever appease someone who’s never been in my shoes. And that’s fine. But the bottom line is that when you ask me why I stayed, it puts the blame on me. It alleviates Scott of any of the blame. Why did I stay? I stayed for a million reasons. Why don’t you ask why I left? Or why he was abusive? Or if I’m still scared?
Don’t ask me why I stayed. The answer is far too large and confusing. And I’ll never give you the answer that you want me to give, because no answer I give you will make you understand. I know that. And I think deep down you do too. So just let it rest. And let me rest too.
I’m sitting in my classroom. It’s in Alumni Hall: the walls are lined with the senior class photos of past graduating classes. I wish I could say every walk of life was represented but I work in middle class suburbia, and the only colors I see are white, green, and gold. Still, sometimes I stop and look at the faces and names of those who used to laugh in the same hallway, and I wonder how many of them have dealt with crippling hardships.
Cancer. Car accidents. Death in any form. Abuse.
My cause is not the only worth mentioning. But it’s not spoken of enough. Cancer doesn’t need a month, truthfully. It’s publicized on the news, plastered across ta-tas, and pimped by every race, gender, and faith. Car accidents and death both cause the victim to be highlighted for the good in their lives, because it’s sad to hear of a anyone’s death being unwarranted. Sadly, abuse isn’t like that.
We hear of ‘domestic disputes’ on Cops. And see ‘domestic disputes’ on the local news, but only when someone other than the abused partner is hurt, like a police officer who responded to a call. Or maybe if, tragically, someone – a victim – is murdered. And we downplay the severity of someone brutally attacking another person with an umbrella term. Excuse me, but there wasn’t actually any argument the day he called me a ‘whore’ then slapped me across the face because our server told me I had a pretty smile.
But in everyday life everyone owns a ‘wife-beater’ and people often joke about women ‘knowing their role.’ These are just jokes, we say. “Lighten up, Fina. It was harmless,” people tell me.
Fuck you, if you aren’t offended by this:
I gave you earth lessons, I came to you as a blessin’. You didn’t do the knowledge what the God was manifestin’. You sneaky fuck bitch, your ways and actions told it all. I fucked you while you was bleedin, held you down in malls. Sexually you worshipped my di-dick like a cross.”
Lyrics from this guy. Wu-Tang Clan isn’t an underground group. Neither is Snoop Dog or Dr. Dre. But DV isn’t just in rap music. It’s everywhere. These are artists, we say. “Things like this don’t actually happen, Fina. It’s hyperbole,” people tell me.
And PLEASE don’t ask me to talk about Rhianna or Chris Brown. No, he hasn’t ‘recovered.’ Do your research and see how many sociopathic abusers can actually recover from this. Seriously. Do it.
So I walk the hall and count the youthful smiles of those who graduated years ago. Sometimes I find myself staring at the pictures, counting off the heads of the women, wondering which of every four had a fist in their cheek. And then wonder what her recovery looked like. Was it like mine, long and full of pain? Or did she get out early enough to save herself from years of therapy?
When she hears someone refer to their tank top as a wife-beater, does she instantly feel like she’s a victim again? Does common culture making light of her life-changing issue make her feel as if nobody understands or cares about what she went through, and make her feel alienated again?
Yes, I’m projecting my experience on an unknown survivor, but it’s because I live this life. And you don’t. So I’m trying, while being abrasive, to get someone outside of the DV community (how sad to have a community) to see life is altered forever for women like me. Or maybe piss you off enough to get you to react.
I can’t listen to music without thinking of the day he forced me to do cocaine.
I can’t wear a simple undershirt without thinking of the times he stood over me in the hallway, waiting for me to try to get up, only to push me back to the floor (and kick me again).
People can’t make jokes with their significant others, seemingly harmless as they may be, without me feeling like I’ll be threatened next.
But where is the outpouring of love for people who have been hated? Where are the ‘Save the ta-tas from the pricks who think they own them’ shirts? Can you hear that? It’s the sound of crickets.
So I walk back into the safety of my classroom, where I don’t have to look at the faces of those who suffered the same fate as me. And I play ignorant, too, because life feels easier.
Look, I won’t lie. I refuse to. Part of the reason I write about domestic violence is because there are too many questions which seem unanswered. Which only perpetuates ignorance, and ignorance breeds fear. Which leads to blame. And since survivors usually don’t want to talk about their experiences and abusers can’t tell the fucking truth, well, we’re all left with questions and unintentional ignorance. And victims are blamed because they aren’t screaming louder than the sociopath who hurt them. So consider this my first attempt with one of the biggest questions I’m often asked:
If there was anything my friends and family could have done to ‘save’ me from my abuser.
More often than not, I’m asked by someone who is fearful for a friend. Last week I was asked this very question by someone I talk to often about someone I care for very deeply (although we haven’t spoken in many years). My answer? People often push victims further into their relationships when they’re trying to help. Sometimes hard answers are necessary, even if we do not understand or agree with them. It’s unlikely this will be easy for you or them. Ask yourself what is most important: ease or effectiveness.
The answers to this question are brought to you Safe Connections, a non-profit organization in St. Louis, Missouri. They changed my life with their commitment to helping abuse survivors. And they can help anyone of you reading this. Please go HERE to read their educated, professional response.
Until next time,
Your furrowed brow, the visible wrinkles in your lips as they press together: we see how you feel before a single word escapes your lips. Yes, you’re exhausted. I get it.
There are unspoken lines you cannot cross. They stretch across every surface, even those covered in apparent safety. Don’t question us or you’ll be on the other side. Three fingers point back at you. And the unfair mood swings you must endure come out of nowhere, smacking you in the face (the way they smacked us). Unexpected, unfair, unacceptable. But hope still lives inside of you. Maybe someday we’ll change. Get better. It keeps you alive, grabbing at glimpses of normalcy. A smile so faint repairs the broken pieces, the wounded parts. We’re special, and you remember why when the creases surface near our pale cheekbones. The difficulty of watching us suffer only subsides when you grip the memories tighter. So you clinch down on feelings until your fingernails break skin. Because the parts of us you fell in love with are hiding somewhere barely out of reach. And you know you can help us find them again.
Cyclical. Exhausting. Confusing. Can you see it yet?
Loved ones of abuse survivors don’t realize they resent us for unintentionally making them live through a tiny slice of what we endured. While the emotional strain seems unfair, choices were made (by you): ones based on unconditional love and acceptance, a hope for change. Change that will make life easier for everyone. We’ll be healed and you’ll have back the person you remember. At least that becomes truth for you when we get help. PTSD symptoms can go away. The person you loved becomes real again. Your life is finally normal.
But the people we loved question us. Question our behaviors. Wonder why we stayed for as long as we did. Resent the time they had to spend helping us rebuild our lives. Time wasted, in their eyes. Because if we were smart enough, strong enough, loud enough, nobody would be dealing with the aftermath. And we feel it, so we start referring to the others as ‘them.’ And I start writing to ‘you.’ We refer to survivors as ‘us’ or ‘we.’
I’m not implying it’s intentional or ‘you’ are to blame. I am, however, asking you to offer ‘us’ a safer place to land. Try to remember how sick we are. The world hasn’t been kind.
It’s okay to be exhausted. It’s not okay to show it (at least, not to us). We need your support. Your grace. Your love.
The person we loved most in the world tried to kill us. We survived it. Our hearts probably didn’t. Please, please, please try to remember what we’ll never forget.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Get educated. Speak out. Wear purple.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. I’m giving you two posts a week until November because, well, I want to blow open some pretty old, heavy doors right now. Celebration comes in many forms. This one, for me, is celebrating my voice. The one that was taken away for so long. It’s back now. And I intend to use it as much as possible this month (expect darkness and inappropriate language).
It’s understandable for the majority – 75% of women, to be exact – who will never come face to face with domestic violence to shy away from the severity of the issue. If it’s not tangible, if it isn’t draping sheets of sadness around us, then it’s likely others haven’t, and maybe won’t, become victims either. But society misses that avoiding what is uncomfortable, the scary possibility that your best friend could have her skull shattered by her partner, only creates a platform for the issue to be ignored and grow larger. And then the head pounding only gets worse. Next time she’ll need staples.
Ignorance is not only prominent in our society, but it’s one of the largest reasons domestic violence still lives behind broken window frames and underneath turtleneck sweaters. It’s why police officers aren’t educated on the dynamics of domestic violence and the cycle of abuse. Why, when they showed up at my house the three times I called, they looked at me like I was the problem and like I was too stupid to leave. Standing on my newly waxed hardwood floors, grabbing at their tight black belts, twiddling their fat thumbs at me. And the only message they left me with was their silence, which made it really fucking easy to keep mine, too. Don’t get me wrong, the blame shouldn’t be placed on those who are sworn to protect us. But it should be placed on a system which doesn’t value the lives of individuals who are trying to escape a monster the system doesn’t understand. I don’t blame the individual; I blame the culture.
More knowledge. We need it. Echoing through traditional, conservative hallways and blared from progressive, liberal speakers.
Will you help me, friends? Can you? Sparing one moment to further someone else’s education might mean they won’t end up on the cold concrete of a basement floor. With their head against the wall. Swallowing their own blood.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. Get educated. Spread the word. Wear purple.
I was swamped this weekend. The bags under my eyes are an indication I’m not resting enough. Of course, this always seems to happen at the beginning of a new school year, but it’s hitting me too hard this year. I laugh about it and use the hashtag #thisis30 pretty often, but 3 hour naps are required at this point.
Friday night was the first home football game of the season. The team lost, late in the game, by 1 point. Truthfully, it was an exciting game (we were slated to lose by 26) and I think the boys should be happy with their performance. My girls, on the other hand, must be distracted by a bit of drama that’s unfolding. I’m trying to keep everything together and avoid the drama, but it’s challenging when I’m the oldest coach and the others can’t think for themselves (except my co-coach, who is the youngest but acts older than the other two). Regardless of that, I got home at about 11 that night.
Saturday, I woke up at 5:30 to get ready for the Dirty Girl 5K Mud run. My wave began at 9:30, but the site of the race is about an hour away from my house. Add in the registration time (and meetup time with my best friends), and it’s an early caffeine-free morning. We finished the race in about an hour. Some of the obstacles had long lines that backed up the traffic quite a bit, but we weren’t racing to win either. After a post-race beer and some time in the sun, I dropped off the other participants and headed home to Joey, lunch, and a two-hour nap. Finally, we ended the night at a birthday celebration for his friend’s wife.
This morning, I had to be at school at 8:30 for a mandatory three-hour practice. Another nap after. Then a trip to the grocery store. Now I’m writing. After, I’ll be grading. Oh, and my quads and obliques are on fire right now. Can’t wait for the day two pain of a hard workout. #thisis30
I know you’re expecting me to talk about Joey through all of this.
It’s nice to come home to someone who wants to take care of me. I’m thankful he’s home when I’m falling apart (whether it’s because I’m stressed about work, coaching, writing, or therapy). I have a lot on my plate right now. And that means his plate his full of his responsibilities and trying to meet my needs. This man, though, will do anything for me if he knows it will bring me any amount of relief. I adore him for that.
The longer we’ve been together, the more I find myself bragging about him. Which reminds me I need to tell him the same things I tell others. Joey, darling, I know you’re reading, so here goes:
With every passing day, you bring more value to a life that felt valueless a year ago. Yes, you did that for me. I feel as if I deserve to be treated as an equal, a person with a voice worth hearing, and sometimes I actually think I’m pretty. You’ve made me realize that I don’t want to be the person I was before Scott. In fact, I want to be better than that girl. Regardless of the strength and intelligence I thought she had, the person I’m becoming is better. I smile organically. She didn’t. I feel real emotions. I’m not apathetic or angry every day. I’m just me. And that’s okay now.
But it’s better than okay, because I want to be better than ‘okay’ for me and you. And I think you know I’m working toward that. Therapy helps, but so do you. And your arms. And the nightly kisses to the back of my head. The “I love you, bay” and the “I’ve got this, babe,” are everything. And I don’t have to worry, because even if I stopped growing today, you’d still look at me like I was the magic in this world. Your heart is one that loves unconditionally, just like the one I built walls around after I used it naively. The one that’s resurfacing now. I’d move the stars for you.
Read the song lyrics. It sounds so much like what you used to say to me when I couldn’t find a way to escape my head, too scared to let you in. Thank you for trying so hard. For never giving up on me. I notice, even if I don’t tell you often enough. TTMAB.