End of Year Reflection: Go Fuck Yourself, 2017

I feel like I’m saying that a lot these days. Every New Year’s I turn to the past year and scream BURN IN HELL YOU ASSHOLE and then turn to the next year like it’s going to be better. And then it’s not. Or it is in some ways, but worse in other ways.

Anyway, this year is no exception. 2017 was long and hard and yet surprisingly short, and while I’m glad it’s over I also want to hit Pause for a few days because I am so not ready for 2018, y’all.

Continue reading “End of Year Reflection: Go Fuck Yourself, 2017”

Healing Hurts

Physio hurts.

Drove out to Coquitlam tonight for my physio appointment. Driving there was difficult; I was having high anxiety, as I have since last Sunday when I learned of the deaths of two people I cared about. Late last week I had to force myself to leave the house so I could get over that huge hump of anxiety; it’s lower than it was, but still difficult to deal with.

Physio itself hurts like hell. I have to do exercises to build up certain muscles that have sat dormant in my crippledness for years. The muscles scream in anger and rebellion at me. And the physiotherapist — who is awesome! — has to push and prod at me to get my spinal muscles to ease up, and to ease my spine back towards normalcy.

And it hurts like hell.

Don’t even get me started on the squats I need to do and what they do to my knees.

At the end, all that back and neck work triggers a small migraine, so I drive home drinking a coffee from McDonalds after taking an extra-strength Tylenol to banish the migraine to the depths of hell from whence it came.

Home, I still hurt all over, and I have more to do before I can go to bed tonight.

This healing thing isn’t for cowards. I am one, but I’m trying really hard not to be.

new meds

content warning: emetophobia

got my gabapentin today. trying it tonight.

also sleeping on the recliner tonight, because my neck won’t stop hurting. i don’t know what’s up with it. it hasn’t hurt this much since the last time i got whiplash. which was…on a bumper car i think. (yeah, bumper cars give whiplash. just in case you were out of things to worry about your kids doing.)

we had to go out when i was just waking up and before i had a chance to let my muscles adjust to actually being upright. that was less than fun. i’m doing better now, though, and we did pick up the package from the post office and our scrips — can i just publicly thank Asclepius for insurance? i don’t even know what it would have been without, but with our extended insurance from mr. katje’s workplace it was 17 bucks for three scrips. gone are the days of me taking my anti-depressant every other day to make it last! Io Asclepius! — and also got a little grocery shopping done as we were out of milk.

we’ve recently switched to 3.25% milk from 2% and i’m drinking a lot more of it. IT’S SO GOOD. however, we kind of regret going to IGA instead of Save-On today. milk was over 6 dollars for a 4L; at Save-On it’s around 4.5 bucks. that was a huge ouch. but i was too unwell to handle too grocery trips, so we just got it and sighed heavily.

i also asked at the pharmacy about switching from zoloft capsules to tabs because the capsules are incredibly hard for me to swallow and can cause me to throw up if i don’t do it exactly right. apparently the tabs are not available in Canada. because Canada has super draconian laws about medicine and food. (if you think the FDA is tough, haha have i got news for you.)

sometimes, i appreciate those laws. not today.

so continuing to use zoloft in capsule form until i can figure out a new med. maybe one that doesn’t make me sick and actually works better for my mental illnesses. hoping i get that appointment with a psychiatrist soon because i am running low on my meds.

but i’m excited about the gabapentin! i had a feeling i have Willis Ekbom Disease (aka ‘restless legs syndrome’ but the restless legs are a reaction to the uncontrollable spasms it causes) which i brought up with my doctor (short aside: i love my current doctor. he actually practices medicine instead of just telling me to lose weight. sent from the heavens. Io Asclepius again!) because i’m worried that it’s causing me to have a bad sleep. even after using the cpap for 6 months i am still exhausted all the time. much better with the cpap than without, but still. i shouldn’t be this tired.

so i asked if there was a test for willis ekbom and he said no, it’s one of those things where we give you treatment and see if it works and then that’s the test, basically. so i’m only supposed to take it before bed to see if it helps interrupt the processes that are causing me to spasm so i can actually get a full night’s rest instead of my body shaking itself ever so slightly awake all the time.

(i still spasm during the day and it’s uncomfortable, but if i can just get it to stop at night i can handle the daytime spasms. i’ve been dealing with them for a long time, after all.)

i’m really crossing my fingers the gabapentin works for me, because if i can fix my sleep i have a feeling i will feel 100x better, even with continued disability and chronic pain.

-katje

edited to add: between finishing writing this post but before publishing it i actually took a look at my pills. they’re capsules, because of course they are. i now have three prescription pills that are capsules. huzzah me. XD

My Dysfunctional Relationship with Library Books

I adore libraries. I love them so much. They are my happy place, and I have a not-so-secret but currently-impractical-as-fuck desire to be a librarian. (Impractical because, um, yeah, don’t have money to go back to school for a COMPLETELY NEW SET OF SKILLS.)

I love to go to the library and browse books. The shelves are full of possibility for me, even when the SFF section is severely lacking (as it often is, where I’ve lived — why would we have book ONE in a series anywhere in our system? MADNESS — here, have books #6-9, they’re much better. I jest, only partly). The library is about so much more than the tried and true SFF for me — it’s about exploration, finding something new.

Several somethings new.

Every time I go to the library for one book I invariably come home with a bag that is BULGING with them. My library book bag is a good size; it’s canvas, from the Questionable Content store on Topataco. It carries a good number of books — it carries the amount of books I will actually read in the time I have them out. Yet I always overfill it, sometimes carrying books in my arms, too.

At some point in my life, my reading skill went down. I used to be a fast reader with high comprehension. I am now a slow reader, with high comprehension only if I have enough energy — which is often not the case. I like to blame university for this change — you can often hear me lamenting that I used to be an avid reader before 10 years of academia broke me. That’s partially true; it took me a while to be emotionally ready to be a reader again.

I am emotionally ready now, and still my brain won’t cooperate.

Continue reading “My Dysfunctional Relationship with Library Books”

An Open Letter to the Man Who Called Me A “Retard” Today

Dear Sir, whomever you may be,

I hope you feel good. I hope that you are sitting in satisfaction at never having made a mistake in your entire human life. I hope that you know that you must be perfect, that the gods shine love down upon you and bless you in ways they do not bless other mortals.

This must be the case. I can’t fathom any other reason you would feel it necessary to scream “Nice fucking parking job, retard. Next time stay in your own fucking lane!” at me for a parking job that, yes, while not perfect, wasn’t as bad as you describe.

I’m tired, you see. It exhausts me to leave the house. But I did so with some excitement today, heading to the post office to pick up what I hoped was my wedding dress (it was). I parked in the only spot available — one between a tiny red sports car (yours) and an empty handicap spot.

The parking lot of this particular post office, located in a Pharmasave, is kind of shitty. It’s rather hard to do a good parking job there, and to be honest I’m still getting used to my minivan. It doesn’t handle the way my old car used to and it’s much bigger. So I parked, and got out, and saw that it wasn’t the best parking job. My rear right tire was on the line, yes. But there was still plenty of room between my car and the little red sports car — perhaps not enough room for someone sized like my fiance, Mr. Katje, but then he wouldn’t be able to fit in a car that size anyway. So I felt safe assuming that whoever was driving that car had enough room to get into it. And I was so tired. So, so tired I didn’t get back into my car and spend several minutes reparking, trying to get it perfect.

Besides, I figured, I’d only be a few minutes inside picking up my dress and then I’d be gone. Probably before you even came back to your car.

Obviously I was wrong on that count. Dress in hand, allowing myself to feel happy today despite the crushing weight of depression an anxiety on me, I headed back to my car and saw the space beside me empty once again. I hope they didn’t have any trouble getting back into their car, I thought, and yes, I felt a little guilty for not fixing the parking. It was a mistake on my part.

I make lots of mistakes, being human. I guess you don’t have that trouble. You must not.

It wasn’t until I got back into my car and, sitting still with the door open, arranged my things on the seat next to me that I realized you hadn’t left at all. I guess you had circled in your little red sports car, waiting for me to come back so you could shout obscenities at me.

Don’t mistake my slack-jawed face as I stared at you for a lack of thought (though I’m sure you did, considering the slur you flung at me). I was simply in shock.

I get road rage. I do. I understand feeling that people in other cars are idiots. I understand rage over shitty parking.

I do not understand what would drive someone to lie in wait, hidden, just so they could scream at another human being and call them a “retard”.

I guess I don’t understand because I’m human, with human empathy, and you’re obviously so much higher above me, on your cloud of never making mistakes, not fettered by annoying things like caring about other people.

So, Mr. Red Sports Car, I hope that you felt better after calling me a retard. I hope that, if you have kids, they never get put into Special Education for having learning disabilities and spend their school years being called a retard not only by their fellow classmates but by their teachers as well. Trust me, that sucks. I know from personal experience.

I hope you had a better day than I did, as I got to drive home holding back tears and thinking that I was so worthless I should just go kill myself. I hope you didn’t have to feel terror that an angry stranger might follow you home and attack you for one mistake that you made — as I did, because I honestly never know what angry men will do to me. I hope you find joy in berating a stranger for one mistake that they made. I hope that ruining my day made yours a little better.

I hope you’re still able to leave the house for reasons other than necessity, because after today I don’t think I can even make it to the library to pick up that book I wanted to read. After today, it will take all my strength to go to work, and come home. I don’t know how I’ll complete any wedding-related errands this week, seeing as the first one was such a fiasco. I can’t even open the package my dress is in to look at it. I feel too awful. I feel sick to my stomach.

Mostly, I hope that red sports car does its job of bolstering your self-confidence, so that maybe you don’t also feel the need to scream obscenities at strangers to prop up your manhood.

And I hope that this letter reaches you, so you know exactly what kind of impact you had on this stranger’s day. You’ll know it’s about you when you see it — after all, you saw my face, which is all over this blog.

Cordially,

-Katje

PS: Comments are disabled for this post because I don’t have the spoons necessary to moderate them.

Day 3

Content warning: emetophobia, depression, thoughts of self-harm/suicide

A week ago I had the flu. I call it the “Angry Badger Flu” because it felt like two angry badgers were fighting in my stomach and ripping up my insides and punching my gag reflex like it was a button that would give them kibble. Luckily, that portion only lasted one night, but the terrible nausea continued for a week.

Consequently I went without meds for a week. Taking pills of any sort often triggers my gag reflex and I always have to be super careful when swallowing pills to make sure they stay down. So when I’m suffering from things like the flu, I often have to stop taking any meds I’m on completely, at least for a few days. Otherwise it’s The Exorcist all over again.

Today is day 3 of being back on my anti-depressants. There’s kind of a night and day difference. It takes about 3 days for the anti-depressants to kick in, and today I am much different than I was this weekend.

This weekend I picked fights with Mr. Katje. I was surly and weepy and angry, so angry I wanted to hurt someone, preferably me. I thought a lot about killing myself, or just driving off a bridge. I had a lot of “What the fuck is the point of anything?” thoughts.

Today, I’m still stressed by the various stressors that didn’t help with my shitty mood last week, but I’m not thinking about suicide anymore. I’m not picking fights with Mr. Katje. I’m not surly, I’m not weepy. I’m even doing housework. (Is it possible to drown in laundry? I think it is. If you don’t hear from me for a few weeks, assume that’s what happened. Or that I forgot to update my blog in forever, as usual.)

I’m posting about this because I wanted to illustrate a very important fact: I am a better person when I’m on my meds. They are not a crutch, or a problem. I believe in better living through chemistry and that means finding the chemistry that works for me. My anti-depressants do a hell of a lot more for me than Vitamin D (seriously, shut up) or St. John’s Wort (though it does have a small effect, so I’ll give it two points for trying) or medical-or-otherwise marijuana (just makes me stupid and really hungry) or any of the amazing new miracle cures people are pushing these days.

Three days. That’s all it takes for me to go from “being suffocated by my own illness” to “functioning as normally as I possibly can.”

And yes, while I did survive years and years and years of having this illness without any sort of medication, so therefore it is possible for me to live without it…the key word there is survive. I did not thrive. I scratched my way through the dirt and broke a lot of nails to get here, to live enough days to get to this one.

I’m tired of breaking nails. I want a shovel. I want to see the light again in more than brief snatches. I want to thrive.

My meds are that shovel. Let me dig my way out.

Perfectly Broken

Trauma to the body is difficult to deal with when you’re not already saddled with mental illnesses like depression or PTSD. Those ghosts taking up residence in my brain made it that much harder to accept.

Lately I’ve been dealing with a lot of depression, anxiety, and self-loathing, and I figured I’d talk about it here, because chances are other folks go through this too and it’s always helpful to know one is not alone. General content warning for the post.

So, first: I want to say that objectively, my life is pretty great. And subjectively, too. I’m engaged to a really awesome person who respects me and my career. We live together in a nice place, in a nice neighborhood. I’ve started a new business and my career as an author is going pretty well. Overall our life is a nice thing.

But of course this does not preclude shitty things happening to us, and of course our lives are not 100% great. There are definitely areas that are causing some long-term stress and, for me at least, depression, anxiety, and all those other fun things I get to deal with already for no particular reason. Except now they’re being given a reason, and I’m finding my already fragile mental state being poked at constantly.

The main thing that’s poking the bear of mental illness for me right now is my physical state. Some of you know that almost 3 years ago I suffered a spinal injury. That’s actually not entirely accurate; the injury itself happened in 2009. It didn’t flare up like a fireworks show, however, until 2012, leaving me bedridden and unable to walk for weeks. After a lot of hard work in physiotherapy, I slowly was able to walk with a walker for short bursts, and then longer bursts, and then finally upgraded to a cane. I’ve been walking with a cane since 2012, though there have been times when I’ve been able to go without for a short period of time.

Likely, had I continued with the physio after getting to that state of wellness, I would eventually have gotten to a point where I could walk without a cane, and probably get somewhere near the state of health I was at before the injury knocked me down. Even in the years I had the injury but it hadn’t flared up I was doing pretty well, despite the new, sharp, knife-twisting pain in my lower spine that I had chalked up to “Another weird permutation of the chronic back pain I’ve had my entire life because genetics is a shitty lottery.”

But I didn’t continue with the physio. I quit in 2012. This wasn’t because I wanted to, or because I thought I was done: I wanted to continue and knew I needed more. But I could not find a new physiotherapist when I went back to Nanaimo after staying in Coquitlam for several weeks, and not only that — the price went up. You only get a few visits at the reduced rate with a doctor’s prescription, you see, and I would need to continue to go every week to see progress.

Fifty dollars a week is too steep for me. Then, and now.

So for 2 years I have lived no where near what “normal” is for me, just dealing with the pain, taking a strong painkiller on the days when I can’t move without it, and continuing to do things that are probably contraindicated for my spine’s condition but hey, what else am I going to do? My social life has dropped off considerably and my ability to do a lot of things in a short period of time has gone to zilch, approximately. I now need a few days to recover after an event that wouldn’t have left me winded 3 years ago.

It has been an adjustment, to say the least. I still overextend myself because I am used to a body that can handle more than it can. And though mentally I have gotten better since it first happened, I still have dark nights of the soul.

So when I broke my leg this summer — 3 months exactly as of this coming Saturday — I slipped into depression again.

Continue reading “Perfectly Broken”

Auditory Processing Deficit: It’s not a hearing problem, but…sorry, what did you say?

So few people are aware of auditory processing deficit as an actual thing that when explaining it I often just default to “It’s a hearing problem,” but that’s not accurate.

I have Auditory Processing Deficit. I’ve had it for most of my life — the test that shows the age level one’s auditory processing is at starts at age 5 and goes to age 18, but we are fairly certain my deficit started when I was 2 years old. Trauma can often be the cause of these sorts of deficits, and there was a doozy of one directly associated with hearing and listening when I was two. (I’m not getting into the story right now. I might at some point in the future.)

Before I took the test, mom thought I was just being a teenager with selective hearing. She’d have to repeat herself several times before I would remember what she said. I explained that I wasn’t forgetting or mishearing things on purpose; it was just that I literally had no memory of her saying certain things.

When I took the test she realized it was an actual problem, so we took steps to fix it. The test, called the Gibson Cognitive Test Battery, is part of a program called PACE — Processing And Cognitive Enhancement. It tests several areas of processing and function in the brain — the framework upon which you put content learning. Auditory processing, memory, visual processing, and other areas are tested. Often people who bottom out in one area will max out in another, because it’s their brain’s way of coping. I had maxed out on visual processor and a few other areas.

It’s a program my mom does, and she’s damn good at it. I did the program with her, though I didn’t get the full benefit. Ideally PACE is done quickly — the 36 hours within a few weeks — because this ensures the most advancement for the brain. Because mom had other students and I was in theatre we were both so busy we rarely had time for PACE sessions. We did the program over 2 years, often sitting for several hours in a session, determined to get as much done in one sitting as possible. For the longest time I held the record for levels passed in a session — not hard when your sessions are 7 hours long.

Still, even though it took us 2 years to do the program, I came up several ages in the areas I was lacking. When we were done I was age 16 in auditory processing — that was an advancement of 11 years (14 if we accept that the deficit was lower than 5 and likely at 2 years of age).

We tested me again recently and I have somehow made it up to age 18. However, I still struggle with remembering things that are said, and when I’m stressed or tired my processing goes down the tubes. (It also does not help that Mr. Katje is an avowed mumbler.)

It’s important to note that auditory processing is not a hearing problem. It is not a physical problem with the mechanisms for hearing things — my ears work fine (with the exception of the constant tinnitus). It is a problem with my brain — specifically the area used to process sounds.

However, so few people are even aware of auditory processing deficit as an actual thing that when explaining why I don’t listen to podcasts or why someone has to repeat something to me a few times to make sure I remember I often default to saying “I have a hearing problem,” even though I don’t. I can hear you just fine. Unfortunately, my ears don’t always give my brain the memo — especially when I’m stressed, or when the words are said in certain tones (because said tones stress me out). And these days I’m pretty much always stressed.

It’s honestly pretty shitty having this. School has been a struggle since high school, and last time I asked a teacher to slow down because he was speaking a mile a minute and I needed extra time to process, he said “Why don’t you try just listening?” (As if I wasn’t.) I explained the processing deficit and he and the entire class laughed in my face. That was in University, by the way, but this wasn’t the first time I was treated like that for having learning disabilities. (I was in Special Ed throughout high school and I swear, the fact that my mom kept fighting for me to get certain help in school was the only reason I graduated. If it weren’t for my mom I would have dropped out.)

Because the test that shows the deficit isn’t considered an official source by most schools I often can’t get any concessions for classes. This, combined with my other learning disabilities, depression, anxiety, and more recently physical disability, ensured that it took me 10 years to get my Bachelors instead of 4.

There are tons of podcasts I’d really like to listen to regularly, but I can’t because podcast listening for me entails sitting stock still and concentrating very hard on everything being said. It’s exhausting, and soon my mind starts to wander and then I need to rewind and find my place again.

Also it contributes to lack of communication with people I love, which creates fights. Just the other day I thought Mr. Katje said something that he didn’t, and we fought for over an hour over it. I misheard a sentence because I was really tired and my processing skills weren’t up to par, and he was mumbling more than usual that day. We made up, and talked it out, and all is forgiven — but I hate fighting with him and for that hour we were both miserable.

But, like with all things I have to live with, I learn to cope. I’ve done what I can to bring up my auditory processing to a manageable level, and I’m planning on doing PACE again with mom — maybe it’ll improve some more. In the meantime, I accept that I might always have problems processing what people say, and I work harder to keep it from adversely affecting my life too much.

In return, I only ask for a little patience from my loved ones.

So next time I need to ask you to repeat yourself, or I don’t remember what you say, please don’t take it personally. It’s just my super fucked up brain making my life a little more difficult. (So original, brain. I applaud your creativity. /sarcasm)

-Katje

Minimizing Mental Illness: a message to allies

Having mental illness means you learn to minimize what’s going on with you, or you learn to be alone.

TW: discussion of depression, thoughts of self-harm and suicide

I’ve been in the midst of a severe depressive episode for the past month. I have barely been able to keep house and home together, and not very well at that. Beyond that I’ve had no get up and go to do much of anything else.

I’ve kept my brain and hands busy, for the most part, by watching TV shows, knitting, and playing video games. This is because during this particular depressive episode if I get too much inside my own head, if I’m too still, I start thinking about hurting myself again. I start thinking about all the ways I’m terrible and I deserve this depression, and it becomes a sneaky spiral of doom and death that I get locked in and have a lot of trouble getting out of.

Driving has been the most dangerous activity for me, because I start to think while I’m driving, and I start thinking about what a horrible person I am, and how I should just put everyone else out of their misery by offing myself. Driving is the most “inside my own head” activity in my life, so I’ve been avoiding it as much as I can this month.

This means I’ve mostly been inside the house. I have a lot to do inside the house and I’ve tried to be productive as possible. Of course, because I have impossibly high standards for myself and I am incredibly hard on myself all the time, this has only added to the depression as I’ve been unable to complete as much work as I want to, and that is, my brain tells me, my fault because I am lazy and horrible.

This is a sneaky way the depression and anxiety manifest themselves: make me have impossibly high standards so when I inevitably fail them I can hate myself more. Huzzah! Ale and whores for everyone, except Katje, because screw zir.

I haven’t really been able to talk to people about this, because some of the conversations I’ve had about it have gone like this:

Me: My fish are dead.
Other person: Have you tried feeding them?
Me: They’re dead.
Other person: I’ll help you look for them!
Me: My fish. are. dead.
Other person: Do you know why they’re missing?
Me: Why can’t anyone see how dead these fish are?

(Analogy courtesy Allie Brosh.)

And it becomes exhausting trying to figure out who will see my fish are dead and who won’t, so I just don’t talk about it with anyone. I’m tired of people asking about the reasons behind my depression, as if 20 years of mental illness has a fucking reason. I’m sick. I have a disease. It flares up. There’s no reason except that’s what happens and I’m stuck dealing with it.

Continue reading “Minimizing Mental Illness: a message to allies”

When a Parent Becomes a Terrorist

I’d spent my childhood afraid of my father, and when I became a teenager that fear didn’t go away — it just became tempered with rage.

Trigger warning: abuse, stalking, disordered eating, self-harm

Abuse is like terrorism. It is terrorism. When you’ve suffered abuse, you can spend years living in fear that it — that your abuser — will come back.

I cut my father out of my life on my 26th birthday. I’d tried for years to have some sort of relationship with him, but every time we got off the phone I wanted to binge-eat again. Every time he dropped by unexpectedly, I spent the next several hours double- and triple-checking the door locks, my heart threatening to pound itself out of my chest.

I’d spent my childhood afraid of him, and when I became a teenager that fear didn’t go away — it just became tempered with rage. When I entered college, I tried to let go of the rage. For a while I fooled myself into thinking I had.

I hadn’t. I’d just masked it; convinced myself my relationship with my father was good now. Never mind that no matter what I did, nothing was ever good enough for him. Never mind that every visit, every talk, every email exchange with him was full of venomous barbs, the same verbal abuse that had kept me down since I was a baby.

(You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. He started his verbal abuse the day I was born — and never stopped reminding me of exactly what he’d said, because it was hilarious to him.)

I’ve spent most of my life thinking I’m ugly, stupid, smelly, a waste of space, a worthless daughter, a mistake (his word, not mine). I was hammered with those beliefs falling from his lips like the word of god.

He was always angry. You never knew what would set him off. To be near him meant walking on eggshells. Something might be a lighthearted joke one day but would have him shaking me and screaming in my face the next. His temper was completely unpredictable.

He was worse when he drank scotch, which mercifully happened not that often. But I knew, if that amber liquid was in his cup, to keep my mouth shut and avoid him until he’d slept it off.

During the separation, the endless divorce, I began to fear he’d murder my mom. I started doing anything I could to keep him happy — because I believed if he was happy with me, he’d leave her alone. Of course, keeping him happy never worked; I never knew what, exactly, would keep his mood level, and I have a deep rebellious streak that I cannot seem to tame no matter what I do. I’d always slip up, and he’d be angry again.

I’ve lived with the fear that he’d kill my mom for almost twenty years now. He hates her, though she never did anything to him.

He thinks she stole me; he thinks she brainwashed me to hate him. She didn’t. She didn’t need to — I needed no help in cultivating an unhealthy-to-me amount of hate for the dude who donated the sperm to make me.

The night before my 26th birthday I got a letter from him in the mail. It was full of more abusive statements. It left me in tears on the floor of my bedroom.

Then, in the perfect clarity that comes when you’ve cried out all the moisture in your body and you’re sure you’re going to die from the pain in your heart and you transcend that into a perfect numbness, I realized it was time. I had to let him go. I had to cut him out of my life.

I’m sure he thinks he loves me, but that’s not good enough. His “love” is toxic and abusive. His “affection” puts a shard of ice in my heart, encases me in fear.

After I cut him off — sending him an email telling him I never wanted to speak to him again, never wanted to hear from him, that he was effectively dead to me — he spent a year stalking me online, asking my sister (his other daughter) to get me to talk to him, sending me messages on Facebook and via email.

I, of course, felt terrible — I’d been well-groomed by him.

People wonder why others don’t leave abusive relationships, whether those relationships are romantic or familial or platonic. “It can’t be that bad if she won’t leave him,” people will say. Or, “She’s obviously abusive; why won’t he go? Why won’t he help himself? I guess he’s weak and stupid.”

The people who wonder this have never suffered abuse. If they had, they would know the answer as to why people don’t go, and they would know it has nothing to do with being weak or stupid, or the abuse “not being that bad”.

Abusers know what they’re doing (on some level; not necessarily consciously). They’ve done it before. They’ve picked up their skills either from practice, or from having it done to them.

Abusers also often come from an abusive background. This is why it’s called the cycle of abuse — people repeat roles that played out earlier in their lives.

Part of the abuse cycle is grooming. Grooming is what makes it possible for people who say “I’d never be with someone who abuses me; I’d get out right away” to find themselves trapped in a long, abusive relationship.

Because abusers never start out as terrorists. They start out funny and charming and smart. A bit into the relationship, you might notice a bit of a temper, but that’s normal, right? Everyone gets road rage from time to time–the food at that restaurant was really bad. Besides, they made up for it right away. They apologized for yelling. They brought flowers.

Then you notice that the temper gets lost more often and the time between it and the flowers or reconciliation becomes longer. Yet the time never takes too long, always coming just when you think you might have had enough. Then you think to yourself, “No, I am really loved. People sometimes just get mad.”

It’s a process, grooming is. They get you used to a cycle of behaviour wherein they abuse you and then they apologize. By the time the really bad stuff starts — the stuff that anyone would look at and say, “That’s abuse” — you’re already tightly ensnared in the web.

My father groomed me for years. I’d get the abuse, and then I’d get a reward for suffering it. I began to believe the rewards were proof he loved me, and the abuse was just his clumsy way of expressing his love.

Even if that’s true, it’s no way to live.

So I felt bad after I cut him out, because the rewards had trained me well — always to think about him, about what I was doing to him, about what a bad daughter I was.

I kept the inner voice telling me I should let him back into my life at bay, and held out for a year.

Around my 27th birthday, I decided to give him one last chance. It would not be without conditions.

I wrote out a lengthy letter, outlining the conditions I expected him to meet if we were to have any sort of father-daughter relationship again. I was very, very clear, resolutely firm on my boundaries (which were very narrow — they must be, with him: he will take any widening of boundaries as a sign of weakness, inviting a fresh invasion).

He responded with a message that broke several of the conditions outright.

That did it. I was satisfied, finally, that I had done everything I possibly could have to save the relationship, to save him. I was able to put that part of myself, the part that whispered in my ear But you’re not giving him a fair chance! to sleep. A deep sleep from which it will never wake up.

I gave him more than enough chances. I gave him more chances than he deserved. Him, the man who doesn’t believe in giving people second chances, because “Screw me once, never again!”

(Everyone is out to screw him. He is paranoid and delusional.)

He didn’t stop stalking me. Sent me a message around Christmas. Tried to friend my best friend to stalk me via her profile.

A while ago, my mom was sleeping in the other room and I was just dozing off. She had a nightmare and screamed out in the night. I woke up in a tearing hurry, convinced I’d find my father standing over her and the dog, a smoking gun in his hands. He’s done it–he’s finally done it–he’s killed her and now I’ll kill him ran through my tired, fear-soaked brain.

Of course, Mom was fine. The dog hadn’t even stirred, which tells me there was no real danger — he’s pretty good at distinguishing. His nose would have alerted him to a stranger far before my mom would have shouted in fear.

But this is the terror I live with, every day.

My father knows where I live.* He says he doesn’t, because he’s a liar, but the place I live has been part of my mother’s family for over twenty years. I spent most of my childhood here, visiting my Oma. He knows where it is.

In late January, I started receiving calls from the intercom downstairs — you can tell it’s from there because of the double-ring. The messages were silent (if I’m not expecting anyone, I wait for it to go to message so I can see who it is before I answer — this is part of the terror). They came every day at the same time.

I was scared to leave my house. Coming up from the car with a load of stuff, I would be on hyper alert, waiting to hear my father’s voice down the hallway, and ready to bolt back to the car if I did, tearing out of there in an effort to escape to anywhere else. I was convinced he was waiting downstairs to charm someone into letting him in, just as he used to do in the bad old days in the throes of divorce.

It turns out the calls weren’t from him but I lived in terror for weeks, afraid he’d come by for a “visit”, to “talk” to me about “this silly silent treatment”.

It’s much easier to keep at bay those voices in my head that live by virtue of the grooming I’ve received when he’s not physically near me. Faced with him in real life, I don’t know what I’d do. Cry, likely. Scream, probably. Attack him? Maybe. Tell him I was wrong (when I wasn’t) and let his toxins seep back into my life (which would eventually kill me)? Definitely possible.

This is what abuse does. It turns life into a battle against terror. Every day, until the day he dies, I will fear him. that he will come back to hurt me again, to kill my mom — to finish the job he started when I was a child, to destroy me completely.

My father is a terrorist. I am always on red alert.

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*I am in the process of moving, but I am not fully out of my old place. Midpoint next week I will be settled in my new house, the location of which he is ignorant. I will finally feel safe in my living space again.