When a Parent Becomes a Terrorist

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.

~~

*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.

Ragnarok, day 2

Ragnarok, day 2

It is still snowing like whoa over here. Stopped briefly yesterday in the late afternoon/early evening, but when I woke up this morning it was back in full force.

The world is ending covered in water. Fenrir has eaten the sun. ARISE JORMUNGAND.

Anyway. Today is my rest day after surgery — yes, my surgery was Wednesday, but I’ve been busy every day since. Probably been overdoing it a bit. I promised myself I’d spend today resting, possibly sleeping a lot.

I’m still in a considerable amount of pain, though it is nowhere near the amount of pain I was in when the teeth were still occupying my jaws. This pain is a healing pain, and it is annoying and slow to go away, but I can be patient and deal. I am now eating semi-solid foods, like omelettes and quiche and such, which does quite a bit to improve my mood.

Tomorrow I’m planning on posting something very revealing about my childhood/upbringing and being a survivor of abuse. It was an article I found very hard to write; I’ve been sitting on it for a few weeks while I decided if I had the strength to share it. I finally decided I do have the strength to share it, so it will be going up tomorrow.

Please note if the comments turn abusive I will turn them off. I might have the spoons to share my story, but I am not required to weather the sadism of trolls, nor am I required to weather people who will come to the defense of my abuser. (Yes, there are people who defend my abuser(s). Because abusers aren’t abusive to everyone; if they were they would not have any licence to operate, and they do.)

If you find these topics difficult to read about or triggering, you may want to skip reading the blog tomorrow.

Hope everyone has a great end to their weekend, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

-Katje

I might have too many books.

I only say that because today was spent cataloguing and packing them. There are a lot.

The book situ when I started this morning.
The book situ when I started this morning.

That picture doesn’t show the coffee table and the couch, but they’ve also got books on them — the coffee table, a lot; the couch, not so much.

By midpoint it looked like this:

bookpacking2You can see my laptop open because of the ongoing cataloguing work. I’ve now got 717 books in my library on LibraryThing (796 in all collections, which includes books I’ve borrowed and still want to read and my wishlist).

The couch is covered in books that have been inputted into my LibraryThing catalogue, the coffee table in stacks of books yet to be put in.

You can’t see the piles I added to the coffee table today, because they’re balanced on the edge behind the four boxes of books.

Note: this does not include all the books that were not on the shelves because I’ve been reading them or they’ve been travelling with me — they will be packed, but not in boxes. Nor does this include my own books, of which I have several copies lying around — they will get their own box.

I just finished about 15 minutes ago, and now the living room looks like this:

bookpacking3

Yeah, I took down all those bookcases. Only one double-stack remains, just off camera. That bookcase contains my notebooks and journals and such on the top, and my late Oma’s books on the bottom. Oma’s books are going into storage — we’re keeping them, because they’re family heirlooms, but neither mom nor I have any room for them in our personal libraries right now.

I think the couch now has more books on it than the coffee table does, which means the more tedious part of my job has been lessened. Packing boxes of books is not, actually, tedious, but adding them to my catalogue is.

You can see my dinner in the last photo. I am eating it right now, at 11pm, because it’s been that sort of day. I’m exhausted and thinking I have too many books.

You know it’s bad when you think you have too many books. (Hint: the correct paradigm is never enough books!)

Tomorrow, up bright and early to pack up the couch-books and input the table-books and then take down the last bookcase.

The Last Bookcase. Sounds like it could be a fantasy/horror novel.

And that’s the sign I should go to bed.

Yeah, I’m going to do that now. See you all tomorrow.

Moving

So, you are probably aware we’re in the middle of moving.

Of what you may not be aware is that it is tiring as hell.

I woke up this morning feeling like I’d been beaten with sticks, and the feeling didn’t go away. I have accomplished very little today because I’ve just lacked the energy. The spoons. I am very low on spoons.

After getting the keys to our new place I moved in some kitchen boxes and then went and spent the night at Mr. Katje’s house. I was so exhausted yesterday that I didn’t have energy for a real blog post, which is why I showed you a picture of my degree. (It didn’t help that yesterday itself was exhausting both physically and emotionally.)

Now, I’m working on filling the car to the gills so I can make another trip down with stuff. The car has to be that full, because I have to take the long way to our new place to avoid the toll bridge, and I don’t want to make a trip that long for a half-full car. Also, I have to unload in one go, because the trip between Mr. Katje’s place and the new place is far enough that I don’t want to make it twice for one load. (The long way from my place to the new place goes right past Mr. Katje’s place.)

Luckily, we will be getting help for the big stuff — furniture — because we can’t handle it ourselves. The small stuff, however, is all on me (Mr. Katje works full-time during the week; he’ll be able to help on weekends, but I’m still doing the majority of the moving work, especially as most of our stuff is coming from my place).

And I don’t move as fast or with as much energy as I used to.

So it’s slow going, and it’s very tiring, and my blogging may suffer for the next few weeks. I’m sorry about that. I will be keeping to my postaday habit, but those posts may just be photos of things.

It’s all worth it, though. We’re moving into a great place, and we’re going to have a great time living there.

We just need to get through this bit. The boxes and driving and going up and down stairs a lot and arg! bit.

6 more weeks of winter, but not 6 more weeks of us half-commonlawing it

That is a very awkward blog post title and I DO NOT APOLOGIZE because I am tired and on a deadline.

Tonight we get the keys to our new place! This means I don’t care if there are six more weeks of winter; Mr. Katje and I will be starting the move-in process tonight. In an hour and a half.

I have been so ready for this moment for so long. We’ve been earnestly looking for a place since July, but before that I was searching Craigslist weekly. I am so happy we finally found a place — and so close to his work!

So I am about to leave the house to go pick up the keys and move in some kitchen items, and then I will probably spend the night at Mr. Katje’s place before coming back here tomorrow morning. Tuesday I’ll bring some more stuff over, and so on and so forth.

Within a few weeks, we’ll be full-commonlawing it. Yeah, that’s right, I’m making commonlaw a verb.

I am incredibly excited. I’m sure Mr. Katje would be showing outward signs of excitement if he were not currently engrossed in a certain Superb Owl.

So, I will see you tomorrow, with a  better post title. Hopefully.

Bell Let’s Talk day and Mental Illness

I have depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and PTSD. On any given day you might think I’m doing just fine by looking at my outside — but inside, I’m telling myself it’s okay, I deserve to eat food. I’m telling myself I’m worthy of love. I’m trying to calm the rising storm of panic, at least long enough so I can get to my closet to hide. I’m screaming against the noise of my illness, trying to be as loud as the ocean, trying to drown the voices once and for all.

I ended up blogging about this on my profile at Google+ — it’s public, so anyone can read it. I figured I’d quote a bit from it, and if you want you can read the whole thing.

Amoeba Kat Style

Describe your personal style, however you’d like to interpret that — your clothing style, your communication style, your hair style, your eating style, anything.

The Daily Post

I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to write about today, so I thought I’d take a stab at the Daily Prompt. Of course, now I’m sitting here thinking “Uhhhhhhhhh. What on earth IS my style?”

If I were to describe my fashion style it would be “has-been goth who can’t afford new clothing, avoids laundry, and doesn’t GAF if you think zir pyjamas and slippers are inappropriate for class”. I really just DGAF, or at least put out the front of not caring. Which is kind of funny, because I have a lot of depression and anxiety surrounding my dysphoria, how I present, and whether people will read how I’m presenting accurately.

I think my brain deals with this anxiety by making me not GAF/pretend that I don’t most of the time. But then there are days where I spend 2 hours changing clothing because nothing is right. Before I realized I was genderqueer I called those days my “fat days”, because I thought I was just hating myself for being fat. I eventually realized those are the days when I feel ugly and wrong because my body doesn’t fit the gender I am and want to present as, and I can’t seem to make my clothing work with it.

Those days it’s very difficult for me to leave the house, because I feel wrong and don’t want anyone to see me.

On days when I feel less dysphoria, however, I wear whatever. I mean, people are going to make comments — either behind my back to directly to my face — no matter what I wear, because I’m fat. People think they have the right to tell me just how wrong I am for existing unapologetically. Unless I wear what’s “acceptable” for fat people to wear, ie what works to hide all my adipose tissue, I am Doing It Wrong and deserve to be chastised. (If I’m wearing “acceptable” clothing, preferably in leopard print or covered in hideous sequins and embroidery with massive shoulder-pads because apparently there are no fat people with broad shoulders, I deserve to be “rewarded” with a “Wow, you look great, have you lost weight?” Pro-tip, folks: asking someone if they’ve lost weight is rude, not polite. My life is more than a number on a scale. You could ask me how my latest book is doing, instead, and show that you actually care about me as a person and not as the horrible bundle of fat cells you are being forced to share the planet with.)

So I suppose my bottom line fashion style is “I’m fat and genderqueer, I will wear whatever I want, it will probably be in need of mending, and you can fuck right off if you have an issue with how I dress.”

The other styles are a bit easier to describe. My hair style is “wash, condition, towel-dry, comb, tie back with scrunchy for entire day”. I very rarely do more than that. If going out, I might spend an hour curling some parts of my hair — but to do the entire thing takes far too long. I have very thick hair.

My communication style is “bad”. I mean, when speaking; I’m a lot better when writing. When speaking I always put my foot in my mouth or inadvertently insult people or say the wrong thing.

My eating style is…well, often would be the simplest way of putting it, but it’s super complicated because of my eating disorders. I’ve gone into those before; don’t need to go into them again. Besides the emotional and physical minefield that eating is for me, however, I love food, and I like to eat.

My interior decorating style is hippy/bohemian/hoarder pack-rat/fire hazard. I’m trying to pare down quite a bit to reduce a lot of the last two things, but I’ll always be pretty hippy/boho, which drives Ogre nuts.

Basically, if we were to boil down my overall style into a few words description, it would be “free spirit”. That’s the only term that’s ever come close to encompassing my weird, wacky self.

I am Amoeba Cat; wuh’eva, wuh’eva, I do what I want.

How not to be a dick to your friend/loved one/relative with eating disorders

Content warning: disordered eating, fatphobia, misogynistic language, description of child abuse

Note: this is written based on my own personal experience with relatives, friends, loved ones, and my eating disorders. Other people may have different eating disorders and different experiences, and my post is in now way trying to speak for them. It’s just me venting about stuff that I go through every day.

My eating disorders are, for clarity, binge/emotional eating and anorexia. Eating is a complete MINEFIELD for me before we even factor in other people’s comments, reactions, etc, because I am constantly fighting a battle with myself about what food I “should” or “shouldn’t” eat. If I binge eat because I’m upset, I then spend several days starving myself because I’m full of self-loathing. But as I know stopping myself from eating is bad, I then force myself to eat, and feel horrible about it.

So here are the things that are said/done, quite often, either to or around me that DON’T HELP AT ALL.

Continue reading How not to be a dick to your friend/loved one/relative with eating disorders

Mercury, You Are Drunk. Give Me Your Keys.

Mercury does this thing about three times a year. Well, actually, it doesn’t really do anything; it just looks like it’s doing something. From Earth it looks like Mercury is moving backwards. They call it retrograde.

And dammit if it doesn’t just fuck everything up.

I  mean, yeah, sure, it’s just a planet and it’s probably not really affecting you, Katje. Sheesh. Crazy pagan, thinking planets do stuff.

And, you know, I know people for whom Mercury going retrograde is nothing. Just another week, or three.

But that’s not true for me. Something in my life always goes wrong when Mercury is retrograde. And Mercury don’t fuck around.

Today I had errands; no big deal, except, you know, they were, but whatever. Get in the car, head up the mountain. This is after spending all morning working. Get caught in traffic. Finally make it to the SFU visitor parking lot aaaaatttttt…3:38pm. I need to get a print out from the registration office and then go to the bookstore to return books that I’ve been trying to return for a month before four o’clock.

So naturally, Galactica dies on me.

Right there in the middle of the parking lot.

A few months ago she was doing this thing, I’m not really sure what it was, but I know it was making her stall out and then not start again for hours, if at all. We took her to the mechanic and got ‘er fixed, for no small amount of money (around 400 dollars).

So she’s doing it again. Wouldn’t start, not even with a jump. Or ten. I had to call a tow truck, and no, I didn’t get to the bookstore to return the books. I also didn’t get to downtown to pick up a proof from the printer’s, nor to my old landlady’s house to get my mail from my last place. Or grocery shopping. Ie, the rest of my errands. None of those happened.

Had to wait a long time for the tow truck to come. Apparently they had to build the truck for him first, or something. Anyway, he was a nice guy; took me to my fiance’s place, where I sit now, writing this for you. Couldn’t take me home, because Galactica needs to get parked in the parkade and the tow truck wouldn’t fit, and couldn’t take me to the mechanic because it would be pointless. They were closed and I would have had to wait outside in the rain for someone to maybe pick me up; more likely, I’d have to be lucky and catch the right bus — that is, if I still had enough money for transit after towing costs — and my luck with transit is…iffy? Definitely NOT something to be gambled with when Mercury is wandering around all over the cosmos like a drunken frat boy.

Towing cost me all of my grocery money. So. That was nice.

On the plus side, my fiance’s house is full of food. So I shall eat it until I’m full.

It is also full of Netflix. I drowned my sorrows in The Hunger Games.

Anyway, you didn’t come here to hear me whine. Wait, actually, I’m not sure why you came here if that’s the case. Whining is pretty much all I do.

So! The Jade Star of Athering. Yes. That thing.

Been working on it every day this month. Working hard. I set myself a deadline of finishing it by…um…tomorrow, but seeing as today’s events kind of borked the fuck out of everything, that may not happen. If I don’t finish the book tomorrow, my stretch deadline is March 8th.

Ran into a couple of problems the past few days that left me frustrated enough to screw up the progress I was making, unfortunately. Nothing like writing a continuity error into the plot of a sequel. Easily fixable, luckily — well, relatively easily — and all done now; really you’ll never notice where I grafted in the fix. And then I had to spend a morning figuring out troop deployments, marching orders, etc. There may have been some maps involved. Maps that are now sitting on my desk, at home.

Tonight’s writing and tomorrow morning’s scribblings are doing to be done sans guidance. Whatever; that’s fine. Nothing will stop me from writing this book.

Regardless the problems, the book has been pretty exciting the past few weeks. New things have cropped up, old storylines are being wrapped up, things I gave clues for in Bellica will be revealed. As well, the plot for a third book is revealing itself to me, so gods willing I’ll have the first draft of another book [in what is apparently turning into a series] started before the end of the year. (Maybe I can make it my November project.)

March project is revisions and story bibles! That’s a lot of work, and I’m hoping it’ll help me lay out the rest of the groundwork I need for Camp NaNoWriMo and my April novel project, the next book in the Stranger Skies series, currently untitled.

I don’t yet have a release date for any of these books. I’m hoping to have a clearer picture of when that will be next month. Before the first round of revisions is done, however, I have no way to safely gauge. Suffice it to say — you will see both The Jade Star of Athering and Stranger Skies out this year. And I daresay I’ll do a better job of releasing them than I did Bellica. (Eeesh, what a trainwreck.)

On that note, I’m off to eat the rest of my fiance’s food. I’ll see you next month.