I am having to look in the face of where this all started.
How did I learn not to see the signs that made me vulnerable to the future abusers in my life?
As an adult, I thought I had learned how to see. I thought I had looked into my past and learned the lessons.
But here, at my dad’s house, I am face to face with the beginning. I am staring it in the face. I am watching it unfold again. And this is truly difficult.
I am having to, on a minute by minute basis, remember that I am an educated, adjusted adult, comfort the little me from the past, calm down parent me, call off angry adult me, and really call on teacher me.
I am having to pull from the files of my past therapy sessions, sometimes frantically pulling and flinging the file folders in my head searching for the right ones to help quell panic attacks, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much.
Here, in this place, I am learning how to tear apart the very stitching I had placed so carefully, as I realize how many red flags of abuse had been, not just in the way I wore me, but in the pattern I was given, the thread I used, the scissors that cut, the pins that pushed through the fabric of me until I thought getting pins and needles was what I needed; getting cut and torn and sewn up was normal.
Somewhere in the middle of who I am, deep in my spirit, I am learning that just being the fabric of me is enough.
But this is no easy process. Just writing this is difficult. But I need to.
When John Goosen, along with several other people, asked me to come visit them, I told him no, as I told all the others. I wasn’t stupid enough to go run off to visit someone I’d never met, by myself, in a foreign country. Others asked to come visit me, but never did. And I carried on being friendly with them all.
John bided his time. Being nice, friendly, but not too friendly, not suspiciously romantic. In fact, not romantic at all. He knew I wasn’t going to fall for that. I knew I wasn’t going to fall for that.
He waited a while after the attempt to get me to come see him, just friendly chatting, to start commenting on my work situation. Gave that some time, commiserating about the circumstances I felt I was in, sending hope I would find another job. Then, after I said I had quit, but had still not found somthing else, he offered me a job. He was just waiting for the right time.
After I accepted the job, he began being more friendly, but not too much. Not until the last few days. Flights were booked, everything was in motion. Then I got the, “You know, I was thinking, this may become something more. I like you. We could try it out.”
It was a set up from the beginning. All the while he was setting me up for a fake job, he was telling the people there on the island that we had met years ago, had been keeping in contact, and were now going to be starting a life together. Getting them all primed for his “girlfriend” to come to the island.
And once I got there, had my passport sent away, knew nobody else there, what choice did I have but to follow along? Yes, in hindsight I can see ways.
But there were all these pieces I had sewn into the fabric of me, the specific patterns I had been shown to use, that kept me there, trying to make the best of it, trying to be the best me in the situation, trying to stay strong, trying to prove I can handle this too. Listening to the voices of my past telling me, “you made your bed, now lie in it.”
Quite possibly in the top 10 of the most fucked up pieces of advice to ever give.
Now, I know that, then I didn’t. I am learning.
That saying is mixed in with the saying, “Bloom where you are planted.” Not a bad piece of advise by itself, but put together in my head, in my situation, it proved to be a recipe for lying in a bed planted with lies, deceit, and eventual assault.
How did I get there, being the smart woman I am? How did I not see the signs that screamed at everyone else? Or did they?
I am really good at seeing the signs when I am in the situation. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened with Sven.
I think he was testing the waters, he was pushing everything so fast, giving me all the right reasons for it to go so fast, testing the waters and watching me swim right past all those beginning flags. But once I had gotten to the part where I know what to look for; once he started in with the tests I know to stand up to or walk away from, he walked away. He knew he wasn’t going to get any further, so I wasn’t of any use to him any more.
Simple things like the way he began putting me down, as a joke, just for fun, he didn’t really mean it, I needed to stop being so sensitive. He squished my hands till they hurt and then when I called him out on it, “I was just playing, are you trying to change everything about me?” In the last 5 days I had actual face to face contact with him we had several, trivial moments like that. But I talked to him about them. Explained how those moments affected me and that I would never be ok with that kind of joking/ playing. I think in the time I was in Turkey, as we talked and I spoke about what I was doing, my friends, etc. He realized he wasn’t going to be able to isolate me, or make me dependent on him. I wasn’t going to let the signs I know go. I am all about talking things through and finding common ground now. In the situation, I know how not to be a victim.
John showed lots of red flags, early, within 2 weeks. But I was isolated already, I was dependent already. So, I set my boundaries quickly. I gave the show he wanted to the public and kept things peaceful in private. The first time he began to demonstrate aggression, I tried to stay away from him.
But there it was again, the patterns, the threads, the voices of my past, and now they were mixed up with the things I had been learning. I went back to stay in his apartment out of a combination of guilt for staying with basically strangers who were also struggling, and new kind of awareness. The awareness that John was the one that set this whole mess up and should be responsible for it until I could get on my own. I shouldn’t be having to put these other people out, or be living on the street because of what he did. He should have to live up to the “room and board” I was promised, at least until I could get my classes paying enough to support myself.
I had no passport. He made sure it was gone. I had no money. Every time I was able to get some, there was something else with my passport or the restaurant, that it had to be used for. The idea stuck itself in my head that he needed to be responsible since he couldn’t be decent.
That, my friends, is a thought pattern of someone who has been primed for abuse, has some understanding of abusive patterns, but not enough understanding of victim patterns.
And so there I was, standing up for myself, publicly getting myself on my own two feet, publicly NOT his girlfriend, starting to put the real truth out there instead of his lies, and demonstrating my ability to make it on my own.
I was becoming independent, not as isolated, and he knew I felt nothing for him, so his ploys of “I’m in love with you,” and “This is the closest to suicidal I’ve ever been,” were not working.
I thought I was doing good.
However, abusers don’t really like to have their power play trumped. And so, I got the living shit beat out of me. I came within minutes of being killed. Why? I was doing everything right. I was following the rules of how not to be a victim.
Because I was following the rules of how to get out of being a victim. And I was doing it how I knew to in the U.S., but I was not in the U.S.. I didn’t have the resources. I didn’t have the support.
And that leads me here, now, in my father’s house, watching him raise another little girl, and watching all the red flags I know, but being put squarely in front of the flags I didn’t know.
Spirit led me here to see this, to go through this. I do not know how this will go or end. But I do know I am not going to back down from learning. I cannot go into my future whole until I rip apart.
And I am ripping apart.
But I will come out better.
I am a phoenix
Rising brilliantly from the ashes
My tears will heal others
My song will lead heroes