10 Years Later, My Soul Still Flinches

I was recently triggered by a dear friend. He had no way of knowing – I don’t talk about these things, and on the rare occurrence that it comes up in any context, I take care of it myself. But we’ve been close for awhile now, and he deserved some sort of understanding as to why I nearly walked out, no reasons, to clear my head and calm my breathing.

My tendency is to not talk about things until I have both a clear understanding and a clear action to take. If understanding is all that is needed, I sometimes keep that to myself, unless it benefits everyone to express it. Mind you, with a high emotional metabolism, these processes can take from minutes to hours – rarely on the scale of a full or multiple days. But I suppose it’s important to talk about abuse, especially as someone who apparently seems functional.

Corey used to leave me places. We lived in a bad neighborhood in Suffolk, and I was new to the area, and I worked doubles at an Applebees a few miles from home. The one time I tried to walk home late at night, a car stopped to proposition me, and became quite angry when I didn’t accede. I was 19 at the time. I didn’t have a phone – we only had one, and Corey had taken it, but wasn’t answering. Being that poor also meant I didn’t have cab fare, there were no buses, and my new coworkers were uncaring. I didn’t have my car – he had taken that, too. To do… something.. while I worked and he didn’t. After that, even when I couldn’t get ahold of him, I would wait at the restaurant, sometimes for a couple hours, until he would come to get me. He would then “tease” me for how often I had called or texted him.

When I would insist on taking my car with me, it became an argument about trust. Why didn’t I trust him to have the car? It was just going to sit in the parking lot all day, whereas he could use it. Didn’t I trust him to come get me? Did that mean I didn’t trust him at all in anything else? I was a horrible person! He was simply absent minded. My lack of trust was undermining the relationship.

Later, things slowly escalated. We would get into regular yelling matches. He broke his hand from punching the floor when I stated my intentions of leaving, permanently and immediately. I drove him to the hospital instead of driving myself to my cousin’s, crying because I knew the ensuing hospital bills would threaten the move back to Indiana so I could return to school (my parents’ sneaky trick to get me back into a social safety net). I still don’t know the laws about physical abuse if you hit back. It wasn’t pretty. And always the underlying thread of distrust. Any fight always came back down to my not trusting him. I finally left him after 2 and a half years, discovering that the problem was not my lack of trust but his untrustworthiness. We still had to live together for awhile, again from his financial insolvency. There was a final morning with him not letting me leave the house, my finally calling the cops as he slammed doors back shut and then stood in front of my car.

Recovery takes time, and I’m still not done with it. I reflect less often, but more publicly. But it’s important to know that even badasses like me have baggage. So do others.

  • 2007 : http://willowperson.livejournal.com/129303.html
  • 2008 : http://willowperson.livejournal.com/167449.html
    • http://willowperson.livejournal.com/186020.html
  • 2009 : http://willowperson.livejournal.com/197463.html
  • 2010 : http://blog.bl00cyb.org/2010/09/diaf/
  • 2013 : http://brainmeats.net/ep8-social-scripts-for-abuse

When an ex-lover in Seattle had pulled my motorcycle battery to get his own going, I lost my shit. In his  excitement over mechanical triumph, he tossed his feature phone towards me to gain my attention while stopped on the curb. He had just removed both the ability to communicate and my transportation. Of course he had no idea why this would be so bad. Nor could he, until I expressed it.

The thing that makes emotional abuse difficult to overcome is that erosion in the baseline of trust. The initial giving of trust is still pretty easy to me, it’s the response to being in an iffy situation and determining how to navigate it. My attempts to vocalize about being uncomfortable in the past meant all the structure of the relationship was torn away (not by me, I know that now). So my knee-jerk response to situations now is that of having to choose to quietly deal with the feelings that I’m having, or having trust itself questioned. My heart doesn’t understand there can be an third option between stoicism and complete tear down. And I like the trust established with the Boston Sweetie (who I’ll note wanted to be called the Boston Strangler here, that is how awesome he is).

But now I have space again to ask questions and think through things safely, I don’t have to have a rational reason for feeling the way I feel. Maybe someday I get to be rational about all this again. Maybe. In the meantime, I just have to accept that the people around me might actually want to help, not take my need for help as a personal affront. All I have to do is be brave enough to explain what’s going on in the tumult of feels, even if it doesn’t yet make sense. Especially if it doesn’t yet make sense.

It’s important to know that even the ability to speaking about the abuse is what is ripped away. This is why it is difficult to speak out. The podcast, listed above, has some pretty heart-felt conversation from a variety of people in it. Worth checking out. And speak out. It helps. Even a decade later.


We don’t have a script in this society for healthy responses to abuse. If you don’t talk about it at all, you’re pitied and looked down upon for not being vocal. The other side is to constantly speak about it, be a capital V victim, to have that as your main identity.
I’m going to tell you a story, and you can let me know what your gut level response it to it, and we can talk about why that might be the case. Cool?
From November of 2003 to November 2005, I lived with a man named Corey Smith. The first year was in VA, the second in IN. He was emotionally abusive. Anyone who knows me will know how crazy this next part is – he had convinced me that I was bad with people, didn’t know how to dress or about music, that I shouldn’t dance, and many other things. I was forced into an introverted, mousey personality. Some argue that he was also physically abusive, but I fight back, so that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.
After that was done, he dated and abused my best friend. While she and I lived together. During that time, he also bled many of our friends for money he promised he would pay back, just as he had done to me. When he moved away, we were glad of it. “Die in a fire” was our motto for him – we wished him ill, but he wasn’t worth our time.
That’s not the end of the story, unfortunately. It ends up he was cheating on my best friend with a lovely woman in New York. And she reached out to me for reassurance that she was doing the right thing the day she went to court against him. For beating her head into a way until she lost hearing. We now hang out, and a great friendship has come out of this, but – here’s where things get sticky Script-Wise – he had moved to Baltimore and started associating with people I know.
So where does that put me? I am violently protective of my friends, but also feel very strongly that people 1) can change and 2) should be allowed to form their own opinions. But this one… he is charming, manipulative, and dangerous. What I did was to write an e-mail to my friends in Baltimore that simply said “I will never talk about this again, unelss you ask me to, and then only the facts: You need to be aware that a man named Corey Smith has moved to your city. He has been harmful to me and mine. Please be careful.” And that was that.
Ends up he’s on tour with a long standing favorite band of my social group, Android Lust. Who we’ve all wanted to see. So do we not go? Drama is, of course, the last thing we want. Well, potential harm to people we care for or respect must be balanced with that. So New York Girl went in New York, to dance. And Libby went in Seattle. And here’s the thing.. we know people. A person who had played with the band looped them in on being careful of this guy. And Libby ends up in the greenroom, geeking, they want her to do a photoshoot, all the while, he’s in the merch booth sinking. And at breakfast the next morning, they ask her for actual details.
So tonight, I went to see them in Sacramento. Corey didn’t expect to see me. But members of the band wanted to meet me, too, about their sketchy merch booth guy who’s been “borrowing” money. And I went, in my comfortable clothes with his oldest friend (and one of my dear friends) and another accomplice. At the end of the night, I handed him a lighter tagged with #diaf, so he can light his own damn fire to die in.
Does this make me vindictive? If I smashed his face in (which I am more than capable of doing), I risk going to jail, which is just not worthwhile for me right now. Not over him. But going out to *specifically* confront him in this way. Are there better ways?