Not All Bruises Are Visible

“There’a a phrase, “the elephant in the living room”, which purports to describe what it’s like to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, “How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?” And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth; “I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn’t know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture.” There comes an aha-moment for some folks – the lucky ones – when they suddenly recognize the difference.”
― Stephen King

 

#Trigger Warning: The following article contains violent literary imagery and extremely sensitive subject matter pertaining to physical and emotional abusive behavior. Reader discretion is advised. 

 

She sat on the bed, like a crumpled piece of paper ripped from a tear-stained notebook; I stood at the door way, blocking any means of escape, steadfast, white-knuckled.  The sobbing was barely audible through the screams; each broken plead smacked away with callous impunity. I was judge, jury, and executioner; the only victim was my bruised ego – nothing else mattered. Transgressions were to be punished until the perpetrator learned their lesson, until the unquenchable thirst for justice, righteousness, and virtue was satisfied – there was no room for pity, forgiveness, or respite.

 

The lesson must be taught by any means necessary.

 

That image will forever haunt me, will be permanently etched in my psyche, vividly emblazoned into my memory until the day I die – there will not be a day that will go by that I won’t remind myself:

 

I, Jose Sebastian Perez, was a victim of emotional abuse, and I am also an abuser.

 

Just like any drug addict, like any alcoholic, the operative word is not WAS….I AM – not because I choose to be, but because it was the choices I made that will forever label me; I CHOSE to emotionally and physically compromise peoples’ lives through manipulation, lying and cheating, through despicable acts of physical violence and emotional torture.

 

The subject of emotional abuse has been long overdue to be discussed, and due to pertinent and recent events, I am about to open a can of worms unlike any I have dared open before….

 

Why would I choose to act in such a cruel, disgusting manner? Why – after witnessing acts of cruelty, lack of empathy, violence – why – after huddling in a corner of my bed fearing for my life, waiting for the stinging pain on my face, desperately swallowing away the taste of blood in my mouth – why – after being covered in shattered ceramic, room temperature milk and cereal for eating slowly – why – after being humiliated, belittled, yelled at, threatened, barked, backhanded, welted with wire hangars, pushed head-first to the ground, kicked in the ribs, covering my 7 year old head – why – after being lied to, coerced into compliance, to strive for perfection, virtue, respect – WHY – would I want to put anyone else through that Miltonian imagery of suffering?!

 

Why? Why?! FUCKING WHY?!

 

Because that is all I knew – because that is what I was taught; perfection through violent training and conditioning is virtue.

 

I was a child whose innocence was stripped away, replaced with a sickening view of the world, amplified through the lens of mental illness – the very same illness which led my family to believe that my hyperactivity, lack of focus, and constant confusion was to be remedied through strict violence.

 

Image result for emotional abuse

 

Throughout the years, I used my mental condition and instability as a crutch, an excuse to condone behavior that is beyond reprehensible and condemnable – I used suicide threats as a tool to manipulate people for pity; I learned to mask behavior and mimic affection, snaking my way into roles of confidence and trust, only to then use that comfort for my own selfish needs and whims. I excelled at reading people, gaining insight into their hopes, dreams, pleasures and pains; I used that information to continue my charade of benevolence, all the while stuffing my maw with delicious gratification at the expense of others’ fragility and shortcomings, gorging on their weaknesses, exploiting them for my own gain.

 

The irony of it all, though, was that half of me was in on the plan; the other half of me was still that scared child, huddling behind the monstrous Hulk who was to be feared and respected – and I witnessed every event, frozen in fear, screaming at the top of my lungs at Hulk to not hurt the ones I loved – yes, I was still capable of feeling love, but it was attachment, necessity, desperation, that hunger for love and safety I was never gifted.

 

Abuse is simply about power and control, to use any means to attain it and maintain it – it is a sick need, a powerful drug, an addiction, that is born out of the desperation of having no control over your circumstances, of feeling powerless to overcome that agony.

 

Let’s take a quick moment to go over a few phrases:

 

“This is all your fault, I wouldn’t be upset if you wouldn’t have *insert arbitrary transgression here*.”

“You don’t care about me; all you care about is yourself!”

“Oh please, you’re ALWAYS the victim – you’re never wrong, I’m always the one at fault!”

“Why do you always make me do these things? You’re always bringing me down and then you wonder why I react the way I do?!”

“Why do I always have to do what all of you want me to do, when I have done everything that you ask of me?!”

“It’s always about what YOU need, about what YOU want; what about MY needs?!”

 

Do any of these phrases sound familiar?

 

Notice how all of them are directed towards someone else, blaming someone for behavior that does not correspond to them? Notice how it makes the recipient “responsible” for any consequence? Notice the accusatory tone, the aggression, the attack on character and emotion?

 

They are straight out of the Abuser’s Handbook To Manipulating Guilt In Their Favor.

Abuse quote - The only people who get upset about you setting boundaries are the onces who were benefiting from you having none.

 

The second you relinquish any sense of self-respect, self-worth, and allow emotionally aggressive behavior to go unrecognized without consequence, congratulations, you have officially allowed yourself to become a victim of abuse.

 

And thus the cycle begins:Image result for emotional abuse

 

  1. Tensions building – This is what I call the transgression phase, or “walking on eggshells”. This is where you notice meek behavior, a fragile state of fear where even the smallest hint of weakness will be perceived as an opportunity to strike, to exert power and control. These are the moments where abusers who feel powerless lash out and do whatever it takes to regain that loss of control, always at the expense of the victim of said abuse.
  2. Incident – This is the “shit has hit the fan phase”. Here within lies the main antagonist, the monster of subjugation, the duel of wills, the power struggle. This is where the majority of verbal barrage and attacking takes place, as well as physical violence – the escalation is intense, a terrifying game of “chicken” if you will, to see who will survive the ordeal. It almost never bodes well for the victim, for the abuser is willing to play dirty, willing to go to lengths of unimaginable mental and emotional depravity to exert his will upon those who have bested him – it is a do-or-die contest, and victims are blindsided so badly, that they relent to the assault.
  3. Reconciliation – Otherwise known as the “I Gone Done Fucked Up And Now I have To Clean Up This Mess” phase. Sometimes I consider this phase to be the worst part of the abuse, but that is definitely up for debate. Here’s where deadly charm and persuasion play a role in smoothing things over – every emotional guilt trip trick in the book is used – the term gaslighting* comes to mind. (To gaslight someone is to manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity)
  4. Calm – And finally, the most famous term of them all, the Honeymoon Phase, known in other circles as “lovebombing” – the victim will be showered in adoration and gifts; promises are made, pacts are built, makeup sex is stupendous, and all is forgiven. “It won’t happen again, I promise. I’m a new person, and I will make amends. Everything will be better from now on. I swear.” Meanwhile, the abuser just hit the reset button on the next incident’s timer. The countdown has begun once again.

I realize this is a severe oversimplification of such a complex and sensitive subject, but the point I am trying to make is that emotional aggression is only a single type of abuse:

Image result for types of abuse

A popular representation of the different types of abuse

 

There are boundaries and limits that should be established in ANY interpersonal relationship, whether it be familial, romantic, or platonic.

 

At this point I realize I have been pontificating, preaching to the choir like a humongous hypocrite.

 

“Sebastian, ” you say, “how dare you criticize and condemn the behavior which you have so shamelessly attributed to yourself?”

 

Because I am both a victim and an abuser. This subject needs to be talked about, exposed, discussed, scrutinized, and handled every single day, at every single moment.

 

Nothing, and I mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING can condone abusive behavior. NOTHING. 

 

If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, run. Run like your life depended on it – in many sad and unfortunate cases, it does, and many men and women have needlessly and tragically lost their lives due to this horrendous behavior.

 

There is hope, however – with professional treatment, therapy, honesty, and brass balls, the cycle of abuse can be broken. This is not always the case, though, and it takes effort, dedication, love, patience, anger management, trust-building, and most of all – time.

Here are some tips that worked miracles for me:

  1. The first, and most crucial step is to recognize and accept that you are an abuser, or that you are in an abusive relationship. Internalize it, accept it, assimilate it, brand it into your DNA, douse yourself in strength and courage, surround yourself with positive influences, and seek a functional, stable, reliable support system.
  2. Be the architect of positive change, not the author of your own regretful obituary; pity parties – one of my favorite terms – are not a gala event people wish to attend.
  3. Hold yourself accountable for every action taken, every decision made, and every word spoken.
  4. Leave the promises to the indebted gamblers and finance brokers; do, don’t say. I know it’s a cliche, but actions speak louder than words – demonstrate that you are aware that there is always work to be done, and there is always room to learn and grow.

 

You know the old adage that a sheet of wrinkled paper can never be smooth once crumpled, no matter how much ironing you put it through?

 

It will never be the same, but that does not mean that the very page that was crumpled can’t be used to write a beautiful poem, to draw a simple, pretty sketch, or be shaped into a soaring paper airplane destined for clear, blue skies.

 

 

Perfect Strangers or: How I Deal With Social Awkwardness/Anxiety

“He might have been encased in a thick glass bubble, so separate did he feel from his three dining companions. It was a sensation with which he was only too familiar, that of walking in a giant sphere of worry, enclosed by it, watching his own terrors roll by, obscuring the outside world.” 

― J.K. Rowling, The Casual Vacancy

 

The restaurant was a blustering mess of humanity; babies crying, families exchanging casual conversations, musings on the mundane, the inconsequential, while hearty laughs bellowed in the distance, echoes of cheer, tension, forced pleasantries and polite behavior chafing my sensibilities like a potato sack chafing my legs during the Field Days of my youth.

 

If Hell is a construct of your worst fears, this was one of them.

 

I was hungry, my body slightly pained and aching, and I felt my irritability levels exponentially growing as the seconds ticked by. By nature, I am easily startled by sudden, loud noises, a direct response to one of my many childhood traumas. I am extremely sensible to my surroundings, a sponge of sensory overstimulation, and when it becomes unbearable, I freeze; my heart grows quick, my breathing becomes intensely labored, and my first instinct is to start throwing elbows like I’m swimming in a sea of bodies at a Slayer concert.

These are the moments where my mind wanders to dark places and wishes for nuclear holocaust or an Infinity Gauntlet.

 

Image result for thanos snap

These are the moments where I actually sympathize with villainous motivations

 

It was supposed to be joyous occasion, to spend time with loved ones, familial warmth, the sanctuary of genuine laughter and good will.

Except my mind finds it extremely difficult to accept those concepts still, because my life experiences have always been distorted, especially through the lens of mental illness – my formative years were filled with violence, both physical and emotional, so my coping mechanism was to hold all things at arm’s length using sarcasm and unapproachableness as my sword and shield, to protect myself from the dangers of a cruel world that I did not understand, a world that I was thrust into to fight against, a gladiatorial contest of will and survival by any means necessary.

Related image

The perfect representation of how I see Me vs the World – thank you Taika Waititi for your genius vision on Thor: Ragnarok (still one of my top five MCU films)

 

So, how do I survive these encounters, these unnecessarily stressful situations that are undoubtedly an important part of our lives?

 

Well, brutal honesty is not a tool I pull out of my Mental Toolbox Emergency Kit in a family setting; even though honesty and sincerity are key to dealing with mental illness, there is another crucial precision tool that needs to be taken into consideration: tact.

I’ve always been famously known in many social circles as a tactless, brash grump, a Troll with a heart of gold who unfortunately wields a poison tongue – and I am not afraid of whiplashing the shite out of folk for my own sick amusement from time to time (Hulk speaking) – but I have learned to sheathe my razor tongue and wield its power for the forces of good unless there is no other recourse. 

 

Related image

Hulk’s definition of finesse

 

 

After years of jackhammering my way through social situations, I finally learned the subtle art of situational awareness

 

According to the source of all knowledge and wisdom – Wikipedia – “situational awareness, more commonly known as situation awareness, has been recognized as a critical, yet often elusive, foundation for successful decision-making across a broad range of situations, including aviation, air traffic control, ship navigation, health care, emergency response, military command and control operations, and offshore oil and nuclear power plant management.Lacking or inadequate situation awareness has been identified as one of the primary factors in accidents attributed to human error.”

Situation awarenessmeans the up-to-the-minute cognizance or awareness required to move about, operate equipment, or maintain a system. […] In the applied behavioral science community, the term situation awareness has emerged as a psychological concept similar to such terms as intelligence, vigilance, attention, fatigue, stress, compatibility, and workload.

 

So how did I apply some of the tenets of situational awareness and use them to my advantage?

 

pay attention.jpeg

 

Intelligence – By nurturing the growth of emotional intelligence and its role in my life I was able to accurately assess the situation.

 

Compatibility – I accept the fact that I am never going to be 100% compatible with everyone around me, and vice versa – being aware of that fact allowed me to adapt to the situation.

 

Attention – Attention to detail is key in human interaction; being able to identify mannerisms, social cues, gestures can all lead to healthy means of communicating.

 

Stress – Yeah, I was stressed the hell out, which usually exacerbates my anxiety to the point of the proverbial volcanic eruption, but by being aware of my stress level I was able to act accordingly and manage it appropriately – crisis averted.

 

Vigilance – By adhering to lessons learned and staying mindful of past transgressions and their aftermath, I was able to translate that knowledge and put it into action. Always learn from the past. If you make the same mistake twice, it tends to mean that it is no longer a mistake; it has become a choice.

 

In simpler terms, just be aware of not only the things that are going on around you, but observe people, be mindful of your actions, words, body language, etc. Human interaction is a delicate dance full of fluid cadence, beats, rhythm, and nuance that takes time and practice to perfect.

If you are aware of the situation you are currently experiencing, you learn to act accordingly, adapt to your surroundings, and find yourself able to be honest with yourself about how you feel without shame nor guilt; it is ok to be uncomfortable, and it is ok to express discomfort – just don’t make a scene nor disrespect someone because you feel the need to point out that they are disgusting for not picking that atrocious piece of lettuce out from in between their buckteeth.

I felt extremely uncomfortable in the restaurant, but I was aware of it, and I made my discomfort known clearly yet subtly to my significant other, and we were able to take steps to make the experience as enjoyable as possible by adapting to the situation.

 

It ended up being quite a pleasant family gathering, surrounded by noisy, inconsiderate jackasses, but enjoyable nonetheless.

 

The moral of the story:

 

We all live in our own bubbles of reality; it is up to us if we decide to let them burst in an explosion of disastrous proportions, or if we decide to be like this adorable otter of meme fame and maneuver our bubbles with panache, dignity, and meme-able expertise.

97314c9131faf31bd7cc7bc0f410bbd4.jpg

 

They Can’t All Be Winners

“I’ve had the sort of day that would make St. Francis of Assisi kick babies.”
Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

#Trigger Warning: This post contains literary imagery that may be unsuitable for sensitive readers. Reader discretion is advised.

 

Yesterday was a very, very bad day.

 

I woke up groggy, irritable, impatient, intolerable. I wasn’t even able to finish my sacred daily morning coffee ritual before the first phone call with bad news was had. Calm words were spoken at first, then the tension grew until the eventual crescendo of emotions escalated the verbal barrage to surgical strike precision and mean-spiritedness.

More phone calls of the same irritating type kept smacking me in the face, urging me on to proclaim that Thursday, December 27, 2018 was going to be shitty day.

Words, thoughts, and intent are powerful tools; they may be used either for constructive, positive endeavors, or they can be handled as subtly as an angry bull wreaking havoc in a china shop cliche to swathe a path of devastation if someone even looks at you the wrong way. Either way, they prepare and condition the mind for events; that’s why mantras, repetition, affirmations are key to good mental health.

Image result for meditation don't kill anyone

Don’t maim anyone today. Don’t maim anyone today. Don’t maim anyone today.

 

And I should’ve listened to my own damn advice yesterday.

 

I should’ve cleared my mind, used my techniques, closed my eyes, breathe, self-soothe, etc.

Yet I CHOSE to have a bad day, whether I consciously decided to or not.

I hopped unto social media, opened up the research tabs on my browser, to then be bombarded by a relentless assault of negativity and vitriol not unlike the slime you find underneath and around structures and junk after flooding from rainstorms.

I froze.

I allowed myself to be enveloped in the comfy blanket of familiarity and just go into autopilot mode – I spent more than half the day sitting in my terrace, on my favorite chair, just staring out at the outside world.

 

Despising it.

 

Wishing for a nuclear holocaust.

 

Cars and motorcycles zoomed by annoyingly with their loud, penile-compensating roars; individuals went on with their days, walking, carrying grocery bags, living their daily life.

They were living, and I was seething in anger and loathing, stewing in the cesspool of judgment, uncertainty, confusion, feeling my eyes well up with tears, my arms and legs shaking like a bartender’s blender during Happy Hour, my chest thumping with the incessant need to go supernova, to cave in and just bleed out all over; I wanted to fingerpaint the floor with my entrails and draw a huge middle finger to the world.

Anger Is Not a Symptom of Bipolar Disorder, Or Is It?

An example of how I see myself during an anger-fueled manic episode

 

I screamed in agony, but nothing came out of my throat except a slight whimper, a sigh of frustration, as my eyes darted around looking for some measure of salvation that would not come. I kept swinging in my chair, faster, harder, the rhythmic squeaking of rusty joints singing a lullaby, the familiar sound of anxiety and hopelessness. There was no music for me to dance to and bob my head with, there was no YouTube video playing to make me smile, amuse me and comfort me, and I almost made the mistake of breaking one of the cardinal rules: posting on social media while angry and manic.

 

In the past, I have relied on others to get me through manic episodes, much to the detriment of many interpersonal relationships, therefore I desperately hesitated for a few seconds.

I thought about getting in touch with certain individuals, but that would be an exercise in futility; in my mind, in my experience, people have better things to do than to listen to someone whine and complain, even if there is merit to the pain they are feeling, even if they are just shouting out to the heavens for some release from a force that will not let them go, a specter of mocking indifference that haunts their every thought, every action, every decision.

Also, I would probably tear them a new asshole just for the hell of it, just because I didn’t want to be the only idiot in pain, according to Hulk.

(We’ll eventually dive deep into the subject of abusive behavior in interpersonal relationships soon in a future post.)

On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes I find comfort in attempting to make my day worthwhile by making others happy.

That is a common trait for someone suffering from mental illness, especially Bipolar II Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder.

It is also a very damaging trait that can lead to some terrible and dangerous decisions – I’ll abound on that subject in the near future as well.

 

That being said, I decided to text my niece, whom I trust implicitly.

 

We had a very nice, short conversation.

 

I will paraphrase what she said in one of her messages:

“Well, drama will ALWAYS exist no matter how positive you are or try to be. Don’t believe everything you see; god knows if it’s relevant or accurate or whatever*. Just worry about your work and creativity. In the end, that’s what we take to the grave. Our legacy, not rude, immature comments. Wow, I went deep there.”

*Referring to social media in general.

(On a small sidenote: this 13 year old girl has more wisdom and insight than most “adults” I have seen skulking around social media; I am most definitely a proud uncle!)

 

Those few seconds were all I needed to snap out of it and put things into perspective.

 

An individual’s self-worth should never be measured by their actions or lack there-of. Expectations are appetizers for thought distortion, leading to a manic episode full course meal; eliminate expectation, live in the moment, and the nemesis of irrational thinking will come over to the table and flip it the hell over: lucidity.

I was far from lucid. I was in a state of mania; there was no coming back. The only way through the episode was to embrace it, accept it, find enough presence of mind to communicate it to my significant other who was present in our home at the time of my freak out, and then isolate myself from all forms of toxicity, all possible triggers that could worsen the situation.

So I avoided social media like the plague.

I turned off my laptop.

I put away my work materials, adjourned to the bedroom, lit some incense, allowed myself to cry, and then proceeded to painfully sob and scream into my pillow until my throat fed me cathartic bliss.

My body went limp. I lifted my head and opened my eyes. Light hammered into my eyes, slamming my brain with clarity. The pillow was soaked in a mélange of sweat, tears, saliva, and snot.

I got up from the bed, weakly limped over to the bathroom, feeling the strain of tension slowly melt off my body like a molting snake. I washed my face, rubbed off what little tension was left in my neck , walked over to my significant other, kissed her on the forehead, told her that I loved her, thanked her for her love and patience, went back to the bedroom, fired up my laptop, and played videogames until nightfall.

Unfortunately, I got absolutely no work done yesterday, no goals were accomplished – I felt worthless.

 

Or so I thought until I realized:

 

I didn’t hurt myself.

 

I didn’t hurt others.

 

I survived another manic episode.

 

And here I am able to retroactively introspect on what happened, now sharing a minor tale of triumph in the book of Life, with many more chapters to come.

 

I guess the day wasn’t so bad or such a waste after all, huh?

 

To quote a grand philosopher:

Image result for today was a good day