Category: Turning My Life Around

Committing to Change

Every year people make resolutions about wanting something different to happen, but rarely do those dreams become reality. Why is that?

In the dead of winter in 1998 in the high mountains of Tahoe, California, my fiancé had just dumped me in the worst possible way.  As we sat across from the dining room table he looked me right in the eyes, and without a hint or resentment or guilt, he told me “I never loved you. I think I just felt sorry for you.”  We had been engaged and living together for the past year and we had our ups and downs, but I never expected this.  I was shocked, stunned, hurt, and horribly embarrassed.  How could I not see this coming?  As I cried he looked at me with dead eyes and said, “I need you to move out.”  I was working two jobs and barely had money to survive let alone move out on my own.   He added “now.”  I just sat there crying as he walked off.

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What had just happened? I thought he loved me? We were engaged after all and our relationship seemed fine. Where did this come from so suddenly?  I blamed myself and I fell into a deep depression – I hated me.  I told my ex I had no money to move and he’d have to help me with a first and last for rent, he declined.  He told me I could live in his cold basement until I could figure it out, and that I needed to borrow money from someone and get out soon.  I went out and hustled until I was working 7 days a week to earn extra cash.  In the mean-time he made my life hell by either completely ignoring me at the house or being hostile toward me.  He would come home late and be gone all weekend without a word. I lived for 2 months of this abuse before I could scrape enough money to move out.

Over that two months I had time to grieve the relationship and piece together that he had been cheating on me and this was his way of ending it. Looking back I see how I did not deserve that kind of ending, but at the time I felt I deserved it for being such a bad person.  I was surprised to find that I was much happier living alone in my studio apartment.  I spent more time at the gym, hiking, and reading.  I also had free time to contemplate my life; where I am, where I had been, where I was going.  One day I made a list of all the relationships I had ever been in and I was horrified at what I saw.  I had been in one abusive relationship after another since I was 15.  Could this really be?  It had been 19 years since my first boyfriend, and I could not come up with a single one that had not abused me in one way or another. With that realization, I sank into a deep depression.  I lost all interest in everything I enjoyed. I was miserable at work.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone.  I felt like the scum of the earth that must somehow deserve this kind of horrible life.

I was laying in my bed one Sunday morning and I thought “I wish I would just die” and I meant it.  I was tired of the abusive relationships, tired of not getting anywhere in life, and tired of being 34 with no degree, no good job, and nothing to show for my years on this planet.  I laid in bed the entire day feeling sorry for myself.  In this fog of depression I had a thought. “Why do I keep dating abusive men?”  It got me to thinking that I must have some sort of glitch that attracts me to these abusers. But why?  On that day I committed to figuring out why I had spent 19 years being abused.

I went to the library and got self-help books.  I read the old classics like Psycho-unknownCybernetics and Your Erroneous Zone . This was the start of changing my life.  I couldn’t seem to shake the depression so I decided to find a therapist.  I quickly learned on my income I could not afford therapy I had remembered seeing a free group for survivors of domestic violence.  I found the number and made the call.  I was in group therapy that next week.  Even though I had admitted to myself that I was in abusive relationships, I could not get myself to admit I was a victim of domestic violence.  I mean, a few guys hit me, but mostly guys verbally abused me anunknownd thats not the same right?  As I listened to the women tell their stories, I realized that they were also verbally abused like me.  After 6 weeks in the class I finally figured out that verbal abuse is the same as physical; it destroys your self-esteem, your self-worth, and makes you feel worthless.  I connected with the therapist who led the class and I started seeing her for free at the County Mental Health office.  I made a commitment to go to therapy to help with my depression and figure out why I was attracted to abusive men.

For the first time in my life I talked about my childhood abuse to another human being.  I talked about my rape at 3 years old by a neighbor, my abusive, drunken lesbian parents, my molestation at 10 by my 42 year old neighbor, and being drugged and raped by two men in Vegas for hours.  I completely fell apart.  I felt worse.  I felt sorry for myself. Why me?  Why is God punishing me? What did I do to deserve this screwed up life? I felt suicidal.

As horrible as I felt, I committed to stick with individual therapy and group therapy.  I also committed to take suicide off the table and deal with my feelings. It sucked, but I did it.  I realized I fantasized about suicide just because I didn’t want to feel.  I spent my entire life avoiding, denying, and minimizing my feelings. I spent years drinking, drugging, partying, and doing anything I could to not feel.  I stopped all the drugs and drink at 22, but I kept avoiding with abusive dramatic relationships , overeating, under eating, and over exercising  I’d do any activity that keep me out of the feelings.  Therapy was very uncomfortable. It was about feeling your feelings, no matter what they are.  I felt so vulnerable and raw during that first year, but I stuck with it.  I decided and then committed to getting well.

Fast forward to today, another 19 years later and have come so far in my life.  I am so grateful about the decision I made to get better and then committing to that decision.  I have a fairly happy life, a healthy relationship, and a very stable and fulfilled life now.  I still go to therapy on occasion, I still read self-help books, I still work on making my life better all the time. Growth never stops. There is no “happily ever after” once I get skinny, get implants, get rich, or have a perfect relationship.  A happy life is about progression and moving forward, not one perfect moment in time.  My happiness comes from having an idea about what would make my life even more fulfilled, making a decision to move toward that, then making a plan and committing to change.

As I look at the calendar for 2017 I see lots of room for more commitments – things I am willing to make time for. I can’t just wish to get fit this year, I have to commit the time to go to the gym, hike, and do yoga and then make a schedule and put it on the calendar. From there it becomes habit by doing, as well as being my own coach and reminding myself I made a commitment to change.  I’m grateful that I found the key to my success – I make a decision and then commit to change, no matter how uncomfortable or difficult.  Like Nike says, “Just do it,” no matter how painful.  Here’s to another 19 years of commitment to growth!

Self-Imposed Suffering and Letting Go

Some of my suffering in life comes from the inability to let certain things go.  When I find out first hand that someone is a liar, scammer, cheater, abuser, or harms people or animals, I feel compelled to scream it from the roof tops. I have a quirk in my character in that I have high exceptions of people and I expect them to be honest, fair, trustworthy, and to do the right thing even when no one is looking.  I do NOT expect people to dress a certain way, or act a certain way, or have a certain amount of money,  but I do expect them to be decent human beings.

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I’ll be totally honest, my ranting about these people sometimes is, in a small part, retaliation for the harm they have done to me. But truth be told, my bigger reason is a deep desire to hopefully keep others from being harmed by these opportunists.  I want to make sure everyone knows that this person is a repeated liar, scammer, or is abusive. I don’t necessarily want to assassinate their character, but instead, to warn others and keep them from harm, or at least let them make a decision based on facts before deciding to befriend or date this person. If they choose to move forward then I feel that they at least have the full picture of who this person really is and what to expect.

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I try, and it’s not easy, to let everyone live the way they want. As long as it’s sane, safe, and consensual, it’s no business of mine.  I try to remind myself of the power of words and of the harm that can be done through speech.  Even the bible warns to not “wrong one another” (Lev. 25:17) through speech. In Judaism there are a few exceptions when tale-bearing is allowed, or even required.

“A person is also required to reveal information to protect a person from immediate, serious harm. For example, if a person hears that others are plotting to kill someone, he is required to reveal this information. That is another reason why the commandment not to go about as a tale-bearer is juxtaposed with “you shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed.”

In limited circumstances, one is also permitted to reveal information if someone is entering into a relationship that he would not enter if he knew certain information. For example, it may be permissible to tell a person that his prospective business partner is untrustworthy, or that a prospective spouse has a disease. This exception is subject to significant and complex limitations; however, if those limitations are satisfied, the person with the information is required to reveal it.”

unknown-7Maybe I am justifying my behavior, but I feel that to warn others before they are betrayed is the right thing to do.  But sometimes this sharing of information brings me suffering, why not just let it go and say nothing?

Can you imagine a world where people said nothing at all ever about other people?  While I agree that judging, gossiping, and lying about people is never a good thing, I also believe there are times that people need to be warned about scammers.  What if you were about to start dating a man who had beaten other women in the past, wouldn’t you want to know?  Or you were about to become a business partner with a pathological liar and thief. Wouldn’t you want to know?  Or if you are a single mom about to date a pedophile, hopefully you would definitely want to know about that, right? I feel there are times that people need to know the truth about others to keep them from harm and prevent them from wasting time.  But what about my suffering?

What hurts me are the people that get REALLY angry because they don’t want to hear the truth about said person.  Even though, in my mind, I am trying to help them and protect them from harm, surprisingly there are a significant number of people that either don’t care or don’t want to hear it and often they end up attacking me.  Even if you showed them a video of that person kicking a puppy, they somehow blame me for even telling them about it and then point out my own flaws.

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As much as I try to let this trait of high expectations go, I think about a world filled with scammers and liars doing that they do and no one caring enough to warn people – I can’t live in that kind of world.

My learning lesson in all this is still about letting go. As of today, it seems that I am unwilling to let go of warning others of liars, scammers and abusers.  However, what I can let go of is people’s reaction.  If they get mad and attack me, I can simply let that person’s reaction go. Their reaction is really none of my business and just a reflection of who they are and their life experiences. I can only take responsibility for even saying something in the first place, but their response is not my responsibility.  For today, I won’t let that part of me go.  Maybe in a day, a week, or a year, that may change, but for right now I will work on letting peoples reaction go.  I can’t force anyone to see the world my way, nor do I want to.  I just wish sometimes I didn’t have this big stupid heart that cares about others well-being, and didn’t have this strong disdain for the fake and the cruel.  Now it Karma was just instant I wouldn’t have this problem.

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Domestic Violence Can Happen to Anyone

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You’d think that being an independent, strong-willed, 6 foot tall Scandinavian woman would have kept me from being abused, but it didn’t help one bit.  While I never really tolerated physical abuse, much, I sure had my fair share of psychological abuse.

Looking back now, it’s really hard to imagine why all my relationships, with the exception of two recent ones, were with physically and/or mentally abusive men.  I would never tolerate that kind of behavior now, but I sure did back then. So how did this happen?  It all stemmed from my  abusive upbringing and my incredibly low self esteem.  My lesbian parents were completely dysfunctional.  My one mother was a highly functioning alcoholic doctor who was hardly ever home, and when she was, she was usually on a drunk binge. She was also a liar – she lied about most everything, but I will say this, she was a pretty good doc for being so screwed up.  My other mom was just mean as hell 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She never, not once, even now, ever said a nice thing about me. She has always been very cruel and very critical.  It’s no wonder I contemplated suicide when I was 5 years old.

This abusive childhood prepared me for familiar abusive relationships. I craved love and I was desperate for a relationship, any kind of relationship. This desperation made me vulnerable to being molested. My 42 year old neighbor in California picked up on this and he spent 6 months of typical pedophile grooming before he finally violated me.  My first real “semi-consensual” relation happened  when I was 14 years old.  I met I guy I was not physically attracted too, but all my friends had slept with him, so I figured there must be something cool about him.   He was 22 years old and basically made his living working part time as a janitor and selling drugs.  He was not my ideal choice, but he was interested in me, and I just wanted to be loved by someone and I desperately  wanted to get out of the house.   I pretty much ended up spending most nights at his parents house because thats where he lived.

Everything was wonderful in the beginning, but very quickly it turned abusive.  He ended up being very controlling of everything I did, said, and wore. Mostly he was critical of my weight and he fed me lots of cocaine and cross tops.  He wanted my ribs and hip bones sticking out, so  from age 15 – 18 I suffered from anorexia and bulimia, and he loved it!  He would praise me for not eating for days on end, said it made me look beautiful and sexy.  Other than that, he never had a kind word to me.  I could never do anything right and I was always reminded of how stupid and fat I was.  Sometimes he would get so angry he would SCREAM at me just inches from my face.  I would go blank, numb out, and basically leave my body until it was over.  The fights would usually end with him demanding sex and I would begrudging give in.

domesticviolence2His first punch came when I was 16. I kept pleading with him to teach me how to drive his stick shift truck and he never wanted to because he said,  “girls suck at driving stick-shift.”  Out of the blue, he told me to “get in the drivers seat” because he wanted to show me how to drive.  No warning, no prep, he told me to put it into first gear and go.  I had no idea what to do so  he started screaming and hurling insults at me.  I panicked and started grinding the gears as I tried to push the lever into first gear.  “Push the damn clutch in your stupid bitch!” What the fuck is wrong with you?”  Somehow, amongst  the screams, I managed to figure out how to get the truck into first gear and it lunged forward. The screams continued and he barked at me to turn left. I was terrified to see it was a very steep hill with a stop sign half way up.  He laughed medically and said, “well I guess you’re gonna learn to drive this truck or we all die.”  Of course I panicked and popped the clutch and the truck stalled. He back handed me right in the face and I started crying.  I lurched the truck forward until the road flattened out and promptly stoped the truck and jumped out.  I took off running and he ran after me. He grabbed me and threw me back in the truck. He took me home and I told him it was over.  He sweet talked me, got me presents, promised it would never happen again, and just like that we were on again.

Unknown-6The verbal abuse continued for years, until right before my 18th birthday.  I had starved myself to the point of almost dying and I got so scared I went back to eating.  I had put on 10 lbs  and he was so pissed off about it.  He went to the local burger place and got a burger and fries and told me “you cant even have a bite ‘cause you’re getting as fat as a pig.”  I defiantly took a french fry and took a bite and he punched me hard right in the face.  For the first time I fought back and we ended up fighting in the living room.  I finally ran out of the house, he caught me and he dragged me back into the house by the ankle, my head bouncing on the concrete.  He drug me back into the bedroom, ripped my pants off me and violently raped me.  I sobbed the entire time.  When he finished he rolled off me like everything was ok.  I slowly put my clothes back on and didn’t say a word.  I looked at him just laying their naked and limp, and I thought about getting a knife and killing him.  I honestly, in that moment, wanted him dead, but I wasn’t angry, I was very, very calm.   In a very low voice I looked him in the eye and said “You ever fucking touch me again or Ill kill you, I swear to God.  Don’t every talk to me every fucking again. or I will kill you. I promise.”  He looked completely shocked but didn’t say a word as I walked right out of his life.

You would think I would have learned from that, but no, my self esteem was so low, and I felt incredibly awkward and weird around nice guys.  I could not handle their intrusive questions I dated a guy I really liked him, but he asked me forging things like “How was your day? How are you feeling? What do you think about….?”  I had no idea how to answer simple questions like that, so I dumped him.

It wasn’t until I was 26 years old that I made a decision that I would never put up with physical abuse ever again.  At 23 I was completely enamored by this tall, handsome, confident and very charming former stunt man and world champion kick boxer.  He wooed the pants off me, literally, and as I found out, he was also a champion in the bedroom. Not because he enjoyed sex actually, but because he wanted the adoration of “being the best in bed.”  It was nothing but a show, typical of narcissists that use sex as a tool.  He controlled me, mentally tortured me, and took over my life for three years.  I stupidly followed him around like a damn puppy dog, even thought I knew he was cheating on me the entire time with anything that moved.  The end came when we bought a condo in Tahoe and in the middle of winter we got into a huge fight. Like the last relationship, I had had enough and finally stood up to him. He didn’t like that and he slugged me, hard. Not only was he the former world champ kick boxer, but he was also a professional boxer.  HIs punch didn’t knock me out, but it knocked me down. I started screaming so he put a pillow over my face and I couldn’t breath. The more I fought, the harder he pushed.  I finally just gave up and he finally took the pillow off my face and jumped off of me. He ran to the kitchen and grabbed a sharp knife.  He put the knife to my throat and threatened to kill me if I didn’t shut up.  I took all my fears, all my emotions, and I shoved them into a box in my mind, and again, like my last break up, I went totally calm.  I told him everything was ok, and maybe we just needed a day apart to calm down. I told him we both needed to just relax down, and I apologized profusely for upsetting him.  The entire time he had the door blocked and held the knife in his hand.  I promised him everything would be ok, and for some reason he started to cry and turned the knife to his own throat and threatened to kill himself. (I later learned in therapy that it wasn’t real, it was just manipulation to get me to feel bad.)  I begged him not to do that and told him I’d just take some time and go to my moms house in Reno and then everything would be ok again.  He then turned the knife to me and told me he’d kill me first, then himself.  I just kept on talking, saying anything that seemed to calm him down.  Finally he put the knife to his side and started to get angry again, which actually worked in my favor.  “Fine, get the fuck out of here!” he screamed at me over and over.  I used the opportunity to pick up the phone telling him I was gonna call my mom to pick me up and he agreed.  Now, keep in mind, I was trained by my lesbian parents to never call the cops or I’d go to an orphanage.  My abusive boyfriends trained me to never all the cops for fear of death.  And for a time I dated some outlaw bikers who engrained in me  that “we NEVER call the cops.”  As soon as I picked up the phone, he lifted up the knife and came at me again, luckily I quickly made a decision to call 911.  He started screaming at me belligerently again and  making death threats.  Ten long minutes later, multiple police officers arrived. Of course I defended him and asked them not to arrest him, but between my bruise and his threats they heard on the phone, he was arrested and charged with domestic abuse and felony kidnapping.

images-5I lived in a shelter for 10 days, then moved into my car in the middle of winter. Luckily I got a job quickly and was able to move into a rental.  It was a very low time for me.  I vowed to NEVER be abused again, and I wasn’t physically, but I ended up one more mentally abusive relationship.  At age 29, when that relationship ended, I promised myself I would not date for one year and I would go to therapy until I figured out why I attracted abusive men into my life.

I had to decide that enough was enough and that I wanted something different.  I had to promise myself that I would make my life better and not end up abused again. I spent the entire year in individual and group therapy.  I did not date I just worked on me.  I realized that my childhood abuse set me up for abuse from men.  I learned that my attracting and staying in abusive relationships was from my lack of self esteem and feeling that I didn’t deserve a healthy relationship.  It all started wth me looking inward and seeking help.  I learned a lot about myself, and I also learned I’m not alone. In my survivors of domestic abuse group I connected with other ladies just like myself  and I found strength in our solidarity.  We would all encourage each other and check in, and we would be brutally honest with each other if we started dating another abuser.   We put our life on the table and trusted that we would could get better if we were vulnerable and honest, and for me it worked.

Doing the therapy was not easy; it was uncomfortable and embarrassing, but I did it.  And I kept doing it, even all these years later I still go to therapy.  I want to continue to grow and get healthier, and while I am far from perfect, I am in a much better place than I was before.  I am currently in a relationship with a very healthy, well balanced, kind, and encouraging man and I am very grateful. But just like me, he would not have been ready for a healthy relationship unless he had gone to therapy as well.   images-4

If you are in a bad relationship, I promise you, get help, get out, and your life WILL get better.  You just have to decide and then get the help and resources to make it happen.  You, yes you reading this, you are beautiful and you deserve to have real love.  Life can be better if you make it so, you just have to make the decision and then do the work.

Being Badass

 

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Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Evel Knievel, and actors like Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and Charles Bronson, are all considered modern, iconic male badasses.  We idolize men being strong, charismatic warriors, but what about the women?  Who are the badass role models?

If we break it down like the men listed above, the woman would be ethical, strong in opinion, able to handle herself in a fight, and not be afraid to back down from the truth, even if it means an ass beating. These kind of real life badass women would be Ronda Rousey, Laila Ali, and any other women, like military, police, or firefighters, who run into the face of danger or risk the chance of physical harm.   Character role models from movies would include Sarah Connor in Terminator,  Alice in Resident Evil, Ellen Ripley in Alien, Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max, Carol from Walking Dead, and Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games.

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“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” ~Bruce Lee

I might ask ten different people for a definition of badass, and I may get ten different answers, but that’s the beauty of life, we can express ourselves in any way that makes us feel like a badass.  Imagine if you became paralyzed from a horse fall. For you being a badass may be spending years in rehab with a goal of getting back on the horse again.  For someone with PTSD, being a badass may be going to therapy and facing the traumas of the past.  And for another being badass may be taking a self-defense course or learning to box.

Being a badass in the military or in TV is often more about truly being a strong warrior, but to us civilians, badass is about facing doubt, fear, and makes you feel like you are doing what is right, what you are meant to do.  It’s about living life to the fullest and expressing your true self to the world, in spite of what others may think.  It means you don’t listen to the nagging little voice that says “you can’t do that!” And instead you tell that voice to “shut up because I have a plan.”

For me, becoming a badass meant I had to face all the demons from my past and admit I was in a victim mode.  For years I ran, I hid, and I avoided anything that might expose the real me.  I had been so abused from infancy into adulthood that I had nothing but doubts about who I was and what I wanted. (Read my story here http://www.stefanilord.com/category/why-write-a-blog/  )  I had been trained that it was easier to take the abuse silently than to stand up and fight.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid 30s that I decided to face my fears and look inward.  I hated it so much.  It was painful, it was dark and dirty, and it was filled with shame and guilt.  But somehow I knew that I had to expose all this gunk or I could never move forward; I would be doomed to repeat my mistakes over and over.

It took years of therapy, self-help books, as well as being vulnerable and honest enough to looking inward. But in the end I went from victim to warrior.   Today the things that make me feel badass are when I hit the heavy bag and practice boxing, shoot my guns, work out, walk into a place alone with my head held high, accomplish a goal, and especially riding my motorcycle.  I think I feel the most badass while riding – there is nothing like it. For some people they may get exhilaration from skiing, running a marathon, or even finishing a quilt, but of me it’s the twist of the throttle that makes me feel most alive.

Badass is a feeling; it’s when the action or thought makes you feel very confident and strong.  Do you feel like a badass warrior when you make excuses to go on a date because you’re too afraid?  Or when you quit something because you lose faith in yourself?  Of worse yet, you don’t even try because you’ve convinced yourself you will fail or you not good enough, smart enough, skinny enough, anything enough? No – those are all self-defeating acts that make you feel insecure. Badass is finding out you have type 2 diabetes, being 50 lbs overweight, and deciding to join a gym, hiring a personal trainer, and doing something about it.  You face the self-destructive thoughts and behaviors and you commit to change.

Badass is NOT bullying! If you think that beating people up that don’t deserve it, or making fun of innocent people, or robbing people, or harming others, including animals is baddass – you have a mental defect and you should to take a very long walk off a very short pier.

Badass is “hell yes, I did it!  I didn’t think I could, but I did!”  It means learning how to ride a motorcycle no matter how scared you are.  You may be afraid but you do it anyway.  Badass is about standing up for what’s right and protecting yourself as well as the innocent.  Baddass is about knowing how to defend yourself, but not going out and starting fights.  Badass is doing what makes you stronger and more confident. Badass is about doing things that most people say you shouldn’t, or that you can’t.  So go out and be badass. Do what makes you happy, makes you feel good, and causes no serious harm to yourself or others.  To hell with what other people think!

 

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That “Aha” Moment – How I Turned My Life Around

 

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Decide – Commit – Never Quit

A common question after hearing my story is, “How did you turn your life around?”
The simple answer is that I decided to change. The not so simple answer is that it took me a long time to get to where I am now. I had to put a lot of work into making the changes, and go to places I never wanted to revisit. But in the end, it was worth reliving the painful memories and finally dealing with them so I could have a better life.

~ I never loved you~

The first time I ever decided to change my life came after a painful breakup. It was February 1995 in Tahoe. It was one of those winters where the snow just kept on dumping and we had four foot high berms dividing the road in half making left-hand turns practically impossible. I had been living with my then finance for almost year when he sat down at the dining room table one evening, crossed his arms, and said the dreaded four words that no one wants to hear, “We need to talk.”

I nervously sat down across from him and he blurted out, “You need to move out.” I was stunned; it came out of left field with no warning. I opened my mouth to say something but he cut me off with the most painful words ever. “I never loved you, I only let you move in because I felt sorry for you.”

I sat in silence as my brain tried to make sense of what he had just said. His face was stern and cold as tears started to run down my cheeks. “Do you mean its over? We’re done? Just like that?” He nodded and replied, “I should have done this along time ago.” I broke down sobbing, and through the tears I managed to get out some words. “How long do I have?” Unapologetically he replied, “I want you to move out as soon as possible.” He abruptly got up and went to his work room.

I sat there for what felt like hours, completely numb and starting off into space. Finally my brain started working on the problem at hand. “How would I move with no money?” Rent is very expensive in Tahoe, and even though I worked 40 hours a week at a Chiropractors office, I never had enough money to put into savings. How was I supposed to pack up all my belongings and move out in the middle of winter and with no money for a first and last deposit? When he finally walked back into the house I told him that I didn’t have the money to move. He informed me he had no intention of helping, but I could stay in the partially finished basement with no real heat source until I found a place to go.

It took me two months of working one full-time job and two part-time jobs before I could afford to move. In the mean time, there was a lot of silence and palpable tension every day and every night. I would cry myself to sleep. When the day came for me to move, there was no were help to be found. He didn’t even say goodbye.

~Almost every relationship I had been in was abusive~

It was after a few weeks of finally being settled into my new place when something happened. In the solitude of my little studio cabin I found myself wondering for the first time ever, “Just how many bad relationships had I been in?” I sat down with a pen and paper and listed every relationship I had ever been in. I was completely shocked when I saw it all on paper. Almost every  relationship I had been in since I was eleven up until this point had been controlling and physically or mentally abusive, and sometimes both.

I looked at all these names and started crying, then suddenly I found myself filled with unbelievable rage. I tore the page out of the notebook and waded it into a ball throwing it against the wall. In that moment I vowed to NEVER get into another abusive relationship ever again. I swore to myself that I would find out why I kept dating assholes. I promised myself that I was going to take one full year to not date and to try and figure out why I was an apparent jerk magnet.

I figured therapy was a good place to start, but being as broke as I was, I found out I could not afford the hourly rate of most therapists. I had seen something around town about a sliding scale fee schedule for therapy, so I decided to call. Dialing the number was extremely difficult, but I finally got up the courage and reminded myself of the promises I had made to myself. It turned out I had called county mental health and they explained to me how the sliding scale worked then asked how much money I made and how much rent I paid.

Based on this scale, I was able to get free therapy sessions. I was so nervous on my first visit, I had no clue what to talk about, but thankfully the therapist asked me many probing questions. She asked why I came in today and I told her “all the men I date are jerks and I need dating advice.” I immaturely thought dating advice would fix all my issues. She kept asking deeper and more intimate questions, and I could feel myself panicking as I thought about the answers.

~You are a survivor of domestic and sexual abuse~

I backed off mentally and gave her vague and generic replies, but she kept digging. It took about six sessions before I finally trusted her enough to let my walls down. My entire story just fell out of my mouth. (Read my story here: http://www.stefanilord.com/category/why-write-a-blog/ ) I was probably more shocked than she was as I blurted almost everything out for the first time ever. At the end of the meeting she recommended a free group therapy session for survivors of domestic abuse. I looked at her and actually said, “Oh, I don’t need that, I wasn’t abused. I just dated some guys that where kinda jerks.” She looked at me right in the eyes and asked me a series of questions regarding signs of abuse. I nodded yes to every one that came out of her mouth. She leaned in and said, “Then you are a survivor of domestic abuse.” She also said, “You are also the survivor of sexual abuse and we have meetings for that too.”

I left the therapy session stunned. No one had ever told me I was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused before. No one. I didn’t want to go to the group therapy sessions. I didn’t want to admit that I was abused, but the therapist kept pestering me. She kept telling me how I would meet women like me, and that the groups helped lots of women over come abuse and, here was the key for me, I would learn to recognize red flags in men before you got involved. Aha, the dating advice I needed to fix me!

When I went to my first meeting I was shocked to hear other women tell stories; some similar to mine, some much worse. I felt a bond of solidarity that kept me coming back. Each time I shared, I felt relief. Each time I listened to other stories, I cried with them in understanding. For the first time I was with people not judging me and actually encouraging me to share my story and to grow as a person. With time I finally realized that I was indeed a survivor of abuse and that the group meetings were tremendously helpful for my recovery.

I spent that summer going to individual and group therapy as well as reading as many self-help books as possible. I did yoga, I meditated, I worked out, I got a new job, and I was feeling the best I had ever felt. So good that I erroneously thought I was cured and that “I got it.” I started backing off of therapy, and in the fall I decided to leave the mountain. I decided I was fixed and was ready for dating and a brand new life. I moved down to Reno and immediately regretted it. My better paying job with another chiropractor came with a price – he was an asshole! If he wasn’t making sexual innuendos, he was yelling at me and the rest of his staff, which include his first cousin who was also his wife. Yes, his wife.

During weekly office meetings he would tell us how much we sucked and threatened to fire us on a constant basis. He blamed us for everything, including how many patients came in. If anyone canceled he would scream because he was convinced it was our fault. He was nuts. I later found out he was a hard core cocaine addict and he lost his license. However, I did find a nice guy to date, but we eventually had to break it off because I would not convert to Mormonism. Frustrated with my life, I suddenly decided moving back to my home town of the San Fernando Valley would fix everything.

~Moving to LA will fix everything~

After a year in Reno I packed up once again and moved into a very expensive converted garage in Studio City California. I worked for a nice chiropractor this time, and I decided I was going to hobnob with the stars and immerse myself into the Hollywood lifestyle. I dated a producer, a director, an actor, and a model. All good looking, all successful, all very weird in one way or another. None of them were really interested in me, but more interested in how I looked and about what need or fantasy I could fulfill for them.

I did enjoy going to screenings at the Screen Actors or Directors Guilds and meeting celebrities at parties but this lifestyle came with a price. Everything was so superficial. It was about what you had, who you knew, or how you could use someone or how they could use you for their own career or social gain. The men I dated over time became more and more controlling in how I acted, looked, dressed and even performed for them sexually.

At the end of the evenings I found myself feeling empty and ugly. I started feeling depressed again. It was then when I was alone one evening and I had an emotionally devastating realization that I was going no where with my life. I was stuck in a forty hour a week job, and again living paycheck to paycheck. What would my life like when I would be fifty and older and less desirable for this party crowd? I felt I had nothing to offer except for my looks and youth. I feel into deep depression over the realization that I could end up an old woman living alone, barely making ends meet, and never make anything out of my life. Or worse yet, I could end up in an unbalanced relationship with a domineering man who makes more money than I do.

I started weighing all my options: how could I go back to school to gain financial freedom? Or would I have to sell my soul and marry one of these men just to move up into a better lifestyle. That’s if they even wanted to marry me. Did I even want to marry them? Could I marry someone I didn’t love just so I didn’t have to worry about finances? The answer was no. I have always wanted to just find someone who loved me for me and to not have to worry about performing like a circus animal to get love and affection.

~Hitting rock bottom~

As I look back, two major things that had happened to me were what sent me spiraling into this horrible depression. One of the men I was dating turned me onto the world of sadomasochism. At the time it was very popular and trendy in LA. I explored around the periphery of this lifestyle, but It wasn’t something I was really into. He kept pushing the issue and manipulating me into role-playing with him; it made me feel dirty. I didn’t like it, but I liked him and I wanted the wonderful lifestyle he offered. I liked staying in his 20th floor apartment with views of the ocean, driving his Mercedes, and meeting important people. Somehow I thought that this lifestyle made me a better person and that it validated my beauty, but in reality I was just selling my soul.

~ You’d make a good hooker~

The second event that catapulted me into deep depression was an offer from a man I knew. He told me I was very pretty and I could easily make as much in one day as I do in a month. I was intrigued. He asked me a series of questions. “Your single and you’re dating right now, right” I nodded.  “And sometimes you go on a date and you totally wasted your time because you don’t like the guy, but you did get a free meal right?” I nodded again.

“And then other times you like the guy and you end up sleeping with him, but it doesn’t work out. So most of the time you just ended up screwing this guy for free and getting noting out of it right?” I had to think about the deeper meaning of that question as he continued.

“Well, what if I told you that you didn’t have to waste your time on dates any more? You are a tall, beautiful, smart, witty girl that could easily make a lot of money by just being you. How does that sound?” He had a wide, cheesy grin on his face. I looked at him and said, “I don’t understand.”

“You met Jennifer the other day, right? Beautiful girl, long blond hair, nice fixed tits. Anyway, she’s driving a brand new Mercedes SLK and lives in beautiful penthouse with a view. She has all that because she works for me.”

Now he really had my interest. “How? What do I have to do?”

“It’s really simple. I have clients who are very well off, but they don’t have time to date. They will gladly pay to be in your company.” I looked at him questionably and said, “They do? They will pay just for a date?”

Again he had that cheesy grin as he said, “Well of course they do! Just like any guy does on a date. But, get this, now you are in control! Instead of just getting a free dinner, you get money! How do you like that?”

“So that’s it, I just go on a date?”

His tone changed and he seemed angry that I would even ask such a stupid question. “No silly, just like any date, you have sex at the end. But like I said, instead of a meal you get money, lots of it. It’s just like regular dating, but this is way better for you because you get money for your time.”

I was in total shock. He actually thought I would make a good hooker? I asked him straight out, “So I would be a whore?”

He laughed at me and said, “No, not a whore….An escort!” I thought in my head “like there’s a difference?” I told him “no thanks” and walked away. He shouted at me, “At least think about it. I mean, you’re already screwing guys for free….Get something out of it!”

I went to my car and sat there. All of the life drained out of me. Any hope I had about my future and all hope in humanity was gone. I ruminated over and over again about my pathetic life; men just wanting me for their needs and trying to force me into the sex industry for their gain. Everything about my life disgusted and revolted me. I saw no hope for my future and all the horrific memories of my past came flooding in and I sank to the bottom. I could not handle living with this much pain.

~Suicide~

After a few days of ruminating about my crappy life, I decided to end it. I took a lethal dose of sleeping pills, but instead of going up or down, I went sideways into a dark abyss. I was absolutely scared and I suddenly realized I would not find peace in death, so I begged to have my life back and it was granted.

I was so depressed I could not physically move. I ended up losing my job and going on disability. I sank deeper into depression each day and contemplated suicide again, but that was not an option since I realized that I could just end up in eternal pain. Finally I had another “aha” moment. I realized I never had it together after that one round of therapy and I probably never would. In a moment of clarity, I realized I had a few choices: lay here in bed the rest of my life and feel sorry for myself, or get up off my ass and do something about this.

~Back into therapy~

As much as I felt like wallowing in this pity party, I called mental health in LA County and started going back to therapy. The doctor suggested anti-depressants, and as much as I am against that for personal reasons, I decided to commit to medication for at least six months to see if it helped. The medication helped. They helped by numbing me. They made me not feel. At the time, this was a good thing.

For the first time ever I stared thinking about what I really wanted. I knew I wanted to go back into college and get myself set up financially. I wanted to do something that made me feel fulfilled and that gave me purpose with my life. The problem was, there was no way I could afford rent in Los Angeles while attending school. So I had to make a daunting decision. Even though there were many unresolved issues stemming from as far back as I could remember with my abusive adoptive parents, I decided to move into their home in Blackfoot Idaho and take some time off of life.

As soon as I got to Idaho I stayed on the medication and plugged into individual and group therapy sessions. I made a decision to be in recovery for the long haul and to commit to doing everything I could to get healthy and not quit this time. I realized that enduring years of abuse, getting healthy was going to be a lifelong effort.

I got back into yoga and meditation again, and read more self-help and spirituality books. I started running, got back into the gym, and focused on my needs and wants. I made lists of things I always wanted and started making goals with deadlines to make them happen. After being on medication for six months, I decided I wanted to feel again and gradually weened off of them with my doctor’s guidance. While medication has its place and offers hope for so many, I felt for my own personal reasons I wanted to live a life without them. Luckily it worked.

~Years later I’m in a much better place~

It’s been 19 years since I hit rock bottom. Over the years I have stuck with group and individual therapy, and I have continued to read self-help books and do everything I can to stay well and continue to improve each day.

In my next blog I will address the twenty or more things that I have done to make my life as fulfilled as possible. And while not perfect, I have tools now to deal with bad days. I see now that pain is temporary and it can and will pass with time and effort. But the main thing that got me well was deciding I wanted a better life; committing to do everything I could to achieve that life, and to never, ever quit.

 

Writing my story to help others

IMG_7691My life was filled with hurt and tragedy before I was even born. My biological mother got pregnant at 16 to a handsome and charming older man, and they were introduced to Dr. Schober by a friend of my birth father. Doc, as she preferred to be called, was doing abortions and alternative birthing in peoples homes and in her office in Pacoima, California on the east side of the San Fernando Valley. I was told by the person that introduced them to Doc that they originally wanted to abort me, but at some point decided to place me up for adoption. Doc was a closet lesbian who had been looking for a child for her and her partner to raise, so she told my birth parents she knew a couple looking for a child. After my birth, Doc simply put her name on my certificate, had a doctor friend sign it, and she sent it off to be certified by the state. I went on believing that Doc was my mother, and some guy I never met named William Schober who supposedly died while she was pregnant, was my dad until I found contrary paperwork when I was 34 years old.

When I was three, my adoptive parents decided to leave me with a neighbor couple so they could go out for the night. I felt immediate dread and my gut instinct new before it happened, but no amount of crying would change their mind. They left me with this sadistic pedophile couple; she laughed as he raped me. I was haunted with nightmares and flashbacks that ruined most of my life.

There have been a few studies about women who get molested, raped, or sexually abused. It seems to happen more than one time; I am that statistic. My adoptive parents moved me to Simi Valley to be safe, and at age 11 we moved to Moorpark so I could have horses. My 42 year old neighbor took his sweet time grooming me like any good pedophile does. Within 6 months he went from daddy figure, to sick, perverse version of a boyfriend. He told me I was the only man in the world that would ever love or understand me. He was wrong.

At 14 I rushed into a relationship with a man 9 years older than me. He was charming, supplied me with a plethora of drugs, and was controlling and verbally abusive. At 18 it turned physical, and when I broke up with him, he beat me. I ran outside, but he grabbed me on the sidewalk, beat me up again, then dragged me into his parents house. He beat me some more, ripped my clothes off, then he raped me. I never talked to him again.

At 18 I went with some friends to Vegas. While they played blackjack, I decided I wanted a real drink, not a watered down free one. Two men approached me, the talkative one kept my attention while the quiet creepy weird slipped something into my drink. Thats the last thing I remember before waking up in cheap motel – bloody, robbed, and raped again.

I don’t know why I was giving this tragic life; I didn’t deserve it. No one deserves to be raped, not ever, not for any reason. But not only was I raped, beaten, drugged, and physically abused, I was also verbally abused at home. Sandy hated that Doc had adopted me, she said it ruined their sex live, and she blamed me for everything. She called me a whore, a fat slob, a lazy good for nothing bitch, and when I was younger, she threatened to throw me back into the trash where they found me. Sandy was filled with anger and rage, and Doc did nothing to stop her. She was in her own world filled with parties, lies, drug and alcohol binges. She also floated in an out of jail; her longest stint was 18 months when I was just 5. I didn’t understand time, and I thought she had abandoned me for life. Not only did my home life suck, but I was also bullied every day of my life at school and by neighbor kids. I was either beaten up, had rocks thrown at me, or I was shunned from everything. No one protected me – not my parents, not the teachers, not a the neighbors. No one.

I was filled with hate, anger, shame, guilt, rage, disgust, hurt, and self loathing. I contemplated suicide more days than I can even remember. I became a drug addict and dealer, alcoholic, criminal and all around asshole. I acted out in every way possible and my mantra was “fuck the world before it fucks me.” I spent years trying to control my life with food; either overeating, starving, or barfing it all up after a binge. All the highs were temporary – nothing gave me relief from the pain. I even tried an overdose on pills, and in the midst of passing over, I didn’t go up or down, instead I started floating off to the right into a cold dark abyss. I realized before it was too late that even death would not give me any relief. I realized, in that moment, I have to fix my life before I destroy myself. Thus started the very long and painful journey of looking inward and dredging up all the trauma. I had to talk about things that I never wanted out of the “pain-boxes” I had shoved them into. Slowly, over time, I began to see that the more light I shinned on the monsters, the smaller they got. Some took a long time to evaporate in the light, and some I let crawl back into the caves and hide until I was ready to deal with them.

It took a lot of work, and during periods of time would take 2 steps forward and 3 steps back, but I kept moving forward. I kept digging. All the painful work eventually paid off and most of my days are now filled with happiness and inner peace.

This blog will be my sharing of how I not only overcame, but I learned to thrive inspite of all the horrific things that happened to me. Its taken me a long time to make this decision – its not easy to relive events and expose myself like this, but in the end I hope that my confessions give someone else strength to face their own dreams and find their own joy. I plan on addressing the top 20 things I did to turn my life around. Too many people make recovery look overly simplistic and its not. I see too many books, blogs, and advice stating that “I just did this one thing and Im fine now.” Thats not me. I did many things to get well, but the most important, for me, was finding a good therapist. Everything else worked as an adjunct to the therapy, but all of these things have a very important role in my evolution to happiness.

20 Steps to Find  Happiness and Increase  Confidence

  1. First and foremost I had to find a therapist.  Over the years I have seen about 20 and maybe 3 or 4 of those were good.  Later I will discuss how to find a good therapist and what to expect.
  2. Finding your own spirituality or connection to life.
  3. Exercise – Running.
  4. Hiking –  Nature.
  5. Motorcycle riding.
  6. Eating healthy and suppliments.
  7. How to properly use and carry a gun.
  8. Boxing – Self Defense.
  9. Situational Awareness.
  10. Yoga – Meditation.
  11. Writing – Journaling.
  12. 12 Step Programs.
  13. Self help books, workshops, seminars.
  14. Volunteering and giving back.
  15. Affirmations- Gratitude – Visualization
  16. Goals.
  17. Photography – Hobbies
  18. Love Me Book.
  19. Healthy friends and support system.
  20. Making a commitment to work at getting healthy and being happy.

 

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