Tag: therapy

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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Understanding Suicide and How to Help

Understanding Suicide and How to Help ©Unknown-4

~By Stefani Lord

“As anyone who has been close to someone that has committed suicide knows, there is no other pain like that felt after the incident” ~Peter Green

When the crushing waves of guilt, shame, resentment, frustration, sadness, anger, self-pity, and despair swell to frightening heights, some of us will dig a deep hole and crawl inside in hopes of escaping the heart stabbing pains of life. When we feel that no one understands us, or that no one cares if we live or die, and when all hope is lost and we are completely  beaten down from the daily struggles of our miserable lives, we curl up into a tight fetal position in that cavernous black hole.  Eventually, when we can no longer tolerate the painful secrets of our past, and when that bottomless hole drowns out the final glimmer of hope, the mind will ruminate on finding ways to end end the pain.  Once the brain is engulfed in terrifying darkness, and when that final drop of hope bleeds from our soul, we no longer fear the end, and this my friends is when we commit the ultimate selfish act.  We are relentless in our escape of the hurt and the shame.  We can no longer be a burden to this world. We only think of our own pain, our own troubles, and our own hopelessness.  There is no regard for the splattered emotions of those left behind or the painful tears shed over our loss.

Because I have tired so many times in my youth to kill myself, I consider myself a suicide expert. I have stood on buildings and on freeway overpasses, drunk out of my mind, trying to talk myself into jumping.  I have dreamt up, thought about, and mentally detailed at least 20 different ways to end the pain. I’ve tried overdosing, but I could never seem to take enough pills.  I think that partying to excess for so many years, along with being such a big girl, that this must have give me a super high tolerance for drugs.   I tried slicing my wrists a few times, but I was never able to take enough pills to overcome the pain so I could cut deep enough.  Twice I took a huge handful of muscle relaxers and tried to hang myself by a belt in my closet; but self -preservation took over stopping me both times.  I even tried laying on the train tracks at night  – but the thought of being mangled up and not dying scared me more then death itself.

I wasn’t always so obvious in my suicide attempts.  I also tried a very slow, and insidious ways to end my life, and avoid the pain,  by stuffing my face until I was morbidly obesity. I also tried the opposite and starved myself for years.  I drank myself into constant stupors and then drove my car with reckless abandonment.  I “partied” by taking large quantities of dangerous drugs, often not even knowing, or caring, what I was ingesting. And I partook in lots risky sexual behaviors with absolutely no protection. My life was filled with pain and misery, so I never cared if I died or got some horrible disease.  I just wanted to escape my nightmarish thoughts at any cost.

There is another form of suicide that often just seen as a person with a bad attitude, a thug, a trouble maker. I like to call it the “fuck the world” (FTW) way of knocking yourself off. You can see the anagram of FTW tattooed on lips, faces, necks, and hands of my brethren with inner turmoil and rage.  This FTW philosophy allowed me to blame everyone and everything for my rotten luck.  I looked at people as someone who will hurt me, betray me, and completely un-trustable.  I believed in a “take what you can from others before they take from you.” It’s a mantra of hate, anger, anarchy and an “I’ll show you what its like to be unwanted, neglected and abused.”  I will steal your cars, break into hour houses, sell drugs to your kids, sleep with your husband and break into your beautiful suburban home. I purposely wanted to do something to hurt you just so you could feel my pain.  There are no repercussions to getting caught, and if I die, who cares; the world would be better off without me.  My FTW idolized the ultimate way to die;  in a gun blazing shootout before a final high speed pursuit before driving off a cliff like Thelma and Louise. I didn’t care about you, or me, nor did I give a crap if I died tragically or took you out with me.  Like Curt Corbain I would rather burn out than fade away.

This FTW mantra not only facilitated the further stripping away of my moral compass and turning me into a hardened criminal, but it also kept me from facing my pain. This was my “get out of my way before I punch you in the face” armor; my way of letting you know that I just didn’t  give a shit about anything or anyone. All I cared about was getting what was mine, getting as drunk and high as possible, and getting laid by just about anyone.  I’d get what I wanted by manipulation, coercion, or by theft. It didn’t matter because I had no feelings toward your loss.  I just wanted what I wanted, and anything you had is what I wanted, especially if it hurt you emotionally.

I played this role of a morally bankrupt zombie into my mid 20’s; vacillating between complete numbness and lashing out in anger, especially to those who looked alive and happy.   But before you write me off as some whorish, drug-dealing, crack head criminal, you should try to understand why I acted the way I did.  If you just write me off as some stupid scumbag, you will never understand the magnitude of the changes I made in my own life or that it’s possible to change your own life no matter what you have been through.  Or worse yet, you may not ever understand your own child, your parents, your husband, your neighbor, or yourself.  In spite of all the sadness, pain, torment, and abuse, there really is a happily ever after to this story.  It took me years of hard work and introspection, but I finally learned how to be a human being that is truly happy inside.  I went from an emotional zombie with horrible addictions who ballooned up to over 350 lbs, to a healthy and  semi- emotionally adjusted (is anyone fully balanced?) human being. My dream is that by telling my story I can offer a glimmer of hope to others out there suffering and for those watching their loved one suffer.butterfly-logo-suicide-prevention-walk-2014-official-white

For the depressed please realize there is HOPE.  It may not feel like it, but it can, and will get better, I promise.  The first step is to seek out help. Ignoring the suicidal thoughts makes them grown stronger.  You cant run away from this problem, therapy, and sometimes medication, is the key to getting healthy.  Reach out, make a call, get help.

If you’d like to read about why my life was filled with misery, check out my life story at: http://www.stefanilord.com/2015/12/why-a-blog/

~Stefani Lord

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Instead of reinventing the wheel, I am going to share information from suicide(.)org

How to Help a Suicidal Person

by Kevin Caruso

If the suicidal person needs to be hopitalized (or is hospitalized),

please click on the following:

How to Help a Suicidal Person Who Needs Hospitalization

•Always take suicidal comments very seriously. When a person says that he or she is thinking about suicide, you must always take the comments seriously. Assuming that the person is only seeking attention is a very serious, and potentially disastrous, error. Get help immediately.

•Follow the information that is on the home page of Suicide.org. Feel free to view the home page of this site and to use it to help you. Dealing with a person who is suicidal is not easy, so following what is on the home page of Suicide.org can help you. And always remember that you need to call 911 or your local emergency number immediately for anyone who is at a high risk for suicide. Do not hesitate.

•Try not to act shocked. The person is already highly distressed, and if you are shocked by what is said, the person will become more distressed. Stay calm, and talk with him or her in a matter-of-fact manner, but get help immediately. If the person is at a high risk for suicide, call 911 immediately.

•Get help immediately. Call 911, 1-800-SUICIDE, or 1-800-273-TALK. This point cannot be overemphasized; a person who is suicidal needs immediate professional help.

•Do not handle the situation by yourself. A suicidal person needs immediate assistance from qualified mental health professionals. Again, call 911, 1-800-SUICIDE, or 1-800-273-TALK. And do not allow untrained individuals to act as the only couselors to the individual.

While you are waiting for help to arrive (or if there is no emergency):

•Listen attentively to everything that the person has to say. Let the person talk as much as he or she wants to. Listen closely so that you can be as supportive as possible, and learn as much as possible about what is causing the suicidal feelings.

•Comfort the person with words of encouragement. Use common sense to offer words of support. Remember that intense emotional pain can be overwhelming, so be as gentle and caring as possible. There is no script to use in situations like these, because each person and each situation is different. Listen carefully, and offer encouraging words when appropriate.

•Let the person know that you are deeply concerned. Tell the person that you are concerned, and show them that you are concerned. A suicidal person is highly vulnerable and needs to feel that concern.

•If the person is at a high risk of suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Do not leave a critically suicidal person alone for even a second. Only after you get professional help for the person can you consider leaving him or her.

•Talk openly about suicide. Ask the person, “Are you feeling so bad that you are thinking about suicide?”
If the answer is yes, ask, “Have you thought about how you would do it?”
If the answer is yes, ask, “Do you have what you need to do it?”
If the answer is yes, ask, “Have you thought about when you would do it?”
Here are those four important questions in abbreviated form:

1Suicidal?

2Method?

3Have what you need?

4When?

•You need to know as much as possible about what is going on in the person’s mind. The more planning that someone has put into a suicide, the greater the risk. If the person has a method and a time in mind, the risk is extremely high and you cannot hesitate to call 911 and ensure that professional treatment is given.

•If the person talks about using a firearm that he or she owns for suicide, call the police so they may remove the firearm(s). Firearms are used in the majority of suicides, and those who use a firearm usually do not survive. It is thus an emergency that needs to be handled by the police immediately.

•Don’t be judgmental. Do not invalidate anything that the person says or feels. The person is probably suffering from a chemical imbalance in the brain, and thus could not possibly think clearly. Be supportive and caring, not judgmental, but get help immediately.

•Be careful of the statements that you make. You do not want to make the person feel any worse than he or she already does. Again, the person is probably suffering from a chemical imbalance in the brain and is thus extremely sensitive.

•Listen, listen, listen. Be gentle, kind, and understanding. Again, allow the person to talk as much as he or she wants. Always listen very attentively, and encourage him or her to talk more. Be as gentle, kind, and understanding as possible.

•Let the person express emotion in the way that he or she wants. Allow the person to cry, yell, swear and do what is necessary to release the emotion. However, do not allow the person to become violent or harm himself or herself.

•Again, use the home page of Suicide.org to help the person. Make a copy of it and give it to him or her. This will not only help the person now, but also in the future when he or she needs help. You can also make copies of any of the pages of the Suicide.org site that you think will help the person, and give them to him or her. (There is no charge for distributing copies of pages of this site in print media, not on the Internet, for noncommercial, nonprofit use.)

•After the person has received help and is no longer critically suicidal, help the person make an appointment with a medical doctor and a therapist. If the person has not yet seen a medical doctor or a therapist, help him or her make the appointments. Suicidal feelings need to be dealt with on a professional level. Only trained professions should assume the care for the person. This is very important. Do not try to help the person by yourself. Make sure that the person is seen by a medical doctor and a therapist.

•Before you leave the person, make sure that he or she has received professional help from qualified mental health professionals or that the risk of suicide has dissipated. You cannot leave the person until the risk of suicide is gone or he or she is in treatment. A person who is suicidal is at risk of suicide at any juncture. Ensure that all appropriate actions are taken to help the person before you leave.

•When in doubt about what to do, call 911 immediately. Be safe. A suicidal person needs professional help. Period. If you are not sure what to do, it is certainly better to err on the side of caution and get professional assistance immediately. Again, if you are not sure what to do, call 911.

•If someone tells you that you need to keep his or her suicidal intentions a secret, then you never can keep that “secret.” Under no circumstances can you keep a “secret” that could cause someone’s death. You are not violating a privileged communication; you are taking the steps necessary to prevent a suicide. That is an expression of love, caring, and deep concern, and is the only ethical choice in a situation as serious as this.

•Follow up with the person on a regular basis to make sure that he or she is doing okay. Suicidal feelings can come and go, so follow up to see how the person is. It is very important to show continued support. If the person becomes suicidal again, take immediate action to help him or her.

http://www.suicide.org/how-to-help-a-suicidal-person.html

Becoming My Own Therapist

One of the tools I use the most in my tool box is self-talk. When I realized that all my feelings came from my own thoughts, I now held the power to choose what l allowed to ruminate in my brain. I could let my thoughts run amok with no supervision, then later try to figure out what triggered a bad or depressed mood, or I could pay more attention to what I thought throughout the day and capture those thoughts and feelings as they came up.

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It has taken a lot of work to get to this point of self-awareness. Even today, if I don’t stay on top of what I am thinking, I can slip back into old self-defeating behaviors, thatcan have horrific results. In the past, while in the depth of my depression, I would say horrible things to myself:

I’m so fat, and ugly, and stupid. I am such a loser. No one would care if you died. No one. No one would shed a tear because I don’t have any friends and I’m nothing but a fat, stupid, pathetic, worthless loser.

Thinking those thoughts over and over, day after day, can cause one to utterly lose hope. I don’t want to go there again, and if I do, I want to be able to pull myself out quickly.

I always thought that my therapy sessions would fix me. In actuality, what determines how fast you get well and stay mentally healthy is based upon the homework do in between sessions and the amount of effort you’re putting forth to get better. I think of the hour of therapy as a lecture in school – you learn the generalities of the subject, but to master it, you have to put forth the effort to actually own the material. And of all of this, one of the greatest things that I learned in therapy is that I have the power to change, by changing my thoughts.

One of the very first things I did on the road to self-discovery was to observe and listen to my inner chatter. It’s amazing how many erroneous thoughts run through the mind. What I noticed is that I had labeled myself as a horrible person. Everything about myself was bad: fat, ugly, stupid, dumb, loser, good for nothing, worthless. I decided to take all of those words and write the opposite on paper and read that every day. Every morning I would tell myself out loud that I am beautiful, smart, worthwhile, and good person. In the beginning I would roll my eyes and totally not believe any of this. Then one day I asked, “Why not?” That’s when I started to question my belief system. “Why can’t these good thoughts be true? What is truth anyway? Where did I get this negative believe system?” I started reading all kinds of self-help books, including “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. “What you think about is what you bring about” is the main premise of this book. Think you are successful and you will become successful. Think you are a failure and you will become one. I had never realized before this point that what I was thinking was affecting my moods, decisions, and behaviors. Once I learned this I had the hope that things can get better.

I kept checking in with my thoughts, and with every negative thought I would think the opposite. If I said I was stupid in my mind, I would tell myself how smart I am and try to think of an example. I would defeat my own thoughts with self talk and new thoughts – I was learning to become my own therapist.

We are the only ones in control of our life, our feelings, or mood, and our destiny. No one else holds that power over us unless we let them. Try observing your thoughts for a day and see what you find. Were you surprised at the results? Try writing down all of the bad and then make a list of the opposites. If you think you are stupid, not only write out that you are smart but give examples. I’m sure you have some. Even when I was at the depth of my depression I could think of one thing: I’m kind to animals. The list grew from there and continues to expand today.

My abuse and trauma is deeply engrained into who I am. Even with all the horrific things that happened (read my story here: ) I still hold the power to change, but only if I put the work into it every day with little or no slacking. I have a list of things I do every day to keep myself on the path of self improvement and self-discovery. This is my insurance that if I do indeed hit a rough patch, I can quickly turn things around by being my own therapist and apply everything that I know. Self-talk can be the key to me having a good day, or bad. Ultimately though, it’s my choice.

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.

 

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