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Almost set for the NRAAM!

We’ve got a place to stay, I’ve just requested my credentials (and since I still need him to help me around, even though I’m feeling much better, I hope Forrest is approved as my assistant, because yeah, I wouldn’t be able to go without him), and I’m making plans for who/what/where!

I’m ridiculously excited. It’s been 3 years, and I’m not ridiculously sick, any more, so I’ll be able to do a lot more, and have more fun.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone! Let me know if you want to meet up, and I can exchange numbers with people I know (since my phone number changed, this might be necessary, anyway).

Woooo!

Bikes, shots, automobiles, and bendy things.

Today was my 4-month checkup from the neurologist (my very no-nonsense Indian doctor who is freakin’ hilariously blunt).

The focus of the check-up was to make sure my migraine meds are working. Secondary concerns are back and neck pain, dizziness, and nerve pain.

My migraine meds, as far as I can tell, are working. The Lamictal is doing what it’s supposed to do. I’ve had a couple of really bad headaches, and had a two-day migraine from hell just a few weeks ago, but I think it was worse because of stress and lack of sleep. I had a headache today, but a certain tiny little fart-monster decided to walk around the room mewling at me and occasionally jumping on my head, so we’ll go ahead and cite “lack of sleep” on that one, too.

Dizziness is better, balance is better, nerve pain’s still a problem (my legs are seriously pissing me off, you guys), but it’s…bearable, most of the time. Which is a step up, for sure, but I’m still wondering what to do, there.

My balance is so good that I am now able to stand on one leg and do stretches. They’re not pretty, and I’m not the most graceful person in the world, but dammit, for about 10 seconds at a time, I can look semi-normal. I can do the other exercises I was given last time, as well, and they’re helping.

I got those cortisol shots in my hips, again, except instead of the ones in the greater trochanter (i.e. the very top and outside of my femurs), I got them in the sacroiliac joint (it’s in the back, basically where the pelvis meets sacrum, which is near the base of the spine). I didn’t realize that area was bad until the doc pressed on it (I haven’t had someone do that since…um…2009? When I was being screened for fibromyalgia), and I actually went “FUCK, sorry…ow, FUCK…sorry…” and then basically lost my breath. It hurt, is what I’m saying.

After the shots, which also had a numbing agent in them, I was asked to lay on my back on the table, and the neuro stretched and flexed my legs to assess my hips. He lifted my leg up and kept pushing my foot back toward my head…and would stop for a second, look at me, keep pushing, look at me, and finally he said, “Wow, yes, you are flexible.” Thanks, Doc.

I think it was because I hadn’t eaten much, and hadn’t gotten sleep, but after a couple of minutes, the shot went to my head, and I felt legitimately drunk. It wasn’t terribly fun, and neither is the pain in my butt from the shots, but if they help that stupid “non-specific inflammation,” I’ll deal.

THEN THE BEST PART HAPPENED: I got cleared to drive! :D

excellent driver

Anyway, so things are good. I go back in 4 weeks to get the greater trochanter shots, and then won’t go back for 6 months. I’m pretty stoked about being on maintenance.

___

In other news that’s related;

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a new friend who mentioned wanting to go bike riding. I happen to have that great bike I bought *mumble* years ago and only rode twice (because who the hell sells a hybrid commuter to someone who says they want a cruiser? because OW), so I was like “we’ll clean it up and it’s yours!” It didn’t get cleaned up, but she’s taking it, anyway – her boyfriend (who’s a mutual friend of mine) can fix it up, so that’s that. She gets it on Sunday.

This directly relates to what I’m going to be picking up on Saturday:

NEW BIKE

The thinking on this is multi-faceted:

  1. It’s a bike, for cryin’ out loud. You ride them. They’re fun.
  2. Walking hurts the hell out of the joints on the left side of my body. I’m positive that leg’s shorter. I want to exercise, but I want it to be fun (see point 1).
  3. I want to get out of the house.
  4. Forrest will be getting out and riding with me, which will be good for him.

It’s a cruiser, and I sat on it for a while at the store, and while no bike seat is going to be perfectly cushy to someone who has spent the majority of the past two years in bed, I have to say, it’s pretty damned comfy. The way it rides is good, the tires are easy to balance on, and it’s not so tall that I feel like I’m out of control if I feel a bit off-balance.

There’s a great route called the Greenline just down from where we live, and it’s pretty much perfect for riding and walking, but it’s not like our neighborhood is terrible for it, so I don’t have to wait for Forrest if I want to go riding (until my car gets fixed up, I’m still going to be a bum).

So aside from Sophie being an utter buttnugget this morning, things went okay. :D

Song of the Day

They gave me a test to make me the best that I could be
They knew all along that there was something wrong with me
We picked out a spot and made a hole
Wire and glass and stainless steel
Now I can imagine how I’d feel

I got a new heart
I got a new heart
I got a new heart
I got a new artificial heart
It’s not a real heart
It’s not a real heart
It’s not a real heart
It is a real artificial heart

There’s blood on the bed but here in my head I’m feeling fine
It’s easy to sleep when I’m not buzzing all the time
So funny the way I was before
Once I was blind but now I see
Once I was him but now he’s me

I got a new heart
I got a new heart
I got a new heart
I got a new artificial heart
It’s not a real heart
It’s not a real heart
It’s not a real heart
It is a real artificial heart

You’re happy again, I nod and pretend to think it through
I don’t need to think at all if I don’t care for you
It’s not an emergency for me
I look at the walls and they go clear
I cover my eyes and disappear

I got a new heart
I got a new heart
I got a new heart
I got a new artificial heart
It’s not a real heart
It’s not a real heart
It’s not a real heart
It is a real artificial heart

Life is just too exciting for words.

That’s almost sarcasm, but not quite.

The past few weeks have been filled with some true stupid, and some good, and some gross. I’m going to only touch on it.

First, my post about physical abuse has caused a rift, because it upset people who chose to gossip amongst themselves than talk to me about it (until substantiated, it’s gossip, period). What I have to say to them: the person I was writing about doesn’t exist any more, to me. They’re basically dead. The person who took their place is one of my favorite people on this Earth, and I’m grateful every day that this is the case. That entry saved lives, literally. If me sharing my past experiences about a person I don’t consider to be alive, any more, is a problem, I’m sorry to have upset you, but my intent with the entry was to help via experience, which I did. You know where to find me if you want to talk.

_

Second, and this is actually related to the previous point in a weird way, I’ve gone ahead and let folks know I’m genderqueer. The details are basically summed up in this comic:

genderqueerThe reason it’s related to the above is that the very people who are upset at me for the content of the physical abuse post are the ones I was afraid to talk to about this particular trait. So that kind of took care of things for me, since I was afraid they wouldn’t speak to me, and here they are, not speaking to me. I am out, whatever, y’all do what you want with the information, and questions are welcome, either in comments or via email (contact tab above).

ETA: My preferred pronoun is still “she.” Please don’t call me “they/them,” as I grew up with that grammatically being an impersonal pronoun (and usually a plural one), and I don’t have a duality. I’m still one person, and it’s just easier this way.

I likely will not be dressing “out,” because since my hysterectomy, my breasts have actually increased in size. This is common, and is due to hormones trying to balance themselves. They’re sore for the same reason, and binding is nearly impossible. So any comments related to my appearance vs. gender preference aren’t really necessary.

If I’m feeling girly, I’ll be girly. If I’m not, I won’t be. I’m still the same person. Just treat me as such, and we’ll be fine.

_

Third, I’m feeling physically better than I have in years. I still have bad days. I still feel the need to just hole up in my room and not talk or do anything because I’m just so tired or overwhelmed that I can’t handle it. But I’m getting better. I can walk without my cane (though I’m still having some issues with balance). I feel safe carrying my gun, again. I am doing as well as can be hoped, and I’m only going to get better.

I’m setting some goals for health and weight, now that I can move around. I’m entirely too pudgy for my own tastes, and it’s not healthy. Walking will be first, with yoga added in. I’m going to do this right.

_

Fourth, I have a bunch of events I’m going to, this year, that are just going to be amazing. Super! BitCon is one, the NRA Convention is another, and I’ve gotten a press pass to Momocon, as well, so I’m excited about that. Hilariously, though two of those are mainly to see friends, I’ll be going for work purposes, which is pretty damned neat.

_

I’m sewing more. I’ve got projects in mind, and I’m going to try to set up a shop. It’s something to do, and I can maybe make some money.

_

That’s…well, that’s it. I have some opportunities forthcoming, I think, so I’m going to work on getting myself better, continually, from here on out. I’m going to stay positive and hopeful, because that’s what I have.

 

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Piercing Fail!

I’m not providing photos of this situation (other than jewelry and a diagram to describe what the fuck I’m talking about for those who have no idea about piercings) merely because it’s really gross, and I figure with the armpit photos a few years ago, and the surgery photos from 2013, you guys are pretty well done with seeing part of my body be completely stupid.

_____

If the person who is piercing you is rushed or in a bad mood, leave. If you’ve pre-paid for the piercing, get a receipt for a later date and leave. If you can get a refund, go for it, but I suggest just coming back later if you really want the piercing. You’ll have to fill out all the paperwork, again, but at least you’ll have proof that you paid. Call ahead, whatever.

I got pierced by someone 3 weeks ago, when the regular piercer wasn’t there (he was at a concert, I think). One of the tattoo artists was filling in, and I know he’s a great tattoo artist, but he was taking piercings in-between working on a complicated tattoo, and I should have just said “yeah, no, I’ll come back,” but in addition to the nostril piercing I got, I also wanted a “switch” – having hardware put in previous piercings (I only asked because it’s easier to put in rook and tragus piercings on someone else – it’s a bitch and a half to do it yourself). This is normally a quick process.

Here, have a chart. Rook and tragus are labeled.

Here, have a chart. Rook and tragus are labeled.

It turns out those piercings had shrunk to the point where it would take elbow grease to put in the significantly-larger hardware, and he didn’t have time, so I was like “I’ll take them home and put them in myself,” but despite repeatedly saying he was short on time, he had time to criticize my previous piercing job in my left tragus (saying it was “crooked” – the person who did the original piercing has never done anything but a fantastic job that I’ve ever experienced, and he’s done the piercings of most of the people I know) and then re-do it in the one, tiny place on the tragus (not a large part of the ear in itself) that doesn’t have cartilage in it. It’s much closer to the edge, and is, ironically, actually crooked.

They didn’t have the smooth-edged jewelry I wanted for my tragus piercings, so they gave me the pronged-gem version. Fine, whatever, I didn’t think much of it until I was riding home with my pierced tragus, and noticed that the prongs weren’t…comfortable. I couldn’t figure out why or how until a day or so later. (I have been invited to come back to trade out my pronged jewelry for the original smooth-edged ones, and I’m going to do that, but with the information I’m sharing in a bit, and a complaint about this whole thing, because holy crap, piercing shouldn’t involve this much drama).

This is a beveled flat back. Smooth edges.

This is a beveled flat back. Smooth edges.

I went home with my fresh nose and ear piercing, and three other pieces of hardware that I proceeded to shove into the old piercings in about 15 minutes (right tragus and rook, and left rook), taking breaks to ensure cleaning and to make sure everything was secure. Yes, it would have been a bad idea for him to do that, and I’m totally okay with that. These older piercings, while they resulted in some basic skin damage, healed within a week (peroxide cleanings twice a day, gently, with Q-tip blotting) – the tragi (traguses?) were a bit more complicated, as I’ll get to in a minute. The nose piercing, as I mentioned on Facebook, had to be replaced with a ring, as the screw irritated the inside of my nose. No biggie, changed it to a ring, and while it looked gross while healing, it’s pretty much at a point where I’d feel fine switching out the jewelry now, though it’s not advised to do so. Switching to the ring was ill-advised, but I actually got a nosebleed with the screw, and I’d rather look weird and have a bit longer heal time (it’s healed, btw).

Most nose-screw shapes are less severe than this. This is what I ended up with. It's...sharp.

Most nose-screw shapes are less severe than this. This is what I ended up with. It’s…sharp.

What I discovered about the pronged jewelry (flatbacks) is that they absolutely tear up the skin. In the lobes, this isn’t usually a problem, because lobes are fairly pliable (people also tend to push them out from the back, resulting in the stud not spending much time digging into the lobe). In the tragus, activities pretty much guarantee that the gem is going to be pushed into the tragus, with the rest of the earring being in the ear canal. This normally isn’t a problem, and wasn’t when I got rings last time, then switched to the flatbacks I wore for a couple of years. The cartilage stopped the studs from flexing around too much on the right side (the self-stretched side), but the left side, being pierced in a fleshy spot that butted up against cartilage without reaping any of the stability benefits, has continued to cause such massive issues that I actually have a weird hard bit on the outside of the piercing that is very painful, and had to take the piercing out for fear of getting an abscess. Since I’m weird about my ear jewelry being symmetrical, and because the rings I had to replace the studs with (well, horseshoes – they’re able to be a bit larger and still allow room, since the opening between the balls fit perfectly over the anti-tragus, keeping it in place and comfortable) are large and kind of noticeable, I took out the right side, as well.

I didn’t say this explicitly, but the pronged jewelry pushed the edges of the pierced hole out from the center, caused swelling, peeling, and bleeding, and a generally horrible appearance. The left side was monstrous, while the right side was “merely” gross. I took them out, switched them, and it got a bit better, but the damage has been done.

This is a pronged flat back. I mean, look at it.

This is a pronged flat back. I mean, look at it.

The left side looks awful. My ear is chewed-up looking, raw, and still bleeds profusely when I apply peroxide. I’m not using pressure – the bubbling of the chemical reaction is apparently enough to open whatever wounds are still there. IT’S BEEN THREE WEEKS. I don’t know about anyone else, but even with my shit immune system, my body heals within 2 weeks on most wounds, even awful ones. The left tragus was apparently this perfect storm of horrible things that’s led to it not healing at all, and developing new and exciting issues along the way.

So yeah. Because of one earring being out of stock, and one overloaded piercer/tattoo artist, I now have what I’m affectionately referring to as my “hamburger tragus.” (I gave it a nickname so I won’t get angry. Because I’m irritated as fuck right now.)

Don’t stay in piercing parlors where the piercer is in a bad mood. Don’t fucking do it. I’m going to have to wait for it to heal, then have the front of the piercing re-done to actually go through the original location, and through the cartilage, but god knows when that’s going to be, because that ear is just being horrible right now. I don’t even know if I’ll get it re-done, which means money was wasted on this whole mess.

This wasn’t necessarily anyone’s fault. That’s why I’m not linking to the pages of either the usual piercer or the parlor. It was a completely shit night, with horrible circumstances, I didn’t call ahead (I should have, so I do take partial blame on that point – personal responsibility and all that), they were busy because it was a weekend, the person acting as the piercer had standing tattoo appointments, and piercings are usually walk-ins since they don’t take very long, and I must have seemed like a giant pain in the ass.

All of this could have been avoided if I’d just gotten Forrest and walked out as soon as I heard that the piercer was working on a tattoo client.

___

Here, have a totally cute photo of me with a strange furry hat and my nose ring.

Here, have a totally cute photo of me with a strange furry hat and my nose ring.

How to Recognize Physical Abuse in Your Relationship [UPDATED]

I said I would follow up that last post about emotional and mental abuse with one about physical abuse, so here it is.

It’s definitely more cut-and-dried, but with the added challenge of trying to spot it in other people, this may also end up being a lengthy post, so buckle up.

Before I begin, another piece of info that many people may not know: The obvious markers for physical abuse are bruises and cuts, or scrapes and broken bones. Once a person gets to that point, if they indicate that someone they know is the one who caused them, encourage them to call the police. However, keep this in mind: only the person being abused can file charges. The police can cart someone away if they were called to break up a fight in progress, but charges can only be filed by the abused party. 

If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you figure things out, and point you in the direction of resources in your area. And I’ll go ahead and throw my hat in the ring and say that if you feel you’re being abused, you can email me and I’ll try to help you to the best of my ability, both by listening and trying to help you find local resources.

As with mental and emotional abuse, physical abuse can vary in as many ways as there are people. There are ways to physically torment someone without leaving an outside mark. There are other ways to see it, however. Expressions, movements, reactions, and other signs can tell you as much about the abuser as they do about the abused. That is a topic for another post. 

My experience with physical abuse is a bit more limited than my experiences with emotional abuse, but what I did experience was intense. Other family members have had it much worse for much longer. Physical violence, or sexual abuse, has been a factor in the life of nearly every person in my family. When they say that type of thing tends to carry down the generation, they’re not kidding.

(In the same vein as the last post, I’ll be posting the same questions/answers, but obviously with different subjects and methods of recognition.)

Where do you get off telling us what is and isn’t abuse?

The following excerpt has been edited to remove details, as they have hurt someone I love. I feel like I should point out, yet again, that the family member in question has apologized, things have been good, and I thought that meant that me bringing this stuff up wouldn’t be a big deal, but I was wrong.

As I said above, I’ve had my fair (?) share of abuse.

That’s not to say that my childhood abuse was as bad as others in the slightest. It’s just an example.

When I was married, my abuse was sexual. I’m still not comfortable going into all of the details, but I outlined some of them in the post I made about my ex-husband back in 2011. You can search for it yourselves, if you’d like to read it. Just look for “wasband” using that handy little “search” function in the top corner. Most of my abuse there was emotional and mental, though.

There were isolated incidents in between, with rape and threats of death for revealing it, along with other threats of physical violence from people I encountered. Continued threats toward someone who’s already experienced physical violence can affect someone in the same way the violence itself did, which falls under the heading “emotional and mental abuse” as well as PTSD if this is prolonged.

Okay, smart guy. Why do people abuse others?

From the other post:

“It’s a trope, but it’s also true in a lot of cases: some  abusers continue a cycle of abuse unless they are given the opportunity to learn what is and isn’t appropriate to do to others. Other cases of abuse are due to illness, personality disorders, or, as stated above, them never being told that what they were doing was wrong by anyone. Malicious abusers may have come from an abusive home, but they also have a desire to control things, and controlling another human being is a power trip for them, so no matter what they experience, or how much they’re reprimanded, they can’t stop. This is why there are so many abuse cases with professional athletes. When you’re treated like your shit doesn’t stink, and are paid to be aggressive, you expect to always be on a pedestal. When someone doesn’t treat you the way you want, or you start to feel inferior…well, abuse is one way to get control back. (I’m not covering those with sociopathic tendencies, here, because that’s a whole other ball game that would take an entire post by itself, and I would still be wrong about motivation, because I’m woefully under-equipped to explain anything sociopaths do.)

Ultimately, that’s what abuse is about: control.”

With physical abuse, the need for control is just as great. The people who do it just may rely on physical strength to drive home the point that the other person is weaker, rather than relying solely on emotional or mental abuse. To these abusers, pain is like an exclamation point, where emotional and physical abuse are like ellipses – open to interpretation, and easier to brush off (despite that usually not being the case for the victim). Then there are the people who just like to smack other people around. Their motivation may never be known.

How can you spot physical abuse that’s not blatant? If it doesn’t leave a bruise or other mark, is it abuse, or just an altercation?

This is the most difficult question to answer, but again, I will include a list for the abused to ask themselves, as well as a list for children to be able to ask themselves – parents and other family members, feel free to modify the questions as you need and let the child know that if any one of these things happens, your child can come to you, and you will never think they’re “bad” or “wrong” for having these things done to them. Let them know it’s not their fault, and that you will be there for them no matter what, and will help them.

These lists are longer, because of the severity of the situations, and the reluctance that many people have to escape physically abusive situations for fear of more abuse (“He’ll come and find me if I leave, and he’ll kill me.”)

 

For the abused:

1. Does the person frequently talk over you, or tell you to shut up, no matter what you’re saying? (verbal abuse and physical abuse often occur together)

2. Do they often laugh when you’re in a compromising or bad situation, even one they didn’t cause? (universal to all abusers)

3. Do they have a tendency to continue berating you for something long after your transgression (real or imagined) has been rectified? (universal to all abusers)

4. Do they bring up past situations and threaten to punish you for them, even if they didn’t occur when you knew them?

5. Do you feel as though you cannot express an opinion for fear that you’ll be punished?

6. Have you ever asked them to stop, only to have them increase their physical actions toward you?

7. Do you ever feel as though your actions are coerced, or flat-out ordered, by the threat of physical violence?

8. Have you ever been threatened that if you tell another person about any aspect of your home life, not just the violence, that you will be punished?

9. Have you been told that if you try to leave, you will be punished, or even killed?

10. Has your abuser even “joked” about the previous point?

11. Are you told that you’re worthless and “deserve” punishment?

12. Have you ever been told that no one would believe you, been told you’re crazy, and/or that no one would ever love you if they knew how “weak” you were?

13. Are you told that you “owe” the abuser for things they’ve done for you, even those things are basic needs that are necessary for your survival (food, shelter, etc.)?

14. Are they in a position of power (parent, spouse or significant other who is the sole or main contributor to the household, boss, religious leader, etc.) and use that power to create situations where you are alone and they can abuse you in secret?

 

These additional questions are for children:

1. Does the person who hits you or touches you in a way you don’t like tell you that it’s okay because they’re an adult?

2. Are you told that you’re a bad child, and that if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be abused?

3. Does the person who does these bad things to you offer you toys, money, and even special trips to places you want to go, and then say you owe them by letting them do what they want to you?

4. Has the person who abuses you ever told you that if someone you love found out, they’d think you were disgusting or weak?

5. Have you been told that you need to toughen up, and they’re teaching you how the “real world” works?

6. Have they told you that they’re trying to help you, and that you’re ungrateful if you don’t let them abuse you?

7. Are they someone who can tell you what to do (parent, older relative, teacher, pastor/priest, older sibling) and they tell you that you have to do as they say because of that power?

8. Do these people take you places where you both can be alone, or take you into storage spaces in the house, so they can abuse you in secret?

 

Again, these are incredibly simple questions, and they don’t cover all the possibilities. The biggest thing to remember is that if anyone touches you in a way that you don’t like, and don’t stop when you ask them to stop, it is abuse. With children, people often assume the child did something to deserve it, and that it’s just disciplinary, but there are things that take it a step too far, such as wildly unmatched punishment for small infractions. If a parents swats a child with their hand or an object once or twice to correct them, and it happens only occasionally, and the child is under the age of 10 – well, there are varying opinions about it, but that is usually not cause for concern. As the child gets older, physical correction (which is honestly all that some children will respond to) becomes more and more inappropriate, and that is the point where things should be evaluated, and someone else may need to intervene. Children know when abuse is happening, trust me. They know when they did something wrong, and they can tell the point when it’s no longer a punishment for the infraction, and has turned into an over-reaction. And it is never okay for a child to be touched in a sexual manner. Even someone massaging a child’s shoulders can be a pre-cursor to sexual abuse. It varies.

Unlike with adult, calling the police on someone who is suspected of abusing their child can result in the child being taken away pending investigation. This is not always ideal, as false claims can be, and are, filed as a method of revenge or even as a threat (emotional threat for the parents, physical threat for the child). The claimant can be found guilty of filing a false report, however, and even though that’s not a reparation of damage, it can be of some comfort.

Physical abusers can gaslight, too. Remember that term? It’s a means of manipulation wherein the abused has their sanity called into question, usually by emotional means.

How do physical abusers use something that’s supposed to be based on emotional abuse?

You gaslight, someone gets upset and reacts, and you hit them. It can be that simple.

I used the example in the last post that my ex-husband would respond to my complaints by bringing up things I did in the past that I’d forgotten about, as a way to shame me and silence me so that he could continue controlling me. Shortly thereafter, he would sexually abuse me while my guard was down and I was feeling meek, afraid, and unsure of what had happened. I was told that I “owed” him because we were married. I was told that he was lonely and “needed” it. I told him I didn’t want to, and he would cry. I’m not even kidding.

In the case of someone I’m close to, her child was threatened if she didn’t submit after having been gaslit about similar things as my situation.

I know another person who was abused as a child by an older sibling, and since their father was physically abusive, all the sibling had to do was say they’d tell the father that the abused had done something wrong, thus keeping the secret safe. The abused still hasn’t gotten over this betrayal.

 

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. I’m glad that so many people felt able to come forward and share their experiences, and that was the point: to let people know that they’re not alone.

Once again, please use the resource above, clear your internet browser history or phone call history afterward, and get help if you recognize any of these signs of abuse in  your relationship. There is help, you’re not worthless, and you’re not deserving of pain, no matter what anyone says.

[Note for the smart-ass who may say something about BDSM and consenting adults: agreeing to submit to something like that because you and your partner both want to (as long as no medical trauma is caused, because let’s face it, there are people who begin with BDSM as a cover and can begin abuse under the guise of just “taking it to the next level”) is not abuse. It’s abuse when threats are used to get someone to participate in sexual activities that are abusive or painful. Please don’t make jokes in comments about these situations. It’s not funny.]

Remission. Again. Hopefully for good.

The thing about Lyme treatment is that for a lot of folks, it’s never over. I will probably hear the word “remission” several more times.

HOWEVER, the symptoms that were basically blocking the road (the nerve damage in the legs, the muscle issues due to the nerve damage, and the vertiginous migraines) are being dealt with, and because I know that they’re something that can be treated separately from the Lyme, I’m hoping that things like the exercises I’m doing for my back and neck, and the Lamictal, can mitigate those symptoms to the point where a more accurate mode of treatment for the remaining Lyme issues can be formed, if (or when) I relapse.

I went to my LLMD on Wednesday afternoon and went over the results of the neurologist visit, told him which tests I’d had done, and how much better I was feeling since I started the Lamictal, and he was so happy.

The last few visits had basically been punctuated with both of us going “…welp.” He said several times that he felt like he was failing me, and I would reply that failure is a step to alternate means. He was obviously willing to try different treatments, but he was getting discouraged, as was I.

This past visit seemed to refresh him, and he spent the visit smiling and recounting happier past events (this is a thing – he talks about his past and relates anecdotes to us, but a lot of times they’re not exactly the happiest things, because he uses them as comparisons to what we’re currently talking about), related to video games (the last one he played was Galaga – on the original arcade – 20 years ago) and the benefits of having an outlet like writing or, yes, playing video games (he asked what I was up to, and I told him I wrote for IGM, and he had all kinds of questions, but he seemed intrigued and satisfied that I was active mentally again).

Since Lamictal is a folate agonist, I’ve been taking extra folic acid every night. He asked me about some specific symptoms (mostly related to physical symptoms like muscle pain and weakness, back pain related to kidneys, and upper abdominal pain). He mentioned something about an MTHFR gene thing? Apparently 50% of people suffer from it, and folks with Lyme who’ve been on treatments that stress the liver and kidneys can develop symptoms from it. People who don’t take any additional folic acid, and eat foods with folate in them, are generally okay, so they never notice symptoms. I’m getting a test in March, next time I go in, to see if I have that genetic defect or whatever the hell it is (different pages describe it differently – some because they’re selling something, and others because they’re trying to not panic people into thinking they have it. Here’s one of the latter pages). That’s basically just going to tell me more about what I should do, dietary-wise, and we’ll just see.

Other than that, I’m being told to move around more (I am – the only thing keeping me using my cane at this point is my blood pressure being dopey because I have to adjust my other meds, again, since I’m not taking the antibiotics, and my liver and kidneys are processing everything else differently; I also can’t move around on my own for long periods of time, but again, I’m working on it), and just keep doing whatever else I’ve been doing, because aside from some weight gain, everything’s looking good.  The weight gain…I stress-ate for a bit after the holiday (I didn’t overeat on Thanksgiving, really), and the med changes were messing with my sleep, and I tend to eat more when my sleep cycle is off, so as soon as that’s taken care of, I should be okay. That, with moving around more, should make it easier for me to lose some weight and get stronger.

So that’s the news. It’s good. I’m happy. I want to keep improving, and I hope that by this time next year I’ll be back to at least where I was in 2011, energy-wise. My goal after that is to be where I was in 2007 (when I was able to work out regularly). Then I’ll be happy. I don’t want to be able to run marathons. I just want to be able to get back to doing the things I love – singing/opera being one of those things. I miss singing so much it hurts. I sing around the house, but it’s clear I need practice, so I’m practicing. Doing warm-ups, singing some of my old pieces from voice lessons (the early ones), and practicing breathing techniques.

This is the first time I’ve felt like I can do that sort of thing in a long time. I didn’t want to start and then backslide, but I really feel like I can keep some forward momentum on this.

So wish me luck. :)

 

Also, THANK YOU to everyone who’s still around, still supportive, and who helped me so much in the past few years. You guys are always on my mind, and I’m grateful every single day that I’ve been fortunate enough to have wonderful people around me who care and who’ve shown that care through either donations or emotional support.

Y’all rock.

Types of Abuse and How to Spot Them [UPDATED]

While this post was inspired by, yet again, the situation that inspired THIS post, (situation described here in the decorum post, which has been restored to it’s original self, because honestly? fuck the person trying to censor me), it’s actually a post I’ve been trying to write for four years – since my marriage ended in a blaze of what can only be described as fart-fires.

Before I go any further:  If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you figure things out, and point you in the direction of resources in your area. And I’ll go ahead and throw my hat in the ring and say that if you feel you’re being abused, you can email me and I’ll try to help you to the best of my ability, both by listening and trying to help you find local resources.

 

I’ve experienced a myriad of abusive people through my life, and while there are times I got myself into a bad spot, the thing is, abuse is not the fault of the person being abused, ever. If it is, it’s not abuse, it’s something I like to call “consequence,” even though that word isn’t always perfectly correct.

This entry is more long-form with examples than it is the cut-and-dried entry from the legal jargon post, because some of these require more detail and examples than simply saying, “here, this is a definition. If you know basic English, there’s not a whole lot more to it.” Abuse is sometimes REALLY hard to spot, especially for those experiencing it, and there are a bunch of reasons for that, too, but it all boils down to perception of the situation and of themselves, and how they don’t add up all the time.

I grew up in a home where the types of abuse came both with intention and from complete ignorance. Then came the divorce and the home that was more snapped in two than “merely” broken (my family is very dramatic, you may have noticed). That was followed up with the addition of a (very sick but still abusive) step-parent. Then a second divorce, which created tension which led to more abuse. Then punishments that were so outside the realm of logical that I’m still seriously confused as to how they made any sense to the person administering them. After that, and the second step-parent (who’s pretty cool, honestly, though it took a while to adjust), I was no longer in that home, and there were a few years before I was exposed to abuse in yet another home I was in, skip a few years, I ended up in my abusive marriage, and then I backslid a few weeks ago when I got to have a flashback abuse experience.

Where do you get off telling us what is and isn’t abuse?

That’s an extremely simplified run-down of my life in terms of the abuses I suffered, but like I said: not all of these were malicious in the way we typically think of as abuse. Some were literally because the person doing it didn’t know any better because they were either treated that way, or because no one had ever bothered to tell them they were being abusive, so they didn’t know that what they were doing was hurting someone. Some of these abusers learned and changed, and the change has been more-or-less permanent. Others died before they even came close to remotely feeling bad about the crap they’d pulled (one in particular was so awful that when he died, the crying was more out of relief than mourning). Still others are still out there being complete jerks to other people because no matter how often they were confronted, they didn’t want to change, because what they were doing suited them just fine.

Okay, smart guy, why do people abuse others?

It’s a trope, but it’s also true in a lot of cases: some  abusers continue a cycle of abuse unless they are given the opportunity to learn what is and isn’t appropriate to do to others. Other cases of abuse are due to illness, personality disorders, or, as stated above, them never being told that what they were doing was wrong by anyone. Malicious abusers may have come from an abusive home, but they also have a desire to control things, and controlling another human being is a power trip for them, so no matter what they experience, or how much they’re reprimanded, they can’t stop. This is why there are so many abuse cases with professional athletes. When you’re treated like your shit doesn’t stink, and are paid to be aggressive, you expect to always be on a pedestal. When someone doesn’t treat you the way you want, or you start to feel inferior…well, abuse is one way to get control back. (I’m not covering those with sociopathic tendencies, here, because that’s a whole other ball game that would take an entire post by itself, and I would still be wrong about motivation, because I’m woefully under-equipped to explain anything sociopaths do.)

Ultimately, that’s what abuse is about: control.

How can you spot abuse that’s not blatant? Isn’t abuse yelling and hitting someone? Or unwanted sexual contact?

There are as many different ways of abusing as there are people in the world. Everyone has their own tactic, their own trigger, their own reasons for abuse, and if you’ve been paying attention, so far, there are people who don’t know what their triggers even are. They just react in a way that’s natural to them.

However, there are telltale signs aside from the obvious physical and verbal characteristics. I’ll do a very simplified list of questions to ask yourself, here:

1. Does the person frequently dismiss your concerns when they’re voiced?

2. Do they often laugh when you’re in a compromising or bad situation, even one they didn’t cause?

3. Do they have a tendency to continue berating you for something long after your transgression (real or imagined) has been rectified?

4. Do they bring up past situations in an attempt to emotionally throw you off-balance?

5. Do they attempt to influence your opinion on something to the point where they become angry if you don’t agree?

6. Are their reactions to ways you express yourself so charged that you feel unable to say/do anything you like, even in the presence of others?

7. Do you ever feel as though your actions are coerced by someone else, rather than natural to your personality?

Those are REALLY basic questions. Some require more clarification. For example, if someone gets mad at you for sharing an opinion they disagree with, that’s not abuse. That’s literally just them getting angry about a disagreement. If the behavior is repeated, and they badger you into trying to change your opinion, THAT qualifies as abuse.

My Wasband did it by constantly berating me for things I did differently than him due to how we were raised. In my house, birthday money was in lieu of a gift, and was meant to be spent how you wanted (and my family is pretty staunchly in the camp of “don’t you dare pay bills with it” – this year, in fact, my dad pretty much supervised me spending it on stuff I wanted, because he reasoned that I was so stressed out I deserved a treat, and I wasn’t about to argue with that). In his house, birthdays were kind of glossed over, for reasons I was never sure of. When we were married, my birthday came along, and I was sent money by a friend. I spent it on makeup and alcohol. He berated me for wasting it and told me it should have gone toward household expenses that I was “using rather than doing your job around here.”

The message was that I didn’t deserve gifts, because I wasn’t performing my “wifely duties” as he preferred.

The way that situation in the “decorum” post played out is that the significant other (SO from now on) of the person I’d written about (SB from now on) got mad about me posting a link to the post on Twitter, where we have mutual friends. SO also said something about me going against my word that I wouldn’t bring it up if SB didn’t. If my entry counts as me bringing it up in a combative fashion, I suppose we have different views of what that means, and that’d be fine if I wasn’t actually badgered for several hours about it.

Rather than state his concerns and then leave, SO chose to state his concerns, not listen to my responses or apologies, accuse me of not listening, and then gaslight (definition to come) in order to try to make me feel guilty about not only that situation with SB, but other things I’d said/done in the past. THAT is abuse. Prolonged harping about a single issue of which the abuser should have no control over, but which they think they should, and will do whatever it takes to assert their presumed control.

What is “gaslighting”? That sounds…like it’s not a thing.

Oh, my friends, it is very much a thing, and one of the most common forms of verbal and emotional abuse – and it can lead to coercion for sexual abuse, or even lead to prolonged physical abuse that can end in death for the victim, if the abuser is not satisfied with the amount of what is basically groveling for forgiveness for these perceived slights.

gaslight: (v) manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity (transitive: gaslighting)

Manipulation of a prolonged sort is abuse. We’re manipulated all the time by advertising, by our parents and friends, and by our superiors in work or educational situations in order to accomplish tasks or perform desired functions. You don’t want to go to a movie with a friend? But they’re soooo lonely…and they really need this fun thing to distract them from their shitty circumstances…so okay, you’ll go to keep them company. That’s manipulation, though it’s relatively harmless unless it becomes a habit.

Gaslighting manipulation goes more like this (keep in mind, this is such a simple example because of word count already being ridiculous on this post):

You come home after a long day and you find that your significant other hasn’t done the dishes, as they promised to do that morning before you left. You find them sitting in front of the television, where it appears they’ve been all day due to the fact that they’re wearing the clothes they slept in, and there’s an assortment of trash from various snacks and meals in front of them – all are takeout, which would cause them to never have to enter the kitchen all day. Tired, and frustrated, you ask why they didn’t do the dishes.

Their responses could be a wide range of things, and many answers would be acceptable, though the best one for everyone’s sake would be, “I’m so sorry, I lost track of time – let me do them right now.”

There are a few which would qualify as gaslighting, but a particular favorite is something like, “I’m tired of you ragging on me all the time. I’m tired, too. I have things going on in my life, too. Why are you always complaining? I don’t see YOU doing them!”

In this way, not only has the person turned the conversation over on you, they’ve made it an argument, AND they’ve attempted to manipulate you into feeling guilty for not knowing what they do during the day  (which would make folks who work long hours feel particularly guilty if they also feel disconnected from their significant other). They didn’t do the dishes? Well, if they don’t, and you want them done so badly, do it yourself!

 

In the case of the decorum post, things went a little more like this:

You are in a close friendship, with both sides enjoying each other’s company, when one day, without warning or precedent, your friend cuts off all contact after announcing to a large number of people that they now hate you. When you ask for an explanation, you are ignored. You get angry, express it privately to a few close friends, and then try to move on to your daily concerns. Incidentally, you’re still acquaintances with your ex-friend’s significant other, and while you’re cautious around them, you also feel as though you can’t say what you’d like, even about unrelated things, because you’re aware of the fact that your ex-friend shared why she no longer wanted to be friends with her SO, since that’s how relationships generally work.

You decide to vent your frustrations after another similar incident raises ire, and the SO reads it, since it’s on the internet in a public place. He privately contacts you, berates you for posting the situation (specifically where their friends can see it), and proceeds to attack something you’re very sensitive about (trying to manipulate your memory) to disrupt you from your argument. When an apology is offered, it’s rebuffed with further accusations. Whenever a direct question is asked of him, he evades it and instead cites something he feels you did wrong. He repeats these slights ad nauseam, to the point where he’s moved on from countering to diverting/blocking.

It ended quickly, but left me sour for the rest of the day. I couldn’t place why until I looked over the conversation, again, and realized his tactic. I’ve had that done to me so many times in my life that I should recognize it, but in the moment (this is why it’s called gaslighting, by the way), I was too angry and on-guard to see what it was. I was reactionary. That’s exactly the reaction that’s sought when someone gaslights – whether they realize they’re doing it or not.

 

With the example at the beginning of the post, about my Wasband and birthday money, he chose to gaslight by telling me that since I’d spent money on myself when we were in need (he hid the fact that financially, we were MORE than fine, which is known as omissive manipulation), I was an awful wife – and this was an opening to a list of other qualities he felt I lacked, and I was left trying to defend myself against an extensive onslaught of criticism that seemed to come out of nowhere, and spanned the entirety of our relationship. Since these grievances hadn’t been aired before, I was befuddled, and unable to formulate a reply before he started another tirade. He silenced me by deliberately trying to change my memory of events that happened long enough ago that I honestly never thought about them.

 

These examples aren’t to shame specific people (I’ve already done enough of that elsewhere, believe me), but to point out that you don’t have to be in constant pain to be abused. It can be situational, and subjective. What is abuse to you may not be to someone else, because you feel and experience things differently. Someone could love having their feet touched, while someone else could have such a hatred of it that they insist on wearing socks all the time (…like me. I hate it so much I view a pedicure as a medical procedure, because there’s no other way I’ll do it – and this is because of events in my past that were driven by emotional coercion, which is a type of abuse). Someone else could get their engine revved (so to speak) by arguing, while others have no desire to engage in any physical contact with a person with whom they’ve been arguing. It varies, but the keys are the same. Just watch out for them, cut them off at the pass if you can, and get out if there’s no way to divert it (either by direct confrontation or through mediation).

This is already over 2000 words, and I doubt many folks will have read this far, so if you did, I applaud you. I will cover types of physical abuse in another entry – those are more recognizable, but just as diverse in number as mental and emotional abuse.

Don’t be overly sensitive, but be mindful, and take care of yourselves. No matter what people tell you, your worth comes from YOU and the things YOU do and feel. Outside influence and recognition is nice, but if you don’t value yourself highly, you’re more likely to end up with someone who also doesn’t value you very much, which leads to abuse, which can lower your self-esteem even more…and then you get into a vicious cycle.

Take care of yourselves.

ETA: Mike W. has some good contributions to the “from experience” section, and I wanted to add it for folks to see.

I think the hardest thing about “spotting abuse” is that often the person doing the abusing subtly changes your perceptions to the point where you can have some slight “this isn’t ok” feeling, but you don’t recognize it as abuse. I know that I consistently made excuses for the other person’s behavior and blamed myself. The toxicity of the situation changes how you’d usually think and respond, before you even realize it IS toxic. If, like me, you learned earlier in life to always stick by people who were having a rough time of things and you want to be helping and understanding. If you learned to put other people’s feelings and needs before your own, to mollify and avoid conflict instead of speaking up, then I think certain types of abusive people are literally drawn to you, like a bee to honey, even if they’re not consciously aware of what they’re doing to you. I think abusers (including mine of late) learn behaviors that are predatory, but also deeply rooted, instinctual coping mechanisms for them They learn how to probe for your insecurities and vulnerabilities, manipulate, use them to get what they want from the other person, and then scorch the earth behind them. As long as abusing and destroying their target gets them any measure of relief from the pain they feel inside, that’s all that matters to them. They’ll repeat the same song and dance over and over with different people, or with you if you keep coming back.

Also, these people can be unbelievably hard to spot at first, because the mask they show you and the world, combined with their subtle positive manipulation tactics in the beginning, can conceal who they are extremely well.

Legal Jargon for Dummies

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a ground-breaking entry. Basically, there was fallout yesterday, which you may have noticed resulted in me censoring my blog post only a couple of hours after I’d published it. [i restored it to its former glory. Read the restored update HERE.]

I had intended to just restore my original blog post with some caveats, but in addition (because apparently this is an issue? – Specifically, when I cut ties with the second person mentioned in the last post, they sub-tweeted that I would be slandering them as a result), I’d also like to give any potential readers a view of why I write the way I do on my blog, and why dancing that line between “libel” and “perception” is a thing, here.

 

How I choose to express my distaste for a situation involving someone hurting me isn’t really anyone’s business, but humor me, here.

If there is any information in this entry which is false or incorrectly stated, I invite my legal-eagle friends/readers to correct me, and I will make the proper changes in this post.

Slander?

you keep using that word

This is a REALLY common mistake.

How common? Enough so that a bunch of frivolous lawsuits are brought to lawyers complaining of damaged reputation. Also enough that people use the terms “slander” and “libel” interchangeably, most likely because they’re confusing the term “libel” meaning “a plaintiff’s written declaration,” with the term “libel” meaning “written information that is demonstrably false and does damage to an individual’s or organization’s reputation.”

People are more used to using “slander” because they think that “libel” is bringing a lawsuit against someone, or they think it’s the root word of “liability.” (It’s not – that’s “liable,” which means “legally responsible for something.” Libel is accusing someone of being responsible for damage to reputation. Liable is actually being responsible for harm, or being responsible for preventing harm – and y’all know that’s a broad brush.) “Slander” is also a term used in a lot of movies and TV shows regarding gossip, which can be appropriate, but sometimes they make the same mistake. Writers of shows are people, too, and people make mistakes.

“Slander” is less confusing, it has a pretty widely-accepted definition that’s easy for most people to understand, and so it’s used.

What’s the difference between “libel” and “slander”?

I’ll just post the definitions:

libel – (n) a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; a written defamation

slander – (n) the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation

The thing these two have in common is that they’re types of defamation (“the action of damaging the good reputation of someone” – it’s a character assassination, in layman’s terms). They’re also both burden-of-proof on the person who feels they’ve been defamed, if I understand it correctly.

The difference is that libel is defamation in a static format, such as in writing, a published video, or images. This is a bit confusing, as videos are people talking, but it’s the “static format” that’s important, here. It’s not idle gossip, it’s not someone confiding in someone else verbally or shouting on a street corner. It’s a published work.

On the other hand, slander is spoken defamation of character.

Television reporters can engage in slander. Newspapers, websites, and bloggers can engage in libel. I hope that’s a good comparison for folks.

How does that apply in cases like blogs?

Well, as I mentioned, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim of slander or libel. And the defamation usually has to be an outright lie – false claims made against a person, particularly hate speech – while “blind items” and inferences/conjecture are really only legally relevant while under oath (it’s the difference between filling in the blanks with what you think might have happened and telling what actually did happen to the best of your knowledge – in a courtroom, if it’s conjecture, you will likely be called on it and be reminded that you’re under oath and must only state demonstrable fact. Television judges use this as an opportunity to do their infamous smack-downs).

Conjecture is an opinion or conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information. It’s easier to think of it as an uninformed opinion, honestly.

Inference is the act or process of reaching a conclusion about something from known facts or evidence. The second definition? “Opinion.”

To use each one in examples relevant to this blog: It’s conjecture to assume, due to someone’s political affiliation and your prior experience with people from that affiliation, that everyone with that affiliation has the same characteristics. It’s usually a negative connotation, but it can be used in situations of confidence due to someone’s similar affiliation with something you’re passionate about (not all conservatives are against gun control – it’s just a tendency).

It’s inference to assume that, since a lawmaker has voted for a state tax in the past, they will vote for a state tax in the future. It’s also inference to assume that if someone has demonstrated poor judgment in a personal situation, they will react that way in other personal situations. (I outlined a situation that bothered me, so it’s assumed that I will write about anything that bothers me. As an aside to that, if I was that prolific with my grievances, my blog would fill up with multiple entries per day, again.)

The difference between slander/libel and conjecture/inference is that the latter two are not, to the best of my knowledge, admissible in court.

There is a thing about a person’s perception (their view of a situation based on what they’ve seen or experienced) where if they even think they recognize themselves in something that someone has written, that everyone else also recognizes them. This is not always true, but we tend to be either overly-prideful (i.e. perceived injustice is a personal affront) or paranoid (seeing threats everywhere, whether real or imagined). Ooh, we have a word for this! Conjecture!

Anyway, we see that someone’s written something that may or may not be about us, it upsets us for whatever reason, and we get angry or upset. Some people deal with it by cutting off communication and doing damage control. Others become confrontational. Still others begin engaging in – wait for it – libel and slander as a counter-measure.

See how this is all full circle?

On a blog or other personal publication, libel is a fuzzy line. People bad-mouth politicians and religions all the time in the group of people I follow. However, this is seen as opinion based on their personal beliefs and perspective. Thus, it’s not libel.

However, they also tend to engage in name-calling. THAT is where the fuzzy line comes in. Is an ad hominem attack a libelous action? Not usually, unless you falsely accuse someone of being a child molester, rapist, or murderer (or something equally as damaging to them).

If you present your view of a political situation with superlative statements about how you feel about the person or persons involved, that falls under the same umbrella – opinion.

Here, I tend to write about things that have happened to me, personally, both with my health and my interactions with others. Normally I keep that kind of thing off my blog, these days, because I don’t feel like dealing with the dramatic fallout that nearly always accompanies it. Whether you think yesterday’s blog entry was a lapse in judgement or not is up to you – for me, it was venting while I tried to work out why a situation like that might have happened, after a long period of trying to squash it down for someone else’s benefit. That rarely ends well, by the way.

It’s conjecture (and some parts can be called inference, though I wasn’t about to publish those facts, as that would constitute a breach of trust I’m not even close to wanting to deal with), and I said nothing about the person that wasn’t true to the best of my knowledge. At most, what I did could be loosely described as gossip, but since no definite statements were made about the person’s character (except for identifying a phrase they’re fond of saying), it could only be viewed as damaging to someone’s pride, not their reputation as a whole. If people are privy to the situation, and recognize it, they are, as I mentioned, more likely to take offense to it due to their own perspective of how they acted. People who know the situation and disagree with me have the choice to either confront me or ignore me, but ultimately that’s on them, not me.

As is the burden of proof if they choose to act on the perceived slight.

I hope that clears a few things up.

If not, well, it’s not really my job to care. This entry was mostly made as snark, even though it’s all based on definitions that are easy to find online.

The moral of the story? If you accuse someone of something, be sure you can back it up.

 

1. I don’t tend to go “guess what they’re saying about you?”, but some of my other friends have different scruples. Several of them, actually, let me know that someone is wondering if I’m going to “publicly slander” them. Oh, honey. You don’t know me at all, do you?