With Emotional Abuse…

“With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism, and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until he or she is incapable of judging a situation realistically. He or she may begin to believe that there is something wrong with them or even fear they are losing their mind. They have become so beaten down emotionally that they blame themselves for the abuse.” ―Beverly Engel

What We Don’t Need


I’m going through a rough time right now. I’m only discussing it fully with a few people, but it’s difficult as hell and I live in constant fear that someone else’s mistakes, which I have been informed are likely good in nature, yet illegal, will destroy what little of a life I have. Every single day, I pray for my sanity and safety. I’ve been extremely honest and transparent about what I need, but no one seems to be listening. Or maybe, they don’t think what I’m saying applies to them. I don’t know. The silent treatment isn’t very productive.  

If it weren’t for my doctor and therapist, I would be dead. When your own family makes you feel unsafe, unloved, and leads you to believe that their lives would genuinely be better off without you in them, it makes you question your existence. No one should ever have to feel the way I do, or feel like they can’t stop taking medication because, without it, they’ll crash and burn and not care at all.  

I’m trying to get caught up on everything here, and I apologize that I’ve been unable to get things set-up precisely as they usually are. I’m not perfect and lately, I am on my laptop less and less, though I’ve recently written under 20,000 words. That’s great, but I need a little more time to edit it before some of you will see what I have to say. I won’t sugarcoat it; it’s extremely personal, painful, and I cried while I wrote the majority of it, but hopefully someone, somewhere, will start to understand that I really DO need a cushion of calm right now.

I am very infrequently deeply afraid for myself, but right now, I am. It’s honest. It’s real. It’s an illness. I keep all of my appointments. I take the medication prescribed and I try to keep my head down, because G-d forbid I be the person I truly am in all of this.

I’m hurting and I’m upset, but I pray for strength and guidance.

Thank you to everyone who has stood by me, who keep on reading my words, and who help me remain connected to the parts of myself that are Heaven Sent ability. I hope you’re all well. I will post more soon.



This Changes Everything


If you cannot handle an honest take on life and discussions of depression and mental health, please do not read below this image. Thank you. 


It didn’t set in until this month.

The majority of my days are Groundhog Day-esque. Lather, rinse, repeat. Dull. Uninteresting. Zero challenge involved. Over time, this method of “living” has worn me down. I’ve kept silent, but today I feel the need to say “I HATE IT. I hate everything about it.”

A little over a year ago I sat in full blown tears when I realized there was never going to be something in this world to cure me. With multiple diagnoses which are highly comorbid, I remember trying to hold back the tears by saying, “I can’t cry. I’m wearing $30 mascara.” I tried blowing it off. I tried using humor. I failed miserably, and no one noticed.

As someone who unintentionally fell into advocacy, fueled by my rage post the ER visit from hell that I still can’t fully talk about without going into the “red rage zone”, I spend a lot of time fielding questions and phone calls, dumbing down information for people so they sort of understand what I’m saying, and doing my best to help others. All while I’m dying inside more and more each day.

This past Spring, a nurse got in my face and asked if I was suicidal. I replied multiple times with, “I have a therapist. I’m fine. Thank you.” and ignored the question because, quite frankly, it didn’t pertain to why I was there. If I come into an office with pneumonia or go to Urgent Care or the emergency room with a broken bone, do NOT ask me if I’m suicidal. It doesn’t pertain to the injury or illness at hand, and medical professionals should NEVER scream and/or get into the face of someone who has a trauma history and a clear-cut diagnosis of any form of PTSD. If I had reacted by physically harming her (I romanced the idea for a good twenty minutes or so.), I would be in the wrong. I would have looked like “the mental patient”, or worse. By pulling myself together and reminding myself of who I am, that bitch still has a face. For now.

“Mental illness” is a phrase I loathe using. It’s a phrase that is incredibly hurtful to me, and always has been. Perhaps because it is so often said in fear, in blame, with malice, or with false empathy, I’m not entirely sure. I prefer to say “Everyone’s brain chemistry is different.”, which is accurate. I could probably get at least one doctor to agree with me on this.

I have openly and honestly discussed my battle with a difficult form of depression. For me, it is virtually un-treatable, so they refer to it as “Treatment Resistant”. I’ve failed more than twenty-five medications, and this year, I failed another. I just started taking something new (to me), but it’ll be a while before I know if it helps or hinders. My first dose definitely affected me and the side effects after the medicine left my system were not high on my list of “Let’s do this everyday”. On one hand, I am lucky because my doctor is trying new things and he has challenged us both with his commitment.

I also suffer terribly from anxiety, Complex-PTSD, and chronic migraines. Two of these diagnoses are hereditary. My headache specialist happily informed me that since my father got occasional headaches (I inherited my pain threshold from him. My father wouldn’t take so much as an aspirin unless something was bordering on emergency.) and my mother had a few migraines in her life, that I most assuredly inherited my migraines from one side of my family or perhaps both. This was nothing I didn’t already know.

Everything that makes me unique, smart, sharp, tough, witty, snarky, and a bad ass stems from at least one or two of my collective diagnoses. It does not make me better or worse; though people would love for you to believe anyone with different brain chemistry is going to either cause you harm or harm themselves. We are treated as lesser. We are labeled and ostracized. Within my own family, I’ve constantly been told I have nothing to be depressed about. I’ve experienced both exclusion, ridicule, and have seen everyone’s true selves. And yet, I see signs of various mental illness in a great many of the very same people who sit in judgment of me, feeling superior because they would never cop to their diagnoses, if asked. They are in denial, and I used the words “mental illness” for them because I have never seen anything special or unique about any of these individuals. I have never thought, “Wow. This person is something special.” When people describe me, it is usually in a positive light and the word “incredible” is often used. It is interesting phraseology, but I’ve also been told I “just want attention”. What crazy, delusional person would say such a thing? Fifty percent of my genetic make-up. 😦 I can’t take this person too seriously. If I did, they’d never walk, talk, or breathe again.

People often underestimate me, and they absolutely underestimate my ability to come back when challenged. If I counted how often a person has said I’m “so nice”, “so sweet”, “the kindest soul”, and/or “so caring”, I would be richer than Bill Gates. These are not words I’d ever use to describe myself. The inability to read non-verbal cues is apparently something many people either choose to suffer from or simply don’t realize they’re doing. If you spend two minutes looking me in the eye, you might catch a glimpse of the real me. “She may be small, but she is mighty.”

My mother once told me I’ve had the most interesting facial expressions since the day I was born; that she knew I was not only looking at someone, but I was also looking through them. She told me, “You see people exactly as they are. Not as they pretend to be. Sometimes, that scares people away, but it’s only scaring the wrong people away. The right people will always stick by you because you’re incredibly loyal.” When I think about those words, I can almost hear her voice again.

I have my moments. I can certainly be nice, sweet, kind, and caring, just not all on the same day, lest I ruin my reputation. 😉 I have limitations on how much niceness I spread around.

My physical and emotional pain is completely invisible. Unless I mention it, no one would ever know, and thus far, only one person seems interested in understanding the complexities of it all. I don’t have a lot of facial expressions. I’m predominantly quiet, unless I have something to say. And you’ll often hear the word “formidable” used in the same sentence as my name, providing the person is smart enough to grasp the fact that I’m not passive.

When other people talk about various forms of mental illness; OCD, anxiety and/or panic attacks, bipolar disorder, trauma, or personality disorders, they tend to be shocked by my openness and honesty. I suffer silently and I suffer alone. I have ceased to discuss it with family because I question their concern for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt someone’s concern was genuine. No one has EVER taken a call from me when I was in a crisis situation. People don’t call to check in on me, either, but they’re very quick to dial my number over the slightest thing bothering them, and I find myself exceedingly annoyed by the ridiculous questions I get via text almost daily. Loyalty, compassion, and the ability to be emotionally present are the things I provide, but they’re also the things I am not provided with.

So, it took me all this time to realize I am passively suicidal. And despite knowing this; people have consistently said or done something this year to hurt and upset me. My thoughts, feelings, and overall health has never been taken into consideration. No one has ever said, “Man, she’s going through so much right now. She’s fighting for her life. I’ll wait to talk to her about this until I see she’s feeling stronger.” My suffering is almost completely ignored. I wish people could see how horrible this all is for me and not attack me. I wish they could take my suffering into deep consideration; not as an excuse to avoid a discussion, no, but as a solid reason to know how close I am to the edge.

I can’t remember the last time someone asked how I was doing and it wasn’t someone in customer service. I can’t remember the last time someone genuinely cheered me up. I wish someone would understand how much pain I keep contained. I’ve never used my health as an excuse and I’ve never hidden behind it, but I often think people forget I’m human. The fact that I openly declared being passively suicidal should be enough to get friends and family to sit at attention. I can’t tell you how many times this year I truly believed my life was just moments from ending.

Because it was something I felt I needed to do, I went back into therapy last year. I was seeing someone once a month, and that particular situation worked well, until the therapist left the hospital she was affiliated with. She let me know well in advance, and even when she told me, it wasn’t a shock or a surprise, but it then took me time to find someone new. I saw two people, initially. One I automatically deemed “too young”, and I don’t mean chronologically. I mean in the sense that I didn’t feel she was prepared to genuinely assist me. She immediately got under my skin in a way that let me know she was not a good fit, and I also felt incredibly uncomfortable in the building her office was in, and the surrounding neighborhood felt unsafe and emotionally charged. I shouldn’t be going anywhere if I have to second-guess my personal safety. The second person was okay, but when she pissed me off in two separate sessions, completely twisting my words and practically stabbing me in the hand with a few of her questions, I was hesitant to go back. I mentioned it to my doctor, sort of in passing, and I appreciate the fact that he looked at me and said “Why are you trying to force it?” Beforehand, I felt bad. I never want to waste someone’s time, but he said the perfect thing to me in the moment, and there was nothing about his tone that bothered me. If anything, I was relieved that he knew me well enough to say something. He helped me get set up with someone in the same office, and thus far, things are going well. I feel like she’s got a good head on her shoulders and, because I laid all the dos and don’ts down in the first appointment, she has been good about letting me take point on how I want to proceed. She feels she’ll be able to help me, but she has no idea how hopeless I truly feel.

In the past when I’d read about how people were pushed by friends and family, or maybe one more than the other, into suicide attempts, it appalled me. I would think to myself, “No, not my family. They love me.” But the truth is, people like the idea of me, especially in passing, but love is rarely found in my life. I have friends who likely have more combined love for me than twenty family members, but my family would all deny this. It took me a long time to understand that love means different things to different people. Anyone who ever loved me unconditionally is long gone, and the pain of that sits deep within me.

I often hear people say “I love you.” in passing. It’s the end of many phone calls, but it means more to me than it does to other people. To me, it is a truth, or I won’t say it. There are many ways to say you love someone. It can be by helping them through difficult shit, or telling them to drive safely. It can be so many small and large things, and yet, I feel so devoid of it from people. My cats display more love when they look at me than most people ever could, yet I know many people are quite fond of me. It’s a short list, but I don’t doubt any of the people on it.

Inevitably, once this is published, I will get texts, e-mails, and a few phone calls. This will happen either all within a few hours or over the course of a week. People will ask me questions, pretend to be interested in what’s going on in my life, etc. I will also be accused of writing about each person in my life specifically, be accused of placing targets on their backs, as if I’ve got the time to psychoanalyze all of them and as if my readers are going to attack them physically in the streets! It is ridiculous behavior, but at least they’re all consistent. 😦 I’m supremely honest, so I MUST be targeting them. I mean really, the world seemingly revolves around a LOT of fucking people whenever I speak the truth. It’s baffling, to say the least.

All I want are some good days. Good moments. No pain. I’m desperately trying to survive this life. I’m tired of crying, something I almost never do. I’m tired of the emotional abuse. It is a horrendous burden to bear, especially when someone tells you you’re not being abused, or that you deserve every last ounce of hatred and vitriol a person can spit in your direction. I understand being upset or angry, but I’m tired of it being taken out on me as personal blame. Every time it happens, I reassess my life. No one should have to fight this hard just to stay alive.

It’s important to talk about feelings. It’s important to work things out of your system. Unfortunately, writing this was not a purge of emotion. This is an explanation of my daily life. It is slowly killing me, and those who know me refuse to see it.

I didn’t know until this month. I didn’t know how completely unimportant I am to people who should always have my back. I’ll stop here, though, because the emotional wounds are deep. I’m not sure there are enough sutures on the planet big enough to fix all the emotional harm that has come my way. But I’ll be damned if people don’t start backing off.

When you can’t see past the tears, and can’t breathe without feeling spikes in your chest, passive turns to aggressive, and absolutely no one is more determined than I am once I’ve made a decision. I need love and support right now, and if the people in my life can’t provide safety and a calm, quiet place for me to exist, then I need to stop being the dutiful family member and friend and prioritize nothing else except my own desires.

I know now, and this changes everything.

copyright © 2018 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. Further protected under the Digital Millennium copyright act. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Nobody Knows The Real Me

I’ve been going through some seriously heavy stuff for well over a year now. I may have posted this before, but today, this rings immensely true for me. I pray for strength to get me through, but some days, even the strongest person has a meltdown in the shower, so no one can see or hear. Some days; the strongest person you know can’t bear the thought of any more yelling, abuse, or internal pain. Some days are fucking HARD. Way harder than they should be.

Bad Days, Sweet Cats

As I will explain in a future post, I’ve been having some incredibly bad days (it’s been many, many months, actually. I am not pointing any fingers in saying that, life is simply unpredictable as hell.). Some of it is health-related, but the rest is not worth repeating twice, so I’ll save it for the other post, which I’ve been working on for the past few days. I’m not quite ready to emotionally complete it.

This morning I was struck with the realization that there aren’t a lot of constants in this life. You can only hope that your true friends and family know who you are, as opposed to pretending they know you, and will love you unconditionally. You learn from the people who place conditions on every aspect of their “love”. God & Goddess, please don’t EVER let me be such a selfish, vindictive person that I use “love” against people. It’s not meant to be used as a weapon, much like a child is not meant to be used as a pawn during divorce proceedings. With each passing day, I feel like some people become uglier on the inside and quite frankly, it makes me sick to my stomach.

I went to bed early last night with a migraine I can’t seem to shake. Inevitably, due to the medication I took for it, I ended up wide awake by 1:30 this morning. I’ve been writing ever since, thinking, and doing a lot of soul-searching.

When I entered my sleep time into the Migraine App this morning (it doesn’t always pick up the exact time if I go to bed earlier than usual), I found a message from my brother that is quite telling. I’ve been explaining a few situations to him for many months now and at times he has been supportive and other times, quite vacant. I understand his anger and frustration. He’s been through crap I wouldn’t wish on a single soul and is still kind, caring, forgiving, and devoted. He tells me to forgive people on a near daily basis and insists that I pray for them instead of being angry. I’m often thinking “Hello? Have we met?!”, because I’m more likely to react than he is, at least these days. I haven’t reached any Zen states, mostly because too many people are taking shots at me. However, his message is a reminder of so many things. “You keep being yourself. Fuck everyone else! You are great as you are, do you understand? Don’t ever change for anybody.”

When you hear negative shit every single day, and you’re told it’s “merely feedback”, you occasionally start wondering if it’s true or if you’re going insane. It is 100% a form of brain-washing. You either shrivel up into a ball and believe the lies you’re told about who and what you are, or you put your hand up and say “Wait one fucking second! I KNOW who I am. You don’t get to define me with your negativity and issues.” Some people are not happy or satisfied unless they are hurting others verbally. Being emotionally abusive is still being abusive, and it’s not okay. I wish people could hear themselves 24/7 because if they could, they’d be apologizing for a lot of the crap that comes out of their mouths when they are tired, stressed out, worried, etc. I will always apologize if I’m wrong, even if I realize it three days later, but never being apologized to is incredibly hurtful to me.


This year is NOT going as I planned. I have gotten a lot of doors slammed in my face, have had a lot of promises made to me broken in ways that are incredibly harmful, not to mention unforgivable, and I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced such severe despair before. Every day, week, month, etc., is a battle of pure survival. I am not happy. I am not enjoying any aspect of my life, and I loathe certain times of each day when I am forced to place every single ounce of who I am into a Tic-Tac sized box and pretend it doesn’t exist. It is nearly as bad as aspects of my childhood. The only difference is, back then I knew one of two things would happen; I would kill the abuser (my father) and spend the rest of my life in jail or my mother would finally gain the strength and courage to leave. Obviously, the latter happened. I don’t know that she ever truly had the strength and courage, but she did have the emotional support, and when she didn’t, she leaned on me. I was her rock.

Sometimes I feel as though the few people who remain in my life forget what I’ve been through, denounce what I am capable of, and try to make me feel guilty for being ill. People underestimate me. But when accusations regarding my character come into play, you’re asking for more trouble than you can handle.

I’ve said it before, but perhaps it bears repeating; I’m not a nice person. I don’t strive to be someone people trifle with and through experience, I have seen what nice brings. I can certainly be nice, I have my moments, but I don’t suggest testing me to see if you can reach the point of no return. Most people will interact with me and find me pleasant and lovely to be around, and that’s because they’ve chosen not to challenge my existence. They’ve chosen to treat me like a human-being. They’ve chosen not to start crap with me. I don’t respond kindly to threats, accusations, or anything negative. I might be looking at you and/or listening to you, but I may also be plotting your untimely demise in my head. That doesn’t mean I’ll act on it, but we’ve all reached a point with someone (or multiple people) and had a thought we might not normally have, leave alone share with others. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us. If anything, it means we’re human. If you haven’t contemplated slapping someone, knocking their teeth out, breaking their jaw, or killing them in their sleep and telling G-d it was an accident, then I don’t trust you, because these are common thoughts. I know, because I’ve done a poll.

Nine times out of ten, it is mere words. “I’ll beat his ass.” or “I’ll slap the rude right out of her.” It’s not what you truly intend to do, it’s not even what you’re going to do when you calm down, it is simply a manifestation of anger in the initial moment. These are total “heat of the moment” reactions, and they are entirely human. Unless you’re a saint, you’ve had these thoughts. Unless you’ve reached some type of Zen Master level that I am not aware exists, you too have had these thoughts at least once in your life. No one is perfect and no one should claim to be. I will not pretend that thoughts haven’t crossed my mind. It makes killing characters off so much easier, because you can take your anger and write it out of your system. Or at least, I can. Sometimes all a person has to do is breathe wrong in my general direction and my first thought is “I’ve figured out fifteen different ways to kill you off in book four. In another minute, that number will go up to sixty.” You’ve managed to react without raising your voice or harming another person physically. In my case, the reward for this is bigger than chocolate, cupcakes, or a shopping spree at Sephora. This is HUGE, it warrants going all out. 😉

Again, this is all human. It does not mean I will be on the ten o’clock news having done something heinous. Will I have thought about it? The probability is quite high, yes. But acting on something and thinking about it are two completely different ends of the spectrum.


I have been battling pretty much the same killer migraine for almost a week now, getting 3-4 hours as a “break” until another one slams into my head. Stress is the number one killer in this country, causing all different types of health issues, and when you suffer from migraines, they are often borne out of stress. Even if you think you lead a relatively stress-free existence, migraines are migraines and they don’t necessarily give you a break when medication doesn’t help.

This week it’s been migraines and my allergies taking me down. I’ve either been completely erratic with my sleep schedule or I’ve been unable to get out of bed, there hasn’t been a lot of middle-ground.

Through all this, Kitten has fiercely become my companion again. Both Cat and Kitten have been distant all these months. Less affectionate, less happy-go-lucky, less relaxed. They’re afraid of hands and they get snippy over the most basic things. They aren’t as open to affection as they once were, but I’ve done my best. They are an immense priority in my life, but you cannot force animals to change their behavior or to spend time with you when they’d prefer not to. So, waking up several times this week with Kitten glued to my side has been a nice change. She has patiently stayed with me while I’ve been ill, has been her normal, loving self, and has insisted on giving me kisses and trying to eat my hair again. This is progress; she is seeking me out for more than just food. Seeing them playing and not being fearful makes me smile. Unfortunately, they scare easily these days. 😦 I pray that one day, they will feel secure again. They are little blessings. I know they were both sent to me, that they’re both gifts of the highest order, so I pray their fear dissipates and their happiness and health surges. All I can do is keep being me, which shows them that while life has changed, Mommy has not. I always tell them that I’m their safe place. Apparently, Kitten is listening and Cat pretends to listen in case the treat bag makes noise. 😉

I ordered their food online because the price was unbeatable and you don’t always see large bags of grain-free food on sale (Occasionally I am able to get a local store to price-match, but this time it simply wasn’t worth the effort.). You’ve never seen two cats happier to see a shipping box. I’m schlepping in a thirty pound box Saturday morning (Thank you FedEx and Chewy.com for saving my butt!) and they both watched and waited to see what had arrived. I opened the box and they both stared at the packaging and each other before they each lifted a paw to swat in sync. I quickly unboxed everything and they stared at each other to see who would get into the box first. Kittens defers to Cat on most things, especially if she’s unsure about something. Cat wasn’t happy with me for breaking the box down so quickly. But give her a purse and she just might go anywhere with you! This is new behavior I’ve never seen before. A lot of their behavior is new. Kitten is now extremely interested in my purse and I keep saying “Get your paws out of that bag.” I caught her trying to take my makeup bag out of my purse and drag it off like prey. It’s cute once, the second time makes you question all that you carry around (I’m like Mary Poppins, with a different accent. LMAO!). I haven’t weighed it, but I’m certain it weighs more than they do, combined. It would explain why my shoulder hurts every time I am out for more than twenty minutes with my bag on my shoulder. Clearly I am a masochist. 😦 Clearly, Kitten is trying to get me to see the error of my ways.

The week ends with the birthday of one of my best friends. She is my soul-sister; beautiful, talented, and as afflicted by Fibromyalgia pain as I am. I am wishing for her a healthier, prosperous, and supremely happier year. If there is good in me it is most reflected in my friendships, which are pure platinum.

Welcome to all the new followers; I appreciate both your readership and comments. 🙂

I will attempt to decompress as much as possible and I wish you all a wonderful weekend to come.

copyright © 2016 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, in an extremely bizarre reality, I was in a relationship I should not have been in. The warning signs were there, but some people burn so brightly that you don’t seem to notice you’re going up in flames and turning to ash. Immensely large red flares of danger were being sent up so I wouldn’t get burned. Did that stop anything? Not so much.

He was the quintessential “bad boy”, complete with motorcycles, fancy sports cars, tattoos, multiple drug addictions, and a boatload of issues. Maybe the maternal, nurturing aspect of me wanted to fix or heal him. I don’t know, but whatever it is, I’m thankful every single day that it is no longer a part of my life.

Initially there was no reaction or emotion from me towards him. He was just a guy, a guy all kinds of women fell for, but I prided myself on not adding myself to the throng of fools. Until one day, when I was seemingly drawn in like a moth to a flame. Except I wasn’t a moth, I was a butterfly, and yet, I suddenly had to have him. The pull was intense. He was crazy about me; The only person who challenged him, who questioned everything, and who was not impressed by anything. The problems though, they were simmering under the surface, just waiting to come out, one by one.

They started relatively early. I had never been told I was “too skinny” before. Even as a former gymnast that had experienced bouts of bulimia on & off for about two years after realizing that I’d never be an Olympic anything. I did not consider myself “too skinny” or “too” anything, really. I had the mouth of a Marine on leave, a writing career that had taken off in an amazing way, and a guy who told me he loved me, but to this day probably doesn’t know the meaning of the word. You’ll find him in the dictionary, somewhere between the words “Douchebag”, “Hypocrite”, and “Liar”, providing you’ve opted for a Webster’s upgrade.

His career allowed me the independence and space that I like in a relationship. I can’t have someone in my face 24/7, nagging, or standing over my shoulder like a watch dog. It drives me insane. He respected that, until the possessive behavior became more than just one or two phone calls a day. At first it seemed like he was going out of his way to surprise me and brighten aspects of my life, but that wasn’t it. Not at all.

The man could spit out promises just as quickly as he broke them, I just didn’t know he was trying to break me in the process.

The criticism I endured throughout the course of this relationship was harsher than what I dealt with from my family, and even though I had a comeback for everything he said, the words still haunt me…

I went from being vibrant, smart, confident, & 100% in control to depressed, unhappy, paranoid, angry, & jealous. I was reduced to questioning why I was somehow not good enough for him. It was irrational and insane. There was always an inner voice telling me “He’s not good enough for you. What are you doing? This man is poison. Tell him to go to hell and walk away.”

I remember crying one night to my best friend at the time, after a particularly shitty thing he’d lied about. Here I was, the strongest, toughest, most direct chick people knew, asking “Why would he lie to me like that? Why would he lie about something so important? Why am I not good enough for him?” I was devastated by the pathological way in which he’d lie.

My best friend consoled me quietly, basically saying she didn’t know why he had lied or why he would, but months later she told me I was “Too smart, too pretty, and all around way too good for the likes of him!” She was furious that he would hurt me in such a manner and then behave as if all was right in the world, and her anger continued to fuel when he showed up at a work event we all attended with a married woman on his arm. “A friend”, he’d called her. More like a drug supplier he’d hooked up with. He was spiraling and wanted to take me with him, but I would not allow that.

For the record, I was already ass deep in alligators when I realized how big an issue the drugs actually were because they weren’t an issue at the onset. It went from being an old football injury to being an all-consuming, problem-inducing, complete lack of grip on reality. It started out small, as many addictions do, and escalated until it had to be confronted. I did not condone it in any way and refused to support the habit. I was not going to be in a relationship with an addict, period. I was the catalyst to get him into rehab, explaining in list formation all that he would lose if he did not get clean. But as most people can tell you, 30 days in rehab will detox you, it might even get you to talk about why you got into it in the first place, but it’s every single day after leaving a protected environment that matters most. If you have people who love & support you, you have a greater chance at remaining sober. You might slip up, recovery is going to be a constant for the rest of your life, but the effort you put forth is SO important. However, if you immediately return to the same lifestyle and friends you had during the height of your illness, it will revert you right back into it at some point, especially if you have no real desire to be clean, no willpower, and no real desire to live. It’s a way of committing suicide slowly, secretly hoping that one day it’ll all be over and you don’t personally have to do the heavy lifting, or deal with the aftermath.

Part of what saddens me about the relationship itself is that I defended, protected, and shielded this man. I was the epitome of devoted and loyal to the Nth degree. My love was genuine, and yet I was constantly criticized, going as far as to be told that I wasn’t good enough to be introduced to his parents, who for years, he told me were dead. I’d later find out he only wished they were. Our differing religions was the reason given when I questioned why I was somehow “not good enough” to meet his parents. Who the hell were these people? England’s Monarchy?! How isolated and ignorant were they to think their religion was the only one that existed in this world?! This was not the first time someone had taken issue with my religion and tried to make me feel guilty for it. I was considered “not Jewish enough” by one guy’s family, and now I was being made to feel like I was somehow inappropriate and shameful. And the worst part? He wasn’t religious, AT ALL. 

Suddenly, after years of knowing our religions were different, it became this big issue, and we fought about it a lot. Would I be willing to convert to Roman Catholicism? HELL NO. Would I sign a pre-nup? Whoa, where the hell did THAT come from?! You want to marry me. You’ve asked, I’ve accepted, but now you’re afraid I suddenly want to be with you for financial gain? Are you serious?! Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always taken care of myself. He knew that. I don’t expect a man to pay for my lifestyle. I’m fully capable of making my own money, buying my own clothes, jewelry, etc.  I think you should want to take care of your partner and be a provider, but relationships are give and take. I did not expect to sit on my ass and be given anything, so I waffled back and forth on that little tidbit. It is a deal breaker if it’s not a document protecting both of us.

The ever-present “Would you please eat?!” grated on my nerves. He’d bring me food for several years of our relationship, but not in a loving, caring, concerned way (I do like it when I’m sick and a guy has the sense to bring me soup or Italian food. There’s something very nurturing about that.), but in an extremely controlling manner. As soon as I gained about 15 pounds from this constant influx of food, I was suddenly told the exact opposite. Now I wasn’t thin enough, I was becoming the woman who he didn’t want anyone else looking at. What was so shameful about being curvy? He’d have a fit whenever we’d be somewhere and someone else would check me out. I was not the one doing the looking, yet he was suddenly paranoid that anyone who checked me out was somehow going to end up in my bed. It was eye-rollingly ridiculous.

He’d do something shitty, and I’d be “rewarded” with jewelry or flowers, sometimes both, depending on the situation. It got to a point where I began to loathe the pink & purple roses I loved so much. To this day if someone sends me roses, I cringe inside. He would promise to be somewhere I needed him to be, but was almost always off feeding his drug habit, or as I would later find out through a friend, a habit for other women.

It was demanded upon me that I be 100% faithful. That was not an issue because I’d never cheated on someone and wasn’t about to start, but because he was the one doing all the cheating, he started having people follow me to find out what I was doing every time I left the house. Stalker much?! It was sick. It was also an excuse.

I’d had enough after confronting someone he often had tail me, and I put my foot down. I’m not big on ultimatums, but he needed to hear what his behavior was doing, that it was unhealthy and damaging, and completely unwarranted and unacceptable. It came down to this: He needed to return to rehab, fully commit to it, and he then needed to be clean & sober for a year before I would agree to marriage. It was time for him to prove that he was worthy of me, not the other way around.

He went to rehab for a few months, coming back apologetic, and for a while things were simply tense. We talked, but clearly he was refusing to hear me. He was about to do something he’d probably been considering for quite some time, and simply hadn’t been man enough to say to my face. With marriage promised, it probably made me believe a slew of lies I was too smart to actually buy into in the first place, but there was something slightly blinding & intoxicating about it. But the truth of the matter is, it was just plain toxic.

The problem with relationships slowly turning abusive is that, initially, we think we’re in the right relationship with the right person, until suddenly, we’re not.

For years after this relationship ended I’d hear “Oh, LET IT GO!” whenever I mentioned how hurt, angry, or betrayed I felt; as if emotions could be turned on and off like a faucet. How could I not feel all of those things?! Saying “I love you” is not a cure-all. Actions speak louder than words. His actions were atrocious.

With a ring solidly on my finger, he married someone else, just weeks after saying we were good and moving in the right direction, that he was trying. I had to find out via an announcement his new wife was sending to friends & family. She was pregnant before they even said “I do.” He would go on to have several children with her, each time choosing names we had decided on for our future offspring. That was the icing on the cake. I seriously worried about my ability to be around him in any capacity after that, so I disengaged. I made sure that whenever he’d be around, I would not be present. Hurting someone you claim to love in such a manner is vile, but to then go on living your life as if said loved one never existed is even worse. I started to think I was losing my mind. If it had not been for the fact that I knew the relationship had occurred, and exactly what I had endured, I’d have felt like I was being erased, or replaced.

Up until a few years ago, he & I continued to have mutual friends. I finally got tired of hearing the lies and cut everyone off. “He asked about you.”, “He hopes you’re all right. He just wants you to be happy.”, “He cares about you.” PLEASE! He never cared in the first place, it was a fucking game to him. No matter how many times I would ask these friends not to relay anything he said about me, it would come up in conversation, until I finally changed my phone number and said “No more.”

Not one to eat bullshit politely with a knife and fork, I have gone out of my way to avoid him since all of this went down. I have nothing to be embarrassed about. I didn’t do anything wrong, except believe in a person I shouldn’t have given the time of day to, but hey, we all make mistakes. Avoiding him is my way of remaining a healthy, non-toxic human-being.

I know eventually, at some point, we will run into one another, and I pray that I am not carrying a loaded weapon that day or wearing particularly high heels because even though people tell me I’m not a damaging, harmful person to be around, and that I’d never willingly hurt someone, I cannot promise the desire to harm him won’t be there. Some of the rage goes away with time, but any time the relationship is mentioned or I come across something from that time period, I am flooded with everything I thought I’d already moved past. For me, that lets me know the damage runs deep. It does not, nor will it ever, mean that I care about him. I don’t. I wouldn’t spit on this man if he was on fire.

Once I no longer love/respect someone, my emotions will often turn to pity, anger (at myself & the other person involved), & my anger is a burning rage that can simmer and bubble for years until it is truly out of my system. If the anger is unjustified, it eventually dwindles and the flames put out, but if it IS justified, stay the hell out of my way. I can go from zero to bitch in about half a second.

Unfortunately, there are so many different kinds of abuse in the world, that it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint if you are the abused or the abuser. Sometimes you are simultaneously both, even if you don’t intend to be.

Writing this makes me feel a bit like I’m back in Psych class, but I’ve been revisiting certain things lately, which is why I am writing about such a personal, private matter. If what I’m saying helps even one person get out of a toxic relationship, then that’s important and necessary.

If you’re in any kind of relationship where your words and feelings are being defined in an incorrect manner, where you are constantly insulted and berated, it is time to take a closer look at this relationship. Thinking this person is “the best you can do”, having low, little, or no self-esteem, or coming from a “people pleasing” type of family are all potential signs you’ve probably overlooked. Most people do. When you’ve been taught that everything around you is “normal” and a part of your daily life, you stop questioning things. You begin to lose your inner voice. Once you lose your inner voice, you start to become everything the abuser has defined you as. Your thoughts, feelings, actions, everything is now completely defined by someone else. Moreover, you question yourself and promise yourself you’ll be better for them, that you will do everything right, not realizing that your life is your own, and it is not owned by someone else.

I am a product of abuse. Not just from the relationship I am talking about, but from my childhood. I am very forthcoming about that fact when approached, but generally I keep such things to myself. However, when a person comes to me and needs help, I am the first person to listen, and the first to say something.

For many, many years I handled the abuse (verbal, emotional, and physical) by throwing myself into my writing and my singing. One day I snapped; I’d had enough. I was 100% committed in the fact that I’d kill the other person and spend my life in jail, but I believed in my cause because I was protecting two other people. I took the brunt of everything so they wouldn’t have to. To this day, one of those people denies that 99% of the abuse ever occurred. It must be nice living in such a warped bubble of false memories, but I know what I lived, I know what I saw, and it is sad for me to see this person deny the abuse and become the abuser themselves. If you correct this person, or disagree with them, they will say YOU are abusing THEM. It’s a vicious cycle, however, I know that by standing up and saying ENOUGH, and being committed to putting a stop to it, that I did the right thing. If I hadn’t, I’d be in jail now. Or worse.

People are often shocked to learn that I’ve been through such things. I don’t deny being strong and confident, and I don’t deny that I will say something is wrong when it is wrong, regardless of who is saying it. I will admit to being wrong on the rare occasion that I am. But I will not allow myself to live a life of abuse. I won’t allow someone to define me, to disrespect me, to use me, to tell me what I think, to tell me where to go, or tell me what I am allowed to do. When someone behaves that way around me, I am very happy to show them the door. I know I deserve better.

I look for different things in people now, and I always pay attention to my intuition. It is an immense part of who I am. If someone or something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If something feels innately wrong, re-evaluate it and follow your instincts. Intuition will never lie to you, but the heart will. If your relationship involves young children, get out NOW. You do not want your child/children to be affected by the abuse inflicted upon their mother in front of them. I know people who have stayed in these relationships because they believed that taking their children out of the home during the formative years was the worst possible thing they could do. It’s not. The worst thing you can do is stay and allow them to think that what they’re hearing, seeing, and living is normal. If you get out early enough, you will save yourself and your child/children a fortune in therapy bills.

Once upon a time, I was a moron. It won’t happen again, because I am firmly committed to not allowing it. No one defines me, except me.

*If you need help getting out of an abusive/unhealthy relationship or are living with domestic violence and don’t know where to turn please go to any of the following organizations for assistance: http://soarinri.org/  http://leavingabuse.com/, http://www.thehotline.org/, http://www.nrcdv.org/dvam/,http://www.teendvmonth.org/, etc.

Do not be afraid to search the Internet or the Yellow Pages for additional resources available to you in your area/country. If your abuser uses the same computer, always be sure to delete your browsing history to protect yourself from additional harm, or go to the library if available and search for information there.*

“Once Upon A Time”, and all material herein, unless otherwise indicated and credited to its owner(s), is copyright © 2013-2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.