This has been a very hard week for me. I’ve felt off-kilter and unsteady; doubtful of myself and my voice. My confidence has been horribly shaken.
I’ve had the thought that I would simply stop writing entirely.
Finally, I realized that it was time to tell my story more fully and authentically than I ever have and regain my self-confidence, or withdraw completely from the outside world and retreat to my family forever.
When you finish reading, I hope you’ll understand why I’m forcing myself to keep writing; to tell my story and not be silenced.
This is scary for me to do. Really scary. I hope you’ll read this with an open mind and some empathy.
Looking back over my dating history pre-Darrel, I can count on one hand – with fingers left over – the number of relationships I had that were NOT abusive in some way.
Some were worse than others.
Sickening as it is to acknowledge now, my longest relationships were the ones that were the most abusive.
I thought it was normal to be with someone who made you feel like dirt. Being told I was “worthless”, “ugly”, “stupid”, “a bitch”, and other, worse, things on a regular basis was essentially just a part of being with someone. Feeling inadequate, foolish, derided, and chastised was my “baseline” for over a decade.
Being ridiculed, treated like a child, told I was incapable of making good decisions, threatened frequently, and having my wants and needs demeaned or refused were all things I came to expect from any man I spent considerable time with.
I remember being younger and being completely confused when discussing relationships with other women.
I never believed them that these sorts of things didn’t happen to them; after all, I would lie through my teeth if confronted about things in my own relationships. So I truly believed all other women were lying when they said these things weren’t normal.
I can’t possibly go in to every single example of abuse I endured. No, I won’t go into detail. No one needs to know those stories.
I will say that when I finally met Darrel, the first time I tried to tell him he was doing something I didn’t like I nearly had a nervous breakdown.
It was terrifying. I couldn’t look him in the eyes. I was shaking. My stomach was in knots and I just KNEW exactly what kind of response I was going to get: “Well, I don’t know what you’re bitching about. I only do that because (insert something Carrie does). Besides, it’s not like you’re any sort of perfect f***ing person. You __________, and __________, and __________, and you’re fat. The only thing you have going for you is big tits and long hair. Why the hell do I even waste my time with you!? You need to get over it. You’re lucky to have me.” All said with such derision and disdain that the air would drip with it, immediately followed by him walking away from me, refusing to speak to me for hours or days, and likely followed by a fist through a wall (or worse) if I dared to ask him to talk about it.
I mean, that’s exactly what I’d gotten from at least half of my ‘boyfriends’ in the past…why wouldn’t I expect that response?
Instead, Darrel listened to me speak, reached out and took my hands, and said “OK, babe. No problem. I won’t do that anymore. Are you okay?”
And I cried.
I cried, and I told him that I’d so rarely ever been “allowed” to set a boundary in a relationship that I thought I was going to throw up from the fear of speaking my mind.
I’d never been allowed to have real opinions of my own.
Oh, certainly, these males I dated didn’t censor every single thing I said. But I never knew WHICH of my opinions was going to be The One. The One to infuriate them to the point that I was left shaking, shattered, confused, and scared from their response.
So, naturally, I stopped having too many voiced opinions. I learned to tread carefully.
I must say that I was very lucky. Most of these relationships ended when the man cheated on me and decided to move on to a new victim. The few that ended because of my decision usually ended when I reached the point where the physical shove, punch, or fist through a wall, or the emotional and mental debasement no longer made me react like a normal person.
Did you catch that? I didn’t leave because I was physically assaulted, or because I was treated like I wasn’t human. I left because I didn’t react to those things like a normal person.
And that lack of reaction triggered some small, mostly forgotten, hidden away remnant of self-preservation into action…and I left.
I was also lucky that none of the boyfriends I left were obsessive. They yelled and stomped and threatened, but I was too numb to care by that point. When they got that out of their systems, and I refused to go back to them, they moved on.
After a decade of such treatment from my myriad relationships, I was left a shell of a woman. I took almost two years off from any sort of dating entirely to try and piece myself back together.
Honestly, I doubted I would ever meet a decent human male and marry. (My life today truly is a fairy tale to me in many ways.)
What I did know was that there was something fundamentally flawed in me in regards to who I attracted – and who I chose to stay with. By that point, I also hated – and I’m not using that word lightly – almost EVERY man on the planet. To me, most men were simply abusers waiting to be revealed. (And since I obviously couldn’t spot a good man if he was surrounded by a white aura with angels singing “AH!”, it was safer to assume all men were b***ards.)
I needed to get my head on straight before I could ever be ready to delve into the dating world again. If there were such a fantasy creature as a “good man” out there, I knew he couldn’t possibly be interested in me as I was; and if he was interested, I knew my own personal baggage would cause the relationship to self-destruct before it even got off the ground.
To paraphrase Groucho Marx: I didn’t want any man who would want me.
I dove into work. I bought a house and remodeled it. I delved into charity work. And I slowly started to rediscover my voice.
Simply being able to say what I thought without fear on a daily basis was liberating. After two years of that, I finally thought I might be ready to try this dating thing again.
A few dud eHarmony dates later, and I met Darrel. The rest is history.
(And as an aside, God truly works in mysterious ways; who would have thought that a woman who had such issues with men would be healed completely by the man God gave her to marry and the two SONS she was gifted with?)
Which brings me to the present.
I thought I’d dealt with the baggage of being a verbal (and occasionally physical) punching bag for so long. I thought I’d become stronger; more confident in my self and my soul.
And, I haven’t.
Last week I wrote a post that, in retrospect, I should have realized would be controversial. When I wrote it and posted it, I honestly didn’t think anyone would be upset by what I said. I thought I was helping people to see a situation in a new light that might help them explain FPIES living in a new way.
Almost immediately, the backlash started.
I received emails, messages, and comments that were adamantly eloquent in their opinion that what I’d written was horrifying, disgusting, insulting, and demeaning. I was told that OBVIOUSLY I had never dealt with what I was talking about, or else I’d know how despicable my comparison was.
I won’t go into more detail about what was in those comments I received, because, frankly, I understand exactly where these women were coming from.
These women were absolutely right about some of the points they made about my post, even if they somehow completely missed the point of the message.
Now, if I were a normal, healthy person who had dealt with all of her baggage, I would have re-read the post, tried to see it from their point of view, perhaps edited the post to be a little more clear and specific about exactly what I was trying to say (since that was obviously lost somehow), and told them how sorry I was that the post upset them. And I would have left it at that.
Let me tell you what happened to me instead last Tuesday.
I read these comments, and my heart started racing. My stomach dropped through the floor. My vision literally tunneled. Without any thought, I removed the post from the internet and immediately wrote personal apology notes to each person who contacted me that was offended at the post.
I told them I was so sorry I had hurt them. That I’d wanted to help people. That I never wanted to hurt anyone. That I was so sorry and I hoped they would forgive me.
(As an aside, just writing about it I can feel my heart racing and that feeling of panic rising up in me.)
Now, these women did NOT intend to cause me this reaction, just as I did NOT intend to cause them their reactions to my post.
However, the truth is that when I read those comments to me about what I said?
I cowered. I back-peddaled. I apologized. I begged forgiveness. I lived on edge for the next two days, waiting for more “fall-out” from the offense my opinion gave.
Fortunately, I had already written my “Kitchen Action” post, and writing a play-by-play of Zac’s pork/soap reaction didn’t require me to state anything that was actually an opinion in any way. So the rest of the week I was able to post at a regular schedule.
This was a good thing, because I found myself suddenly unable to write anything of substance.
In fact, this last week I have been absolutely terrified of writing anything. I’ve avoided the computer and been mostly absent from all social media.
I’ve been afraid.
Afraid to speak my mind for fear of the response.
From the beginning, Darrel has told me I did nothing wrong with that post; that it was well-written, well-reasoned, and that it is not my fault that some people were offended at it. He reminds me that no one will agree with what I write 100% of the time. That some people will be offended or simply disagree as long as I continue to write my blog.
He’s told me he wants me to keep writing. But…I just couldn’t do it.
Then I checked my blog stats and noticed that the links I put at the bottom about getting help for domestic violence had received many clicks in the short 5 hours that post was live. My analogy had at least brought awareness to the horrors of domestic violence; perhaps it had even helped someone begin working her way out of such a situation.
Then I re-read the other comments I had received; the ones that said “OMG absolutely!” , “I think this will really help my family understand!”, and “Can I share this?”
Then I considered the number of messages I’ve received since I started this blog saying how big a help I had been to someone; to my knowledge, two children have received early diagnosis of FPIES thanks to their Moms finding my blog (and thereby saved them and their families many months of suffering before they found the answer) and hundreds of people have been directly helped or at least inspired by something I’ve written.
Was I willing to throw all that in the trash because I was scared of offending someone?
And that is why I decided to share my story with you.
I felt inferior for over a decade.
Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
I don’t consent.
Not any more.
I am truly sorry that what I wrote in that post triggered anger and hurt in some people.
Having lived with domestic abuse and violence, however, I still believe what I wrote has some validity. I have lived with both domestic violence and FPIES; my opinion of how they are similar is my own opinion that I am being brave enough to share.
If it offends, I am sorry.
But I will not be silent because I’m afraid of offending.
That post is back live on the internet for anyone who wishes to read and/or share it. It IS raw, and perhaps shocking, and possibly offensive.
If you are not shocked or offended by it, however, I still believe it will do what I intended it to do in the first place: help families living with FPIES explain the stress of their lives to family members who downplay the intensity of the emotional roller-coaster that is living with FPIES.
Thank you for reading my story. Obviously I’m still dealing with some of the damage done to my self-confidence when I was younger, but this is a very good start at standing up for myself and claiming my voice.