Panic in the Streets of Grand Rapids: Conversations about mother (part iii)

To support NaNoWriMo this month, I’m finishing the 30+ odd drafts laying about and posting them through the month of November.

Part I: Conversations about mother
Part II: Conversations about mother (part ii)

I felt fine in LA and in Phoenix (no minute or heavy stress attacks) as I drove but somewhere around Las Cruces, NM I began to have a major panic attack. It was late at night, I was stuck between two semis and the 10 had turned into single, each way lanes coupled with high cement shoulders due to construction. To top this wondrous night off, it was raining and raining hard.

I began to panic.

I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t breathe and I was freaked out of my wits.

This stepped up the racing thoughts that any second I was going to careen into the cement shoulder, hit a semi or get run over by the semi behind me. After what seemed like hours but was probably only mere minutes, I pulled off the road when I found the first mom and pop motel where I grabbed a room for the night. Even by taking myself out of what I thought was a dangerous situation, my heart wouldn’t stop racing. I made deals, bets, begged, cajoled, pleaded and bargained with whatever deity was above me to make this end. Nothing happened. I paced my room, smoked a million cigarettes and did everything I thought of in my power but I could not calm down.

The situation was made more intense that while I was no longer freaking out about my impending death on the 10, new thoughts would appear about my situation. I was in the wilds of New Mexico! Alone! With hardly any money! No one I know for hundreds of miles! With a crap cell phone!1 I was literally thousands of miles from my destination, alone, nearly broke, and frightened and scared.

Common sense roused its stately head and forced me to go to the mom and pop of the mom and pop hotel, to explain in very poor pidgin Spanish, that I felt like I was unable to breathe because that was the first thing I could think of to tell them. I could hear the crackling of Spanish on the radio in the make-shift lobby as I spoke. I remember how warm the night felt against my skin and how the air hung with wetness from the recent downpour. I must have looked like a crazy person, standing there, begging for help in a reasonable voice while my heart raged on and clearly, able to breathe.

EMTs shortly arrived thereafter and gave me oxygen, which upon my first inhale I immediately calmed down. They found, just as the ER docs found a few weeks before, nothing wrong with me. Healthy as a horse. It is like once the attack has been fully addressed in some manner, it decides to leave as quickly as it sprang up. Instead of being thankful to the EMTs for the reassurance, I remember feeling chastened. Slightly ridiculous that I called them out in the middle of the night for a panic attack. Also a little stupid, a little insane and a whole lot of embarrassed.

Moments of lucidness during my attacks, when I knew I was fine and I knew I was not in harms way were always felt to be made like disappearing bread crumbs along a well worn road by the panic. It is a struggle, still in the now and sometimes almost daily, to differentiate between the world colored by anxiety and the world in which is real. It is an exhausting struggle within my brain to fight for what could be potentially destructive behavior as compared as to what is termed normal behavior.

I do not know.

1. Back in ye olde times when cell phones were bricks, on analog service and you paid by the minute.

invasion of the barbarians: safe space

To support NaNoWriMo this month, I’m finishing the 30+ odd drafts laying about and posting them through the month of November.

I wrote a charming man sometime in 2008, but never posted it. I wrote a companion piece, Friends don’t let friends waste wine when there’s stories to sell over on LiveJournal within a day or two of a charming man, but that one I posted with glee. Why I posted one and not the other, I have no fucking idea. It is what it is, but it’s important to note that they were written the same day or within days of the other.

These two pieces are related to the the piece below, which I wrote sometime in late 2010 when I found out by sheer happenstance, almost right before TheHusband and I moved back to Grand Rapids, the TheEx was living and working in the Royal Oak area where TheHusband and I were still living. While nearly 2.5 years had passed since TheEx and I had seen each other at the time that I wrote the piece, I spent my remaining days living in the area on high alert that either he was going to find me or I would see him and kill him.

My idea, I believe, in writing this piece was to convey several ideas; namely that no matter how much you work through the pain and tragedy, no matter how much you can forgive, you are still always carrying around shrapnel of that hurt. And all it can take is just a very small trigger to bring the full experience back to life again. The second idea was that I felt, even selfishly, that I had pissed around Royal Oak, marking it as my own and how dare he come to MY land and disturb MY world. Irrational? Fuck yes, but I am thinking that I wanted to write that no matter how far you have come from somewhere, there is always at least something that can send you right back to that space, if not physically, at least emotionally.

The end does not finish cleanly, which I’m leaving as I wrote it last year. I remember now that I struggled so much writing the below, even without having read Friends don’t let friends waste wine when there’s stories to sell.

It’s been 3.5 years since that night when the events of a charming man/Friends don’t let friends waste wine when there’s stories to sell take place and I have not seen TheEx.

I hope I never see him again.

[This post may contains verbiage and/or descriptions that may be triggering to those who have suffered physical, sexual or verbal abuse. Educate yourself: Globally, 1 in 3 women will be abused in her lifetime. ]

I am a survivor of:

  • Physical abuse
  • Attempted gang rape
  • Several date rapes

This in addition to physical, emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of several partners.

Do I have your attention now?


I need for you to know the background in order to understand the various levels emotions that are going to spill out. In “normal” circumstances, finding out an ex-lover is living in your city is typically nothing to note. Finding out the abusive, predatory jackass you were once involved in, whom you thought lived far, far away, is another. Realising that you’re dedicated safe space has been invaded, even if unintentionally, can be traumatizing. If the safe space isn’t really “safe,” then where else do you have left to go?

Now let me begin.

A few years ago I met and dated someone I thought was the bees knees. I have referred to him, on and off, in the past as TheEx. We met, we fell in love, we lived together. Shit got bad. Shit got worse. Shit got downright awful.

The stereotype of what they say about abusers is true: They are charming, sweep you off your feet as if you were ever the only one and you have NO IDEA they are manipulative, controlling abusive assholes until your knee deep in their bullshit and wondering how the fuck you got here, because you’re a smart girl and you’d NEVER be blindsided by this shit. And then there is a slight humiliation to the whole thing because you thought you were “better than that” and by “better than that” I mean you thought would not fall for such trickery. You are, of course, wrong.

I knew TheEx had “problems” with his ex but his spin was the marriage had gone bad, there may have been a little something but it was a one time occurrence. TheEx was under advisement of several medical and psychological doctors, so how bad can it be? He’s getting help, right? Pish! It was nothing! Merely a trifle.

TheEx, of course, spun HisEx as the crazy bitch from hell and that in the grand scheme of things, he was the spurned one (of course). Even his mother would jump on this proverbial bandwagon that HisEx was a money grubbing harlot, low class with no talent who hurt her baby boy. Sure, TheEx has problems! But, who doesn’t?! And he’s under medical and psychiatric care so it’s not like the problems are being addressed! Who am I to worry!


And the fact that HisEx, after the divorce, not only left the state but would not give TheEx her address or contact info under any reason should have been a big red signal, but it wasn’t. Because the seeds had already been planted by him, for weeks at this point, about how he was scorned one and etc. And he so pitched the woo to me that I scoffed at the circumstances. Naive, I know. But my reasoning was that I had been involved myself with crazy people and while not abusive, there were some levels you just do not want to cross. I put HisEx in that category.

My burning hatred, which is now simmering embers but could go up at any time, can be best explained in this post on LiveJournal, which has been private for the better part of two years. It was public for a short duration, after it was written, and then made private a month or two later.1

1. The striking difference of my LiveJournal (before I started x-posting blog entries from here to there) and anywhere else was the easy, openness and laxness in which I wrote. Most of which was due to having security controls for each entry individually rather than an all or nothing setting found in most social networks. I could freely discuss my sex life, which I did regularly, without ramifications since I could privatize those entries. Upon beginning my MLIS program in 2008, I locked down the entire journal from public view to prevent any kind of “misunderstandings” about the content.

A charming man

To support NaNoWriMo this month, I’m finishing the 30+ odd drafts laying about and posting them through the month of November.

Late summer or early fall of 2007, TheEx and I made the joint agreement to apply to grad schools together. The plan of attack was to apply to schools that offered programs for both of interests (he, urban planning; me, library and info sciences). We made plans, contingent plans, and back-up plans for almost every possible outcome.

Except for breaking up.

I mention this because on in August of 2008, TheEx moved to Ann Arbor to attend U of M while I’m moved somewhere in the general Detroit area (location undetermined as of yet) to attend Wayne State for my MLIS program. Over the course of the summer of 2008, shortly after we broke up, we’ve started hanging out once or twice a week by going to movies, seeing concerts, and having dinner.

After a few awkward steps of figuring out the deal with how to proceed with the fallout of the break-up, since I came back from the U.K. in mid-June of 2008, things have gone fairly well. We see each other when we see each other, I honestly didn’t think twice about the arrangement (And no, I’m not kidding myself.) and just thought that things being as they were, I was/am okay with the set-up.

And for the better part of that summer, I was told over and over and OVER again by everyone and sundry that I was making a huge mistake. I was making things worse by continuing to be involved with someone when the healing process of the break-up had yet to begin. I was putting myself on the line for something that may or may not ever pan out, regardless of which direction. I sought out therapy (paid and friends), walking, knitting, trips, yoga, doing sage cleanses, and seeing a palm reader. (Who, incidentally enough, predicted the break-up two days before it happened in which I poo-poohed her decision. I thought everything was fine between TheEx and I, only to find out said two days later, it clearly wasn’t.

And I’m stubborn.

I ignored the commentary from well-meaning friends, because if I was okay with how things were going, then isn’t that the main concern? And if I could reconcile the past and put forth energy into the future with being friends with him, and was totally okay with that, isn’t that what it is ultimately all about?

And lastly, I had already thought long and hard about the probability of him seeing someone else, thus, knowing I wasn’t going to be happy about it (more so with my ego over anything else), but you know, I’m an over educated woman of the ’00s, I’ve been around the block a few times, I know how these things work. You meet someone, you date, it ends, you grieve for X amount of time, you move on.

But how the relationship ended, why it ended and the after math were different from prior relationships I have ever been in and thus, I had no road map to work from. I made mistakes in the beginning of the break-up, lost some footing and floundered once or twice, but I always quickly regained my steps and I made sure to always put myself first before anything else.

Because he was leaving G-Rap (more than likely for good), we decided to get together for one final hang out session. Change is afoot and change is never really easy, as we all know. I picked him up and we opted to head for dinner at a place we’ve frequented before and for ice cream afterwards; a typical TheEx and Lisa evening. Dinner was fine, we were having a good time talking about our upcoming school plans and walked over to grab ice cream afterwards only to discover the line was too long. We then opted to head to another favorite place, walking there from his current adobe and enjoying the same brand of ice cream with very little wait.

As we’re sitting outside, he totally getting into his mint chocolate chip in a waffle cone and me attempting to eat a very messy soft serv Twist dipped in hardshell, TheEx brings up that he has to talk to me about heavy topics.

“Is this about the New York Times billing?”, I inquire while ice cream drips all over my hands and onto the ground.
“No,” says he.

He then launches into what now sounds like a pre-rehearsed monologue about how he may begin dating in three weeks, three months or three years and I need to be happy for him. And if I’m not happy for him, then the onus is on myself. (I’m paraphrasing the later, not the former.)

I’m stunned.

I toss my now soggy cone into the garbage and attempt to collect my thoughts but I find that I don’t really have anything to say. Prior to our meeting, I had thought of some things I wanted to say to him this fine August evening but decided that by doing so would be pointless, some things were just better left unsaid. I just assumed that our relationship, with the change in geography and lifestyles, would eventually peter out and we would go on with our own lives in much different directions. I had maintained the relationship for most of the summer by almost sheer force of Lisa-ness: Most of the planning, getting together and encouraging friendship was my idea. At some level, he really is an ultra-cool guy but he’s a loner, who barely sees anyone outside of his family even when he was working and had cultivated work relationships. Most of his friends, his longtime friends, lived outside of the city or even the state. Those in city are busy with their own lives, as people are wont to do. Our social life when we were together was cultivated by my social circle, not his and when we split, he moved back into hermit mode once again.

And we talked about this, his lack of making the effort for anything when we were together as a couple and later, as we attempted to build a friendship. A lot of the decision process in regards to social activity always tended to lay on my shoulders and I was growing more frustrated as our intimate relationship grew and later our platonic relationship and he said he knew that was a problem with him and he needed to “work on it.” Whatever the hell that means, I’m now guessing.

We stumble over conversation for a bit and it was getting difficult to talk while people were coming in and out of the ice cream store. I requested that we head back to his place and sit on the front porch to finish this discussion. We walk back in silence and I’m attempting to formulate my thoughts but I find that I’m angry? Pissed? Upset? I can’t name the emotion that is bubbling towards the surface. Other than a drunken faux paus I made last weekend when we were at a wedding together, I had not made the moves towards him romantically — I can’t handle a romantic relationship with anyone right now. Yes, deep in my heart of hearts, perhaps I did want us to “date” again but when things were better, when stuff was more settled and I could handle knowing what I know and reconcile all of this together. Dating him now would be too easy, it wouldn’t be worthwhile for me emotionally to go through all of this again.

I know this, rationally and logically, I have gone over this a gazillion times with my shrink, my friends and with myself. I know a lot of things about why this relationship wouldn’t work, why I would ultimately would not be happy and why I am doing nothing but beating myself up against the wall. But there is something, something I cannot name that pulls me to him. When he calls or when I’m around him, I’m like a 15 year old girl. Call it love, call it infatuation, call it a crush but one thing that is agreed upon by people who know him is that he is a charming man.

I don’t know how long we “talked,” an hour? More? Less? I keep trying to put together the conversations, stilted.

“I did not or have not felt romantically towards you all summer and I have no desire to pursue a relationship with you now, or ever.”
“Did you fall out of love with me,” I asked.
“I guess, if you want to call it that” says he.
“Are you still attracted to me,” I venture further. (Masochist, I am.)
“That’s irrelevant,” he responds. “I cannot be in a relationship with you because I cannot commit emotionally or physically with you or with anyone. I do not want to get your hopes up. It doesn’t feel good, for me, to think that way.”


The above was written sometime in late 2008, before TheHusband I got back together and when I was still reeling from the aftermath of my relationship with TheEx. There is quite a few more posts about TheEx lurking about my draft box, hundreds of words that I cannot bear to trash and that need to be made public to the world.

Update: September, 2013
I haven’t spoken to TheEx or seen him since the above conversation took place five years ago. Reading this now, one would think the relationship broke off due to any myriad of usual breaking off reasons. TheEx and I broke up because he hit me. We broke up because he has a long history of physically assaulting his women, which I had found out via happenstance when we were still together of the depth and breadth of the assaults that lead to police charges and jail time.

TheEx is also Bipolar, with various other mental ailments but on a much larger, and more dangerous, scale then I could ever be. Whether or not his physical abuse is tied to his mental issues is a blurred line, but despite the 2x a week shrink he was seeing by the time we met and the rainbow of drugs in his life, these treatments were obviously not enough.

I thought I could change him, having just come off my time in behavioral therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder. I thought I had changed him. I was wrong. After he had hit me, and the furor had died down, and he had moved out, I wanted to immediately protect him. I wanted to comfort him and tell him that it was a one time thing and would never happen again. I wanted to forget he had hit because he would never do it again, previous history of police charges notwithstanding.

His close friends and his family all blamed the brain disease – this wasn’t TheEx! This was the chemical problem that lead to these problems. It didn’t matter it had been going on for nearly 20 years, that he had run ins with police and safety departments, and so forth and so on. This wasn’t him!

While I was the victim, they turned him into a martyr. I was shut out from his family, from his friends who had offered up phone numbers in support “in case something happens,” and treated as a non-entity when I called for help. He was back to being protected and that is all that mattered.

I was pretty angry after we broke up, ever more so after those close to us disavowed me. I was the one who was abused but he was the one who must be protected. I wouldn’t go to Ann Arbor, where I knew he was living for fear of running into him. I found out a few months before TheHusband and I were to move from Royal Oak, he was now living there and then I found it difficult to leave the house for fear of seeing him.

In some ways my life was crippled because of this and I have yet to find the freedom in letting go.