Tag Archives: abuse

Stop Explaining Yourself. Why explaining ourselves to Gaslighters, bullies, and abusers never works.

Image created by author with Nightcafe AI.

There are two types of people we will meet in the world. There are the folks who don’t get us, or we them, and it’s not a big deal. Just move along. Then there are the ones who do get us. Which sounds perfect. Generally, these are folks we can talk and joke with, be honest and ourselves around. We can disagree, but generally without intending harm, and difference is welcome.

Unfortunately, not everyone who “gets us” is in it for friendship or love. Sometimes the people who understand us best are the ones who use that knowledge against us.

Those who treat us as less than, undeserving, and make us feel small usually know us very well. Just like a conman can choose their “mark” from a crowd, or a poker player can read another player’s “tell,” these types, sometimes called “dark empaths,” have us pegged and they’ll use that understanding against us.

Don’t feel bad if you find yourself in this situation. Usually, it’s a backhanded recognition of our strengths. Strengths they may not have, and envy. But we still need to equip ourselves to handle this insidious form of psychological manipulation.

The most vulnerable to attack in this way are “people pleasers.” We want to do good, keep the peace, and make others happy. We were probably brought up that way. Very young children usually believe that bad things are their fault. This causes overwhelming feelings of self-doubt, shame, self-loathing, and can follow us to an early grave (those of us with Trauma, Depression, Anxiety have worse health outcomes than the general population).

That pain can lead us to think that we are, at our core, somehow essentially wrong. That we’re guilty of all sorts of horrors, and it’s only a matter of time until others notice and we receive our just punishment. People who want to control us, put us down, and keep us there know this intuitively. It’s as though they know exactly where we hurt and insist on poking that spot.

Many of us become angry, reclusive, depressed, hyper vigilant, rigid, and constantly on edge looking for the next threat. On some level we may understand that the problem is not with us, but we may not know how to successfully turn this understanding into healing and separation from our tormentors within and without.

Once we realize that the person we trusted, loved, and probably stood up for despite our own welfare is undermining and Gaslighting us, we tend to go on the defense. We want to prove that we are good, deserving, and loveable just as we are. Of course, one of the main elements of Gaslighting is to deny our version of events, question our memories, our intelligence, and our sanity.

We may write down what others say to us that hurts so that we can prove to ourselves and the world that we are not crazy, or bad, evil, or selfish.

We could document conversations, remember specific phrases, or instances so we can say: “Look. I’ve written it all down. I took screenshots. I have it on video.”

But ultimately, all that self explaining will not be effective on a person out to use and/or Gaslight us into submission and agreement. The reason this does not work is not that the other person lacks understanding, it’s because they understand precisely what they are doing. In fact, they may outright deny or claim not to remember what we are talking about. They will only become more adamant in their judgement against us the more evidence and defence we provide. And they will most likely twist that information to their advantage.

So how do we escape that trap? First, we need to understand that, despite the protests of the other, that they are the problem. Their hurts, insecurities, fears are being reflected onto us to lift their own poor self confidence or self concept. Since they actually do get us in a profound way, we could earn the Nobel Peace Prize, yet these folks would find a way to discredit the prize, the achievement, and use it against us.

Secondly, we may attempt to “unmask” these people publicly. To gain enough of the world’s sympathy for our cause that we can bring our tormentors to account. This is not wrong in itself. The #MeToo movement, and the revelations of the extent of child abuse by the Catholic Church and other clergy are positive examples of how, with a lot of inner strength, effort, and the right allies, the powerful (even if they are only powerful in our minds) can be brought to account.

What we need to accept, above all else, is that we are, in fact, OK. That all people make bad decisions, act foolishly, accidentally burp at the dinner table or fart in church. But these people don’t seem to suffer for their humanity like we do. They embrace their silly, weird, awkward, and sometimes painful, unflattering, or boring parts of themselves. Because all people are burping, farting weirdos who do embarrassing dances or sing bad karaoke at a party.

Once we begin to see how much more like other people we are, it becomes easier to forgive and, most importantly, love ourselves. The spell of the Gaslighter may never fully be undone, but we can minimize their power. And, just as we would go to the doctor for antibiotics, there are people who specialize in helping broken people heal. And what needs healing is usually the heart. And it’s helpful to have a professional to guide us.

That is why therapists demonstrate unconditional positive regard for their clients. They are not there to lecture you. They’re there to help you to come to understand yourself and love yourself. With the guidance of a good therapist we can learn to embrace ourselves, farts and burps and embarrassing singing included.

As we learn to love and celebrate ourselves, we will learn self-confidence, and the freedom to simply exist as we are without excuses. We may take up an instrument and play it badly, but enjoy playing anyway. Our yearly karaoke serenade at a Christmas party could become a high point of good natured fun and pride in our shared foibles. And what could be more vulnerable yet human than dancing? But mainly, we will learn that what we’ve been told by others who enjoy our confusion and pain are lies.

So, let’s stop explaining ourselves. Don’t feed the predators any more information or attention. Starve them until they either seek help for their own damaged selves, or turn on someone else. Don’t cast your pearls before swine. Save them for the folks who love us: bad singing, stamp collecting, Klingon Cosplaying, wool dying, wilderness forager, Magic card enthusiast, whatever it is that makes us the unique and improbable people we are.

And remember. So far as we know, we are the only species in the vast Universe that can reflect on ourselves, our world, and Universe. We live on a magnificent oasis in the desert of space and time. Our lives, however long or short, matter because space is big, time is long, but we get the privilege of just being here now. Spend your time with people who get you and love you as you are. And once you learn to love yourself, spread it around.

Namaste, you legends!

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’™πŸ’›πŸ––πŸΌπŸŽΈπŸ’πŸŒžπŸŒŒ

If you’re considering suicide, self harm, or have a mental health crisis: call or text 988 any time to talk or text with someone from the National Suicide Prevention and Crisis Hotline. Help is always available in English or Spanish.

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And then the cops broke in my door: My experience of America’s Culture Wars, Part 4.

All five foot one-ish of my dangerous self hauled off in cuffs. 11pm, November 9th, 2021

The day I described in my last installment of this series, and the citation I received, were not the end of my former neighbors’ abuse and harassment. But let us rewind a bit.

I had managed to get the male neighbor cited once by a nice young officer who was very sensitive and well trained. The neighbors were outside doing this elaborate, loud play acting…about me. They mocked my disability, accused me of being a “Welfare Queen” — thanks for that Ronald McDonald Reagan. It went on for a while, so I called the police.

I had gotten mostly the same responses from the other officers I met. “He’s got free speech.” πŸ™„ Yes, freedom of speech. The First Amendment, and the least understood. Folks are fond of saying “Freedom ain’t free.” And I suppose they imagine bravely standing up to tyranny. To me it is basic causality. Sure, you are free to holler insults at your neighbor from your yard, but it does not mean that speech is free of consequences.

We all know there are exceptions to free speech. Usually when words can cause harm: a panic, violence, lies about others, etc. So this bright young cop was fantastic! Finally, right? He came, talked to them, then left but told me to call again if they said anything about race, or threatened me.

Oh, my neighbor obliged. As soon as the cop left, he helpfully shouted at one of my security cams “she’ll wish she were [ducking] dead.” Bam. Harassment and Terroristic Threats.

The day I described last time, with my loud mouth and criminally awesome dance moves, was a week before his hearing on that charge. He had pleaded not guilty. So, when the cops came, the female neighbor and pals went to work!

The next evening, Stanman and I were sitting on our couch, around 10ish. Watching Star Trek: TNG on Netflix. Again in my pajamas. And then this knock. The one you hear in every crime show. The “It’s the police, open up!” knock. I went out onto the porch to talk to them. It all seemed wrong. There were four cops on my stairs. They looked like the SS. Black outfits, all holstered up. One particular future Einsatzgruppen member did the identification thing and told me I had to come with them on a 302 Emergency Commitment Order.

That is when I knew the whole thing was BaloneyΒ  Sandwich. A 302 is a court order that allows a person who is a physical threat to themselves or others, or cannot take care of themselves to be committed to a mental institution against their will. They are difficult to obtain for the obvious reason that it is a power that could be abused (eh-hem). Normally, a social worker, someone from CRISIS, or a therapist/psychiatrist would initiate or weigh in on this. My therapist was not contacted. Often they are requested by family. And you cannot break into someone’s residence for a 302 unless there is an emergent situation, such as screaming or fighting. We were watching Trek. Mox nix, right?

I had been 302’d once before. I attempted suicide by taking a ton of NyQuil and Benadryl. My Mom and sister found me and took me to the hospital. I came around. I was still free. Not in restraints. But I was so angry, I hissed “I wish you let me die!” at my Mom. My Mom was a social worker, who worked with probation or parolees with mental health, drug/alcohol, or developmental disabilities. All minor offenders, but she knew the system.

Mom looked at the ER doctor and nodded, and then I was restrained. The place I went was more One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest than Girl, Interrupted. But basically, you have 3-5 days to be seen by a doctor and case worker, and have a meeting to judge whether you are still a threat or not. If you are calm, do what they say, and stick to yourself, it is not hard to get out of. You have to be very badly off to be committed in the long term.

So I knew how it worked as well. I knew the mental health system in general. I had been in it since about 19. My female neighbor wrote up something that basically said I had mental health issues and broke things on her lawn. (Because she called our house “the tenants’ house,” remember?)

It was delivered by Officer Einsatzgruppen to a Crisis worker, with access to all of my health records including my current treatment, whom I had never seen before or spoken with, and was a prison secretary to sign. And then the head of the County’s mental health board signed it without seeing or speaking to me either. (I see you Angie Krepps Alvarez! Sharon Harlacher! mwah!😘)

After hemming and hawing for an hour, and mentioning my neighbors on the darned Ring cam in plain sight (shrewd!). Then they broke down our door. Stan had already called 911 because he didn’t think they were real police either. They cuffed Stan, cuffed me, almost let our dog and cat out, and took me to a cruiser. Or some kind of car, it was dark. And I just resolved to stay calm. Losing my temper, being cranky, anything could have led to my actually being committed or jailed.

It is one of the odd consequences of PTSD that in the worst moments I don’t feel much. It seems like I am not me. I am somewhere floating above, or buried deep inside, or watching a movie of a life. So it was with this. I began to go down a thought hole of what may have happened to Stan. I pulled hard out of that downward trajectory. I could not think of anything else but breathing and remaining calm.

The doctors were confused from the beginning as to why I was there. They asked about my neighbors, and I said we had an ongoing dispute but I had no idea why I was in the hospital. And neither did the doctors. They couldn’t even find the legal order to commit me. From the hospital where the thing was written. Why they did not ask for it when I arrived is a question. But by 6am I was in the jeep back home with Stan, who they uncuffed and left to call every hospital looking for me.

We were home as the sun came up, we had a beer and went to bed. When we woke up it had sunk in. The extent of the violation. The broken door. The fact that four cops could be spared to take me to the hospital on a vendetta. But that night our neighbors effectively said, “We can touch you anywhere.” The same chill, creepy, skeevy feeling crept over me as other times with them.

We realized we were not safe in our own house. We couldn’t even call the police. So we packed a few important things, got our dog and cat, and drove to my Great Grandma’s house where family still lived, across the bridge in Lancaster County.

I took a selfie that next day.

Stress rashes around the mouth are sexy.

The male neighbor changed his plea to guilty (freedom is wasted on him), so I couldn’t give this information as testimony that next Monday. He was fined $50.

So, yeah, that is my story of how far my neighbors and my community went in their hatred of I do not know what. Stan and I spent the next month and half packing and cleaning for dear life. He started looking for new jobs far away. We looked at a couple of states before we decided. But he had to empty his retirement fund to finance this move, start a new job, find a new house, and sell the old.

The funny thing this whole time is that the male neighbor used to sit up by his garage (the better to see me from) and listen to John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” I love that song! Who doesn’t like John Denver? He hung out with muppets!

The irony is that I AM from the country. My sister and I mainly grew up on two different farms in New Jersey. We had lots of acres, and would ramble about with our big white Lab, playing pretend. I collected the eggs. My sister tossed in scratch. We had turkeys. At one point we had a goat. I am a country girl, who spent a chunk of time in cities and abroad, but I am still as outdoorsy as ever.

They hated a phantom of their own imaginings. An idea of me. Not me as I am. And they would have gotten around to hating us for something if their Rottweiler had not have killed my duck.

They took nearly everything I loved: my chicken ladies, my ducks, my gardening, my peace, and they reached right in that house and tried to take my freedom.

So, we left that house at 6pm on New Year’s Eve to the booming of fireworks. Hours later, we checked into this hotel. And here I have been. But it will not be for much longer. I have had some time to process, through these blogs partly.

The harassment continued until we left, with gems like this:

Mmmm! Defamatory! You cannot even get cash assistance in that state if you are not a parent or a primary care giver. Stupid will stupid.

But here is the actual tragedy. While those four cops were busy sending me to the hospital, a bare week later they let a mother of two’s Emergency Protected from Abuse order wait 24 hrs before acting on it. And that night her ex-husband (and ex-cop) kidnapped those little girls. He eventually shot them and himself in a ditch on the side of the road. And that mother has not received any response or justice that I know of since. They had officers enough for me, but not to enough to save that woman’s babies.

I had that sign down after some phone calls. My life has sucked for so long. But things are happening. Soonish. I should have the tools by now to heal and reframe the stories I tell myself, question the words and names used to describe me, maybe that is why I made it out. That same mechanism that kicked in when I was being cuffed and taken to the hospital. Or maybe I am finally letting it sink in that it was them not us. Not me.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸ’πŸ’ͺπŸΌπŸ•ΊπŸ»πŸŽΈπŸ¦€

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Humbling, Bait, Shame, and Grace. Part 3 of My Experience of America’s Culture Wars.

Not my best look ever. But that’s OK.

Today I appeared to face my female neighbor for a complaint she issued against me. It was interesting. The citing officer had some real hate in her eyes. And I probably could have answered her last question better with an “I don’t know.” But hey, Einstein says no backwards time travel. So I have to get OK with it.

This part of my tale picks up in early November. I woke up one lovely morning and went to take doggo for walkies in my pj’s and robe. My male neighbor got in his truck, drove a few dozen feet, stopped to get a good look at me, rolled down his window, and began with his running commentary on my life.

I had it. After five months of this, I was sick of it. I told him off. Said he was a creep and to quit watching me. Well, every time I went outside, there was the banging and the comments. Finally I just starting hollering kind of like Nicholson at the end of The Shining while he’s hunting down his son to murder him. Upon reflection, the dehumanization of the character of Jack by the Western notion of “The White Man’s Burden” and responsibilities of being a partner and co-parent seems rather appropriate. I did not, however, grab an axe. I pinged an aluminum baseball bat on the concrete.

I had therapy that day. Took a shower. Practiced yoga. Danced to Morrissey. Took some stuff down from the attic (we had already decided to move). Killed an evil old printer Office Space style. It felt kinda good. Like I was Robert DiNero for a minute. Someone who has physical power and a presence that demands respect. Unfortunately, I look like a yappy Chihuahua when I am upset and angry, and my level of respect commanding is set at Rodney Dangerfield.

Then, around 4, the female neighbor came home and started setting up a camera pointed directly at my yard. The male was in the garage. They gave each other a thumbs up when he got the signal from it. I told her off too. Creeps. I could not just live my life in peace. Their hatred was that intense and constant for that long.

I cannot get it myself. Anger is exhausting. And their anger often involved cutting off their nose to spite their face. Destroying their fencing and trees, repeatedly allowing their Rottweiler onto my property where they knew my cameras would see it. And then they would get another fine. The time, the money. For what? Me!?

Well, even though my therapist and I had gone over baiting and not taking the hook. I took the hook that day. Watching and listening to myself from the neighbor’s camera was difficult. It was not my best moment. But she had made me feel so shameful by moving her finger around and myself willingly dancing for her.

What was I thinking? “Don’t fall, Jess.”

She made me feel dirty. But today I got to do a thing I had not done in months. I got to look her in the eye. And my shame melted. This human being was giving false witness to continue to harm a person she had abused. She still hated me.

In the end, they could only prove that I was a loud-mouthed Jersey-girl. So the charge was reduced from “fighting,” and “mooning” (She does not deserve to observe my fine buttocks) to a noise disturbance. Yup. Loud-mouthed Jersey-girl.

The judge seemed fair. My lawyer did well. The little humbling stung at first, but I walked doggo around the hotel. It is warm and sunny today.

I stopped being angry. That female cop, who knows her story? But I can guess at some of my neighbors’. And they are sad. The male cannot think to do anything better than obsessively hate. And she called our house “the tenants” house to puff herself up in front of folks. That is sad. She is sad. He is sad. I am not aware of what that female cop’s major malfunction is. But all these grown people, stuck on hating a nerdy, disabled, 5 foot tall introvert — for I what, I cannot guess — were just sad.

A good hard look at yourself like I had today is uncomfortable. But it was not bad. I felt pity for that person screaming and dancing. I came back inside and did another yoga practice and meditation. And my heart softened towards both myself and all these sad hateful folks. I felt pity for my neighbor. How unhappy must she be?

In the end, it was allowing myself the grace to stumble and fall and allow myself a very human mistake. And also finding the grace to recognize tortured souls. Angry souls. To separate myself from the pain and trauma they inflicted upon me, and see things and people as they are. And open a chink in my heart to “hating the sin, and not the sinner.” I am not ready to forgive fully.

I still have a lot of trauma and pain to work through. But I already could see in my neighbor that she had not moved on, while I had. Not completely, but I physically moved. And she was still stuck in the place she was born. She had never left. I had. My Stan-man and I are in a new town that we love. And we got good news today. Tune in next time to find out what, and follow me to the hospital after the police break into my house, next time on “Jess has a big mouth in type as well as IRL.”πŸ™„πŸ˜‰

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸ’πŸ•ΊπŸ»πŸŽΈ

P.S. You may have already noticed the ads, please let me know if they are too much, or where they should be. Big changes are coming to my blog including: hosting different authors, merch made by friends and family, a #buynothing swap shop, exclusive music and video, the opportunity to access special content, donate, and easier ways to like, share and comment! As the cop said to the glazed donut: stick around.

– JL 😘

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